John’s Formula for Understanding the Bible
Get the vision ‘from the beginning.’

The Apostle John gave us the greatest Bible study guide in the Bible. It is called “from the beginning.” This Bible study formula is one that we need to have in our minds to make any biblical subject real and become grounded in it the way God wants us to be. We need this formula to be able to teach from the Bible with the depth God wants us to have. We must learn what John meant by “from the beginning.”

The world today is not interested in history. Universities and colleges are removing the subject from their curricula. There is a reason why Satan is blotting out history. He has convinced man that history is irrelevant—that if you look back to the beginning, you will get lost and confused. He convinces man to rely instead on human reasoning.

Herbert W. Armstrong often used the analogy of watching a movie. If you begin watching when a movie is halfway over, you’ll be bewildered because you didn’t start from the beginning. This same principle applies in our Bible study. True understanding can come only by starting at “the beginning of the movie.” If we don’t understand the great biblical beginnings, we will be confused.

This is a truly wonderful, foundational principle we need in our lives. It’s a guide to becoming spiritually grounded. It helps us better understand how true Christians should prepare for our marriage to Jesus Christ.

The Word of Life

When Christ walked this Earth, He personally taught the Apostle John. He instructed him on what to do in the many years of his ministry after Christ returned to the Father. And John’s writings contain a unique focus on “from the beginning.”

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). This scripture is a mystery to the world.

John is writing about Jesus Christ, but he doesn’t name Him as such in this verse. He says they heard Him, gazed on Him, and touched Him—but he doesn’t specify that they did that to Jesus Christ. He describes Him as “the Word of life.” This is a profound understanding that we need.

When Jesus was here on Earth, John looked at Him, heard Him, touched Him, and said, This is the Word! This is the God who came down from heaven, one of the two Gods who were all alone out in space until they created the angels and then the universe and then man. That is getting back to the real beginning—the beginning of creation.

At the time of writing this, John was enduring the greatest crisis of his life: He was trying to keep the Church from falling away. He wanted to get the brethren’s minds grounded on the fact that they had gazed upon, touched and handled the Word—one of the two Beings who have existed for all eternity! One of those two Gods came down to this Earth and literally gave His life to mankind, God’s Work, purpose and plan!

This is something we must keep in mind. When you face a great crisis or trial in your own life, as John was, remember who the Head of this Church is! A great, eternal God Being came to Earth and died for the sins of mankind. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son …” (John 3:16). What love God had to give of Himself completely!

John was emphasizing that Christ wasn’t just a man with some special talent. He was the Word of God! He was a God Being who made a tremendous sacrifice for mankind and the Family of God.

When John wrote this, the Apostle Paul had already been dead for about 18 years, and Peter had been dead for around 17 years. John had a heavy responsibility because he had to take care of part of Paul’s region, including Ephesus. During this time, John was digging as deeply into this subject as he could.

John’s first epistle speaks not only about intense persecution coming from outside the Church, but also from within the Church. Diotrephes, the “son of perdition” of the first-century Church, was trying to take over all the congregations he could. John was warning the brethren about what was wrong with what Diotrephes was doing. John was fighting antichrists—people who are against Christ—coming from inside the Church! 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us ….”

This is a type of what has happened in this end time with the Laodicean rebellion. That makes this instruction in 1 John especially prophetic for us today.

Shout for Joy!

It is essential that we understand “the beginning of the movie.” You have to see the beginning to get grounded in God’s Word.

In speaking of “the Word,” John was pointing back to before time. Time was created for the angels, the universe and man. Isaiah 57:15 tells us that God inhabits eternity!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). There were two personages for all eternity—two God Beings.

The first thing God created was the angels. After that, God created the universe for them. Job 38:4-7 record that when they saw the Earth created, they all sang together and shouted for joy. They were very excited about God’s plans for them and how they were going to be able to work with and beautify this exquisite creation.

The plan that God is enacting today with humankind is even more exciting than what God did with the angels! If we get our minds into what God is doing, then we too are going to shout for joy! If we think about and get the overview God has, we realize that we are involved in His plan in a super way!

That is the formula to follow. John is telling us to go back to that beginning and keep that overview in our minds—the big picture of why we are here—because it is the most inspiring plan we could ever understand! Nothing compares to what God is doing: He is re-creating Himself; even God can’t do anything greater. Understanding that has to cause you to shout for joy!

John talks about the Word to make us realize that this is about God and eternity—and about each of us becoming an eternal God.

