We shall be like him." John says, "for we shall see him as he is." That points to love beyond all human comprehension and to life beyond all human comparison. John draws our attention to four features of that wondrous life.
There is, first, an indisputable fact: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." There can be no room for uncertainty about that. God has said so, and God cannot lie. Now, right now, we are the children of God. "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Ps. 119:89).
There is an old story about the woman who accepted Christ through reading John 3:16. The counselor showed her where the verse was in her Bible and marked it for her. Later on that night, she had doubts. She felt the Devil was attacking her newfound faith. She was a simple soul, but wise. She decided that the darkest place in the room was under the bed, so that was where the Devil must be. She found John 3:16 in her Bible. She put her finger on the verse. She thrust the Bible under the bed. "Here," she said, "read it for yourself!" Now are we (right now) "the sons of God." We can read it for ourselves. There can be no doubt.
There is, however, an influencing restriction because there is something that is "not yet." John says, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be" (I John 3:2). Our thoughts are too dull, our minds too slow, our imaginations too poor, our experience too small, and we have too little to go on for us to be able to grasp the wonders of the world to come. When Paul tried to describe what he had experienced when caught up to the third heaven, all he could say, when he came back down to earth, was "It is untranslatable!" (2 Cor. 12:4). When John tried to describe the wonders of the world to come, he resorted at once to symbolic language (Rev. 4-5). The Bible contains a strange mixture of things vividly real and hard as concrete and things mystical, ethereal, and beyond our grasp. God says, "Not yet!" when we try to probe too far.
There is also an indescribable result. "We shall be like Him." John says (I John 3:2). Imagine being like Him for all the endless ages of eternity—like Him in thought, and word, and deed; like Him in body, soul, and spirit; like Him in character, conduct, and conversation! We sing of our present earthly experience, of our longing to be like Him—
Be like Jesus, this my song,
In the home and in the throng;
Be like Jesus, all day long!
I would be like Jesus.
At best we achieve only a vague resemblance to Him down here; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.
Finally, there is an infallible reason: "We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." John had once experienced the soul-thrilling rapture of such a vision. It was on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8), though he does not speak of it in his gospel. The synoptic writers had already told that story, the story of a vision of glory, of the visitors from another world, and of a voice from heaven. John had been there along with Peter and James. He had seen the Lord's clothes ablaze with light, His face beaming like the sun. One day we are going to see Him just like that. We shall see Him as He is, in all the splendor of His humanity and in all the effulgence of His deity. Instantly, eternally, and gloriously we shall be like Him. Well has John Nelson Darby written:
And is it so—I shall be like Thy Son?
Is this the grace which He for me has won?
Father of glory! Thought beyond all thought,
In glory to His own blest likeness brought.
Yet, it must be! Thy love had not its rest
Were Thy redeemed not with Thee fully blessed,
That love that gives not as the world, shares
All it possesses with it loved co-heirs.