1 John – Cycle 12

The twelfth and final cycle of 1 John brings us to Succession, where the overall theme is the inheritance of the faithful – eternal life. But union with Christ also entails the responsibilities of the saints as New Covenant elohim.

The Triune office is the combination of the roles of Priest, King and Prophet. In Christ, the saints are a royal priesthood, and the result of the combination of priestly humility and kingly exaltation is prophetic authority. John presents these three ministries as intercession, purity, and sound judgment.

TRANSCENDENCE (Genesis/Creation)

These things (Transcendence)
have I written to you (Hierarchy)
that you might know (Ethics)
that you possess (Oath/Sanctions)
eternal life, (Succession)

  • The order of the content in the first two stanzas is strange in English but makes sense when Covenant-literary structure is taken into account. The “Genesis” stanza concerns not life as given to Adam but eternal life as given to Christ.

HIERARCHY (Exodus/Division)

and that you
believing HIERARCHY
may believe
on the name ETHICS
Presentation – Purification – Transformation
on the name
of the Son
of God.
  • The Exodus stanza reinforces the claim of Hebrews that Jesus is greater than Moses. Instead of a sequence of ten prohibitions in preparation for ministry, we instead have a division between the past faith of the saints and the future of their faith. Exhortation is a tool of the Spirit, dividing between those who are walking with Christ and those who are not. For these Jewish saints, such a division was a crucial reminder of the fate of those who backslid into a now apostate Judaism.
  • John’s fivefold sequence might also reflect a progression through the major Covenants of history: Noah as the first qualified Covenant administrator, Abraham as a man of faith, Moses and the priesthood of Yahweh, David as the beloved king, and Jesus as God incarnate.

ETHICS: Priesthood (Leviticus/Ascension)

And this is the confidence (Initiation)
that we have (Delegation)
toward him, (Presentation)
that if anything (Purification)
we might ask (Transformation)
according to his will, (Vindication)
he hears us. (Representation)

  • The Priesthood section is given two stanzas which relate to the ministry of intercession: one for the Bronze Altar (the tribes of the Land) and one for the Table (the firstfruits of the Land).
  • The first stanza reminds that saints that in Christ they have a level of access to the throne of grace that is far superior to anyone in previous history, including the priests, kings and prophets of Israel.
And if we know (Initiation)
that he hears us, (Delegation)
whatever we might ask, (Presentation)
we know (Purification)
that we have the requests (Transformation)
that we have asked (Vindication)
from him. (Representation)

  • Whereas in the Altar stanza, the two altar lines (Presentation and Transformation) represent Jesus and our requests, in this Table stanza they represent the request and the granting of those requests. Moreover, at Oath/Sanctions, instead of Jesus’ will we now see our own will as those who bear His name as our Oath.

ETHICS: Kingdom (Numbers/Testing)

If anyone should see his brother (Initiation)
sinning a sin not to death, (Delegation) 
he will ask, and he will give him life – (Presentation)
to those sinning not unto death. (Purification)
There is a sin unto death;  (Transformation)
not concerning that sin (Vindication)
do I say that he should implore. (Representation)

  • The Kingdom stanza relates the ministry of intercession to our call to purity. To do so, John alludes to Numbers 15:22-31 which differentiates between unintentional and intentional or “high-handed” sins which resulted in the sinner being cut off from Israel. This was the imminent fate of the Jewish rulers after the witness of the Apostles. For this, they would not be forgiven. So the context of this stanza is a discernment between those who were Jews and were not (the Circumcision, the synagogue of Satan, Revelation 3:9), and those who were true Jews through circumcision of heart by the Gospel (Romans 2:29). Judas’ sin was high-handed, but the denials Peter and even the murders of Paul were clearly not “high-handed” rebellion against God.
  • Each line in this stanza is “triple-barreled,” suggesting three columns which express the Triune Office but working in horizontal lines like the Ten Words.1See God-in-a-Box.
Creation If anyone should see his brother
Division sinning a sin not to death
Ascension he will ask and he will give him life –
Testing to those sinning not unto death.
Maturity There is a sin unto death;
Conquest not concerning that sin;
Glorification do I say that he should implore.

ETHICS: Prophecy (Deuteronomy/Maturity)

All unrighteousness is sin; (Creation – Sabbath)
and there is a sin not unto death. (Division – Passover)
We know that everyone having been born of God (Ascension – Firstfruits)
does not continue to sin, (Testing – Pentecost)
but the one having been begotten of God (Maturity – Trumpets)
keeps/guards himself, (Conquest – Atonement)
and the evil one does not touch him. (Glorification – Booths)

  • The Prophecy stanza speaks of the Church as a resurrection body, and through its structure contrasts Adam with Jesus. It also contrasts Delegation/Division (Israel under the sword in Egypt) with Vindication/Conquest (Israel bearing the sword in Jericho) and thus circumcision with baptism. In doing so, it indicates that there is indeed an “age of accountability” at least in terms of historical continuity. Being born into Adam (under the cherubic sword) is unintentional, but consciously rebelling against God (Cain slaying Abel) is intentional. Cain was indeed called to be his brother’s keeper.

OATH/SANCTIONS (Joshua/Conquest)

We know (Transcendence: by the Spirit)
that of God we are, (Hierarchy: priest-kings)
and the whole world (Ethics: false kings)
in the evil one (Oath/Sanctions: no covering)
lies. (Succession: false rest)

  • The Joshua section is given two stanzas, and as we shall see, together they correspond to the structure of the entire epistle. The two sections represent the moral darkness and light between which Adam was to discern. This duality is also found in the black and white stones in the ephod, the curses and blessings of the Covenant, and the two goats on the Day of Atonement.
  • The first stanza is fivefold and thus the “unfulfilled” Covenant through which the entire world is bound by the Accuser. This is the curse upon Adam’s land.
We know moreover (the Gospel call)
that the Son of God is come, (sin removed)
and has given us understanding, (Law given)
so that we might know him who is true; (Law opened)
and we are in him who is true, (Law received)
in the Son of him, Jesus Christ (removed from sin)
He is the true God, and life eternal. (rest and rule)

  • The second stanza reveals Jesus as the seed of the Woman, the fruit of the womb, who unlike Adam is the light of all men. The Spirit He has sent to us is the source of our wisdom and discernment. We are not like those who walk in darkness.

SUCCESSION (Judges/Glorification)

Little children, (Transcendence)
guard/watch (Hierarchy)
yourselves (Ethics)
from idols. (Oath/Sanctions)
Amen. (Succession)

  • Finally, John exhorts the sons of God to be true judges, true elohim. As sword bearers, as guardians, they were to first guard themselves. What were these idols against which John warned? His audience was predominantly Jewish, so perhaps he refers to the sorceries currently going on in Jerusalem, a city which Peter had already referred to as Babylon, where the Temple was being completed and the “false prophet” of Judaism would begin to call down fire from heaven as did the priests of Baal.

The Structure of 1 John

Now that our analysis of the epistle is complete, we can see that John’s decision to arrange his composition in twelve cycles split into two greater cycles of five and seven speaks of the relationship between Covenant and history:

If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.

References   [ + ]

1. See God-in-a-Box.

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