HIS APPEARING AND THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
By John Aldworth
Published Dec 1. 2012
2 Tim. 4:1: I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom.
Titus 2:13: Looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
2 Tim. 1:10: … made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
We are told to look for his appearing. Indeed, according to Titus 2:11-13, the very reason we have been saved by grace is so that we can live righteously in this present world “…looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”. But just how can we look for it? Should we peer daily into the blue sky to see if He will appear? Should we plunge into the Book of Revelation to see how the Lord shows up there? Do we look within our heart to see if perhaps the Lord is appearing there? Certainly, we should look within our heart to make sure we are “faithful” enough to devoutly believe in the blessed hope which is his appearing and to prayerfully look for it. But what then? How can we, how should we intensify our gaze for that which we long to see?
I made this a matter of prayer for some time before the Lord showed me the answer. As is almost always the case, the solution is to be found in the word of God. However, it is not found simply by looking at up the references to appearing in Paul’s prison epistles. Indeed, at first glance, one such reference, could give the mistaken impression that the appearing has already taken place. 2 Tim. 1:9-10, reads:
(God) 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, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
However, careful reading of this passage makes clear that it is in “his own purpose and grace” that the Lord has appeared. The verse also shows trhat He does so in a new gospel which brings “life and immortality” to light. Consequently, this verse does not teach the Lord's actual personal appearing (Gk. parousia) in the throne of his glory in the heavenlies. The throne room of heaven appearing of course is his grand unveiling as "...the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ", ruling from heaven as disclosed in Titus 2:13. The truth is that the Lord's appearing in grace, bringing to light the good news of life and immortality, is a necessary precursor to his later appearing in his full heavenly glory. This is made plain in Titus 2:11-12 where we told that:
"...the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ".
The glorious appearing is the Lord's appearing in glory. It will inaugurate the most blessed and wonderful event yet on God's calendar. This is the much fogotten and overlooked Day of Christ (Phil. 1:6, 10, 2:16) when the full majesty of Christ Jesus as the great God and King over all that in is in heaven and on earth will be made made known to all the world and personally to every creature.
It is his appearing in glory with the members of "...the church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23) which will draw to a close the present dispensation of grace and the Mystery which "...in other ages was not made known to the sons of men" (Eph. 3:5). Accordingly, rightlly dividing Bible students begin to see that the Day of Christ dovetails present truth into prophetic truth that has been on hold, as it were, throughout the Mystery age. Consider, for example, the thrilling prophjecy of Numbers 14:21:
"But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord".
It is in connection with the truth of Lord's future appearing to usher in the Day of Christ that the Apostle Paul is found in the prison epistles to be preaching three new gospels; new in the sense that each is "good news". They are: the gospel of the grace of God (set out in Ephesians), the gospel of life (taught in Philippians, Colossians and 1 and 2 Timothy) and the glorious gospel of the blessed God (found in 2 Tim. 1:11).
These three new gospels progressively reveal additional truth about the Lord's appearing as one reads through the prison epistles from Ephesians through to Philemon. Importantly, as gospels, they differ sharply from the earlier gospel of God (Rom. 1:1) that the apostle proclaimed through the Acts period. This latter gospel was to be preached to all nations, extending to Gentiles the grace and forgiveness offered Israel after the Lord's ascension.
In contrast the gospel of the grace of God, the gospel of life and the glorious gospel of the blessed God, while offered to all men, find effect only in those called to be members of the "..the church which is his body,m the fullness of Him that filleth all in all". These three gospels set out out all the wonders of grace bestowed on those called into the one body and who were "...chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4).
Now the gospel of life reveals additional information to that found in the gospel of the grace of God and the glorious gospel discloses yet more information about our future with Christ in glory. Importantly, these new gospels speak of the life and immortality that await us at our change in the heavenlies, while the earlier good news spoke of the grace that is already ours in the current dispensation ( Eph. 1:3). Accordingly, the Apostle challenges the Philippian believers in Phil. 2:16 to be "without rebuike" so that they "shine as lights in the world holding forth the word of life".
Col. 3:32-4 gives us an example of Paul preaching this both the gospel of life and the gospel of glory to the Colossians:
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on earth. For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then ye shall also appear with Him in glory.”
Our appearing in glory is at the very heart of the gospel of life. It is the very best news we could ever hear. It is the wonderful truth that when Christ appears in glory, that is in heaven, then we shall appear with Him, fully alive with His life, not our own. Nowhere before in scripture were believers ever told such a thing. Yes, there are references, and many of them, in the prophetic scriptures, that refer to Christ appearing in glory but none mention believers appearing with Him in the highest heavens. And none mention this wonderful new life, his life, in which we who are called in the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3: 14) will appear with Him.
