We Shall Be Like Him

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 9 Nov 2012


“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2)

The first epistle of John was probably written by the apostle John towards the end of the first century. Tradition has it that John was sent to exile on the Island of Patmos during the second imperial persecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian. It was probably from there, as a very old man, that John wrote this epistle.

This may explain why he called his readers “My little children” (2:1). Well, I am sure there were older members in the congregation, but they were all his little children.

Now, there appears to be two reasons why John wrote this letter.

The first is to expose false teachers. Consider:

  • “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you” (2:26).
  • “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (4:1).

The second reason for this letter, it appears, is to instruct true believers concerning the assurance of their salvation. Consider:

  • “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1:4).
  • “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (5:13).

That is to say: This letter is written that you,—who profess the name of Christ,—may be assured that you have genuine faith and eternal life.

It is for this second reason that this letter is also called the “Test of Life Epistle.” And for this reason, some of us will find it uncomfortable to read this letter even though it is such a beautifully written letter. The fact is: if you are not prepared for an exam, it is manifestly uncomfortable to open the exam papers.

But make no mistake, this letter is not primarily intended to bring discomfort. Rather, it is designed to comfort the saints. Indeed, this letter is filled with promises. For example, in the first chapter, we have a promise of forgiveness (v. 9); and in the last chapter, we have a promise of answer to prayer (v. 14). But this evening, we want to consider another promise, namely, the promise that we shall one day be like Christ: 1 John 3:2—

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

 

There are two things we must consider from this promise. First, we are like Christ and yet not completely; secondly, we shall be like Him as He is.

1. We are like Him and
yet not like Him

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be…

All believers are given the privilege of being sons of God. Christ is the only begotten Son of God; whereas we are the adopted sons and daughters of God.

Now, ordinarily, when a child is adopted into a family, two main changes occur. First, his legal status is changed. He is now regarded as a member of the new family. Secondly, his outward estate also changes. He now dwells with the family and has new privileges.

However, take careful note that in the case of our adoption into God’s family, a third change actually occurs. Not only is our legal status and outward estate changed; our inward estate is also changed.

You see, when God adopts us into His family, we are not only given a new status. We are also given a new nature. We are changed from within, for the Spirit of Adoption not only gives us a new birth, but dwells in us to enable us to grow to be more and more like our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father.

But there are three things about this change that we must realise. First, it is real but gradual; secondly, it is not recognised by the world; and thirdly, it will be perfected one day.

John talks about how the world does not recognise the change in verse 1 where he says,—

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 Jn 3:1)

How absolutely fantastic is the love of the Father towards us—for though we are sinful, rebellious and unlovely, He not only loved us but made us His sons and daughters. But the world does not see it this way. The world does not know or acknowledge us as the children of God. Why? Because the world does not know God, says John.

Nevertheless, whatever the world may think or say, if you are a child of God, the changes have begun. You are not only justified, but sanctified. Your life is different from that of unbelievers. You know that sometimes the world perceive the difference, but they will not attribute it to the work of God. They know not Christ, therefore they refuse to acknowledge His power and work. They think you are fanatical or mad or pretending. They will attribute your difference to anything so long as God or Christ is out of the equation.

Matthew Henry puts it this way:

“Little does the world perceive the advancement and happiness of the genuine followers of Christ.… Little does the world think that these poor, humble, contemned ones are the favourites of heaven, and will be inhabitants there ere long.”

The world, you see, do not perceive the changes that are happening inside us. For it is a fact that though we are like Him in some ways, yet we are in many ways not like Him. If we are all like Him, then it will be impossible for the world not to recognise us.

But a promise is a promise! One day we shall be like Christ, and all the world will acknowledge the truth.

This is the second thing which we must consider.

2. We shall be like Him
as He is

…but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

The words “when he shall appear,” no doubt, refers to the second coming of Christ. It is true that when we die, our souls will be glorified, and we shall be like Christ in the inner man. But our glorification would not be complete for our bodies will still be in the grave.

Therefore, it pleases God to set aside another day, even the day when Christ comes again to complete our glorification. In that day, our bodies will be raised from the ground incorruptible and fitted for life in glory. Our soul will then be reunited to our body, and we shall be presented to the world as the glorious bride of Christ.

