Why the Second Coming of Christ is Our Blessed Hope

11 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; 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. (Tit 2:11-14)

INTRODUCTION: TITUS’ MISSION

The second chapter of this epistle begins with the charge of the Apostle Paul to Titus, who had been left in Crete with a commission to set the churches in order:

“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” (Tit 1:5)

Accordingly, he sets forth in brief the qualifications for elders, closing with these words:

“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Tit 1:9)

Then he warns Titus that there will be schismatics and false teachers to contend with:

“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:” (Tit 1:10)

He next describes their character, and gives Titus direction in his dealing with them. He is to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith”, and to “stop the mouths” of the deceivers by sound doctrine (see 1:9 above).

Finally, he describes the character of these men in the following terms:

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Tit 1:16)

SOUND DOCTRINE AND SOUND PRACTICE

The division of the epistle into chapters at this point tends to obscure the fact that there is an important continuity between Chapter 1 and chapter 2. For the emphasis on sound doctrine which appears in verses 9, 11, 13, and 16 of chapter 1 recurs in the first verse of chapter 2:

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” (Tit 2:1)

The chief duties of Titus and the elders he appoints are to teach sound doctrine, and to inculcate the behavior that befits it. The word “become” means “to befit”. “The things which become sound doctrine” means the particulars of behavior that are consistent with the doctrines of Christianity. Call to mind the words of verse 1:16, which close the first chapter: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him”. There is an intimate connection between 1:16 and 2:1.

Pursuing this theme of Christian conduct, and by way of illustration, he sets forth a series of particular directions to the several classes of people, consonant with the peculiar social station and circumstances of each grouping. He addresses in turn aged men, aged women, young women, young men, and after an aside to Titus himself (urging him to maintain an exemplary deportment) bond-servants; in a few words exhorting each of them to the principal duties, and urging them to avoid the most common sins, of each class.

TWO ARGUMENTS FOR OBEDIENCE

He then enforces these directions in a long sentence that runs from verse 11 to verse 14, beginning with the following arguments:

11 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;”

First, the gospel – the doctrine of the grace of God which had been preached to the Cretians – is far from being a license to sin. Paul contrasts those things that we should reject, “ungodliness and worldly lusts”, with those that we should embrace, ”we should live soberly, righteously, and godly”. This is our duty in this present world (age). Those who think that they can live as they list, and expect to be counted with the saints in heaven have got another think coming. We are going to have to change our lives to accord with the requirements of God’s word. We are going to have to listen to the preaching and submit to it – to obey; or we will never learn to live as the God of grace requires.

The second argument is that “…our Saviour Jesus Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (verse 14). God did not forgive us our sins that we might continue in them; but that we might be redeemed from the power of them, and purified or sanctified from them. We are to become a “peculiar” (special) people, whose lives are full of those good works which lead men to glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). The implication is that, if this does not take place in our lives, we prove ourselves to be among the reprobates who “profess that they know God; but in works deny him”.

All of this has been by way of background and establishing context. I hope I have demonstrated the unity of the early part of the epistle.

VERSE 13: ITS CONNECTIONS

Now, “sandwiched” between these two arguments is found the text in my title, which I will now attempt to expound:

13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

This verse is in the middle of the sentence that begins with verses 11-12 and ends at verse 14. As such, it is connected to verse 12 and verse 14. Both of these connections are important.

The first connection is this:

…we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope

The key word is “looking”. In our day, that requires explanation. But first, let’s see what’s important about the connection. While we are living godly lives in this world (age), we are to be also looking for the appearing of our Savior and the dawn of a new age. Now this is not an additional duty, so much as a powerful encouragement to live a holy life. Suffering is a part of life for all in this sinful world; but Christians are likely to suffer an additional burden – that of persecution. We need to remember that this present evil world will come to an end, and that the temporary suffering we endure here bears no proportion to the eternal glories of the new world.

The word “looking” has nothing to do with gazing heavenward, or looking up every once in a while to see if Christ is there yet. His appearing may be a long way off. But here is the true idea. We should be “looking for” this blessed hope, like a new bride “looking for” her husband who has had to be away from her for a time. The word used here denotes expectancy. The sense is that we are to reach out towards it with our spirits, and to desire to take hold of it. We can’t do this unless we often think about it. The great consolation in the midst of all our trials is to consider that our Lord Himself is coming to perfect our redemption!

This grand expectation should be so much a part of us, that it transforms our lives. It should loosen our grip on all things merely temporal. It should make us careless of what may happen to us: whether we live long or not, whether we prosper in this world or not, whether we suffer or not. The return of our Beloved overshadows all these trivial things in the hearts of those that love Him and long for His appearing.

The second connection is this: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

The One who is going to “appear” is “the great God”. Jesus Christ is not just a man, or even an angel: He is God incarnate. What could be more significant than His return to earth after so many centuries of His absence?

He is also our Savior, the same one who laid down his life for us, to save us from sin. He is our friend! We should be more than eager to see Him! The eternal redemption which He obtained for us by His life and death will not be completed until He comes.

WHAT IS THE BLESSED HOPE?

Now, to the text itself, and the words “the blessed hope”. The English word “hope” can have at least four distinct meanings: the verb “to hope” can mean “to desire” something future, which may or may not happen. Second, it can mean “to be sure of”. Third, when it is a noun, it can mean “the confidence or assurance that we possess regarding a future event.” And fourth, it can mean “that which we hope for”.

