WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XV) 08/02/21

3:2 Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when He comes, we will be like Him, as a result of seeing Him as He is.

Pentecost goes on to say there is the danger that the redeemed of the Lord will become so preoccupied with the anticipation of the coming glory that the supreme exaltation of the Godhead is lost. Our presence in the eternal state does not depend on our position in life nor recognition of great deeds, but God’s grace. First, the Apostle John writes, we will see Him. Then second, we will concentrate on the One who loves us and made us free from our sins with His blood sacrifice.[1] Then thirdly, we will attribute all praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.[2] Together we will sing, “Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength belong to our God forever and ever. . .[3] for worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”[4] [5]

David H. Stern (1935) has a compilation of verses concerning what the Apostle John says here in verse two about us now and in the future. (1)We are God’s children now.[6] (2) Although it’s not been made clear what we will become, there are clues.[7] (3) We do know[8] that when He appears to collect His people, [9] we will be like Him. (4) We will see Him as He really is.[10] On this, Hasidic[11] Jewish Rabbi Yechiel Lichtenstein (1831-1912) comments: “For they will see eye to eye when the Lord will come again to Zion.”[12] On this basis, Yochanan (John) proved here that we would be like Him when He appears.

The proof that we will see Him, says Stern, is that since in the flesh it is impossible to see God – “Mankind will not see Me and live[13] – so it must be that “we will be like Him,” means that we will be comparable to Him. And this is so, for we will have a spiritual body like His – as the Apostle Paul says, “He will change the bodies we have in this humble state and make them like His glorious body.”[14] So likewise, the sages cited in Solomon ibn Gabirol’s book, Mivchar-HaPninim (“The Choice Pearls”), [15] says Yechiel Zvi Lichtenstein, “If I knew, I would be,” that is, “If I knew God, I would already be like Him.”[16]

Muncia Walls (1937) mentions that the Apostle John speaks of the future as though it was already here. The seed of eternal life is currently within every child of God. That why John says that we are now children of God. There is no need to wait for some process to take place later on when He returns to rapture us from the world of sin. The change that already took place is our regeneration from sinner to saint when He cleansed us from sin and made us His child. God then filled us with His Spirit to assist us in making more changes so that we become more like His Son. And just as Jesus appeared in glorified form on the Mount of Transfiguration, so we will be manifested in a glorified form when we meet Him in the air.[17]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) says that the Apostle John again appeals to his readers by calling them “beloved.”[18] He also repeats the adverb “now,” not in some future state but already, they are “children of God.” The present possession of believers requires constant reaffirmation because of what daily life presents them. And, so, John underscores that a greater glory awaits: “It is yet to be revealed what we will be.” Here John echoes the futuristic note already sounded in 2:28 and continued in 3:3 with the mention of hope.[19]

Colin G Kruse (1950) addressing his readers once more as “Dear friends,” the Apostle John goes on to repeatedly emphasize what he affirmed in the previous verse: now we are the children of God. The new element in the repetition highlights the fact that we are “now” God’s children. It stands in contrast to what develops later. So, John adds that our transformation will look like when we emerge has never been observed before. While what cannot be fully comprehended now, one thing we take for granted is: we know that when He appears, we will be like Him.

The nature of our likeness to the Anointed One, says Kruse, will resemble ethical purity, as the next verse makes clear. John then explains the reason for this significant change: we’ll witness Him as He is. Elsewhere in First John, the verb “to see” is used in reference to the eyewitnesses’ encounter with Jesus the Anointed One[20] and that those who keep sinning have never “seen” Jesus the Anointed One who came to take away sin.[21] In the first case, looking at something involves the physical “eyes.” In the second instance, it signifies a failure to detect with the “eyes” of faith. However, the future seeing here is of a different order: that is, not recognizing Him as He was in the days of His earthly ministry, nor examining Him with the eyes of faith, but putting our eyes on Him in person in heavenly glory; and the sight of Him, John says, will be enough to make us pure like Him.[22] [23]

