For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ[Titus 2:11-13]
Today is January 6th, 2021 — Epiphany.
On the traditional “Christian” calendar — especially in Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox persuasions — today is regarded as the holy day of the Epiphany, which is the celebration of the manifestation of the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God and Savior of the world. As one of the oldest Christian holidays — even predating December 25 — it would be well worth some time to discover more about the origin, history and meaning behind such a sacred festival. Here is a helpful article from the Catholic perspective.
Primarily, the Feast of Epiphany is associated with the visit of the wise men — magi from the east — who first interpreted and then tracked a star to Jerusalem to investigate the birth of the King of the Jews [Matthew 2]. After finding the newborn King in Bethlehem, the magi bowed down to worship Him, commemorating the initial manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, fulfilling the ancient promise that the Messiah of Israel had come to bless all the nations of the earth with His eternal salvation [Genesis 12:3].
While the visitation the Magi and the mystery of the gospel to the Gentiles is also a topic most worthy of discovery and discussion, I would like to take today’s post in a different direction — an eschatological direction. The word epiphany itself is revealing in that its Biblical expression is more closely connected to the second advent of Jesus Christ than to His birth.
As we are about to see, epiphany literally means “brilliant appearance” or “glorious manifestation,” as derived from the Greek word — epiphaneia [ἐπιφάνεια]. The Biblical authors used this word intentionally to describe the visible and awesome display of the glory of God when He comes from heaven in power at the end of the age. In other words, in light of His first appearing as the Suffering Servant, we should be living in hopeful expectation of the appearing of Jesus Christ as the Conquering King.
Epiphany in the Prophets
There are so many prophetic references in the Old Testament that describe the visible and glorious appearance of the LORD when He comes to judge the nations. All of these Scriptures emphasize the conspicuous nature of the Day of the LORD. For brevity, I will only share a few here.
Then the LORD will appear over them,[Zechariah 9:14]
and his arrow will go forth like lightning;
the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet
and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.
God came from Teman,[Habakkuk 3:3-4]
and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His splendor covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
His brightness was like the light;
rays flashed from his hand;
and there he veiled his power.
And all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground … So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.[Ezekiel 38:20, 23]
Now let’s take a look at how the Apostles used the word epiphany in the New Testament to further develop this doctrine of God’s future appearing.
Epiphany in the New Testament
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.[Revelation 1:7]
The appearing of Jesus Christ is inextricably connected to several key eschatological events. The Apostle Paul was exclusive in his use of the Greek word, epiphaneia, though other Apostles used a similar Greek word — phaneroó φανερόω — to describe the appearing of Christ. These words, along with the words “coming” and “revelation,” are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament.
Jesus will appear to destroy the lawless one
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul provides a significant detail about the “appearing” of Jesus Christ — namely that it will be the precise moment He destroys the antichrist [aka the lawless one]. It is also worth considering that Paul connects the appearing of Jesus with His “coming” and the Day of the LORD.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.[2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, 8]
We know from other passages like Revelation 19 that the Beast (antichrist) is destroyed at the end of the great tribulation, therefore, the appearing of Jesus Christ must be at the end of the great tribulation.
Jesus will appear at the appointed time
Paul encouraged Timothy to remain faithful and fight the good fight of faith to the end, which he correlates with the appearing of Jesus Christ.
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,14to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen[1 Timothy 6:13-16]
Jesus will appear to establish His kingdom
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he connects the epiphany of Christ to His coming kingdom on earth. Again, God’s kingdom will be established at the end of this present age.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom …[2 Timothy 4:1]
Jesus will appear to reward the saints
In the very same passage, Paul links the final rewarding of the faithful saints to the appearing of Christ.
Henceforth 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.[2 Timothy 4:8]
Jesus will appear in glory
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.[Titus 2:11-14]
Paul, in one of the most profound statements in the New Testament, says that our blessed hope is the appearing of our “great God and Savior Jesus Christ!” And because we interpret Scripture with Scripture, we now know that this appearing will take place at the end of the age when Jesus Christ comes in visible glory to destroy the antichrist, establish His kingdom and reward His saints.
It is critical in understanding that the appearing of Christ IS NOT a secret, phantom event but rather the most profound display of God’s glory the world has ever seen! The appearing of Jesus Christ will be LITERAL, VISIBLE, PHYSICAL, and UNMISTAKABLE!
In closing, I would like to remind everyone reading this post that the epiphany of Jesus Christ is much more than the story of His birth — as glorious as it was. The epiphany of Jesus Christ is the story of the coming Day when He returns in power and great glory for all the world to see. It is this appearing that we must be prepared to face. It is this appearing that we cannot escape.
The Apostle John leaves us with a reminder of how sobering this appearing will be. Are you prepared to meet Jesus Christ? Is your soul yearning for the appearing of our great God and Savior? Or will you shrink back in fear on that Day when His glory is revealed?
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.[1 John 2:28]
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.[1 John 3:2]
Even so, come Lord Jesus!