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.

3 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.

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  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.

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