By Stephen Leonard
“When Peter saw Him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” John 21:21-22
This conversation is during one of many appearances of Jesus to those who had followed Him during His ministry on earth. All this took place in the 40 days we celebrate now between Easter and Ascension. After Jesus had focused on Peter after breakfast on a beach of the Sea of Galilee, Peter then asked Him about John. Jesus’ words about John have mystified Christians for the two millenniums since, as they did Peter.
The disciples even thought John would not die if he really lived until Jesus’ return. They were unaware of the dramatic vision John would see at the end of that century on a little Island called Patmos. What was the vision about? The end times and the return of Christ, which figure prominently in the first chapter of Revelation. Could this be what Jesus referred to here? John would live longer than any of the other apostles. He would live just into the Second Century. But in about 95 AD, he was in exile on the Island of Patmos.
There, he witnessed in 3D color the Return of Christ, in the most compelling vision ever witnessed by man. And as he was commanded, John wrote down much of the vision with the assistance of his secretary, Prochorus, one of the first Deacons, told about in Acts 6. So in a very real sense, John did remain until Jesus came, only he saw Him come in a vision unseen by no other man.
Jesus was prophesying of this vision, of which the disciples had no idea, nor did John, that John would experience firsthand when he was sent into exile by the Roman Caesar of the time, probably Domitian. Thus John fulfilled Jesus’ words that he would remain to see the return of Christ. But he would die sometime after his great vision of that event, and the things he was told not to write down died with him. John saw more than we know from the Book of the Apocalypse. But we shall know it one day when those events take place before the eyes of all.
Jesus speaks no frivolous words! He answered Peter truthfully with an answer that none of the disciples would understand then, but do now! I have believed for a long time, that this is the answer to Jesus’ response to Peter. The beloved Apostle John lived to see Jesus Christ’s return in his apocalyptic vision on Patmos. Glory be to God!
“Great God, what do I see and hear! The end of things created! The Judge of mankind doth appear on clouds of glory seated! The trumpet sounds; the graves restore the dead which they contained before: prepare, my soul, to meet Him.”
(Anonymous hymn, “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!,” 1802)