The introduction to Jesus’ prayer in John highlights the sovereignty of God. As such, the introduction interprets the coming death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in apocalyptic terms. While this prayer is far from the sort of thing we encounter in Daniel and Revelation in terms of vivid imagery, there are a number of theological ideas which resonate well with apocalyptic literature.
God has appointed the hour. Everything in John’s gospel (and the life of Jesus) has led up to the moment which is about to happen. The three years has been a lengthy prologue to the next 72 hours, the arrest, trial, execution and burial of Jesus and subsequent resurrection. An “appointed hour” is common in apocalyptic literature. God has set the times and seasons for certain things to occur, and they will certainly happen because God has appointed them to happen.
God has authority over all flesh. This is an allusion to God as the creator. God has authority of all of creation because he is the creator. But creation is in rebellion against God and has created enmity, God is therefore to be feared as a judge. Another classic element of apocalyptic literature is that God has created all things and the eschatological age will “un-create.” The death of Jesus therefore has cosmic significance, all of creation will be effected by what he is about to do on the Cross.
God has authority to give eternal life. God is the only one who can offer salvation to a lost creation. God is the only way to be saved out of the coming wrath of God, the alternative to eternal life is eternal death.
God has given the disciples to Jesus. Out of all of creation, God has chosen some to be the recipients of eternal life. In John, the disciples are the “inner circle” of that Salvation. All those who believe in Jesus as the savior are saved, but in this case only the disciples are said to be given to Jesus. In apocalyptic / eschatological texts a common theme is the salvation of a righteous remnant. Usually this remnant is small (the author’s own community), but there is usually an implicit invitation to join the righteous remnant and therefore be saved.
While the introduction to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is far from the style of apocalyptic we find in Revelation or Daniel, it certainly shares something of the the apocalyptic worldview. With the events of Jesus arrest, trial, execution, burial, resurrection, and ascension, God will accomplish his purposes by breaking into history and providing salvation for some, judgment for others.