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2:28-4:19 - Central Body - Preparation for the Judgment Seat of Christ

to command/Asiatic believers/to put aside the doctrine of the false prophets and maintain an intimate relationship with God (3:24-4:16) by loving one another in a concrete and heartfelt way (3:17-18) because God answers the prayers of those who trust Christ and love in this fashion (3:19-23), because such love is a fruit of the regenerate nature they will exclusively manifest at Christ's coming (3:10b-15), and because love will be the standard applied at the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:28; 4:17-19)
  • Style Element: The central body in Greek rhetorical style provides the arguments that demonstrate the author's course of action is reasonable.30
1. Theme (2:28): to command/Asiatic believers/to maintain an intimate relationship with the Son so that they will not be ashamed at the coming of Christ
  • Theme Restated: This theme is repeated and expanded in 1 John 4:17-19.
  • Abide in Him: See the discussion of "abiding," above.
  • His Coming: The word in Greek is parousia. "Technically the noun is used for the arrival of a ruler [sic] a king, emperor, ruler, or even troops from the Ptolemaic period to the 2nd century A.D."31 The word is used of the Rapture and of the return of Christ to the earth with the church.32 Because 1 John 4:17-19 is a restatement and expansion of 2:28, events associated with these two events, specifically, the Judgment Seat of Christ, can also be present within the meaning of Christ's parousia.
  • Confidence and Shame: Those who do not practice an intimate fellowship with God will experience shame and a lack of confidence at the Lord's parousia.

2. Experiential Sanctification (2:29-3:10a): to teach/Asiatic believers/that believers should seek to sin less and have intimate fellowship with God (3:3, 6) because such action is appropriate for persons who now have a totally sinless nature (3:4-5, 7-10a) that will be exclusively manifested when Christ appears again (3:2)

a. If . . . (2:29): There may be a fleeting glimpse here of heresy held by the false teachers. Perhaps they did not believe that Jesus, the man versus Christ the God, was righteous. This might correspond to the teaching of Cerinthus. This is a conditional clause that does not mean that any of the recipients necessarily believed the false doctrine that Jesus is unrighteous.33
b. Practices (2:29): This translation is a bit misleading. The Greek word, poiew, more commonly is translated "does, etc." Poiew is used 563 times in the NASV New Testament. It is translated, "did, do, does, doing, and done" 303 times. NASV only translates it, "practice(s)," sixteen times.34 KJV translates it, "doeth." NIV translates it "does." When the NASV translates poiew with "practices," it forces an undeserved habitual connotation on the verb. The implication is that believers are habitually righteous though they may sin from time to time. However true this is in the believers' unglorified state, the context drives us towards 1 John 3:2, 10b-15, where believers are seen in their glorified state as absolutely righteous. Thus it can accurately be said that the seed (1 John 3:9) of the glorified state found within unglorified believers does only righteous things and thus can be called, "born of Him."
c. Born of Him (2:29): Being born of God speaks of the doctrine of regeneration. "Regeneration may be defined as the communication of divine life to the soul . . . as the impartation of a new nature . . . or heart . . . and the production of a new creation."35 The table summarizes the doctrine:36



The First Birth

The Second Birth (Regeneration)


Of Sinful Parents (John 3:3-4)

Of God (John 3:3)


Of Corruptible Seed (1 Peter 1:23)

Of Incorruptible Seed (1 Peter 1:23)


Of the Flesh--Carnal (John 3:6)

Of the Spirit--Spiritual (John 3:6; 6:63; Titus 3:5)


Of the Devil (1 John 3:10)

Of God (1 John 3:10)


Sinful (1 John 3:8)

