For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 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)
Paul opens his epistle to the Christian minister , Titus, with a series of particular directions to the several classes of people, consonant with the peculiar 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 the passage before us, he gives two reasons why all these classes of men “should live soberly, righteously, and godly, (as he has just sketched out) in this present world”; first because of the “blessed hope” of the Savior’s return to inaugurate a future world where these things will be rewarded, and the contrary behavior punished. This blessed hope, as the Greek construction clearly shows, is the same thing as the “glorious appearing” of our Lord Jesus Christ. The second reason is because the Lord Christ bought us with His life’s blood in order that He might make us a “special nation”, “zealous of good works”.
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)
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. The celebration of the sacraments will cease, having been ordained only until “the end of the age“(Mathew 28:20), “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.
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. He Himself will judge the world. It is He, and none other, who will dissolve the frame of earth, and refashion it to a new perfection!
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 Christ!
To separate the glorious appearing of our Lord from the other constituent parts of the consummation, such as the rapture of the church, or the final judgment, is nothing less than to diminish its importance, as well as its place of centrality to Christian hope.
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 and desire to take hold of it. 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.
“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Howard Douglas King