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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 John 3:2



Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Now are we the sons of God - He speaks of those who are begotten of God, and who work righteousness. See the preceding chapter.

And it doth not yet appear what we shall be - Ουπω εφανερωθη·  It is not yet manifest; though we know that we are the children of God, we do not know that state of glorious excellence to which, as such, we shall be raised.

When he shall appear - Εαν φανερωθη·  When he shall be manifested; i.e., when he comes the second time, and shall be manifested in his glorified human nature to judge the world.

We shall be like him - For our vile bodies shall be made like unto his glorious body; we shall see him as he is, in all the glory and majesty both of the Divine and human nature. See  Philippians 3:21; and  John 17:24; : Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory. John had seen his glory on the mount when he was transfigured; and this we find was ineffably grand; but even this must have been partially obscured, in order to enable the disciples to bear the sight, for they were not then like him. But when they shall be like him, they shall see him as he is - in all the splendor of his infinite majesty.

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These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Beloved, now are we the sons of God - We now in fact sustain this rank and dignity, and on that we may reflect with pleasure and gratitude. It is in itself an exalted honor, and may be contemplated as such, whatever may be true in regard to what is to come. In the dignity and the privileges which we now enjoy, we may find a grateful subject of reflection, and a cause of thankfulness, even if we should look to nothing beyond, or when we contemplate the fact by itself.

And it doth not yet appear what we shall be - It is not fully revealed what we shall be hereafter; what will be the full result of being regarded as the children of God. There are, indeed, certain things which may be inferred as following from this. There is enough to animate us with hope, and to sustain us in the trials of life. There is one thing which is clear, that we shall be like the Son of God; but what is fully involved in this is not made known. Perhaps,

(1)it could not be so revealed that we could understand it, for that state may be so unlike the present that no words would fully convey the conception to our minds. Perhaps,

(2)it may be necessary to our condition here, as on probation, that no more light should be furnished in regard to the future than to stimulate us to make efforts to reach a world where all is light. For an illustration of the sentiment expressed here by the apostle, compare the notes at 2 Peter 1:4.

But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him - It is revealed to us that we shall be made like Christ; that is, in the bodies with which we shall be raised up, in character, in happiness, in glory. Compare the Philemon 3:21 note; 2 Corinthians 3:18 note. This is enough to satisfy the Christian in his prospects for the future world. To be like Christ is the object of his supreme aim. For that he lives, and all his aspirations in regard to the coming world may be summed up in this - that he wishes to be like the glorified Son of God, and to share his honors and his joys. See the notes at Philemon 3:10.

For we shall see him as he is - It is clearly implied here that there will be an influence in beholding the Saviour as he is, which will tend to make us like him, or to transform us into his likeness. See the nature of this influence explained in the notes at 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 John 3:2

Beloved, now are we the sons of God

A present religion

The word “now” is to me the most prominent word in the text, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.
” They who love religion love a present thing. The Christian who really seeks salvation will never be happy unless he can say, “Now am I a child of God.” That word “now” which is the sinners warning is to the Christian his greatest delight.

I. I shall commence by endeavouring to show that religion must be a thing of the present, because the present has such intimate connections with the future. We are told in Scripture that this life is a seed time, and the future is the harvest, “He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.” But again, this life is always said in Scripture to be a preparation for the life to come. “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” This life is as the vestibule of the king’s court, we must put our shoes from off our feet; we must wash our garments and make ourselves ready to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb. How are we saved? All through Scripture we are told we are saved by faith, except in one passage, wherein it is said, we are saved by hope. Now note how certain it is that religion must be a present thing if we are saved by faith, because faith anal hope cannot live in another world. “What a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

II. In the second place, as I have shown the connection between the present and the future, let me use another illustration to show the importance of a present salvation. Salvation is a thing which brings present blessings. “Unto them which are saved, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” He does not say to them who shall be saved, but to them which are saved. We know too that justification is a present blessing--“there is therefore now no condemnation.” Adoption is a present blessing, for it says, “Now are we the sons of God,” we know also that sanctification is a present blessing, for the apostle addresses himself to “the saints who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called.” All the blessings of the new covenant are spoken of in the present tense, because with the exception of eternal glory in heaven, they are all to be enjoyed here. A man may know in this life, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he is accepted in Christ Jesus. Yet I am inclined to think that the worldly man most of all objects to present religion because he does not like its duties. Men will not direct a single eye to religion, because it curtails license and entails duties. And this, I think, proves that religion is a present thing, because the duties of religion cannot be practised in another world, they must be practised here. Now, what are the duties of religion? hi the first place, here are its active duties, which a man should do between man and man, to walk soberly and righteously and uprightly in the midst of an evil generation. Lightly as some people speak about morality, there is no true religion where there is no morality. You have hard struggles to pass through life. Sometimes you have been driven to a great extremity, and whether you would succeed or not seemed to hang upon a thread. Has not your religion been a joy to you in your difficulties? Has it not calmed your minds? When you have been fretted and troubled about worldly things, have you not found in a pleasant thing to enter your closet, and shut to the door, and tell your Father in secret all your cares? And oh, ye that are rich, cannot you bear the same testimony, if you have loved the blaster? What had all your riches been to you without a Saviour? I fear that there are a great many of you who will say, “Well, I care nothing at all about religion; it is for no avail to me!” No, and it is very probable that you will not care about it until it shall be too late to care. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sonship the foreshadowing of heaven

In every true economy of life there is a concealed side. This fact grows partly out of the nature of the case, and is partly a dictate of wisdom. This fact of concealment, and these two reasons for it, are both apparent in God’s dealing with men. Divine revelation is the exposed side of a Divine economy which reaches back into darkness. Some things God could not tell us, because we could not understand them. Other things are equally hidden, because He does not see fit to reveal them. God does not ignore nor for bid men’s natural curiosity to know what is hidden. In many cases, indeed, He uses it in the interest of wider knowledge. The advancement of knowledge would come to a stop if all men were simply content to accept the unknown as unknowable. At the same time He does set a limit to human knowledge in certain directions: but in all such cases God puts His revelation in such a relation to what is unknown, as to quiet the restlessness of the curious and searching spirit when it reaches the limit of knowledge. He assures us concerning what He does not reveal by what He does reveal. He gives us certain foreshadowings of our future in our present. First, the concealment. What we are to be hereafter is not yet manifested. Christ reveals the fact of immortality but tells us little or nothing about the outward conditions of immortality. A Christian must frankly accept this ignorance. By the terms of his Christian covenant he engages to walk by faith and not by sight. Still, there is revelation as well as concealment. It doth not yet appear, but we know something. And as we study what is revealed to us, we begin to see that the concealment and ignorance which wait on this subject are not arbitrary, but are in the interest of our knowledge on another side, and are intended to direct our researches into another and more profitable channel. “It doth not yet appear”--not where we shall be, or in what circumstances we shall be--but “it doth not appear what we shall be”: only we know that we shall be like God. That is the great, the only point which concerns us as respects the future life. To be like God will be heaven. To be unlike God will be perdition. Character creates its own environment. On this side we know something of the heavenly world. We know the moral laws which govern it, for they are essentially the same laws which the gospel applies here. We know the moral sentiments which pervade heaven. They are the very sentiments which the gospel is seeking to foster in us here. We know that holiness which is urged upon us here is the character of God; and that where a holy God reigns the atmosphere must be one of holiness: that if God is love, love must pervade heavens that if God is truth, truth must pervade heaven. Now, all this, you see, must exert a tremendous power upon the present life, viewed as a prelude and preparation for the life to come. If that future life is to have its essence in character and not in circumstance, it follows that character and not circumstance is the great thing here. The apostle strikes directly into this track of thought. In the first place he states the fact of concealment. Down between our speculations and dreams and the eternal reality falls an impenetrable veil. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” But he goes on to say, “You are on the right road to knowing. You are on the right road to becoming. Now are you children of God: that fact enfolds all that is to come. It is a matter of character here as in heaven. The true goal of your striving is likeness to God.” Essentially we shall not be other there than here. The difference will be in degree, in maturity of development. We are children of God here, we shall be children of God there. Why, then, with all this promise, does it not appear what we shall be? Look at the promise itself and you will see the answer. The essence of the promise is, we shall be like God. Understand, not equal to God, but like God, as the finite, under the highest possible conditions, can be like the infinite. The reason for this likeness to God is given. We shall see Him as He is. This gives us the reason why it doth not yet appear what we shall be. We do not see Him as He is. We cannot so see Him here, any more than a child, in the weakness of infancy and the ignorance and perverseness of childhood can understand and appreciate the mind and character of a noble father. We cannot know what it is to be like God, because we cannot see Him as He is, and never shall, until He shall be manifested as pure spirit to purified spirits freed from the trammels of the flesh. And you will further notice the truth which the text assumes, that likeness to God comes through vision of God. We assimilate to that which we habitually contemplate, and especially so when we contemplate lovingly and enthusiastically. Thus we come to the last point of our text--the practical duty growing out of this mixed condition of ignorance and promise. For if the promise is to be fulfilled in likeness to God, if that, in short, is to constitute our heaven, and if that promise is enfolded in our present relation as children of God, then we have in that fact both a consolation and an exhortation to duty. You shall win the best of heaven by getting the best there is out of your position and relation as a child of God here. This is the logic of the gospel. Only God can purify the heart, but He enlists our service in purifying the life. In the same breath Paul tells us that God worketh in us to will and to work for His own pleasure, and bids us carry out our own salvation. Everyone that hath this hope in God is purified by the Holy Spirit, yet our text says “purifieth himself.” Personal devotion calls out personal effort. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

The glory of Divine sonship

I. The present glory of this sonship is great. The life of God in the soul is intrinsically great. Holiness and love are the principal elements of character embodied in the life of a believer; these constitute his dignity--his present glorious inheritance.

II. The future glory of this sonship is the greatest. The model is Christ in His enthroned majesty and splendour. “Behold” the omnipotence of this love. For whom was it displayed? Angels? No, but for rebellious, ruined man--man scathed by sin, and an enemy to his Maker. (J. H. Hill.)

The possessions and prospects of believers

I. Here is true unity. “Now are we the sons of God.” This makes a true Catholic Church. There may be diversity in the family features--nay, if there be intellectual life there must be; but withal there will be likeness in the King’s sons, in all the wide extent of the Great Father’s household.

II. Here is true fellowship. This, at all events, is the ideal. Till the world lasts there will be men of the logical temperament of St. Paul, the mystical temperament of St. John, the practical, sagacious temperament of St. James; but there should be true fellowship for all that: “Sons of God” swallows up all minor difficulties, all theoretical diversities.

III. Here is true resemblance. It is not a mere question of condition, but of character. All the lines of the Gospel are laid along the lines of life.

IV. Here is future prospect. “It doth not yet appear.” No, the time has not yet come. The cradle is not the place for judging of countenance or character in the perfect sense. The condition of the development is time. Like a tree made strong by storms, so life means contradiction, hindrance, temptation. We are waiting, as our text says, to appear. Like an unblossomed flower, the glory is hidden yet. (W. M. Statham, M. A.)

The present condition and future prospects of believers

I. What we now are--sons of God.

1. We were restored to the forfeited honour of the sons of God by “being begotten again by the Father; and born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” We became the sons of God, not by natural generation, nor in virtue of any inherent power or tendency, nor in consequence of any endeavour on the part of others, but by the agency of His Spirit.

2. We may know it by the faith we exercise, if it leads us to entire dependence on Christ, and to the utmost diligence in duty. We may know it by the repentance we have experienced, if it has been heartfelt, arising from a true sense of sin, and resulting in its entire renunciations. We may know it by the feelings we cherish toward our brethren in Christ, if we love them sincerely. We may know it by the state of our affections toward God, if they are set on “those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”

3. We, indeed, may be of no account among men.

II. What we expect to become.

1. The confidence with which we may expect future happiness: “We know we shall be like Him.” Though we are not favoured with such evidence as John enjoyed, we have all that is necessary to sustain our hope in the reality of that blessedness which God has in reserve for His children. The number and minuteness of these predictions, which have received accomplishment in the history of Jesus and the Church; the sublime nature of the doctrines of the gospel; the holy tendency of its principles; the pure morality of its precepts; the circumstances in which it was first promulgated, and the success which has attended its ministrations, convince us of the truth of that record, which reveals to us life and immortality.

2. The peculiar nature of the happiness of heaven, “We shall be like Him.” It must satisfy the most enlarged desires of the immortal soul to be assimilated to Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Our minds, like His, shall be gloriously constituted, for, vigorous and pure, they shall be fitted for the noble pursuits and sublime contemplations of the heavens. Our character, like His, shall be glorious, for, freed from all taint of impurity, we shall be arrayed in the robe of His righteousness. Our stations, like His, shall be glorious, for we shall be near to that throne on which He sits at the right hand of His Father. Our happiness, like His, shall be glorious, for we shall possess all we can desire or be able to enjoy.

3. The means by which this assimilation to Christ shall be produced, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” As the earth owes all that diversity of light and shade with which it is adorned, and all that variety of flower and luxuriance of fruit with which it is beautified and enriched to the agency of the sun; so shall the redeemed in heaven derive all their beauty, and all their blessedness, from the presence of Him who sits upon the throne.

4. The time when the felicity of the sons of God shall be consummated, “When He shall appear.”

5. The inconceivable greatness of this future happiness, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (W. Welsh.)

The present and the future of Christian life

I. That which is positively known: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.”

1. A man may know himself a Christian, as he knows himself a living soul--by personal consciousness. The fact of his conversion is the starting point in his religious history; and the incidents of Christian experience are the indications of his progress in the Divine life.

2. And, beyond the personal evidence arising from the exercise of faith in the soul, there is the witness of the Spirit in our hearts.

II. That which is imperfectly understood. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.”

1. One thing, however, is quite sure. We shall not remain as we are. The very process of animal life is fraught with decay.

2. Another thing is equally certain; and that is, that we shall still exist.

3. But amidst all the information which God has given us on that subject, we know not the mode of our future existence, nor even its locality. How we shall see without these eyes, hear without these ears, and converse without these organs of speech, we cannot tell. Probably we shall be all intelligence, and find, to our surprise, that the senses on which we laid so great a stress, and considered so essential to our intellectual being, were but so many loopholes in our prison house of clay, through which we could sometimes catch a glimpse of surrounding objects, but by means of which we could distinguish nothing perfectly.

III. That which is confidently anticipated. (D. E. Ford.)

Now sons, though sufferers

I. The sons of God are specially loved of God.

II. The sons of God are born again of God. “Of His own will begat He us by the word of His truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” So that the character of the disciples of Christ is a special Divine workmanship. It matters little what civilisation may be in a country, or what it may do. Every man needs regeneration.

III. The sons of God, as such, are brethren of Jesus Christ.

IV. The sons of God are related to all the unfallen and redeemed of the offspring of God. Paul makes very much of this, and I suppose that if our hearts were right we should make very much of this.

V. The sons of God are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, heirs to the noblest rank and title, and heirs to boundless wealth. The reason that God does not give us more of every kind of good now, is that we need the discipline of want. And until the discipline of suffering and of want has accomplished its end we have not the capacity to use the treasures and the riches which God waits to put at our disposal, and which He will put at our disposal so soon as we are educated and ready.

VI. The sons of God are being educated by God. Suitable habits are being formed, so that when they become lords of the inheritance which is in reserve for them, they shall appear to have been so educated as to be thoroughly fit for all the duties, and responsibilities, and honours, and joys of that position.

VII. The sons of God have access to God. (S. Martin.)

It doth not yet appear what we shall be--

Of the happiness of good men in the future state

I. The present obscurity of our future state, as to the particular circumstances of that happiness which good men shall enjoy in another world. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” If one should come from a strange country, never known before, and should only tell us, in general, that it was a most delightful place, and the inhabitants a brave, and generous, and wealthy people, under the government of a wise and great king, ruling by excellent laws; and that the particular delights and advantages of it were not to be imagined by anything he knew in our own country. If we gave credit to the person that brought this relation, it would create in us a great admiration of the country described to us, and a mighty concern to see it, and live in it. But it would be a vain curiosity to reason and conjecture about the particular conveniences of it; because it would be impossible, by any discourse, to arrive at the certain knowledge of any more, than he who knew it, was pleased to tell us. This is the case as to our heavenly country.

II. Thus much we know of it in general, that it shall consist in the blessed vision of God. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but when He shall appear, we shall see Him as He is.”

1. What is meant by seeing God. As to see the king includes the court, and all the glorious circumstances of his attendance: so to see God, does take in all that glory, and joy, and happiness, which flows from His presence.

2. What is here meant by seeing God as He is: we shall see Him as He is.

(a) We shall then have an immediate knowledge of God, that which the Scripture calls seeing Him “face to face”; not at a distance, as we do now by faith: not by reflection, as we do now see Him in the creatures.

(b) We shall have a far clearer knowledge of God than we have now in this life (1 Corinthians 13:12). We see Him now many times as He is not; that is, we are liable to false and mistaken conceptions of Him.

(c) We shall then, likewise, have a certain knowledge of God, free from all doubts concerning Him (1 Corinthians 13:12). As God now knows us, so shall we then know Him, as to the truth and certainty of our knowledge.

3. The fitness of this metaphor, to express to us the happiness of our future state.

III. Wherein our likeness and conformity to God shall consist.

1. In the immortality of our nature. In this mortal state we are not capable of that happiness which consists in the vision of God; that is, in the perfect knowledge and perpetual enjoyment of Him. The imperfection of our state, and the weakness of our faculties, cannot bear the sight of so glorious and resplendent an object, as the Divine nature and perfections are; we cannot see God and live.

2. In the purity of our souls. In this world every good man does “mortify his earthly Dud corrupt affections,” and in some measure “bring them into obedience and subjection to the law of God.” But still there are some relics of sin, some spots and imperfections in the holiness of the best men. But upon our entrance into the other world we shall quite “put off the old man with the affections and lusts thereof”; we shall be perfectly “delivered from this body of sin and death,” and, together with this mortal nature, part with all the remainders of sin and corruption which cleave to this mortal state.

IV. The necessary connexion between our likeness and conformity to God, and our sight and enjoyment of Him. “We know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

1. Likeness to God in the immortality of our nature is necessary to make us capable of the happiness of the next life; which consists in the blessed and perpetual vision and enjoyment of God.

2. Our likeness to God in the purity of our souls is necessary to make us capable of the blessed sight and enjoyment of Him in the next life.

Future state of Christians

I. The character of the children of God. It is this filial spirit which forms all the beautiful and amiable traits in the Christian character.

1. It disposes the children of God to love Him with an ardent and supreme affection.

2. It disposes them to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and to believe in Him alone for salvation.

3. It unites all the children of God to one another.

4. It is a spirit of grace and of supplication.

5. It disposes His children to obey all His commands.

II. What they do not know concerning themselves in a future state.

1. They are wholly unacquainted with the means by which they shall perceive either material or spiritual objects, after they have lost their bodily senses.

2. It is no less dark and mysterious how they will converse with one another, and with the heavenly hosts, after they leave these mortal bodies.

3. They must remain totally ignorant in this life, how they shall arrive in heaven, and how they shall move from place to place after they arrive there.

III. What the children of God do know concerning themselves in a future state.

1. They do now know where they shall be hereafter.

2. They know in this world what manner of persons they shall be in the next.

3. They know that when they shall leave this present evil world, they shall be completely blessed.


1. It appears from what has been said, that all the knowledge which Christians have of themselves in a future state, they wholly derive from Divine revelation.

2. We may learn from what has been said, why some Christians die in so much light and joy, and some in so much darkness and distress.

3. Christians may and ought to infer, from what has been said, the great importance of making their calling and election sure.

4. The preceding observations leave us no room be doubt, that death is always a happy event to the children of God.

5. This subject affords a source of great consolation to those who have been bereaved of near and dear Christian friends. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

Our ignorance and our knowledge of the future state

I. Our ignorance. We do not suppose that God has designedly kept back from mankind clear and full intimations of the characteristics of future happiness; on the contrary, revelation is abundant in its discoveries. Parable and image are exhausted with the effort to make that portrait worthy the original; and, probably we do not, for the most part allow our knowledge to keep pace with God’s revelation of the future. But when you come to the point of what we ourselves shall be, we frankly admit that we have but scanty information. It is just that mystery, for coping with which we possess no faculties. Yea, and from this our ignorance of what a spiritual body shall be, arises an ignorance just as total of a vast portion of the occupations of believers.

II. Our knowledge. “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.” There would be no difficulty in bringing forward other portions of Scripture to corroborate this statement. It is, for example, expressly declared by St. Paul, that Christ “shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” But St. John, you observe, subjoins a reason for the resemblance, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” We can hardly venture to suppose that the excitement of desire, and the consequent offering up of prayer will constitute the connection, as they do a present connection, between seeing Christ and resembling Christ. We must rather own, that whatever the future connection, it will altogether differ from the present. It is to a suffering and humiliated Christ that we become like now; it shall be to an exalted and glorified Christ that we are made like hereafter. The work wrought in us whilst on earth is conformity to Christ in His humiliation--the work wrought in us when we start up at the resurrection shall be conformity to Christ in His exaltation. The apostle declares that we “shall see Christ as He is.” We ask you whether, with the most vigorous actings of faith, it can be ever said of us that we “see Christ as He is”? No, the gaze that we cast on Christ here must be a gaze upon Christ as Christ was, more truly than a gaze upon Christ as Christ is. We look upon Jesus as delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification. We look towards Christ as lifted up like the brazen serpent in the wilderness, as presenting in His office of Intercessor the merits of His atonement in our behalf. Even those who obtain a night of Christ as Intercessor, do not strictly see Christ as Christ is. They see Him as perpetuating His crucifixion. So that, sift the matter as closely as you will, whilst on earth we see Christ as He was rather than Christ as He is--and in exact agreement with this sight of Christ is the likeness we acquire. But when in place of travelling back I would spring forward, when I would contemplate the majesty of a Being administering the business of the universe, and drawing in from every spot an infinite source of revenue, teeming with honour, and flashing with glory--oh! shall I not be forced to confess myself amazed at the very outset of the daring endeavour? Shall I not be compelled to fall back from the scrutiny of what Christ is, to repose more and more on a survey of what Christ was, thankful for present knowledge, hopeful of future? (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The unrevealed future of the sons of God

The present is the prophet of the future, says my text: “Now are we the sons of God, and” (not “but”) “it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” A man may say: Ah! now are we, we shall be--we shall be--nothing!” John does not think so. John thinks that if a man is a son of God he will always be So.

I. The fact, of sonship makes us quite sure of the future. It seems to me that the strongest reasons for believing in another world are these two--first, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and has gone up there; and, second, that a man here can pray and trust and love God, and feel that he is His child. “We are the children of God now”--and if we are children now, we shall be grown up some time. Childhood leads to maturity. And not only the fact of our sonship avails to assure us of immortal life, but also the very form which our religious experience takes points in the same direction. “The child is father of the man”; the bud foretells the flower. In the same way the very imperfections of the Christian life, as it is seen here, argue the existence of another state where all that is here in the germ shall be fully matured, and all that is here incomplete shall attain the perfection which alone will correspond to the power that works in us. There is a great deal in every nature, and most of all in a Christian nature, which is like the packages that emigrants take with them, marked “Not wanted on the voyage.” These go down into the hold, and they are only of use after landing in the new world. If I am a son of God I have got much in me that is “not wanted on the voyage,” and the more I grow into His likeness the more I am thrown out of harmony with the things round about me in proportion as I am brought into harmony with the things beyond.

II. Sonship leaves us ignorant of much in the future. “We are the sons of God, and,” just because we are, “it is not yet made manifest what we shall be.” John would simply say to us, “There has never been set forth before men’s eyes in this earthly life of ours an example, or an instance, of what the sons of God are to be in another state of being.” And so because men have never had the instance before them they do not know much about that state. In some sense there has been a manifestation through the life of Jesus Christ. But the risen Christ is not the glorified Christ. The chrysalis’s dreams about what it would be when it was a butterfly would be as reliable as a man’s imagination of what a future life will be. So let us feel two things--let us be thankful that we do not know, for the ignorance is a sign of the greatness; and then, let us be sure that just the very mixture of knowledge and ignorance which we have about another world is precisely the food which is most fitted to nourish imagination and hope.

III. Our sonship flings an all-penetrating beam of light on that future, in the knowledge of our perfect vision and perfect likeness. “We know that when He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Future life

There is nothing in the actual condition of mankind, or in the method of God’s dispensations towards them, more surprising than the fact that, while the very constitution of the mind impels it to survey the future with intense solicitude, futurity itself is hidden by a veil which can neither be penetrated nor withdrawn. We have only to look back upon our progress hitherto, to see experimental evidence, which we at least must own to be conclusive, that, in hiding from us that which was before us, God has dealt with us, not as an austere master, but a tender parent, knowing well how His children can endure, and, in the exercise of that omniscience, determining not only how much they shall actually suffer, but how much of what they are to suffer shall be known to them before their day of visitation comes. But this part of God’s providential government, though eminently merciful, is not designed exclusively to spare men a part of the suffering which sin has caused. It has a higher end. By the partial disclosure and concealment of futurity, continually acting on the native disposition to pry into it, the soul is still led onward, kept in an attitude of expectation, and in spite of its native disposition to look downward, to go backward, or to lie stagnant, is perpetually stimulated to look up, to exert itself, and make advances in the right direction. In making us rational, in giving us the power of comparison and judgment, and in teaching us by the constitution of our nature to infer effect from cause and cause from effect, God has rendered us incapable of looking at the present or remembering the past, without at the same time or as a necessary consequence anticipating that which is to come, and to a great extent with perfect accuracy, so that all the knowledge of the future which is needed for the ordinary purposes of human life is amply provided and infallibly secured; while, far beyond the limits of this ordinary foresight, He has granted to some gifted minds a keener vision. Nor is this all, for even with respect to things which neither ordinary reasoning from analogy, nor extraordinary powers of forecast can avail to bring within the reach of human prescience, God has Himself been pleased to make them known by special revelation. If anything is certain it is this, that they who do escape perdition, and by faith in the omnipotence of graze pursue this upward course, shall still continue to ascend without cessation, rising higher, growing better, and becoming more and more like God throughout eternity. This vagueness and uncertainty, although at first sight it may seem to be a serious disadvantage, is nevertheless not without important and beneficent effects upon the subjects of salvation. It may seem, indeed, that as a means of arousing the attention, an indefinite assurance of transcendent blessedness hereafter is less likely to be efficacious than a distinct and vivid exhibition of the elements which are to constitute that blessedness; but let it be remembered that no possible amount, and no conceivable array of such particulars, would have the least effect in originating serious reflection or desire in the unconverted heart. This can be wrought by nothing short of a Divine power, and when it is thus wrought, when the thoughts and the affections are once turned in the right direction, the less detailed and more indefinite description of the glory which is yet to be experienced seems often best adapted to excite and stimulate the soul, and lead it onwards, by still presenting something that is yet to be discovered or attained, and thus experimentally accustoming the soul to act upon the vital principle of its newborn nature, forgetting that which is behind, and reaching forth to that which is before. The same thing may be said of the indefinite manner in which the doom of the impenitent and unbelieving is set forth in Scripture. In this, as in the corresponding case before described, if the mind is awakened, such details are needless, and if not awakened, they are unavailing. But is it, can it be, a fact, that rational, spiritual beings, Godlike in their origin, and made for immortality, with faculties susceptible of endless elevation and enlargement, and activity, can hesitate to choose life rather than death, and good in preference to evil? Because you now wish to repent, and to believe, and to be saved hereafter, you imagine yourselves safe in your impenitence, and unbelief, and condemnation. Why, the very disposition which is now made the pretext for procrastination may forsake you. The respect you now feel for the truth, for God’s law, for the gospel, may be changed into a cold indifference, contemptuous incredulity, or malignant hatred. The faint gleams of conviction which occasionally light up the habitual darkness of the mind may be extinguished. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)


It is often asked, if the great object of the gospel be to fit us for heaven, why is not a fuller revelation of its joys made to us? In the first place, were the future life fully laid open to us, its brightness would throw the present state into utter eclipse, and make our earthly pilgrimage irksome and grievous. The natural shrinking from an unknown condition of being sustains an interest in the present life in the hearts of those best fitted to die, while, when that unknown state is at hand, their confidence in the Divine mercy enables them to enter upon it without doubt or fear. Again, the representations of heaven in the Bible are such as to adapt the inspired record to the needs of all classes of minds. We doubt not that the life of heaven is spiritual. We expect there pleasures, not of sense, but of soul. But the gospel was first preached, and is still preached every year, to multitudes who occupy the lowest plane of intelligence and culture. It goes to them in their coarseness and degradation; and in that state how could they take in a picture of spiritual joy? Their conceptions of heaven grow with their characters. As they increase in spirituality it becomes less a place and more a state. It represents to them at every stage the highest point that they have reached, the utmost of blessedness that they can apprehend. To pass to another topic, I would ask, Would not any detailed description of the life to come raise more questions than it answered--excite more curiosity than it gratified? I love to think of it as infinitely diversified, as, though the same, yet different to every soul. I believe that every direction which the mind can take, every bent which the character can assume under the guidance of religion, reaches out into eternity. If this be the case, how could the whole be written out in a volume? Or, had some portions of this blessed life been revealed, and some threads of our earthly existence shown us as they are woven into the web of eternity, it could only have awakened doubt and despondency in those minds on whose favourite departments of thought and duty no light from heaven was shed. But while for these reasons a specific revelation with regard to the heavenly life was not to be expected, does not the very idea of immortality include the answers to many of the questions which we might ask the most anxiously? If we are the same beings there as here, we must carry with us the tastes, affections, and habits of thinking and feeling, with which we depart this life, and those of them which can find scope for exercise and space for growth in heaven must unfold and ripen there. In addition to what has been said, I would suggest that much may have been left unrevealed with regard to heaven in order to furnish room for the highest exercise of the imagination. It seems to me that the Scriptural representations of the life to come are precisely adapted to make fancy the handmaid of devotion. There may be yet another reason why we have so little detailed information with regard to heaven. There is no doubt much which we could not know--for which human speech furnishes no words. Language is the daughter of experience. It can give the blind no idea of colours, or the deaf of sounds. Now there can be no doubt that in the future life our mode of being, of perception, of recognition, of communication, will be essentially different from what it is here, and perhaps so different that nothing within our earthly experience could furnish terms for its description. But, with all our ignorance, we have full assurance on one point, and that the most essential to our present improvement and happiness. “When God shall appear,” shall draw near the soul in death and judgment, “we shall be like Him.” And if like Him, like Jesus, His express image, whose heart is all laid open to us, whose traits of spiritual beauty and excellence are within our clear view. To be like Christ--need we know, could we ask more? (A. P. Peabody.)

