At the Appearing of Jesus
November 20th, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
1 John 3:1-10
AT THE APPEARING OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 3:1-10
11-20-60 10:50 a.m.
The sermon this morning is entitled When We See Jesus. It is an exposition of the first part of the third chapter of 1 John. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to this wonderful text, the third chapter of 1 John:
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.
[1 John 3:1-2]
There are some texts that are like cabins hidden away in the middle of the wilderness: to get to them you must hew and cut and blaze a trail before they finally come to view. Some texts are like that; they are hard to get at, and one must study grammar, and history, and background, and language, and delve into exegesis and commentary in order to find the meaning of the word. But there are other texts that are like mansions built high on a hill: they are seen from every direction; they are plainly in view. This, my text this morning, this passage is like that mansion high on a hill; it is very plain, it is very apparent. He is speaking here of our wonderful position and privilege as the children of God. And he links that glorious privilege with the phaneroō, translated here in two different words, but it’s the same Greek word: translated "appear, appearance," and translated "manifest, manifested," In the second verse, he uses that word phaneroō twice: "It doth not yet phaneroō, it is not yet made manifest, it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He phaneroō, when He is manifested, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him" [1 John 3:2]. You see that same word used in the fifth verse: "And ye know that He was phaneroō, manifested, He appeared to take away our sins" [1 John 3:5]. In the eighth verse, "For this purpose the Son of God was phaneroō, He appeared, He was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8]. In the tenth verse, "In this the children of God are phaneroō, are manifested" [1 John 3:10].
Now he begins this glorious passage, of which he is now writing and concerning which I pray God shall help me to speak in glory and in power this morning. He begins this word with an exclamation, "Behold, behold, behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God [John 3:1]. Behold, this wonder!"
This man John, the sainted apostle, lived in the midst of wonder. There never was a seer of any age to whom wonders were more of a commonplace than they were with the sainted apostle John. With his own eyes he had seen the miracles and the signs of the Lord from heaven, our Savior in the days of His flesh. And with his own eyes, he had seen those spiritual wonders by which God filled the skies, when the heavens were rolled back like a scroll. And yet this sainted apostle John to whom wonders were such commonplaces says, "Behold, this wonder of which I am now to write is one of the most brilliant and glorious of them all: that we, sinners, mortal, mundane, human, made out of the dust of the ground, that we should be called the children of God."
In my King James Version, it stops there. But in these ancient Greek manuscripts, you will find two little words added: kai esmen, kai, "and"; esmen, "and we are" not only called children of God, kai esmen, "and behold, we are!" The Revised Version translates those two words with three: "and such we are" [1 John 3:1]. An amazing thing, that we should be regenerated into the image of God, into the likeness of God, into the nature of God, and that we should be adopted into the family of God, given the name of God. All of the wonders of regeneration and all of the miracles of our redemption are somehow in this, condensed into one glorious miracle and wonder: "Behold! Behold! such a thing as God hath wrought with humankind, with men made of the dust of the ground, that we should be regenerated, exalted into the very image of God!"
"Not all of us," he said: "Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not" [1 John 3:1]. There are some who are children of perdition and damnation and destruction, born in sin to die in wrath and in judgment. But some are to be called the children of God. This is the power He hath given unto us, even to us who have believed, who have trusted in His name, that we should be called the children of God [John 1:11-12].
Who calls us the children of God? The heavenly Father does. He teaches us that we are His children, and He places in our hearts the exemplary prayer, saying, "Our Father who art in heaven" [Matthew 6:9]. It is the Son, the Lord Himself, who calls us the children of God. He speaks of His Father and our Father, and He has placed in our hearts the Spirit of filial love and devotion. He is not ashamed, He says, to call us His brethren [Hebrews 2:11]. It is the Spirit of God who teaches us that being adopted He hath placed in our lips the word "Abba, Father" [Romans 8:14-15].
It is the very trials and providences of life that teach us we are the children. "What father hath a son that he chasteneth not?" [Hebrews 12:7]. And we, God’s people, every trial we have, every burden we bear, every sorrow placed on our hearts, these are just tokens of God’s love and care for His children. What an unusual thing, what an astonishing thing! All heaven and all earth conspire to designate His children the true sons of God.