What a day to look forward to!

Today, we are the sons and daughters of God; but we are not perfected, nor do we experience to the fullest, the blessings of sonship.

Today we are subject to all the common calamities and problems of men.

  • As the world is subject to accidents, so are we.
  • As the world is subject to illnesses and death, so are we.
  • As the world is subject to job-losses, so are we.
  • As the world is subjected to failures and rejections, so are we.
  • As the world is subjected to quarrels and separations, so are we.
  • As the world is subject pains and sorrows, so are we.

Indeed, Christians often have to suffer more than unbelievers because they cannot live by the principles of the world.

Like Moses, the true disciple of Christ “[chooses] to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Like Moses, they “[esteem] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for [they have] respect unto the recompence of the reward” (Heb 11:25-26).

I can think of many examples among the brothers and sisters in Christ whom I know directly or indirectly.

  • One brother I know refused to go for an overseas attachment because he knows there is no sound place to worship where his boss wanted to send him. He was despised by his colleagues and marked by his bosses.
  • Another brother disagreed with the unethical ways in which his boss was dealing with their customers. He was taken out of the project and eventually compelled to leave his job.
  • Another brother left his job for another that paid half of what he was getting so that he did not have to work on the Sabbath. The world thinks he is mad.
  • A sister left her high paying job to look after her children and her relatives think she is crazy and ungrateful to her parents.
  • Another sister left her unbelieving boyfriend because she would please the Lord. The world thinks she is silly because there are so few single men in church. She had to suffer in silence.
  • A young man refused to go for an overseas trip with his school group because they would inevitably violate the Sabbath. He suffered in terms of not being able to get some school award that needed the trip.
  • The young mother is pregnant. The doctor says that the child is confirmed to have Down syndrome. The couple refuses to abort despite the doctor’s recommendation because they would not sin against God. They suffer the consequences and the ridicule of the world.

These men and women have to suffer more than the people of the world because of their love for Christ and because the world cannot appreciate their rationale for doing what they do. And so it is the case with many of us such that we exclaim with the apostle Paul that “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Co. 15:19.). Isn’t it true?

But thanks be to God, we do not have hope in Christ, only in this life!

One day, when Christ is revealed, we shall be made like Him: “when he shall appear, we shall be like him” says John. But notice the immediate reason that John gives for this transformation. It is not merely that we will be changed. Rather John says: “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for [i.e. because] we shall see him as he is.” In other words, our transformation is conditioned upon our seeing Christ in the beatific vision.

This is an amazing thought, isn’t it? We are changed as we behold the face of Christ. The apostle Paul express this same doctrine in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where he says “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Today, we see Christ through the mirror of the means of grace, darkly. Though the Spirit of Christ is already at work in our heart to change us from glory to glory, it pleases God not to make us perfect in this life.

But the day is coming, when we shall see Christ face to face (1 Cor 13:12). In that day our body will be raised incorruptible. We shall see our redeemer in the flesh (Job 19:26). We shall be changed in an instant. We shall be like Christ. Like Him, we shall then be able to enjoy and glorify fully in God body and soul forever without any hindrance of sin, sicknesses, pain, sorrow, separation, grief or frustration.

Oh what a blessed day it will be! What a day of vindication! What a day to confirm that all our suffering for Christ’s sake today is worth it all.

Conclusion

Oh dearly beloved brethren and children, does not this thought fill your heart with hope? Our inheritance is secured! Our hopes will come true. This is God’s promise. Heaven is a place of worship and love and perfect joy.

The unbelieving world may think that heaven is a boring place—no TV to watch, no games to play, no internet to surf, no 4-D to strike, no cigarette to smoke, no shopping centres, no amusement parks, no wild parties and crude jokes.

But as someone puts it “The Christian is not so easily pleased.” For the Christian, only the glories of heaven and the love of the Saviour will suffice.

And so today we live in hope of that day when we shall see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face, be transformed by that beatific vision and to hear Him welcome us into our heavenly home, which He has prepared for us.

We do not belong to this world. We are citizens of heaven. We must live with the hope of heaven.

Yes, our life in this world is not perfect. But the perfect day is coming. Oh may the Lord grant us that we may live with hope and anticipation of that eternal day! Amen. W