Righteous (1 John 3:9)

d. Children of God (3:1-2): Believers being regenerated can rightly be called children of God, tekna qeou in Greek. Note that in John 3:3, "again," anwqen in Greek, can be translated "from above."37 Believers then are born from above or born of God where the place of God's residence is put for God, Himself. It is possible that through out all of 1 John, when John refers to the recipients as "children," he means "children of God," persons who have been regenerated. "Children" becomes an abbreviation for "children of God." See children, above.
e. World (3:1): The world has no intimacy with those who have been regenerated because it has no intimacy with Christ. See knowing God, above.
f. We Will be Like Him (3:2): No one has ever been able to endure the unfettered glory of God and survive (Moses in Exodus 33:20; Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5; Peter in Luke 5:8; Paul in 1 Timothy 6:16). Thus, if we are to "see Him just as He is," then we must be regenerated so that we will no be consumed in His presence. ". . . when He appears, we shall be like Him . . ." Those who are "now" regenerated have this hope.
g. The Seed/Born of God/Children of God/Children of the Devil (3:1-2, 9-10): The seed (3:9) is also called the child of God (3:1-2, 10) and the new man (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). This is the regenerate being that the believer really is. Thus this is the reason for the struggle and lack of responsibility for sin on the regenerate level in Romans 7:15-25 and Galatians 5:16-26. The persons without the seed remain the children of the Devil (3:10). The Son of God destroys the work of the Devil in his children by implanting the seed (3:8). Hodges makes a case that the Children of the Devil are the false teachers.38
h. Purifies Himself (3:3): Doing righteousness is the appropriate thing to do for a person who is regenerate.
i. Abiding in Him (3:6): Living in accordance with character of the seed allows the believer to have intimate fellowship with God. Not living in accordance with it (e.g., sinning) causes a believer not to have intimate fellowship with God.
j. Has Seen Him or Knows Him (3:6): It is difficult to translate these predicates into English. Hodges suggests: "Whoever sins is in a not-seeing and not-knowing condition with reference to God."39 See "knowing God," above. "Knowing God" is a synonym for intimate fellowship. Notice that in John 14:7, 9, "seeing God" is a synonym for "knowing God."
k. Fellowship Sphere Descriptions: -- does not sin/sins (3:6) -- See Diagram.
l. Practices (3:4, 7-10a): There is quite a difference in interpretation by the versions in these verses:



King James -- Progressive

New American Standard -- Habitual

New International -- Some Habitual

Literal -- Progressive


committeth sin, transgresseth

practices sin, practices lawlessness


doing sin


sinneth not, sinneth


no one keeps on sinning, no one continues to sin

does not sin, sinning


doeth righteousness

practices righteousness


doing righteousness


committeth sin

practices sin

does what is sinful

doing sin


doth not commit sin, cannot sin

practices sin

no one will continue to sin, cannot go on sinning

does not sin, cannot sin


doeth not righteousness

does not practice righteousness


not doing righteousness

Emphasized Doctrine





Other versions that reflect a habitual sense include The Message, The Amplified Bible, The New Living Translation, the English Standard Version, the Contemporary English Version, The New Testament in Modern English, and the Darby Translation. Other Versions that reflect a progressive sense include The New King James Version (NKJV), the 21th Century King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Worldwide English Version, the Young's Literal Translation, the Wycliffe New Testament, Revised Standard Version, The New Testament in the Language of Today, the Doway Bible, The New Scofield Reference Bible, and The New English Bible. Some of these versions are not consistent here in the way they interpret the present tense (e.g., NKJV). See also "practices," above.

