Revelation of our Lord

At the revelation of Jesus, the saints will experience glory, but the wicked receive everlasting destruction

The Apostle Paul labels the future return of Jesus as his ‘parousia’ (“arrival”), ‘erchomai’ (“coming”), or ‘epiphaneia’ (“manifestation”). But on two occasions, he also calls it his ‘apocalypsis’ or “revelation.” By comparing how he applies these several Greek terms, it becomes apparent that, in each case, the same event is in view.

In the opening comments of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul points to this future hope to encourage the Corinthian church to progress further in the faith, “so that you come short in no gift of grace,” and all while the saints in Corinth eagerly anticipate that day.

  • (1 Corinthians 1:4-9) - “I give thanks to my God at all times concerning you, by reason of the grace of God given to you in Christ Jesus, that in everything, you have been enriched in him, in all discourse and in all knowledge; even as the witness of the Christ has been confirmed in you so that you come short in no gift of grace, ardently awaiting the REVELATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, who will also confirm you to the end blameless on the DAY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Faithful is God, through whom you have been called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

HIS REVELATION


In the passage, Paul thanks God for enriching the Corinthians in knowledge and “gifts,” and in the context of the letter, the reference is to the “gifts of the Spirit” detailed in chapters 12 and 14.

The reference to the “REVELATION OF JESUS” not only encourages the congregation but also introduces the theme of right conduct since he also will take the congregation to task for tolerating unacceptable behavior (“blameless on that day”). Correct behavior is necessary, especially in consideration of Christ’s return.

Rather than overvalue spiritual “gifts,” the Corinthians must remember that they still await the much fuller glories that will be dispensed at the “revelation” of Jesus.

And here, the English term “revelation” translates the Greek noun apokalypsis, meaning “revelation, disclosure; an unveiling.” What was previously hidden will be revealed on that day, namely, Jesus Christ in all his glory.

And God will “confirm” the Corinthians “until the end,” that is, the end of the age when the Lord arrives. The term “until” means God will continue to confirm them until the very last moment, which, among other things, indicates that some Christians will be alive on the earth on that day.

Blameless” translates a legal term used for persons against whom legal charges can no longer be leveled (anegklĂ©tos), that is, “unimpeachable, guiltless, irreproachable.”  On that day, no one will bring charges against “blameless” saints in God’s “court.”

The “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” is Paul’s adaptation of the “day of the LORD” in the Hebrew Bible, the day when Yahweh delivers his children, judges His enemies, and concludes the existing age. By adding “Jesus Christ,” Paul centers the ancient hope on him.

His description of the “revelation of our Lord” echoes the saying of Jesus recorded in the gospel of Luke when he warned that “days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it.”

Likewise, the Corinthians are “eagerly awaiting” that day. In the interim, just “as in the days of Noah,” men will go about their daily affairs until sudden destruction overtakes them – (Luke 17:22-30).

That day will be a day of “revelation,” not only because the world will see Jesus, but also because the “blameless” status of the saints will be unveiled for all to see.

IN THESSALONICA


Several years earlier, Paul expressed the same idea in his first letter to the Thessalonians when he declares his hope that God will increase their love for him and others. By doing so, their faith will become complete, enabling them to stand “blameless” before God when Jesus “arrives” at his ‘parousia’ - (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

That day will be a time of joy and vindication for all who are found “blameless.” By implication, those who are not found “blameless” will not be so fortunate.

In the second chapter of his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul states his desire for the church to be established “before God.” The same future event is in view in both passages, and both label it as the ‘parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus - (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

Parousia’ occurs seven times in the Thessalonian correspondence, and in six instances, it refers to the “arrival of Jesus." Once, it is applied to the “arrival” of the “man of lawlessness.” That event will include the deliverance of the saints from wrath, the resurrection of dead believers, and the destruction of God’s enemies.

REVELATION FROM HEAVEN


In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul encourages the congregation despite ongoing “persecutions and tribulations.” In the interim since his first letter, persecution began to increase - (2 Thessalonians 1:2-10).

But persecution constitutes “evidence of the just judgment of God, so that you be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, on behalf of which also you are suffering.”

As Jesus taught, suffering for his sake is something that should cause rejoicing rather than despondency. And in Thessalonica, it demonstrates that God honors the faith of the church.

But persecution also demonstrates His justice. Just as faithful believers will be rewarded on that day, so their persecutors will reap condemnation “since it is just for God to requite affliction to those afflicting you… at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven.”

As here, also, the term “revelation” translates the Greek noun apokalypsis. For now, Jesus remains “in heaven” where he reigns hidden from human eyes; that is, until he is “revealed” on the last day.

And in the passage in 2 Thessalonians, Paul also uses the Greek term ‘erchomai’ or “come” for the return of Jesus, a term commonly applied to his “coming” elsewhere in the New Testament (“Whenever HE COMES to be made all-glorious…”).

The clause “in flaming fire” refers to the “fire” of destruction that will befall the wicked, ultimately, “everlasting destruction.”  His “revelation” will mean glory for those who believed the “witness” of the gospel, but “affliction” and “destruction” for all who rejected it.

In the passage, “destruction” translates the noun olethros, the same word Paul applies to the “unexpected destruction” that will come upon the unprepared on the “Day of the Lord” in his first letter to the Thessalonians - (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

WICKED CONDEMNED


And in 2 Thessalonians, the future vindication of believers is contrasted with the condemnation of the wicked. Both things occur on the “Day of the Lord," a subject Paul discusses in the letter’s next chapter.

And in the second chapter, Paul provides more details about the ‘parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus. It will coincide with the “Day of the Lord.”

For the saints, it will mean their “gathering together” to Jesus, presumably, “when he comes to be made all-glorious in his saints and to be marveled at in all who believed.” His arrival will result in their “salvation” and the “obtaining of the glory of Jesus,” because they “believed in the truth” of “our gospel” – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-14).

Before that day comes, the “apostasy” must occur along with the “revelation of the man of lawlessness.” But for now, the “mystery of lawlessness” is working in the world to prepare the way for the unveiling of the “lawless one.” But his unveiling will mean his destruction, for Jesus will destroy him at the “manifestation of his arrival.”

And the unrighteous and apostates will be “judged” also at that time, all those “who receive not the love of the truth,” and they will likewise “perish.”

Paul’s several descriptions demonstrate that the return of Jesus affects believers and unbelievers. The saints are vindicated, and the wicked are condemned. His “revelation,” the “arrival” of Jesus, coincides with the “Day of the Lord,” indeed, the “day of the Lord” is so closely identified with his return that Paul labels it the “Day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Paul’s usage, “arrival,” “coming,” and “revelation” are interchangeable. Each one refers to the same event. At most, they reflect different aspects of his coming. For example, ‘parousia’ stresses his “arrival” and ‘apocalypsis,’ his “unveiling.” What matters in the end, is how anyone responds to the gospel in the here and now.


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