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Will We See God the Father after We Are Glorified? Part 5

by Karl Kemp  
3/27/2017 / Bible Studies

We continue this verse-by-verse study of 1 John 2:28-3:3 with 1 John 3:2.  

(2) Beloved, now we are children of God [God the Father], and it has not appeared [or "been manifested"] as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears [[This probably should be translated (many agree with what I am saying here) "when it appears," or "when it is manifested," building on the preceding clause: "and it has not appeared [or "it has not been manifested"] as yet what we will be." The Jerusalem Bible has, "when it is revealed"; the NAB has, "when it comes to light"; the Phillips translation has, "if reality were to break through"; TCNT [Twentieth Century New Testament] has "if it shall be manifested"; see the margin of the NIV ("Or 'when it is made known' ") and the NRSV ("or 'it' "), for example; and this is the view of quite a few commentators. Regardless of how we translate these last words, we still have to determine who the two uses of "Him" refer to that follow in this verse. The answer to this question directly affects whether this verse teaches that we will see God the Father or the Son of God after we are glorified.]], we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. [[As I have mentioned, I believe that "Him" refers to God the Father here. This shouldn't come as a surprise because God the Father has been in the spotlight since the beginning of 2:29. (Later we will discuss the viewpoint that 2:28 refers to the appearing, coming/presence of God the Father too, and that 2:26-27 apparently refer to Him too. I'll mention now that the book of Revelation, which is of key importance on the end-time judgment of the world, clearly teaches that God the Father is coming to judge at the time the seventh and last trumpet sounds and the Day of Judgment begins.) 

We also need to address the question whether seeing Him will change us and make us "like Him," or whether we will be able to see Him as He is, because we will have been glorified. Commentators go both ways on this question. I believe the second view is correct, but we can leave room for the idea that seeing Him will produce a change in us: After we are glorified we will be able to see God the Father as He is. As this paper shows, many passages show (at least it seems to me that they clearly show) that we will see God the Father, even see Him as He is, after we are glorified (and not some quite limited vision of Him like Moses or Ezekiel, for example, saw). BEING GLORIFIED, INCLUDING HAVING A GLORIFIED BODY, IS A VERY BIG DEAL. Glorification is a very significant part of the salvation package that has been given to us through the incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God to the right hand of God the Father. 

4.4.1. SOME COMMENTATORS WHO BELIEVE IN, OR LEAVE ROOM FOR, THE VIEWPOINT THAT "WE WILL SEE HIM JUST AS HE IS" REFERS TO GOD THE FATHER IN 1 JOHN 3:2. It could be that some of these commentators who speak of seeing the Father just as He is don't believe we will literally see Him, but that we will 'know' Him as He is by revelation, etc. Sometimes it is difficult to see what they mean by "seeing" Him. I'm speaking of literally visually seeing Him after we are glorified, even as we will see the Lord Jesus Christ. (I'll quote and briefly discuss 1 John 3:3 after this digression.): Joh. Ed. Huther ("General Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude," Vol. 10 of "Meyer's Commentary on the New Testament" [Alpha Publications, 1980 reprint], pages 550-552). Huther seems to clearly believe that we will literally see God the Father. He mentions that most commentators rightly understand "what we shall be" will actually be revealed (manifested). He understands the words translated "when He appears" by the NASB in 1 John 3:2 in the sense when IT (referring to "what we shall be") shall appear. When it does appear, we will be like God, but he goes on to rightly say that our "likeness to God will not be unconditioned, but conditioned by the nature of the creature [us], as a creature...." In other words, we will still be quite limited when it comes to being like God; we won't become deity or be worshipped, etc. 

