The Purifying Hope
God has given to us, not only something to live with, even eternal life, thereby constituting us His children; but also something to live for: the manifestation of His Son in glory; when we shall partake of that glory and be transformed into His likeness. This hope is presented to us as an incentive to holiness (1. John 2:28-3:3).
What Manner of Love
The Holy Spirit, as if to challenge comparison, points to God’s love. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: …” (and several versions add, “and such, we are”). As well might we seek an answer to the question asked in Isaiah 40.25: “To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” His love is as incomparable as Himself.
Yet the Lord Jesus Christ takes up the challenge. Can God’s love to us be adequately described? With unshod feet we would draw near while He holds communion with His Father and overhear those sacred words: “…that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me… and I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou halt loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:23, 26). His love, like His understanding, is infinite.
Sons of God
There was a time when our condition could be described as “ … dead in trespasses and sins… by nature the children of wrath…” We were “…foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another…” (Ephesians 2:1-3., Titus 3:3). But God loved us. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
When, awakened by the Holy Spirit to the realization of our need, we received Him, and became His own. Then it was that we found that we had been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. But further, our faith in Him was followed by a very practical experience: even the actual indwelling in our bodies of the Holy Spirit of God. “In Him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14. RSV.). “…When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (Romans 8:15-16. RSV.). “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6-7).
“…therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” In the five verses before us His Name is not mentioned: pronouns being used thirteen times. Yet there can be no doubt as to His identity. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (John 1:10); and unto us, in this the day of His rejection, “…it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).
It Doth Not Yet Appear
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet… appear… what… we… shall be:…” There are glories which concern the children of God which are yet to be revealed. Although “we know in part”, we know that the God of all grace has called us unto His eternal glory, for in the purpose of God we are already glorified together with His Son on the throne. By faith we now rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but the fulfilment of our hope of seeing Him and being made like Him might well be just the beginning of the glories which God has planned for His own. With our present limited capacities we are not able to understand all that is involved in the words of the Spirit as He describes the ultimate purpose of God, even though He has “… made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth…” In that day “… the creature (creation) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” These things no doubt will be included in the “… salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” as the fulness of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus is unfolded to the greater glory of God” (Ephesians 1:9-10., Romans 8:21., 1 Peter 1:5).
We Shall Be Like Him
“…but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him;…” Before the foundation of the world, God chose His people in Christ that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love, predestinating them unto son-ship. At that time He purposed that every one of His children should be conformed to the image of the Son of His love. Ultimately, God will be surrounded by a multitude which no man can number who will love Him perfectly and who will display the beauty and glory of His Son throughout eternity (Ephesians 1:4., Romans 8:29).
That this purpose might be accomplished, the Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again. “For it became Him … in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10). And now, as He awaits His manifestation, God is taking out of the nations the people whom He foreknew (John 6:43-45). As each individual believes the gospel, he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God’s seal of ownership: Who will never leave him until the redemption of the whole man is complete: spirit, soul and body.
The redemption of the body will be accomplished when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Paul, writing to the Philippians (3:20-21. RSV.), reminds them that “…our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself”; and to the Corinthians he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:51-53), “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…”
We shall be like Him in all the perfection of His character. His work of grace in us will be complete, and then shall the Scripture be fulfilled: “…His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His Name shall be in their foreheads” (Philippians 1:6., Revelation 22:3-4).
We Shall See Him
“… for we shall see Him as He is.”
The day of Christ; His appearing; His manifestation; His revelation; His coming: all these words are used in Scripture to describe that great time when our Lord shall be seen “as He is.”
The Lord Jesus prayed: “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). The Father “…raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet” (Ephesians 1:20-22). His desire shall be fulfilled. It is to that great sight that we look forward: we shall be “eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
As the twelve companied with our Lord during the three years of His ministry: seeing His works, hearing His words, and witnessing His sufferings, His death, resurrection and ascension; their testimony was, “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). That glory was the inherent purity of the Holy One of God: He Who is “Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders” (Exodus 15:11).
Yet that glorious holiness which drew forth the love and worship of His disciples only served to infuriate the ungodly and manifest their hatred. In the day of His manifestation the excellency of His glory shall be displayed to all creation. To His own this will be the greatest glory; but to those who do not know Him it will bring the utmost consternation: for “…every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Revelation 1:7).
Peter encouraged those who were passing through a time of testing by pointing to His appearing: “… now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, … might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:6-8). It is a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit, that since our Lord ascended on high, myriads of newborn souls have confessed with joy that they love Him and that they are among the number of them “…that love His appearing.” When we see His face we shall “…be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and…know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19). Under the sun, “…the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8). But when we see Him our eyes shall remain on Him; for throughout eternity we shall never see a more glorious sight. We shall see the King in His beauty.
Let Us Cleanse Ourselves
This then is the hope which our Lord has set before us as an incentive to holiness: a hope which grows brighter day by day: for the path of the just is as the light of the dawn, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”
God exhorted Israel, seven times in the book of Leviticus alone, to be holy; and in each case the exhortation was coupled with the perfectly adequate reason: “for I am holy.” Peter the apostle, in the light of the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Christ Jesus, gives us the same exhortation, and the same reason (1 Peter 1:13-16).
“Follow… holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” ( Hebrews 12:14). We were predestinated to holiness; we have been called unto holiness; we are exhorted to be holy; we have been created in righteousness and true holiness; we are already accounted holy in Christ; and when He comes we shall be like Him in all the beauty of His holiness.
This is an intensely practical truth. In the measure with which we believe and enjoy the prospect of seeing our Lord in His glory and being like Him, we shall practise holiness. We rejoice in the love of God which made us His children. Such a privilege lays upon us the responsibility to demonstrate our divine parentage by behaviour which is worthy of our Father. Those who bear His Name must bear His character. Since it is true, as the psalmist sang: “Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance” (Psalm 90:8). What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness! For we too shall be manifested. What we are shall be revealed, and some shall be ashamed in that day. John wrote “And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ…our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). Exceeding great and precious promises are ours, that by these we might be partakers of the nature of God; and the means are available to us to purify ourselves: which we are exhorted to do in 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
The filthiness of sin: both the gross corruption of the flesh and the abomination of pride, envy, self-righteousness, and other evils of the spirit, are ever within us; but children of God, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, need not be under the power of these things; for by means of the word of God and the prayer of confession, we may, if we will, prove daily the reality of the Scripture: “…sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6.14).
“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-7, 9).
Holiness is well-pleasing to God. “That we might be partakers of His holiness” is the open secret behind much of the discipline through which He leads His children. A holy life is above all things most desirable and profitable even for itself; and especially in view of our “…blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 12:10, Titus 2:13).
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).