'When He shall appear, we shall be like Him'

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“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. 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. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We see this love in the following:

• Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He humbled Himself, suffered and died on the cross for the sins of all, and rose again on the third day, having won forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for all mankind.

• He now — through the preaching of His Word — calls sinners to repent of their sinful ways and trust in Him and His shed blood for full and free forgiveness and for the everlasting joys of heaven.

• When by the grace and mercy of God, we are brought to see our sinfulness and to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and life in Him, we become children of God — saved by His grace alone. We have an inheritance in heaven and look forward to the day when Jesus our Savior returns to take us to live with Him in holiness and righteousness, forever with our God and Savior.

We can’t even begin to understand what it will be like when we are raised up in — or changed into — His image. The Bible tells us: “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 3:2; cf. Rom. 8:29).

Now, as believers, we are faultless before our heavenly Father because of Christ’s righteous life and atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, but we look forward to that day when we are free of all sin and can indeed serve our God in righteousness and purity forever.

We confess in our catechism (Luther’s explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed): “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

While we await that day, we strive — led and aided by God’s Holy Spirit — to be more and more like our Savior. The Bible says, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

St. Paul describes it this way in his letter to the Philippians (Phil. 3:8-14): “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

But the day will come, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52; cf. Phil. 3:20-21).

When that day comes, we shall be changed into the image of our Lord Jesus. “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

As believers in our Lord Jesus, we can join with David in his psalm and say: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

What a day that will be!

Dear Lord Jesus, we thank You for redeeming us with Your holy and precious blood and for graciously bringing us to repent of our sins and trust in You for forgiveness and life. By Your Spirit, keep us in the faith and move us to seek to be more and more like You until that day when You return and we are changed into Your likeness and dwell with You forevermore. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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