These speculative pontifications are confirmed in the very next verse:
Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" (John 21:23)
Such a "rumor" spreading that would also indicate a misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus' "return."
Did Jesus really say "return" at all?
No. In fact, the Greek word being translated to "return" here is ἔρχομαι (erchomai). According to the lexicon, this word means "to appear, make one's appearance, come before the public." When used metaphorically, the word means: "to come into being, arise, come forth, show itself, find place or influence" and "be established, become known, to come (fall) into or unto."
In fact, the concept of "return" is being inferred here by ecclesiastical translators who failed to understand the nature of Jesus' statements regarding his "appearance."
We can confirm this subtle meaning "to appear" as the same word ἔρχομαι (erchomai) was used by Jesus within the Lord's prayer:
"... Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matt. 6:10)
In this reference, Jesus is not speaking of God's kingdom literally "coming" - or even "returning." The statement speaks of appearance. Of becoming present within the kingdom of God.
We can also see this mistranslation with this statement:
“And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62)
Here we can see clearly that if Jesus is "sitting" he cannot also be "coming" as would be applied to traveling. Again, the word ἔρχομαι (erchomai) is referring to appearing - "to appear."
We can see this mistranslation (and misinterpretation) even more clearly in another statement made by Jesus regarding his coming appearance:
"Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory." (Matt. 24:30)
Again it is obvious that "when they see" relates to Jesus' "appearing" rather than "coming" on the "clouds of heaven."
In fact, this entire statement goes to the very root of the misinterpretation of Jesus' "appearance." These verses (Mark 14:62 and Matt. 24:30) - usually quoted out of context of Jesus' statements before and after - have been used by ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers to teach that Jesus will be seen riding through the sky on clouds as the world is coming to an end.
Yet this is not true in the physical sense they teach of it. We have reviewed and broken down the meaning of this misinterpreted text of Matt. 24:30 within its context here.
But the bottom line, as explained in detail with Matt. 24:30, is that Jesus is speaking of his appearance to his followers and his adversaries at the time of death. The words "heaven" and in "clouds of heaven" are being misinterpreted. "Heaven" in both instances is taken from οὐρανός (ouranos), which means, according to the lexicon, "the region above the sidereal heavens, the seat of order of things eternal and consummately perfect where God dwells and other heavenly beings."
This is quite obviously not the same sky we see above us in the physical world. This is the metaphysical "heaven" - the spiritual realm.
So how can we be saying that Jesus' "second coming" will be on earth with him riding on the clouds if his statement is clearly speaking of his appearance in the spiritual realm?
What Jesus is functionally speaking of his appearance at the time of death.
At the time of death, as is repeatedly taught in the scriptures by various prophets, each of us will face our Maker in one form or another - either directly (for those who are devoted to God) or one of His representatives. At that time our life will be judged, and we will go to our next destination according to the activities of our lifetimes and our related consciousness.
This is called "judgement day." The day that each of us is judged for our life's activities and consciousness.
Yet ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers have tried to make it seem that everyone will face "judgement day" at the same moment in time.
It is the same moment of time relatively speaking - in that it happens at the time of death for each of us.
But in terms of the speculative imaginings of those teachers among the ecclesiastical institutions - that there will be one single day in all of time where everyone who has existed in the past will be judged - all at once - this is a misinterpretation using speculative imagination.
Just think of the ridiculousness of this speculative imagining: This would mean that every single person - billions upon billions of people - who have ever lived on the planet - will have to wait around somewhere for this day to come. Where are all these people waiting? Some among these ecclesiastical institutions have created a speculative explanation called purgatory - as though these billions of people are all floating around in some limbo state for thousands of years - all awaiting that single day when Jesus will ride across the sky (they imagine on horseback) over the clouds.
This ridiculous assumption has a very large problem. If all those billions of people who have already died are in purgatory - some place we can obviously not see around us and doesn't exist physically on the planet - then how will they be able to see Jesus riding across the sky on horseback? Their bodies are dead and decomposed (along with their eyes). So how can they see Jesus in the sky?
The reality is that this entire assumption of Jesus' physical "second coming" has been speculatively pieced together by people who have attempted to use Jesus' statements to create fear in people in order to increase their number of followers. Just consider the list of just some of the institutional teachers who have predicted the "end of the world" and Jesus' "second coming" with their particular date the world was supposed to have ended:
Hilary of Poiniers: 365 AD (the date predicted)
Saint Martin of Tours: 375 to 400 AD
Sextus Julius Africanus: 500 AD
Gerard of Poehlde: 1147 AD
John of Toledo: 1179 AD
Joachim of Fiore: 1205 AD
Pope Innocent III: 1284 AD
Melchior Hoffman: 1533 AD
Benjamin Keach (Baptist): 1689 AD
William Whitson: 1736 AD
The Shakers (Ann Lee): 1792 AD
Charles Wesley (Methodist): 1794 AD
Margaret McDonald: 1830 AD
Joseph Smith (Mormon): 1832 and 1891 AD
William Miller (Millerites): 1843 and 1844 AD
Ellen White (Seven Day Adventists): 1850, 1856 and "early 1900s" AD
Mother Shipton: 1881 AD
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses): 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994 and others more recent.
Note that all of these "prophesies" were wrong. These supposedly great teachers scared the crap out of their followers by telling them the end of the world was coming on a particular date, and they were wrong. So they basically misled their followers. They lied to them. They said they knew something but they didn't.
Now are we supposed to believe these teachers when they teach us their other interpretations of scripture? Are we supposed to trust them on other things?
Certainly not. They and the rest of their institution's teachers are deceivers. They don't know what they are talking about. And today they are babbling the company line as others are, thinking that just because others believe it, it must be right.
Jesus very clearly spoke of these deceiver teachers and their followers:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matt. 7:21-23)
Note the "'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name..." This is precisely what these ecclesiastical institutional teachers have been doing in Jesus' name - "prophesy" means to predict the future - in particular, predicting the end of the world or Jesus' "second coming" as some appearance in the sky.
Again we must return to the meaning of ἔρχομαι (erchomai) - "to appear" and the word οὐρανός (ouranos) meaning the spiritual realm "heaven." Jesus is speaking of appearing before his disciples at their time of death. At their time of death he will appear before them to escort them back to the spiritual realm, where he will be appearing before them in the presence of the Supreme Being.
So how does that relate to Jesus' statement:
"If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
Translated correctly renders another meaning:
"If it is willed that he remains until I appear, what is that to you? You must follow me."
Yes, there is no word "alive" in the original Greek verse. This has been inserted. Also the word "I" has been inserted. The word θέλω (thelō) - being translated to "I want" - actually means "to will, have in mind, intend." Is Jesus saying it is his will? Not necessarily. We might infer it, but it also would be inferred that it is God's will. In fact, there is more reason for it being God's will, as Jesus prayed to God:
"Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39)
Remember that Jesus is responding to Peter's question about this disciple:
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" (John 21:20-21)
Now remember that before this, Jesus was speaking to Peter how he would die:
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. (John 21:19)
Thus, since Jesus is speaking specifically about Peter's death, it would be more appropriate to translate the verse to:
"If it is willed that he remains until I appear to you, what is that to you? You must follow me."
"until I appear to you" is more accurate because Jesus is speaking of his appearance to Peter at the time of death of Peter's physical body. Furthermore, what is being missed by ecclesiastical institutions is the loving relationship between Jesus and his disciple Peter - just as they missed the loving relationship that exists between Jesus and the Supreme Being.
Remember that the word (erchomai) - "to appear" - is being used in conjunction with Peter's death. Yes, this is when Jesus will appear to Peter - at the point where Peter's physical body dies, and the spirit-person of Peter will rise from the physical body.
This - rising from the physical body - will occur at the time of death for each of us - confirmed by hundreds of thousands of cases of clinical death, where a person whose body is revived recalls floating up over their dead body after it clinically died. They accurately describe the events taking place around their body even though the body's eyes were closed and their brain was legally dead. So who was looking down upon the body? The spirit-person who dwells within this physical body. We cannot see this spirit-person with our physical eyes because it lies on another dimension - the spiritual dimension.
We might refer to another verse that discusses this same element, yet slightly differently:
"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matt. 16:28)
This verse uses the phrase γεύσωνται θανάτου - translated here to "taste death." But the word θανάτου - translated to "death" here means, according to the lexcon, "the death of the body - that separation (whether natural or violent) of the soul and the body by which the life on earth is ended" but also "with the implied idea of future misery in hell." and "the power of death - since the nether world, the abode of the dead, was conceived as being very dark, it is equivalent to the region of thickest darkness i.e. figuratively, a region enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and sin."
So we can see here that Jesus is discussing death from a metaphorical - and spiritual - aspect. We can compare this with another statement of his:
“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)
Here we find that Jesus is speaking of physical death and metaphorical death at the same time - metaphorical in the sense that those who are mourning over the physical body's death are "dead" spiritually.
And just like John 21:22, Jesus is speaking "appearing" rather than "coming" "in his kingdom" in Matt. 16:28. How could a person "come" "in his kingdom" anyway?
So just as John 21:22 relates to ones personal vision or appearance of Jesus - so does Matt. 16:28. Those who "see" Jesus' "appearing in His [God's] kingdom" may do so regardless of the state of their physical body. Their physical body may die and they are escorted back to the spiritual realm by Jesus without "tasting [spiritual] death." Or they may experience ("see") Jesus within the spiritual realm before their body dies. It matters not, because the significant issue is that Jesus is speaking of a personal, spiritual appearance. Something that takes place from a metaphysical context.
What is being discussed is a spiritual relationship. A loving relationship. When someone sees Jesus as his is, they are seeing his relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the secret of Jesus' teachings. He is teaching love of God and he is God's perfect lover. Thus to see Jesus "in His kingdom" is to see Jesus' intimate loving relationship with the Supreme Being.
But in John 21:23, Jesus is also speaking of practicalities. While Jesus will appear to Peter at the time of death - when Peter's spirit-person rises from the body (resurrection) - the other disciple will "remain." This means that the other disciple will not be dying as soon as Peter's body will - though Jesus clarifies that it is not Peter's concern: "what is that to you?"
What is Peter's concern relates to Jesus' instruction to him: "You must follow me."
As there is evidence that Peter's body died when it was about 65, we can know by this that this other disciple lived past 65.
In fact, the writer of the Book of John then indicates that he was indeed, that disciple:
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24)
It also states about this disciple: ...the disciple whom Jesus loved... (John 21:20) - again revealing Jesus' loving relationships with his dedicated students.
This also indicates that at least the original testimony in the Book of John regarding Jesus' statements were recorded by one of Jesus' close disciples.
Yet modern Biblical scholars have presented, after close scrutiny of the original texts and their sources, that the final Book of John - or the Gospel According to John - has gone through several alterations after its original recording. The original texts and differing writing styles indicate that there was eyewitness testimony recorded, but additions were later made by ecclesiastical writers who inserted their interpretations regarding Jesus.
This means that from a scholarship position, we can accept Jesus' statements in the Book of John as likely what Jesus really said. For example, Jesus instructing Peter here: "You must follow me."
We can confirm this because Peter did, indeed, follow Jesus.
But the textual evidence shows that some of the verses surrounding Jesus' statements - such as those early in the Book of John along with between some of Jesus' statements - were inserted after its original recording, closer to the end of the First Century, AD.
We can also confirm the preservation of Jesus' most important statements, such as the same teaching Moses spoke some 1500 years before Jesus - Jesus' most important instruction - as certainly what Jesus really said:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)