The Apostle John was the son of Zebedee, along with his brother James. He was from Galilee and was a fisherman by trade. John was a follower of John the Baptist, and it was Andrew and probably John who started following Jesus when John the Baptist pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. He therefore, along with Andrew, were the first two Apostles who started following Jesus as disciples. John later introduced his brother James to Jesus. He lived to be around a hundred years old, and died about 100 A.D. John outlived the other Apostles, and was the only Apostle according to tradition who died a natural death.
John was perhaps the youngest of the twelve Apostles. When Jesus paired up the Apostles, two by two, as they went out to preach and cast out unclean spirits, John and his brother James were paired together. They undoubtedly complimented each other well, with James being perhaps the oldest of the Apostles. Of the twelve original Apostles, Peter, James and John were particularly close to Jesus, for on several important occasions He chose them to be with Him. And of these three, it seems as if Jesus singled out John as specially beloved. It was John whom Jesus entrusted with the care of His mother when He was on the cross (John 19: 26, 27).
The Lord used John as a prominent New Testament writer. He wrote the gospel which bears his name, and the three epistles which also bear his name. Although John has sometimes been credited with being the writer of the book of Revelation, Jesus is actually its writer, with John serving as His amanuensis. In the gospel of John, he never refers to himself by name, but humbly refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.”
The Character of John
We might ask, What was it about John’s character that specially endeared him to Jesus? He was loving, gentle and meek. John loved companionship, and it seems as if he more than the other eleven appreciated the truth which Jesus taught concerning the partnership which His disciples were to enjoy with Him, both then and in the Kingdom. This is often reflected in John’s writings. He was humble. In John’s first epistle he makes no reference to himself, and in his other two epistles he identifies the writer simply as “the elder.” In the book of Revelation, John refers to himself simply as “his servant John” or just “John.” He was zealous, which enabled Jesus to call him one of the “sons of thunder.” Faithfulness and boldness were important qualities of John’s character. Finally, he developed a high degree of patience, especially in his banishment to the lonely island of Patmos because of his faithful witnessing to the Truth. John is a good example to us, one that we could well try to emulate.
The Lord used John as a typical character, of which we will mention two examples. In one picture he types the Epiphany Kohathite Levites, which consist of the highest general class of the Great Company and the Youthful Worthies in the Epiphany. Also, in the book of Revelation, John types the Lord’s people at the time of the fulfilment of the events symbolized.
The Lord gave John the privilege of presenting one of the twelve stewardship doctrines of the Gospel Age – the office of Christ before, during and after the days of His flesh, as God’s Special Representative. In His pre-human office as the Logos, our Lord was God’s Agent in creation, revelation and providence. Our Lord then became human to be God’s Agent in redemption. Finally, He became Divine in His resurrection to act as God’s Agent in instruction, justification, sanctification and deliverance for the Church and the world, and as God’s Vicegerent throughout the universe. All of John’s writings were composed between 90-100 A.D., and it was during those ten years that special errors arose which required John to stress the office work of our Lord from these three standpoints.