Down through the centuries of history, since the Lord said that He would come again (Jn 14.3), saints have surveyed conditions in society and have sighed in longing for the fulfilment of the promise. Today, in the troubled and cruel world in which we live, the sighing is still heard and the longing is as intense as ever. Suffering abounds, sin seems to run unchecked, puny man raises his fist at God in rebellion, and saints cry, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22.20). His promise, however, has comforted and encouraged His people through ages past as it still does today. We do not know when His return will take place but we do know that it will take place. The bodies of those Christians who have died will be raised, and those still alive will be changed, as together they rise to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4.13-18).
But as John writes his first epistle one other aspect of His coming captivates him. Not only shall we be with Him, "we shall be like him". This is something that has not been seen before; the privilege and glory of it never known, and yet, that is the glorious prospect that lies before His people. What does this mean for us?
First, it means that our bodies will be glorified. No more will they be marked by dishonour stamped on them by sin, no more will they be weakened by sins intrusion (1 Cor 15.43). This weakness is seen clearly in the victory of death, but death can never overcome the body that is raised at the Rapture.
Second, these bodies will be incorruptible and immortal, spiritual bodies fitted for a spiritual realm. The decay and diminution of mental and physical power that is experienced with the passing years will be no more. Illness, disease, and the impact of ageing on the mind will not be known, their effects will never be felt.
Third, they will be bodies into which sin cannot enter. No longer will the battle against sins power be waged; there will be no further need to wrestle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph 6.12). Into the good of the Lords victory over them we will enter when we see His face.
Fourth, the individuality marking each of us today will still be seen. Being "like him" does not mean that we will all look alike. The great variety that marks us today will still be there. Paul looked forward to recognising the Thessalonian saints at the Rapture (1 Thess 2.19). Satan cannot prevent this reunion taking place.
When Paul writes of the resurrection body he states, " that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die" (1 Cor 15.37). The act of burial is seen as sowing, and the resurrection as subsequent growth. Although Paul writes particularly of seed from which grain is grown, the same principle is seen in the planting of other seeds or bulbs. Take, for example, the planting of a bulb. What is put into the ground is not a thing of beauty. When gardeners organise a "bulb show" it is not to put on display bulbs that have yet to be placed under the soil. There would be little to attract attention to the dull, often wizened, shape of bulbs. But, after the bulb is planted, in due course it grows until in full flower it is an object of great beauty. How could what is placed in the earth be compared to the beauty now seen? Thus it will be on that resurrection day. The change to, and the beauty displayed in, the body now glorified will be indescribable, making it impossible to recognise any of the features and failures suffered through the stain and grip of sin.
But, sweetest of all, we shall be like Him. No higher dignity, no greater beauty, no fuller satisfaction could ever be known. As we wait for that day let us heed the words of John: "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 Jn 3.3).
Like Him! O grace supreme!
Like Him before Thy face,
Like Him - to know that glory beam,
Unhindered face to face.
O love supreme and bright,
Good to the feeblest heart,
That gives us now, as heavenly light,
What soon shall be our part.
(J N Darby)