"Behold, what manner of gift," no; "what manner of honor bestowed," no; "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God" [1 John 3:1]. "The Son abideth in the house forever: the servant abideth not forever" [John 8:35]. He’s paid; his wages he’s has earned, and he’s dismissed. But whatever you give a son, or whatever you do not give a son, makes no difference: he is your son forever and forever.
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God" [1 John 3:1]. "Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son; today have I begotten Thee"? [Hebrews 1:5]. But He says it unto us: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be born, regenerated, redeemed into the family of God." This is what we are now. In the second verse, he repeats it again: "Beloved, nun esmen"; in the first verse, "kai esmen, and we are." Then in the second verse starts it again, "Beloved, nun esmen, now" – somebody remarked, "Isn’t it great to have a ‘now’ religion, a religion of this experience, and this day, and this time?" – "Beloved, now, nun esmen, we are, are we the children of God" [John 3:2].
Then he describes our future. Having spoken of our present, our privilege, our prerogative, our station in Him, our position in Christ, now he’s going to speak of our future; and he does it in three different ways, using that same word phaneroō. First, John avows we are to look forward to that glorious and incomparably, blessedly celestial day when all of our sins shall be taken away: "And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins" [1 John 3:5]. There is coming a time, there is coming a day, there is an age, there is an hour when all of the sins of God’s children shall be taken away, washed away; no longer, they don’t "be" anymore [Jeremiah 31:34]. They are drowned in the sea [Micah 7:19]. They’re blotted out like a thick cloud [Isaiah 44:22], they are remembered no more. What an astonishing wonder is that: behold, that such a thing could ever be!
Something we cannot do ourselves; we’re so helpless before the infirmities of the flesh. I might avow in all earnestness that as of this minute I shall never stumble again or make another mistake, I shall never come short of God’s glory again; from this moment on, I promise God I shall live in perfection, in the glory and beauty and holiness of heaven. And before this hour shall have been spent, I’ve stumbled and stammered and fallen into mistake. It’s something beyond us that a man should live apart from sin and be washed from the stain of sin. It’s not a part of our nature; it’s something God has to do for us.
This life of this mineral world cannot pull itself up into the life of a vegetable world, except by the creative hand of God. And this life of the vegetable world cannot pull itself up into the life of the animal world, our world, except it be touched by a creative work of God. Nor are we able to pull ourselves up, to exalt ourselves above this carnal world into the spiritual world of heaven, except by the able creative hand of God. God must touch us. God must do something for us. We’re so helpless before sin; our infirmity, our loss and lack. But this is something God has done for us: "He was manifested, He appeared to take away our sins" [1 John 3:5].
If angels were to do that, the Augean stable would still remain foul and unclean. If men were avow to do that, with the fires that we know in this earth, it still would be nothing but another Gehenna. But when God says He attempts it, it shall be done! "He was manifested to take away our sins." And He came for that purpose, and He shall do it: it shall come to pass; it will be. He was made in the form of our humanity for that purpose: to have a body to offer for sacrifice for sins [Hebrews 10:5-10]. And Calvary is the story of that sacrifice where atonement was made by substitution; and propitiation was offered by the sacrifice of the body of our Lord [Matthew 27:32-50] – as we shall speak in another sermon. And He died and ascended into glory [Acts 1:9-10]; and He sits in session at the right hand of God [Hebrews 1:3, 8:1], for that purpose: able to save to the uttermost [Hebrews 7:25]. And according to my text, He shall appear again; this time without sin, apart from sin unto salvation [Hebrews 9:28].
There are powers in this world of presidents, and parliaments, and kings, and leaders, and statesmen, and rulers; but over all, there is an infinitely invisibly greater power. And through time, and tide, and history, and vicissitude, and fortune God’s whole earth and God’s whole heaven and God’s whole historical program reaches out to that great final consummation, when sin shall be no more. "He was manifested to take away our sins" [1 John 3:5]. And someday, someday, some glorious day, we shall lift up our faces, without spot and stain and live in a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth nothing but righteousness [Revelation 21-22].
