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Sermon #27[i] — 1st John Series
Title: Now and Then
Text: 1 John 3:2
Subject: Adoption’s Hope
Distance blunts the edge of things, especially things disagreeable. War is a horrible thing. The thought of slain bodies and butchered corpses are painful and revolting. But there are very few of us who can enter into really horrifying thoughts of war. We have seen the news reels, examined the pictures, and read the stories. Most of our heroes are all warriors. I think there is a reason for that. —— Most of us have never smelled the blood or been splattered with the flesh of exploding bodies.
Because we observe these things at a distance, we cannot truly enter into their horrors. If we were to hear the roar of gunfire, see tanks rolling down our streets, and had to run for shelter from bombs dropping from the sky, if we saw at our doors the marks of carnage and bloodshed, I am sure we would more thoroughly appreciate what war means. But distance takes away the horror. Therefore we speak of war with far too much levity and even read about it without pain and tears.
As it is with war, so it is with death. Death is a frightening thing. The bravest of men tremble before it.
Illustration: Hugo Chavez — “I’m not ready to die. Please don’t let me die.”
It is a solemn thing to die. That is the reason we do our best not to think about dying. Death may be very near, but we always try to look at it as something some distance from us
The same thing is true with regard to religion, I mean true religion. The demands of Christ are disagreeable to the flesh. So people try to put off dealing with a stinging conscience, an awareness of righteousness, judgment, and eternity. But they hope to be saved at last and entertain themselves with hope that they will be save at the close of their lives, like the dying thief.
Present things are different. What child does not get excited about Christmas, once Thanksgiving is over? What man, having once set his heart on riches, does not find delight in every thought of increased wealth, as he sees his bank account increasing and his stocks multiplying in value? When we think of any good thing (A Happy Event — A Friend’s Visit — A Planed Vacation), when we think of something good, we do everything we can to shorten the time and distance between us and that good thing. We try in every way possible to speed up the clock, in anticipation of something good.
When God’s saints talk about heaven, it seems that they always try to shorten the distance between themselves and blessed eternity. With joy, as if speeding to the finish line, God’s saint sings…—
“A few more rolling suns at most
Will land me safe on Canaan’s coast.”
There may be many years between the child of grace and the glory awaiting him, but he still sings with anticipation and joy… —
“The way may be rough,
But it cannot be long.
So smooth it with hope,
And cheer it with song”
I want to do what I can to help you cut the distance between your soul and heaven. Oh, how I pray that God the Holy Spirit would teach me and teach you to live in the immediate prospect of eternity. How I want to live with heaven in my heart and heaven in my eye! — Don’t you?
Open your Bibles to 1 John 3:2.
(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.”
The word “now” is strikingly prominent in this text. John, writing by God the Holy Spirit, says, — “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” The title of my message is — Now and Then.
“1 ¶ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. ——— 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.” (1 John 3:1-2)
“Now” am I a child of God. Imagine that! — Me! — “Now” I am a child of God! That word “now” is one of the most delightful, one of the sweetest words in the Bible.
Proposition: We who are by nature sons of Adam and children of wrath, being born again, are now the sons of God; and soon…What then?
Divisions: Here are five glorious facts, plainly stated, altogether beyond our highest imagination, and yet matters of confident hope and joy. — You have my outline in my text.
1. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.”
2. “And it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”
3. “But we know that he shall appear.”
4. And “we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him.”
5. “For we shall see him as he is.”
A Present Reality
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” — With those words the Apostle John declares a present reality of grace. — We are now the sons of God. Made the sons of God…
God the Holy Spirit tells us that we have been made “partakers of the divine nature!”
(2 Peter 1:1-4) “1 ¶ Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
God’s adoption differs from earthly adoption in one very special way. Adopting parents may give their adopted children…
But the one thing an adopting father can never give an adopted child is his nature. But, blessed be his name forever, — “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). So great, so infinitely, magnanimously, so immeasurably great is the grace of God that he really makes us his sons! When God does something it is real, not pretend, but real!
The Divine Nature
What does God the Holy Spirit intend for us to understand, when he tells us that in the new birth he has made us “partakers of the divine nature”? Obviously, he does not mean that we have become God! He does not mean that we have become partakers of the divine essence. And he does not mean that we now possess the attributes of divinity. So what do these words mean? Let the Scriptures answer.
In Hebrews 2:14 the word is used to speak of our dear Savior’s incarnation. Just as we actually possess flesh and blood, our blessed Savior took part of the same. — “The Word was made flesh!”
(Hebrews 2:14-15) “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (15) And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
What, then, is the meaning of this phrase, “partakers of the divine nature”? This divine nature is the nature of Christ, the embodied holiness of God. It is to have Christ himself imparted to us and formed in us by the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:27). It is Christ in us, this divine nature of which we have been made partakers (possessors) that makes us fit for heaven. B. B. Caldwell wrote…
“Without it, heaven would be hell. If an unregenerated person should go to heaven without bring born again, without this divine nature, heaven would be a hell to him, and not only that, but he would make heaven a hell for everybody else. How do you think an ungodly person would feel in a holy heaven, in the presence of a holy God, and in the presence of holy angels with all of the saints and the angelic hosts singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts’? You see we must have a nature to befit us for heaven. This nature is given us in the new birth!”
We are members of the body of Christ, — “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” The same blood that flows in the Head flows in the hand, and the same life that quickens Head quickens his people; for, — “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” We are married to Christ. He has betrothed us unto himself in righteousness and in faithfulness; and as the spouse must, in the nature of things, be a partaker of the same nature as the husband, so Jesus Christ first became partaker of flesh and blood that he and his people might be one flesh; and then he makes his church partakers of the same spirit, that we may be one spirit; for “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”
Oh, wondrous mystery! We look into it; but who can understand it? One with Jesus Christ our Lord, by eternal union one, married to him, so truly one with him that the branch is not more truly one with the vine than we are one with Christ our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God! Rejoice in this, children of God, you are “partakers of the divine nature!” That is precisely the teaching of the entire volume of Holy Scripture (John 14:22-23; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:14-19; 4:21-24; Colossians 1:27; 1 John 4:4; Revelation 3:20).
(Ephesians 4:21-24) “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (22) That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
(Colossians 1:27) “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
How sweet, how blessed, how glorious is that almighty violence of grace that has put Christ in us! — (Mark 3:27)
(Mark 3:27) “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.”
Now, being born again by God’s almighty grace, we are made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). This is a present reality. — “Now are we the sons of God!”
An Unknown Future
“And it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” — With those words John tells us that our future is an unknown future. That does not mean that we do not know that we are going to heaven, or do not know anything for certain about life after death, judgment, immortality, and eternity. There is much about these things that we know; but there is much that is unknown because it is unknowable in this body of flesh.
But John’s primary meaning here is the same as it is in verse 1. There he tells us that God who called us his sons in eternal grace, bestowing his great love upon us in time made us his sons in the experience of his grace. — “Therefore the world knoweth us not.” So here, he is telling us the world has no idea who and what we are. The world cannot comprehend God’s grace or us, the objects of his grace.
At present we are veiled, and we travel through the world incognito, just as our Master did. He was not made manifest here below.
This present world is not the place for the fulness of God’s grace upon us to be known.
To everything there is a season, and this is not the time of glory. — “It doth not yet appear what we shall be!”
A Blessed Hope
“But we know that when he shall appear.” — Here the beloved Apostle reminds us of our blessed hope. — “He shall appear!” Our Lord’s manifestation is a matter absolute confidence. — “We know.” Our faith is so assured that it becomes knowledge. — “He shall appear!”
Oh the hope, the glory, the bliss, the fulness of delight clustering around this great appearing!
A Sweet Assurance
“We shall be like him.” — Soon, soon, O blessed blessed hope, soon, we shall be like him! — “Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake in his likeness!”
Then, in that great day, all my ambitions and desires shall be satisfied.
A Transforming Vision
“For we shall see him as he is!” — With those words John reminds us of a transforming vision, an eternal vision that eternally transforms God’s elect as soon as it appears. — “We shall see him as he is!” When we see him as he is we shall be like him!