(1) The New American Standard Version (NASV) interprets the verses as talking about what the subjects habitually do. For the most part they do what is described but occasionally depart from the pattern. Theologically this interpretation teaches that a believer's unregenerate nature habitually does the righteous thing (i.e., only occasionally does the unrighteous thing). This understanding is somewhat related to the Calvinistic doctrine of the Preservation of the Saints. This interpretation seems wrong because:
  • The NASV does not allow a believer's life in which there is no righteousness. However, 1 Corinthians 3:15 indicates that such persons may be present at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
  • There is controversy concerning whether the habitual present exists without a helping word. There are no helping words in these verses. Others allow the habitual present but do not see it in this verse.40 This commentator believes the habitual present as used in NASV exists. For example see the paragraphs beginning at 1 Timothy 3:1 Titus 1:6. However the real habitual present is thought to be rare.
  • That the child of a totally righteous being sins defeats the logic of the paragraph. The child of God cannot sin (2:29; 3:2, 5-10). The seed in each believer is righteous (3:9). The child of God cannot sometimes sin. However, all these translations allow this to happen in verse 3:3. But the seed theme permeates the paragraph.
(2) The New International Version (NIV) interprets them as progressing states ultimately achieving perfection. They start out not doing what is described but finally achieving what is done. Theologically this interpretation teaches that a believer's unregenerate nature progresses in righteousness until he achieves perfect righteousness. The ultimate state could be in this life (a form of perfectionism) or in the next. This interpretation seems wrong because:
  • The NIV could be understood to teach the heresy, sinless perfection (1 John 8, 10).
  • Many of the objections to the NASV can also be applied here.
(3) The King James Version (KJV) and the literal version interpret the verbs as perfect states. Theologically this interpretation teaches that a believer's regenerate nature constantly does righteousness. This interpretation seems best because of these reasons:
  • The context is speaking about the regenerate nature of a believer (e.g., "born of God" and the "seed" of 1 John 3:9; "children of God" of 1 John 3:1-2). The regenerate nature does not sin. See verses 2:29; 3:2, 5-10.
  • Most often the present verb is translated as progressive like KJV and the literal translation. The unbiased reader of Greek most likely would translate it as progressive.
  • The use of the habitual aspect of the Greek verb in other places in 1 John would result in havoc.

"For example, as C. H. Dodd pointed out, if we translate 1 John 1:8 as 'if we say that we do not continually have sin, we deceive ourselves,' the result is a contradiction of 3:9 translated the same way. If someone who is born of God does not continually sin, why should he not say, 'I do not continually have sin"? But if he does say this, he 'deceives' himself according to 1:8. Thus the proposed translation of 3:9 will not work in 1:8. If applied there it produces a contradiction with 3:9."41

  • The interpretation in favor of a habitual present in these verses has been given up in modern critical commentaries.42
m. Obvious (3:10a): Having intimate fellowship with God (the previous theme referenced by the "by this"), is not a test of salvation, but it does reveal a believer who otherwise would be hidden. KJV translates this word, "manifest."
3. Love of the Brethren (3:10b-23): to exhort/Asiatic believers/to demonstrate concrete and heartfelt love for one another (3:17-18) because such a demonstration is a practical experience of their regenerate nature (3:10b-15), because such love follows the example modeled by their Lord (3:16), and because God answers the prayers of those who trust in His Son and keep His commandments like the one to love (3:19-23)
  • Not of God (3:10b): This cannot be a reference to the un-regenerate because (1) one must be regenerate before he can hate his brother! Furthermore, (2) our Lord's command to love fellow brothers in Christ was given to the disciples only after the one un-regenerate member, Judas, had left the group (compare 1 John 3:10b-11 with John 13:30, 34-35).

Notice that the expression is "not of God," not "not born of God." The NIV translation is in error here. It adds the word, "born" which is not in the Greek text.

"A close analogy in the Greek New Testament to the phrase of God is found in Gamaliel's statement to the Sanhedrin about the Christian movement: '. . . for if this plan or this work is of men [Greek: ex anthropon], it will come to nothing; but if it is of God [Greek: ex Theou], you cannot overthrow it' (Acts 5:38-39). Gamaliel's obvious meaning is that if the Christian movement originates with God--if God is behind it--it cannot be defeated. Similarly, in Acts 11:2, 'those of the circumcision' (Greek: hoi ik peritomes) means something like 'those who favored circumcision' or 'those belonging to the circumcision party.' Or again, in Galatians 3:12, the words 'the law is not of faith' (Greek: ouk estin ek pisteos) mean something like 'the law is not based on faith."43

The verse indicates that a believer who does not do righteousness is not in intimate fellowship with God. The doing of unrighteousness does not originate with God. A specific kind of unrighteousness is the lack of love between Christian brothers.