Progress of manhood

There is enough of progress and development in our present existence to justify the belief that man, living in God and loving Him, shall pass on to capacities, services, and enjoyments of which he can have now only the most imperfect conception. Look at the little child in his mother’s arms: its eyes beautiful but vacant, or just sharpening into attention and wonder; its head at all points of the compass in five minutes. Now look at that man who, with eye of fire and voice of thunder, binds an army together, and rules the will of a hundred thousand men with a word: the little, comely, helpless infant has grown into that mighty soldier, whose look is equal to a hundred swords, whose voice is equal to a cannonade. Who could have predicted such a man from such a child? Say, then, to every child, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be”; we must wait; we must live and work in the spirit of hope; this child, or that, may move the world to God and heaven! Look at the child beginning his letters and forming words of one syllable. See him hesitating between C and G, not exactly knowing which is which, and being utterly confounded because he is not sure whether the word to should have two o’s or one! Now look at the student shut up in the museum deciphering and arranging the most learned and difficult writings in all literature, vindicating his criticism in the face of an enlightened continent. The two are one. The little puzzled learner has grown into the accomplished and authoritative scholar. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be!” If we follow on to know the Lord and do His will, our strength shall be equal to our day, and we shall be to ourselves a continual surprise, and to the dignity of life a constant witness, and a memorial not to be gainsaid. Fancy a child born under the most corrupting and discouraging circumstances: parents immoral; poverty, desolation, discomfort of every kind, the characteristics of the house. No reverence, no chivalry, no pretence even of religious form; to be born under such circumstances is surely to be doomed to a continual depravity, wickedness, and despair. Yet even there the Spirit of the Lord may mightily operate, and out of that pestilent chaos may order come, and music, and beautiful utilities. This has been done; it is being done now; it is the daily Christian miracle; it constrains us by glad compulsion to exclaim, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” It is the joy of the Christian missionary to be able to point to villages once the scene of cannibalism, and of wickedness of every name, where there was no conscience, no law, no mercy, no honour, and to show you houses of Christian prayer, and to point out men who were cannibals singing Christian psalms and crying like children under the pathos of Christian appeals. What wonder, then, if within view of transformations so vital and astounding, we exclaim with thankful and hopeful surprise, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be”! (J. Parker, D. D.)

Our imperfect knowledge of the future

If a child had been born, and spent all his life in the Mammoth Cave, how impossible would it be for him to comprehend the upper world! Parents might tell him of its life, its light, its beauty, and its sounds of joy; they might heap up the sands into mounds, and try to show him by stalactites how grass, flowers, and trees grow out of the ground; till at length, with laborious thinking, the child would fancy he had gained a true idea of the unknown land: and yet, though he longed to behold it, when it came that he was to go forth, it would be with regret for the familiar crystals and rock-hewn rooms, and the quiet that reigned therein. But when he came up some May morning, with ten thousand birds singing in the trees, and the heavens bright and blue, and full of sunlight, and the wind blowing softly through the young leaves, all aglitter with dew, and the landscape stretching away green and beautiful to the horizon, with what rapture would he gaze about him, and see how poor were all the fancyings and interpretations which were made within the cave of the things which grew and lived without! and how he would wonder that he could ever have regretted to leave the silence and dreary darkness of his old abode! So, when we emerge from this cave of earth into that land where spring growths are, and where is eternal summer, how shall we wonder that we could have clung so fondly to this dark and barren life! (H. W. Beecher.)

Love’s ultimate intentions

It is not merely for what we are today that our Father loves us so. It is for what He means to make us when we have done with mortality and sin. See that tiny boy in his cradle, over whom his parents watch with such doting fondness. Say, over and above the instinctive fondness of parents for their children, are there not big hopes that gather round that little one’s head? It is not merely because of what he is today that his parents love him so, but because of what he is to be when he becomes a man, filling some place of honour in this busy world. Ah! and so it is with the love of God. It is not merely because of what we are now, in our frailty and weakness, that our Father loves us thus, but because of what He means to make us when He has received us home and has divested us of this dull mortality, and has crowned us with His own ineffable glory! (C. Clemance, D. D.)

Our knowledge of heaven small

Oh! when we meet in heaven, we shall see now little we knew about it on earth. (G. Payson.)

But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is--

The eternal future clear only in Christ

The apostle admits that there is obscurity hanging over much of our eternal future.

1. The first step of the soul into another state of being is a mystery. The existence of the soul separate from the body, and from all material organs, is incomprehensible.

2. The place of our future life is obscure. How there can be relation to place without a body we do not know, and even when the body is restored, we cannot tell the locality of the resurrection world.

3. The outward manner of our final existence is also uncertain. Whether we may possess merely our present faculties, enlarged and strengthened, as a child’s mind expands into a man’s, or whether new faculties of perception may not be made to spring forth, as if sight were given a blind man, we find it impossible to affirm.

4. Many of the modes of thought and feeling, in that life to come, perplex us. Truth must forever continue truth, and goodness eternally commend itself to the soul, else our training for the future life would be valueless, and our confidence in the reality of things shaken. But there may be large modifications, through the extension and elevation of our thoughts. We shall see the same spiritual objects, but from other positions, and with higher powers of judging. How far this may affect our views we cannot say.

5. It would be unsatisfactory enough if this were all that could be said and done. But the apostle puts this dark background upon the canvas, that he may set in relief a central scene and figure--Christ and our relation to Him. It matters little, the apostle says, what may be our ignorance about other things, what doubts may agitate us, what darkness lie on the edge of our horizon, if we can abide in the centre with this great Enlightener. He casts His illumination upon our future destiny as well as upon our present duty.

I. The first thing promised is the manifestation of Christ--“Christ shall appear.” It is not merely that Christ shall be seen, but seen as never before.

1. The first thought of the apostle was no doubt the human nature of Christ as appearing again to the eyes of His friends. He left with that nature, and promised so to return--“I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice.” His first disciples are not to be the only favoured men who ever saw Christ after the flesh. They will regain the view they lost, and we, if we are of them who love His appearing, shall share it with them. The likeness of sinful flesh will be removed--the marred visage and form of suffering,--but the look that turned on Peter--the face that rejoiced in that hour when He said, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth”--the hands that blessed the children--these shall remain, with all the soul of pity that was in them, and the beating heart which went forth through them. The only difference will be that they shall appear. In this world they were hidden, seen only by the few, seen obscurely, realised feebly; but when He is made manifest they shall be the centre and the sunlight of a ransomed world, the heritage of an innumerable company, and yet each one, as if by himself, shall have His view of, and portion in, the true human fellowship of the Son of God.

2. In the manifestation of Christ the apostle must have thought also of His Divine nature. His first appearance in this nature was dim and over cast, both for the sake of the weak vision of fallen humanity, and because suffering and sacrifice were necessary for the work He had to perform. Before He could raise, He needed to redeem. When He became man “He emptied Himself” of His Divinity, as far as this was possible--gathered the attributes of the Infinite within the limits of the finite, and shut up the rays of His uncreated glory in the likeness of sinful flesh. When He shall appear there may be expected a clear manifestation of the Divine nature through the human. The glory that He had with the Father before the world was shall be resumed, and, if we may venture to say it, raised, for the glory of the Divine shall have added to it the grace of the human. The majesty, the power and wisdom which belong to Him as the Son of God shall go forth unrestrained, in union with the tenderness and sympathy which fill His heart as the Son of Man.

II. The second thing promised at the appearance of Christ is a full vision on our part--“we shall see Him as He is.”

1. There must certainly be a change in our material frame before we can sustain the view of Christ’s exalted humanity. When men are brought to see Him as He is, the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory would crush them to the dust, without that change which will make their bodies incorruptible and glorious as His own.

2. With this change on the body, there must be a corresponding one upon the soul, before there can be the full vision of Christ. If we were allowed to conjecture, we might suppose that this education is part of the history of souls in the separate state. The body can rise at once to its highest perfection, but the law of spirit is that of advance by slow degrees. It is consolatory, also, to think that the great day shall not startle the blessed dead, if we may so speak of them, with affright. It shall dawn to them as the summer sun dawns. But however the preparation takes place, we may be confident that the soul’s vision will be at last perfectly fitted to its object--“Christ as He is.” It will be a vision free from all sin in the soul. This will make it free from error, and from the doubt which has pain with it. It will be free from partiality--from that fruitful source of misconception and division, taking a portion of Christ and His truth for the whole. It will be a vision intense and vivid, not coldly outlined by the understanding, but veined and coloured by the heart--a sight in which the soul goes out to rejoice with a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. And it will be a vision close and intimate. They shall gain their knowledge of God and Christ by quicker processes and shorter paths than here we do.

III. The third thing promised is complete assimilation to Christ--“we shall be like Him.” It is the perfect view of Christ which gives perfect likeness to Him. To look on one we love brings a measure of similitude, and looking on Christ, even here, however dimly we may see Him, produces a degree of likeness. But it is when Christ appears that the last great step is taken. However pure and happy may be the state of separate spirits, the Scripture teaches us that it is incomplete, and that they, as well as the whole creation, “wait for the manifestation of the sons of God.”

1. Taking the order hitherto observed, we may think first of our material frame. It will be made like to Christ’s glorious body. This assures us that we shall have eternal relations to God’s material universe. It fixes a central home for our nature--we shall be where Christ is. It makes us feel that there will be a fitness in our frame for our future dwelling place. All that world forms itself into a harmony with Christ, and when we are like Him we shall be in harmony with it. When the material frame is made like Christ’s, it indicates to us something not only of the forms of the future life, but of its active employments. The body in this present world serves two great purposes. It lets in God’s external creation, with all its lessons of knowledge, upon the soul; and it gives the soul power to go forth and imprint upon God’s creation its own thoughts and volitions. When the Bible assures us that a body shall still be associated with man’s soul, it leads us to infer that God’s material universe will be open to him in all its teachings; and that he will be able to impress it in some way with the marks of his own mind and will. Only it will be after a higher manner. The lordship of man over creation, which was granted him at first, will be heightened when it is restored through Christ (Hebrews 2:7).

2. Besides the assimilation of the material frame, we cannot forget that there will be a likeness of the spiritual nature. The source of heaven’s blessedness and power is the likeness of the soul to Christ. When He shall appear “we shall see His face, and His name shall be on our foreheads.” It shall be deeper--in our souls; and all of God’s truth and grace that can be communicated to a creature shall enter into the depth of the spiritual nature through Christ. If the active soul finds scope for work in God’s material universe, the Mary-like spirit which delights to sit at the feet of Christ and hear His word, shall have unrebuked leisure in the heavenly home. We may trust that in some way the sisters, Service and Meditation, will interchange gifts, and be perfectly at one when they reach His higher presence.

3. We have pursued the order of presenting first the human side of Christ, and then the Divine; but we trust it has been made clear that the knowledge of Christ comes to us through the soul side in ourselves. We must begin by knowing Him spiritually as the source of pardon and purity--commencing a new life within, which goes forward, strengthening and rising--a life of which heaven is not the reward, but the natural and necessary continuation. (John Ker, D. D.)

Future blessedness

I. The nature of this blessed and glorious estate--“we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” A transforming vision, or such a vision as changeth us into the likeness of God, is the true blessedness of the saints. There are three things considerable in our happiness

Two of them are in the text: “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” The third is fetched from a parallel place (Psalms 17:15). First, for vision that beginneth the happiness, and maketh way for all the rest--“we shall see Him as He is.” This sight is either ocular or mental.

1. Ocular; for our senses have their happiness as well as our souls, and there is a glorified eye as well as a glorified mind (Job 19:26-27). But you will say, How is this so great a privilege to the godly, since the wicked shall see Him? (Matthew 26:64).

2. Mental vision or contemplation. The angels, which have not bodies, are said to behold the face of our heavenly Father (Matthew 18:10); and when we are said to see God, it is not meant of the bodily eye, for a spirit cannot be seen with bodily eyes; so He is still the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). And seeing face to face is opposed to knowing in part. And therefore it implieth a more complete knowledge than now we have. The mind is the noblest faculty, and must have its satisfaction. Now three things are necessary--

Now in the state of glory all these concur. The faculty is more capacious, the object is more fully represented, and the conjunction and fruition is more intimate and close than it can be elsewhere. Secondly, assimilation or transformation into the image of God and Christ.

1. What this likeness is. This was man’s first ruin, this aspiring to be like God (Genesis 3:5); not in a blessed conformity, but in a cursed self-sufficiency. This was the design of the first transgression (Isaiah 14:14). The men of the world aspire to be like God in greatness and power, but not in goodness and holiness. We affect or usurp Divine honour, and to sit upon even ground with God. Christ came not to gratify our sin, but to make us like unto God, not equal with God.

2. How it is the fruit of vision? for so it is given as a reason, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” I answer--there is between light and likeness a circular generation, as there is in most moral things; and on the one side it may be said we shall be like Him, therefore we shall see Him as He is, and also on the other side, as in the text, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Thirdly, the third thing is satisfaction, not mentioned in the text, but implied from a parallel place; for we having the sight and presence of God, must needs be ravished with it (Psalms 16:11). Our great business will be to love what we see, and our great happiness to have what we love. This will be a full, perpetual, and never failing delight to us.

II. The season when we shall enjoy this--“when He shall appear.”

1. I take it for granted that the soul before is not only in the hand of God, which all assert, but admitted into the sight and presence of the Lord, and to see His blessed face.

2. Then we have our solemn absolution from all sins (Acts 3:19). And our pardon is pronounced by the judge sitting upon the throne.

3. Then shall we have glorified bodies restored unto us, wherein Christ shall be admired (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

4. Then Christ will present us to God by head and poll, and give an account of all that God hath given him, that they may be introduced into their everlasting estate, not one wanting (John 6:40).

III. The apprehension that we should have of it for the present--“we know.”

1. It is not a bare conjecture, but a certain knowledge; it is not only we think, we hope well, but we know.

2. It is not a probable opinion, but an evident and infallible truth, as sure as if we saw it with our eyes. An unseen world is an unknown world; how can we be so sure of it? It is set before us by His precious promises who cannot lie.

3. It is not a general belief, but a particular confidence. He speaketh upon the supposition that we are God’s children. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Man’s capability of future glory and blessedness

I. That strong, unappeasable desire, that longing after a higher good than this world affords, which seems inherent in the nature of man, points to something great and glorious in his future destiny. This was wont to be appealed to by the ancient heathen philosophers as among the strongest proofs of the soul’s immortality. And plainly there is much force in the argument. For, assuming the wisdom and goodness of the Creator, it may be asked, why should He implant in the nature of man a desire after immortality, if He did not mean to gratify that desire; or why awaken in Him longings after unearthly, eternal happiness, if He has made no provisions to appease those longings? Place man in any earthly situation; give him wealth, give him power, give him honour, pleasure, all that the world can afford; still there will be a void within, still he will travail in pain, and look and sigh after enjoyments which the fleeting objects of time and sense can never afford him. His thoughts and his hopes stretch beyond the shadows of earth and time and fasten on the skies. These facts clearly show that this world was never designed to be the final abode of man.

II. If we consider the capacities of man, we shall perceive still stronger evidence that he is destined to something inconceivably grand and glorious in the progress of his future being. Though fallen from his original dignity and degraded by sin, man is still noble in ruins. He is now, most plainly, but in the infancy of his being. Still we perceive in him capacities for high and noble attainments; capacities which stamp on his existence the seal of eternity.

1. Man possesses an immortal nature; is made for an endless existence. The body soon decays. But this affects not the existence of the living, thinking spirit.

2. Man has a capacity for endless progress in knowledge. The great law of mind is expansion, and we know of no assignable limits to this law.

3. Man has a capacity for endless improvement in moral excellence or holiness. He is qualified to be perfectly conformed to the will of God, to be holy even as He is holy.

4. Man has a capacity for great and noble actions, and for constant and evergrowing usefulness in the kingdom of God.

5. Man has a capacity for endless advancement in happiness. Happiness in a rational being is the necessary result of the right and useful exercise of all His powers.

III. What provisions God has made to satisfy the wants of man, and fill the large capacities of the soul with good. Ever since the morning of creation, when God made man in His image, and gave him dominion over His works, He has been continually operating for his good. Behold this world in all its magnificence and beauty, appointed to be his habitation, and to minister to his improvement and happiness. Turn next to the wonders of redeeming love, and see how, from age to age, God has been operating for the salvation of our race.

IV. Let us turn to the oracles of God, and learn what they reveal on this subject.

1. Conclusion: How truly wise is it to be religious! What is religion? It is to act up to the dignity of our nature as made in the image of God, rational and immortal beings; is to look beyond the scenes of earth and time to those invisible realities which the Word of God presents for our consideration, and prepare to meet them; it is to love, reverence and serve the great Being who holds our destiny in His hand.

2. How degrading is a life of irreligion, a life spent in neglect of God and the soul; devoted to the cares and pursuits of the world! Of what value, in a little time, will all those things be which now most interest and absorb men of the world? (J. Hawes, D. D.)

The manifestations of Christ

Both St. Paul and St. John dwell largely upon the “sonship” of believers, but they approach the subject from different points of view. To the mind of the former of these two apostles, this sonship assumes the appearance of a position of privilege. A boy running wild in the streets--untaught and uncared for, and in danger of utter destruction--is adopted into a benevolent and wealthy family. He has had no reason to expect such an advancement. The other apostle pushes the matter a step further, and opens up what perhaps we may venture to call a profounder view of the subject. Looking beyond the question of privilege, He speaks of the disciple as deriving his spiritual existence from the Great Being into whose family he has been introduced. The man, according to the apostle, is born of God. You will see at once what a lofty idea of Christian discipleship the apostle St. John presents to us. “Beloved! now are we the sons of God.” This is the starting point; and when we have reached it there emerge to the view three thoughts. First, that there is something difficult to comprehend about the present spiritual position of the believer. It is seen, as it were, through a mist. In the next place, that this difficulty will be removed. The mist will melt away, and all be made plain when Christ appears. And lastly, that if we are really looking forward to the clearing up or manifestation, which is coming, the effect of the expectation will be seen in the conduct of our daily lives. We shall purify ourselves even as He is pure.

1. As to the first of the three thoughts, it is plain enough that the true disciple of Christ is misunderstood, and must be misunderstood by the world at large, and just because the world cannot possibly put itself at his point of view. St. Paul tells us that the spiritual man judgeth all things, whilst the natural man knoweth not the things of the Spirit of God. The Christian disciple is more or less of a puzzle to those who, not being born again of the Spirit, do not really belong to the family of God. Sometimes they will question his motives, and set him down as hypocritical, or fanatical, or as seeking his own advantage under pretence of regard for the glory of God. But the more kindly and generous portion of them--and these will probably constitute the majority--will content themselves with expressing surprise, or, it may be amusement, at his devotion to Christ. And the reason of this is plain enough. You must sympathise with a man in order to be able to understand him. But there is more than this to be said. The disciple himself--to put the opinion of the world aside--the disciple himself can only very dimly and imperfectly apprehend the future which lies before him. Partly because he is engaged in the tug and strain of a spiritual conflict. You may have your misgivings sometimes as to how the battle is going on with you. When men express a doubt about the reality of your faith and the sincerity of your religion, you may at times be inclined to suspect that their judgment is correct, and that your estimate of yourself has all along been in error. But though the confusion may arise--in part--from the fact of your being placed in the thick of a spiritual struggle, it may be attributed still more to the difficulty of realising the things of the eternal world: a difficulty for experiencing which we are surely not altogether to blame.

2. There will be a time when all difficulties and confusions shall be removed, and that time is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Day of Judgment is simply a day of manifestation, in which every one of us, every human being, is seen to be what he really is. At present we are muffled up in various disguises. More or less, we are hidden from each other, and perhaps from ourselves. The mean spirit is sometimes clothed in dignity, whilst solid worth, not unfrequently, is clothed in rags. Sometimes, too, the true Christian is misunderstood. But we must go a little further with Him. “When Christ,” he says, “is manifested,” i.e., in His resurrection glory, “we shall see Him as He is.” It is possible to see Christ and yet not to see Him “as He is.” There are few, I suppose, in Christendom, who do not form any idea of Christ; but in some cases it is unhappily a mistaken one. To some persons He is a mere man. To others a great teacher and nothing more. To others, again, a hard and exacting taskmaster. But to see Christ as He is, is to contemplate Him with sympathy and love. We have been taught by the Spirit to understand Him. This I suppose to be seeing Christ as He is, so far as this present world is concerned. And they who are thus accustomed to see Christ are ready to gaze upon Him with unspeakable joy when He shall come again to earth.

III. Our last point remains yet untouched. An illustration somewhat resembling that with which I started, must serve me to place this part of our subject before you. A young prince, stolen away in childhood from his father’s palace, and brought up amidst unworthy surroundings, has been recovered and brought back again. By degrees he comes to understand his position--he did not quite understand it at first--and he is full of gratitude when he contrasts what he is now with what he was some months or years ago. Yet he has difficulties. The habits of years of depraved life are not easily shaken off. But he contends manfully against the difficulties, and is climbing up slowly, but surely, to a fitness for the position in which he has been so happily reinstated. Now, two distinct considerations will influence the young man. First, he will desire to act worthily of his present princely state; and then, because he knows he is to inherit, at some time or other, his father’s sceptre, and because wide dominions and large populations will then be placed under his sway, he will wish to qualify himself for the task and responsibility of ruling, whenever he shall be called upon to ascend the throne. You see the application. We who are Christians have a present position to maintain. Christ says to each of us, “Be what I have made you! I have placed you where you are. I have made you children of God. Be children of God!” And then there is the future to look forward to--the future kingdom--the future glory, upon which we shall have one day to enter with Christ. And what is the result of our expectation of these things if we really entertain the expectation? Let St. John tell us: “Every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (G. Calthrop, M. A.)

By and by

I. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” At present we are veiled, and travel through the world incognito.

1. Our Master was not made manifest here below.

2. We are not fit to appear in full figure as yet.

3. This is not the world to appear in.

(a) The winter prepares flowers, but does not call them forth.

(b) The ebb tide reveals the secrets of the sea, but many of our rivers no gallant ship can then sail.

(c) To everything there is a season, and this not the time of glory.

II. “But we know that when he shall appear.”

1. We shall speak of our Lord’s manifestation without doubt. “We know.”

2. Our faith is so assured that it becomes knowledge.

III. “We shall be like him.” We shall then be as manifested and as clearly seen as He will be. The time of our open presentation at court will have come.

1. Having a body like His body: sinless, incorruptible, painless, spiritual, clothed with beauty and power, and yet most real and true.

2. Having a soul like His soul: perfect, holy, instructed, developed, strengthened, active, delivered from temptation, conflict, and suffering.

3. Having such dignities and glories as He wears: kings, priests, conquerors, judges, sons of God.

IV. “We shall see him as he is.”

1. This glorious sight will perfect our likeness.

2. This will be the result of our being like Him.

3. This will be evidence of our being like Him, since none but the pure in heart can see God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

What we shall be

Surely a wholly new interest creeps over this poor human world of ours if we once see in it the germ of possibility, the suggestion of all we shall be hereafter. So seen, it is no aged and weary traveller tottering slowly down to his end; but it is a child still, with the fascination of a child all about it, the fascination of a life which is feeling its way forward by start, by gleam, by sudden intuition, by experiment, by tentative trial, by flashes of insight, by glances, by glimpses--yes, and by stumbles and falls and shocks and jolts, from out of which it still pulls itself together and runs on yet ahead. That is human life in the believer’s eye, in its best and wisest form--still the child life, wistful, prophetic, marvellous, suggestive; a child life so full of strange dreams, but with all its achievements yet to come, to come in that great after world for which the whole round of this age long story of man is but a nursery, but a preparation, but a rehearsal, but an education. Let us recount our gains from such a belief in respect of the world at our feet, before our eyes.

1. Cheerfulness in the face of change. Change is so wearisome when it insists on going beyond what we want. There is such a sense of disappointment when we, perhaps, have succeeded in obtaining a goal, and then have to discover that the moment the end is touched it has already begun to change, to move, to go further. In politics, especially, we note how we are suffering from this cheerless disappointment. Good things, from which men thirty years ago hoped so much, have been done only to show how much more remains to be done. We thought ourselves in the van--lo! we are already lagging in the rear, we are passe, we have lost the cue. That is what damps the spirit. But what if this life is all of it not an end, but only a beginning; all of it a suggestion of more beyond, none of it a goal attained? Our political fabric is to us precious and sacred. It suggests something which we shall find hereafter. It gives a hint, a shadow, of that heavenly citizenship which shall complete all that is well begun here: we shall find it all there. Here no suggestion of that vast society in heaven exhausts its meaning. As soon as we have understood one, and seen our way to its realisation, we see our way to another; each is but a fragment of the great kingdom to be. Now let it go. God sweeps it out of sight; not in contempt, but because He prepares for us another and yet another picture of that immeasurable glory of the kingdom of heaven.

