JOHANNINE THEOLOGY, 2 [ISBE]
JOHANNINE THEOLOGY, 2
- VI. Eternal Life.
The development of the conception of eternal life must be set along with the doctrine of the moral nature of God and the doctrine of the incarnation as one of the greatest contributions of the Johannine theology to New Testament thought. With this conception the Gospel begins (Jn 1:4) and ends (Jn 20:31); and, in like manner, the Epistle (1 Jn 1:2; 5:20). The designation most frequently employed is simply "the life" (he zoe); 17 times in the Gospel and 6 times in the First Epistle it is described qualitatively as "eternal"; but the adjective brings out only what is implicit in the noun. In harmony with the universal Biblical conception, John regards life as the summum bonum, in which the reality of fellowship with God consists, which therefore fulfills the highest idea of being--"perfect truth in perfect action" (Westcott). Christ Himself is "the life" (Jn 14:6), its only bestower and unfailing source (Jn 14:19). He came that we might have it abundantly (Jn 10:10).
1. Ethical Rather than Eschatological:
But this conception is uniquely developed in two directions. While the eschatological element is not lost, it is absorbed in the ethical. The ideas of duration and futurity, which are properly and originally expressed by the adjective "eternal" (aionios = belonging to an eon--specifically to "the coming eon"), become secondary to that of timeless moral quality. Always life is regarded as a present possession rather than as future felicity (e.g. Jn 3:36; 20:31; 1 Jn 3:14,15; 5:12). For John the question whether it is possible to make the best of both worlds is meaningless. Eternal life is the best, the Divine, kind of life, whether in this world or another. It is the kind of life that has its perfect manifestation in Christ (1 Jn 1:2; 5:11). To possess that nature which produces thoughts and motives and desires, words and deeds like His, is to have eternal life.
2. Metaphysical Aspect:
Metaphysically the conception undergoes a development which is equally remarkable, though in the judgment of many, of more questionable value. It has already been seen (see above, II) that life is conceived as the animating principle or essence of the Divine nature, the inward energy of which all its activities are the manifold outgoing. And this conception is carried through with strict consistency. The spiritual life in men, which is "begotten of God," is the vital essence, the mystic principle which is manifested in all the capacities and activities of Christian personality. It does not consist in, and still less is it a result following, repentance, faith, obedience or love; it is that of which they are the fruits and the evidences. Thus instead of "This do, and thou shalt live" (Lk 10:28), John says, conversely, "Every one also, that doeth righteousness is (= has been) begotten of" God (1 Jn 2:29); instead of "The just shall live by faith" (Rom 1:17, the King James Version), "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is (= has been) begotten of God" (1 Jn 5:1). The human activity is the result and proof of Divine life already imparted, not the condition or means of its attainment. In the Johannine conception life is cause, not effect; not phenomenon, but essence; not the complex whole of the qualities, activities and experiences of the spiritual man, but that which makes them possible--the inscrutable, Divinely communicated principle (Jn 3:8) in which the capacity for them is given and by which also it is realized.
Reply to Criticism.
This Johannine conception of life is vigorously criticized as importing into the interpretation of Christian experience principles and modes of thought borrowed from Greek philosophy. But the tendency to infer causes from effects and to reason from phenomena to essence is not peculiar to Greek philosophy; it is native to the human intellect. The Johannine conception of spiritual life is closely analogous to the common conception of physical life. We do not conceive that a man lives because he breathes and feels and acts; we think and we say that he does these things because he lives, because there is in him that mystic principle we call life. Only to the thinker trained in the logic of empiricism is it possible to define life solely by its phenomena, as e.g. "the continuous adjustment of internal to external relations" (Spencer). The ordinary mind instinctively passes behind the phenomena to entity of which they are the manifestation. The Johannine conception, moreover, lies in the natural line of development for New Testament thought. It is implicit in that whole strain of our Lord's synoptic teaching which regards doing as only the outcome of being, and which is emphasized in such utterances as "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit" (Mt 12:33); as also in the whole Pauline doctrine of the new creation and the mystical indwelling of Christ in the members of His body. And while it is no doubt true that the Johannine conception of life was immediately influenced by contact with Hellenism, it is one which was sure, sooner or later, to emerge in Christian theology.
3. Development of Doctrine:
(1) Source in God.