  • Fellowship Sphere Descriptions: -- does righteous thing/does not do righteous things (3:10b) -- See Diagram.
  • Fellowship Sphere Descriptions: -- of God/not of God (3:10b) -- See Diagram.
  • The Message . . . from the Beginning (3:11): See the discussion of the newness and oldness of the commandment to love, above.
  • Cain and Able (3:12-13): Able was regenerate, a child of God. Cain was probably unregenerate, a child of the Devil (3:8, 10). Cain is a representative of the corrupt world system. See the discussion of the "world," above. Like Cain, those caught up in the world system do not consistently demonstrate love. Regenerate persons who have intimate fellowship with God consistently demonstrate love towards their fellow believers.
  • Agaph Love (3:10b-11, 14, 16-18): A general attraction between persons is represented by the filew family of Greek words. The erwj family describes the type of love than includes desire, the love between husband and wife. The agaph type of love is often used ". . . of the love of God or the way of life based on it."44 Günther and Link's words are certainly a commentary on 1 John 3:16.
  • We Know We Have Passed out of Death into Life (3:14a): Passing from death to life is a phrase only used elsewhere in John 5:24. There the phrase speaks of those who have eternal life through trusting in Christ. The emphasis in 1 John 3:14 is on the word, "know."

"Perhaps the classic biblical use of the word know in this sense is to be found in the declaration God made to Abraham after the patriarch showed himself willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. On that occasion God said to him: '. . . now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me' (Genesis 22:12). It goes without saying that God already knew this before Abraham did anything at all, but now God knows it as a manifested reality."45

Once a believer loves his fellow believers, he has experienced a manifested reality of his regenerate nature.

  • Abides in Death (3:14b): "Death" is used in a similar fashion in:

"Of particular relevance to our text here are some statements by Paul in Romans 7. Speaking of the effect of the law upon his Christian experience, he writes, 'I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived [Greek: came back to life] and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death' (Romans 7:9-10; italics added). This certainly cannot describe Paul's unsaved days, since there is no reasonable sense in which he could be said to have been 'alive without the law' at that time. But as a Christian experience it is easily intelligible. He was experiencing his new life until confronted by a legal demand, and then 'sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me' (Romans 7:11; italics added). In other words, the experience of Christian life and joy evaporates as sin takes dominion again."46

These words are not saying that a person must demonstrate love towards his fellow believers in order to be sure he is regenerate. Rather the theme is "abiding in death." The believer who loves his fellow Christians is in intimate fellowship with God. It might be said of him that he is abiding in life . . . the life that corresponds to his regenerate nature. The believer who does not love is out of fellowship. It is said of him that he is abiding in death . . . the death that corresponds to the nature of the un-regenerate. He is living like a reprobate though he is regenerate. His regenerate nature is not made manifest.

  • Absolute Love (3:14-15): These verses are picking up the main topic of the previous paragraph, the seed, the regenerate person. The regenerate person does not sin. He loves his fellow believer. He has passed from eternal death to eternal life. Non-believers are part of the world system and so hate believers (see Cain and Able, above). Thus, love of believers is an indication that a regenerated person is in intimate fellowship with God, not part of the world system. See Love of Fellow Believers, above. He does not "abide in death (3:14)" where death is descriptive of a sphere of not being intimate with God.

Obviously an unsaved family member may love his saved family member. So, this type of love must be qualified. It is likely that an unsaved family member could exhibit a familiar love towards his saved relative. However, he, being of the world, would not love the Spiritual system of which his saved family member was a part. In that sense the unsaved relative would not love his saved relative. There are undoubtedly many other relationships among the saved and the unsaved in which only a superficial love is demonstrated. The greater love can only be demonstrated among the regenerate.