Regarding our being able to see God just as He is, Huther says (in part): "The certain hope of the Christian is that he will see God. In that hope there lies for him the certainty that he will one day be like God; for God can only be seen by him who is like Him. ... For man in his earthly body, God is certainly invisible; but it is different with the glorified man in his [spiritual body] (1 Cor. 15:44); he will not merely know (the believer has knowledge already here [but the knowledge is quite limited]), but see God; and, moreover, [not in a mirror dimly], but [face to face], 1 Cor. 13:12. Compare, on the seeing of God, Matthew 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 22:4. - By ["just as He is" (Huther has the Greek here, not the English translation)] the entire reality of the nature of God: 'as He is, not merely in a copy, etc., but in Himself and in His nature, His perfect majesty and glory' ([quotation from] Spener [Philipp Spener (AD1635-1705) was a German Lutheran; he founded "Pietism"], is described). ...." David Rensberger ("1 John, 2 John, 3 John" [Abingdon Press, 1997], page 88). " 'Revealed' [or, "manifested"] in 3:2b has no explicit pronoun for its subject, an unspecified subject being implicit in the Greek verb. Most English versions supply 'he'; but it would be grammatically hard to reintroduce Jesus as the subject here [[In 3:2a God the Father is mentioned: "we are children of God [the Father]." Also God the Father is mentioned at the end of 2:29 [we are "born of Him"]; He is probably also mentioned at the beginning of 2:29. He, and not Jesus, is also mentioned in 3:1, apparently including the words at the end of the verse [3:1]: "it did not know Him." I agree with Rensberger that it would be grammatically hard to reintroduce Jesus as the subject here."]], nor is the subject likely to be God [But, as it will become clear, Rensberger agrees that we will be like God the Father and see Him.] Rather, since 'what we shall be' was the subject of 'revealed' [or "manifested"] in verse 2a, it probably remains so in verse 2b. We might translate, 'Beloved, we are God's children now; and what we will be has not yet been revealed [or "manifested"]. We do know that when it is revealed [or "manifested"], we will be like him [i.e. God (this is Rensberger's bracket, referring to God the Father)], for we will see him as he is.' " Rensberger seems to clearly believe that we will literally see God the Father. Rudolf Schnackenburg ("Johnanine Epistles" [Crossroad Publishing, 1992; based on the 7th German edition, 1984). I'll quote part of what he says under 1 John 3:2: "The idea of seeing God is found both in Judaism [[He has a footnote (#130) in which he mentions three commentaries that are not in English and Wilhelm Michaelis, "TDNT" ("Theological Dictionary of the New Testament") Vol. 5, [Eerdman's reprint, 1967, pages] 339-340. On pages 339-340 of his lengthy article (pages 315-382) that deals with quite a few different Greek words for seeing, Michaelis discusses seeing God in the pseudepigrapha [(Webster's Dictionary) "a group of early writings not included in the Biblical canon or the Apocryphra, some of which are falsely ascribed to Biblical characters."] and rabbinism [rabbinical teachings and traditions].]] and in Christianity. [Schnackenburg has another footnote here (#131). I'll quote that footnote as we continue and give a few excerpts from the pages by Michaelis that Schnackenburg cites there ("TDNT" 5:364ff.) when I finish this excerpt from Schnackenburg.] It [the idea of seeing God] is a component part of the eschatological hope. ... On earth people see the Father in the Son (John 14:9; 12:45). The addition of [seeing God the Father] "as He is" [in 1 John 3:2] leaves this way of experiencing God on earth open to the believers. It promises the unveiled sight of God ('face to face,' 1 Cor. 13:12) only at the eschatological consummation. 

... This will brought about by the granting of divine glory in all its fullness. As a consequence - just as in Pauline thought - the only sequel will be the revealing of the children of God (Rom. 8:19)" (page 160). And I'll quote the first sentence that he has under 1 John 3:3: "Likeness to God and seeing God together sum up the whole content of Christian hope" (page 160). 

I'll quote Schnackenburg's footnote (#131) that deals with seeing God in Christianity that I mentioned. Then I'll quote some from the last reference mentioned there: "Matt. 5:8; 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:7 ["for we walk by faith, not by sight"]; Rev. 22:4. Cf. Michaelis, 'TDNT' 5:364ff." (Volume 5, page 364-366 of the "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament." The subheading on pages 364-366 is "The Vision of God.") I'll include some excerpts from W. Michaelis' pages 365-366: 

"... Future vision - like everything eschatological - will be totally different from anything possible now. [It will quite different after we are glorified.] In Matt. 5:18 [5:8]; 1 John 3:2 as well the eschatological vision of God is seen to be a possibility which can be actualized only in the future. ... In 1 John 3:2 the reference is to the vision of God [the Father], not to the seeing of Christ at His Parousia (cf. 2:28). [I'll skip his footnote.] ... [The Greek words translated "as He is"]...underscores the immediacy and fullness of this vision. Since here as elsewhere the author wishes to make full use of the preaching of Jesus in answering his opponents, the statement...'we shall see him,' is an intentional reference to the promise of Matt. 5:8 (in some sense the sanctification of 1 John 3:3 corresponds to the purity of heart in Matt. 5:8). The presupposition of this vision, namely, the divine likeness [our likeness to God the Father after we are glorified] expected only in the eschatological consummation, makes it clear why the vision of God can come only with the consummation. ... 

