In part two of this Christmas trilogy I want to take a look at the phrase, “the appearing of Jesus Christ.” As we do we’ll see the life of Jesus and his ministry as one complete whole, all the great events blended together into one. And if that doesn’t give us reason to celebrate I don’t know what will.
In Paul’s second letter to his son, his true child in the faith, Timothy, he writes,
II Timothy 1:8-10:
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
The phrase “the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ” refers to the entirety of his life and mission during his first coming. Everything from his birth to and through the giving of holy spirit on and after Pentecost is included in that. We see the same thing in Titus.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; [Gr: the appearance of the glory of the great God, even of our Saviour Jesus Christ.] 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Notice, there are two “appearings” in that passage. One begins the passage and one occurs in the middle of it. One is a part of history and it was so in Paul’s day, “for the grace of God,” he said, “has appeared.” That appearing covers the entire life and ministry of Jesus Christ, approximately thirty years, as best we can determine, from the birth of Jesus through the cross and the resurrection; from Bethlehem to the Mount of Olives; from the open heavens, where the shepherds heard the voices of the angels singing, to the open heavens when the disciples looked up and saw him disappearing into the clouds of heaven. Thirty years, comprising yet one appearing of Jesus Christ.
The second appearing is a part of prophecy, and still is today, roughly 2,000 years after these words were written. We are, we read, “awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God even our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us.” The appearing of the glory of our great God is when our Savior Jesus Christ appears. We are not awaiting the appearing of God; we are awaiting the appearing of the glory of God. Jesus said when he comes he will come in the glory of his Father (Matthew 16:27 and Luke 9:26). Paul calls this “our blessed hope.” This is the only way out for a war-torn, weary, troubled world. This ought to be more meaningful to us today than it was when it was written, for this blessed hope is even closer today than when it was first written.
The first appearing is called the appearing of the grace of our Lord Jesus, while the second one is the appearing of His glory ― two quite different things. In between comes what has been called, quite properly, “the age of grace,” the age in which we live, and the age in which Paul wrote. This wonderful administration of the grace of God which reveals the great mystery of the ages which God had hidden, and which He revealed to Paul and other apostles and prophets.
The “appeared” in verse 11, is the Greek verb epiphainō. “Appearing” in verse 13 is the noun, epiphaneia. They have been transliterated into English epiphany and means “a shining forth.” The wonderful phrasing of the New English Bible reads, “The grace of God has dawned upon the world.” What a beautiful expression that is of Jesus’ first coming!
Thus the nature of Christ’s first appearing, beginning at Bethlehem, and all his subsequent ministry, is quite plainly described for us. John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:17 adds, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” From Bethlehem through the darkness of Calvary beyond the glorious light of Resurrection morning through his ascension into heaven is described in Titus 2:11 as “having appeared to all men.”
Grace means that the first subject on God’s agenda with man is not judgment, but love. The Scripture says in John 3:16 & 17, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” God’s first concern with man is not condemnation and judgment, but salvation. When the angel of the Lord delivered God’s message to Joseph, he was told to call the baby son’s name Jesus for he would save his people from their sins. What a savior he was!
By Wayne Clapp