Then he avows this second, "For this purpose the Son of God was phaneroō, was manifested, He appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil [1 John 3:8]. Behold, what a wonder, that one might be able to destroy the works of the devil." If a man were a painter, what pictures he might paint, what scenes he might depict, what things he might describe with his brush, as he paints the works of the devil. God made the heavens and the earth, and He didn’t rest. God made the stars and the sun and the moon, and He didn’t rest. And God made the firmament and the dry land, and He didn’t rest. And God made the birds of the field, and He didn’t rest. And God made the birds and the fish and the animals, and He didn’t rest [Genesis 1:1-25]; but when God made the man [Genesis 1:26-31] and set upon him God’s love and devotion and affection, God rested [Genesis 2:3]. This was according to the heart of the Lord. An ocean can’t think God’s thoughts, and stars can’t love God; but a man can! A man can think God’s thoughts after Him, and a man can love God; and the Lord was content, and He rested, and said, "It is very good" [Genesis 1:31]. And because God loved the man and set His affection upon him, that great archenemy of heaven came down into this earth to defile God’s earth and to mar the image of God in the man that He made and the man that He loved [Genesis 3]. And the pictures of that defilement cover this earth; the works of the devil.
Here’s one. I went into a home and knelt down in prayer with a sobbing father and mother; there on the bed before me was a twelve year old boy, a skeleton, a skeleton, dying of polio. That is a work of the devil. Come with me to another home: and there is a mother cringing in fear and children crying because of a brutal and drunken father, who beats the mother and who beats the children. That is a work of the devil. Come with me, and I can show you throughout this city, in these beautiful apartment buildings and in these hovel of room and houses, I can show you girls and boys and young men and women who by the scores bow their heads and cry tears of loneliness, and heartache, and disappointment, and frustration. That is the seed of the wicked one. Wherever to bring tears, and heartache, and failure, and sorrow, this is the work of the devil; covering our earth with a pall of gloom in which men sit down to cry, and rise up to torment. These are the works of the devil.
Could it ever be, could such a thing be, "Behold, what a wonder, that God hath taken upon Himself to rid this earth of its defilement, to destroy the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8]. Why, it’s a wonder that such a thing could ever be. But did you ever, did you ever in the nighttime feel the dark as though it could be felt? The moon didn’t shine, and the stars didn’t shine, and the darkness so thick you could feel it? And you wonder, "What could scatter this blackness? Why this pall, it covers the earth and the skies. What could bring this to its end? What could stop such darkness? What could scatter it away?" And without effort it seems, just rising in the eastern sky is the light of the glory of the face of our Lord; and the dark is gone, and the night has fled away, by the appearance of the Sun of heaven. It shall be that, it shall be that at the appearance of the Son of God: wrong, and sickness, and suffering, and tears, the works of the devil, these shall flee away at His glorious appearing.
"Behold, behold, this wonder of God!" And temples of cruelty shall be changed into sanctuaries of love and worship and adoration. There shall be a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21-22]. There shall be a new humanity. And like great columns of smoke rising from a golden altar, in prayer and worship and adoration of God, so shall ascend from this planet, this very earth, those hallelujah choruses of the ransomed of God, all of His children who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. "Behold, behold, the appearance of our Lord shall destroy the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8].
Now, I need another hour. This third time that he uses that word is the most glorious of all:
Behold, behold, this wonder of wonders,
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].
Behold the wonder of God as it reaches down to us: it doth not yet appear what we shall be. Eye hath not seen it, ear hath not heard it, heart hath not imagined or conceived it, what we shall be" [1 Corinthians 2:9]. The chrysalis in the cocoon has no idea of the glory of its life among the trees and the sun and this emerald earth, as in a new world and in a new life it bathes in the glory of the face of God. In the cocoon, immortality, it has no conception of it. An unborn babe has no experience by which to prepare for the wonder of the new life in which he is going to be born. So with us there is not the experience of earth to give us vocabulary and nomenclature and language to describe the heavy burden that would weight words down of what we shall be; it doesn’t appear. There’s not sentence to bear it; there’s not words to describe it. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be" [1 John 3:2].