The combination of sanctification and the vision of God [[He has a footnote: "['the Lord' in Heb. 12:14] is to be referred to God [not to the Lord Jesus]...."]] in Heb. 12:14 is reminiscent of 1 John 3:2, but the construction and context show that the motive here [in Heb. 12:14] is hortatory [to exhort, urge].... In Rev. 22:4 the vision of God is spoken of in a book oriented to the visual, so that it [the vision of God; seeing God] does not form so great a climax, but the reader may measure its significance by the fact that one day there will be granted to the servants of God that which had previously been a privilege of the heavenly creatures around God's throne, cf. [Rev.] 4:2ff.; Matt. 18:10 [and Michaelis points out that Matt. 18:10 is discussed on pages 343-344 of his article. In Matt. 18:10, which we discussed above, Jesus says "their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."]. 

In his first sentence of the last paragraph of this section of his article, Michaelis speaks of "The restraint with which the New Testament speaks of the vision of God in only a few passages...." He continues: "Inasmuch as the Old Testament offers hardly any support for expectation of an eschatological vision of God [and he refers to page 334 of his article; I believe there is very much more support in the Old Testament for His people seeing Him after they are glorified than Michaelis does, as I have briefly discussed above in this paper. Some even saw Him, but in very limited ways.] is the plainer that what we have here is a promise which is possible only on a New Testament basis and with the authority of Jesus (cf. Matt. 5:8). [I agree with this, but the old-covenant believers understood that God had plans to take things to a different (much-higher) level in the future. Through the prophet Jeremiah, for example, they had the prophecies of the new covenant, and the Old Testament was packed with promises for the future for those who were truly God's people (believers).] The insurpassable greatness of this promise is that it is not lightly repeated and arbitrarily varied, but rings out only infrequently and with quiet joy, as in 1 John 3:2." I appreciate most of what Wilhelm Michaelis says in the excerpts I have included here. He seems to clearly believe that we will literally see God the Father after we are glorified. John Peter Lange ("Commentary on the Holy Scripture" [taken from Bible Hub; Lange lived from 1802-1884; he started this commentary series in 1857). I'll quote a small part of what he says under 1 John 3:2: "And it hath not yet been manifested what we shall be. ... We know that when it shall be manifested, we shall be like (similar to) Him. ... That the connection requires us to apply [Him] to God and not to Christ, is clear and almost universally acknowledged...." [In our day the majority refer "be like Him" to Christ.] ... Because we shall see Him [God] as He is. - ... The believer is in the [spiritual body] (1 Cor. 15:44) and sees face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).... The object of this seeing is God, [as He is]; 'As He is not only in His image etc., but in Himself and in His Being, His perfect majesty and glory' ([quotation from] Spener). ...." Alfred Plummer ("1, 2 and 3 John" "Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges" [taken from Bible Hub on the internet, 1896]. He prefers "We know that if our future state is made manifest we, who are children of God, shall be found like our Father." "The point is that children are found to be like their Father. This is an additional reason for preferring 'if it shall be manifested.' " "Compare 'And they shall see His face' (Revelation 22:4). The 'even as' ["even as/just as He is" of 1 John 3:2] emphasizes the reality of the sight [of the Father]: no longer 'in a mirror, darkly,' but face to face.' " John Albert Bengel ("New Testament Word Studies," Vol. 2 [Kregel Publications, Kregel reprint 1921; originally published in 1864], page 796). I'll quote part of his paragraph under 1 John 3:2: On "what we shall be" he says, "Further, by the power of this sonship. This 'what'...suggests something unspeakable, contained in the likeness of God which so exalts the sons of God that they become as it were gods. ... 'Like him' - God, whose 'sons' we are. ... 'We shall see'...Him - God. 'As He is' - That is, openly." Bengle seems to clearly believe that we will literally see God the Father after we are glorified. I'll quote a small part of what Robert E. Candlish says here ("First Epistle of John" [Zondervan, the second edition was originally published in 1869], pages 238-240): "... When it does appear what we shall be; when that is no more hidden but disclosed [manifested]; we shall be like God [God the Father] whose children we are as being born of Him; 'for we shall see Him as He is.' ... 

