28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
In the previous passage, John says, “Children, it is the last hour,” referring to the immanent return of Christ. He cites the appearance of those opposed to Christ has proof.
But surely the most amazing thing John says here is the fact that God loves us and calls us His children (3:1-2)! The Maker and Sustainer and Sovereign Lord of the universe loves us and has made us His own. Though we were estranged through Adam’s sin and our own, Christ Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, died in our place, turning aside God’s righteous anger and reconciling us to Him. And now He does not just tolerate us, he loves us.
This is the basis of our relationship as John talks of Christ’s return and our meeting Him. He speaks first of what we do with ourselves while we wait. Until that day, we simply abide. We remain in Him. As in John’s discussion of the antichrists, we don’t reject Christ or go looking elsewhere for salvation. We remain in Him (2:28). There might be trials and persecutions and disappointments and disillusionments. Hold on. Don’t give up. He is coming. And remember, God loves us.
Secondly, we purify ourselves. We do not purify ourselves to become God’s children; we already are (3:2). We purify ourselves to conform to the nature of Our Heavenly Father. Our motivation is the hope that we will see Him as He is. And when we see Him we will become like Him (3:2). So we begin preparing for that transformation now. We know He is light and love and holiness, so we purify ourselves of sin and hate and darkness. We don’t do so by our own power, but in the strength He provides. He is the determiner of righteousness, so that “everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him (2:29).” That we are His children means we are born of Him, and thus we can practice righteousness.
If it was the final hour at the time John wrote, the time is even closer now. Let us abide in Him, then, as the church has now for nearly 2,000 years. And strengthened, encouraged and empowered by the love of God, let us purify ourselves of all unrighteousness, and eagerly await the moment when we see the One who loves us face-to-face.