  • Fellowship Sphere Descriptions: -- [abiding in life]/abiding in death (3:14) -- See Diagram.
  • Demonstrated Love (3:16-18): In these verses, believers are commanded to demonstrate their love towards fellow believers. Such love should not just be felt or spoken. Christ is to be their Example.
  • In Deed and Truth (3:18): Loving in deed means that the love must be acted out. Loving in truth may address the motivation. The love is to be supportive of the object, not a love that somehow promotes the giver. Loving a fellow believer, because he has promised to become a professional client, is not loving in truth. Loving a fellow believer, just because he is a fellow believer, is loving in truth. Christ loved in truth. Hodges suggests Ananias and Sapphira as a duo who did not love in truth.47
  • Heart (3:19-21): Sometimes it is difficult to discern our motivations with respect to the love of fellow believers. We may think we love in truth but we have some reservations because Christ is such a severe example. In such cases God knows that we are attempting to love in the truth and will so confirm us in intimate fellowship. If our heart does not condemn us in such circumstances, we can be sure that we are loving in the truth.
  • Love and Prayer (3:22-23): Keeping Christ's commandments, especially the commandment to love fellow believers, results in God answering prayers of those who have intimate fellowship with Him. Believers who do his commandments best sense His will (1 John 5:14-18). See also 1 John 5:14-15 where it is taught that such prayer must be in accordance with His will.
  • Christ's Commandment (3:23): This is an extraordinary statement that sums up Christ's obligation set upon mankind. It is one commandment with two parts: (1) trust Christ and (2) love fellow believers. Notice the similarity in this regards between the Old Covenant Mosaic Law and the New Covenant Law of Christ:





Matthew 7:12

Mosiac Law

". . . however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

Matthew 22:36-40

Mosaic Law

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foemost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Romans 13:8-10

Law of Christ/All Codes/Mosaic Law

"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law."

Galatians 5:13b-14

Law of Christ/Mosaic Law

". . . through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

James 2:8

Law of Christ/Mosaic Law

"If, . . . , you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well."

1 John 3:23

Law of Christ

". . . this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us."

1 John 3:23 parallels Matthew 22:36-40 except that in 1 John the first command is to trust in God's Son and in Matthew it is to love God. However, these differences are likely the same, to trust God's Son is to love God.

Also, the second command under the Mosaic law seems to be to love your neighbor (saved or unsaved--note the parable of the good Samaritian) whereas under the Law of Chirst the objects of the love are brothers in Christ.


