When I was a little girl, eternity looked pretty boring to me. Was life with God going to be like one long church service? No good books to read for hours? No horses to ride? No creeks to play in? No ball games? No friends to share with? Were we just going to wander aimlessly around heaven with nothing to occupy our hands and minds other than singing praises?
Frankly, the heaven in my imagination was so unappealing that I couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for spending even a weekend there, much less endless time. But one thing I did know: heaven was preferable to the hell pictured by the preachers, so of course I must focus on heaven.
That was a young girl’s limited imagination. Now, many decades later, I still can’t imagine the great plans God has for His children. But I’m much more excited about stepping into them and discovering what He has in store for us.
Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3 NLT).
In these verses we have a promise that is far beyond the imagination of anyone, young or old. We can only look forward and say, “Wow. What will that be like?”
We will be like Christ. God began the process when He opened the way and invited us to come back to Him. He continued the plan when He adopted us as sons and daughters, siblings, if you will, of Christ. He gave us glimpses of the future when He sent His Son to model for us how to live out the life of His kingdom — pure, devoted to God, in close relationship with Him. And then God ripped open the limits of our earthly lives when He raised His dead Son to life, pulling apart the curtain to give us a peek and say, “This is your future too!”
As a guarantee of that future, He planted within us the beginnings of transformation. His own Holy Spirit is working as you read this, transforming, connecting you to your Creator and your God, the one who loved you so much He came into your world to rescue you.
And here’s the promise: the ultimate end of this process is that we will be like Christ.
That’s amazing to me for a number of reasons. My first thought is of how far I am—now—from being like Christ. I know I share His Spirit, but I also daily experience the war that still rages within, between my old person and the new person the Spirit has birthed and wants to grow.
Secondly, I wonder what it will be to be like our Lord. We will be like our God? That’s a bold statement. Yet we were created in God’s likeness in the beginning. He paid the price to bring His lost children back. He is now in the process of creating again — He’s established His kingdom and He is creating new lives in His people. And yes, this is the promise: His new creations will indeed share in all that Christ is and has!
I do not yet understand how seeing Him “as He is” will complete the transformation, but I suspect that knowing Christ fully, being with Him face to face, will have a transformative effect on me. We know that even now, the more time we spend with our Lord, the more He can change our minds, hearts, thoughts, and actions. Yet our sight is clouded. When we see Him clearly and when we are fully with Him, what exciting and incredible things will surely happen to all of us who love Him?
I take from this another promise: I will someday see His love clearly. I’ll be able to see it on His face and in His eyes and feel it in His touch and hear it in His voice, and I will finally understand the love that is so deep and wide and beyond my comprehension now. We know that in our life here, being loved has transforming powers. Perhaps knowing Christ’s love fully and finally seeing its depth will transform us completely. For now, it is enough for me to know that I will see Him and know, face to face, how much He loves me.
So, John writes, let’s work at keeping ourselves pure because we are headed for this exciting future. Of course John knew, just as we know today, that perfection before God is impossible—we still stumble and fall short of Christ’s purity and sinlessness. John knew this reality, and he reminds us (in chapter 1 verse 9) that God uses even our sin and confession to cleanse and change us, working toward the future promise of our complete transformation.
My little girl imagination had such narrow limits. Even now, my grown-up imagination can only go so far. But Scripture says that all of this Good News of what God is doing is so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching as it all unfolds.*
As one of my friends says, “It’s going to be good!”
*see 1 Peter 1:12