December 3, 2023


Passage: 1 John 2:28-3:3

2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
— 1 John 2:28-3:3, ESV

Biblically speaking, hope is not an optimistic word.  In our modern vocabulary, we use hope to try to push the power of positive thinking.  Such hope does not always materialize, such as my hope in one of those hair growth formulas I tried many years ago.

Neither is hope a pessimistic wish, although we sometimes hope for the harshest things to happen to our enemies.  When that opposing quarterback is shredding our defense, we hope he breaks his leg.  I know that’s not nice, but there are some pretty good imprecatory prayers in the Old Testament.

The New Testament word for hope is “Elpis,” not to be confused with “Elvis,” whom my mother hoped was alive for many years after his death.  It is a word that is neither optimistic nor pessimistic.  Real hope is realistic.

Hope, in the Bible, means confident expectation.  It is a bedrock belief that what God has promised in His word, He will do.  Hope is a wonderful, and a terrible, thing.

We hope (confidently expect) Jesus Christ is coming again.

There is ample evidence to prove Jesus came to earth, the first time.  There is the biblical evidence of the four Gospels.  There is secular evidence in the writings of Jewish historian Josephus from the first century and the Roman historian Tacitus from the second century.  While the theological truths of Jesus have been hotly debated for two thousand years, the historical fact of His existence has never been in serious doubt.

We hope, we confidently expect, that Jesus Christ has come, and with the same hope we believe He is coming again.  John did not write in his epistle “if He appears,” he wrote “when He appears.”

One of the best fellows I ever worked with warned me on my first visit to the church.  He pointed out that the community sat uncomfortably close to the New Madrid Fault.  A shift in the fault line would cause a catastrophic earthquake.  He told me, “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

John in The Revelation likens the second coming of Christ to a great earthquake (five times, which I think is the interpretive key to that intriguing last book of the Bible).  And it is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”  Exactly when, we are not told.  But when it happens, it will be a wonderful, and a terrible, time.

We hope (confidently expect) to see Him in one of two ways.

John’s primary purpose for pointing out the hope of Christ’s return is positive.  He wants to build confidence in the Christian community.  “When He appears we may have confidence,” he writes.

Do you have hope, are you confident concerning the second coming of Christ?  You need double confidence.  You need hope He is coming, and you need hope He is coming for you.

Just as I believe in a limited atonement in Christ’s first coming (His sacrifice only atones for the elect), I am convinced of a limited rapture in Christ’s second coming.  He will raise and rescue only a certain set of people.  They are His “little children,” who have been “born of Him,” who “abide in Him,” which includes “everybody who practices righteousness,” whom “the world does not know.”

The previous paragraph is a perfect description of a confident Christian, a true believer enjoying blessed assurance of their salvation.  This, by the way, is the purpose for the whole epistle (ref. 1 John 5:13).  It does not describe those who prayed some sinner’s prayer and joined some shallow church.  It depicts a person spiritually regenerate, born again, persevering in loving obedience to God's word, who walks decidedly out of step with a sinful and lost world.

If this is you, then Andy Dufresne’s words to Red ring true: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”  If this is not you, when Jesus returns, then your only hope is Hell, and Hell is no hope at all, for all eternity.  John does not say much about those who will be left behind, other than they will “shrink from Him in shame at His coming” (in Revelation he has them hiding under rocks).

See how realistic is this word, “hope.”  It is altogether wonderful and alternately terrible at the same time.  It builds confidence for the true Christian.  It warns of shame and degradation for the nominal or non-believer.  Perhaps such shame could lead to repentance, faith, and the blessed hope of forgiveness and everlasting life.

We hope (confidently expect) His love speaks louder than all of our sins.

Of course, believers have their share of sins to be ashamed of, too.  It is possible that the context of John’s shame in this text is tilted towards the Christian.  We all carry baggage of bad behavior that no one knows about, but God.

I expect many who profess faith in Christ will be caught not exactly practicing the faith when He returns.  Imagine the desperate Christian young lady sitting in the waiting room of an abortion clinic.  Think of the recently baptized young boy staring at pornography on his personal computer.  A normally nice couple from church are having a horrific argument, in front of their children, calling each other the worst names possible.  Then, the trumpet sounds.

What will such sinners see in the eyes of Jesus when He catches them in such shameful situations?  “Love,” if we are indeed “the children of God.”  Love is louder and grace is greater than all of our sins.  Remember the prodigal son (ref. Luke 15)!

And remember this, too, it would be best not to be caught in such situations.  “Everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself.”  This is perhaps the best stated purpose of this whole passage.  Being heavenly minded can make you of great earthly good.

We hope (confidently expect) to be like Him, finally.

The purchase of your Christianity was made by God, and God alone.  The purpose of your Christianity is to be like God, like the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to follow Him, share His love, obey His word, build His church, reach His lost sheep, hope in His return.  Then the day finally comes when “we shall see Him as He is.”

Justification is costly for God and easy for you.  He paid the price, He spiritually resurrects the spiritually dead, He gives life in Christ.  You receive grace through faith, you are sealed by the Spirit, you have hope of your home in Heaven.

Sanctification is the messy part where the imperfect Christian follows the perfect Christ.  We never get it quite right in this life.  I cringe when I listen to a replay of my sermons.  I grieve when I confess my sins to God, things I’ve done that I shouldn’t, things I didn’t do because I wouldn’t.  I want so desperately to be like Jesus but I fall so woefully short.  That is, until, the blessed hope arrives.

Glorification is given a general description here, one of the few text that touches on this doctrine.  It is short on details but long on hope.  When Christ comes again, all of “God’s children” will be glorified.  It will be the crowning moment, the glory, of our Christian life.  Christ will wear the crown, we will bask in the glory.  We won’t be Him, but “we shall be like Him.”

Our bodies will be perfect.  I confidently expect they will be radiant, robust, fit for every good and perfect thing.  We’ll run like the wind, fly like the angels, sing in perfect pitch, and live without suffering and pain.

Our minds will be perfect.  We’ll know the answers to life’s greatest questions.  We’ll understand, finally, why bad things happened and how God worked all things together for good.  We will lock in to all the promises of Holy Scripture, and enjoy their fulfillment for eternity.

Our souls will be perfect and we will finally be one, holy, perfect body of Christ.  E pluribus unum can only be realized when Jesus Christ returns to earth.  We will have harmony and unity in diversity, for every glorified person from every nation will be a perfect soul, living in perfect harmony with God and one another.

This is what I hope.  I hope you can confidently expect these things, too, when Christ returns to earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *