January 19, 2018

Prophecy — A Revelation of God’s Sovereignty

Fred Moritz

The promise of Christ’s imminent, or “any moment,” return permeates the New Testament.

  • Jesus Himself promised, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3).
  • When Christ ascended to heaven, the angels promised, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
  • The early preaching of the apostles included the promise that Christ is in heaven “until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
  • Paul reminded the Roman church that Christ’s ultimate victory and Satan’s defeat are assured: “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20).
  • The Corinthians had the testimony that they were “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7).
  • Paul reminded the Galatians that Christ died to “deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4).
  • The Ephesians understood that the indwelling Holy Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14). We, with the Ephesians, look for the day when we will be “holy and without blemish” with Christ (Eph. 5:27).
  • We have the promise that the God who began the work of salvation in us will perform it until the day of Christ (Phil. 1:6). We look for the coming of our Savior who will change us into His likeness (Phil. 3:20–21).
  • The Colossians embraced the promise of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
  • The Thessalonian believers turned to God from idols, served the living God, and their hope was “to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:10). They had the hope of Christ’s return and “so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:13–18).
  • In our text passage Paul tells Timothy to be faithful “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14). He anticipated the reward which God will give “unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
  • Paul taught Titus that we look “for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
  • The Hebrew Christians understood that “here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Heb. 13:14).
  • James encourages us to spiritual stability because “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:8).
  • Peter tells us that “the chief Shepherd shall appear” (1 Pet. 5:4), and according to God’s promise we eagerly “look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).
  • In 1 John the beloved apostle gives us repeated promises of Christ’s return with the assurance that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
  • Jude tells us that we are to be “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21) and that Christ will present us “faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (v. 24).
  • The very last promise in the Bible comes from the lips of our Savior who assures us, “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20).

It is clear that the New Testament authors and the local churches of the New Testament era believed that Jesus is coming again and that He could come at any moment.

In 1 Timothy 6:14 the apostle urges his protégé to serve the Lord in a pure, irreproachable way until the appearing of Christ. He commands Timothy to live in purity and to stand for the faith (vv. 11–12), charges him to faithfulness (vv. 13–14), and anticipates the ultimate victory of Christ (vv. 15–16). Scripture declares that Christ will come in God’s time and that He will be revealed as God alone.

The Time of Christ’s Appearing

Christ’s return will occur “in his times” (v. 15). This phrase appears four times in the New Testament. Christ came the first time to die “in due time” or “in his times” (1 Tim. 2:6). In the same way, God revealed the preaching of the gospel “in due times” (Titus 1:3). Believers will receive blessing “in due season” (Gal. 6:9) if they do not faint. And here Scripture declares that Christ will appear “in his times” (v. 15). “God controls and determines the moment when his Son will return as the victor and when the struggle shall be brought to an end.”[1]

We do not know the time of Christ’s appearing. Scripture promises that He will return, and it instructs us to serve, watch, and be ready for His return. We are told that Jesus will come “quickly,” or “without delay” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). He will return at the proper time as God has planned.[2] The sovereign God is in control!

The Manifestation of Christ’s Appearing

The appearing of Jesus Christ is going to show vital truth to this world. That truth is important for us in our world today.

Only Sovereign. Paul stresses the fact that Christ will show that He is “the blessed and only Potentate” (v. 15). This was a vital message for first-century believers. One of the reasons believers suffered for their faith in the ancient world was because they would not lower God and His Christ to the level of the pantheon of idols. Their insistence on the exclusive worship of God through Christ brought a series of vicious persecutions and martyrdom across the empire. By the time of Nero, the cult of emperor worship was developing in the empire. “All of the first century emperors equally favored the cult of the dead emperor. Tiberius, Claudius, and Vespasian did not encourage the marks of adoration, but Caligula, Nero, and Domitian permitted or even provoked them.”[3]

God refuses to lower Himself to the level of anything or anyone man calls “god.” Christ is the only sovereign. He is King of all who are called kings. He is Lord of all who are called lords (Rev. 19:16). Paul was a Roman citizen. In this very epistle he taught obedience to and prayer for civil authority (1 Tim. 2:1–4). At the same time, he declared that there is one God (1 Tim. 2:5–6) and that Jesus Christ is the only God and sovereign. In Daniel’s day, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol and worshiped God alone (Dan. 3:12, 16–18, 28). They were willing to serve God to the death. Paul’s affirmation that Christ is the only sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords, is a similar act of faithfulness to Christ. Paul was willing to suffer martyrdom for the testimony of Christ, and that was his fate.

Only God. God alone has immortality (1 Tim. 6:16). God is life in Himself. He gave life to mankind (Gen. 2:7) and to every creature (Gen. 2:19). We must understand that our life is in Him (Dan. 5:23; Acts 17:25). He is immortal, and believers in Christ have the promise of immortality (1 Cor. 15:51–54). There is no other God.

Paul wrote these words in a day when many idols were worshiped as God throughout the empire and in Rome itself. New Testament believers refused to worship anyone or anything as God except the creator God and His Son Jesus Christ. Paul put obedience to Christ ahead of human religious requirements. And for that loyalty to Christ he paid with his life.

God has covered Himself “with light as with a garment” (Ps. 104:2). He lives in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16). He alone is worthy of honor and praise.

In a multicultural world, we must declare the honor and praise of the only true God who reached out to reconcile sinful mankind to Himself. We must be willing to live for Him at any cost. In His own time He will appear again and declare His supremacy. We must serve Him and live for Him.

Dr. Fred Moritz is director emeritus of Baptist World Mission and professor of Systematic Theology and Missions at Maranatha Baptist Seminary, Watertown, Wisconsin.

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2015. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 268–71. []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. http://www.theologywebsite.com/history/rulercult.shtml; accessed February 23, 2015. []

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