Saint John the Apostle, also called Saint John the Evangelist, was one of the 12 disciples of Christ. This disciple was one of the sons of Zebedee who followed our Lord. His story extends many years past the earthly ministry of Christ. John was known as an apostle, author, and the only apostle who was not killed by martyrdom, though not from lack of trying.
John the Apostle
We get the vast majority of our information about John from the pages of the four gospels. We know that John was the younger brother of James and the son of Zebedee (Mark 10:35; Luke 5:10). Though not directly stated, we know that John was called the beloved disciple, or “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20-24). His occupation was as a fisherman before he and his brother became disciples of Christ.
John and James were cousins to Jesus as their mother, Salome, was the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40). The two brothers were some of the first disciples of Jesus. Based on the language in John chapter one it is believed that John was probably the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist. John never refers to himself directly in the book that bears his name.
The two brothers, James and John, were called the "sons of thunder" by Christ. They seem to have been even tempered men, but there is one story at the end of Luke 9 where they asked Jesus if He wanted them to call down fire from Heaven to consume the unbelieving Samaritans. They must not have been completely docile men for Christ to refer to them as the "sons of thunder" and to be willing to call down God’s wrath (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:51-56).
Peter, James and John must have had a special relationship with the Lord because of the many times the Bible talks about those three to the exclusion of the other disciples. They were with Christ on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:27-36). They (along with Andrew) were with Him for the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37). They were also the inner circle of prayer warriors in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37).
John the Author
John wrote five books in the New Testament. He wrote The Gospel According to John, First, Second and Third John, and he was the penman of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
All of his books were written later in life and after all the other books in the Bible were recorded. We don’t know the exact time or order of the books having been written, but here are some possible dates:
The Gospel According to John: A.D. 80 to 98
First, Second and Third John: A.D. 90 to 95
The Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ: A.D. 94 to 98
Of course we know God inspired the Bible and that it was written with His leading, but this may explain why the book of John seems so applicable to the readers of today. John had more time to think about what questions were raised in the 50 or more years after the resurrection of Christ. He knew what doubts had been raised and how to answer the questions before we knew to ask them.
The Epistles of John were written to various audiences. They were all written after John was an old man living in Ephesus. The first epistle was not addressed to anyone in particular, but was written more as a sermon. The second was written to an unnamed “elect lady.” The third to a man name Gaius. There are three men who bear that name to whom the letter could have been written. There was a Gaius in Macedonia (Acts 19:29), Corinth (Romans 16:23), and Derbe (Acts 20:4).
The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ was written by John probably close to the same time he wrote the epistles which bear his name. The book of the Revelation was written about the vision that John saw while banished to the Greek island of Patmos on the Aegean sea. Tradition says that this was after John had been sentenced to death by martyrdom.
Saint John the Apostle's Death
We know little about John’s later life and death from the Bible. The most insightful bit of information comes from John 21 when the risen Christ was talking to Peter about Peter’s death. After Jesus told Peter that he would not live long Peter asked about John’s death. Jesus replied that if John lived until Christ’s return, that was not Peter’s concern. This was not a promise that John would live until the Lord returned, but it does seem to indicate that the Lord knew John would live a long time (John 21:19-23).
Tradition holds that John was sentenced to death in a boiling vat of oil. Yet he emerged unharmed from the experience. Again tradition tells us that John lived into old age dying sometime after A.D. 98. He is thought to have died in Ephesus.