In the development of the doctrine we note the following points. (a) The sole and absolute source of life is God, the Father, revealed in Christ. "The Father hath life in himself" (Jn 5:26). He is the "living Father" by whom the Son lives (Jn 6:57); the "true God, and eternal life" (1 Jn 5:20). Eternal life is nothing else than the immanence of God in moral beings created after His likeness; the Divine nature reproducing itself in human nature; the energy of the Spirit of God in the spiritual nature of man. This is its ultimate definition.
(2) Mediated by Christ.
Of this life Christ is the sole mediator (Jn 6:33,17; 11:25; 14:6). The witness is that "God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 Jn 5:11). This mediation is grounded in the relation, eternally subsisting within the Godhead, of the Loges to the Father. The life manifested and seen in the historic Christ (1 Jn 1:1) is "the life, the eternal life," which existed in relation to the Father (1 Jn 1:2). By the incarnation of the Son the eternal life in its Divine fullness has become incorporate with humanity, a permanent source of regenerative power to "as many as received him" (Jn 1:12). It is His own relation to the Father that He reproduces in men (Jn 17:23).
(3) Through the Spirit.
In the communication of this life the Spirit is the one direct agent (Jn 3:5-8; see above, under IV).
(4) The Divine "Begetting."
The act of Divine self-communication is constantly and exclusively expressed by the word "beget" (gennao--Jn 1:13; 3:3,5-8; 1 Jn 2:29; 3:9, etc.). The word is of far-reaching significance. It implies not only that life has its ultimate origin in God, but that its communication is directly and solely His act. In how literal a sense the Divine begetting is to be understood appears very strikingly in 1 Jn 3:9: "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin; because his seed abideth in him." The unique expression "his seed" signifies the new life-principle which is the formative element of the "children of God." This abides in him who has received it. It stamps its own character upon his life and determines its whole development.
(5) The "Children of God."
Those who are "begotten of God" are ipso facto "children of God" (tekna theou, Jn 1:12; 11:52; 1 Jn 3:1,2,10; 5:2). The term connotes primarily the direct communication of the Father's own nature; and secondarily the fact that the nature thus communicated has not as yet reached its full stature, but contains the promise of a future glorious development. We are now children of God, but what it fully is to be children of God is not yet made manifest (1 Jn 3:2). Participation in this life creates a family fellowship (koinonia) at once human and Divine. Those who are begotten of God and walk in the light have "fellowship one with another" (1 Jn 1:7). They are "brethren" and are knit together by the instincts (1 Jn 5:1) and the duties of mutual love (Jn 13:34; 15:12; 1 Jn 3:16; 4:11) and of mutual watchfulness and intercession (1 Jn 5:16).
On the Divine side they have fellowship "with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:3). In this Divine fellowship the life "begotten" is nourished and sustained; and no term is more characteristic of the Johannine vocabulary, alike in Gospel and Epistles, than the word "abide" (menein), by which this is expressed. There is, however, a noticeable difference in the modes of statement. In the Epistle, the formulas almost exclusively employed are these: "God abides in us," "We abide in God," "God abides in us and we in him." In the Gospel the reciprocal indwelling is that of Christ and His disciples (Jn 15:4-10), which has its Divine counterpart in that of the Father and the Son (Jn 14:10; 17:23; 15:10). This diversity is consistent with the different points of view occupied in the two documents. The Gospel is christocentric; the Epistle, theocentric. In the one is given the concrete presentment of the incarnate Son; in the other the immediate intuition of the Divine nature revealed in Him. While the theme common to both is the "Word of life," the special theme of the Gospel is the Word who reveals and imparts the life; in the Epistle it is the life revealed and imparted by the Word, and the thought of the indwelling Christ is naturally carried up to the ultimate truth of the indwelling God.
(6) The Divine Abiding.
The vitalizing union by which the Divine life is sustained in those who are begotten of God consists in two reciprocal activities, not separable and not identical--God's (or Christ's) abiding in us and our abiding in Him. As in the similitude of the vine and the branches (Jn 15:1-10), the life imparted is dependent for its sustenance and growth upon a continuous influx from the parent source: as it is the sap of the vine that vitalizes the branches, producing leaf and blossom and fruit, so does the life of God support and foster in His children its own energies of love and truth and purity. But to this end the abiding of God in us has as its necessary counterpart our abiding in Him. We can respond to the Divine influence or reject it; open or obstruct the channels through which the Divine life flows into ours (Jn 15:6,7,10; 8:31). Hence, abiding in God is a subject of instruction and exhortation (Jn 15:4; 1 Jn 2:27 f); and here the idea of persistent and stedfast purpose which belongs to the word menein comes clearly into view. As the abiding of God in us is the persistent and purposeful action by which the Divine nature influences ours, so our abiding in God is the persistent and purposeful submission of ourselves to that influence. The means of doing this are stedfast loyalty to the truth as it is revealed in Christ and announced in the apostolic Gospel (Jn 8:31; 15:7; 1 Jn 2:27), keeping God's commandments (Jn 14:23; 15:10; 1 Jn 3:24), and loving one another (1 Jn 4:12,16). Thus only is the channel of communication kept clear between the source and the receptacle of life.