'We shall see Him as He is'; for 'the pure in heart shall see God.' [Matt. 5:8] The full light of all His perfection as the righteous God will open upon our view; we shall know the righteous Father as the Son knows Him. [I believe it is overstated to speak of our knowing the Father as the Son (who is deity with the Father and the Spirit) knows Him, but it will be glorious indeed.] ... But lo! the hour comes when the benign master, the loving elder brother...presents us to the Father face to face, saying, 'Behold I and the little ones whom thou has given me.' Then there is clear sight; unclouded vision; a full and perfect understanding of the righteous Father; a full and perfect understanding between Him and us; as full and perfect an understanding as there is in the case of his own beloved Son himself [This is undoubtedly overstated, but it will be glorious indeed.]. ... We see Him as He is; and so seeing Him, we approve, and love, and are like Him evermore!" Henry Alford ("New Testament for English Readers," Vol. 4 [1983 reprint by Baker Books], pages 1720-22). "Beloved, now we are children of God [I'll skip his comments here], and it never yet was manifested [One comment Alford makes here is that it will be "shewn forth in actuality, come to its manifestation." Yes, when the glory of our salvation is manifested, including our being glorified, at the end of this age.] what we shall be [I'll quote part of what Alford says here: " [Gal. 4:1] we are children waiting for an unknown inheritance [We know a lot about this future inheritance, but we haven't experienced it yet.] - then we shall be children in full possession of that inheritance. And hence from the reality and identity of that sonship, comes what follows, - our certain knowledge [knowledge that we have, or can have, now], even in this absence of manifestation in detail, that our future condition will consist in likeness to Him.]. We know [I'll skip what Alford says here.] that, if it were manifested (viz, the 'what we shall be'...), we shall be [I'll skip what Alford says here.] like Him ([like] God: see below), because [I'll skip what Alford says here.] we shall see Him (God; see below) as He is [[I'll quote a small part of what Alford says here: "And this ("entire likeness to God") is the part of the future lot of the sons of God which is certain. Because we shall see Him as He is, - which is taken for granted as a Christian axiom, - it of necessity follows that we shall be entirely like Him.... The difficulty, that no man can see God [As we continue, it becomes rather clear that Alford means that we will not ever actually see Him.], is not in reality contained here, any more than it is in our Lord's 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God [Matt. 5:8].' [When I read what Alford says under Matt. 5:8, it becomes rather clear that he doesn't believe we will actually see God the Father: I'll quote part of what he says there: "There is an allusion to the nearer vision of God attained by progressive sanctification, of which Paul speaks, 2 Cor. 3:18 - begun indeed in this life, but not perfected till the next, 1 Cor. 13:12."]." He goes on to acknowledge that there will be very definite limits to our seeing God [but not actually seeing Him] to the depths of His being and glory, but that our "vision [of God], as far as it can reach, being clear and unclouded: being, to the utmost extent of which our glorified nature is capable, as He is - a true and not a false vision of God. ...."]] Raymond E. Brown ("Epistles of John" Anchor Bible, Vol. 20 [Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1982], pages 392-396 and 422-427 on 1 John 3:2. "...what we shall be has not yet been revealed [or, "manifested"], but we know that when it is revealed [or, "manifested"], etc." Note the "it." Then under the words "we shall be like Him," Brown prefers the view that "Him" refers to God the Father. "...more likely we children are being assured that at the final revelation we shall be like God the Father, a God whom the world has never known or recognized (3:1). ... seeing God as He is in Himself is the ultimate revelation." (This is part of what Brown says on pages 394-395.) Brown has a lot to say, but it isn't at all clear to me that he believes we will literally see God the Father after we are glorified. Steven S. Smalley ("1, 2, 3 John," "Word Biblical Commentary," #51 [Word, Incorporated, 1984], pages 144-147) assumes that "when He appears" "alludes to the future parousia of Jesus Christ in glory...." He takes being "like Him" of being like Jesus, but he also says: "But being 'like him' [and seeing Him] could also refer to God (cf. Matt. 5:8; Rev. 22:4); and since the Christian's ultimate vision will be of God...perhaps this meaning should not be entirely excluded from the text." And I'll quote most of the note in the NAB (New American Bible) under 1 John 3:1ff: "The greatest proof of God's love for men is the gift of his Son, through whom they are not only called, but are in reality, God's sons; cf. John 3:16. This condition is true of their present life and, in the fullest sense, of the life to come when the divine filiation will result in their being like God and in seeing him 'as he is.' They prepare for it by leading a life like that of God's Son, keeping themselves 'pure, as he is pure' (verse 3). ...." 

(1 John 3:3 [continuing with the verse-by-verse discussion of 1 John 2:28-3:3]) And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him [I agree with the large number of commentators who believe "Him" refers to God the Father here (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 1:9-10; 1 Tim. 4:10).] purifies himself, just as He is pure." It is significant that the Greek word translated "He" near the end of this verse is "ekeinos," which would more literally be translated "that one." I agree with the very large number of commentators who believe ekeinos refers to the Lord Jesus here. It is significant that ekeinos is also used for Him in 1 John 2:6; 3:5, 7, 16; and 4:17. I trust we can all agree that for us to purify ourselves (by the powerful saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ) as the Lord Jesus in pure includes total victory over sin. (So too if we purify ourselves as God the Father is pure.) This total victory over sin is a common theme throughout the New Testament, very much including 1 John. And 1 John 1:8 does not contradict this total victory over sin like many think it does. See my two books on this topic (including 1 John 1:8): "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," and "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." The second book is recent and easier to read than the first book, because it was taken from radio broadcasts, but the first book contains a lot of important information not included in the second book. Both books are available at The second book is also available in e-book format.