2. We gain cheerfulness in the face of change, and we gain hope just where we most need it. For if the ideal, if completion, is to be sought here on earth, then we know how despairing is our view of those who are born in thousands in dark and low dens, born out of the seed of sin, out of the fires of lust and of drink, born into a life that must be stricken and stunted, blind with ignorance and cursed with a loveless doom. Those so born can make but a pitiful fight of it here; at their very best they can attain very little, and they are swept so lightly down the dark waters of crime and sorrow. If this earth of ours be all, how can we close our eyes to that nightmare? But we who believe that this life is at its best but a germ, a start, a discipline, can afford to broaden our hope beyond all our seeing. Behind the fumes of drink, behind the cloud of crime, each may have made his start and fought his fight, and have proved the possibility, and have manifested some germ of possible growth. Kindness, purity, may have been touched at least. And if this is so there is hope. God may yet do great things with them, so long as He can secure in them some seed of future life.

3. We gain cheerfulness in the face of change and hope in face of base and bad tuition, and then we gain what is near akin to the last joy in the face of failure. The fruit is not here, but fruit may come hereafter in abundance out of those very failures which prune and curtail and sharply discipline us here. Hereafter it may be our failures that we shall most bless, as we see all they taught us. Who knows what is going on in secret behind those very failures in others which most provoke us? It will not be the failure which distresses, but only the failure to use the failure for good purposes. Our failures (above all, of course, our noble failures) are part and parcel of our spiritual history and growth. When we go before our God the failures will go to the account, they will be elements in the judgment, they will be as instrumental and effective as any of our successes in determining our eternal lot. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, but it doth not appear what we shall be.” Not yet, but the root of what we shall be hereafter is here embodied in the soul. Now are we the sons of God, now are we the germ of what we shall find ourselves in that fair land. Now all that we can learn of what we shall be here after is to be sought here and now, in our human lot, amid our fellows, in our common brotherhood. The hints, the glimpses of the glory which is to follow, the beginning, the omen, the voice--all are here close about us in human nature trod in flesh and blood. How, then, shall we not turn to this poor life of ours with hope, with zeal, with tenderness, with love; how shall we not clasp it tight and fast, and cling about it, and busy ourselves with its services? (Canon Scott Holland.)

The spirituality of the beatific vision

As vain and troublesome a world as this is, and as short and uncertain as our abode is in it, yet are we so strangely charmed with the glittering appearances in our way as to forget the crown of glory at our journey’s end. To wean us, therefore, from the place of our pilgrimage, and to set our affections on a better country, we must send out our minds, as Moses did his spies, to search the promised Canaan, and to bring of the fruit of that good land we are travelling to. Such Divine contemplations will give a new turn of thought and quite another taste and relish of things; they will be of great use to cure a downward disposition of soul, and to raise us above the world.

I. The meaning and extent of this phrase, of seeing God as He is. The vision here intended must be intellectual--a vision of the mind and not of the eye, a clear perception or sight of God in the souls of just men made perfect. In this life we feel after God, as it were, in the dark, we trace Him out by the foot steps of infinite power and wisdom, we see Him in His works but not in Himself; but when we commence angel life this veil shall be taken away, then we shall be no longer under the pedagogy of types and shadows but admitted into the immediate possession of original truth.

II. The mode or manner of this beatific vision. The manner of our seeing God in this life is either by a long train of consequences, by climbing up gradually from the effects to the cause, from the things that are made to the invisible things of the Maker, even His eternal power and Godhead; or by way of eminence, by inferring that the perfections we see in the creatures must of necessity centre all more eminently in the Creator; or negatively, by denying everything of God we conceive unbecoming the Divine nature, for at present we rather know what God is not than what He is; or else we see Him by faith, by believing upon the testimony He has given us of Himself by Moses and the prophets, Christ and His apostles. In the vision reserved for the heavenly Jerusalem there will be nothing dark or enigmatical, nothing of cloud, or representation, of faith or reasoning, or intermediate ideas to inform the understanding, nothing between God and the glorified soul, the knowledge intuitive, the vision naked, full, and perfect according to the quality of the recipient, and the mind directly irradiated from the fountain of light, from the Divine essence itself.

III. Wherein the happiness of this beatific vision does principally consist. Now by seeing God we are not to conceive a bare intuitive knowledge only of the Divine essence, but a vision most lively and operative, warmed with all the affections of the heart, and an entire conformity of our wills to the will of God. For then, then alone, are just men completely blessed, when their spirits are made so perfect that they clearly contemplate all truth and fully enjoy all good; that is, when the whole orb of the soul is filled with perfect light and perfect love. To see God, therefore, is to enjoy Him. First, the Holy Spirit is now given but in part, in proportion to the exigencies of a state of trial, and consequently our communion must be in part also; but in heaven, the place of reward, we shall all, to the utmost extent of our capacity, so be filled with all the fulness of God, and most perfectly joined to the ever-blessed Trinity in a most intimate, immediate, and ineffable union. For, secondly, God communicates Himself in this world not immediately, but by inferior instruments and secondary causes: He feeds the soul with the graces of His Spirit, by the ministry of His Word and sacraments, and preserves the body by the help of His creatures. But in the other world all we can want or wish for shall be supplied directly from the Fountain of Happiness, and God Himself shall be to us all in all without any second causes. Thirdly, the mean, or condition on our part, whereby we are incorporated into Christ at present, is our faith, but in the life to come faith shall be swallowed up in perfect vision, we shall see God as He is, and the sight of infinite perfection shall set us on fire and make our hearts burn with love as pure and bright as our knowledge; and it being the property of love to clasp the object beloved into the closest union, we shall enjoy all things possible in common with the ever-blessed Trinity. From the nature of our communion with God in heaven thus explained, I proceed more particularly to the blessed effects of it. I begin with the perfection of our knowledge. Then shall we know, not in part, not by wearisome steps and deductions, but clearly and all at once; we shall know in the same manner as God knows, that is, by His immediate self, for in Himself only can we see Him as He is, and in His infinite mind we shall see the hidden forms of His creatures and the ideas of all perfection. But there is a fond inquiry whether we shall know our relations and acquaintances in the other world. To which I answer, that if such knowledge will add to our happiness we shall surely enjoy it. But then, seeing everything in God, we shall be affected only as God is affected; we shall love one another for our relation and likeness to Him only, and as we are members of Christ united and informed by the same Spirit, which will be both the bond of our union and the cause of our love. Lastly, from this perfection of knowledge will arise a perfect conformity of our wills and affections. (W. Reeves, M. A.)

The beatific vision

It is one of the most natural desires in all the world, that when we hear of a great and a good man we should wish to see his person. I am sure you will all confess that this strong desire has arisen in your minds concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. We owe to none so much; we talk of none so much, we hope, and we think of none so much: at any rate, no one so constantly thinks of us. We have a strong desire to see Him. Nor do I think that that desire is wrong. Moses himself asked that he might see God. Had it been a wrong wish arising out of vain curiosity it would not have been granted, but God granted Moses his desire. Yea, more; the earnest desire of the very best of men has been in the same direction. Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God”: that was his desire. The holy Psalmist said, “I shall be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness”; “I shall behold Thy face in righteousness.” We are rejoiced to find such a verse as this, for it tells us that our curiosity shall be satisfied, our desire consummated, our bliss perfected. “We shall see Him as He is.”

I. The glorious position. Our minds often revert to Christ as He was, and as such we have desired to see Him. We shall never see Him thus; Bethlehem’s glories are gone forever; Calvary’s glooms are swept away; Gethsemane’s scene is dissolved; and even Tabor’s splendours are quenched in the past. We cannot, must not, see Him as He was; nor do we wish, for we have a larger promise, “We shall see Him as He is.”

1. Consider, first of all, that we shall not see Him abased in His incarnation but exalted in His glory. We shall see the hand, and the nail-prints too, but not the nail; it has been once drawn out, and forever. We shall see Him, not with a reed in His hand, but grasping a golden sceptre.

2. Remember, again: we are not to see Christ as He was, the despised, the tempted one. We shall see Him beloved, not abhorred, not despised and rejected, but worshipped, honoured, crowned, exalted, served by flaming spirits and worshipped by cherubim and seraphim. “We shall see Him as He is.”

3. We shall not see the Christ wrestling with pain, but Christ as a conqueror. We shall not see Him fight; but we shall see Him return from the fight victorious, and shall cry, “Crown Him! Crown Him!” We shall never see our Saviour under His Father’s displeasure; but we shall see Him honoured by His Father’s smile. Perhaps I have not shown clearly enough the difference between the two visions--the sight of what He was and what He is. The believer will be as much astonished when he sees Jesus’ glories as He sits on His throne as He would have been to have seen Him in His earthly sufferings. The one would have been astonishment, and horror would have succeeded it; but when we see Jesus as He is it will be astonishment without horror. If we could see Jesus as He was, we should see Him with great awe. If we had seen Him raising the dead we should have thought Him a most majestic Being. So we shall feel awe when we see Christ on His throne; but it will be awe without fear. We shall not bow before Him with trembling, but it will be with joy; we shall not shake at His presence, but rejoice with joy unspeakable. Furthermore, if we had seen Christ as He was, we should have had great love for Him; but that love would have been compounded with pity. We shall love Him quite as much when we see Him in heaven, and more too, but it will be love without pity; we shall not say “Alas!” but we shall shout--“All hail the power of Jesu’s name,” etc. If we had seen Jesus Christ as He was here below, there would have been joy to think that He came to save us; but we should have had sorrow mingled with it to think that we needed saving. But when we see Him, there it will be joy without sorrow; sin and sorrow itself will have gone; ours will be a pure, unmingled, unadulterated joy. Yet more. If we had seen our Saviour as He was, it would have been a triumph to see how He conquered, but still there would have been suspense about it. We should have feared lest He might not overcome. But when we see Him up there it will be triumph without suspense. Sheathe the sword; the battle’s won.

II. Personal identity. Perhaps while I have been speaking some have said, “Ah! but I want to see the Saviour, the Saviour of Calvary, the Saviour of Judea, the very one that died for me. I do not so much pant to see the glorious Saviour you have spoken of; I want to see that very Saviour who did the works of love, the suffering Saviour; for Him I love.” You shall see Him. It is the same one. There is personal identity. “We shall see Him.” We shall be sure it is He; for when we enter heaven we shall know Him by His manhood and Godhead. We shall find Him a man, even as much as He was on earth. Have you never heard of mothers having recognised their children years after they were lost by the marks and wounds upon their bodies? Ah! if we ever see our Saviour, we shall know Him by His wounds. But then, Christ and we are not strangers; for we have often seen Him in this glass of the Word. We shall know Him, because He will be so much like the Bible Jesus, that we shall recognise Him at once. Yet more, we have known Him better than by Scripture sometimes--by close and intimate fellowship with Him. Why, we meet Jesus in the dark sometimes; but we have sweet conversation with Him. Oh! we shall know Him well enough when we see Him. You may trust the believer for knowing his Master when he finds Him.

III. The positive nature of vision. “We shall see Him as He is.” This is not the land of sight; it is too dark a country to see Him, and our eyes are not good enough. We walk here by faith. It is pleasant to believe His grace, but we had rather see it. Well, “we shall see Him.” How different that sight of Him will be from that which we have here!

1. For here we see Him by reflection. Just as sometimes, when you are looking in your looking glass, you see somebody going along in the street. You do not see the person, you only see him reflected. Now we see Christ reflected; but then we shall not see Him in the looking glass; we shall positively see His person. Not the reflected Christ, not Christ in the sanctuary, not the mere Christ shining out of the Bible, not Christ reflected from the sacred pulpit; but “we shall see Him as He is.”

2. Again: how partially we see Christ here! The best believer only gets half a glimpse of Christ. There we shall see Christ entirely, when “we shall see Him as He is.”

3. Here, too, how dimly we see Christ! Have you never stood upon the hilltops when the mist has played on the valley? You have looked down to see the city and the streamlet below; you could just ken yonder steeple and mark that pinnacle; but they were all so swathed in the mist that you could scarcely discern them. Suddenly the wind has blown away the mist from under you, and you have seen the fair, fair valley. Ah! it is so when the believer enters heaven. Here he stands and looks upon Christ veiled in a mist--upon a Jesus who is shrouded; but when he gets up there, on Pisgah’s brow, higher still, with his Jesus, then he shall not see Him dimly, but he shall see Him brightly.

4. Here, too, how distantly we see Christ! Almost as far off as the farthest star! But then we shall see Him closely; we shall see Him face to face; as a man talketh with his friend, even so shall we then talk with Jesus.

5. And oh! how transitory is our view of Jesus! It is only a little while we get a glimpse of Christ, and then He seems to depart from us. But, Christians, there will be no hidings of faces in heaven! Then, do you know, there will be another difference--when “we shall see Him as He is.” How much better that sight will be than what we have here! When we see Christ here, we see Him to our profit; when we see Him there, we shall see Him to our perfection. I bear my Master witness, I never saw Him yet without being profited by Him. But then it will not be to improve us, it will be to perfect us, when we see Him there. “We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”

IV. The actual persons--“we shall see Him as He is.” Come, let us divide that “we” into “I’s.” How many “I’s” are there here that will “see Him as He is”? Brother, with snow upon thy head, wilt thou “see Him as He is”? Thou hast had many years of fighting, and trying, and trouble: if thou ever dost “see Him as He is,” that will pay for all. But are thy grey hairs full of sin? and doth lust tarry in thy old cold blood? Ah! thou shalt “see Him,” but not nigh; thou shalt be driven from His presence. God save thee! And thou, who hast come to middle age, struggling with the toils of life, mixed up with all its battles, enduring its ills, thou art asking, it may be, shalt thou see Him? The text says, “We shall”; and can you and I put our hands on our hearts and know our union with Jesus? If so, “we shall see Him as He is.” Young man, the text says, “We shall see Him as He is.” Young man, you have got a mother and her soul doats upon you. Could your mother come to you this morning, she might take hold of your arm, and say to you, “John, we shall ‘see Him as He is’; it is not I, John, that shall see Him for myself alone, but you and I shall see Him together; ‘we shall see Him as He is.’” Oh! bitter, bitter thought that just now crossed my soul! O heavens! if we ever should be sundered from those we love so dearly when the last day of account shall come! That were sad indeed. But we leave the thought with you, and lest you should think that if you are not worthy you will not see Him--if you are not good you will not see Him--if you do not do such-and-such good things you will not see Him--let me just tell you, whosoever, though he be the greatest sinner under heaven--whosoever, though his life be the most filthy and the most corrupt--whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall have everlasting life; for God will blot out his sins, will give him righteousness through Jesus, accept him in the beloved, save him by His mercy, keep him by His grace, and at last present Him spotless and faultless before His presence with exceeding great joy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The two transfigurations

(with 2 Corinthians 3:18):--The transfigurations of Moses and Christ were events that did more than accredit their Divine missions. The facts were typical, and suggestive of principles that were operating beyond the range of these special instances, and as such helped to colour the thought and speech and hope of the founders of the coming Church. Paul and John take hold of these inscrutable and stupendous transfiguration forces, and trace the effect of their working upon a man’s moral life and character here, and upon his person and destiny hereafter. Christ not only so acts upon us as to conform us to His holy and exalted pattern now; when He comes again it shall be to reflect His glory into the persons of His believing followers.

1. It may help the weak faith of some who stumble at the supernatural, if we recognise that assimilation forces are already at work which change into finer quality, nobler form, more subtle function that which is gross, inert, unshaped. The earth, in its noiseless flight, gathers to itself cosmic dust, just as a miller in going to and fro amidst the revolving wheels of his mill draws to himself fine grains of flour; and the earth then conforms that dust to its own likeness. It pulls the pliant stuff into its own range, and then refines and exalts it into those living organisms that are the glory of the earth.

2. It is by the law of assimilation that men are bound together into homogeneous communities and nations.

3. Transfigurations go on in the social realm that are more or less consciously mimetic in their character. It is because of this fact that the different parts of our common life at least match themselves into a congruous and harmonious whole. The moulding forces of society tend to bring men into conformity with ruling types rather than to make them separatists. And there is an assimilation to Christ’s pattern that is more or less conscious, corresponding to these processes in the social realm around us. The transcendent beauty of Jesus Christ casts a spell over us, and we long to copy Him. And within certain limits we do find ourselves possessed of power through which we approximate, in external conduct at least, to His standard of truth and righteousness and compassion.

4. In ways unknown to us these assimilative forces work deep down amidst the elemental mysteries of life. The nervous system seems curiously responsive to the environment, and accommodates itself to the forms and hues that predominate in it, In a stream near Ivybridge, into which white clay was poured, the fish soon became perceptibly lighter in colour. A Syrian shepherd, by putting peeled rods of hazel before his flocks and herds in the breeding season, found that he could almost mark at will the skins and fleeces of the unborn young. And the law holds in human life. The organisation passes through plastic stages of sensibility, in which it is peculiarly susceptible to the imprint of any new object that may be presented to it. The deep mental impressions of the mother often infix themselves legibly upon the young life she brings into the world. Probably the traditions of saints who had set themselves to meditate on the agonies of the pierced hands and feet, and at last received nail marks in their own persons, are not simple myths, but have a basis of scientific fact. And if there be a law of this sort, it must surely run out into higher and more momentous forms. Shall God give to the frail, mute, unreasoning weaklings of the animal creation around us the power of assimilating themselves to the hues of their environments, so as the better to equip them for a life which is but a short spasm of sensations, and shall He deny the benefit of that catholic law to us who have come to the assembly and church of the firstborn, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, so that we may be transformed and fitted for the high distinction that is before us? Shall this mysterious law work through our fears and terrors, and conform us to the disease of which we may think and work towards death, and shall it not also operate through hope and admiration and worship, and assimilate us to the ideal of health, and be fruitful for glory and honour and immortality? We are even now in conditions in which we are being attracted more or less swiftly into the image of Christ’s spiritual loveliness, but ere long we shall be attracted into conformity to the unknown splendour which invests the humanity enshrined and enthroned in the highest heaven.

5. Both the earthly and the heavenly transfigurations rest upon a common act of contemplation. The monks of Mount Athos hypnotise themselves into trance conditions by gazing at their own bodies. In some of the Buddhist monasteries of Eastern Asia devotees are pointed out who have sat facing blank walls for years, and have gazed themselves into mysterious ecstasies. We find, as a matter of experience, that we can absorb and assimilate that on which we succeed in detaining the attention of our concentrated powers. Now, if men by projecting themselves into moods of abstraction discover new powers of mind, find unknown fires begin to burn within them, and rise into worlds of spiritual ecstasy, what change, think you, ought to effect itself within us if with the same steadfastness we contemplate the personality of Him who is the Leader and Consummator of our faith? We cannot look with sympathy upon His moral loveliness here, or with worship upon His glorious majesty hereafter, without realising some amazing approximation to His likeness.

6. Another analogy worthy of our notice is that these transfiguration processes effect themselves upon a new and impressionable life. It is the unborn babe which is responsive to the image presented to the brain of the mother, rather than the mother herself. The chrysalis is no longer affected by the colour of its surroundings when it reaches the last stages of its development. And in the spiritual realm this fact has its counterpart. The transcendent beauty of Christ imparts itself only in natures made tender by the Spirit. Till the Holy Ghost comes to brood within us, the material of which we consist does not lead itself to these high spiritual transformations. A man may try and look at Christ for a lifetime. He may have an adequate intellectual conception of this ideal character. Every grace may be discriminated and may command its due need of homage, but all in vain unless there be a new and tender life to receive the imprint of the perfect personality thus presented to the thought and emotion. This process is not human and ethical only. The life dawning in that birth mediated through the Spirit is alone susceptible of these sublime modifications and perfectings; and in the heavenly transfiguration there is the same parallel or analogy. If man’s nature is to be photographically sensitive to the celestial splendour of the Son of Man in His last glorious manifestation, the quickening from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, must be followed by a new birth of man’s sentient life from the dust of death.

7. But in these transfigurations there are contrasts as well as analogies. These arise, not from the fact that different forces are brought into use to effect these changes, but from the different degrees of aptitude which appear in the early and late stages of the religious history of the soul.

8. These two blessed changes are so vitally related to each other that one is a pledge and forecast of the other. Princely beauty hides itself away in the sons of God everywhere, and if we only suffer the Spirit of God to come to us and assimilate our characters to the Christlike ideal, that beauty will adorn even the bodies of our humiliation, and will at last clothe our quickened and recreated flesh forever. Guard unhurt the germ. See that the law of approximation to Christ is at work in all the occasions of common life. That will guarantee the rest. If we are absorbed into Christ, and Christ into us, when He is manifested we also shall be manifested with Him in glory. He is in us the hope of glory, and such a hope maketh not ashamed. (T. G. Selby.)

The final transguration

There is a very lofty sentiment in these words. They labour with meaning and soar with aspiration. We notice--

I. A change of the most marked character is already superinduced. Something is already accomplished; an effect is secured. Things are placed in a course of progression even now.

II. This change is preparatory to another in a future state of existence. Life is the school, the arena, the watch tower. Here holy principle is imbibed and holy habit formed; but the scope and aim are always prospective. The premonitions of our future are afforded by the nature of--

III. Of that sublimer change the present one is a very imperfect specimen and presage. “It doth not yet appear,” etc. (R. W. Hamilton, LL. D.)

The transforming power of the revelation of God

John, looking back, sees what great spaces have been covered in his spiritual history; he also looks forward, and sees greater changes in store for him. He has, in truth, become a son of God, but it is not manifest what he will become; he is only sure that as all the transformations in his character have been in the direction of likeness to God, they will go on in the same direction. To believe in future change is very different from believing in past change. It is not easy to realise that we shall ever be much different from what we are at present--that we shall become wiser, that we shall feel older, that we shall hold other opinions, that we shall develop new powers. Our future self is commonly the simple projection of our present self. The wondrous changes since infancy, with the development of hidden powers, do not effectually teach us that changes as great await us, or may be achieved. And yet these natural changes in the past ought to teach us that as great changes may await us in the future, and also that there may be spiritual changes and developments corresponding to the physical changes. The limit of physical development may be reached, but the mental and moral development may go on long after, and, for aught we know, forever, and the fact that we draw our life from God makes it probable that it will be so. Origin in an infinite being is a pledge not only of an infinite life, but of endless development in the direction of the unattainable source. This natural history should open our minds to the possibility of a like spiritual history. We may be sure that God has not put all the wonders of His creation into our early physical life, and left the moral life bare and fixed. The natural comes first, then the spiritual, but it is no less full of germinant seeds and possibilities than the natural. This is high probability; the Christian faith makes it a certainty. It enters into its nature and purpose to open before us great changes and developments. And it also seeks to produce them. It sets before us the duty of ourselves striving to make these changes. “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.” Let us give ourselves to this thought for awhile. Under natural conditions character does not show a tendency to change its type or direction; it simply grows after its type, and sets steadily in its native direction and toward some permanent form. Hereditary qualities take the lead, and the character moves on in their direction. The main quality asserts itself more and more strongly, shapes the features, gives tone to the voice, and gesture to the body, directs the conduct and becomes the spirit of the life. If selfish or lustful or proud, these qualities tend simply to go on and harden into fixed form. We call the result habit; it is rather the natural tendency of character, aided by habit, to consolidate; it is the loss of native freedom, for habit is the absence of freedom. But there is even a better prospect than this. It is, indeed, a pleasant thought that if I cultivate a spirit of patience, or sympathy, or self-control, it will become a fixed habit in me. It points to an end of strife, to rest and peace; but there is something better than that. I do not want merely to become fixed in these habits, but to grow in them; and I also want to be carried on and lifted up into higher ranges of character than I now know; I cannot be satisfied with any condition that is stationary. Therefore we hope to come upon other duties, and so to enter into other feelings than any we now know. Just as a little child knows nothing of the passions that sweep through the heart of the youth, so there may be lofty spiritual passions and experiences, and even qualities of character, of which we now know nothing. One thing is sure, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not leave us alone with a law of heredity, and the bare hope that we may become confirmed in goodness; it opens before us a vista of endless growth and change. And therefore it begins with a call to regeneration. Its first work is to lift us out of the order of nature where character tends simply to solidify and habits become fixed, and to carry us into another sort of world. Regeneration means, not that we are to be developed, but that we are to be changed, to live in other ways, with other motives and for other ends. Now see how Christian requirement works in with regeneration and helps it on. The gospel is constantly putting a man upon moral choices, and so it acts against the solidifying tendency of habit or native inclination; i.e., it keeps a man constantly in the world of freedom and out of the region of fixed habit. When I begin the day, I have not only to keep on in the good habits of yesterday, but I have fresh choices to make. New questions come up; life varies its phases; I am myself not quite the same being as yesterday; I see more, feel more; duty is a little broader; time presses upon me a little more heavily; eternity becomes more real. Thus I am summoned to new exercises of my nature. We are not to think that this transforming process belongs only to the life beyond. God is appearing all the while to those who have eyes to see Him. We touch here a most vital fact--the revelations of God and their effect upon us. I do not refer to the everyday manifestations of God--the sunlight, the blessed order of nature, the daily food and daily joy of home, but to those occasions when life becomes momentous, when it gathers itself up in a crisis and all is changed for us. It may be good or evil fortune, the birth or death of love, a loss or a gain; all such things are revelations of God, for God is in our lives and not outside of them; but when He thus appears it is for purposes of transformation. That is the use to be made of such events as they touch us. St. John doubtless had in mind the effect of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. That was almost the only revelation to which he gave much heed; the effect of it was the only spiritual effect of which he was conscious. Christ had come into his life; and from a mere child of this world, a simple fisherman, he had been made a veritable son of God. Christ had drawn him out of his old, worldly, natural self up into this high sense and relation, so that he could say, “Now, I am a son of God”--a tremendous change, the greatest a human being can undergo. St. John had experienced this change under the influence of Christ--a change so great that he can scarcely realise what he was at the beginning. A new creation; born again; a son of God; transformed--these phrases are too weak to express it. But it will go on, he says. We shall see Christ again, and see Him as He is; see Him with clearer eyes than we now have; and so mightier transformations will take place within us; we cannot tell nor even imagine what we shall be. I see no reason to doubt this--that great changes are still to go on in us under the transforming power of Christ. Let us not think meagrely on such a subject, but under high analogies. See how Christ has transformed the world; how His spirit has stolen into the hearts of nations; how civilisation has taken on His name and is doing His work. See how the tide of progress sets steadily Christward--more peace and less war, more justice, more equality, more mercy and kindness and goodwill. No matter how they come; they are coming by the Spirit of Gods and they are coming in ways not to be turned aside. What the end of this social change will be we do not know, but there is no reason to doubt that society will make as great gains as it has made in the past. But if society is capable of such transformations, much more must the individual be capable of them. All men are as one man; one is the whole and the whole are but one. And the final condition! who can imagine it? It doth not yet appear what this human world will become. All we can say is that the holy city of the saved world, the new Jerusalem of the perfected humanity, is slowly but steadily coming down from God out of heaven, and will in time appear four-square upon the earth. Thus these great hopes that enfold the world are yours and mine; we can take them into the secrecy of our sorrowing hearts, into our disappointed lives, into the vanishing away of our strength and years, and through them claim and find a place in the world of joy and peace. (T. T. Munger.)

Life and character in God

His children: Loved ones, now are we the children ( τέκνα) of God. We are His children even now. “Amidst all the mistakes on the part of the world we are nevertheless really now the children of God,” however unworthy we may appear and however little we may be appreciated. The soil may dwarf the Divine life and prevent its perfect development; nevertheless, we have that life in germ. But the infinite future lies before us: “It doth not yet appear.” The lily life is subject to hostile climate, and hence is imperfect. The life in us is an exotic from a celestial clime, “and” hence “it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” There will be no difficulty in recognising our unfolding of His life in the future. “When He shall appear” all will be well; the life will unfold itself in divinest forms under the immediate sunlight of His countenance. “We shall be like Him.” The life will have reached its type. For the present our “life is hid with Christ in God,” but “when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory”; yes, “with Him in glory,” because “like Him.” What is the explanation of that perfect likeness? “For we shall see Him as He is.” The sight of Him makes us like Him. Our life begins with a look “Behold the Lamb of God.” In the same way that life develops: “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.” So at last in the heavenly city we are made perfectly like Him, and seas of bliss begin to roll through our souls, because “we see Him as He is.” What heaven in such a look! (A. R. Cocke, D. D.)

The blessed vision of Christ

“Oh, blessed vision!” was the apostrophe of an ancient confessor. “Oh, blessed vision! to which all others are penal and despicable! Let me go into the mint house and see heaps of gold, and I am never the richer; let me go to the pictures and see goodly faces, I am never the fairer; let me go to the court, where I see state and magnificence, and I am never the greater; but oh, Saviour! I cannot see Thee and not be blessed. I can see Thee here through symbols; if the eye of my faith be dim, yet it is sure. Oh, let me be unquiet till I shall see Thee as I am seen!” (Quoted by Dr. Hanford.)


Mr. Ruskin, in his “Modern Painters,” tells that the black mud or slime from a footpath in the outskirts of a manufacturing town--the absolute type of impurity--is composed of four elements--clay, mixed with soot, a little sand, and water. These four may be separated each from the other. The clay particles, left to follow their own instinct of unity, become a clear, hard substance so set that it can deal with light in a wonderful way, and gather out of it the loveliest blue rays only, refusing the rest. We call it then a sapphire. The sand arranges itself in mysterious, infinitely fine parallel lines, which reflect the blue, green, purple, and red rays in the greatest beauty. We call it then an opal. The soot becomes the hardest thing in the world, and for the blackness it had obtains the power of reflecting all the rays of the sun at once in the vividest blaze that any solid thing can shoot. We call it then a diamond. Last of all, the water becomes a dewdrop, and a crystalline star of snow. Thus God can and does transform the vilest sinners into pure and shining jewels fit for His home in heaven.

Transfiguration by sight of Christ

Among some reminiscences of the sweet singer, Jenny Lind, communicated by Canon Scott Holland to Murrays Magazine, occurs the following:--“She had gone to look on the face of her friend, Mrs. Nassau Senior, after death. The son of her friend had shown her the stairs, and pointed out the door of the room where the body lay, and put a candle in her hands, and left her. She pushed open the door and entered alone, and there, before her, lay the face, fine and clear cut, encompassed about with a mass of white flowers. On it was peace, and a smile, with her lips parted; but that was not all. I must tell the rest in her own words. ‘It was not her own look that was in her face. It was the look of another, the face of another, that had passed into hers. It was the shadow of Christ that had come upon her. She had seen Christ. And I put down my candle, and I said, “Let me see this thing. Let me stop here always. Let me sit and look. Where are my children? Let them come and see. Here is a woman who has seen Christ.”‘ I can never forget the dramatic intensity of her manner as she told me all this, and how she at last had to drag herself away, as from a vision, and to stumble down the stairs again.”

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 John 3:2". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.

It is not yet made manifest what we shall be ... Sinclair thought that John made this statement in response to questions which Christians had raised regarding their future state; and it may well be true. People have always been curious regarding such things; "But we cannot say. It is not good for us to know."[9] We shall be like Christ, and that must be enough for us.

If we shall be manifested ... "Grammatically, him should mean the Father; but it is impossible to think this is not a reference to Christ."[10] "What John is clearly saying is that our likeness to the Godhead will be realized in the coming of Christ."[11]

We shall be like him ... for we shall see him ... "This does not mean that seeing God (Christ) is a proof of our being like him, but the cause of our being so."[12] Furthermore, "The Apostle is speaking of an abiding sight of Christ, because a transient view of him would not be a reason for our being like him."[13] All people shall see him in the final judgment, but the view of the wicked shall be transient.

[9] W. N. Sinclair, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 482.

[10] Leon Morris, New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1264.

[11] J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 78.

[12] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22,1John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 71.

[13] James Macknight, Macknight on the Epistles, 1John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, reprint, 1969), p. 66.

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Beloved, now are we the sons of God,.... By adoption, secretly in God's predestination, and in the covenant of grace; and openly in regeneration, through faith in Christ, and by the testimony of the Spirit:

and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; though they are sons, they do not appear now as such, as they will do, when they shall be introduced into their Father's house, and into the many mansions there prepared for them; when Christ shall publicly own them as the children given unto him, and when they shall be put into the possession of the inheritance they are heirs of; besides, they will appear then not only to be kings' sons, but kings themselves, as they now are; they will then inherit the kingdom prepared for them, and will sit down on a throne of glory, and have a crown of righteousness, life, and glory, put upon them; and will appear not only perfectly justified, their sins being not to be found; and the sentence of justification afresh pronounced, and they placed out of the reach of all condemnation; but they will be perfectly holy and free from all sin, and perfectly knowing and glorious; they have a right to glory now, and glory is preparing for them, and they for that: and they are now representatively glorified in Christ, but then they will be personally glorified: now, though all this shall certainly be, yet it does not now manifestly appear; it appears to God, who calls things that are not as though they were and to Christ, whose delights were with the sons men, these children of God, before the world was, and saw them in all the glory they were to be brought to; but not even to angels, until they are owned and confessed before them; much less to the world, who do not know what they are now, and still less what they will be, seeing them now in poverty, meanness, under many reproaches, afflictions, and persecutions; and even this does not appear to the saints themselves, whose life is a hidden life; and that by reason of darkness, desertion, and diffidence, for want of more knowledge, and from the nature of the happiness itself, which is at present unseen:

but we know that when he shall appear; that is, Jesus Christ, who is now in heaven, and out of sight, but will appear a second time: the time when is not known, but the thing itself is certain:

we shall be like him; in body, fashioned like to his glorious body, in immortality and incorruption, in power, in glory, and spirituality, in a freedom from all imperfections, sorrows, afflictions, and death; and in soul, which likeness will lie in perfect knowledge of divine things, and in complete holiness;

for we shall see him as he is; in his human nature, with the eyes of the body, and in his glorious person, with the eyes of the understanding; not by faith, as now, but by sight; not through ordinances, as in the present state, but through those beams of light and glory darting from him, with which the saints will be irradiated; and this sight, as it is now exceeding desirable, will be unspeakably glorious, delightful, and ravishing, soul satisfying, free from all darkness and error, and interruption; will assimilate and transform into his image and likeness, and be for ever. Philo the Jew observesF11De Praemiis. & Paenis, p. 917. , that Israel may be interpreted one that sees God; but adds, ουχ οιος εστιν ο θεος, "not what God is", for this is impossible: it is indeed impossible to see him essentially as he is, or so as to comprehend his nature, being, and perfections; but then the saints in heaven will see God and Christ as they are, and as much as they are to be seen by creatures; God will be seen as he is in Christ; and Christ will be seen as he is in himself, both in his divine and human natures, as much as can be, or can be desired to be seen and known of him.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

3 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 c like him; for we shall see him d as he is.

(3) The other: This dignity is not fully revealed to us ourselves, much less to strangers, but we are sure of the accomplishment of it, in as much as we shall be like the Son of God himself and shall enjoy his sight indeed, such as he is now, but yet this is deferred until his next coming.

(c) Like, but not equal.

(d) For now we see as in a glass (1 Corinthians 13:12)

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Beloved — by the Father, and therefore by me.

now — in contrast to “not yet.” We now already are really sons, though not recognized as such by the world, and (as the consequence) we look for the visible manifestation of our sonship, which not yet has taken place.

doth not yet appearGreek, “it hath not yet (‹at any time,‘ Greek aorist) been visibly manifested what we shall be” - what further glory we shall attain by virtue of this our sonship. The “what” suggests a something inconceivably glorious.

but — omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Its insertion in English Version gives a wrong antithesis. It is not, “We do not yet know manifestly what … but we know,” etc. Believers have some degree of the manifestation already, though the world has not. The connection is, The manifestation to the world of what we shall be, has not yet taken place; we know (in general; as a matter of well-assured knowledge; so the Greek) that when (literally, “if”; expressing no doubt as to the fact, but only as to the time; also implying the coming preliminary fact, on which the consequence follows, Malachi 1:6; John 14:3) He (not “it,” namely, that which is not yet manifested [Alford]) shall be manifested (1 John 3:5; 1 John 2:28), we shall be like Him (Christ; all sons have a substantial resemblance to their father, and Christ, whom we shall be like, is “the express image of the Father‘s person,” so that in resembling Christ, we shall resemble the Father). We wait for the manifestation (literally, the “apocalypse”; the same term as is applied to Christ‘s own manifestation) of the sons of God. After our natural birth, the new birth into the life of grace is needed, which is to be followed by the new birth into the life of glory; the two latter alike are termed “the regeneration” (Matthew 19:28). The resurrection of our bodies is a kind of coming out of the womb of the earth, and being born into another life. Our first temptation was that we should be like God in knowledge, and by that we fell; but being raised by Christ, we become truly like Him, by knowing Him as we are known, and by seeing Him as He is [Pearson, Exposition of the Creed]. As the first immortality which Adam lost was to be able not to die, so the last shall be not to be able to die. As man‘s first free choice or will was to be able not to sin, so our last shall be not to be able to sin [Augustine, The City of God, 22.30]. The devil fell by aspiring to God‘s power; man, by aspiring to his knowledge; but aspiring after God‘s goodness, we shall ever grow in His likeness. The transition from God the Father to “He,” “Him,” referring to Christ (who alone is ever said in Scripture to be manifested; not the Father, John 1:18), implies the entire unity of the Father and the Son.

for, etc. — Continual beholding generates likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18); as the face of the moon being always turned towards the sun, reflects its light and glory.

see him — not in His innermost Godhead, but as manifested in Christ. None but the pure can see the infinitely Pure One. In all these passages the Greek is the same verb {opsomai}; not denoting the action of seeing, but the state of him to whose eye or mind the object is presented; hence the Greek verb is always in the middle or reflexive voice, to perceive and inwardly appreciate [Tittmann]. Our spiritual bodies will appreciate and recognize spiritual beings hereafter, as our natural bodies now do natural objects.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Now (νυνnun). Without waiting for the παρουσιαparousia or second coming. We have a present dignity and duty, though there is greater glory to come.

It is not yet made manifest (ουπω επανερωτηoupō ephanerōthē). First aorist passive indicative of πανεροωphaneroō For the aorist indicative with ουπωoupō with a future outlook Brooke notes Mark 11:2; 1 Corinthians 8:2; Hebrews 12:4; Revelation 17:10, Revelation 17:12.

What we shall be (τι εσομεταti esometha). Not τινεςtines (who), but τιti (what) neuter singular predicate nominative. “This what suggests something unspeakable, contained in the likeness of God” (Bengel).

If he shall be manifested (εαν πανερωτηιean phanerōthēi). As in 1 John 2:28, which see. The subject may be Christ as in 1 John 3:9, or the future manifestation just mentioned. Either makes sense, probably “it” here better than “he.”

Like him (ομοιοι αυτωιhomoioi autōi). ΑυτωιAutōi is associative instrumental case after ομοιοιhomoioi This is our destiny and glory (Romans 8:29), to be like Jesus who is like God (2 Corinthians 4:6).

We shall see him even as he is (οπσομετα αυτον κατως εστινopsometha auton kathōs estin). Future middle indicative of οραωhoraō The transforming power of this vision of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:12) is the consummation of the glorious process begun at the new birth (2 Corinthians 3:18).

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies


See 1 John 2:7.

Now are we and, etc.

The two thoughts of the present and the future condition of God's children are placed side by side with the simple copula, and, as parts of one thought. Christian condition, now and eternally, centers in the fact of being children of God. In that fact lies the germ of all the possibilities of eternal life.

It doth not yet appear ( οὔπω ἐφανερώθη )

Rev., more correctly, it is not yet made manifest. See on John 21:1. The force of the aorist tense is, was never manifested on any occasion.

What we shall be ( τί ἐσόμεθα )

“This what suggests something unspeakable, contained in the likeness of God” (Bengel).

But we know

Omit but.

When He shall appear ( ἐὰν φανερωθῇ )

Rev., correctly, if He (or it ) shall be manifested. We may render either “if it shall be manifested,” that is what we shall be; or, “if He,” etc. The preceding ἐφανερώθη itis (not yet) made manifest, must, I think, decide us in favor of the rendering it. We are now children of God. It has not been revealed what we shall be, and therefore we do not know. In the absence of such revelation, we know (through our consciousness of childship, through His promise that we shall behold His glory), that if what we shall be were manifested, the essential fact of the glorified condition thus revealed will be likeness to the Lord. This fact we know now as a promise, as a general truth of our future state. The condition of realizing the fact is the manifestation of that glorified state, the revealing of the τί ἐσόμεθα whatwe shall be; for that manifestation will bring with it the open vision of the Lord. When the what we shall be shall be manifest, it will bring us face to face with Him, and we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is.

As He is ( καθώς ἐστιν )

Strictly, just as. Rev., even as.

“As long as the festivity

Of Paradise shall be, so long our love

Shall radiate round about us such a vesture.

Its brightness is proportioned to the ardor,

The ardor to the vision; and the vision

Equals what grace it has above its worth.

Dante, “Paradiso,” iv., 37-42.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

It doth not yet appear — Even to ourselves.

What we shall be — It is something ineffable, which will raise the children of God to be, in a manner, as God himself. But we know, in general, that when he, the Son of God, shall appear, we shall be like him - The glory of God penetrating our inmost substance.

For we shall see him as he is — Manifestly, without a veil. And that sight will transform us into the same likeness.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

2.] Beloved, now are we children of God (the world recognizes us not: but our sonship is real: none the less real, that we ourselves know not our future condition in all its manifestation. So that the next member of the sentence is introduced not with an ἀλλά, but with a καί: the two are not contrasted, but simply put in juxtaposition as components of our present state. We are really sons of God, even now: and we look (this very word νῦν suggesting a future) for an inheritance in virtue of that sonship: it has not been yet manifested of what sort that inheritance shall be: thus much we know &c. Such seems to be the simple connexion, without any adversative particles expressed or understood), and it was never yet manifested (on any occasion: such is the force of the aor. And ἐφανερώθη, as so often in St. John, and as in the next sentence, does not mean, made manifest to knowledge or anticipation,—for that it is, as asserted below: but, shewn forth in actuality, come to its manifestation) what we shall be (understand, in virtue of this our state of sons of God: to what new development or condition this already existing fact will lead. But we must take care not to fall into Grot.’s error, “quo modo futuri simus filii Dei:” for as Calov. rightly remarks, “non dantur gradus υἱότητος:” we are as truly, and in the same sense, children of God now, as we shall be then: but now (cf. Galatians 4:1) we are children waiting for an unknown inheritance—then we shall be children in full possession of that inheritance. And hence, from the reality and identity of that sonship, comes what follows,—our certain knowledge, even in this absence of manifestation in detail, that our future condition will consist in likeness to Him. As Œc., τὸ γὰρ νῦν ἄδηλον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἐκείνου ἀποκαλυπτομένου. ὅμοιοι γὰρ αὐτῷ ἀναφανέντες τὸ τῆς υἱοθεσίας λαμπρὸν παραστήσομεν. οἱ γὰρ υἱοὶ πάντες ὅμοιοι τῷ πατρί). We know (no contrast—see above: what we know of this τί ἐσόμεθα is this. There is not even a correction of the preceding as Düsterd.: the connexion is simply, “This future condition of ours hath never yet appeared: thus much we know of it.” οἴδαμεν, as always, of certain, well assured cognition) that if it were manifested (viz. the τἱ ἐσόμεθα; this φανερωθῇ takes up again the former one. So Didymus (Aug(39) is quoted on both sides by the Commentators, but he does not really commit himself on the point), Œc. ( τὸ γὰρ νῦν ἄδηλον φανερὸν γενήσεται), Luther, Seb.-Schmidt, Socinus, Episcopius, Schlichting, Grotius, Spener, Bengel, Benson, Rosenm., Lücke, Sander, De Wette, Baumg.-Crus., Neander, Düsterd., Huther, and others: on the other hand, Bed(40), Calvin, Beza (and the E. V.: Tyndale and Cranmer had “it”), Aretius, Whitby, Calov., Estius, al., supply “He,” understanding Christ: appealing to St. John’s well-known usage which we have in ch. 1 John 2:28, and below in our 1 John 3:5. But it may be replied, that in the former case the subject was plainly suggested by ἐν αὐτῷ in the latter actually expressed in ἐκεῖνος: whereas here the reference of the verb is no less plainly given by the preceding ἐφανερώθη. Besides which, ἐκεῖνος in 1 John 3:5 clearly shews that the divine subject of these verses is not Christ but the Father. Estius and Lyra indeed seem to hold it possible to supply ὁ θεός as a subject to φανερωθῇ here, but not even themselves have propounded this for their own interpretation: indeed the former sets it aside, and the latter seems to be only paraphrasing when he says, “cum nobis se patrem ostenderit in possessione cœlestis hæreditatis.” On the ἐάν, hypothetical, see above, ch. 1 John 2:28. As there, the φανερωθῇ is the futurus exactus: “on its manifestation:” and here the hypothesis, from the repetition of the verb, necessarily gains, emphasis, almost = that, even if it were manifested, … This consideration has an important bearing on what follows), we stall be ( ἐσόμεθα taken up again from above, and the emphatic ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ corresponding exactly to τί above) like Him (God; as Œc. above, and most Commentators. See below), because ( ὅτι must be kept firm to its causal meaning, and all the difficulties of the sentence met thus, not by explaining it away, as even Œc. ( ἀλλὰ καί), Schol. ii. ( ὅτε καί), Luther (et). Nor does it express merely the mode of the transformation, as Lyra. Still less must we, with Calvin (“neque enim docet similes ideo nos fore, quia fruemur adspectu, sed inde probat nos divinæ gloriæ fore participes, quia nisi spiritualis et cœlesti beataque immortalitate prædita esset natura, ad Deum nunquam tum prope accederet”), Seb.-Schmidt (“Qui visurus est Deum sicuti est, eum oportet esse perfecte similem Deo”), and Socinus (“neque enim fieri potest ut quia ipsum Deum videat, … nisi ei similis aliquo modo.… fuerit”),—and so even Huther, endorsing Calvin’s statement, “ratio hæc ab eftectu sumta est non a causa,”—reverse the causal connexion, and make the seeing Him as He is merely a proof that we shall be like Him ( ὅτι = γάρ). Whatever consequences it may entail, it is philologically certain that the proposition introduced by ὅτι contains the real essential cause and ground of that which it follows) we shall see Him (God: see below) as He is (with St. John, the recognition and knowledge of God is ever no mere cognition, but the measure of the spiritual life: he who has it, possesses God, has the Father and the Son: becomes more and more like God, having His seed in him. So that the full and perfect accomplishment of this knowledge in the actual fruition of God Himself must of necessity bring with it entire likeness to God. And this is the part of the future lot of the sons of God which is certain. Because we shall see Him as He is,—which is taken for granted as a Christian axiom,—it of necessity follows that we shall be entirely like Him: ethically like Him: we shall behold, as Œc., δίκαιον δίκαιοι, ἀγνὸν ἁγνοί. The difficulty that no man can see God, is not in reality contained here, any more than it is in our Lord’s “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The word, however understood, has for its limit, that no created eye even in the glorified body can behold the Creator: that beyond its keenest search there will be glory and perfection baffling and dazzling it: but this incapacity does not prevent the vision, as far as it can reach, being clear and unclouded: being, to the utmost extent of which our glorified nature is capable, ὡς ἔστιν—a true and not a false vision of God. And if it be again objected that we seem to be thus confounding the ethical sight of God which is the measure of our likeness to God, with corporeal sight of Him in the resurrection body, I answer that in the realm where our thoughts are now employed, I cannot appreciate that distinction between ethical and corporeal. We are speaking of things which eye hath not seen, nor mind conceived: what a σῶμα πνευματικόν may imply, our ideas now do not enable us to conceive: but I suppose it must at all events be a body, all of whose senses are spiritually conditioned and attuned: that what τὰ φυσικά are to our bodies here, τὰ πνευματικά will be there: and feeling this, however little I may know of the details of the great fact, it removes from me all insuperable difficulty as to the ὀψόμεθα αὐτὸν καθὼς ἐστίν. “I know that in my flesh I shall see God,” may not be the right expression in Job, but it is the expression of my hopes as a son of God: it is the one expression of a hope in which all other hopes culminate and centre. And every son of God knows, that for it ever to be fulfilled, he must be growing onward in likeness to Him, pure, even up into His purity: for in His light only shall we see light.

The literature of this verse would far surpass our limits, even in an abridged summary. It will be found in Düsterdieck’s Commentary, vol. ii. pp. 56–82.

One point only must be noticed before passing onward; the fact that several of the great interpreters understand αὐτῷ and αὐτόν of Christ. This has partly of course been occasioned by their supplying Christ as a subject to the verb φανερωθῇ above. Augustine has one of his most beautiful passages, explaining how at Christ’s appearing, the impious shall see only formam servi, but we formam Dei. The whole view, however, does not satisfy the requirements of the passage. It is the τέκνα θεοῦ who are addressed: and the topic of exhortation is that they be righteous as God their Father is righteous. Christ is expressly introduced below in 1 John 3:5 (see on 1 John 3:3) by ἐκεῖνος. Augustine concludes with a burst of eloquence which describes just as well the true view of the vision: “Ergo visuri sumus quandam visionem, fratres, quam nec oculus vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit: visionem quandam, visionem præcellentem omnes pulchritudines terrenas, auri, argenti, nemorum atque camporum, pulchritudinem maris et aëris, pulchritudinem solis et lunæ, pulchritudinem angelorum, omnia superantem, quia ex ipsa pulchra sunt omnia.” Tract. in Ep. Joh. iv. 5, vol. iii. p. 2008).

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

2Now are we the sons of God He comes now to what every one knows and feels himself; for though the ungodly may not entice us to give up our hope, yet our present condition is very short of the glow of God’s children; for as to our body we are dust and a shadow, and death is always before our eyes; we are also subject to thousand miseries, and the soul is exposed to innumerable evils; so that we find always a hell within us. The more necessary it is that all our thoughts should be withdrawn from the present view of things, lest the miseries by which we are on every side surrounded and almost overwhelmed, should shake our faith in that felicity which as yet lies hid. For the Apostle’s meaning is this, that we act very foolishly when we estimate what God has bestowed on us according to the present state of things, but that we ought with undoubting faith to hold to that which does not yet appear.

But we know that when he shall appear The conditional particle ought to be rendered as an adverb of time, when But the verb appear means not the same thing as when he used it before. The Apostle has just said, it does not yet appear what we shall be, because the fruit of our adoption is as yet hid, for in heaven is our felicity, and we are now far away traveling on the earth; for this fading life, constantly exposed to hundred deaths, is far different from that eternal life which belongs to the children of God; for being enclosed as slaves in the prison of our flesh, we are far distant from the full sovereignty of heaven and earth. But the verb now refers to Christ, when, he shall appear; for he teaches the same thing with Paul, in Colossians, where he says,

“Your life is hid with Christ in God: when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 3:3)

For our faith cannot stand otherwise than by looking to the coming of Christ. The reason why God defers the manifestation of our glory is this, because Christ is not manifested in the power of his kingdom. This, then, is the only way of sustaining our faith, so that we may wait patiently for the life promised to us. As soon as any one turns away the least from Christ, he must necessarily fail. (76)

The word to know, shews the certainty of faith, in order to distinguish it from opinion. Neither simple nor universal knowledge is here intended, but that which every one ought to have for himself, so that he may feel assured that he will be sometime like Christ. Though, then, the manifestation of our glory is connected with the coming of Christ, yet our knowledge of this is well founded.

We shall be like him He does not understand that we shall be equal to him; for there must be some difference between the head and the members; but we shall be like him, because he will make our vile body conformable to his glorious body, as Paul also teaches us in Philippians 3:21. For the Apostle intended shortly to shew that the final end of our adoption is, that what has in order preceded in Christ, shall at length be completed in us.

The reason that is added may, however, seem inappropriate. For if to see Christ makes us like him, we shall have this in common with the wicked, for they shall also see his glory. To this I reply, that this is to see him as a friend, which will not be the case with the wicked, for they will dread his presence; nay, they will shun God’s presence, and be filled with terror; his glow will so dazzle their eyes, that they will be stupefied and confounded. For we see that Adam, conscious of having done wrong, dreaded the presence of God. And God declared this by Moses, as a general truth as to men,

“No man shall see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20.)

For how can it be otherwise but that God’s majesty, as a consuming fire, will consume us as though we were stubble, so great is the weakness of our flesh. But as far as the image of God is renewed in us, we have eyes prepared to see God. And now, indeed, God begins to renew in us his own image, but in what a small measure! Except then we be stripped of all the corruption of the flesh, we shall not be able to behold God face to face.

And this is also expressed here, as he is He does not, indeed, say, that there is no seeing of God now; but as Paul says,

“We see now through a glass, darkly.”
1 Corinthians 13:12.)

But he elsewhere makes a difference between this way of living, and the seeing of the eye. In short, God now presents himself to be seen by us, not such as he is, but such as we can comprehend. Thus is fulfilled what is said by Moses, that we see only as it were his back, (Exodus 33:23;) for there is too much brightness in his face.

We must further observe, that the manner which the Apostle mentions is taken from the effect, not from the cause; for he does not teach us, that we shall be like him, because we shall see him; but he hence proves that we shall be partakers of the divine glory, for except our nature were spiritual, and endued with a heavenly and blessed immortality, it could never come so nigh to God yet the perfection of glory will not be so great in us, that our seeing will enable us to comprehend all that God is; for the distance between us and him will be even then very great.

But when the Apostle says, that we shall see him as he is, he intimates a new and an ineffable manner of seeing him, which we enjoy not now; for as long as we walk by faith, as Paul teaches us, we are absent from him. And when he appeared to the fathers, it was not in his own essence, but was ever seen under symbols. Hence the majesty of God, now hid, will then only be in itself seen, when the veil of this mortal and corruptible nature shall be removed.

Refined questions I pass by: for we see how Augustine tormented himself with these, and yet never succeeded, both in his Epistles to Paulus and Fortunatus, and in the City of God, (2:2,) and in other places. What he says, however, is worthy of being observed, that the way in which we live avails more in this inquiry than the way in which we speak, and that we must beware, lest by wrangling as to the manner in which God can be seen, we lose that peace and holiness without which no one shall see him.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘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

Believers stand to God in an endearing and enduring relationship. Great and glorious are the privileges which believers now enjoy as God’s children, but greater and more glorious privileges are in store for them beyond death and the grave—privileges and honours of which in their present state they can form only a very imperfect idea; ‘for eye hath not seen nor ear heard,’ etc. ‘It doth not yet appear what we shall be,’ etc.

The word rendered ‘appear’ literally signifies to manifest. ‘It is not yet manifested what we shall be,’ etc. In the text we have—

I. The imperfection of the believer’s knowledge.—‘It is not yet manifested what we shall be.’

II. The consummation of the believer’s faith.—‘We know that, when it is manifested, we shall see Him.’ See Christ; faith shall then give place to sight. Now we believe in Him, but then ‘we shall see Him.’

III. The transformation of the believer’s nature.—When we see Him as He is, ‘we shall be like Him.’ The perfect vision will perfect the transformation.


‘Believers shall be like Christ not merely in soul, but also in body. Christ shall change our vile body, “our body of humiliation, and fashion it like unto His own glorious body.” When Christ was on “the holy mount” He was transfigured, and His face shone as “the sun in his strength”; and if our bodies are to be like Christ’s, then we are warranted in believing that the face and form of the saints will be bright and dazzling. An old writer remarks: “There can be no doubt that in symmetry, beauty, and dignity the believer’s body will be perfect; for it is to be fashioned after the highest pattern in the universe. Of all the visible works of God, the most glorious will be those mortal bodies which God’s own Son died to redeem.” Believers will also be like Christ in honour and dignity. Christ sits upon a glorious throne and wears upon His head many crowns. Believers shall sit with Christ upon His throne, and shall receive glorious crowns—“crowns of righteousness,” and “crowns of life,” and crowns the glory of which shall never fade.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

Ver. 2. What we shall be] Great things we have in hand, but greater in hope; much in possession, but more in reversion. Let this comfort us against the contempts cast upon us by the world, blind and besides itself in point of salvation.

For we shall see him as he is] Now we see as in a glass obscurely, 1 Corinthians 13:12, as an old man through spectacles, as a weak eye looks upon the sun; but in heaven we shall see him as he is, so far as a creature is capable of that blissful vision.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

1 John 3:2

Consider the short word "now." What is time present? What is the meaning of "now"?

I. This is a matter not so plain, nor lying so much on the surface, as we might at first sight imagine. Time is altogether a mysterious thing. There is every reason to believe that time is nothing more than a state ordained by God for the purposes of, and as a condition of, His finite creation. Succession, the waxing onward, i.e., of hours and days and years, is that without which we cannot conceive existence at all. But that is not the condition of God's own being. His being is independent of the condition which limits ours. With Him is no waxing onward, no succession of hours and days and years. He is the high and holy One who inhabiteth eternity. He is the Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

II. There is no such thing as "now," properly and strictly speaking. Time is a rapid stream in which no point is ever stationary. But—and this is the important consideration—it is a tendency inherent in us ever to be arresting in our thoughts certain portions of time and treating them as if they were, for certain purposes, stationary, and unaffected for the moment by the rapidity of transit of the whole. With reference to the subject of which the Apostle is writing, this—this state revealed for and during this present space of time—is all we know and all we can speak of. A ray of light is shed down on one portion of our course; in that portion all is distinct and clear—all, that is, which it is necessary for us to know and to have revealed. Does not this clothe with immense interest and importance this present? We stand, as it were, on a promontory, and before and around us are the infinite waters. By our life here, by our gathering strength and our forming ourselves here, will the character of that vast unknown voyage be determined. Remember that as it is by very common acts and daily recurring duties that the main work of life must be carried on, so it is by these common thoughts made solemn that the soul's great work must be done.

H. Alford, Sons of God, p. 1.

Possibilities of the Future.

We are grateful when we find in the word of God the recognition of the fact that that which is of the nature of perfection is quite incomprehensible to us; that we do not understand God Himself; that we do not understand the heavenly state; that we do not understand what our own perfected natures ought to be, nor what they are who have risen and are among "the spirits of just men made perfect." The annunciation of our ignorance reassures and comforts us.

I. All knowledge is measured by the attaining power of the human faculties. We do not know but there may be revelations coming to us all the time which break on us as the waves break on unknown shores. This is a fact which explains much of what men stumble over in regard to Divine revelation; for it has been supposed that the revelation of God would be one that would take all things of the Spirit, and shape them into crystalline accuracy, and put them beyond all cavil before men, whereas it is a revelation which is relative to the unfolding process of human life and of nature. As the eye increases in power it is able to bear more and more light; and as the power of apprehension in men has increased they have been able to take in more and more truth. And the word of God has been given to the world little by little. Small were the elements that were revealed at first. These elements have grown as men grew. And revelation has not preceded comprehension, but has rather followed it, because men cannot understand faster than they have the capacity to understand. The grand fact, then, on which all reasoning in respect to final states must proceed, is this: that man is not a creature complete and ended, but is a being who is in a state of change and process, as is distinctly recognised in the word of God; and that all teaching must conform to that universal and fundamental principle of evolution which is going on in the understanding and moral parts of human nature.

II. See how clear now, in the light of this thought, comes out the passage of our text, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." It carries with it a magisterial idea. Now that we are the sons of God, the higher things rule the lower; and higher than anything else, Paul being our witness, are faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. The relation is to be that of sonship. We are to come, not into the relationship of magisterial power, nor of justice, nor of vengeance, but of love; and the centre of the universe is love; and the farther we go toward that perfection, the nearer we shall be to God. We have the hint of love here; but we are to see its full disclosure in the world to come: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." We are on this side in the beginning of it; and when we reach the other side—when we have sloughed the chaff in which we grew, when we are wheat gathered into the eternal garner, when we are where all parts of our nature are effluent and effulgent, when we are in a society whose public sentiment nourishes and helps us, when we are in a sphere where God Himself is personally present—though it doth not yet appear what we shall be then, it is because it is too high, too large, for any man to think of in this mortal state. Round and round the earth goes the spirit of instruction and inspiration, pouring out things which give to a man some hints (you cannot give him much more), some slight notion, of the vastness of that God who fills all space, all time, all eternity. And so, when we think of Him, sometimes we think of Him as a Father, sometimes as a Brother, sometimes as a Comforter, sometimes as a Leader, sometimes as a Judge, sometimes as a King, sometimes as one thing and sometimes as another. These, however, are only images, symbols, giving us intimations of qualities; but by-and-by we shall see Him as He is. The limitation of human faculty shall not prevent our knowing what God is. Now we have no conception of His form or of His glory except from the most insignificant sources; but the time is coming when we shall go home as the sons of God, and shall be changed, throwing off the raiment and chains of slaves—for we have been in bondage: the time is coming when we shall be emancipated, and shall stand in the presence of God; and then we shall no longer go by hints and notions. "We shall see Him as He is."

H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 353.


I. This is revelation's last word on a great subject which theologians have too often forgotten in their positive statements and assumptions. Our English version does not quite correctly represent the Greek original. It is not "It does not appear as a result of human inference or speculation," but "It has not yet been manifested or revealed." God Himself still wraps our destiny among His "hidden things." Even Paul, when wading in these perilous depths, and talking of the change that awaits all, and attempting to describe the properties of a "spiritual body," felt himself to be confronted with a "mystery," and while satisfied that there would be a victory over the grave, and that mortality would be swallowed up in life, wisely brought back his readers' thoughts from dreamland to reality by bidding them simply "be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they knew that their labour was not in vain in the Lord."

II. Nor can it be said that the great Teacher Himself, when He most clearly proclaimed the doctrine of the resurrection, drew aside for more than the briefest moment the curtain by which the mystery is veiled. But in the dim gloom that shrouds the land beyond the grave there is a streak of light like some sudden lightning flash, illuminating the darkness with hopes full of immortality; in the still silence of the chamber of death there is a voice heard, sustaining the soul in its passage through the shadowed valley: "He that believeth in Me shall never die." Grant me a right to believe in a personal God, in a living Christ, in an indwelling Spirit, in a life of the world to come, and, like that ship driven up and down in Adria upon which no small tempest lay, I shall have, as it were, my four anchors cast out of the stern, while I "wait for the day."

Bishop Fraser, University Sermons, p. 167.

I. We Christians are now, in this our earthly life, children of God. He is interested in the welfare of each with inexpressible tenderness and sympathy. He has showered upon us magnificent gifts, if we will but acknowledge them and use them to His glory. There is not one among us so poorly endowed but that his heart can swell with love of good, and admiration, and reverence, can feel the beauty and tenderness of the life of Jesus Christ, can believe in a God who hears prayer, and so taste of the powers of the world to come. And these are glorious gifts, the gifts of a Father to children whom He loves and respects.

II. There is a future awaiting us all beyond, and greater than all that we have ever yet reached. A child of God cannot die forever. Nothing can take him out of his Father's hands. Wherever he is, he must be about his Father's business. If he sleep for a time, it will be to gather strength for ampler service. "If he sleep, he shall do well," or if he enter at once on some fresh period of growth, of this at least faith assures us: that it must be growth towards God, and not away from Him. By some means, in some sphere of being, the child must be drawing nearer to his heavenly Father.

III. As to the nature of this future being, this much at least we know: that we shall be like God, because we shall see Him as He is. To see God is to be like Him. The man that gazes on the Divine is already transfigured and become a partaker of the Divine nature. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." Thought fails in trying to conceive of this splendid growth that awaits us after death, when, by God's mercy, the lowliest will be "something far advanced in state," with a Divinely granted work adjusted to his renewed powers. This only we know as the climax and consummation of all: that we shall be like God, for we shall see Him as He is.

H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 150.

I. We stand, then, on this bright, illuminated platform of the present, this sunny promontory in the midst of the dark, infinite ocean, and what is that light upon us which is said to be so clear? Now we are children of God, children of God. We are here introduced to a Being above us, a Being from whom we are said to have sprung, in some sense. Who and what is this Being? How can we know anything of Him? The will of a Person is the only intelligible origin of this world and of ourselves, because that agency is the only one which we know that is not subject to the laws by which matter is bound.

II. Now, this one great point being granted, many others follow from it. If it were the will of that supreme Being to create, if it is His present will to uphold, the universe, then we can judge of His character by the laws which He has established and keeps in working. We see these laws calculated to promote and to conserve order, life, happiness, beauty. He is, then, a Being who loves and approves these, who wills order, life, happiness, beauty, in His creation. But more than this, there are laws in our own minds and spirits as fixed and invariable as those which act on matter; and by the character of these also we may judge of His character who ordained them. In our own spirits there is no rest in evil; He who made us willed that we should be good.

III. On this platform of the present life we have two parties brought together: ourselves and God. The greater part of mankind go on day and night, and never think of the awful presence around them; they lose the safeguard and they lose the dignity of a life in which God's presence is realised. Have you ever travelled as the dawn of a bright day was waxing onward, the place of every object more and more indicated, but a dimness over all, the reaches of the rivers faintly reddening through the mist, the trees and the hills massed together in indistinctness, groups of forms, but without the life of detail? And then on the sudden, as you look, here and there beams of brightness leap forth, the hillsides glow with rosy light, the rocks burn like molten metal, living fire looks forth from the streams, and heaven and earth rejoice because the sun is risen. Even such is the change when the presence of God arises upon the inner life of a man. All things were seen before but dimly and in their outlines; but now they are full of clearness and light. Now, now first, he has put on the dignity of his nature, and is fulfilling the ends of his nature.

H. Alford, Sons of God, p. 25.

I. "Now are we children of God." It must be plain to us with very little consideration that the Apostle could not here mean the absolutely general relationship which exists between the great Father and all His creatures. To this there is no exception; all men and all living things may in this sense be said to be children; and the assertion of this fact would lead to no consequences with regard to the future such as are here implied. We are here treating of a state above and beyond nature, a new state, in which we are brought into some different relation to God from that which we held to Him by the mere tie of our creation. As by that we were in some sense His children, so by this we are His children in another and a more blessed sense. So that this of which we speak may well be called a new creation.

II. "Now are we children of God." Now have our spirits become, by some grand and glorious process or other, alive again to God, endued with His very nature, adopted into His family. We could not be children of God, in the sense here intended, without such a new birth, without the entrance of new life into this withered and paralysed noblest portion of us.

III. "Now are we children of God." What a position to stand in, and to what a Father, the recovered, the adopted, the chosen children of Him that made heaven and earth, not destined for, not to end in, this world, but with God's heavenly abode for our Father's house, God's throne for our family centre, the light unapproachable in which He dwelleth pointing out our distant home across the dark waste of life! In the blessedness of this knowledge is all the happiness of the life present, and in the trust which this knowledge gives is all the hope for the great non-apparent future.

H. Alford, Sons of God, p. 53.

I. First of all, observe that which must strike every one on hearing the words—viz., that a well-meaning Person is here spoken of as He: "We shall be like Him." The Apostle's thoughts are so fixed on his Divine Master, that He is their continual object, spoken of without introduction or explanation: "We shall be like Him"—the Lord Jesus Christ—"for we shall see Him"—i.e., Christ—"as He is." Christ has entered into and taken upon Him in full that mysterious unknown state; His present shall be our future. When that state, now all dark to us, shall be manifested, we know that it will consist in likeness to Him.

II. To what does this knowledge amount? This is certain: that we—that means His saved ones, His Church—shall see Him as He is, and this, the Apostle argues, can only be brought about by our being like Him. That glory of His cannot be beheld except by those who have entered into His likeness; that we shall see Him as He is is of itself sufficient proof that we must be like Him.

III. But here arises an important question: Who are they that shall be manifested? who are they that shall be like Him, and thereby shall have the sight of Him? Observe that this is not a mere question of bodily sight. Even if it were, we might have something to say of refined vision, of the training of the sense to perceive glory, and majesty, and beauty. Even thus we might say that the eye of man might fail to apprehend that glory even when manifested. In order to see the glorified Redeemer as He is, the eye of man's spirit must be educated. For of this one thing be sure: that, whatever and however great the change may be which shall introduce us into that state, we ourselves shall remain the same. I mean that our inner desires and purposes, our bent of custom and thought—these will not be rooted up and superseded by new ones; but as in this present life the boy is father of the man, and the youth's views and thoughts in their main course survive the change from youth to age, so in our whole life of time and eternity the childhood of the state now present must contain the germs of that future maturity. What has never begun now will not be first implanted then. A man must have yearned after the image of Christ here, if he is to wear the image of Christ there.

H. Alford, Sons of God, p. 155.

In speaking of the new life which the love of the Father hath bestowed on men, we observe—

I. That new life begins with new birth. Man is found in the state into which our race has come by the Fall, a state of deadness as to the life of the noblest part of him, viz., his spirit. Over the wide world, to all nations (such is His command), goes the glad message, "Christ in you the hope of glory"—the message which makes known man's disease and God's remedy. The effects of this proclamation, the good spell, or Gospel, going forth upon the world, are twofold. It acts upon the individual heart, and it acts upon men as a society; it reawakens the dead spirit of him who hears, and it brings about a society or body of men in which this new condition may be put upon men by stated ordinances and a prescribed covenant. God has ordained the rite of baptism, speaking with His own mouth, and He has appointed it to be the symbol and ordinary vehicle of the new birth, insomuch that St. Paul, writing to Titus, calls the vessel in which the water for baptism was contained "the laver or font of the new birth."

II. Well, then, we are children of God; we are regenerate, new-born. In the Son of His love, who has taken our nature into His Godhead, and has become the Lord our Righteousness, He has adopted us into His family and made us His children. But between various persons among us there is a wide distinction. Some know not of, some care not to know of, this glorious relation between God and themselves. Still it is true of us as a whole, true in the main and general, that now we are children of God; that on this portion of the great stream of time known as the present, and designated by the term "now," there shines this clear beam of God's love to us, by which He hath bestowed on us a place in His family of spiritual children, and hath given us an inheritance among the saints in light. This we know with the knowledge of faith, faith resting on evidence, resting on the assured persuasion of those who can render a reason for their hope.

H. Alford, Sons of God, p. 79.

Of the future we know nothing. We may speak of this day, or this year, or this life, and in each case of another day, another year, another life. It doth not yet appear, no one has ever been able to show us, what shall be, or what we shall be. All that we say of our own minds about another day, another year, another life, is founded on surmise, is true on certain conditions. We assume that what has been will continue to be.

I. Surely it is a strange and solemn thing to think of this standing up against total darkness, this evermore taking steps into an unknown void. And still stranger it is to think that we and the whole race of mankind evermore exist and go onwards under these solemn circumstances so quietly, so contentedly, so assuredly. It is as if one should march to the edge of a precipice continually receding before him, but uncertain when it will stop, and he take the step which will be his fall.

II. In the very terms of the text it is taken for granted that there is a future for us beyond the present life. From us as Christians thus much of the darkness has been lifted from the future; we know that it will not bring us annihilation. As the concealment of the manner and phenomena of the future life is for our God, so is the revealing of the certainty of our further development in it as the perfected children of God. We may work by the sunlight, though we cannot gaze upon the sun.

III. "Who knows if life be death, and death be life?" sang the old Greek tragedian in the days of darkness. What he nobly guessed, we know by faith, and live upon that knowledge. The children of God now are like sick men in the long night—vexed, and tossing, and crying out for repose; in them dwelleth no good thing; anxiety seems too much for them, grace too little. Now are we children of God; still it is an inheritance long coming, a hope deferred that maketh the heart sick. But meanwhile the unknown state is coming nearer and nearer; the streaks of day are gathering in the horizon; like the throbbing of the distant train upon the wind, the tokens of His coming are beginning to be heard. "Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus."

H. Alford, Sons of God, p. 105.

I. In none of the Old Testament books is any direct revelation made as to what we shall be. Rather is that momentous question, by the very terms of some of these passages, left involved in additional mystery. The absence of sorrow and pain, the presence of triumph and joy, are set forth in the New Testament in most vivid terms; but it is in language drawn entirely from the habits and wants of this our present state, not from the new habits and wants of our future one. What we shall be, if set forth at all, is only set forth by negativing or intensifying that which we are. It is all as if we were with our thoughts and imaginations, even when they are Divinely guided, only building up a ladder which may reach to heaven, but whenever we attempt to place it against the bulwarks of the celestial city, it proves all too short, and will not reach. And so it will be to the end. We shall be changed. We shall pass, as it were, through a crucible, and our whole spirit, soul, and body, remaining in identity the same, will come out new, partakers of a different life, using different senses, thinking different thoughts. On the one hand, this must be; and, on the other, it very well may be.

II. It must be. As flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, so neither can the senses which inform flesh and blood inform us of the realities of that new state. If they bear in their new state some analogy to their present uses, this is all that we can at present surmise. How much of our present selves will survive the change, how much will bear transmuting into that new existence, whether traits of character, outward or inward, which are now fleeting or unpromising, may pass, as it were, through fire, and become fixed and brightened in the enamel of eternal beauty and freshness, we cannot say; but the change must be: so much is evident. And it very well may be, even according to our present conceptions. As St. Paul shows in the case of the body, so might it be shown in the case of the whole man, with his thoughts and habits. Circumstances in their change will also completely change the character, and thoughts, and habits of a man.

H. Alford, Sons of God, p. 131.


I. Intelligent service. There is, first, the body. We must take care of that. It needs the full power of forethought and resolution if we are ever to present these bodies as a living sacrifice, such as God could actually view with favour and with pleasure, as something undamaged, unspoiled, sound and whole in every part. And then after the body there is the mind. That is to be transformed by a gradual process of renewal, which will purge it of its old instinctive conformity to the world, those habits and standards we had lived in, and will build up in it a faculty of apprehension and sensitiveness of touch by which it will respond with rapid readiness to all those emotions by which the will of God prompts it towards that which is good, and desirable, and perfect. And then, moreover, as the mind bends to the control of this directed will, it will have to learn its proper place in society and in the Church; it will have to subordinate itself to the general excellence of the whole.

II. The Epiphany is made manifest in our purified lives. His glory is to show itself through us. He houses the glory within the body of His believers, and thence He shines out upon the world, as through a lamp, and their goodness of life is the vehicle of illumination, the medium through which His light passes out to irradiate the surrounding darkness. That is the plain band that binds the Epistles to the Gospels. The Epistles illustrate the issue and continuance of that which the Gospels require. That very Christ, at whose feet the wise men of the East presented frankincense and myrrh, shall shine out now upon the intellectual thought of the world, through that renewed and transformed mind of those who have won the faculty to recognise what is the good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God.

III. Christ's epiphany in the world is bound with terrible intimacy to our moral fidelity to His commandments. It is because we have seen Him that we are summoned to the task of self-discipline. He was manifested to take away our sins. As our task is always simply just to admit Jesus Christ in fuller measure into our souls, therefore, if we can ever succeed in doing this at any one point in our lives, we shall be doing it for all other parts. For Christ is one, and all the variety of duties only represents the behaviour of that one character under varying circumstances. Secure Him, then, at one corner of your being; get closer to Him, then, at some point where you have to beat under some one special temptation, some one all-besetting sin, at some point where you have to work hardest to develop one most needed virtue; admit Him there, by that door, and it is the whole Christ that enters, and the whole of you will feel the effect of that entrance; the whole of you will be nearer Him; the whole of you will be warmer, purer, truer, gentler; through every part of you the presence now admitted will speak.

H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 148.

I. What is this sight awaiting us which shall accomplish so much? Observe—(1) It is the sight of a personal Saviour. "We shall see Him." It is only natural that we should desire to see the countenance of one whose works we have read, and whose friends we have often met, and who is often in our thoughts and affections. It is but natural that there should be a longing to see any one of whom we have read much, and of whom we have thought more. Is it, then, surprising that when the heaven of the saint is described it should be represented as the sight of a personal Christ? Yes, we shall see the Christ of the Scriptures, the Christ of whom Moses and the prophets spake. We shall see also the Christ of our own thoughts. There is not a believer but has his ideal Saviour. We shall see Him—a living, personal Saviour, arrayed in human form. We shall not have to inquire who He is, or where He is. We shall see Him in the very identical body that once hung in shame on Golgotha. (2) It is the sight of a glorified Saviour: "We shall see Him as He is." Jesus has been beheld as we shall never behold Him. We shall never see Him as the Magi saw Him: the Infant; we shall never see Him as the disciples saw Him: so tired out that He was sound asleep on the open deck of a fisherman's boat; we shall never see Him, the cursed Substitute, groaning under the horrible load of His people's sins; but as He is now: highly exalted. Take the most blessed season earth has ever known, and it is only seeing Christ through the glass darkly. And these feebler manifestations are never as clear as they might be. I question whether there has ever been a saint but has had in some measure a veil over his soul. The veil may vary in thickness. Sometimes it is dense and dark as a London fog, and at other times it seems no more hindrance than the thinnest gauze. Then we see, as it were, the outlines of His beauty, but no more.

II. Notice the effect wrought by the sight: "We shall be like Him." In a minor degree, this is true on earth. Nobody can look on Jesus long without getting something of His image. Any man or woman who is in habitual communion with Jesus Christ will have something about them that betrays their intercourse. Now, if seeing Jesus through a glass darkly makes me something like Him, seeing Him in all His glory, without a veil, will make me altogether like Him. When this poor green bud is brought into the sunshine of His countenance in glory, how in a moment will all the green shields that hide its beauty fly apart, and all its leaves of loveliness expand in His own light, and I shall be like Him!

A. G. Brown, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 848.

The Apostle admits that there is obscurity hanging over much of our eternal future. He glances at this part slightly; but it is the background of that one bright scene to which he afterwards points. (1) The place of our future life is obscure. (2) The outward manner of our final existence is also uncertain. (3) Many of the modes and feelings in the life to come perplex us. The atmosphere is too subtle, the azure is deep even to darkness, and from every endeavour we must come back to realise the lesson of our present state: that, while Christians are now the sons of God, the heir is but a child. It would be unsatisfactory enough if this were all that could be said and done. But the Apostle puts this dark background upon the canvas, that he may set in relief a central scene and figure: Christ and our relation to Him.

I. The first thing promised is the manifestation of Christ: "Christ shall appear." It is not merely that Christ shall be seen, but seen as never before. The first thought of the Apostle was no doubt the human nature of Christ as appearing again to the eyes of His friends, but he must also have thought of His Divine nature. The glory that He had with the Father before the world was shall be resumed, and if we may venture to say it, raised, for the glory of the Divine shall have added to it the grace of the human.

II. The second thing promised at the appearance of Christ is a full vision on our part; we shall see Him as He is. This implies a necessary and very great change on us before we can bear and embrace, even in the smallest measure, the perfect manifestation of Christ. We shall be changed (1) in our material frame; (2) in our soul. It will be a vision free from sin in the soul, free from partiality, intense and vivid, close and intimate.

III. The third thing promised is complete assimilation to Christ. We shall be like Him. (1) Our material frame will be made like unto Christ's glorious body. (2) Our spiritual nature will be like His. God has used this way of revealing the future (a) as a method of spiritual test and training; (b) as a means of quieting our thoughts; (c) as a means of making Christ the centre of the soul's affections and aims.

J. Ker, Sermons, p. 365.

The Unrevealed Future of the Sons of God.

I. The fact of sonship makes us quite sure of the future. That consciousness of belonging to another order of things because I am God's child will make me sure that when I am done with earth the tie that binds me to my Father will not be broken, but that I shall go home, where I shall be fully and for ever all that I so imperfectly began to be here, where all gaps in my character shall be filled up, and the half-completed circle of my heavenly perfectness shall grow like the crescent moon into full-orbed beauty.

II. Now I come to the second point, namely, that we remain ignorant of much in that future. That happy assurance of the love of God resting upon me, and making me His child through Jesus Christ, does not dissipate all the darkness which lies on that beyond. "We are the sons of God, and," just because we are, "it does not yet appear what we shall be," or, as the, words are rendered in the Revised Version, "it is not yet made manifest what we shall be." The meaning of that expression "It doth not yet appear," or "It is not made manifest," may be put into very plain words. John would simply say to us, "There has never been set before man's eyes in this earthly life of ours an example or an instance of what the sons of God are to be in another state of being." And so because men have never had the instance before them they do not know much about that state.

III. The last thought is this: that our sonship flings one all-penetrating beam of light on that future in the knowledge of our perfect vision and perfect likeness: "We know that when He shall be manifested we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." To behold Christ will be the condition and the means of growing like Him.

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 255.

References: 1 John 3:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 196; vol. ii., Nos. 61, 62; J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. i., p. 18; R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 6; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. x., p. 228; Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 259; E. D. Solomon, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 353; P. W. Darton, Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 101; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 353; vol. ix., p. 337; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 265; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 31.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 John 3:2. Now are we the sons of God, &c.— In 1 John 3:1 the apostle says, the world knew them not. Here he intimates, that they themselves did not fully comprehend what glory and felicity was implied in their being sons of God, and heirs of his eternal inheritance. It is observable, that these are the words of John; of him who had not only so familiarly conversed with Christ on this sublime and delightful subject, but had seen his transfigurationwhen Moses and Elias appeared in such transfulgent glory. In our present state, we are not capable of forming an adequate idea of our future selves, or of the glorious scenes which will present themselves to the view of the faithful hereafter; but when our Saviour shall be revealed from heaven, arrayed in all his glories, we are assured that our frail bodies shall be transformed into the likeness of his glorious body. Seneca has some sublime passages in his 102nd Epistle, relating to that divine Light which good men shall behold in a future state, "The very thought of which (he says) will prohibit any thing sordid, base, or malevolentfrom settling in the mind that entertains it."

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

As if the apostle had said, "Although the world knows us not, affects us not, esteems us not, because of the weakness of our grace and the strength of our corruptions, yet notwithstanding both these, we are now the sons of God; this is the happiness of our present condition, we are as children in their minority; we are not grown up for the inheritance, but we are growing; we are not what we would be, we are not what we should be; we are not what we shall be; but blessed be God we are what we are; now are we the sons of God."

Observe, 2. As the honour and dignity of the Christian's privilege in this life asserted, we are now the sons of God, so their happiness and glory in the next life described,

1. By way of negation. It doth not yet appear what they shall be; the glory which God has prepared for all his adopted children and people, is an hidden glory, a glory that doth not yet appear; what the saints shall be in their perfect state of glory doth not yet appear to them in this their imperfect state of grace.

2. By way of positive asseveration, But we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Here note, 1. The certainty of Christ's appearance declared, He shall appear.

2. A double benefit which believers may expect at his appearing.

1. They shall be like him, as well in holiness as in happiness, as well in purity as in immortality; like him in a perfect freedom from sin, like him in the ardour and intense fervency of their love; like him in the perfection of grace, and the unspotted purity of his holy nature.

2. They shall see him: That is, his glory, with a clear and immediate sight, with a full and comprehensive sight, with an assimilating and transforming sight, with an appropriating and possessive sight, with a satisfying and everlasting sight.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



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.

OUR Lord was hated, reviled, and persecuted unto death: but we see how glorious was his person, and how exalted his character. In the same manner his followers are treated with contempt: but God declares their state to be the most honourable upon earth. To this effect St. John represents them as slighted by man and honoured by God.

I. The present state of believers—

The Scripture speaks of believers in the most exalted terms. They are not merely servants, but “sons of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:18.].”

This they are by adoption

[Every believer was once a child of wrath [Note: Ephesians 2:3.]. But God takes whom he will into his own family [Note: Ephesians 2:19.]: he adopts them as his sons, and makes them heirs of his glory [Note: Romans 8:15; Romans 8:17.].]

They are brought into this relation also by regeneration

[Once they had only a carnal mind that was enmity against God [Note: Romans 8:7.]; but they have been born again of the Holy Spirit [Note: John 1:13.]; they are renewed after the image of their heavenly Father [Note: Colossians 3:10.].]

They enjoy this state “now”—

[Rich and poor, learned and unlearned, partake alike of this honour; nor does God withhold it from any on account of their remaining infirmities; even now, while the world despises them, does God own his relation to them.]