VII. Human Nature and Its Regeneration.
The necessity of regeneration is fundamental to the whole theological scheme (Jn 3:3,5,7). Life which consists in union with God does not belong to man as he is naturally constituted: those who know that they have eternal life know that it is theirs because they have "passed out of death into life" (1 Jn 3:14; Jn 5:24).
1. The World:
The unregenerate state of human nature is specially connected with the Johannine conception of the "world" (kosmos). This term has a peculiar elasticity of application; and Westcott's definition--"the order of finite being, regarded as apart from God"--may be taken as expressing the widest idea that underlies John's use of the word. When the kosmos is material, it signifies (1) the existing terrestrial creation (Jn 1:10; 13:1; 16:28), especially as contrasted with the sphere of the heavenly and eternal. When it refers to humanity, it is either (2) the totality of mankind as needing redemption and as the object of God's redeeming love (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:14), or (3) the mass of unbelieving men, hostile to Christ and resisting salvation (e.g. Jn 15:18). Of the world in this sense it is said that it has no perception of the true nature of God and the Divine glory of Christ (Jn 1:10; 17:25; 1 Jn 3:1); that it hates the children of God (Jn 15:18,19; 17:14; 1 Jn 3:13); that the spirit of Antichrist dwells in it (1 Jn 4:3,4); that to it belong the false prophets and their adherents (1 Jn 4:1,5); that it is under the dominion of the wicked one (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 Jn 5:19); that the constituents of its life are "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life" (1 Jn 2:16); that it passeth away (1 Jn 2:17); that Christ has conquered it (Jn 16:33), and that "whatsoever is begotten of God" conquers it (1 Jn 5:4) by the power of faith in Him (1 Jn 5:5). Thus the "world" (in this darker significance) is composed of those who still love the darkness rather than the light (Jn 3:19), who, when Christ is presented to them, obstinately retain their blindness and enmity. Nevertheless, the "world" is not beyond the possibility of salvation. The Holy Spirit, acting in the Christian community, will convince the world with regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn 16:8); and the evidence of the unity of Divine fellowship among Christ's disciples will lead it to believe in His Divine mission (Jn 17:23).
2. Two Classes in the Human Race:
Thus, it is true that John teaches "a distinction of two great classes in the human race--those who are from above and those who are from beneath--children of light and children of darkness." But that he teaches this in any Gnostic or semignostic fashion is an assertion for which there is no real basis. He distinguishes between those who love the light and those who love the darkness rather than the light, between those who "receive" Christ and those who "will not" come unto Him that they may have life. This distinction, however, he traces to nothing in the natural constitution of the two classes, but solely to the regenerating act of God (Jn 1:13; 6:44). His doctrine of regeneration is, in fact, his solution of the problem created by the actual existence of those two classes among men--a problem which is forced upon every thoughtful Christian mind by the diverse and opposite results of evangelism. It is this that lies behind such utterances as these: "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (Jn 18:37); "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice .... and they follow me" (Jn 10:26,27); "Every one that hath heard from the Father, cometh unto me. No man can come unto me except it be given unto him of the Father" (Jn 6:45,65). In these and all similar passages, belief or unbelief in Christ, when He is presented, depends upon antecedent spiritual predisposition (John's equivalent to the Pauline predestination). There exists in certain persons what is lacking in others, a power of spiritual vision by which Christ is recognized, a capacity and a predisposition to receive Him. But this predisposition is not (any more than Paul's predestination) theirs by gift of nature. John refuses to find its source in human personality (Jn 1:13; 1 Jn 5:1). The children of God are not a superior species of the genus homo. They are men who have passed from death into life, and who have done so because they are begotten of God. John's doctrine is thus the antithesis of Gnosticism. The Gnostic distinction of two classes in the human race glorified men; its proper and inevitable fruit was spiritual pride. The effect of John's doctrine is to humble man and glorify God, to satisfy the innermost Christian consciousness that not even for their appropriation of God's gift in Christ can believers take credit to themselves; that in nothing can the human spirit do more than respond to the Divine, and that, in the last analysis, this power itself is of God. Regeneration in the Johannine sense is not to be identified with conversion. It is the communication of that vision of truth and that capacity for new moral activity which issue in conversion. The doctrine of regeneration contained in the Johannine writings is the fullest recognition in the New Testament that all the conscious experiences and activities of the Christian life are the result of God's own inscrutable work of begetting in the depths of human personality, and of renewing and replenishing there, the energies of the Divine.