Ben Witherington III (1951) adds to what he said above in verse two by saying that the Apostle John goes on to explain to the audience that they are works in progress. They are already God’s children, but it does not yet appear what they will be. What he is prepared to say about their final future is, “We will be like Him when we see Him.” True likeness will be obtained, but not identical with God or the Anointed One. It implies that complete perfection is impossible for the Apostle John’s readers before the Anointed One’s return. Only when he returns will the full and final transformation happen, eternally leaving His imprint on believers.[24]

Gary M. Burge (1952) notices that the Apostle John repeats again and again, that now we are God’s children. It is a fact that God’s Love controls. Here in verse two, John reflects on how this fact will have consequences in the future. If now we have a glimpse of what it means to have the presence of the Father within us when the Anointed One comes, there will be yet more overwhelming experiences for us. He will appear, we will appear just like him, and then we will see him exactly as He is. On that day, there will be an immediate and unmistakable unity between the Father and us. It is reminiscent of Paul’s thought, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”[25] Inherent in this idea is Paul’s notion that we will share in the glory of the Anointed One.[26] [27]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) notes that the Apostle John reinforced his statement in verse one calling the believers beloved (a term of endearment, like “dear children,”) and saying again that they were now . . . God’s children. Not sometime in the future, not upon the Anointed One’s return, but now. Yet, God’s people have a pending transformation; John further explained that no one knows what we will be. Something inconceivably wonderful is waiting for God’s children, even more, glorious than what they now possess.

Christians have been born into God’s family, says Barton, and they presently enjoy God’s kindness and blessings through the Anointed One. But ultimately, they will share in His glory. Believers have a vision of it now, but it will be a reality in their resurrected bodies. Believers don’t know yet the undisclosed specifics, but they know that at His revelation, [they] will be like Him. It hints at what this forthcoming glory will be. However, the world is entirely ignorant of it: the Anointed One will reveal Himself to His people and in His people in all His glory, as the very likeness of God, [28] and His people will be like Him! In the same way, believers will be revealed to the world as God’s children, sharing in the Anointed One’s glory and beauty.[29]

Daniel L. Aiken (1957) observes that there tension in our Christian experience that theologians often refer to as the “already/not yet” factor in Christian salvation. We are already God’s children today. However, we do not yet realize all the benefits that salvation promises for  children of God We are still under construction, a divine work of art that is not yet complete. We cannot even imagine the glory in store for us. The Apostle Paul puts it like this: “What eye did not see, and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind—God prepared this for those who love Him.”[30] The Apostle Paul adds, “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.”[31] [32]


[1] Revelation 1:5-6

[2] Ibid. 5:13

[3] Ibid. 7:12

[4] Ibid. 5:12

[5] Pentecost, Dwight J. Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, Kindle Locations 10454-10461

[6] Cf. Romans 8:15

[7] Cf. Ibid. 8:29-30

[8] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:34-54

[9] Cf. 1 John 2:28; John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

[10] Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12

[11] A Hasidic Jew was also known as an “Orthodox Jew.” You can spot them easily because of their hats and long side curls.

[12] Isaiah 5:28

[13] Exodus 33:20

[14] Philippians 3:21 – Complete Jewish Bible

[15] Lichtenstein Yechiel Zvi: Toledot Yeshua HaMashiach, Institutum Judalcum, Leipzig, 1883

[16] Stern, David H, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition.

[17] Walls, Muncia. Epistles of John & Jude, op. cit., p. 49

[18] Cf. 1 John 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11; 3 John 1:2, 11; Jude 1:3

[19] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 177

[20] 1 John 1:1-3

[21] Ibid. 3:6

[22] Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[23] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[24] Ben Witherington III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: (Kindle Locations 6700-6703)

[25] 1 Corinthians 2:9

[26] Romans 8:17-19; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:4

[27] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., pp. 146-147

[28] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[29] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 62-63

[30] 2 Corinthians 2:9

[31] 1 Corinthians 13:12

[32] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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