John, the Gnostic

John, who is considered to be the author of the Gospel of John, the three books of John, and Revelation at the end of the Bible, is one of a handful of Gnostic writers whose works were not destroyed by the church establishment.  A majority of the books included in the Bible had no Gnostic theology at all, so it is important to examine John’s books to uncover the beliefs of an important Christian sect that was pushed into a dark corner to be hidden from future Christians.

Why were the Gnostics so feared by the church leaders?  Well, it is rather simple.  The Gnostics did not believe that clergy were required to intercede for believers to reach God.  The central thesis for the Gnostics was dualism:  the spirit is entirely good, while matter is entirely evil.  The human body and all material in the universe are bad, while God and the spirit are good.  Separation of your spirit from your body requires special knowledge.  The Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, the derivative for Gnosticism.  Thus, Gnostics believed that you unified with God and became one with God through your mind by leaving your body behind.

In the Gospel of John, the author emphasized that God would send down the Holy Spirit to help us become one with God, just like Jesus and God are one, John 17:11.  Jesus said that the Spirit will be in us, John 14:17.  Jesus is in his Father, just like he will be in you and you in him, John 14:20 and 17:22-23.  After Jesus died, he returned to command us to “receive the Holy Spirit,” John 20:22.

John’s books were included in the Bible because he was not an extreme Gnostic.  For example, some Gnostics believed in “docetism,” which meant that Jesus only seemed to have a body.  John believed some Gnostics of his day were false prophets under the influence of spirits alienated from God.  In other words, there were both evil and good spirits, and we should test the spirits, 1 John 4:1-3.  Some Gnostics, who followed Cerinthus, believed that Jesus was not in the spirit form until he was baptized by John the Baptist and then right before he died on the cross.

But John was a Gnostic in the sense that he believed that you must unify with God.  John believed that God must be in you, 1 John 4:4, and living in you, 1 John 4:12.  He stated, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit,” John 4:13.  And John explains that it is important to have God inside you, giving you confidence and driving out any fear we might have on judgment day, 1 John 17-18.  In other words, fear could be disastrous for us in the afterlife, so if we have God inside us, we will lose much of that fear.

John also apparently believed that God’s creation was a closed universe, so that God and Jesus existed before the universe was created, John 17:5 and 17:24.  The creation must have occurred outside our universe, meaning that it has a boundary that separates it from God’s universe.  This comports with the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy, which states that mass and energy cannot be created nor destroyed within our closed universe.  Creation must occur outside the perimeter of our universe.  And God’s universe is outside and separate from our universe.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.

John’s Book of Revelation is perhaps the most intriguing of his works.  If you asked twenty theologians to analyze the meanings, you would hear twenty different interpretations.  However, it is still worthwhile examining the passages.  For example, Jesus said that he was “the Alpha and the Omega,” in Revelation 1:8, meaning that he is the beginning and the end or “the First and the Last,” in Revelation 2:8.  This seems to indicate a closed universe with a beginning and an end.

Does that mean that God will destroy the entire universe?  Does that mean that we will no longer be conscious or aware?  The end of our worldly bodies is something we expect anyway.  The end of the universe is something altogether different.  If God can create our universe outside of its boundaries, He can also end it from outside.  But does that mean that after God destroys the universe that we will no longer be thinking?  Unfortunately, it seems we will not be that fortunate.

A Roman poet, Cornelius Gallus, wrote in the first century B.C., “Worse than any wound is the wish to die and yet not be able to do so.”  Revelation describes the end of times when God will select only 144,000 people to be protected from the torture and agony that is the future.  The remaining people “will seek death, but will not find it; they will want to die, but death will elude them,” Revelation 9:6.  The 144,000 are described as having God’s name on their foreheads in Revelation 14:1, which because of John’s Gnostic leanings may have meant that these citizens had God inside their thoughts and were one with God.

As mentioned in 1 John 4:1, we should test the spirits because some are evil.  Revelation describes evil spirits working to forge forces to fight in the final battle of Armageddon, Revelation 16:13-16.  Revelation does not offer any peace for people unless they unite with God.  Those who oppose God like Satan will be relegated to a fiery lake where they will be tormented for eternity, Revelation 20:10.  These may be allegorical references to torture forever within our own thoughts.  We may torture ourselves more than God ever would.  Nobody knows for certain except the Creator, who also holds the power of Destroyer.  If we were in that fiery lake, we might beg Him to destroy us and put us out of our misery, but apparently that does not happen.

At the conclusion of Revelation, Jesus mentions the Omega or ending again and then describes a new world which is outside the old universe (Alpha and Omega) in Revelation 22:13-15.  It is logical that in order to join Jesus and God in their world, you have to unite with them and become one.

Gnostic Gospels

The lost gospels of Mary, Peter, Phillip, Thomas, and Judas, many of which are Gnostic in origin, were not included with the gospels selected by the Nicene Convention in the fourth century for our Holy Bible.  They were intentionally eliminated and were hidden from Christians for hundreds of years.

Since the Gnostics believed that their relationship with God was personal and thus did not need a bishop, priest, or any other religious leader to intercede for them, it was natural for the structured, formalistic faction of Christianity to not include their gospels in the Bible.

The Gnostics were almost mystical in their faith.  They had a one-on-one connection with God that did not require them to go to church or have any relationship with other believers.  Their faith was based on God entering their thoughts and mind and unifying with them.  Nobody else was required in order for this to happen.  In fact, others would have distracted them from obtaining this type of relationship with God.

Even though these Gnostic Gospels are not accepted by mainstream Christians today, it is important to read them.  They provide insight into an important and significant part of early Christianity that was erased by Emperor Constantine and the Roman religious leaders of that time.

The importance of Gnosticism is found in the reality of any imagined afterlife.  Logically in order to have an afterlife, you have to be thinking or be aware after death.  If you die and are no longer thinking, then anything that happens after you die is meaningless to your consciousness.

There are scientists and doctors who believe that you will no longer be aware of anything after you die since your brain, the center of your awareness, will be dead.  This is quite possible, but I would argue not probable because of the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy.  Our consciousness or thinking cannot be destroyed in this universe.  Our awareness, however, can be converted to another form of matter or energy, which probably does happen.

But the question is: will you still be thinking in this new type of matter or energy of the underworld?  I believe that it is more likely that you will still be thinking because your awareness cannot be destroyed; it can only be modified.

So, Gnosticism may be more appropriate for a situation when you are thinking in a new environment without priests or friends or family by your side to assist you.  You will be on your own, facing eternal thoughts in the afterlife.  Anyone familiar with sensory deprivation will explain how devastating that can become within a matter of minutes.

As the Gnostics recommend, you should become one with your God before you die.  By unifying with God, He enters your thoughts and becomes one with you.  He will be your guide through the underworld.  Trust me.  It is not something you want to try on your own.  Just ask former prisoners who were tortured with sensory deprivation.

Even those who said they were religious did not fare well because they had not linked up completely with God.  They may have gone to church and may have even led a good life, but they were not unified with God.  Most of them started hallucinating within minutes and the horrible nightmares would have created an eternal hell for them.