VIII. The Church and Sacraments.
1. The Church:
While the word "church" is not found, the idea lies near the base of the Johannine theology. The Divine life communicated to men creates a Divine brotherhood, a "fellowship" which is with the Father and "with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:3) and also "one with another" (1 Jn 1:7)--a fellowship which is consecrated by the self-consecration of Jesus (Jn 17:19), in which men are cleansed from all sin by His blood (1 Jn 1:7), and which is maintained by His intercessory action as the Paraclete with the Father (1 Jn 2:1). This fellowship is realized in the actual Christian community and there only; but it is essentially inward and spiritual, not mechanically ecclesiastical, In the visible community spurious elements may intrude themselves, as is proved when schism unmasks those who, though they have belonged to the external organization, have never been partakers of its real life (1 Jn 2:19). Only among those who walk in the light of God does true fellowship exist (1 Jn 1:7).
2. The Sacraments:
From the doctrine of the Divine nature as life and light one might a priori infer the possibilities of a Johannine view of the sacraments. It is evident that there is room in the Johannine system of thought for a genuinely sacramental mode of Divine action--the employment of definite external acts, not as symbols only, but as real media of Divine communication. On the other hand, the truth that God is not life only but light also--self-revealing as well as self-imparting--would necessarily exclude any magical ex opere operato theory by which spiritual efficacy is attributed either to the physical elements in themselves or to the physical act of participation. And (though there is little or no explicit statement) such is the type of doctrine we actually find. With regard to all sacramental rites the universal principle applies: `It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing' (Jn 6:63).
Yet baptism is the physical counterpart of the Spirit's work in regeneration, and great importance is attached to it as the means of admission to the new life of the kingdom (Jn 3:5).
(2) The Lord's Supper.
The omission of all reference to the institution of the Lord's Supper (the incident of the feet-washing and the proclamation of the new commandment taking its place in the Gospel-narrative) is thought to indicate that John was conscious of a tendency to attach a superstitious value to the outward observance, and desired emphatically to subordinate this to what was spiritual and essential. The omission, to whatever motive it may have been due, is counter-balanced by the sacramental discourse (Jn 6). While the language of this discourse is not to be interpreted in a technically eucharistic sense, its purpose, or one of its purposes, undoubtedly, is to set forth the significance of the Lord's Supper in the largest light. Christ gives to men the bread of life, which is His own flesh and of which men must eat that they may live (Jn 6:50-55). "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him." This eating and drinking is essentially of the Spirit. It signifies a derivation of life analogous to that of the Son Himself from the Father. "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me" (Jn 6:57). To "eat the flesh" of the Son of Man is to receive spiritual nourishment from Him, to live by His life. Yet there is nothing in John's way of thinking to exclude a real sacramental efficiency. "The act which is nothing when it is performed ignorantly and mechanically is of sovereign value to those who have apprehended its true meaning. The material elements represent the flesh and blood of Christ--His Divine Person given for the life of the world. He is present in them, not merely by way of symbol, but actually; but there must be something in the recipient corresponding to the spiritual reality which is conveyed through the gift. The outward act of participation must be accompanied with belief in Christ and a true insight into the nature of His work and a will to know and serve Him. The sacrament becomes operative as the bread of life through this receptive spirit on the part of those who observe it" (Scott, The Fourth Gospel, 127-28).
1. Type of Thought Idealistic:
The type of mind revealed in the Johannine writings is one that instinctively leans to the ideal and the spiritual in its contemplation of life, grasping what is of universal significance and dwelling upon events only as they are the embodiment of eternal principles. Where this fashion of thought is so strongly developed, the eschatological, like the historical, becomes secondary.
