So now, little children, remain in him so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
This verse makes the transition from concern about false teachers that has dominated the previous chapter to concern for the children of God, which will dominate the remaining chapters.
“Remain in him so that”: John joins the admonition developed in the previous paragraph (“remain in him”) to the confidence of Christ’s return. John explains what it means to remain in Christ by the tests he will now develop.
“μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν” (Mē aischynthēnai): the sense of this expression can either be “to be ashamed” (middle voice), or “to be put to shame” / “to be disgraced” (passive voice). Meaning that those who remain in Christ will have no cause to be ashamed when he returned, nor will he put them to shame. Those who remain in Christ can have absolute and unshakable confidence in Christ.
“παρρησία” (parrhēsian): while this word is often used of the open and clear manner of speech one might use (see. Mt. 8:32), here the word describes a quality or attitude a believer should possess when approaching God (Eph 3:12): “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Heb 4:16; cf. 10:19, 35; 1 Jn. 2:28; 3:21; 4:17; 5:14).
On one level the return of Christ in power and glory will be most frightening to those for whom Christ has been most distant; the one who has remained with him daily in truth will be well acquainted with Christ and will not be afraid at his coming. Rather, those who have remained in Christ will rejoice when they see him return in power and in glory! But, those for whom Christ has been a distant memory will see someone who is a stranger to them returning in power and glory, and such will have terrible fear when Christ comes back. Still others who have thought they knew Christ will be overtaken in great fear because they did not know him in truth, and the Christ who returns in power and glory will be as much a stranger to them as to those who have never heard his name!
Yet on another level, life will someday come to an end for everyone; God’s summons comes to all to rise and bid this world farewell. If we have never thought of God, and if Jesus has been only a dim and distant memory, that will be a summons to voyage into a frightening unknown. But, if we have lived consciously in the presence of Christ, if day by day we have talked and walked with God, that will be a summons to come home and to enter into the nearer presence of one who is not a stranger but a friend.
Therefore, the beloved apostle is bidding all Christians to remain in Christ so that we will all have confidence and joy when we meet him face to face.
Our great aim is to remain in Christ by keeping his word in faith:
John 14:23 (CSB) If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.