Wonder why God hides that away from us? In my preparation for this message, I read of a long ago traveler who had been to India. And as he came back home, he said that they had great difficulty bringing the ship into port because as the sailors saw on the shore their fathers, and mothers, and children, and families, that they were almost beside themselves. Some of them wept, he said, some of them dressed in their best; and none of them could be about their tasks as they should in the intensity of the home. Somehow, I guess it’s like that: God hides away from us the celestials of glory, lest our hands turn feeble in the tasks that remain in this weary world. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be like: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him" [1 John 3:2].
When He shall appear, the dead in Christ shall rise first; and we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump
[1 Corinthians 15: 51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17]
Made into the incorruptible image of Christ; why, I can’t conceive of it. A redeemed, glorified spirit, and a redeemed, glorified, resurrected body, I cannot speak of it. "We shall be like Him," however Jesus is that we shall be, "For we shall see Him as He is" [1 John 3:2].
And now, I need another hour. "For we shall see Him as He is"; the old philosophical theory that a man becomes what he lovingly, adoringly looks upon. Some people handle flowers for money, and some people live in mountains just to till the soil, but some people look, and the beauty of what God hath wrought enters the soul. So it is when we see the face of our Lord, when He bursts upon our glorified sight, it shall have such power, such wonder, such amazing virtue, that we are transformed into the same image [Romans 8:29]. As Paul says, "We all as in a glass, beholding the glory of God, are changed into the same image from glory unto glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord [2 Corinthians 3:18]. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6]; when we see Him. "We see through a glass darkly now; but then face to face [1 Corinthians 13:12]. It doth not yet appear what we shall be," language couldn’t describe it; "but we know that, when He shall appear, when we see Him, we shall be like Him" [1 John 3:2]; because just the vision, the image in glory shall transform us into the same glory as by the Spirit of the Lord [2 Corinthians 3:18]. Behold, behold, what a wonder God hath in store for His children.
We sing our song of invitation. And while we sing it, in this balcony, this throng, in this balcony, is there one somebody to give his heart to the Lord? Would you come and stand by me? In the throng on this lower floor, somebody you give his life to Jesus; would you come and stand by me? Is there a family you to put your life with us in the church? Would you come? "This is my wife, these are my children." Would you come? Would you make it this morning? If there is one somebody, and it’s you, and the Lord opens the door and bids you, would you make it now? Would you make it this morning? As the Spirit of Jesus shall lead in the way, would you come? While we stand and sing.
AT THE APPEARING OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 3:1-10
I. What we are now
A. "Behold!" – an exclamation of wonder(1 John 3:1)
1. If ever one to whom wonders, miracles commonplace, it would be John
2. Yet he begins chapter with exclamation at the wonder of what God has done – miracles entailed in our adoption into family of God
B. Who calls us the children of God?
1. God the Father (Matthew 6:9)
2. Jesus Himself (Hebrews 2:11, John 1:11-12)
3. Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15)
4. Providences of life teach us so(Galatians 4:6, Hebrews 12:7)
C. How do we get to be that way?
1. "Behold, what manner of love" – a servant in the house is paid and it’s over; but a son or daughter is forever(Hebrews 1:5)
D. Kai semen, nun semen – not only called so, but we are sons of God (1 John 3:1-2)
1. Glory of a "now" experience
II. What we shall be
A. Phanerothe – "appear, manifest"
B. Our ultimate hope of deliverance from sins (1 John 3:5)
1. Our helplessness before it
2. The intervention of God lifting up, raising up
a. Mineral to vegetable; vegetable to animal
b. Carnal to spiritual and mortal to immortal(Luke 24:37-43)
3. The purpose of Christ’s first coming(Matthew 1:21, Hebrews 2:17, 4:15, 7:25)
4. The purpose of His coming again (Hebrews 9:26-28)
C. Destruction of the works of the devil(1 John 3:8, Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-2)
D. Our transformation into the image and likeness of Christ(1 John 3:2)
1. Not yet manifested what we shall be(1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
2. We will see Him as He is
a. In the days of His flesh, disciples changed by His presence