“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” I John 2:17
We began this section of I John (2:15-17) talking about investing our lives in something that is safe and secure. John has instructed us not to invest our lives in the world because it is not possible to love God the Father and the world at the same time (2:15) since the world promotes standards and values that are hostile toward God (2:16). John then gives a final reason not to invest our lives in the world: “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:17). John reminds us that “the world is passing away,” and therefore, it is a totally unworthy object of our sinful lusts and longings. Often when a Christian indulges in some worldly lust, he or she discovers that its gratification is short-lived and must be renewed again and again in more intensive forms to get the same amount of pleasure as before. The “addicted” believer is reminded of the highly transient nature of the world and all its lusts.
“Worldliness makes the ‘now’ more important than eternity. But you are passing through, and the world is passing by. It’s transient.” 1
The world often bases one’s identity on the type of vocation or skills they possess. But did you ever stop to think that your skills will pass away with the world? If you are an architect, a biologist, an electrician, a farmer, a musician, a physician, a scientist, a secretary, a teacher, etc. – however skilled you may be at any of these activities – none of these designations will survive the present. The Bible tells us, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Pet. 3:10).
How can a believer in Jesus establish an identity that outlasts this present world system? John tells us: “but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (2:17b). The believer who is doing God’s will possesses a lifestyle that is in stark contrast with the world and all its lusts. His or her obedient lifestyle will not be interrupted by the passing away of this world. He or she experiences uninterrupted fellowship (“abides”)with God. 2
Hodges writes, “It [‘abides’] suggests, as almost always in this epistle, the ‘abiding life’ of fellowship with God. But here is obviously the additional thought that the life lived in God’s fellowship, rejecting the sinful things of this passing world, is a life that has no real ending. A person whose character and personality are shaped by obedience to God will not be affected by the passing away of the world and its vain desires. It is a Johannine way of saying, ‘Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.’” 3
“The one who does the will of God is inseparable from the Christ likeness which such a person has achieved. Likeness to Christ can give boldness at the Judgment Seat of Christ” 4 (cf. I John 2:28; 4:17; cf. 1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10) where the eternal worth of his or her earthly Christian life will be assessed.
You may ask, “What is God’s will?” We know from the book of I John that God’s will is keeping His commandments (2:3-6; 3:24). Here are some examples of commands God wants us to keep: love one another (John 13:34-35; I John 3:23b; 4:21), go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15), make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19-20), abstain from sexual immorality (I Thess. 4:3) and fleshly lusts (I Pet. 2:11), obey governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7), warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all (I Thess. 5:14), rejoice always (I Thess. 5:16), pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17), in everything give thanks (I Thess. 5:18), forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephes. 4:32), do not be drunk with wine, be filled with the Spirit (Ephes. 5:18), honor your parents (Ephes. 6:2-3), put on the whole armor of God (Ephes. 6:11) to name a few.
But the believer who lives out of fellowship with God does not “abide” forever in that his or her worldly lifestyle will be radically interrupted when he or she goes to heaven. Their worldly lifestyle will not abide forever. It stops at heaven’s gates. They are likely to experience “shame” instead of boldness before Christ at the Judgment Seat (2:28; cf. 4:17-19) because they did not live the way Christ lived (2:6).
Not everyone agrees with this understanding. There are some who believe I John 2:17 is saying that you cannot go to heaven if you give your life to the world. 5 Those who take this view fail to understand that the book of I John was written to encourage Christians (2:12-14; 5:13) to develop greater intimacy with God (1:3-4). The greater our intimacy with Him, the greater our fellowship with Him and the better we will know God experientially and experience His life abundantly both now and in eternity. In the context of I John 2:17, John is not talking about going to heaven. He is talking to believers (2:12-14) about how to maintain their fellowship with God in a world that is hostile towards Him (cf. I John 2:15-17).
