“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appeal: what we shall be: but we know that, when he (or better, it) shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
“We shall be like Him,” like Father.
What child-like faith, what blessed expectation, what languishing of soul in ardent anticipation is expressed in this confession which the aged apostle John, as a compassionate father lays upon the lips of his beloved children in the Lord.
It is true, that “we know not what we shall be.” Many questions clamor for an answer as we try to envision the life beyond death and the grave.
We have questions in regard to the intermediate state. How can our souls be active in heaven while our bodies still rest in the grave? Will we recognize our dear ones who have preceded us to glory? Will there be a closer intimacy between them and us, closer than with the other saints, because our lives were so intimately interwoven here on earth? Will we be like a small family, sharing our mansions, within the family of God? Will we remember the deeds done in the body, also the sinful deeds, but then as completely forgiven in the blood of our dear Savior? Will we know what is taking place on earth as Christ carries out the counsel of God toward His speedy return?
There are also questions in regard to the future life in our resurrection bodies. Will our present weaknesses become our strengths; will our present faults then prove to be our virtues? Will the latent talents and abilities that were never developed here come to their full usefulness there? Will a person with poetic ability compose new songs of praise for all of us to sing? Will a person with musical talent lead the choirs of heavenly hosts? Will the individual with intellectual acumen use that to enrich us in the glories of our God? Will we know Abraham at sight? Will our lives, even though we make up a multitude that no man can number, be so intimately related to each other, that every one in his own individual manner will serve for the blessedness of all the saints? Together, dependent upon one another, yet in perfect unison, like a mighty choir, will we show forth the praises of our God in word and deed every moment, every day, and that with our whole being?
Many, many questions, too deep for us to penetrate now, are awaiting their answer in the life to come. Now we know in part. We do not even know what we shall be. For “it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”
This we do know, that, when the veil is lifted and it appears what we shall be, we shall be like God.
The very thought staggers the imagination. Who can search out the height, the depth, the length, the breadth of that love of God that eternally and sovereignly determined, “My chosen people shall forever be even as I am: they shall dwell in My presence, they shall see My face, they shall bear My likeness as sons and daughters in My House”? Who can tell the infinite price that God paid with His own precious blood to ransom us from sin and death and to merit for us the right to bear that exalted name, “sons of God”? Who can realize the bitter agony in the soul of Jesus, the Son of God, especially during those three hours of darkness when the debt of our sins weighed heavily upon Him, and He unflinchingly paid the. price to wipe the slate clean for each of us? Christ did not die for all humanity, nor even for a designated number of people; He died for His sheep, each of which He knew by name even as He was dying. Who can spell out the wonder of grace that changes filthy, leprous sinners, children of Satan, into holy and righteous sons of god? “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be the glory forever.” (Romans 11:33, 36)
How repulsive now is the horrid lie of Satan that once had such a strong appeal for us, “Ye shall be as God”! The devil, whose very name means deceiver, approached Eve in the garden with the subtle question,” You may eat of all the trees of the garden, may you not? It is preposterous to think that your God would withhold the delicious fruit of any of His good trees from His friend-servants. Why should He?” This was sufficient to sow the seeds of distrust in Eve’s mind. We are horror stricken to think that this distrust should so soon bear its evil fruit, that the devil could pour out his blasphemous charge against God without shocking the woman who so recently had stood in God’s very presence. Yet the devil spewed out his lie, and Eve not only listened, but consented to it. Satan made bold to say, “Your God is a liar. Even though He affirmed that you would die if you ate of the forbidden fruit, that cannot be true. You won’t die. In fact, you will know what it is to live. Real living is to assert yourself, insist on your own rights, decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong, what is good for you and what is not. In that respect you will be like, even equal to God.”
One shudders to think of what went on in the soul of our first mother as she sought out her husband with the deliberate attempt to destroy him. She had eaten of the forbidden tree; now her soul was filled with contempt for Adam. She could never love him any more, much less enjoy his companionship, unless he became even as she was, filled with the ambition to be a little god. Years later Paul penned those soul-condemning words concerning our first parents and all their posterity: “Not only that they do such things that are worthy of death, but take pleasure in those who .do them.” (Romans 1:32) The wicked ambition to be as God inspired Pharaoh to ask, “Who is God that I should obey Him?” That was the vain dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the Caesars, the Herods, and will be the boast of the antichrist, who will sit upon the throne ruling all the nations of the world as if he were God. Shame on us, who by nature bear the image and likeness ,of Satan, for we also want to be independent, self-sufficient little gods, and even gloat about it. Preposterous lie, rooted in sinful pride! We boast of our position, our fortunes, our unique abilities; that big I, I, I.