Heaven is set forth in the Scriptures by many pictures of bliss awaiting God’s elect in eternity. Heaven is a place prepared for us. It is the everlasting kingdom. It is eternal glory. Heaven is our purchased inheritance. It is the city of God and of the Lamb. It is our home. Heaven is our final resting place. These and many other descriptive phrases fill our hearts with joy and anticipation. But here is the greatest bliss of the eternal state, the consummation of glory, the very heaven of heaven — “And they shall see his face” (Revelation 22:4). When the Lord said to Moses, “Thou canst not see my face and live,” he was speaking to a mere mortal upon the earth. Those words have no reference to those who have put on immortality and incorruption. In the coming glory-land every child of God shall see the face of our God and live. Indeed, it is this sight of Christ which shall be the essence and excellence of our life. We shall see him who is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his person face to face! That is the heaven which awaits us!
“Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face, what will it be;
When with rapture I behold him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?”
What is this heavenly vision?
There are many, many things in heaven that we shall see and enjoy. We will see the holy angels who have ministered to us throughout our earthly pilgrimage (Hebrews 1:14). Men and women of flesh and bones will commune with cherubim and seraphim. Gabriel, and all the heavenly hosts, shall be known by us. We will see the patriarchs who served God in those early days of time. We will even know those men and women who walked with God before the flood like Abel, Enoch, and Noah. The apostles and prophets will be seen and known by us. Those martyrs, with whose blood the pages of church history are written, shall be seen. Those brethren, with whom we have enjoyed sweet fellowship upon the earth, will be seen by us. And those loved ones who fell asleep in Christ Jesus shall be seen again. Without question, in our glorified state, earthly ties will no longer divide us; but the saints in glory will know one another, just as Peter, James, and John knew Moses and Elijah when they appeared with them in the mount of transfiguration.
Yet, for all of this, the greatest joy and fulness of heaven will be the fact that we shall see the Lord Jesus Christ himself, God the Son in our flesh, face to face. That which we desire above all else in heaven is the sight of him. With the Psalmist we most gladly declare, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25). Christ is all in all to us here, and we long for a heaven in which he shall be all in all to us forever.
Here upon the earth, it was a sight of Christ which first turned our sorrow into joy. The daily renewal of communion with Christ lifts us up above the cares of this world. Even here, we say, if we have Christ we have enough.
If Christ is all to us now, what shall he be in glory? The Paradise of God is a heaven of intense, eternal, spiritual fellowship with Christ. Heaven is a place where it is promised — “They shall see his face.”
Moses, we are told, saw his back parts. He saw the train of his majesty. But, there, we shall see his face. We shall literally see our Savior’s face. Though he is glorified, that very man who died at Calvary is upon the throne of glory. We shall see him, the God-man. What a sight that shall be for redeemed sinners. We will see our well-beloved — his hands, his feet, his side, his head, and his face. We shall literally see him who loved us and gave himself for us.
Even sweeter is the fact that we shall enjoy a perfect, spiritual sight of our Redeemer. The promise seems to imply a greater ability in the next world by which we shall be able to more fully see dear Savior. Here, upon the earth, the very best of us are only infants. Now we know in part. Now we see through a shaded glass, darkly. But in heaven, we shall see the Savior face to face. And we shall know even as we are known. We will see Christ in such a way that we shall know him. We shall know the heights, depths, lengths, and breadth of the love of Christ that passes knowledge.
We shall see the Savior always. The saints in heaven shall never cease to see him. We shall never cease to embrace our Savior! It is not so now. Sometimes we are near the throne, at other times we are afar off. Sometimes we are as bright as the angels, at other times we are as dull as lead. At times we are hot with love, but at other times we are cold with indifference. But the day will soon come when we shall forever be in the closest possible association with Christ. Then we shall see his face without ceasing. And we shall see our Savior’s face as it is now, in the fulness of his glory (John 17:24).
The word “see” implies a clear, full, undimmed sight of Christ. We will see Christ clearly, because everything that hinders our sight of him here will be removed. Our sins and our carnal nature will be completely removed. All of those earthly cares that now cloud our vision will be taken out of the way. All our sorrows will be ended (Revelation 21:4). And there nothing will stand between us and our Savior. In glory there will be no rival in our hearts. We will love Christ supremely.
We will see Christ personally. Now we see him by faith, but then faith will be turned to sight, and we will see Christ personally for ourselves. The language of Job is a proper confession of every believer’s future prospect (Job 19:25-27).