1 JOHN 2:28. "Now, little children, abide in Him [I have a lengthy section below titled 1 JOHN 2:20, 26-27 that rather strongly confirms that "Him" refers to God the Father here.], so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming [or "presence," Greek "parousia"]." As I have shown, it fits the context better, and I believe it is more likely that John was speaking of the coming of, or being in the presence of, God the Father, not the coming of the Lord Jesus, though it is true that the Lord Jesus will be coming at the same time. As I mentioned, one primary reason that many interpret 3:2 of the manifestation of the Lord Jesus is because they believe 2:28 speaks of His coming. As we have discussed, I, in agreement with a large number of commentators, but not the majority, believe 3:2 prophesies of the manifestation (coming/presence) of God the Father. If I am right on 3:2, that in itself is a good reason to consider the idea that 1 John 2:28 prophesies of His coming too. I don't believe many Christians have even considered this viewpoint. I have found that the majority often get it wrong on many topics. We will discuss this viewpoint in some detail as we continue.  

I'll quote part of what Marianne Meye Thompson says under 1 John 2:28-3:5 ("1-3 John" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1992], pages 84-90). She believes 2:28 (and 3:2) speak of the coming of the Lord Jesus, but she is open to the idea that John states that we will have "confidence" BEFORE GOD THE FATHER in 2:28, and she teaches that it is God the Father that we will be like and will see in 3:2. The viewpoint that she is open to on 2:28 is a very important step toward the viewpoint that I prefer, that 2:28 speaks of the manifestation and coming of God the Father and having confidence before Him in 2:28.  

The last paragraph that Thompson has in a Note under 2:28 at the bottom of pages 84-85 is significant: "THE SUBJECT OF VERSE 28 IS NOT SPECIFIED, AND 'HE' CAN REFER TO GOD [THE FATHER] OR TO CHRIST, HERE AND THROUGHOUT THIS SECTION [2:28-3:2; my capitalization for emphasis. As I have mentioned, I rather strongly prefer the viewpoint that God the Father is the One specified to come in 2:28]. Most commentators, however, assume that the reference to 'his coming' refers to the coming of Christ (though Grayston...argues that this phrase refers to God [Kenneth Grayston ("The Johannine Epistles" [Eerdmans, 1984], pages 93-97). I didn't find his discussion under 1 John 2:28 to be very helpful. I disagree with too many things he said there.]), and take the whole verse [2:28] as referring to Christ's work in coming to judge [and to save]. However, it is possible, as Houlden ["The Johannine Epistles," 1973, page 86] suggests, that BELIEVERS HAVE CONFIDENCE BEFORE GOD WHEN CHRIST APPEARS [my emphasis. As I mentioned, I believe this is an important step toward the correct interpretation]. Throughout the epistle believers are said to have confidence with 'God' (2:1; 3:19-21; 4:17; 5:14)." 1 John 3:21; 4:17; and 5:14 are important references for 2:28 in that they speak of having confidence before God the Father, using the same Greek noun for "confidence" ("parresia"), especially 4:17 in that it speaks of having confidence before God "in the day of judgment." Most agree that 5:14 speaks of having confidence in God. 1 John 2:1 doesn't seem to be especially relevant. For one thing, it doesn't use parresia or speak of having confidence before God, but it does show that the Lord Jesus, as our Advocate, will restore Christians who have sinned to a totally right relationship with God when they repent.  

I'll quote part of what Thompson says that deals with 2:28 (on pages 85-86). "When we continue faithfully in relationship with God, we can be 'confident and unashamed' ["not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming" (NASB)] BEFORE GOD WHEN CHRIST COMES [my emphasis]. ... ...the confidence that believers have is the boldness to approach God when the coming of Jesus signals divine judgment [and great blessing and glorification for those who are ready to stand before God]. The epistle uses two words for Jesus' coming, 'appearing' [or 'is manifested'] ([Greek] 'phaneroun') and 'coming' (Greek 'parousia' [which can also be translated 'presence']). ...." 

We will continue this discussion in Part 6 of this paper. 

© Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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