Question: "What does it mean that we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)?"
Answer: In 1 John 3:1–3, the apostle John is overcome with the miracle of God’s love in claiming us as His children. For those of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that is what we are—children of God! But there’s a catch, explains John: “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2, NKJV).
A difficulty of our present state of existence is that we cannot fully grasp what it means to be a child of God. We don’t have the complete picture yet because God has not shown us what we will be like when Jesus Christ returns and we see Him face to face. Until then, we can only take in a dimly lit preview. The apostle Paul affirms, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT).
We shall see Him as He is means that our ability to appreciate and understand the depth, breadth, and fullness of Christ—and who we are in Christ—will only be complete when He returns. When we stand before Him, our spiritual eyes will be wide open, expanding our visual field to take in all of Him. Again, Paul verifies that we “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Right now, while we live in this fallen world, the transformation process is gradual, inconsistent, and sometimes imperceptible. But, when we are in the presence of Jesus, our transformation will be swift and all-encompassing. We will see the Son in all His magnificent glory, and, at last, we will fully comprehend what it means to be a child of God.
Scripture is full of reminders that we are inching toward a climactic unveiling (Luke 17:30; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7). The literal meaning of the Greek word apokálypsis (apocalypse in English) is “unveiling, revelation, disclosure.” In the end, Christ will return, and His second coming will make visible everything that is true of Jesus but currently veiled from human eyes. The children of God “will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:13, NLT). Presently, we are following “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” as we develop ever-expanding degrees of growth in Christian maturity (Philippians 3:14, ESV). Eventually, the process will culminate in heavenly perfection as “we bear the image of the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
Paul teaches that “in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority” (Colossians 2:9–10, NLT). In Christ, believers possess the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:22–23). In our present state, we can only grasp this fact with imperfect knowledge and partial understanding. We can’t comprehend the total reality of who we are as God’s children because we can’t yet see the full extent of Christ’s personhood. But flawless, unhindered sight will be ours when Jesus Christ returns. When we see Him in person, we shall see Him as He is—in the fullness of God’s glory.
Only a few privileged humans like Moses, Isaiah, and Stephen caught glimpses of God’s glory (Exodus 33:21–23; Isaiah 6; Acts 7:55). God spoke to Moses “face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the Lord as he is” (Numbers 12:8, NLT). To see God in all His magnificent glory is to see Him as He truly is. The author of Hebrews tells us that “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). Those who saw Jesus at His first coming saw His glory (John 1:14; 11:40). When we see the Son face to face, we too shall see Him as He is—the exact expression of God’s glory. Finally, we will understand everything it means to say, “I am a child of God.”