2. Yet History Not Ignored:
In John there is but one life--the eternal; and there is but one world--the world of the ideal, which is also the only real. Yet he is not an idealist, pure and simple. For him events are not merely symbols; history is not allegory. The incarnation is a historical fact, the Parousia a future event. His thought does not move in a world of mere abstractions, a world in which nothing ever happens. His true distinction as a thinker lies in the success with which he unites the two strains of thought, the historical and the ideal. The word which may be said to express his conception of history is "manifestation" (compare Jn 2:11; 9:3; but especially 1 Jn 1:2; 2:19,28; 3:2,5,8; 4:9). The incarnation is only the manifestation of `what was from the beginning' (1 Jn 1:1,2); the mission of Christ, the manifestation of the love eternally latent in the depths of the Divine nature (1 Jn 4:9). The successive events of history are the emergence into visibility of what already exists. In them the potential becomes actual.
3. Nor Eschatology:
Thus John has an eschatology, as well as a history. He profoundly spiritualizes. He reaches down through the pictorial representations of the traditional apocalyptic, and inquires what essential principle each of these embodies. Then he discovers that this principle is already universally and inevitably in operation; and this, the present spiritual reality, becomes for him the primary thought. Judgment means essentially the sifting and separation, the classification of men according to their spiritual affinities. But every day men are thus classifying themselves by their attitude toward Christ; this, the true judgment of the world, is already present fact. So also the coming and presence of Christ must always be essentially a spiritual fact, and as such it is already a present fact. There is, in the deepest significance of the word, a perpetual coming of Christ in Christian experience. This, however, does not prevent John from firmly holding the certainty of a fuller manifestation of these facts in the future, when tendencies shall have reached a final culmination, and principles which are now apprehended only by faith will be revealed in all the visible magnitude of their consequences.
4. Eschatological Ideas:
We shall now briefly survey the Johannine presentation of the chief eschatological ideas.
(1) Eternal life.
It has already been said that the most distinctive feature in the conception of eternal life is that it is not a future immortal felicity so much as a present spiritual state. The category of duration recedes before that of moral quality. Yet it has its own stupendous importance. In triumphant contrast with the poor ephemeralities of the worldly life, he that doeth the will of God "abideth for ever" (1 Jn 2:17); and the complete realization of the life eternal is still in the future (Jn 4:36; 6:27; 12:25).
The view of Antichrist is strikingly characteristic. Tacitly setting aside the lurid figure of popular traditions, John grasps the essential fact that is expressed by the name and idea of Antichrist (= one who in the guise of Christ opposes Christ), and finds its fulfillment in the false teaching which substituted for the Christ of the gospel the fantastic product of Gnostic imagination (1 Jn 4:3). But in this he reads the sign that the world's day has reached its last hour (1 Jn 2:18).
While the Fourth Gospel so carefully records the proofs of Christ's resurrection, noticeably little (in the Epistle, nothing) is made of the thought of a future resurrection from the dead. For the Christian, the death of the body is a mere incident. "Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die" (Jn 11:26; compare 8:51). Regeneration--union with Christ--is the true resurrection (Jn 6:50,51,58). And yet, again, the eschatological idea is not lost. Side by side with the essential truth the supplementary and interpretative truth is given its right place. "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6:54 the King James Version). If Christ says "I am the life: whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die," He also says "I am the resurrection: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live" (Jn 11:25).
As has already been said, John regards judgment as essentially a present fact of life. Christ does not pass judgment upon men--that is not the purpose of His coming (Jn 3:17; 12:47). Yet Christ is always of necessity judging men--compelling them to pass judgment upon themselves. For judgment He is come into the world (Jn 9:39). By their attitude toward Him men involuntarily but inevitably classify themselves, reveal what spirit they are of, and automatically register themselves as being or as not being "of the truth" (Jn 18:37). Judgment is not the assigning of a character from without, but the revelation of a character from within. And this is not future, but present. "He that believeth not hath been judged .... because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of of God" (Jn 3:18). Yet the apostle indubitably looks forward to a future Day of Judgment (Jn 12:48; 1 Jn 4:17). Nor is this simply an "unconscious concession to orthodoxy." The judgment to come will be the full manifestation of the judgment that now is, that is to say, of the principles according to which men are in reality approved or condemned already. What this present judgment, the classification of men by their relation to Christ, ultimately signifies, is not at all realized by the "world," is not fully realized even in Christian faith. There must be a day when all self-deception shall cease and all reality shall be manifested.
