By Rev. Roger Best
” . . . looking for that blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Titus 2:13
WHAT IS HOPE?
As humans who are born into the world sinners because of the sin nature we inherit, we live in constant hope. Hope that somehow, some way, life is going to get better. Consider what we would be like without hope. The small child hopes to be a teenager, the teen hopes to be an adult, and the adult hopes he or she will find in life that which satisfies. In many states across our country the lottery has been established on the basis of raising money for education, and it has been successful because of human hope. Those who participate think that if they could just win those millions of dollars they would find satisfaction, and so they continue to buy tickets hoping that they will be the big winner. Most people live in hope that things will improve for them and that they will finally be satisfied. The truth is though, it never seems to work out the way they hope it will.
One of the frightening observations of our day is that there are so many, particularly the young, who have no hope. Suicides are on the increase annually, and a recent poll said the majority of teens in our day have no hope for the future. And so we see so many of our young living recklessly hoping to find satisfaction at least for the moment. The society of our day can be characterized by hopelessness.
Unfortunately, the Church is not immune from this hopelessness either; many who claim to be born again believers in Jesus Christ are searching for fulfillment in life. As they pursue the hope that they hear mentioned occasionally in a church service, they do not understand what the object of that hope is for them. What is the object of hope that is presented to us in Scripture? What are we taught to hope for? These are questions of great importance. Next to a person’s salvation, there cannot be a question of more significance.
IS THE CHURCH TEACHING BIBLICAL HOPE?
Somehow the church today has taught that in Christ there are benefits that will make life easier and somehow remove all our difficulties. We are indeed a people that are looking for a smooth path and an easy road to travel through life on. Most church attendees today are just that, attendees. The majority of those who call themselves Christians are not really involved in growing in grace and in the Lord. Rather, they are looking for a good feeling that they trust will enhance their lives and give them what is needed to go through another week. The truth of Scripture is that we were not made for the present, and the present was never intended to satisfy us. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). When considered in relationship to eternity, life is short. What really must be considered is our eternal destiny. What will it be? Where will it be? Paul tells us in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” It is not the present that is so filled with confusion and evil that reveals the glory of God in its perfection to us. The present is leading us to a full display of God’s glory in the future. It is in this present day that we sow seeds for the future as we travel life’s path. There is a future day in which the harvest will be reaped and we as believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will experience God’s glory. It is for the future that we exist, not the present.
It is in this certain future that we have hope. Hope that is seen, that is in the present, is not hope. Romans 8:24-25 tells us, “For in hope we have been saved, but the hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Someone has said, “Extinguish hope, and happiness is gone.” The object of hope therefore, is something that we do not possess at the present time. We as believers have a blessed hope, the person without Christ has no hope, only despair. In the classic rapture passage beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 we find, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep (physically dead), that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.” (emphasis added)
WE HAVE A BLESSED HOPE
Not only do we as Christ’s children have hope, but Paul tells us we have a “blessed hope.” Unfortunately there are those within the evangelical church who, in their doctrinal statements, use Titus 2:13 as a proof text to support their belief in an imminent return of Christ. And so the question arises, does this passage or any other passage in the Word of God teach imminency? First let us define imminency as it is used by a pretribulationist. A pretribulationist would define imminency as the any moment return of Christ- no signs, no prophecy yet to be fulfilled; He can come at any time. So nothing stands in the way of His coming and we should look for the imminent return of Christ. Is that what the Word of God is saying, and in particular, is that what Titus 2:13 is saying?
EXAMINING TITUS 2:13
“Looking for” is a translation of the Greek word PROSDECHOMAI and has the idea of receiving favorably and it also means to expect. The same Greek word is found in Jude 21 where it is translated, “waiting anxiously” and in Luke 21:51 where it is simply translated, “waiting.” The Greek scholar M.R. Vincent says of prosdechomai: “That which is accepted in faith, is awaited expectantly.” We see that “looking for” speaks of the attitude of expectancy that ought to be true of every believer. Note it has to do with our attitude and not the timing of what we are waiting for. Rotherham in his very fine Emphasized Bible translates prosdechomai in Titus 2:13 as “prepared to welcome.” And how can we be prepared to welcome “the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus?” That is exactly what Paul is speaking of in verses 11 and 12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” Someone has said “It is by faith he knows, by faith he possesses, by faith he enjoys Him; but the more he knows and enjoys Him thus, the more he longs to behold him.” As the Apostle John put it: “And now little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shirk away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28). So we conclude that God is telling us how to live so we might have freedom of guilt, enjoy His forgiveness and be excited in our expectancy to welcome our Savior and Lord at His coming.