Now for a question? Is the King James Bible correct in linking this new life to “immortality” as it does in 2 Tim1:10? The Bible correctors don’t think so. In nearly all lexicons, reference bibles and commentaries they say the 1611 translators made a mistake; the word should be translated “incorruptible” as it is in Rom. 1:23. However, I believe the good old King Jimmy is correct. There is an important difference between incorruption, meaning a body which lives on earth but which cannot decay, and immortality which refers to a body of another kind altogether. The latter body is one which is eternal in the heavens and has been “fashioned” to be like the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, godly, glorious and immortal (see Phil. 3:21).
It is precisely this huge and important difference that is revealed in the gospel of life. It is true that incorruption (Gk: aptharsia) is used of the resurrection body in 1 Cor. 15:42, 50, 53, 54, meaning when saints of the gospel of God calling in the Acts period are resurrected they will receive incorruptible bodies in which to live on earth in the Lord’s 1000-year earthly kingdom. In that change “in the twinkling of an eye” their mortal bodies will “put on immortality”. I hope I won’t be considered splitting hairs when I say that there is an important difference between the immortality conferred on those resurrected to live in the Lord’s kingdom on earth and the immortality that will be enjoyed by those who will live with Him in heaven. The difference is this: that the bodies of earthly believers put on immortality while the heaven dwellers have their bodies changed to become like the Lord’s. Remember that when Christ appears He appears as the “great God and our Saviour” and that He will show Himself as:
“...the blessed and only Potentate … who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, or can see” (1 Tim. 6:15-16).
The immortality of Phil. 3:21 then is, I would suggest, is immortality of another kind, God’s kind. It is not just deathlessness (Gk: athanasia) which is translated immortality in 1 Cor. 15:53-54. It is more; it is the very life of Christ, the great God, Himself. This is clear not only from the use of “immortality” in 1 Tim. 6:16 but also from the context of 2 Tim. 1:9-10 where we are told not only that “…our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death” but also that He has “…brought immortality and life to light through the gospel”.
If immortality were only deathlessness, as the Bible correctors suggest, then the very life of God Himself would amount to no more than the absence of death. But God is Life with a capital L. Life is God and He is the source of it. And man was made in the image and likeness of God with the life of God breathed into him and thus was immortal until he sinned. As Rom. 5:12 teaches “…by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin and so death passed upon all men.”
Speaking of gospels, it is sad so many cannot endure the thought of there being more than one gospel in the Bible. Ignorant of “right division” (2 Tim. 2:15) they wrongly assume there is only one gospel throughout, essentially proclaiming Christ’s death for sin. In fact several of the different biblical gospels make no mention of it. For example, the everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6-7) is to do with worshipping God as Creator.
However, the gospel is always good news. That is, it must be good and also it must be news; which is why each successive gospel proclaimed in scripture contains new information that gives fresh cause for mankind to trust and hope in God. That is why there are several different gospels in the Bible, each containing new truth as it is progressively revealed by the Lord.
For example, the earliest “good news” comes in Gen. 3:15 where God vows that the seed of the woman will bruise the deceiving serpent’s head. Then there is the good news of salvation for Noah and his family in the flood and the promise of land and being made the father of nations for Abraham. The gospel Jesus preached was that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” and later in the Acts period “Christ died for our sins” was the “good news” and it was preached “first to the Jew but also to the Greek”. Still in force today is the wonderful truth that we are saved only by grace through faith.
Now added to this is the further gospel that life and immortality in heaven’s glory has been brought to light by the Lord. Importantly, each gospel speaks of something that is future but is realised in our personal spiritual experience upon our belief in it.
You see, positionally we are already “seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” and it becomes a spiritual reality in our heart when we believe it. It is one of the “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” God the Father has already blessed us with. And so is the truth that our life is in Christ and that we will be revealed with Him when He appears in glory. (See Eph. 1:3, 2:6).
How beautifully the three words, immortality, life and light ring out the glad news of the gospel of life. And each of them is proclaimed in the context of the Lord’s appearing. For example, 2 Tim. 1:10 tells us Jesus Christ has brought life and immortality to light through this gospel, Col. 1:12 states that the Father “…hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”. And, as previously noted, Col. 3:3-4 tells us that our life is hid with Christ in God and that when He appears in glory we will appear with Him.