(5) The Parousia.
In like manner the conception of the Parousia is primarily spiritual. The substitution in the Fourth Gospel of the Supper Discourse (Jn 14 through 16) for the apocalyptic chapters in the Synoptics is of the utmost significance. It is not a Christ coming on the clouds of heaven that is presented, but a Christ who has come and is ever coming to dwell in closest fellowship with His people (see above under IV). Yet John by no means discards belief in the Parousia as a historical event of the future. If Christ's abiding-place is in those that love Him and keep His word, there is also a Father's House in which there are many abiding-places, whither He goes to prepare a place for them and whence He will come again to receive them unto Himself (Jn 14:2,3). Still more is this emphasized in the Epistle. The command "Love not the world" is sharpened by the assurance that the world is on the verge, aye, in the process of dissolution (1 Jn 2:17). The exhortation to "abide in him" is enforced by the dread of being put to shame at His impending advent (1 Jn 2:28). The hope of being made partakers in His manifested glory is the consummation of all that is implied in our being now children of God (1 Jn 3:2,3).
(a) A "Manifestation":
But this future crisis will be only the manifestation of the existing reality (1 Jn 3:2). The Parousia will, no more than the incarnation, be the advent of a strange Presence in the world. It will be, as on the Mount of Transfiguration, the outshining of a latent glory; not the arrival of one who is absent, but the self-revealing of one who is present. As to the manner of Christ's appearing, the Epistle is silent. As to its significance, we are left in no doubt. It is a historical event; occurring once for all; the consummation of all Divine purpose that has governed human existence; the final crisis in the history of the church, of the world, and of every man.
(b) Relation to Believers:
Especially for the children of God, it will be a coming unto salvation. "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2). Here the Johannine idea of "manifestation" is strikingly employed. "What we shall be" will be essentially what we are--children of God. No new element will be added to the regenerate nature. All is there that ever will be there. But the epoch of full development is not yet. Only when Christ--the Christ who is already in the world--shall be manifested, then also the children of God who are in the world will be manifested as being what they are. They also will have come to their Mount of Transfiguration. As eternal life here is mediated through this first manifestation (1 Jn 1:2), so eternal life hereafter will be mediated through this second and final manifestation. "We know that we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." It is true that here according to our capacity we behold Him as He is (Jn 1:14); but perception, now dim and wavering, will then be intense and vivid. The vision of the future is in some sense corporeal as well as spiritual. Sense and faith will coincide. It will then have ceased to be expedient that Christ should go away in order that the Spirit of truth may come. We shall possess in the same experience the privilege of the original eyewitnesses of the incarnate life and the inward ministry of the Spirit. And seeing Him as He is, we shall be like Him. Vision will beget likeness, and likeness again give clearness to vision. And as the vision is in some unconjecturable fashion corporeal as well as spiritual, so also is the assimilation (compare Phil 3:21). The very idea of the spiritual body is that it perfectly corresponds to the character to which it belongs. The outward man will take the mold of the inward man, and will share with it its perfected likeness to the glorified manhood of Jesus Christ. Such is the farthest view opened to our hope by the Johannine eschatology; and it is that which, of all others, has been most entrancing to the imagination and stimulating to the aspiration of the children of God.
The following works may be mentioned as treating specially of the Theology: B. Weiss, Der Johannische Lehrbegriff, Berlin, 1862; O. Holtzmann, Das Johannes-Evangelium untersucht und erklart, Darmstadt, 1887; Beyschlag, Neutestamentliche Theologie, Halle, 1896; Pfleiderer, Das Urchristentum, Berlin, 1902, English translation, Williams and Norgate, London; E. Haupt, Der erste Brief des Johannes, Colberg, 1869, English translation, T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh; Grill, Untersuchungen uber die Entstehung des vierten Evangeliums, Tubingen, 1902; G.B. Stevens, The Johannine Theology, New York, 1894; id., The Theology of the New Testament, 1899, also The Christian Doctrine of Salvation, 1905, T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh; O. Cone, The Gospel and Its Earliest Interpretations, New York, 1893; Scott, The Fourth Gospel, Its Purpose and Theology, T. and T. Clark, 1906; Law, The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of John (dealing specially with the Theology), Edinburgh and New York, 1909; Denney, Jesus and the Gospel, New York, 1909; Judge, Cambridge Biblical Essays, Macmillan, 1910.