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29 August 2019

Blessed Hope and Glorious Appearance of Jesus

The Resurrection -
Every New Testament passage that describes the future “coming” of Jesus, regardless of which Greek term is used, refers to one, and only one, “coming” (whether parousia, erchomai, apokalypsis or epiphaneia). But according to some prophecy teachers, there will be at least two “comings” of Jesus or, perhaps, one coming divided into two (or more) “stages.”
Proponents of more than one future arrival of Jesus find two distinct “comings” in Titus 2:13; most often, the pretribulation rapture (“the blessed hope”) and the second coming (“the glorious appearance”):
(Titus 2:13) - “Looking for the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of the great God and of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
According to this interpretation, the “blessed hope” is the rapture of the church for which believers are to watch and usually expected to precede the great tribulation. The “glorious appearance” will occur at the second coming of Jesus at the end of the tribulation when he judges the world and sets up his kingdom on the earth.
There are several problems with this understanding. First, the Greek participle rendered “looking for” has two direct objects:  the “blessed hope” and the “appearance of the glory.” The participle is in the first person and plural number; that is, what “we” are looking for (prosdechomenoi). It also is in the present tense, signifying ongoing action. In other words, Paul exhorts Christians to be watching constantly for something, an attitude that ought to govern their behavior. 
What Christians look for is the “blessed hope” and the “appearance” of the glory of God.  “Hope” and “appearance” both are in the accusative case, meaning, both are direct objects of the participle. Christians should expect to see both things. If the “appearance” of the glorious God refers to the return of Jesus following the great tribulation and after the Church has been removed from the earth, the exhortation loses its force.  If Christians are not be on the earth at that time, why look for it?
Second, in this context, it is Christians who anticipate the “appearance,” not Jews or others who have been left behind in the tribulation by the rapture of the church. This is a day of hope and salvation for Christian believers, including Titus and his congregations on Crete (Titus 1:5). The latter died centuries prior to the “appearance” of Jesus, but they will participate all the same through the resurrection of the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Third, the position assumes “blessed hope” refers to the rapture. But elsewhere “hope” refers to “everlasting life,” not the rapture. Thus, Paul describes the “hope of everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised before age-long times.” In Titus 3:7, the Apostle explains how Christians are “justified by his grace that we might be made heirs according to the hope of everlasting life.”
As explained in the New Testament, the receipt of final salvation awaits the bodily resurrection at the “coming” or parousia of Jesus (e.g., Romans 8:17-25, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At that time, dead believers will be resurrected and those still alive transformed (1 Corinthians 15:50-57). Though Paul uses “hope” in a variety of ways, nowhere does he apply it to the rapture.
Fourth, the more natural way to read Titus 2:13 is that “blessed hope” refers to something received at the same time as the “glorious appearance” of God and Jesus, not to distinct events separated by several years.
Fifth, Paul uses “appearance” or epiphaneia to refer to the future coming of Jesus in four additional places (the term refers to the first coming of Christ in 2 Timothy 1:10). In 1 Timothy 6:14, Paul charges Timothy to “keep the commandment without spot, free from reproach, until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The implication is that believers survive on the earth until the appearance of Jesus.
In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul adjures Timothy “before God and Christ Jesus” to proclaim the Gospel “with all long-suffering and teaching,” especially in the knowledge that Jesus is “going to judge the living and dead, and his appearance and kingdom.” The future “appearance” of Jesus will include judgment and the consummation of God’s kingdom (cp. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
In the same paragraph (2 Timothy 4:1-8), the Apostle describes how his life has been “poured out as a drink-offering” in the service of the Gospel. The season of Paul’s release is “at hand,” he has “contested the noble contest, finished the race and kept the faith”; therefore, he will receive a crown of righteousness from “the Lord, the Righteous Judge,” along with all those “who have loved his appearance.” Both judgment and reward occur at the “appearance” of Jesus.
Most critically, in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul describes how at the “appearance of his coming” Jesus will slay the Lawless One with “the breath of his mouth” (cp. Revelation 19:11-21). The Apostle uses two Greek nouns to refer to one future return:  epiphaneia (“appearance”) and parousia (“coming”). In this same paragraph, he presents the parousia of Jesus as the event at which believers are “gathered together to him” (verse 1). Before this “coming” can occur, there will be an apostasy and the unveiling of the “Man of Lawlessness” (verse 3). At his Parousia, Jesus will slay this Man of Lawlessness.
The “gathering together” of the saints in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 coincides with the parousia and epiphaneia of Jesus (“the appearance of his coming”). This refers to the same gathering of dead and living believers found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which will take place at the “coming” or parousia of the Lord.
Elsewhere, according to Paul, at the parousia of Jesus the righteous dead are resurrected, the “end” arrives, God’s kingdom is consummated, all powers hostile to God are forever overthrown, and Death is abolished (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). For faithful believers, the parousia will be a time of reward and rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Paul prays for the hearts of believers to be found “unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming (parousia) of Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 3:13, likewise in 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
In this present age, Christians endure “persecutions and tribulations” at the hands of hostile men for the gospel.  But a day is coming when God will “recompense affliction to them who afflict” the Church.  The time of recompense occurs at “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels.”
On that day, he will take “vengeance against them that refuse to know God and hearken to the Gospel.” Men and women who reject the gospel and persecute saints will “pay a penalty, everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord…whenever he comes to be glorified in his saints” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10).
While the New Testament uses different Greek nouns and verbs for the “coming” of Jesus, consistently it portrays ONE AND ONLY ONE future return. Nowhere does it describe more than one coming of Jesus or divide Christ’s arrival into multiple stages. The arrival of Jesus will mean reward for the elect, but judgment and loss for the wicked (cp. Matthew 25:31-46). 
The interpretation that finds two distinct events in Titus 2:13 is not supported by the text or corroborated by other New Testament passages. The “appearance” of Jesus is the same event as his “coming” or parousia. At that time, dead believers are resurrected, those remaining alive are transformed, and both together are gathered to be with Jesus.

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