Believers who fail to do God’s will and do not possess an abiding life will still be in heaven. They will be with Christ not because they lived the way Jesus lived or did not love the world, but because they did the Father’s will as it relates to entering His heaven. What is the Father’s will when it comes to getting to heaven? Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). The only thing we can do to enter the kingdom of heaven according to the will of the Father, is to believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life.
Getting to heaven is not a matter of what or who you love or don’t love because Jesus never said, “Everyone who does not love the world may have everlasting life.”Nor did He say,“Everyone who loves the Father may have everlasting life.”Going to heaven isa matter of whom you are believing or trusting to get you there (John 6:40). It doesn’t matter if you have loved the world or not, because you are still a sinner who needs a Savior to take away your sins. Your lifestyle cannot get you to heaven because it is all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). Only Jesus Christ can take away our sins because He was the only perfect sacrifice. Christ was without any sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15) since He was fully God (John 1:1) and fully Man (John 1:14). When He died on the cross for all our sins, He satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin forever as demonstrated when He raised Jesus from the dead (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:1-6; I John 2:1-2).
When it comes to getting to heaven, it is not the will of God that you abide in Christ or do not love the world. It is the will of God that you believe in Christ alone Who died for your sins and rose from the dead so He may give you His gift of eternal life (John 6:40). If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.
Prayer: Dear God, for much of my life I thought going to heaven was based on how I lived my life on earth. Thank You for revealing to me that going to heaven is not based on how I live, but on how Jesus lived, died, and rose again. God, I come to You now as a sinner who cannot save himself. I believe You died in my place on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my love, or my prayers), to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You for the eternal life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. Please help me to know and do Your will now so my lifestyle will continue after I leave this world which is passing away. In mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
The moment you believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, you became God’s child forever (John 1:12). God is now your Father (Matt. 6:9) and you now have many brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. God wants you to know Him more intimately now as you learn how to spend time with Him studying His Word (John 8:30-31) and talking to Him through prayer (John 15:7). He wants you to love Him and other Christians who last forever, not this world which is passing away (I John 2:15-16) so you can have a godly lifestyle that is permanent and greatly rewarded (I John 2:17, 28; 4:17-19). Knowing and doing God’s will is the safest and securest way to invest your life during your time on earth.
I wonder how much you and I will miss the world and its vain desires when we go to heaven to be with Jesus? Will our love for the world be greater than our love for the Lord? Like Lot’s wife (Gen. 19:16), will it be difficult to leave the things of this world behind us? The Lord Jesus told us to “remember Lot’s wife” in Luke 17:32a. Then He said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33b). Lot’s wife sought to save her worldly lifestyle. She loved her earthly things so much that she could not leave them all behind. They were more valuable to her than her own life. The bottom line was she did not take God seriously! She was bent on doing her own thing rather than what the Lord wanted her to do.
The same thing can happen to us as Christians. The Lord saves us, and we begin walking with Him. But as we encounter difficulties, we begin to wonder if our old life would be better. Eventually we can turn to a pillar of salt spiritually. When you have a chance, lick some salt today and ask yourself, “What are some things in my life that God has asked me to leave behind? Things that keep me from following Christ?” Purpose in your heart not to be like Mrs. Lot. Seek the Lord Jesus first (Matt. 6:33) and rely on Him to live a life of love toward Him, not toward this world (I John 2:15-17).
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2939.
2. The Greek word for “abides” (menō)is one of John’s favorite terms for fellowship with God (I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24 , 27 , 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17 24 ; 4:12, 13, 15, 16 ; cf. John 8:31; 15:4-7, 9-10) and it means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue.” See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631 and Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 616-619.
3. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3710.
4. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.
5. When referring to I John 2:17, the authors of the discipleship course entitled Rooted go so far to say that “if we give our lives to the world, we will pass away and be separated from God for all eternity” (pg. 98). See Kenton Beshore, Muriithi Wanjau, Peter Kasirivu, Samuel Metelus, Camille and Esther Ntoto, Daniel Nunez, Adrian De Visser, Rooted: Connect with God, the Church, Your Purpose (China: Rooted Network, 2020).