What an unspeakably blessed state is this!

[How different is it from the state they were once in! How great, the privileges which they enjoy by means of this relation! How sweet the sense of this relation often is to their souls! To what a glorious state does it lead them in a better world! Well might the Apostle break forth in wonder and admiration [Note: 1 John 3:1.]—.]

Yet, blessed as it is, it falls infinitely short of what it will be in,

II. Their future state—

Very little is known respecting this—

[We can form no idea of spiritual and glorified bodies. We cannot imagine how extensive will be the capacities of the soul. We have very faint conceptions of perfect holiness and perfect happiness. Even one who had seen Christ transfigured, says, “It doth not appear,” &c.]

Yet there are some things revealed to us—

[We shall see Christ, not merely by faith, but with our bodily eyes [Note: Job 19:25-27.]; not veiled as formerly, but in all his glory. We shall resemble him too in all his imitable perfections. This resemblance will result from our sight of him. Even “our bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” This shall be fully accomplished at the great day of his appearing.]

These things we may be said to “know”—

[We have already experienced the earnest of them in our hearts. When we believe in him, we have views of him which we had not before; these transform the soul into his image [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.]. Our Lord has given us the fullest assurance of these things [Note: John 17:24.]. St. Paul also leaves us no room to doubt [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:49. Colossians 3:4.].]


1. How wonderfully different the lot of believers and unbelievers!

[Believers are the children of God. Unbelievers are the children of the wicked one [Note: John 8:38; John 8:44.]. Believers can form no adequate conception of the happiness that awaits them. Unbelievers have no idea of the misery to which they are hastening. How different will be the appearance of each in that day! How different their feelings on seeing Christ upon his judgment-seat! For what different ends will their capacities of soul and body be enlarged! What a different state will they experience to all eternity! Let none defer calling upon God for mercy. Let all seek his regenerating grace, and an admission into his family. If we will believe in Christ these blessings shall be ours [Note: John 1:12.].]

2. How bright the prospects of the true Christian!

[The Christian’s warfare will soon be over: then will come a blessedness which he cannot now conceive; another day may bring him to the full possession of it. Let these prospects animate every pious soul. Let none suffer their minds to be drawn away by the things of time. Let every one stand ready to take his flight [Note: 2 Peter 3:12.]. Let the beloved Apostle be our example [Note: Revelation 22:20.].]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 3:2. After emphatic resumption of ἐσμέν, the apostle indicates the yet concealed glory of the τέκνα θεοῦ. He begins with the address ἀγαπητοί, which occurs to him here the more readily as he feels himself most closely connected with his readers in the common fellowship with God (so also Düsterdieck).

νῦν τέκνα θεοῦ ἐσμέν] νῦν is used in reference to the future ( οὔπω); it is here a particle of time, not = “now, in consequence of that decree” (de Wette); a contrast with what immediately precedes (Lücke: “amidst all mistake on the part of the world, we are nevertheless really now the children of God;” so also Düsterdieck and Braune) is not suggested by it. Hereby the present glory of the believing Christian is described;(192) before the apostle mentions the future glory, he observes that this is yet concealed: καὶ οὔπω ἐφανερώθη τί ἐσόμεθα] φανεροῦσθαι may, as Ebrard remarks, mean both: “to be actually revealed,” or: “for the knowledge to be revealed;” most commentators rightly take the word here in the first meaning; it is true, Ebrard maintains that this explanation is grammatically impossible, because φανερόω, as governing a question, can only have the meaning of theoretical revelation; but this assertion is unfounded, for in the N. T. usus loquendi (nay, even in the classics) the interrogative τίς, sometimes τί, confessedly appears where, according to the rule, the relative should properly be used; comp. Winer, p. 152; VII. p. 158 f.; Al. Buttmann, p. 216; and especially if the thought involves an assumed question, as is the case here.(193) That φανεροῦσθαι cannot here be understood of the theoretical revelation is clear—(1) from the fact that no ἡμῖν is put with it, which Ebrard arbitrarily inserts when he interprets: “it has not yet been revealed to us, no information about it has yet been communicated to us;” (2) from the fact that the apostle himself immediately afterwards says what Christians will be in the future; (3) from the fact that a confession of present ignorance is at variance with the natural connection; from the fact that with this view a very artificial thought results for the following words: οἴδαμεν κ. τ. λ.; see below.

By οὔπω ἐφανερώθη κ. τ. λ. the apostle accordingly states that the future condition of those who at present are τέκνα θεοῦ is still concealed, has not yet come to light (comp. Colossians 3:3; Romans 8:18).(194) This future state is, it is true, something different from the present, yet it is not absolutely new, but is that “which is latent and established in the present” (Düsterdieck, Braune).

οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἐὰν φανερωθῇ κ. τ. λ.] By οἴδα΄εν the apostle expresses his own and his readers’ consciousness of that which, as τέκνα θεοῦ, they will be in the future.

With φανερωθῇ we must supply τί ἐσό΄εθα, the meaning is the same as it previously has; so it is correctly explained by Didymus, Augustin, Socinus, Grotius, Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Semler, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Braune, etc. As Ebrard similarly supplies τί ἐσό΄εθα, but understands φανερωθῇ here also of the knowledge, there results for him this thought: “we know rather that when it shall be made known to us, we shall even already be like Him,” in which “the emphasis is made to rest on the contemporaneousness of the theoretical φανεροῦσθαι with the actual ὅ΄οιοι ἔσεσθαι;” but in this interpretation, which suffers from unjustifiable supplements, a reference is brought out as the chief element of the thought which is in no way indicated, and is foreign to the context.

Some critics supply with φανερωθῇ as subject χριστός, as in chap. 1 John 2:28, so Syrus, Calvin, Beza, Hornejus, Calov, Semler, etc. (Myrberg at least thinks that this is not omnino improbabile); this is, however, erroneous, as in this φανερωθῇ what immediately precedes is clearly resumed. It is self-evident that this revelation will take place ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ χριστοῦ; comp. 1 John 2:28.

ὅ΄οιοι αὐτῷ ἐσό΄εθα] αὐτῷ, i.e. Deo, cujus sumus filii (Bengel); the idea remains, indeed, essentially the same if αὐτῷ is taken = χριστῷ (Storr), but the context decides in favour of the first explanation. The apostle says: we shall be to God ὅ΄οιοι, not ἴσοι, because likeness to God will not be unconditioned, but conditioned by the nature of the creature, as a creature; in so far ὅ΄οιος may be translated by “like,” only this idea has something indefinite in it, and therefore Sander not unjustly says “that thereby the point of the thought is lost.” As John himself does not more particularly define this future ὁ΄οιότης of man with God, the commentator must not arbitrarily restrict the general idea on the one side or the other, as, for instance, by the reference to the “light-nature of God” (Ebrard), or the δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ (Düsterdieck), or the δόξα θεοῦ (de Wette(195)).

ὅτι ὀψό΄εθα αὐτόν, καθώς ἐστι] This sentence states the logical ground of the foregoing; Calvin correctly: ratio haec ab effectu sumta est, non a causa; so that the sense is: “because we shall see Him as He is, we therefore know that we shall be like Him” (Rickli; so also Socinus, S. Schmidt, Erdmann, Myrberg, etc.). It is a different thought in 2 Corinthians 3:18, according to which Bengel explains: ex aspectu, similitudo (similarly Irenaeus, adv. haer. iv. 38, says: ὅρασις θεοῦ περιποιητικὴ ἀφθαρσίας), according to which the sense is: “the beholding is the cause of the likeness” (Spener; similarly Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Neander, Köstlin, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune, Weiss, etc.). But John does not here want to explain whence the ὅ΄οιον εἶναι τῷ θεῷ comes to the believer, but on what the οἴδα΄εν is based. The certain hope of the Christian is that he shall see God. In that hope there lies for him the certainty that he will one day be like God; for God can only be seen by him who is like Him.(196) When Rickli remarks on ὀψό΄εθα: “not a bodily vision of Him who is Spirit; it is the spiritual beholding, the knowledge of God in His infinite divine nature” (similarly Frommann, p. 217), or when others interpret this ὁρᾷν simply by “to know aright,” and similarly, this is contrary to the sense of the apostle; for as the word itself indeed shows, an actual seeing is meant. For man in his earthly body, God is certainly invisible; but it is different with the glorified man in his σῶμα πνευματικόν (1 Corinthians 15:44); he will not merely know (the believer has knowledge already here), but see God; and, moreover, no longer διʼ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, but πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον, 1 Corinthians 13:12. Compare on the seeing of God, Matthew 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 22:4.

By καθώς ἐστι the entire reality of the nature of God: “as He is, not merely in a copy, etc., but in Himself and in His nature, His perfect majesty and glory” (Spener), is described.(197) The relation of the single parts of this verse is usually regarded by the commentators as adversative; certainly νῦν and οὔπω form an antithesis, but the connecting καί shows that the apostle considered the first two thoughts less in their antithesis to one another than in their co-ordination, inasmuch as it occurred to him to emphasize them both equally: both that believers are now really τέκνα θεοῦ, and also that a glory as yet concealed—namely, likeness to God—awaits them. Between the third and fourth parts also a sort of antithesis occurs (hence the Recepta δέ), but here also the apostle is not anxious to bring out this contrast, but rather to add to the negatively-expressed thought, for its confirmation, the positive substance of Christian consciousness; comp. de Wette-Brückner, Braune.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 John 3:2. ἀγαπητοὶ) beloved by me, because the Father loves us.— νῦν) now, at present. The antithesis is, not yet. In this verse it must be especially seen, what words are to be pronounced with a fuller sound: now, not yet, what, like Him.— τέκνα, sons) This is repeated from 1 John 3:1.— τί ἐσόμεθα) what we are about to be further, by the power of this sonship. This what, by Epitasis [see Append.], suggests something unspeakable, contained in the likeness of God, which so exalts the sons of God, that they become as it were gods.— οἴδαμεν) we know, in general.— φανερωθῇ, shall be manifested) The same word occurs, ch. 1 John 2:28.— ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ, like Him) God, whose sons we are.— ὅτι, since) From beholding comes resemblance, 2 Corinthians 3:18; as the whole body, the countenance, and especially the eyes of those who behold the sun, are sunned.— ὀψόμεθα, we shall see) Sight includes in its notion all the other kinds of senses.— αὐτὸν, Him) God.— καθώς ἐστι, as He is) that is, manifestly.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Our present state he affirms to be unquestionably that of

sons, whatsoever hardships from the world, or severer discipline from our Father, we must for a while undergo; but for our future state, it is much above us to comprehend distinctly the glory of it;

it doth not yet appear, it is yet an unrevealed thing, Romans 8:18; a veil is drawn before it, which is to be drawn aside at the appointed season of the manifestation of the sons of God, 1 John 3:19. But so much we in the general know of it, (so certain are the apprehensions of faith), that

when he shall appear, or display his own glory in the appearance of his Son, who is then to come in the glory of his Father, Matthew 16:27 1 Timothy 6:14-16,

we shall be like him, as it befits children to be unto their Father; i.e. his image shall then be perfected in us, which was defaced so greatly in the apostacy, is restored imperfectly in regeneration, Ephesians 4:24 Colossians 3:10, must be daily improved in progressive sanctification: so that as God was above said to be light, Christians are to shine as lights, as the sons of God, without rebuke, representing and glorifying their Father, Matthew 5:16 Philippians 2:15 1 Peter 2:9: but is then to be advanced in us to a far higher pitch than ever, in respect both of holiness and blessedness.

For we shall see him as he is; i.e. so far as the limited capacity of our natures can admit; and are therefore by that likeness to be qualified for such vision: which eternal, efficacious vision doth also coutinue that likeness, the causal particle,

for, admitting both those references: see Psalms 17:15.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

1 John


1 John 3:2.

I have hesitated, as you may well believe, whether I should take these words for a text. They seem so far to surpass anything that can be said concerning them, and they cover such immense fields of dim thought, that one may well be afraid lest one should spoil them by even attempting to dilate on them. And yet they are so closely connected with the words of the previous verse, which formed the subject of my last sermon, that I felt as if my work were only half done unless I followed that sermon with this.

The present is the prophet of the future, says my text: ‘Now we are the sons of God, and’ {not ‘but’} ‘it doth not yet appear what we shall be.’ Some men say, ‘Ah! now are we, but we shall be--nothing!’ John does not think so. John thinks that if a man is a son of God he will always be so. There are three things in this verse, how, if we are God’s children, our sonship makes us quite sure of the future; how our sonship leaves us largely in ignorance of the future, but how our sonship flings one bright, all-penetrating beam of light on the only important thing about the future, the clear vision of and the perfect likeness to Him who is our life. ‘Now are we the sons of God,’ therefore we shall be. We are the sons; we do not know what we shall be. We are the sons, and therefore, though there be a great circumference of blank ignorance as to our future, yet, blessed be His name, there is a great light burning in the middle of it! ‘We know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

I. The fact of sonship makes us quite sure of the future.

I am not concerned to appraise the relative value of the various arguments and proofs, or, it may be, presumptions, which may recommend the doctrine of a future life to men, but it seems to me that the strongest reasons for believing in another world are these two:--first, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and has gone up there; and, second, that a man here can pray, and trust, and love God, and feel that he is His child. As was noticed in the preceding sermon, the word rendered ‘sons’ might more accurately be translated ‘children.’ If so, we may fairly say, ‘We are the children of God now--and if we are children now, we shall be grown up some time.’ Childhood leads to maturity. The infant becomes a man.

That is to say, he that here, in an infantile way, is stammering with his poor, unskilled lips the name ‘Abba! Father!’ will one day come to speak it fully. He that dimly trusts, he that partially loves, he that can lift up his heart in some more or less unworthy prayer and aspiration after God, in all these emotions and exercises, has the great proof in himself that such emotions, such relationship, can never be put an end to. The roots have gone down through the temporal, and have laid hold of the Eternal. Anything seems to me to be more credible than that a man who can look up and say, ‘My Father,’ shall be crushed by what befalls the mere outside of him; anything seems to me to be more believable than to suppose that the nature which is capable of these elevating emotions and aspirations of confidence and hope, which can know God and yearn after Him, and can love Him, is to be wiped out like a gnat by the finger of Death. The material has nothing to do with these feelings, and if I know myself, in however feeble and imperfect a degree, to be the son of God, I carry in the conviction the very pledge and seal of eternal life. That is a thought ‘whose very sweetness yieldeth proof that it was born for immortality.’ ‘We are the sons of God,’ therefore we shall always be so, in all worlds, and whatsoever may become of this poor wrappage in which the soul is shrouded.

We may notice, also, that not only the fact of our sonship avails to assure us of immortal life, but that also the very form which our religious experience takes points in the same direction.

As I said, infancy is the prophecy of maturity. ‘The child is father of the man’; the bud foretells the flower. In the same way, the very imperfections of the Christian life, as it is seen here, argue the existence of another state, where all that is here in the germ shall be fully matured, and all that is here incomplete shall attain the perfection which alone will correspond to the power that works in us. Think of the ordinary Christian character. The beginning is there, and evidently no more than the beginning. As one looks at the crudity, the inconsistencies, the failings, the feebleness of the Christian life of others, or of oneself, and then thinks that such a poor, imperfect exhibition is all that so divine a principle has been able to achieve in this world, one feels that there must be a region and a time where we shall be all which the transforming power of God’s spirit can make us. The very inconsistencies of Christians are as strong reasons for believing in the perfect life of Heaven as their purities and virtues are. We have a right to say mighty principles are at work upon Christian souls--the power of the Cross, the power of love issuing in obedience, the power of an indwelling Spirit; and is this all that these great forces are going to effect on human character? Surely a seed so precious and divine is somewhere, and at some time, to bring forth something better than these few poor, half-developed flowers, something with more lustrous petals and richer fragrance. The plant is clearly an exotic; does not its obviously struggling growth here tell of warmer suns and richer soil, where it will be at home?

There is a great deal in every man, and most of all in Christian men and women, which does not fit this present. All other creatures correspond in their capacities to the place where they are set down; and the world in which the plant or the animal lives, the world of their surroundings, stimulates to activity all their powers. But that is not so with a man. ‘Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests.’ They fit exactly, and correspond to their ‘environment.’ But a man!--there is an enormous amount of waste faculty about him if he is only to live in this world. There are large capacities in every nature, and most of all in a Christian nature, which are like the packages that emigrants take with them, marked ‘Not wanted on the voyage.’ These go down into the hold, and they are only of use after landing in the new world. If I am a son of God I have much in me that is ‘not wanted on the voyage,’ and the more I grow into His likeness, the more I am thrown out of harmony with the things round about me, in proportion as I am brought into harmony with the things beyond.

That consciousness of belonging to another order of things, because I am God’s child, will make me sure that when I have done with earth, the tie that binds me to my Father will not be broken, but that I shall go home, where I shall be fully and for ever all that I so imperfectly began to be here, where all gaps in my character shall be filled up, and the half-completed circle of my heavenly perfectness shall grow like the crescent moon, into full-orbed beauty. ‘Neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature’ shall be able to break that tie, and banish the child from the conscious grasp of a Father’s hand. Dear brother and sister, can you say, ‘Now am I a child of God!’ Then you may patiently and peacefully front that dim future.

II. Now I come to the second point, namely, that we remain ignorant of much in that future.

That happy assurance of the love of God resting upon me, and making me His child through Jesus Christ, does not dissipate all the darkness which lies on that beyond. ‘We are the sons of God, and,’ just because we are, ‘it does not yet appear what we shall be.’ Or, as the words are rendered in the Revised Version, ‘it is not yet made manifest what we shall be.’

The meaning of that expression, ‘It doth not yet appear,’ or, ‘It is not made manifest,’ may be put into very plain words. John would simply say to us, ‘There has never been set forth before men’s eyes in this earthly life of ours an example, or an instance, of what the sons of God are to be in another state of being.’ And so, because men have never had the instance before them, they do not know much about that state.

In some sense there has been a manifestation through the life of Jesus Christ. Christ has died; Christ is risen again. Christ has gone about amongst men upon earth after Resurrection. Christ has been raised to the right hand of God, and sits there in the glory of the Father. So far it has been manifested what we shall be. But the risen Christ is not the glorified Christ, and although He has set forth before man’s senses irrefragably the fact of another life, and to some extent given glimpses and gleams of knowledge with regard to certain portions of it, I suppose that the ‘glorious body’ of Jesus Christ was not assumed by Him till the cloud ‘received Him out of their sight,’ nor, indeed, could it be assumed while He moved among the material realities of this world, and did eat and drink before them. So that, while we thankfully recognise that Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension have ‘brought life and immortality to light,’ we must remember that it is the fact, and not the manner of the fact, which they make plain; and that, even after His example, it has not been manifested what is the body of glory which He now wears, and therefore it has not yet been manifested what we shall be when we are fashioned after its likeness.

There has been no manifestation, then, to sense, or to human experience, of that future, and, therefore, there is next to no knowledge about it. You can only know facts when the facts are communicated. You may speculate and argue and guess as much as you like, but that does not thin the darkness one bit. The unborn child has no more faculty or opportunity for knowing what the life upon earth is like than man here, in the world, has for knowing that life beyond. The chrysalis’ dreams about what it would be when it was a butterfly would be as reliable as a man’s imagination of what a future life will be.

So let us feel two things:--Let us be thankful that we do not know, for the ignorance is the sign of the greatness; and then, let us be sure that just the very mixture of knowledge and ignorance which we have about another world is precisely the food which is most fitted to nourish imagination and hope. If we had more knowledge, supposing it could be given, of the conditions of that future life, it would lose some of its power to attract. Ignorance does not always prevent the occupation of the mind with a subject. Blank ignorance does; but ignorance, shot with knowledge like a tissue which, when you hold it one way seems all black, and when you tilt it another, seems golden, stimulates desire, hope, and imagination. So let us thankfully acquiesce in the limited knowledge.

Fools can ask questions which wise men cannot answer, and will not ask. There are questions which, sometimes, when we are thinking about our own future, and sometimes when we see dear ones go away into the mist, become to us almost torture. It is easy to put them; it is not so easy to say: ‘Thank God, we cannot answer them yet!’ If we could it would only be because the experience of earth was adequate to measure the experience of Heaven; and that would be to bring the future down to the low levels of this present. Let us be thankful then that so long as we can only speak in language derived from the experiences of earth, we have yet to learn the vocabulary of Heaven. Let us be thankful that our best help to know what we shall be is to reverse much of what we are, and that the loftiest and most positive declarations concerning the future lie in negatives like these:--’I saw no temple therein.’ ‘There shall be no night there.’ ‘There shall be no curse there.’ ‘There shall be no more sighing nor weeping, for the former things are passed away.’

The white mountains keep their secret well; not until we have passed through the black rocks that make the throat of the pass on the summit, shall we see the broad and shining plains beyond the hills. Let us be thankful for, and own the attractions of, the knowledge that is wrapt in ignorance, and thankfully say, ‘Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be!’

III. Now I must be very brief with the last thought that is here, and I am the less unwilling to be so because we cannot travel one inch beyond the revelations of the Book in reference to the matter. The thought is this, that our sonship flings one all-penetrating beam of light on that future, in the knowledge of our perfect vision and perfect likeness. ‘We know that when He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

‘When He shall be manifested’--to what period does that refer? It seems most natural to take the manifestation here as being the same as that spoken of only a verse or two before. ‘And now, little children, abide in Him, and when He shall be manifested, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming’ {2. 28}. That ‘coming’ then, is the ‘manifestation’ of Christ; and it is at the period of His coming in His glory that His servants ‘shall be like Him, and see Him as He is.’ Clearly then it is Christ whom we shall see and become like, and not the Father invisible.

To behold Christ will be the condition and the means of growing like Him. That way of transformation by beholding, or of assimilation by the power of loving contemplation, is the blessed way of ennobling character, which even here, and in human relationships, has often made it easy to put off old vices and to clothe the soul with unwonted grace. Men have learned to love and gaze upon some fair character, till some image of its beauty has passed into their ruder natures. To love such and to look on them has been an education. The same process is exemplified in more sacred regions, when men here learn to love and look upon Christ by faith, and so become like Him, as the sun stamps a tiny copy of its blazing sphere on the eye that looks at it. But all these are but poor, far-off hints and low preludes of the energy with which that blessed vision of the glorified Christ shall work on the happy hearts that behold Him, and of the completeness of the likeness to Him which will be printed in light upon their faces.

It matters not, though it doth not yet appear what we shall be, if to all the questionings of our own hearts we have this for our all-sufficient answer, ‘We shall be like Him.’ As good old Richard Baxter has it:--

‘My knowledge of that life is small,

The eye of faith is dim;

But, ‘tis enough that Christ knows all,

And I shall be like Him!’

‘It is enough for the servant that he be as his Lord.’

There is no need to go into the dark and difficult questions about the manner of that vision. He Himself prayed, in that great intercessory prayer, ‘Father, I will that these whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.’ That vision of the glorified manhood of Jesus Christ--certain, direct, clear, and worthy, whether it comes through sense or through thought--to behold that vision is all the sight of God that men in Heaven ever will have. And through the millenniums of a growing glory, Christ as He is will be the manifested Deity. Likeness will clear sight, and clearer sight will increase likeness. So in blessed interchange these two will be cause and effect, and secure the endless progress of the redeemed spirit towards the vision of Christ which never can behold all His Infinite Fulness, and the likeness to Christ which can never reproduce all his Infinite Beauty.

As a bit of glass when the light strikes it flashes into sunny glory, or as every poor little muddy pool on the pavement, when the sunbeams fall upon it, has the sun mirrored even in its shallow mud, so into your poor heart and mine the vision of Christ’s glory will come, moulding and transforming us to its own beauty. With unveiled face reflecting as a mirror does, the glory of the Lord, we ‘shall be changed into the same image.’ ‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

Dear brethren, all begins with this, love Christ and trust Him and you are a child of God! ‘And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.’

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Not yet appear; the fulness of their future excellence and bliss could not here be known.

Appear; in glory.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

2. ἀγαπητοί. Vulgate, as usual: Jerome (Con. Pelag. 13) dilectissimi. In the first part of the Epistle this form of address occurs only once (1 John 2:7), just where the subject of love appears for a few verses. In this second part it becomes the more common form of address (1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11), for here the main subject is love. Similarly, in 1 John 3:13, where brotherly love is the special subject, ἀδελφοί is the form of address. Νῦν and οὕπω each stand first in their respective clauses in emphatic contrast, and καί, as so often in S. John, introduces an antithesis. Our privileges in this world are certain; and yet our glories in the world to come are still veiled. But they will be connected with our blessings here (καί), not something quite different (ἀλλά). With this τέκνα Θεοῦ agrees: ‘child’ implies a future development; ‘son’ does not. Φανεροῦσθαι in both places should be rendered, as in R.V., be made manifest or be manifested, in order to preserve the passive voice and uniformity of rendering with 1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 2:28. It is one of S. John’s characteristic expressions. ‘Appear’ comes from the Vulgate: Augustine uses both apparere and manifestari, Tertullian revelari.

ἐὰν φανερωθῇ. If it shall be manifested, or if He shall be manifested. Here there is no difference of reading, as there is in 1 John 2:28, between ὅταν and ἐάν; but earlier English Versions, under the influence of the Vulgate (cum apparuerit) have ‘when’ in both passages. Ambrose and Augustine have cum also; Tertullian has si. In both cases ‘if’ is right; but it has been either changed in the Greek, or shirked in translation, as appearing to imply a doubt respecting the manifestation. It implies no doubt as to the fact, but shews that the results of the fact are more important than the time: comp. ‘If I be lifted up from the earth,’ and ‘If I go and prepare a place for you’ (John 12:32; John 14:3).

It is less easy to determine between ‘if it shall be manifested’ and ‘if He shall be manifested;’ ‘it’ meaning what we shall be hereafter, and ‘He’ meaning Christ. No nominative is expressed in the Greek, and it is rather violent to supply a new nominative, differing from that of the very same verb in the previous sentence: therefore ‘it’ seems preferable. ‘We know that if our future state is made manifest we, who are children of God, shall be found like our Father.’ On the other hand, 1 John 2:28 favours ‘if He shall be manifested.’ Note the οἴδαμεν and comp. 1 John 2:20-21. No progress in knowledge is implied; no additional experience. Our future resemblance to our Father is a fact of which as Christians we are aware. Contrast γινώσκομεν (1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:6; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 5:2). The ‘but’ of A.V. from δέ of T. R. introduces a false antithesis. But yet another way is possible. We may read here, as R.V. in 1 John 3:20, ὅ τι ἐάν, and translate, We knowwhatever may be manifested—that we shall be like Him. But this does not seem probable: it is unlike S. John, and (perhaps we may say) unlike Scripture generally.

ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ. We are once more in doubt as to the meaning of αὐτῷ. If ἐὰν φαν. be rendered ‘if He shall be manifested,’ this will naturally mean that we shall be like Christ; which, however true in itself, is not the point. The point is that children are found to be like their Father. This is an additional reason for preferring ‘it’ with Tyndale and Cranmer to ‘He’ with Wiclif, Purvey, Genevan, and Rhemish. The precise nature of the ὁμοιότης (not ἰσότης) is left undetermined. Similes, quia beati, says Bede. Man was created κατʼ εἰκονα καὶ καθʼ ὁμοίωσιν τοῦ θεοῦ (Genesis 1:26-27), and this likeness, marred at the Fall, is renewed here by Christ’s Blood and perfected hereafter. ὅτι ὀψόμεθα αὐτὸν καθώς ἐστιν. Because we shall see Him even as He is: ‘because’ as in 1 John 3:9; 1 John 3:20; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 2:13-14, &c., and ‘even as’ as in 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:27, &c. ‘Because’ or ‘for’ may give the cause either [1] of our knowing that we shall be like Him, or [2] of our being like Him. Both make good sense; but, in spite of ‘we know’ being the principal sentence grammatically, the statement which most needs explanation is the subordinate one, that we shall be like God. ‘We shall be like Him,’ says the Apostle, ‘because, as you know, we shall see Him.’ Comp. ‘But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18); the sight of God will glorify us. This also is in harmony with the prayer of the great High Priest; ‘And the glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given unto them’ (John 17:22). Comp. ‘And they shall see His face’ (Revelation 22:4). The ‘even as’ emphasizes the reality of the sight: no longer ‘in a mirror, darkly,’ but ‘face to face.’