4. Dangerous False Prophets (3:24-4:16): to command/Asiatic believers/to be influenced only by teachers who believe Jesus (the Son of God) came in the flesh (4:1-6) because teachers who do not believe this doctrine nullify the model of His display of love on the cross and thus remove an essential motivation in encouraging the recipients to love one another (4:7-11), the knowledge that they have intimate fellowship with God (3:24; 4:12-13), and the demonstration of the Gospel to other believers (4:14-16)
a. Christ Abiding in Believers Introduced (3:24): to teach/Asiatic believers/that they should keep Christ's commandments [to trust Christ and to love fellow believers, verse 23] because the Holy Spirit reveals to those who keep the commandments that they have intimate fellowship with God
  • His Commandments (3:24): This refers back to the two sub-commandments in the previous verse: (1) believe in Christ and (2) love one another.
  • Abides (3:24): See 2:5.
  • Fellowship Sphere Descriptions: -- abides in Christ/does not abide in Christ; Christ abides in him/Christ does not abide in him (3:24) -- See Diagram.
b. Certification of True Teaching (4:1-6):to command/Asiatic believers/to continue (4:4) only accepting the teaching of those who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, teach that Christ came in the flesh (3:24b-4:2) because those who teach otherwise, though accepted by the world system (4:5), are under the influence of the spirit of the Antichrist (4:3) and because the Apostles teach the Incarnation (4:5-6)
  • Every Spirit, Spirits, Spirit, He Who is in the World (4:1, 3, 4, 6): These spirits are not from Christ (4:3) and they teach error (4:6). These spirits may be the spiritual components of those who teach false doctrine or they may be demons who have possessed false teachers.
  • The Spirit of God/Truth, He Who is In You (4:2, 4, 6): This has reference to the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.
  • In the Flesh (4:2-3): Christ coming in the flesh has reference to His Incarnation . . . God was born as a man in Bethlehem. It is implied in verse 3 that the false teachers teach that there was no Incarnation. See also John 1:14. In 1 John 1:1-3, there are also references to the Incarnation. Hands handled the Word of Life. The life was manifested. He was seen.
  • The Anti-Christ (4:3): See 2:18.
  • The World (4:4-5): See 2:15.
  • We (4:6): In this paragraph, "you" refers to the recipients, "they" refers to false teachers, and "we" refers to the true teachers, the Apostles including John.
c. Loving One Another (4:7-10): to command/Asiatic believers/to love one another (4:7) because this love is from God (4:7), because believers who express this type of love have an intimate relationship with God (4:7-8), because love is an attribute of God (4:8), and because Christ modeled this type of love (4:9-10)
  • Knows, Know (4:7-8): See 2:3.
  • Born of God and Knows God (4:7): Being born of God has reference to the regeneration of believers. See 2:29. Knowing God, in John's writings, has reference to the believer who has progressed to an intimate relationship with God. See the previous item. Thus the phrase "every one . . . born of God and knows God" simply means "every believer who is in intimate fellowship with God." Such a believer must exhibit this Christ-like love (verses 9-10); otherwise, he would be a believer who does not have intimate fellowship with God.

"If follows, then, that of everyone who loves two things may be safely said: (1) such a person is born of God and (2) he also knows God. It should be carefully noted that John here treats these concepts as two different things. This is especially obserable when he goes on to say (in verse 8) that "he who does not love does not know God." It would have been both natural and easy to say, "He who does not love, is not born of God and does not know God" in direct antithesis to the statement of this verse.

"But this is precisely what cannot be said. Already John has talked about a person who "hates his brother," which is a feat quite impossible for a non-Christian since a Christian is not his brother (cf. 2:11; 3:10b; 3:5; 4:20). The proposition is often stated that if a person is genuinely saved, he will love his Christian brother. In fact, this very epistle is often cited to prove this point. But there is not a scintilla of evidenc in First John for this point of view, and to extradct it from the epistle one must engage in eisegesis (reading into the text what one wants to find there)."48

  • Propitiation (4:10): See 2:2.

d. Christ Abiding in Believers Concluded (4:11-16): to exhort/Asiatic believers/to love one another (4:11) because they should love like the Father [who He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (4:10)], because the Holy Spirit uses their love to convince them that they have intimate fellowship with the Father (4:12-13), and because others can see the Gospel in our love (4:14-16)

(1) Abides (4:12-13, 16): See 2:5.
(2) And (4:14): The Greek word that is translated "and" in NASV is kai. In this context it probably introduces an additional explanation for the preceeding context and could be translated, "and so."49 Not only does the Holy Spirit convince the recipients by their love that they are in intimate fellowship with God, but the Holy Spirit also convinces other believers (outside their church) that they are in an intimate relationship with God. This is a confession through their love towards each other of the Father's love in sending His Son to the world (compare verse 15 with verses 9-10).

See also John 13:35: "'By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (NASV).'"