We shall see our Savior in all the fulness of his person and work. Beholding fully his glorious person, we will see him who is God over all and blessed forever in the perfection of his glorified manhood. In that day, we will see Christ in the fulness of his covenant engagements, and in the perfection of all his mediatoral offices as our Surety: Prophet, Priest, King, Husband, Shepherd, and Substitute. In the world to come, we will see Christ in the fulness of his saving grace. Then we will know the meaning of electing love. Then we will know the price of blood atonement. Then we will know the power of his priestly intercession. Then we will know the goodness of his preserving grace.
And when we see his face, our eyes shall be full of adoration for him alone. In that world of glory to come there will be no voice heard that speaks of the power of man’s free-will, or the goodness of man’s works. In that day we shall say, — “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be honor, and power, and glory, and dominion forever and ever.” (Psalm 115:1; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10).
WHY DO WE CONSIDER THIS VISION OF CHRIST THE GREATEST BLISS AND JOY OF HEAVEN? — I have said that seeing Christ face to face is the heaven of heaven, the glory of glory. But why do we place such importance upon this one aspect of our eternal inheritance? The answer should be obvious. When we see him our salvation will be complete. Soon the resurrection day will come, and all men shall see the great God and Savior. When the wicked see his face, they will be consumed in his fierce wrath. But we shall see him and live. We will be like the burning bush, glowing with the glory of God, but not consumed. We shall stand in the presence of God in perfect salvation. Our souls shall be eradicated of every spot of sin. Our bodies shall be made immortal, incorruptible, glorious. When we see his face we shall be conscious of his favor and have a perfect and uninterrupted fellowship with him. In glory, we shall walk with God perfectly. Not until we see his face will we fully know the meaning of being one with him.
When we see him there will be a complete transformation. — “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We will see things as he sees them, think as he thinks, will what he wills, love what he loves, and hate what he hates, perfectly. When we see the face of the Son of God we will be perfectly satisfied (Psalm 17:15).
WHO ARE THEY TO WHOM THIS PROMISE IS GIVEN? — The apostle tells us that those who shall see his face are none “but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). Everyone of those who are the objects of God’s eternal grace shall see his face. Every soul that was chosen of God in the council of love shall see Christ in the courts of glory (Ephesian 1:4). Every one predestined to be his son shall be his son (Romans 8:29). Every soul for whom Jesus died at Calvary shall see his face in heaven. They are accepted, pardoned, justified, sanctified, and purchased. And they shall see him (Isaiah 53:10-12). Every man, woman, and child who is called by the Spirit of God and regenerated by divine power shall see his face (Ephesians 1:13-14). Everyone that repents of his sin and believes on Christ shall see him (John 1:12-13). Every heart that bows in submission to King Jesus shall see the King in his beauty (Luke 14:25-33). Everyone who loves Christ shall see Christ (2 Timothy 4:8). They may have been the vilest, most abominable wretches ever to walk upon the earth, but they are washed, they are justified, they are sanctified. And “they shall see his face!” — All the sons and daughters of the Almighty shall see his face!
They shall all with equal clearness see the face of Christ. I read of no secondary joys in heaven. There are no back streets in the New Jerusalem! Whoever invented the doctrine of degrees in heaven knew nothing of free-grace. There is as much foundation for such a doctrine in the Scriptures as there is for the doctrine of purgatory, and no more. All the saints of God shall see the Savior’s face.
What more can anyone want? The dying thief went with Christ to paradise, and so did Paul. Heaven is altogether the reward of grace, not of debt and shall be fully possessed by all the heirs of grace (Romans 8:17). All the saved are loved by God with a perfect love. All were chosen in Christ. We all have the same blessings of grace in the covenant. We are all redeemed by the same blood. We are all accepted in the same righteousness. We are all the sons of God by the same grace. And we all have the same hope of glory. Heaven was earned and bought for us by the Son of God. And it shall be given to us in all its fulness. In this world of sorrow (Now), comfort yourself with this hope, the Then of which I speak. “They” who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ “shall see his face.”
“1 ¶ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 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.” (1 John 3:1-2)
 More often than not, when the Scriptures speak of our Savior’s glorious second advent, the second coming of Christ is spoken of as his appearing. Soon, suddenly, “He shall appear!”
[i] Danville — Sunday Morning — March 10, 2013
Wasilla, Alaska — Tuesday Evening — March 12, 2013
Reading: Revelation 21:1-22:4
Tape# 1st John 27