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"Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

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.

I beg to detain the Reader at this verse also, just to observe a little of the blessedness of it. Now are we the sons of God. Yes! For though carrying about with us a body of sin and death, as we do, yet, by regeneration, being quickened in our spiritual part, we are made partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; 2 Peter 1:4. Hence, therefore, we are now, to all intents and purposes, sons of God. But of the glory, yea, that eternal glory, to which we are begotten and called by Christ Jesus, there are no images or similitudes with which we are acquainted here below, by which we can explain it. Nay, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of men to conceive, of the nature or extent of that glory which shall be revealed. But this we know, that amidst all that want of conformity we now have to the person and image of our Lord, there will be then a likeness, for we shall see him as he is. See 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Reader! do pause over this most precious Scripture, for it is indeed most precious. When the holiest child of God takes a view of himself, and dissects the anatomy of his own heart, what an humbling prospect is before him? And when be contemplates the life of Him, of whom it is said, he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; what a striking dissimilarity instantly appears between the Head and the body? And when, under these humbling circumstances, the heart goeth forth sometimes, as it must go in distresses at the view, is it possible the child of God will say, as the question ariseth in the heart, that where there is so little conformity, yea, so much opposition, there ever will be a likeness and agreement? Reader! when questions of these, and the like nature, arise in the soul, I know no part of scripture more sweet and consolatory to silence fears, and strengthen faith and hope, than this very blessed verse of our God.

And, indeed, I cannot but suppose, that God the Holy Ghost, plainly, and evidently designed it for the comfort of the Lord's people, in whose soul a saving change hath been wrought by regeneration, for their constant support under such exercises. A few plain observations on this point will set the matter abundantly clear.

And, first. When Christ betrothed the Church to himself, he saw her in all that loveliness and beauty in which his Father presented her to him. For, as the King's daughter, she was, (in the mind of Jehovah) all glorious within. And she is said to have been brought to the King in raiment of needle work; Psalms 45:13-14.

Secondly., When in the after-state in which Jesus saw her in the Adam-nature of her fall, as a loving Husband, Jesus could not but love her the same, and, indeed, he came purposely to raise her up. For it is both his delight and his glory, to sanctify and cleanse her with his blood, that he might present her to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but to be holy, and without blemish; Ephesians 5:26-27.

Thirdly. Jesus knows and considers, in the mean time all that loathsomeness, by reason of sin, in which she is during the present time-state of her being. He hath redeemed her from the everlasting evil of it by his blood. And, in testimony of it, he hath renewed her spiritual part by his Holy Spirit. And by his own resurrection from the dead, he hath given her an earnest, and pledge, that as he arose, so shall she arise at the last day. For he will change her vile body, that it shall be like to his glorious body. But, during the present state, she shall learn, by the daily workings of sin, in a corrupt and fallen nature, how great the departure of her Adam-state hath been, and how great his love is in redeeming her out of it. By both which, the grave shall become welcome, and Christ shall be exalted in her view, and more and more endeared every day of her life to her heart.

Fourthly. Jesus watches over his Church for good, and keeps. He knows the hour is coming when he will take her home, and neither sin, nor sorrow, nor the leprosy of sin, or uncleanness, shall beset her anymore forever.

Reader! what think you of the love of God the Holy Ghost, in giving this sweet verse to the Church? First, to tell the Church, and every individual of the Church, that amidst all that passeth, in the daily course of their warfare, to distress the soul, from the in-workings and out-breakings of the body of sin, still the adoption character and sonship is not lost? Beloved! now are we the sons of God! And secondly, notwithstanding the great unlikeness there is, too often at present, by reason of this sinful body of ours, between Christ our holy Head, and we his unholy members; yet the time is hastening when this unholiness of ours, will all be done away. For we know that when he shall appear, , we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. These bodies of ours, which at death, are sown in dishonor, will he raised in glory. I shall behold thy face in righteousness, (said one of old, and every regenerated child of God may say the same,) I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness! Psalms 17:15.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2. Now… yet—Contrast of the humble present with the transcendent future.

Are—Emphatic; true, in spite of the occultness of our sonship and non-recognition by the world. Even what we shall be, does but very dimly appear. But at the resurrection, as Paul says, a “glory shall be revealed in us.” And then will be “the manifestation of the sons of God.” Romans 8:18-19.

Like him… see him as he is—From the certainty that we shall see him as he is, we know that… we shall be like him; for it is only like natures that truly realize each other. The brute can realize man only just so far as he resembles man; and man can realize spirit only just so far as he is like spirit; and the human can see God only so far as it is like him. if, therefore, when the limitations of flesh are flung off, and our “spiritual body” of the resurrection shall be such as to be no limitation at all, we see him as he is, then it is certain that we shall be most perfectly like him.

Or, conversely, our seeing him as he is may cause us to become more and more like him. Gazing upon beautiful models the soul becomes beautified: our characters are formed by imitating improving examples. By realizing the divine beauty we become divinely perfected. If we see him as he is, we know that we shall be constantly made to become like him. See note on 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Regeneration, as a term, does not appear in Scripture, but it is expressed in all such phrases as born or begotten of God. It is that work of the Holy Spirit by which, immediately upon our repentance and faith, (which are preceded by the convicting and enabling influences of the Spirit,) the love of God and the Christian graces spring up in the soul. The first spark of divine love is the spark of spiritual life—the spark of an everlasting life; which, if preserved within the soul, will advance until it works out the resurrection glory.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Even though we are presently God"s children we do not yet fully reflect His image as we shall. However when (not "if," another third class condition) Jesus Christ appears and we see Him, we shall experience full transformation (i.e, glorification). Evidently seeing Jesus Christ will fully transform us physically and spiritually (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12).

"A child of God is here and now, indeed, like a diamond that is crystal white within but is still uncut and shows no brilliant flashes from reflected facets." [Note: Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude , p452.]

"He will not be anything essentially different hereafter, but he will be what he is now essentially more completely, though in ways wholly beyond our powers of imagination." [Note: Westcott, p97.]

John"s references to the appearing in 1 John 2:28 and 1 John 3:2 frame his references to the new birth in 1 John 2:29 and 1 John 3:1. Every true Christian will participate in this appearing.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 3:2. Beloved, now are we children of God. This new address is appropriate to the sharers in common of the love of God, The affirmation that follows, repeating the solemn ‘children of God,’ is most emphatic: ‘we possess this sacred privilege, though the world acknowledge us not; nor look we for anything higher; there can be no greater title in earth or heaven.’ But it must be remembered that the apostle has just spoken of the coming of our Lord, and of our abiding spiritually in Him till then, lest we be ashamed to see His countenance. As He had this in His mind in writing, we must not forget it in our’ exposition of what follows.

And it hath not yet been manifested what we shall be: we know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him, since we shall see him even as he is. There is no contrast between the now and the then: the thought naturally passes onward ‘to see the end.’ Yet there is no aid from experience: ‘it hath not been manifested;’ that is, what kind of inheritance awaits us has never yet been seen, nor will it be seen until He appear. ‘But’—though there is no ‘but’ in the terse sentence—‘we know by certain inference what we know not by actual fact, that, when He appears, our highest hope will be satisfied in our perfect conformity, in body and soul and spirit, to His image. This we know; for we have the promise of His prayer that we shall be with Him where He is and behold His glory. Since we shall see Him as He is, which is our utmost happiness, we must needs be perfectly like Him, which is our utmost blessedness.’ Although, as has been said, St. John does not carefully distinguish between the Father and the Son who reveals Him, we must suppose the vision of Jesus to be here meant. God ‘dwelleth in light unapproachable;’ Him ‘no man hath seen, nor can see.’ Hence the beatific vision of God ‘face to face’ refers to ‘the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ Of the eternal City it is said: ‘The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Lamp thereof.’ Note that the emphasis does not rest upon the ‘seeing,’ but upon the ‘being like.’ Further, that the final glorification into the image of Christ is never said to be the result of seeing it; but, conversely, likeness to Him, the prerogative of the resurrection, is the preparation for seeing. The transformation which follows from ‘reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord’ has to do with the sanctification of this life; and will be found in the next verse. Lastly, the likeness here spoken of is left indefinite: it is not equality, it is not identification, it is not absorption. It is not the same word which is used concerning the ‘sons of the resurrection ‘who shall be ‘equal to the angels;’ it is not the same word which is used concerning Christ’s equality with the Father; but it is the same that is used of His taking the ‘likeness of man.’ And this most profoundly touches its meaning here. He as a servant was ‘like as we ARE,’ but He is now glorified. We shall be hereafter ‘like Him as he is.’ Meditation and faith and hope must fill up the thought.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 John 3:2. Having spoken of our present dignity, the Apostle goes on to speak of our future destiny. The Incarnation manifested our standing as children of God, but “it was not yet manifested what we shall be”. The aorist ἐφανερώθη (cf. ἔγνω in previous verse) refers to the historic manifestation in Jesus Christ. The N.T. says nothing definite about the nature of our future glory. With our present faculties we cannot conceive it. It must be experienced to be understood. Jesus simply assures us of the felicity of the Father’s House, and bids us take His word for it (cf. John 14:2). ἐὰν φανερωθῇ, “if (cf. note on 1 John 2:28) it may be manifested,” taking up οὔπω ἐφανερώθη. This obvious connection is decisive against the rendering “if He shall be manifested” (cf. 1 John 2:28; Colossians 3:4). ὅτι, κ. τ. λ.: What we shall be was not manifested, but this we know that we shall be like Him. And how do we know it? From His promise that “we shall see Him even as He is” (cf. John 17:24). The argument is two-fold: (1) Vision of God implies likeness to Him in character and affection (cf. Matthew 5:8); (2) the vision of God transfigures (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18), even in this life.

“Ah! the Master is so fair,

His smile so sweet to banished men,

That they who meet it unaware

Can never rest on earth again.”

And how will it be when we “see Him face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12)? St. Augustine expresses much of the Apostle’s thought in a beautiful sentence: “Tota vita Christiani boni sanctum desiderium est”.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 John 3:2. Beloved — It is a most certain and joyful truth, that now are we, who believe on God’s Son with our heart unto righteousness; the children of God — And, persevering in that faith, we shall be acknowledged as such before men and angels in the day of final accounts; a truth which draws after it a long train of glorious consequences. For the happy condition we shall be in hereafter exceeds all that we can now conceive; and it doth not yet appear — Even to ourselves, though supernaturally enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; what we shall be — How pure and holy, intelligent and wise in our souls, how spiritual and glorious in our bodies, how exalted in dignity, how great in power, how rich in inheritance, how happy in enjoyments! But we know — In the general, on the testimony of him who cannot lie; that when he — The Son of God; shall appear, we shall be like him — In all these respects; our souls perfectly conformed to his wise and holy soul, our bodies to his immortal and glorious body, and that we shall share with him in his felicity, honour, and riches, world without end. For we shall see him as he is — Which it would be impossible we should do if we were not like him. Or rather, as perhaps the apostle chiefly means, the great privilege being granted us, of seeing him as he is, the sight of him will transform us into his likeness. “The sight of God,” [in Christ,] as Archbishop Tillotson proves at large, (see his works, vol. 3. p. 194,) “is put to express the knowledge and enjoyment of him, because of its excellence and dignity, its largeness and comprehension, its spirituality and quickness, its evidence and certainty.” The apostle alludes to Christ’s words, which he has recorded in his gospel, (John 17:24,) Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me: and therefore is speaking, not of a transient, but of an abiding sight of Christ, as is plain, because only such a view of him could be a reason for our being like him. And since we are to live with him for ever, our bodies must be fashioned like to his body, corruptible bodies not being capable, in the nature of things, of inheriting the kingdom of God. And with respect to our minds, the seeing of Christ as he is cannot be supposed effectual to make us like him, unless it be an abiding sight; which, by exciting in us an admiration of his glories, esteem for his excellences, gratitude for his goodness, love to his person, delight in his will, with all wise, holy, and happy affections, will assuredly produce that happy effect. At the day of judgment, it is probable that the wicked will have a transient sight of Christ as he is, but will not thereby be made like him, in body or mind.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Beloved. App-135.

the. Omit.

not yet. Greek. oupo.

but. The texts omit.

know. App-132.

see. App-133.

as = even as. Compare 1 John 2:6.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Beloved by the Father therefore by me Beloved - by the Father, therefore by me.

Now - in contrast to "not yet." We already are sons, though unrecognized as such by the world, and (as the consequence) we look for the manifestation of our sonship, which not yet has taken place.

Doth not yet appear , [ efaneroothee (Greek #5319)] - 'it hath not yet (at any time, aorist) been manifested what we shall be,' what glory we shall attain by virtue of our sonship. "What" suggests a something inconceivably glorious.

But - omitted in 'Aleph (') A B. Its insertion gives a wrong antithesis. Not, 'We do not yet know manifestly what, etc., but we know,' etc. Rather, the manifestation to the world of what we shall be has not yet taken place. We know (in general, with well-assured knowledge) [ oidamen (Greek #1492)] that when [ ean (Greek #1437)] ('if' expressing no doubt of the fact, but only as to the time: also implying that on the coming preliminary fact the consequence follows, Malachi 1:6; John 14:3) He (not 'it,' namely, that which is not yet manifested, Alford) shall be manifested (1 John 3:5; 1 John 2:28), we shall be like Him (Christ: sons substantially resemble their father: Christ, whom we shall be like, is 'the express image of the Father's person:' so in resembling Christ we shall resemble the Father). We wait for the manifestation (Romans 8:19, the apocalypse: applied also to Christ's own manifestation) of the sons of God.

After natural birth, the new birth into the life of grace is needed; to be followed by the new birth into the life of glory: the two alike are 'the regeneration' (Matthew 19:28). The resurrection of our bodies is a coming out of the womb of the earth: being born into another life. Our first temptation was that we should be like God in knowledge: by that we fell: but raised by Christ, we become truly like Him, by knowing Him as we are known, and seeing Him as He is (Pearson, 'Creed'). As the first immortality, which Adam lost, was to be able not to die, so the last shall be not to be able to die. As man's first free choice was to be able not to sin, so our last shall be not to be able to sin (Augustine, 'Civit. Dei,' b. 22:, 100: 30). The devil fell by aspiring to God's power; man, by aspiring to His knowledge; but aspiring after God's goodness, we shall ever grow in His likeness. The transition from God to "He," "Him," referring to Christ (who alone is said in Scripture, to be manifested, not the Father, John 1:18), implies the unity of the Father and the Son.

For ... Continual beholding generates likeness, (2 Corinthians 3:18); as the face of the moon, being always turned toward the sun, reflects its glory.

See him - not in His innermost Godhead, but as manifested in Christ. None but the pure can see the infinitely Pure One (Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:4). In all these passages [ opsomai (Greek #3700)], not the action of seeing: but the state of him to whose eye or mind the object is presented; hence, the verb is always in the middle, or reflexive voice, to perceive, inwardly appreciate (Tittmann). Our spiritual bodies will recognize spiritual beings hereafter, as our natural bodies do natural objects.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

What We Are and What We Shall Be

Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.—1 John 3:2.

The Apostle has just said that all Christians are children of God. Here he adds that they are now His children. “Now,” he says, in this life, with all our shortcomings, “we are children of God.”

But the future of the believer is even more wonderful and glorious than his present. He is to be made “like” Christ, because he will “see him as he is.” If the vision of Christ, even though His glory be only reflected as from “a mirror,” transforms us now “into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18), what will be the effect of beholding the unveiled glory of the Lord? Here His Godhead is only partially revealed to His disciples; there the Godhead and the manhood—or rather the Godhead in the manhood—will be fully manifested, and, according to Christ’s own prayer for His disciples, they will behold His glory (John 17:24); and the result of this beatific vision will be their complete transformation into the likeness of the Lord. In every part of their being, in body and in soul and in spirit, they will be “like him.”

As with a garden in winter, nothing we see in it tells us what it will be when the spring winds have loosened the frost, only we know that there is life beneath the snow, and that one day that life will show itself in leaves and blossoms and fruit. So with the believer. He will one day have a part in that glorious revealing of the sons of God for which creation is waiting. Meanwhile his spiritual life, like that of a plant safe all the winter in the root of it, is hid with Christ in God. More than this we cannot say of ourselves.1 [Note: C. Watson, First Epistle of John, 149.]


The Seeds of Destiny

1. We are children of God—His offspring, not His creatures merely. Ours is a Divine birthright, depraved, but not wholly obliterated; alienated, but not discrowned. Man still preserves his capability of regaining departed purity and felicity. What belongs to his character has been lost, what belongs to his constitution he retains. His character may change, but not the essence of his being. His enmity may die, his immortality never dies. His life is sacred, because he bears the image of God. Moral resemblance to God is the completion and crown of the filial relationship. It is the relation that gives the right; but where the relation has not been acknowledged and established, the right cannot be pleaded. The true child of God is born of God. He is a partaker of a Divine nature, and that nature quickens, brightens, perfects his own. He is “created anew in Christ Jesus.” “Ye are all the children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.” “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.”

2. All natural sons are not spiritual sons. The natural son becomes a spiritual son when the Father’s will and purpose are made his will and purpose. We find this beautifully illustrated in the story of the Prodigal Son. The youth chafes under parental restraint, he is now a dissatisfied son; he leaves home and makes his abode in a far country, he is now an absent son; he spends his time and money in riotous living, he is now a sinful son; sin is always sooner or later followed by punishment, he becomes, therefore, a suffering son; grief and remorse follow suffering, as the morning follows the sunrise, he is now a sad and sorry son; sorrow turns into self-condemnation, he is now a humble son; he says, “I will arise and go to my father,” he is now a penitent son; his father welcomes him home with outstretched arms, he is now a forgiven son; the fatted calf is killed, a ring is placed upon his finger, and a robe upon his shoulders, he is now a restored son; from henceforth he makes his father’s will his will, his father’s pleasure, his pleasure, and he does all, not from duty, but from love; he is now, therefore, a spiritual son.

In dealing with a man of fine moral character we are dealing with the highest achievement of the organic kingdom, but in dealing with a spiritual man we are dealing with the lowest form of life in the spiritual world. To contrast the two, therefore, and marvel that the one is apparently so little better than the other, is unscientific and unjust. The spiritual man is a mere unformed embryo, hidden as yet in his chrysalis-case, while the natural man has the breeding and evolution of ages represented in his character. But what are the possibilities of this spiritual organism? What is yet to emerge from the chrysalis-case? The natural character finds its limits within the organic sphere, but who is to define the limits of the spiritual? Even now it is very beautiful. Even as an embryo it contains some prophecy of its future glory, but the point to mark is that “it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”1 [Note: Henry Drummond.]

3. Though children of God by faith in Christ Jesus we are still imperfect, but we have in us the seeds of a great destiny. When we find fault with the child’s lesson because he has not begun his sentence with a capital or ended his question with an interrogation mark, the mother excuses him by saying, “He is only a boy.” Yes, but it is a great thing to be a boy, it carries the promise that some day he will be a man. The child who can as yet only stammer brokenly through a sentence, if in an educated home, or who can only blunder as yet through a sum in long division, if in a good school, has promise of one day speaking correctly and calculating the distance of the stars. Only a child, but it is a great thing to be even a child in such a home and in such a school.

I have stood on a projecting spur of a mountain range and looked backward on the road I have climbed and then far down into the valley below where I could see the farm-fields and the river. As I have rested there for a moment, I have felt something of the joy which comes with the heights; but as I have turned to continue the climb, I have found the way blocked with blinding mists and the higher ranges wrapped about with the dense folds of cloud and completely shut from view. I knew the heights were there before me, but I could not see them. They did not appear. And so I had to plunge into the thickening mist and continue the ascent without scenery. It is thus that John paints the second stage. The road winds through the mist. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be,” but the way is still upward and onward. We have not reached the summit, with adoption. Sonship is followed by development and growth. Here is the marvellous thing about the soul. It seems possessed of an infinite capacity. Man is ever becoming.1 [Note: J. I. Vance, Tendency, 214.]

An acorn is an oak-tree now; but it is not made manifest what it will be. You may bring all your microscopes and all your chemic tests to the acorn, and you will not solve the question. Had you never seen aught but an acorn—and you have never seen aught but a child of God in this reference, and most of them very young children—had you never seen aught but an acorn, no imagination within your reach, or the reach of any poet God ever gave to earth, would have brought you anywhere near the truth. Again, go back, with the help of the scientist, in the long history of this physical world and universe, and he will tell you of some such thing they have seen as this: that this earth and all related to it was, in primeval times, a fire-mist. Before the stars, before the suns were here, was some such thing, as unlike this earth as a globe of fire-mist would be. It was the solar universe; but it was not made manifest what it would be. And great as is the difference between the primeval fire and the solar universe of to-day, unimaginable as is the progress from the protoplasm, undifferentiated, to the human form in its athletic beauty, indescribable as is the difference between the acorn and the oak-tree, those differences, peradventure, are small compared with the difference between what we now are and what we shall be. In the acorn is the oak-tree, in the protoplasm is the lily, in the fire-mist, so they say, was the earth; in you is the Christlikeness, folded more deeply, with more convolutions, than the finest folded bud. Deep within you is the Christlikeness that yet shall be part of the final manifestation of God’s purpose and will.2 [Note: F. W. Lewis, The Work of Christ, 139.]

Lord, purge our eyes to see

Within the seed a tree,

Within the glowing egg a bird,

Within the shroud a butterfly.

Till taught by such, we see

Beyond all creatures Thee,

And hearken for Thy tender word,

And hear it, “Fear not: it is I.”3 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti.]


The Transfiguration of Character

1. Much concerning our destiny yet remains unrevealed. The Gospel is a light shining on the dark shore of eternity, like the lighthouse that gleams on a dark and stormy coast, to reveal the haven to the ocean-tossed mariner. It shines afar over the swelling flood, but only penetrating a darkness it was never intended to expel. It reveals to us almost nothing of the land to which we go, but only the way to reach it. It does nothing to answer the thousand questions which we would ask about that world, but it tells us how we may see it with our own eyes. It tells the mariner there is a haven there, and how he may reach it, and no more. It does not tell us all about the past, about our own mysterious being, or where in the wide range of the Divine dominions will be the sinless paradise of the redeemed; but it would guide us to God’s holy hill and tabernacle, where in His light we may see light, and where what is now obscure may become as clear as noonday.

There is a sublime reticence in Scripture. The man who was nearer than all others to the Source of eternal life is content to say, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be”! I think this is a typical silence—typical of the whole Bible. Men often say that the evidence of the Bible is the things it tells us. Doubtless that is one evidence. But I have often thought there is another—the things it does not tell us. The speech of the Bible may be golden, but its silence is at least silver. Many a book professing to bring tidings from God would have mistaken imaginings for realities, would have published the dreams of the heart as the very descriptions of heaven. The Bible commits no such mistake. Its reticence is sublime, as sublime as that of the starry sky. Enoch speaks not in his translation moment. Elijah speaks not in his chariot of fire. Lazarus speaks not in his hour of resurrection. The child of Jairus speaks not on her bed of revival. The youth of Nain speaks not from his arrested bier. Moses alone does speak from beyond the grave; but it is not of the things beyond; it is of the things “to be accomplished at Jerusalem.”1 [Note: G. Matheson, Leaves for Quiet Hours, 286.]

I know not where that city lifts

Its jasper walls in air,

I know not where the glory beams,

So marvellously fair.

I cannot see the waving hands

Upon that farther shore;

I cannot hear the rapturous song

Of dear ones gone before:

But dimmed and blinded earthly eyes,

Washed clear by contrite tears,

Sometimes catch glimpses of the light

From the eternal years.

2. This we know—we shall be like Him. Jesus Christ was transfigured before His disciples. That was a glorious manifestation, and when the three privileged disciples who beheld His glory on the Mount were permitted to do so, when the period of enjoined silence had passed, they testified to that glory in glowing words. And here we are told by one of their number that Jesus Christ’s disciples are to be transfigured, not now and here, but in the future life, at the termination of the present dispensation, at His appearing or coming. We are told that in that day they shall be like Him, like Him whose face when He was transfigured was like the sun, and whose raiment was white and glistering, and who will come forth in His second appearing in His own glory and in the glory of His Father and of the holy angels. In that day His disciples shall be glorified together with Him. Not all men, but His disciples, they who have received Him, who believe on His Name, and to whom He gives power to become the sons of God.

Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, being killed in the battle of Lutzen, left only a daughter, Christina, six years of age. A general assembly, consisting of deputations from the nobles, the clergy, the burghers and the peasants of Sweden, was summoned to meet at Stockholm. Silence being proclaimed, the Chancellor rose. “We desire to know,” said he, “whether the people of Sweden will take the daughter of our dead King Gustavus Adolphus to be their queen.”

“Who is this daughter of Gustavus?” asked an old peasant. “We do not know her. Let her be shown to us.”

Then Christina was brought into the hall and placed before the old peasant. He took Christina up in his arms and gazed earnestly into her face. He had known the great Gustavus well, and his heart was touched when he saw the likeness which the little girl bore to that heroic monarch. “Yes,” cried he, with the tears gushing down his furrowed cheeks; “this is truly the daughter of our Gustavus! Here is her father’s brow! Here is his piercing eye! She is his very picture! This child shall be our queen!”1 [Note: Nathaniel Hawthorne, True Stories from History and Biography, 281.]

I recall some years ago reading a sermon on this text by Dr. Lyman Abbott. All I can remember of that sermon now is a single thought in connexion with this passage. “Of all Scripture promises,” said Dr. Abbott, “the one that stretches my faith most is this: to think that poor, sinful, fallen man can become like Christ—that we who are unholy, impure, selfish, can become, like Him, holy, pure, unselfish, is beyond human comprehension. The how of it I cannot fathom, the fact of it I accept as one of the blessed promises connected with Christ’s coming.”2 [Note: A. Lewis, Sermons Preached in England, 176.]

3. Now this likeness to Christ is graven upon the soul, not suddenly, but slowly through the years. This is not a photograph, taken in a moment by a flash of the sun. By the regeneration of the Holy Ghost the nature is renewed, and the man is started fairly upon his new and noble work; but the precision and detail of the likeness, like the finished picture of the artist, are the labour of thoughtful and toiling years. Through many failures, through hurricane blasts of passion, and frequent rain of tears, through baptisms fierce as of fire, and exhausting as of blood, through toil up new Calvaries, and the passing through strange agonies, which, in their measure and in far-off and reverent distance, may be called the soul’s Gethsemanes—through all these must the believer press into that “mind which was in Christ Jesus”; and even at the close of an existence during which he has never lost sight of the purpose which came to him at the time of his conversion, he may feel that he has exhibited but an imperfect copy of his glorious Pattern.

Of Dr. Thomas H. Skinner, Professor Henry B. Smith said: “His personal power was also enhanced, year by year, with the increase of his spiritual life; he became more and more a living epistle, a gospel of God’s grace, known and read of all men. Vexed and perplexing questions were merged in a higher life. Revealed facts took the place of disputed propositions. The living Christ took the place of the doctors of the schools and with advantage. Thus he lived and grew day by day, in his serene and hallowed old age, toward the measure of the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. He was called to be a saint and he was always fulfilling his calling, not counting himself to have attained, but ever pressing onward.”1 [Note: S. H. Virgin, Spiritual Sanity, 273.]


The Transforming Vision

1. The vision of Christ is to result in resemblance to Christ.—There are peculiar elements and conditions in this vision which account for its marvellous energy. The visible objects of a spiritual world must owe their existence to the spiritual things of which they are the expression. Light in heaven will be caused by the action of the spiritual enlightenment of God’s presence. The great white throne will be the effect of the manifestation to the inward sense of the commanding excellence of Divine righteousness. And so the vision of the glorious body of Christ will be the effect of the action upon the understanding and the spirit of His essential self-hood. Because He will exert His spiritual power upon us, and present Himself to the mind, therefore He will be visible in glorious form. If we may so express it, He will be outwardly seen, because He will be inwardly felt in the fulness of His glory.