The first thing to notice in our text is that “hope” here means “the thing hoped for”. It can mean nothing else, because none of the other meanings is compatible with the idea of being “looked for”.

Second, while there are commentators who differ, the consensus is that this “blessed hope” is the same thing as the “glorious appearing” of our Lord Jesus Christ. Admittedly, the Greek text may be interpreted in such a way that these are two different things. Adam Clarke, for example, says ”Some think that the blessed hope and glorious appearing mean the same thing; but I do not think so. The blessed hope refers simply to eternal glorification in general; the glorious appearing, to the resurrection of the body;” but notice that he offers no evidence or argument in support of his opinion. Isn’t it curious that Clarke finds in the words “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” only a reference to the resurrection?

Notice that the phrase, “The blessed hope” is not self-defining. It could mean “ eternal glorification in general” or the resurrection, which is expressly called our “hope” in the book of Acts. (23:6; 24:14) If Paul had stopped at the words, “blessed hope”, we could not be certain what is meant by it; so that it is not unreasonable to take the following clause as a definition or explanation of what that hope is: “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”. The word “and” that connects the phrases does not necessarily imply that they are two different things, since the Greek word kai can be translated “even”.

Besides, while we have many hopes to be fulfilled in the last day, the center of all our hopes is Jesus Christ Himself, and in particular, His appearing. All of the eschatological (last days) events revolve around the return of the King, Who will set everything right!

WHY IS IT CALLED THE BLESSED HOPE?

Let’s dig a little deeper, and consider further what are the reasons why the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ is called the blessed hope.

One Reason why the second advent is called “the blessed hope” is because it marks the end of this age and the beginning of that longed-for and everlasting age which is to come. The New Testament commonly distinguishes two “worlds” or ages:

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. “ (Matthew 12:32)

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.“ (Mark 10:30)

Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.“ (Luke 18:30)

Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:33-36)

Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:” (Ephesians 1:21)

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

I quote these texts, rather than merely cite them because citations are often overlooked. They may not capture our attention. It may come as a shock to those who have had Dispensational teaching, and who think that there is another age (the millennium) to come between ours and the eternal state, that the New Testament knows nothing of such a thing as a “middle age” between the two. If there is a “millennium”, it can only occur within our own present age; as many of the best theologians have believed.

This is the age of hardship, of warfare, of broken hearts and broken bodies, of sin and suffering. Who would not be glad to exchange it for a world in which none of these things exists? The resurrection and eternal life are the unmerited reward of our term of labor. Is this not a sufficient reason to be looking for the day of His coming?

A Second Reason why the second advent is called “the blessed hope” is because when once that event occurs, everything moves inexorably and rapidly forward to the consummation. When Christ returns, what we know as the history of the world is at an end.

The great commission having been fulfilled, the preaching of the gospel for the conversion of sinners will be at an end. (Mathew 28:20) The celebration of the sacraments will cease, having been ordained only until “the end of the age“ (Mathew 28:19-20), “till he come”(1 Corinthians 11:26). All these things will have served their purpose.

The longsuffering of God toward the world for the sake of His elect will be ended when the last elect sinner is converted (2 Peter 3:9-10). The church will then be complete, and the work of redemption at an end. Then he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (2 Thessalo-nians 1:10). All the dead in Christ, the saints of all ages, shall rise (1 Corinthians 15:22-23), and all the living saints shall be caught up and transformed (1 Corinthians 15:51 with 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Christ shall then present His perfected bride to himself (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Immediately upon the return of Christ, a series of final events commences: the glorification of the faithful, the resurrection of the dead, the final and eternal judgment of all men, the renovation of the earth by fire, the inauguration of eternal bliss on the renewed earth. It is proper and natural then, that we should be taught to focus on the return of Christ as the event that signals the fulfillment of all our hopes.

A Third Reason is that all these other eschatological events will be the acts of the Savior Himself, performed as the completion of His Mediatorial mission of saving the world. He will personally call the dead out of the graves. (John 5:29) He Himself will judge the world. (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:30-31) It is He, and none other, who will dissolve the frame of earth, and refashion it to a new perfection! (Rev. 21:5-6 – see 1:8)

When He comes, He will set all things to rights. Nothing will be right until then. And when He does it, it cannot ever be undone. Nothing less than this complete consummation of the happiness of the elect and the removal of all evil from the world forever will serve the perfect purposes of God, who has resolved upon our perfect blessedness in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and in Him alone!

To separate the second coming of our Lord from the other constituent parts of the consummation is nothing less than to diminish its importance, as well as its place of centrality to Christian hope. Even worse is to separate the second coming itself into two stages: the so-called “rapture” and the “revelation”. This makes the rapture the blessed hope instead of His appearing! There are many who are convinced that they are living in the last generation, and that they will be alive when Christ comes (any day now). For them, the “blessed hope” is to be alive at the rapture – to leave earth without having to die! How different is the scriptural perspective!

SUMMARY

Let us then heed the words of the Apostle, and be careful to both teach and practice those things that become the gospel; with the encouragement that the King will not disappoint our hope, for:

The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Th 1:7-12)

Howard Douglas King

August 12, 2019

 

 

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