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Exile to New Creation in John's Gospel (Part

1)
The gospel according to John is rightly a "beloved" book book of the Bible (pun intended). It's
central message concerning Christ and his redemptive accomplishments are simple enough that
even the "unlearned" can understand. Yet, it is also so richly profound that a lifetime can be
spent mining the depths of its theology and the bottom is never reached. It is my intention in this
multi-part series to look at one of the rich underlying theological themes of John's gospel. As the
title bears out, the theme is exile to new creation. This first post will draw out some preliminary
matters addressed in the first five verses of the Prologue. The theme of exile, return from exile,
and new creation are hatched in these opening verses. Furthermore, I will address how these
relate to the stated purpose of John's gospel. The Prologue is especially important in
understanding the theology of John's gospel for Carson rightly states, "The Prologue is a foyer to
the rest of the Fourth Gospel, simultaneously drawing the reader in and introducing the major
themes" (Carson, 111). Furthermore, as I develop this theme I will draw primarily from the Old
Testament book of Isaiah as there seems to be a correspondence and connection between the
prophecy of Isaiah and the Gospel of John (see James Hamilton "The Influence of Isaiah on the
Gospel of John," Perichoresis 5/2 (2007): 139-162).

Isaiah's prophecy looks to a time when God creates something that is new; a new heaven and a
new earth. The terminology used in Isaiah mirrors that which is used in Genesis 1. The trajectory
of the Bible points us to the fact that God will dwell amongst his people. Where God, in the
original creation dwelt amongst them in the first garden temple so to in the final creation God
would dwell in the midst of his people (Rev. 21:1ff). Israel was a type of what was to come as
the Lord dwelt in her midst (Deut. 6:15). However, sin spoiled the original creation. Man was
exiled from the garden temple of Eden (Gen. 3). Israel, which had the tabernacle and temple
where God dwelt with his people, was exiled because of violation of the covenant stipulation
given at Sinai. This exile of Israel was pictured by Isaiah as a time of darkness (see Isaiah 9) and
return from exile is ultimately pictured as the light dawning in the darkness. The exile is more
than just a physical relocation, it ultimately looks back upon the condition of all of humanity
being in exile from the Lord because of both Adam's sin (corporate) and our own personal sins.
Thus, the light dawning or shining in darkness is the redemptive work of God being made
manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the light who has come into the world.

How does this relate to the beginning of John? What is invoked is creation imagery. The Word
who was both with God and was God is the one through whom "all things were made."
Therefore, as we read John with Old Testament anticipation we ought to be clued in to the
dawning of the new creation coming by means of the same "without him was not any thing made
that was made." Furthermore, John melds together both creation and exilic return language "the
light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." The very one whom the
original creation was made is the one through whom the new creation comes. Isaiah 65 speaks of
a new creation, which is marked by life, peace, blessing, and prosperity. The almighty God will
bring about a new creation and it is through the agent of the original creation; the Lord Jesus.
In John 1:5 there is a contrast between light and darkness. The light shines in the darkness and
the darkness has not overcome it. Darkness is the sphere of evil. It is where sin is carried out
(John 3:19). Darkness is the sphere of sin and wickedness, but it is also more. It is the sphere of
positive evil where people walk in darkness conducting themselves in manners of sinfulness and
wickedness (Jn. 8:12). The one who walks in darkness is lost (Jn. 12:35). Darkness is something
that people need delivered from (Jn. 12:46). Furthermore it is the realm of Satan who is a liar and
a murderer. The light (Christ) has come into the realm of darkness; the realm of sin; the realm of
evil; the realm of exile. Yet, the darkness does not prevail. Sin does not prevail. The light pierces
the darkness or overcomes the darkness. The darkness never overcomes the light. Darkness only
exists when there is no light.

The point that is made here is that when the almighty God came into the world as a man, he was
triumphant in his mission. He overcame the darkness. Of course this begs a question? What did
he overcome when he overcame the darkness and how did he overcome it?

Light and darkness are not equal forces. In many lines of thought light and darkness or good and
evil are two equal forces that are locked in this cosmic battle of sorts. There is no sure outcome.
It is a push/pull relationship. Sometimes good triumphs while other times darkness or evil
triumphs. The picture is one of this cosmic tug of war. There is no assurance of any outcome.
However, this is not the picture that is given in the Scriptures. Good and evil; light and darkness
are not equal forces. The Lord God and Satan are not equal powers and the realm of darkness
will never prevail over the kingdom of light. The darkness does not overcome the light. The light
is triumphant. The light overcomes. The Lord Jesus is the triumphant God who overcomes
darkness (Satan, sin, and wickedness).

Isaiah 9:2 "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land
of deep darkness, on them has light shined." John picks up this theme from Isaiah. Isaiah is
speaking of the Lord Jesus (see also Matt. 4). Those who walk darkness on them the light has
shined. It isn't that Jesus simply overcomes Satan, sin, and wickedness in the world; he
overcomes it even in our own hearts. The darkness is the world estranged from God; spiritually
ignorant and blind, fallen and sinful. This described us. But we have seen a great light; the Lord
Jesus Christ who has shined upon us that we would have life.

How Jesus is triumphant? Or by what means is he triumphant? This speaks to Jesus' resurrection
and his ultimate return.