Material forces, as we call them, are all spiritual in origin. The causes of things are spiritual. Hidden behind all the wonderful mechanism of the world, and giving it being and activity, is the power of spirit. If we once grasp this doctrine, that spirit—itself necessarily and always invisible—creates and regulates outward things and forces, we shall be able to understand how the Coming of Jesus Christ, which will be pre-eminently a putting forth of spiritual power, will also exercise an influence on the bodily condition of those who are the ready subjects of His influence. St. Paul refers our bodily glorification to the Advent, when, writing to the Philippians, he says, “We wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able to subject all things unto himself.” There is one working which is able to subject all things; and the term St. Paul uses for it, possibly with reference to its spirituality, means literally “in-working.”1 [Note: R. Vaughan.]

2. Clear vision will ensure close likeness.—We know that truth already in its early manifestations. We grow like that which we habitually contemplate, and especially so when we contemplate lovingly and enthusiastically. The affectionate child takes on the characteristics of the parent whom he loves. And the man who contemplates God, who sets Him always before his face, who looks upon Him as the supreme object of love, grows into the likeness of God; and such is the testimony of Jesus Himself, as He addresses the Father in that wonderful prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John: “This is life eternal, that they should know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.”

A pleasant, sunny landscape has the power of transcribing its own joyous image into the heart of him who intelligently surveys it. The shadow of a cloud, it has been said, does not pass over the face of a field without making some change in it, and in the feelings of the observer. However this may be, it is certain that we cannot live without influencing others, and others influencing us. Human society is a vast network of reciprocal influences. Everybody acts and is acted upon in turn. Every man helps to mould and fashion the character and destiny of every other man within the sphere of his attraction. The thoughts of a man, spread over the pages of a book, have power to work an intellectual assimilation in the mind of him who carefully studies the pages. So must it be spiritually, only in a much higher degree.2 [Note: J. Davies, The Kingdom without Observation, 96.]

Nathaniel Hawthorne has a story of a great stone face carved on the mountain side, which reproduced itself in the spectator. A young man who never wearied of gazing on that face had his life beautified by the vision, and one day as the people looked on his face, they said, “It is the same as on the mountain side.”

Jenny Lind told me, with all her own vivid, emphatic brilliancy of gesture and look, of a scene which had evidently left on her an indelible impression of wonder and glory. She had gone to look on the face of her friend, Mrs. Nassau Senior, after death. The son of her friend had shown her the stairs, and pointed out the door of the room where the body lay, and put the candle in her hand, and left her. She pushed open the door and entered alone; and there, before her, lay the face, fine and clear-cut, encompassed about with a mass of white flowers. On it was peace, and a smile, with the lips parted; but that was not all. I must tell the rest in her own words. “It was not her own look that was in her face. It was the look of another, the face of another, that had passed into hers. It was the shadow of Christ that had come upon her. She had seen Christ. And I put down my candle, and I said,’ Let me see this thing. Let me stop here always. Let me sit and look. Where are my children? Let them come and see. Here is a woman who has seen Christ.’” I can never forget the dramatic intensity of her manner as she told me all this, and how she at last had to drag herself away, as from a vision, and to stumble down the stairs again.1 [Note: H. Scott Holland, Personal Studies, 26.]

What we, when face to face we see

The Father of our souls, shall be,

John tells us, doth not yet appear;

Ah, did he tell what we are here!

A mind for thoughts to pass into,

A heart for loves to travel through,

Five senses to detect things near,

Is this the whole that we are here?

Rules baffle instincts—instincts rules,

Wise men are bad—and good are fools,

Facts evil—wishes vain appear,

We cannot go, why are we here?

O may we for assurance sake,

Some arbitrary judgment take,

And wilfully pronounce it clear,

For this or that ’tis we are here?

Or is it right, and will it do,

To pace the sad confusion through,

And say:—It doth not yet appear,

What we shall be, what we are here.

Ah yet, when all is thought and said,

The heart still overrules the head;

Still what we hope we must believe,

And what is given us receive;

Must still believe, for still we hope

That in a world of larger scope,

What here is faithfully begun

Will be completed, not undone.

My child, we still must think, when we

That ampler life together see,

Some true result will yet appear

Of what we are, together, here.1 [Note: Clough, Poems, 63.]

3. The clear vision is possible only to cleansed eyes.—The Jews had looked for Him through many centuries, and when He came they did not know Him. When Christ parts the veil once more, and with the fulness of His being, as St. Paul says, apart from sin, is manifested, shall we know Him? Will He find faith on earth, the faith to receive Him? He will not be like what we to-day imagine. He will be as unlike some of our imaginations as He was when first He came. If you are thinking of Him as He parted from His disciples, He was not even then what you have sometimes thought Him. He was still scarred, and His brow was still riven with Calvary; and this is the last truth of this great word of St. John. We shall never see Him till we are like Him, simply because we cannot. You do not know your friend, you do not know your enemy, except in so far as you are like him. From your life there must go, not only impurity, but all leanings towards it; and in its place there must be that burning repugnance that was in Him when He declared “he hath nothing in me,” when the advent of the Evil One was to Him unspeakable and unutterable pain because He was pure. And if we would learn the way of purity, it is the old way of sorrow and toil—the way He went. “I consecrate myself for their sakes, that they may be consecrated.”

How can a man, without clear vision in his heart first of all, have any clear vision in the head? It is impossible!2 [Note: Carlyle, Past and Present, 83.]

The Civil War did not originate in a conspiracy, but in a perverted state of mind, as other great conflicts have originated in a perverted state of mind. No one attributes the operations of the “Holy Office,” the Inquisition, to a conspiracy; or the seemingly endless wars of religious persecution, to a conspiracy; or the cruelties of the Spaniards in the New World, to a conspiracy. Conspiracy is too insignificant, too weak a word to cover the terrible meaning of such events. We must get nearer human nature than a conspiracy can bring us: we must get close to the undeveloped reason and the undeveloped conscience, and the incapacity to interpret the simple laws in the economy of nature. The blind are not only they who will not, but they who cannot see. And in the history of civilization it is they who cannot see that will not, rather than they who will not see because they cannot.1 [Note: The History of North America, xv. 226.]

All shall see of Him just what they can see—what they are fit to find in that perfect, all-embracing, all-expressing face. Two men are charged with a crime, of which one is innocent, and knows that his innocence will be made plain, while the other is guilty, and has no hope of hiding his guilt. Think you they trace exactly the same expression on the face of their judge? The fears of one fix his eyes upon the firmness, the resolution, the searching sagacity of nostril and mouth and eye; and he trembles. The confidence of the other points him to the just, honourable, patient mien which gives him promise of a complete investigation; and he exults. Both watch the same face at the same moment, but what they find there is not the same.2 [Note: G. A. Chadwick, Pilate’s Gift, 187.]

Life’s journey almost past,

Tottering I stand at last

Close to the door;

Weary the way hath been,

And often sad through sin,

Now all is o’er.

The friends I walk’d beside

At noon and evening tide

Went long ago,

And evening’s travel, grown

Ever more chill and lone,

Seem’d to pass slow.

Yet was it night, not day,

Thus slowly waned away—

Now dawn is nigh;

The daystar’s warning bright

Tells me the shades of night

All Boon will fly.

Beyond that welcome door

I know—and oh, for more

Why should I care?

I shall my Saviour see

As now He seeth me;

Jesus is there!

What We Are and What We Shall Be


Ainger (A.), Sermons in the Temple Church, 13.

Ball (C. J.), Testimonies to Christ, 118.

Binney (T.), Sermons in King’s Weigh-House Chapel, 2nd Ser., 316.

Brooks (P.), The Law of Growth, 346.

Burrell (D. J.), The Golden Passional, 243.

Campbell (R. J.), The Keys of the Kingdom, 21.

Chadwick (G. A.), Pilate’s Gift, 183.

Davies (J.), The Kingdom without Observation, 84.

Drummond (R. J.), Faith’s Certainties, 149.

Eyton (R.), The True Life, 207.

Fraser (J.), University Sermons, 167.

Harris (S. S.), The Dignity of Man, 222.

Haslam (W.), The Threefold Gift of God, i. 66.

Holland (W. L.), The Beauty of Holiness, 68.

Ker (J.), Sermons, i. 365.

Lewis (A.), Sermons Preached in England, 162.

Lewis (F. W.), The Work of Christ, 134.

Mackenzie (R.), The Loom of Providence, 146.

Maclaren (A.), A Year’s Ministry, ii. 255.

Matheson (G.), Leaves for Quiet Hours, 286.

Murray (A.), Like Christ, 241.

Nicoll (W. R.), Ten-Minute Sermons, 313.

Punshon (W. M.), Sermons, i. 66.

Pusey (E. B.), Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, 479.

Robertson (F. W.), The Human Race, 43.

Selby (T. G.), The Lesson of a Dilemma, 243.

Thew (J.), Broken Ideals, 186, 187.

Vincent (M. R.), The Covenant of Peace, 174.

Virgin (S. H.), Spiritual Sanity, 272.

Webster (F. S.), The Beauties of the Saviour, 143.

Wright (D.), The Power of an Endless Life, 217.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
now are we the
1; 5:1; Isaiah 56:5; Romans 8:14,15,18; Galatians 3:26; 4:6
Psalms 31:19; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 13:12; 2 Corinthians 4:17
Malachi 3:2; Colossians 3:4; Hebrews 9:28
Psalms 17:15; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:21; 2 Peter 1:4
Job 19:26; Psalms 16:11; Matthew 5:8; John 17:24; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:6-8

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

The Bible Study New Testament

We are now God's children. "The world may hate us and persecute us, but even now we are already God's children!" But it is not yet clear. "We have not been told the details of our future glory. We could not now understand it, since it must be experienced to be understood!" But we know. "We know that when Christ comes to judge the world (1 John 2:28), we shall become like him (Philippians 3:20-21), because we shall see him as he really Isaiah, and shall live with him forever!!!" (1) To see God is to be like Him! Matthew 5:8 and note. (2) To see God transfigures, even in this life (2 Corinthians 3:18). [Compare note on 1 John 2:29.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

In beginning this with the word beloved, the apostle does so in the same sentiment that caused him to use the term little children; it is a term of endearment. Now signifies he is speaking of the condition in this life before he shall appear. Being a son of God is a spiritual relationship which does not make any change in our personal appearance. That is because we must retain our fleshly body while we live in this world. What we shall be pertains to what can be seen as the connection in the verse shows, and John is referring to what our appearance will be after the coming of Christ. He says what that will be doth-not yet appear. Yet he does know (by inspiration) that when Jesus comes we shall be like him. But the apostle did know even as he was writing, what the appearance of Jesus was when he was on the earth, for he appeared as a man with a fleshly body. Hence He will be changed and John was not instructed as to what the new form would be in appearance. Another thing of which he was-certain was that when he shall appear we shall be like him. If that is the case then we shall be alike since things equal to the same thing are equal to each other." Then if the saved ones are all alike there will be no distinction between them. This is fatal to the carnal notion that we will recognize our "loved ones" (family relations) in heaven. There will be no male nor female nor other personal distinctions and hence no recognition of one person as to whether he is my father or your brother or the husband of this or that woman: all bodily or personal distinctions are for this life only.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Present and Future

1 John 3:2

Just for one moment return to our last point, which was the agnosticism or know-not-ism which refers to Christians, as well as to Christ and Christianity. That point we found in the first verse: "Therefore the world knoweth us not." That is the agnosticism that is often overlooked. People who want to be very mentally superb and shining think themselves agnostic in relation to infinity, divinity, everlastingness, supernaturalness, and the like, involving the whole genus and every species of polysyllable. The Apostle tells us that there is another agnosticism or know-not-ism that goes along with that—viz, the ism that does not know the good man. That is to say—the good man is a puzzle, a problem, a mystery, an impenetrable cloud of character; nobody can account for his motives, or follow the range of his purposes, or understand that solemn and tremendous Cross that is at the heart of all his thought and action. Understand that men who do not know God, do not know the sons or children or disciples of God. The motive of a good man must be an absolutely inscrutable mystery to everybody who bounds himself by space and ticks off his little duration by time. The good man is to such an observer a fool. He is losing his life that he may save it; he is throwing away seed with both hands in the hope that it will multiply itself and come back a golden harvest: oh, fool is he! Why trouble yourselves about infinity when you cannot understand the good Prayer of Manasseh , when you cannot understand your own saintly mother? Why all this evolution into empty intellectual grandeur about the immeasurable and inexhaustible, when you do not understand your own companion in life? Away with your solemn fudge, and remember that you do not understand the very man or the woman to whom you are bound for life. This is humiliating, because some of us would love to pose as those who have not capacity enough to entertain the Infinite. That would be delightful to us, to lay our head back on some velvet pillow and contemplate the astounding fact that in our measurable breast there is no room for the immeasurable God. That would be something to talk about. But to be told that we do not know a good soul, in its motive, inspiration, purpose; that we cannot follow all its dream and poetry and idealism—it seems as if one ought to be able to understand another, but he is not. He who does not know God has no key with which to open anything; he is in the midst of ten thousand cabinets each of which contains gold and rubies and all manner of gems, but he has no key. To understand God through love is to understand everything else; then like God we take up the hills as a very little thing and handle constellations as if they were mere toys. He who lives in God turns the water into wine, raises the dead, makes flowers grow out of flints, in the wilderness sets up fountains of water. It is cruel on the part of any teacher or preacher to take away from a man the only idol which that man thinks it respectable to worship: such a fine golden idol, such a beautiful, noble-looking thing: what a felon is the true preacher! what a robber is he who is zealous for the living God! Even this old snow-haired patriarch will presently say, "Little children, keep yourself from idols." But what a port a man has as he walks along the thoroughfare to Parliament, to commerce, to journalism, and he says, I cannot understand or comprehend the supernatural. It seems a great pity to tear his cloak off when it is so bedizened with little daubs of gilt which those who do not know the higher metals mistake for gold. He who thus poses and imposes upon himself loses more by his non-religious knowledge than he supposes: he does not understand any good deed, any true heroism; he can only follow heroism to the higher grades of selfishness; when it lives thus and goes out to seek and enjoy inspiration and motive beyond the common ken, the agnostic knows no more about that motive than he knows about the supernatural, simply because that motive is supernatural, extra-natural, natural plus, nature in her best attire.

The Apostle is still talking about love, divine sonship, a possible future metempsychosis such as never entered into the dreams of theology. Hear him—"Beloved, now are we the sons of God." He who uses terms of endearment now is looked upon as sentimental. Probably there is only one preacher in the world that addresses his congregation as "Beloved," and he is sometimes thought to be fanatical: certainly he is apostolic; but perhaps to be apostolical is to be fanatical in the estimation of those who never get beyond the commonest prose in their interpretation of life and character and development.

"Now" is a term on which I should fix special and expectant attention. It is something to have a "now" in our religious experience. That is the sad defect of the experience of many; that is to say, want of immediateness of conviction, presentness of real feeling. We may be too much in process or transition or action to have a definite and nameable present identity; we may be so fond of development as to have no present address. That would not be development, that would be lunacy. What are we now? What are we in thought, in feeling, in purpose, in recollection? How does our character total itself at this immediate moment? Reflections of this kind apply to thought as well as to conduct. Orthodoxy is a growth. There is nothing abiding in orthodoxy. It never reaches a point except for the purpose of leaving it. Yet right thinking has its points, and the points never contradict each other; they are in succession, in regulated and advancing series, the one taking up the other and abrogating it by consummation. Thus the Bible itself is one, and Genesis and John are the same:—"If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me," said Christ, "for he wrote of me," and hardly knew it, sometimes did not know it at all. Men do not always know what they are writing or what they are doing. Every time a man passes his fellow-man he leaves behind an impression for which there are no words, and of which he is utterly unconscious at the moment; and so are the men through whose society he thus passes; yet a great work may be done, an abiding influence may be started. Sometimes we think that Moses would be startled, if he could hear us preaching evangelical sermons from the Pentateuch. That is what Jesus Christ himself did. Sometimes the reader has to tell the writer what he meant. That is a mystery, but it is a fact. In the matter of thought, we are at a certain point now, and that point is the present orthodoxy: tomorrow we shall be a point farther on, then that will be the orthodoxy, and the man who keeps to the first point becomes heterodox. Whatever opposes progress is heterodox and unworthy, is selfish and worldly. We should take care that we do move, and that our conduct moves along with our thinking. To have high thoughts, and low lives, what a tenantry is that with which to crowd and decorate the soul! It is everything to know what we are at any given moment. The difficulty is that some people will not advance as quickly as others. They have turned religion into a kind of sighing for things which other men have forgotten. A child of two struggling with the alphabet, writing a"s and b"s of elephantine size, is a poem to look at, a right beautiful and wholesome thing all over; but for a man of twenty to be doing that is ridiculous, unless he is writing for babies, which in itself is a beautiful thing.

What is our "now," our immediate self-hood, our present active consciousness? John gave an answer, he said, "Now are we the sons of God." That word "are" ought to be pronounced with unction. Every part of the verb To be is juicy. Some other verbs may be dismembered in conjugation and lose next to nothing; in fact, we could do without the verb in some cases: but this verb To be is the spinal verb in all tongues. Whatever language you learn, first master the verb To be. All other verbs are little twigs of that parent stem. There could be no language but for this verb. Now are we,—not, we think, we imagine, we suppose, but we are inverbed, inlived, we are part and parcel of this very substance and quality. What a new view this gives us of religion! We do not now talk about the rise and progress of religion in the soul, we talk about the rise and progress of the soul in religion. If our religion is put upon us as a mere robe it may be laid off suddenly or forgotten sometimes, or it may attract the dust and mud of the world through which we pass; but if our religion, our Christianity, is part of ourselves, part of our very soul, then we have an immediate present of which we are not ashamed any more than we are ashamed of the identity of the best aspects of our character.

"The sons of God." We ought! to be that. There is a tone of kinship in that definition. We do not know what it means, but it means what is right, and we feel it to be so. In the Revised Version we have translated "the sons of God," in the first verse, into "the children of God,"—a sort of larger or more inclusive term: but "sons of God" will stand as carrying with it all possible endearment, all affectionateness of suggestion, all nearness of kin. Literally, Now are we the sons out of God, struck out of him like sparks; part of his very fire: see how the spark flies when the stone and the metal strike one another sharply! So we seem by a kind of friction to be struck out of God, sons out of God, carrying with us his quality, his Deity; we are partakers of the Divine nature.

What wonder then that the world does not know the sons of God? You must know the father before you can know the children. If you would know the father well, you must study him oftentimes through the children: the action is an interaction, now started from this point, now from that, but always going back upon itself in definite and profitable lines. The apostles were never content with the immediate present; they always said, There is more to be seen, there is more to be felt, there is more to be heard; we have not begun yet. It is thus we feel about the Bible. When we have concluded it, it is only that we may begin it again with new energy and new delight. The old student says, O spare me, Father of Light, a little longer! I would read again the roll prophetic, again I would read the psalter that resounds with the music of heaven: spare me that I may once more read the fourfold story of Bethlehem, and Calvary,—the endless story.

Hence we find the Apostle saying here, "And it doth not yet appear what we shall be." He is still in the verb To be; he passes from the indicative to the future, but he is still within the same range; it is a question of being, identification, absorption. "What we shall be." But are we not measurable? No, we are not measurable. Can we not guess at the possibilities of development? Never. You never could guess the harvest from the seedtime if you had never seen the harvest. No man can imagine a harvest. Granted that he has seen one, then he can multiply it, he can fancy it still more abundant and still more golden, but given only the seedtime and a harvest never seen, no man could imagine a wheatfield, matured and goldened for the sickle: it is the mystery of growth, it is the apotheosis, the very deification of the agricultural idea.

"But we know." John never leaves this point of knowledge. He always holds something in his hand; he has not got the whole chain, but he has got hold of one link, and that he holds as if he meant never to forego the treasure. What do we know? The answer is—"when he shall appear, we shall be like him."—Why?—"for we shall see him as he is." We see nothing at present. We have instruments by which we come into contact with space and magnitude, those instruments we call our eyes, but our eyes themselves are often glad to call in little helps, that through pieces of glass they may see the reality which they themselves unaided could never discover. So the microscope helps the eye; the telescope brings the worlds within the range of the vision. Who can see? Sight is not a question of the eyes exclusively. Sometimes we exclaim, "I see!" What is the meaning of the exclamation? is it an optical act? Nothing of the kind; it is a larger, an intellectual, Acts ,—I see, I perceive, I observe, I follow you completely. That is the larger sight. "We shall see him as he is": we have only seen him hitherto in appearances of a superficial kind, in facets, little aspects, transitory movements, but we shall one day see him, comprehend him, perceive him, grasp him as he Isaiah , touching his quality, his central virtue, the element that makes him God, and the Son of God and the Spirit of God. The old philosophical theory was that a man is turned into what he looks upon lovingly; that is to say, there were philosophers who would contend strenuously that if we looked at beauty we should become beautiful, if we looked at hideousness we should become debased by the sight. There is an element of truth in that theory; that element of truth finds its culmination, its glorification in this very doctrine, of seeing God, whether the Father, the Song of Solomon , or the Holy Ghost: and seeing him is to be transformed by the sight into the same image. But there must be responsiveness, sympathy; there must be a real love of the object that is gazed upon, or no action of that kind will ever be set up: else then those who live in mountain scenery would be men of the finest intellect, absolutely independent of all narrowness of thought; every conception would be enlarged, every outlook would be ennobled, every speech would be punctuated as by the mountain within which the birth took place. It is not so: or the florist would be the most beautiful man on earth. But you may so handle a flower as to do it merely for the sake of getting wages; then the flowers work no wizardry upon your face, they do not help your wrinkles into furrows for the reception of the seed of heaven. You must love your art, and you will be affected by it: love your flowers, and you will become beautiful, if not in form yet in spirit and aspiration, in desire after the celestial. Love your Bible, and you will become beautiful; not in form or in feature, but in spirit, in thought, in chastened feeling, in inspired and ennobled ambition. One day, we are promised, that we, being sons of God now, shall see God, and seeing him shall become like him; then shall come to pass the saying that is written, "God created man in his own image and likeness." Blessed Gospel! Without this music our lives would sink into monotony!


Father in heaven, how wonderful is thy word unto the children of men! how much there is in it that we can never fully see! Holy Spirit, open our understanding that we may understand the Scriptures; open thou our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Teach us that we have not yet begun to read thy Book: Lord, increase our light; Lord, grant unto us that sensitiveness of spirit which omits nothing, but feels all the life and knows all the music of God. To this end do thou abide with us, Holy Paraclete; dwell with us, take up thine abode with us; call us thine. Help us to read thy Book so that we may become established in our faith, lest the flippancy of ignorance should deprive us of part of our inheritance in Christ. Thou knowest those who go about because they cannot rest, who are continually moving hither and thither because they have no soul-home in which to worship and in which to rest; they would destroy or disturb our faith, or breathe upon its pureness some breath from lower places. May we know that thy Word is full, deep, complete, eternal; there may we rest in sweet, undisturbed repose. To this end do thou send unto us thy Holy Spirit, through godly ministers, teachers, and friends, who shall be able to read the Bible to us; yea, when we take it into our own hands may our minds be under divine illumination, so that we may see afar, and hear music which comes to us from the very temple of heaven. How rich is thy Word! how noble in all grandeur! how it stretches forth itself to every one, near and far, of every clime and colour and name, that it may bring every man home to God, to acquire his right status and claim the inheritance bought with blood. Save us from all ignorance, superstition, folly; save us from all superficial views of things, as if we could judge anything by the outside and by one little moment of its history; show us that our longest life is but the twinkling of an eye; prove to us that we were of yesterday and can know nothing, and that not until we have been with thee countless ages do we even begin to be with God. Thus do thou chasten us, and ennoble us by modesty, and enrich us with the spirit of reverence, yet the spirit of expectation; and fill our souls with good things from heaven. We bless thee for what little we have seen; if we have multiplied it sometimes foolishly, thou knowest that we are dust, children of the earth on the one side, whilst children of heaven and eternity on the other; pity us and smite us not in thy great power. Sometimes we think we have knowledge, whereas we have none; help us to feel that we are only little scholars in God"s great and everlasting school, where there is no vacation, where there is no time for frivolity, where all the ages constitute the first point of the span thou hast given us wholly to compass. Whilst we are here, help us to accept our little lot meekly and lovingly, and to work all the day right industriously, not considering what we have to do but how we have to do it; and may we do everything for the Master, whom we call Christ, because he lived for us, and died for us, and lives again evermore for us, that from the fountains of eternity he may replenish the streams of our existence. Thus do thou give every man a new view of life and a new sense of responsibility. We have played the fool before God, thinking we knew when we did not know, and undertaking things we had no right to undertake, because of the littleness of our power, and our inability to do what was to be done. May we be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, always wondering whether we are not too ignorant even to pray. Lord, teach us how to pray,—how to put our own wants into words. We do not know our own wants when we hear them put into speech, the speech is so far below them, so wanting in the agony of their desire. The Lord help every man to do his work simply, kindly, meekly, and not in the spirit of an hireling; and teach every man that it is better to be wronged than to wrong, better to be treated unjustly than to treat any child with injustice. Thus may we all be good servants of Christ, willing, faithful, self-sacrificing, and deriving all our power from him who is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Thou wilt judge us at the Cross, thy mercy endureth for ever; thou knowest our frame, thou knowest all the weariness of our life, thou knowest our unspoken and secret troubles and sorrows, and thou wilt heal us with great healing, and wilt find for us balm in Gilead. Let our homes be beautiful places, though the poorest in the world; may they be beautiful with patience and heroism and self-sacrifice and all the noblest virtues and graces; may the walls be all hung round with instances of fine fidelity. The Lord hear us, make his word a new word to us. Amen.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible

1 John 3:2

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does 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

What Christ is to the Church, what the Church is to Christ, can never be really known until time gives place to eternity, faith to sight, and hope to enjoyment. Nor even then, however beyond all present conception the powers and faculties of the glorified souls and bodies of the saints may be expanded, however conformed to the glorious image of Christ, or however ravished with the discoveries of his glory and the sight of him as he is in one unclouded day—no, not even then, will the utmost stretch of creature love, or highest refinement of creature intellect, wholly embrace or fully comprehend that love of Christ, which, as in time so in eternity, "passes knowledge," as being in itself essentially incomprehensible, because infinite and divine.

Who can calculate the amount of light and heat that dwell in, and are given forth by the sun that shines so gloriously in the noonday sky? We see, we feel, we enjoy its bright beams; but who can number the millions of millions of rays that it casts forth upon all the surface of the earth, diffusing light, heat, and fertility to every part? If the creature be so great, glorious and incomprehensible, how much more great, glorious and incomprehensible must be its divine Creator!

The Scripture testimony of the saints in glory is that "when Christ shall appear, they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is;" that they shall then see the Lord "face to face, and know even as also they are known;" that their "vile body shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body;" that they shall be "conformed to his image," and "be satisfied when they awake with his likeness;" that they shall be "before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple;" that "their sun shall no more go down, for the Lord shall be their everlasting light;" that they shall have "an exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" and shall "shine as the brightness of the skies, and as the stars forever and ever."

But, with all this unspeakable bliss and glory, there must be in infinite Deity unfathomable depths which no creature, however highly exalted, can ever sound; heights which no finite, dependent being can ever scan. God became Prayer of Manasseh , but man never can become God. He fully knows us, but we never can fully know him, for even in eternity, as in time, it may be said to the creature, "Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what can you do? deeper than hell, what can you know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." But if, as we believe, eternity itself can never fully or entirely reveal the heights and depths of the love of a Triune God, how little can be known of it in a time state! and yet that little is the only balm for all sorrow, the only foundation of solid rest and peace.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on 1 John 3:2". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible.

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