1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
John has just asserted that we are the children of God in the previous verse. He repeats himself as if to say, “Dear friends, I know how easy it is to doubt that God still considers you his own. I know that when you are suffering some unbearable pain, and you beg and beg God to take it away, and still it goes on, you wonder if he still considers you his children. I know that when you have committed some awful sin, and you are overwhelmed by the shame of what you have done, you wonder if he still can consider you his children.”
“But don’t judge by appearances. Close your ears to Satan’s lies, and never let go of God’s clear promises. Now we are the children of God. That is not made true by how you live or what you have. This is established solely by God’s own gift and promise. You are God’s children, with all the love and forgiveness that goes along with it.”
John’s assurance is important, because if we are children of God, we can be certain that life in this world is not all there is. He wouldn’t leave his own children with such a miserable inheritance. We are destined for greater glory, although, “what we will be has not yet been made known.”
It is not that the Lord means to hold out on us. He wants us to know that there is a better life in heaven. He shares as much about it with us as he can in his word. It’s just that it’s hard to explain something so wonderful. We have no frame of reference to try to understand it, no experience with which to compare it. Just as our ideas about what we want to be when we grow up change through life, our ideas about what would make heaven wonderful change as we go through life. Mostly we base our pictures of heaven on the earthly pleasures we experience now. How do you explain the joy and excitement of romantic love to a little boy who still believes in girl germs? How does God explain the joy and excitement of perfect love and divine glory to his children who still have to live in this body of sin with all its weaknesses?
John begins with the one thing about that other world which we know best, and that is Jesus. “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” What will it be like for God’s children? What kind of changes will there be for us? Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that the Lord Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” None of us will take Jesus’ place in heaven, but he still has his human body, and our bodies will become much like his. Will we be able to walk through walls like he did on Easter evening? Will we shine like the sun as he did on the mount of Transfiguration? We can only wonder what those changes will be like now.
Most important is the change which will take place in our hearts. Our hearts will reflect Jesus’ loving heart. He loved us with an indescribable love before time began. At long last we will be able to return that love to him. We will love everyone else as he intended from the beginning. That is the true perfection of heaven–not some cold, heartless perfection that merely keeps the rules, but to love, and to be loved, just as God has always loved us. We are God’s children, and this is what it means to be like him.
In a sense, then, although we will always be his children, we do grow up. Living in perfect love, it will be clear for all to see that we are the children of God.