An eternal Being came to Earth and gave everything to bring mankind into the Family of God. He did this in spite of man’s sins, rebellion and the fact that they would brutally murder Him. That was all a part of the plan.

Jesus Christ dying for mankind was the greatest act of love ever. “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:13). John didn’t write “This is Christ”—he wrote that this was “The Word of God”! One of the eternal God Beings came to Earth and dipped His vesture in blood and gave His life so that we might have eternal glory! What a price had to be paid for our sins! What an act of love! This is the type of love that we have to grow in, learn to understand, and pray daily that God would give us.

“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). “And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it” (2 John 5-6).

God’s love has been there from the beginning, and His instruction to men and angels has always been consistent. John repeats “from the beginning” over and over because it is a foundational guide on how we should study the Bible and understand God. It reveals to us what is going on in God’s mind and what His plan is and the critical part we play in that plan.

When we get away from that understanding, we run into problems.

Why Men and Churches Fail

“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The devil has sinned from the beginning. This is why John was inspired to tell us to go back to the beginning, so we can have the whole picture.

God created Lucifer as one of the angels. He was a covering cherub on God’s throne for perhaps millions of years. He was right there at God’s throne and watched God express His love and unfold His plan, and he saw all that God is. Lucifer was perfect, until lawlessness was found in him. He rejected the government that was over him. He rebelled. And he has deceived angels and human beings, by the billions, into following him.

In 1972, I was working as a ministerial trainee under a pastor of the Worldwide Church of God (wcg). While training, I was able to go to Pasadena to take a Bible prophecy class. The instructor was Ernest L. Martin, who, much like Dr. Herman Hoeh, had an enormous amount of knowledge. His class on Bible prophecy was very enlightening—but, at the same time, alarming.

Dr. Martin would talk about how prophetic institutions and the schools of God in the past all fell into disrepute. He talked about how Samuel’s, Elijah’s and Elisha’s colleges all became polluted spiritually. It seemed he was implying that this might have been happening in the wcg at the time.

After one class, I wrote this in my notes: “Do all institutions of God fold up? This is the human tendency, frightening portent of this message.” I was beginning to see that a lot of history has gone wrong; more so than has turned out right.

It seemed like there was some dissatisfaction in Dr. Martin’s life. Something wasn’t right, because he eventually rebelled against God’s government and left God’s Church.

Where did he go wrong? Well I can tell you this: He didn’t go back to the beginning and really understand the Elijah work. He certainly didn’t understand who Mr. Armstrong was (Matthew 17:10-11; Malachi 4:5-6).

Look at the fruits of those men in the wcg who rebelled against God and God’s Work. What have they produced for God today? What have they done that demonstrates the power of God behind their work?

I could sense that something was wrong with what was taking place in that class, but at the time, I didn’t fully understand it. To try to understand, I had to dig into my Bible; I looked into it as carefully as I could. That helped me see a lot more about what was happening at the time—because it is something that is revealed in your Bible! Prophecy explains how and why 95 percent of God’s Church walked away. We must always remember that there is cause and effect.

If you go back to Lucifer’s earliest history, for example, he was doing great! He was perfect in his ways until lawlessness was found in him. He began to hate God’s government. And he sinned. Now, you can look at the world we live in to see the end result of that rebellion. Satan is cast down, and he and his demons are in a rage.

If you understand the mistake Lucifer made from the beginning of his sin, you are far better equipped to avoid making the same mistake.

Beginning of the Creation of God

God doesn’t want us to follow a man. He wants us to follow Jesus Christ, who was really the Word of God, without beginning or end!

What happened to the men in this lukewarm Laodicean era of God’s Church—and even, somewhat, in the Philadelphia era? God tells us clearly: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:14-16).

When He talks about “the beginning of the creation of God,” Christ here is referring to the same concept John started off with in 1 John 1:1 and John 1:1. The Laodiceans have lost the beginning of the creation of God! They haven’t understood the plan of God from the beginning. They have become wrapped up in physical and material things rather than in the truth of God.

But there is a small remnant that keeps the beginning of the creation of God. We go back to the beginning like the Apostle John did.

Throughout history, God’s people have made all kinds of mistakes, but the greatest tragedy is rejecting this wonderful reward and high calling that God has given to us.

Let no man take your crown. Keep this from-the-beginning formula—this guide—this strategy—in your mind! Get deeply into this vision. If you do, it will make you shout for joy!