Who was the last eyewitness to testify about seeing the miracles of Jesus with his or her own eyes? Regardless of the number of times one has read the New Testament, many have forgotten this key fact about John, the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel of John, three Epistles and, finally, the book of Revelation on the Island of Patmos. JOHN'S STORY, by Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, marks the first installment in The Jesus Chronicles, a four-book series that features each Gospel through the eyewitness author.
The opening pages begin in Rome in 95 A.D. with the aging disciple almost 90 years old. He appears before the Emperor Domitian, who had a reputation for cruelty with Christians. The Emperor labels John a heretic and, before a huge coliseum crowd, sentences him to be boiled in oil. Manacled at his hands and feet, the Apostle is lowered into oil until he is kneeling. In the heat, his manacles soften and he boils to death, while the crowd watches and cheers. To everyone's surprise, Jesus works a miracle on the order of the Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego story. Thousands of people believe in Christ upon witnessing John's preservation from the boiling oil. Domitian is furious and wants John killed, but this is impossible because the sentence already has been carried out. Instead, the Emperor assigns the old Apostle to hard labor on the Island of Patmos.
>From this dramatic opening, the authors flash back to the previous year and the events in Ephesus, which motivated John to write his eyewitness account about Jesus. The rise of Gnosticism among the Ephesians is served to readers in the vehicle of John's stories about Jesus. Cerinthus leads a group of Christians into forming a Gnostic church that denies the power of Christ and promotes the idea that someone can work their way to heaven, which is a contrary message to the teachings of Jesus. This drives the elderly Apostle to write his stories with the help of his scribe, Polycarp.
After the creation of his Gospel, soldiers come one night and take John to Rome. At a chapter break, the story picks up with John working tirelessly on Patmos and his vision that becomes the book of Revelation. Some readers will be surprised to find the New King James Version Bible text for John's writings in the final third of this volume. It shortchanges expectations for a full-length novel, and instead they receive a novella-length story.
LaHaye and Jenkins have written a book true to the messages of Scripture. They use the vehicle of fiction to help people understand the hardship and faith walk of the Beloved Apostle. I found it to be a fascinating journey and recommend it wholeheartedly.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on November 13, 2011