"How often have hostile, quarreling Christians produced in the immature believer serious doubts about the validity of the Christian faith? No body of believers will really be any stronger than the extent to which they manifest God's love by loving one another. If the love of God is evident in the midst of a Christian church, such a church will flourish in its discernment of, and confidence in, the redeeming life revealed in Jesus Christ God's Son."50

(3) Son of God (4:14-15):
  • In this context the emphasis is on the Son being sent by the Father to be Savior of the world.
  • The title, Son of God, is also another title of the Messiah (e.g., Psalm 89:25-27; John 20:30-31). Christ also means Messiah.
  • The title also indicates Jesus is Divine (Matthew 26:63-66).
  • What the title meant to John is disclosed in John 11:25-27: ". . . I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?' . . . 'Yes Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.'"

Thus "coming into the world" or "coming in the flesh" has reference to Christ's experiences having taken on the nature of a man . . . having been Incarnated. The experiences include, but are not limited to, His birth, death, and resurrection.

e. Restatement of Theme (4:17-19): to teach/Asiatic believers/that they should not fear the Judgment Seat of Christ if they love one another because the standard of judgment, Christ's love for us, will be exemplified in their love for each other
  • The Day of Judgment (4:17): It has been determined before that the Epistle was written to believers. Believers will never face a future judgment that would decide if they go to heaven or hell since that judgment has already taken place on the cross:




John 3:16

". . . whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

John 5:24

The believer ". . . has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."

Romans 5:16

". . . on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification."

Romans 8:1

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Romans 8:33-34

"Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us."

However, believers will undergo a judgment to determine degree of reward:




Closely Associated with the Rapture

Luke 14:14--"'. . . you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'"

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17--". . . the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, . . ."

Located with the Lord in the Air

  1 Thessalonians 4:17--". . . meet the Lord in the air, . . ."

Believers are Subjected to the Judgment

  1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 5, 7-8--". . . we have a building from God . . . our dwelling from heaven . . . the mortal may be swallowed up by life . . . God . . . gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. . . . we walk by faith . . . to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

Check out

In the table below, underlined portions deal with the works to be judged and the bold portions deal with reward to be received.




Romans 14:10, 12

". . . why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . each one of us shall give account of himself to God."

1 Corinthians 3:1, 8, 13-15

". . . each will receive his own reward according to his own labor . . . brethren . . . each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire."

1 Corinthians 4:1-4

"I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.

1 Corinthians 9:27

". . . I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified."

2 Corinthians 5:10-11

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; . . ."

Ephesians 6:8

". . . knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free."

Furthermore, Pentecost writes that the Greek word for "seat" in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 is bema: ". . . associated with this word are the ideas of prominence, dignity, authority, honor, and reward rather than the idea of justice and judgment. The word that Paul chose to describe the place before which this event takes place suggests its character."51

At another place Pentecost provides the definition of the Judgment Seat of Christ: "It is not the Lord's purpose here to chasten His child for his sins, but to reward his service for those things done in the name of the Lord."52 This judgment takes place between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ.53 Five rewards have been identified:


1 Corinthians 9:25

"And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."

1 Thessalonians 2:19

"For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?"

2 Timothy 4:8

". . . in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing."

James 1:12

"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receiver the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."

1 Peter 5:2-4

". . . shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."

  • Confidence (4:17) and Fear (4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:11): Those who do not demonstrate love will not have confidence and will feel fear at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Hodges reminds us that when John faced Christ in the vision of Revelation 1:17, "I fell at his feet as a dead man. . . ." "In light of these Scriptures, the Judgment Seat of Christ must be viewed as utterly solemn and potentially productive of fear. Even a transformed believer, who knows he is in no danger of hell, will be capable of feeling the fear that the presence of God always produces in those with holy sensibilities. We forget the awesomeness and majesty of Jesus Christ our Lord if we think otherwise."55
  • Love (4:17-19): John encourages believers to display a love that reflects the greater example, Christ's love towards them (4:17). "A little reflection will show that once a Christian knows on the authority of God's word that he is keeping God's command to love others, he can realize that any anxiety about his future accounting at the Judgment Seat is unnecessary."56 Our motivation to love God is that God first loved us (4:19).