As saints in Christ Jesus we have learned to loathe the very thought of being a god, humbly to confess: “Thou, O Lord, art God alone! My God!” Then with grateful hearts to add in eager anticipation, “We shall be like Him.” The proud heart that once boasted, “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul,” shamefacedly confesses that pride is sin, and sin is rebellion against the living God. Moreover, we know that sin is a cruel tyrant, obedience to sin is the worst form of slavery, the clarion call of sin lures only to disaster. Aroused to the consciousness of the dreadful offence of our sins, we learn to plead, “O God, be merciful to this vile sinner.” We experience the comfort that has thrilled the souls of the saints throughout the ages, that we are not our own, but belong with body and soul, in life and in death to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Before the face of our God we are privileged to live as friend-servants, loving Him, trusting in Him, awaiting all good things from His gracious hand, serving Him in obedient devotion.
How do we account for the peace that floods our souls from day to day? The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of adoption. God Himself testifies within us that we are His sons, and if sons, then heirs; heirs of God; and joint heirs with Christ. The still, small voice of the Spirit in our hearts grows into a cry of longing; “Abba, Father.” That same cry becomes our cry in childlike assurance, repeating, “Father, I love Thee; I know Thou art mine.” Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. That is the name, sons of God, that is rightfully ours from Father’s own lips. That is the testimony of the Spirit, Who speaks to us through the Scriptures, assuring us that all of the Father’s glorious promises are meant for us. That Word is a power within us, transforming us from children of darkness into sons of the living God. Love, divine love bestowed on us as a free gift, bequeathed unto us as heirs of salvation, knits our hearts to Father in living faith, to know Him, to love Him, to worship and adore Him with our whole being in the beauty of holiness. No, we still do not fully know what we shall be, but this we know, that when that is made manifest, we shall be like Father! What natural son does not need the repeated assurance that he is father’s son?
What natural son does not admire father so much that he wants to look like him, imitate him, and some day grow up and be just like Dad. The natural child never fully attains that ambition; we do. We become like our Father in heaven. Our soul languishes in longing for the living God. When shall I come and behold His face in righteousness?
Because of our likeness we shall see Him as He is. Now we still look into the mirror of the holy Scriptures, which fully serve our present purpose, yet always leave us with our problems. At the same time that mirror does something to us. It exposes our littleness, our insignificance, and the horror of our sins. As we stare upon our sinful image we see behind us, as it were, the glorious image of our resurrected Lord, the Lord of glory, the Lamb for sinners slain. He speaks to us through that mirror, and by His Spirit in our hearts assures us that His righteousness is our righteousness, and His blessed resurrection life is ours forever. As we look and listen we are changed, transformed into the likeness of that glorious image of Christ, taking on holiness and righteousness in the true knowledge of Father.
If that Word is so powerful and so glorious in its revelation, how much more the wonder of grace when we shall see God in the face of Jesus Christ, yes, God exactly as He is in all His fulness. No, no man can see the Infinite, the Eternal, the Omnipresent Spirit Who dwells in the dazzling brightness of His own holiness. Yet our God will reveal Himself continuously in the face of Jesus Christ, so that we will know Him, even as we are known by Him.
O the wonder! Adam knew God the moment he opened his eyes in paradise. He saw and heard the word of God in every tree, plant, bird, four-footed animal and creeping things. Yes, he heard the word of God in the sun, and moon, and stars. He could take that word upon his lips, repeating after God the name that God placed upon the creature. As all creation joined the angels in singing the Maker’s praise, Adam and Eve joined in a symphony of adoration.
If Adam could see and hear God’s word in paradise, how much more glorious will be the revelation, how much clearer our vision and our hearing in the new creation! We will see God, hear Him, smell Him, taste Him, feel Him, touch Him, sense Him in every heavenly creature. We will see how each creature is related to the other, how they are all related to us, how they all, including the angels, serve us as the Church, Christ’s Body, that we in Christ may show forth the glories, the virtues, the praises of our God!
“One thing, just one thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life—to endless eternity;to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
With a name that is uniquely mine as son in Father’s House, and with a new song in my heart, I’ll join the myriads of the saints, the ten thousands of the angels, and the entire host of every living creature to worship in thankfulness, in awe, in solemn adoration.
For I will be like Father!
That will be glory, glory for me!