Titus 2:13 goes on to say: “Looking for the blessed hope.” What is our blessed hope? Is it an imminent coming of our Savior or is it our seeing Him at His coming? The Greek phrase for “the blessed hope” is used only in this passage in the New Testament. It is interesting that in the Greek text “blessed hope” and “appearing of the glory” are not separated as it seems in our English translations, but the structure requires that they be construed as one. Kenneth Wuest says, the “blessed hope is the glorious appearing of our Lord.” He translates it this way, “that blessed hope, even the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is our hope! “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1, emphasis added). So now we see that the object of our hope is a person, “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” and we need to have the right attitude supported with holy living so we are prepared to welcome His appearing. We have reason to live godly and holy as suggested in verses 11 and 12 because we have a certain hope that we will see our blessed Savior and Lord face to face at His appearing. The Greek word for “appearing” is EPIPHANEIA which was used by the Greeks of Paul’s day when they spoke of the glorious appearing of their gods. In this passage it is used of the glory that will accompany the coming of Christ. Some translations say “glorious appearing” however, a better translation is “the appearing of the glory.”
Those who attempt to prove the timing of Christ’s appearing with this passage are missing the point entirely. This passage speaks of the fact of His coming in glory and the fact that we ought to be prepared to welcome Him when He does come. If we will be diligent and compare Scripture with Scripture we find that the timing of when His glory will appear is given to us in the Olivet Discourse. When Christ cuts short the persecution of Antichrist (Mt. 24:22) He tells us what happens: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days (when Christ cuts it short) the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Mt. 24:29-30, emphasis added). There you have it, the appearing of His glory, what a blessed hope!
PETER EXPLAINS OUR HOPE
Peter explains this hope in even more detail: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation (deliverance) to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation (deliverance) of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9 emphasis added). This wonderful hope that we have is spoken of often in the New Testament. “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2, emphasis added). “It is Christ Himself who will return and receive us to Himself who is our hope. We look back believingly to the cross of Christ, and have perfect peace; we look forward to the coming of Christ as our hope” (W. Trotter, Plain Papers on Prophecy). This same principle is recorded in Colossians: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Col. 3:3-4).
IS OUR HOPE EVER LESS THAN BLESSED?
Pretribulationists will say that if we as believers have to face the trials and persecution under the control of Antichrist before the rapture then we do not have a “blessed hope.” But Scripture and logic say just the opposite. The trials and suffering make the appearing of our Savior and Lord in glory even more blessed. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). “For nearly two thousand years, faithful saints of God have been ‘looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus’ (Titus 2:13 emphasis added). Upheld in that hope by the power of the indwelling Spirit, they willingly ‘share in the sufferings of Christ [and] keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, [they] may rejoice with exultation‘ (1 Pet. 4:13, emphasis added). Because of God’s superabundant grace, believers not only will rejoice in the manifested glory of their Savior and ‘stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy’ (Jude 24), but will even be actual partakers of that glory (1 Pet. 5:1; cf. Col. 3:4). Even compromising believers who enter the seventieth week will share in that glory, having been made pure and blameless by the refining persecution of the great tribulation by Antichrist” (The Sign by Robert Van Kampen, expanded edition, page 282).
Facing the difficulties of the present with the coming of even greater difficulties in the future, we have a blessed hope, something that makes life worth living. Titus 2:13 tells us that that blessed hope is the appearing of Christ in glory. Not timing, not imminency, but wonderful assurance that there is a day coming when believers will see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. Carrie Breck had this in mind when she wrote:
“Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face – what will it be –
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me.
Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkling veil between;
But a blessed day is coming
When His glory shall be seen.”