And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:28–29—NKJV)

Though the Apostle John is often identified as simple in vocabulary and basic in truth, this passage teaches some crucial doctrine and necessary lessons for every believer. Within these two verses we find the doctrines of Soteriology, Sanctification, Divine Sovereignty, Human Responsibility, Eschatology, and the Nature of God—in just two verses! The lessons are dramatic and practical.

The return of our Lord is the blessed hope of every New Testament church. I have often wondered why there are not more hymns and spiritual songs written that serve as constant reminders of the rapture of the church. John deals with the subject in the context of holy living among the brethren. In the immediate context, he has just finished dealing with false christs and discernment of truth. The Holy Spirit has been given to every genuine believer in order to aid in discerning truth, and working that truth deep down, so that it abides in the believer and in turn the believer abides in Jesus Christ. Abiding in Christ is accomplished by obeying Him.

John’s audience is authentic believers, as seen in the fact that he addresses them as “dear” children. They are the ones encouraged to obediently “remain” in Christ so that when He comes for His church they will have confidence in His presence.

The rapture is described two ways in verse 28. The first is “appear.” The word means “to be made manifest.” It is used of something that is present, but hidden or invisible, only to become visible and revealed. John’s point is that Jesus Christ is alive right now, hidden from our view, but in charge nonetheless. Just because He is invisible to the believer is no excuse for failure to abide in Him. Live in the light of His presence.

The other way the rapture is described is the word “coming.” The Greek word is parousia, a compound word meaning “to be beside.” The force of the word is the idea of the physical, personal presence of the one coming. The only way you can grasp the significance of the term is to put yourself back in the day in which John wrote. It would be as if you were a first century Roman citizen who just received notice that the Caesar was to appear, sometime in the near future, in your town, and he is expecting to make a personal visit to your home with the intent to stay with you in particular. Imagine your “to do” list, your excitement, your care! Nothing would be overlooked for this once in a lifetime event!

The rapture of the church is the event that will happen, when the Lord Himself will become visible and make His appearance. What manner of life should you be living so that you are not ashamed (suffused with shame) when you are brought into His physical presence? You should be constantly abiding in Him in close fellowship to such a degree that His sudden appearance is simply a grand continuation of what is already at work within you. That is the only way that unworthy sinners like you and I can possibly hope to be without shame and with bold confidence (parresia—“freedom of speaking, unreservedness in speech, free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance”). This kind of keen anticipation requires daily spiritual maintenance.

As verse 29 exhorts, “we know with an absolute knowledge that He is righteous.” This kind of knowledge requires that all those truly born again habitually practice such righteousness as His, as we “experientially know” all believers are called to the same manner of life. Live and proceed through your life knowing that the Lord will be made visible, and you will stand before His physical presence. Live so that you are not ashamed. Trust and obey.