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 we have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
John begins both his gospel account and his epistles with this truth: Jesus is from the beginning. He means that Jesus literally predates all of the created things. He was existent before all other things were. In essence, in a time when only God existed, Jesus existed. By conclusion, Jesus then is God. As God, according to John 1:14, He became human and dwelled among other humans. John further says in 1 John that He preached a specific message “which we have heard;” His transfiguration took place in a way “which we have seen with our eyes;” He died a grueling death for the sin of all mankind on a cross while “we looked upon [Him];” and He physically arose from the dead and “our hands have handled” Him. After John had witnessed Him live a life of perfect submission to God and absolute sinlessness, John could not help but relay the message of truth and hope that could be found in the saving work of Jesus. The eternal life that God offered through Jesus had been at the heart of Christ’s appearing and incarnation. The invitation went out then, and it goes out again even now from John: a saving One has come. Life and Hope can be had, and they can be had in the person of Jesus Christ. So, John starts this letter with this reality. The theology that follows in the epistle hinges on the following realization: Eternal life is found in the One Who is truly eternal. We were hopeless until He came in His grace with mercy and offered forgiveness and redemption through His own work. The saving work has been done. It has been accomplished in Jesus, and now we must simply humble ourselves under the Grace of an Almighty Saviour.
Food For Thought: What were some of the things that John would have heard from Jesus?