The greatest day of darkness was Good Friday. The day on which the Lord of glory was
crucified. It is recorded that when Jesus was crucified their was darkness over the land. However,
on the third day, the light emerged from the tomb. He was triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
The light overcame the darkness. The reality is we must be firmly focused upon the Lord Jesus
who emerged from the tomb triumphant. Sin is overcome. The exile is being brought to an end.
The return from exile is becoming a reality.

How do we understand the fact that the Bible tells us that Jesus is triumphant, but we still see
evil in the world; we still see death. Satan has been vanquished at the cross and resurrection and
he is like a wounded animal now. He is in the death throws, but when the Lord returns, the
triumph that was accomplished at the cross and resurrection will be finally brought to its
consummation. The light will fully and finally triumph over the darkness and God will dwell
with man.

How do these themes relate to the stated purpose of John's Gospel? John explicitly states that
which he wrote was "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by
believing you may have life in his name" (20:31). In the overall scope of the of John's Gospel the
realm of darkness is equated with sin, exile, and darkness. However, conversely, light is equated
with the Lord, righteousness, and life. Therefore, those who "return from exile," so to speak, are
those who identify with Christ and believe in his name. Consequently they are the ones who have
life.

As Christ Jesus entered the world at his first advent, the light pierced the darkness and those who
dwelt in darkness upon them a light has shined. The one who is the light is the source of life and
he gives life and light to those who dwell in darkness that they would share in the new creation
where God dwells with man in a garden temple that transcends the first one in that it fills the
whole earth.

In our next segment we will look at another key section of the Prologue that further establishes
who participates in exile to new creation.

Exile to New Creation in John's Gospel (Part


2)
In the first entry of this series we looked at the theme of a return from exile that is present as a
theological backdrop to the Gospel of John. With the second entry we will look at those who are
part of the exilic return to the New Creation.

The Lord Jesus is described as the "Light" who has come into the world and the darkness has not
overcome the light. Consequently, those who follow Jesus are those who do not walk in
darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). Meaning, those who are disciples of Jesus, or
those who follow him, have been liberated from the realm of darkness, sin, and death and no
longer comport themselves as such. Instead, they have the light, which is life. The Greek
construction is an genitive of apposition. This means that the second word identifies the first. It
could be equated to drawing an equal sign between the two words. The light of which Jesus
speaks is life. This, however, leads to a key question approached in John. Who participates in
this exilic return?

It would seem to be a simple answer to the question if one looks at John 20:31. Those who
believe in the name of Jesus are those who have life and are those who participate in the exilic
return. Obviously, this is a true statement. The deeper question relates to who are those who
believe.
The exilic return is not a specifically isolated to Jewish people. It is to all those who are
believing. Those who are believing include believing Jews, but also believing Gentiles. The light
came into the world and came to his own (that is Israel), but his own did not receive him. Later
in the gospel "his own" becomes redefined as disciples who are with Jesus in the Upper Room
and then those who would believe their message (see John 13-17). Furthermore, those who do
receive Jesus are given a particular title; "children."

Who are these believing "children"? Contrary to those who advocate that any person without
distinction is a "child of God," the title is reserved for those who believe in Christ and it is
something that is granted versus something that is simply innate.

According to John, the children (of God) are those who have been born of God. This is what
accounts for the reception of Christ. This is what accounts for believing in Christ. This is
something that is all grace. It is all within the good and sovereign prerogative of God. The
emphasis is obscured a bit in the English, but John 1:13 would read something like this: "who,
not from blood and not from the will of the flesh and not from the will of man, but from God
have been born." The emphasis is upon what God has done versus the instigation or machination
of man.

The emphasis is on what God does. It is not from our own will or power. It is not simply by
conventional birth that you become a child of God. It is because God has granted this to you. It is
a passive verb meaning that those whom this is referring to were not doing the action, but the
action is done to them. Just as a baby doesn't bring themselves into the world by their own will
or under their own power, they are passive. So we are not born of God by our own power. It is
God who grants it and those whom he grants are those who believe and those who believe are
given the right to become the children of God. This is truly the evidence of the grace of God. We
are the children of God and we are the people of God and those who believe have been given life
(birth) and will have life (eternal).

This birth comes about by the sovereign agency of the Spirit of God. One cannot see the
kingdom of God "unless one is born from above" (John 3:3). This birth is not orchestrated by the
efforts of man, but by the Spirit who is likened to the wind. One can see the effects of the wind,
but one does not control where the wind blows.

If this birth from above is according to the sovereign work of God, who are those who receive
this birth? In the "Bread of Life" discourse, Jesus says that those who come to him will never
hunger or thirst (6:35). This is another way of saying that those who come to Jesus will have
eternal life. Those who come to Jesus are those who have been given to him by the Father (6:37).
Furthermore, those who come to Jesus are those whom the Father draws. Without the drawing of
the Father individuals are unable to come to the Christ and thus have eternal life. These people
have been given to the Son by the Father in order that the Son would give to them eternal life
(17:2).

In other words, those who participate in this exilic return are those who have been given to the
Son by the Father. Those who are given to the Son by the Father will most certainly come to
faith in Jesus Christ because the work of the Holy Spirit ensures they will. The Spirit causes the
new birth in those who have been given the Son by the Father. Thus, they come to faith and have
eternal life. Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ have been born of God (1 John 5:1). The
ones who believe are granted the right to become the children of God. It is the children of God
who are part of this exilic return.

In the third installment of the series we will turn our attention to the substance of the exilic
return; namely the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.