John 17 – Jesus’ Prayer and Apocalyptic

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.

God has given his authority to the Son so that he might accomplish the work to which he was appointed. Like the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, the Father’s authority is naturally transferred to the Son. The reason that God has given the Son his authority is so that he may render judgment, both for eternal life and eternal separation. This too has an eschatological aspect as well, Dan 7:14 describes something like a “son of man” coming before the ancient of days to receive authority to judge and rule.

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.

9 thoughts on “John 17 – Jesus’ Prayer and Apocalyptic

  1. I never knew that John included some apocalyptic themes in his gospel. It makes sense coming from John since he wrote Revelation, and it fits really well into his presentation of the Gospel. It is interesting to see how many theological ideas correspond to apocalyptic literature, despite the nature of the book. Kostenberger does not talk about his prayer being apocalyptic, but he does bring up many of the theological ideas that John presents, and he talks about how Jesus says this prayer prior to the events of his crucifixion (Kostenberger, 162). This goes along with the idea of apocalyptic literature, foretelling events that are yet to come.
    One thing that stands out to me is the idea of the righteous remnant. In the post, it talks about the twelve being the remnant that inherits eternal life. But what about all of the other disciples that Jesus had? As the post says, others can join the remnant, but why would they not already be a part of it? It is just interesting to me that they would not be included in that original group.
    John’s inclusion of the prayer in an apocalyptic sense certainly helps to enhance the meaning behind the words Jesus prays.

  2. While the crucifixion is incredibly hard for Christians to study and learn about, (at least it is for me), it is sometimes easy to forget that the crucifixion had to happen for Jesus to rise again – God brought it to be. That is to say, we should not make light of the suffering that Christ endured, but, see it for what is in from an eternal perspective: God’s promise of salvation being fulfilled through His Son, Jesus Christ.

  3. The Gospel of John already stands out among the Synoptic Gospels, but here we find the Gospel of John also adds an element of apocalyptic literature (Long, 2012, para. 1). Like many aspects of John, this apocalyptic terminology is not spelled out or left in plain sight for the readers; John skillfully alludes to God’s overall authority concerning time, creation, salvation, the disciples, and Jesus Himself who shares in that authority. All these things concern the end times and play out exactly according to God’s will. Jesus displays obedience to God’s will as “Jesus voluntarily submits to the Father” (Köstenberger, p. 160) while anticipating the authority to grant eternal life (Köstenberger, p. 159). Long (2012) mentions, “God has chosen some to be the recipients of eternal life” and while this is true in a sense, I believe God chose to give all of humanity the opportunity to receive eternal life. Not everyone will accept this gift, but those who do will take part in His promise and receive eternal life. Books such as Revelation and Daniel cover topics relating to the end times differently than John, but each book points to Jesus being the Christ and the only way to the Father. Overall, examining the Gospel of John with a mindset surrounding apocalyptic literature can reveal aspects of the eschatological age in a new way.

  4. It was most interesting to me discovering that this prayer was considered apocalyptic. As someone highlighted previously in their response, it does end up making sense that this prayer hinted at being apocalyptic literature since this same man wrote the book of Revelation. The clarification of the themes represented in John 17 helped me in connecting this passage to apocalyptic-style literature. Five characteristics or actions of God were defined: God declared the hour, God has the ultimate authority over flesh, God is sovereign and can give eternal life, God gave the twelve to Jesus, and God gave His authority to Jesus so that He may accomplish what God has planned. While these themes do not explicitly say, “Jesus will emerge victorious in any battle of Armageddon”, John uses these themes to express that God involves His Son and considers relationships, primarily the relationship between Jesus and God. John 17:26 says, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (ESV). It is expressed that God is the ultimate example of demonstrating His love, especially considering His sacrifice of His Son, in order for individuals to experience a judgement at the end of time. Previously, I never would consider John 17 to being considered to have an apocalyptic message, but considering the various perspectives on Jesus’ crucifixion/burial/resurrection/ascension, it is hard to miss that this passage communicates an anticipation for victory in salvation in the end.

  5. I agree that this is a very different style of apocalyptic from what we see in the books of Daniel and Revelation. When I read this prayer, I do not think apocalyptic, as it is very different from the apocalyptic literature that I am used to. However, as you mentioned in the blog, there are a lot of similarities between these. Out of all the things you mentioned, I think the one that I found the most interesting is the fact that God gave the disciples to Jesus. Since those who give their life to Jesus are saved, it is interesting to see that it says the disciples were given to Jesus, though it does make sense. As you said in the blog, lots of apocalyptic literature talks about how a small group is saved, but that others can also be saved, so I can see why this is here. From reading it initially though, I do not think of it as being apocalyptic and see it more as a normal prayer that Jesus says. Thinking of it as also being apocalyptic lets you think of different things and possibly reveals more that readers may not have understood before from this. This is just another example of why learning more about verses rather than just quickly reading through them can be very helpful for readers.

  6. It’s really interesting as to how the whole of John summits in just one chapter. As stated in the second section of the post, everything done previously in Jesus ministry was leading up simply to his eventual death and resurrection on the Cross. Jesus knew that it was time for this to happen, and allowed it to happen, as it was in His/God’s control.
    God also has control over flesh, as stated in the post also. God has dominion over us, and everything we have done has been within His will. This is what happens when God has dominion over you. It is also why He is able to Judge us, as because He is the creator, He is able to Judge His creation.
    It also is interesting, but simple to understand, that God has the ability to grant us eternal life. God is eternal, and He desires for us to be with Him, and assuming we follow Him, we can be granted eternal life, by our creator.
    I am also intrigued at the idea that Jesus was given disciples. I often heard that if you follow Jesus, you are a disciple of His, but that may not be the case. Everyone who is saved, will meet Jesus, but Jesus has an inner circle of sorts, an idea fairly new, and intriguing to me.
    There is a lot of interesting information to be taken in within this single blog post, including many things I didn’t really understand, or ever even think about, but it is good to understand, that God has the power.

  7. Reading this prayer the first word that comes to my mind is not apocalyptic, though, with this post I can see the comparisons. Perhaps this is related to the apocalyptic language of prophecy as Jesus does make some predictions of the fates and difficulties of those that follow him in this prayer (Kostenberger, pp.162-163). Though you yourself have said that the gospel of John itself omits some apocalyptic language in the narrative of Jesus, such as the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem perhaps as a way of leaving that avenue open for John’s later work in Revelation (Long, 2021). And within that thought, as you have said here this passage lacks the tone, and style of heavier apocalyptic literature found elsewhere in scripture. Perhaps, it is the finality of the tone in which this prayer is spoken and the prophecy within it that grants it themes that seem reminiscent of apocalyptic writings in our eyes.

  8. Jesus is the Son of God, we all know that and we also know that there will be a time where He sacrifices Himself for us. That time is called the “appointed hour” talking about His arrest, trial, death, burial, and resurrection. I find it so interesting that God at the beginning of creation “set the times and seasons for certain things to occur, and they will certainly happen because God has appointed them to happen” (P.Long, 2012). The reason why I find that interesting is because God has had everything planned out for thousands of years before they happen. God knows everything that is going to happen in the world forever. So when there is worry or anxiousness in the world, we know that God has a plan for the world and knows the outcome.

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