Few things are more fun for a teenage boy than sneaking into the girl’s cabins at camp. I remember indulging in a little covert operation once with a friend of mine. We had dodged security and made our way in to the so-called holy of holies. After hanging out for a while, we heard the sound of footsteps closing in. I frantically slid underneath the bottom of the bunk bed on one side of the cabin. My friend was slightly larger than I, so he kicked a girl out of her bed. She hid underneath it, while he climbed in and quickly threw the covers over his head. The door opened quickly, accompanied by a flashlight and a voice:
“Is everything alright in there?”
As the flashlight started checking the bunk beds, I was sure we were going to be found out. Everyone was holding their breath, on the verge of giggling.
Fortunately, we escaped that time. I suppose this is sort of a confession.
My point in revealing that deep-dark secret is this: what will you be found doing when the flashlight hits you?
. . .
This verse is the major turning point in the letter. From here on, what has already been taught is applied and expanded upon. Bultmann conjectured that this part of the epistle may even be notes taken from a seminar, or a collection and expansion of John’s original text by his followers. I tend to believe it’s just the natural tendency of an old preacher to cover the same ground a few more times before calling it a night.
John uses the word abide/remain to connect what’s been taught with what’s to come. We are to remain in Jesus—now we’re given a reason: so when he is revealed we will have confidence (and not be ashamed) when he comes.
The idea of Jesus’ appearing or revealing is important in this section of the letter. Between here and 3:10, the word is used twice to refer to Jesus’ first coming (his incarnation in Bethlehem), and twice for his second coming (yet to happen). The second usage is in mind here.
. . .
John uses the word “light” to describe Jesus quite often. Here are a few examples:
[John] came as a witness to testify to the light. . . . He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:7-9 NRSV)
The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19 NRSV)
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
I should add that famous verse from Revelation:
There will be no more night; they need no light or lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light. (Revelation 22:5 NRSV)
Jesus is light, and when that light is revealed, it exposes everything dark. Like a 5 million candle-power floodlight in a dark forest, Jesus’ appearance will illuminate this world.
John’s point is simple, profound, and very direct: when he is revealed—when he does come again—will you be ashamed, or confident? If you remain “in him”, there’s nothing to fear.
. . .
I love how John uses the second coming of Jesus in such a pastoral way. Rather than trying to calculate dates (which we’re told is futile, yet we still try), he states the fact and uses it to motivate us. The second coming of Jesus should encourage us to become who we are. If we claim to follow Jesus, then our conduct should reflect the new sort of creatures we have become.