Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior 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.
The above text is part of the reason why the teachings of salvation by sovereign, particular grace are to be evidenced in a life of godliness. Paul had just detailed the godliness in verses 2-10, and then he began giving the reason in verse 11. He explained that the grace of God saves, and in saving it brings a restraint of the lusts of the flesh and a life of spiritual sobriety and righteousness. God’s grace enables one to live godly, soberly, and righteously (12).
In addition, divine grace looks ahead; it anticipates. There is to be a second appearing of Jesus. The first appearing brought salvation (11). The second appearing brings the glory of our Savior (13). This second appearing is the object of every believer’s hope. There is godliness now; and there is a hope for something to come. And the ground for both is the work of Jesus redeeming us from iniquity and purifying us unto good works (14).
We make three observations about the translation of this text. First, the “blessed hope” is the same as the “glorious appearing.” The word “and” between them could better be understood as “even”: looking for the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing. Second, the “glorious appearing” is more easily understood as “the appearing of the glory of the great God.” This wording puts the focus on the appearing of Christ and not on the glory itself. Third, the word “our” goes with both “God” and “Savior.” God and the Savior are the same (another proof of the deity of Jesus)!
What is the hope of those saved by divine grace?
The “blessed hope” to which God’s grace brings every believer is the appearance of glory when Jesus comes for His church at the end of earthly time. The grace that works salvation in every believer makes them look ahead in hope. This hope is the anticipation that something wonderful will be realized. It is not a dream, nor just a desire, for it is certain to be realized. It cannot fail to materialize. Christianity teaches that death is not the end. The saved know that the life they are given is not just here and now—it lasts forever. Also, Christianity teaches that death is a beginning. At the very beginning of this letter Paul mentioned it: “in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised” (). Later he will declare that we are “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” ( ). Paul wrote about this hope in his other letters too (cf. and ).
This hope is called “blessed.” By adding this word, Paul says that the hope of the saved believer is a cause of joy and happiness. It is such because it fills us up, that is, the realization of our hope completely satisfies, giving us that which we lack. Grace already gives us so much: forgiveness, justification, new birth, righteosness, sanctification, godliness, etc. But grace also assures us that there is so much more that awaits us after this life: the final perfection of salvation, the reward of grace, the privilege of being constantly in the presence of our Savior and Lord, and being freed from all sin and possibility of sinning. The half has not been told us (cf.).
For what do believers hope?
We hope for the appearing of the glory of the great God and Savior: Jesus Christ.
This glory signifies the reward that is our Savior’s as the Victor over sin and death. It is the glory of sitting at God’s right hand, ruling over all. This glory He shares with all who will rule and reign with Him in heaven. That is why they are called the church triumphant! All of the elect will participate in this glory with Him when He appears on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory ().
Saving grace teaches us to look for an epiphany, that is, an appearance. We preach Christ crucified and risen and exalted, but we also preach that He is coming again. Presently Jesus lives, and our text declares that He lives as the great God and as our Savior. But there is more: He shall appear at the end of time in the majesty of God to put an end to the dominion of sin and to bring about an endless peace.
When Jesus comes again, it will be in the glory of Him who is “the great God.” It will be with the glory of the God who is great and glorious in Himself, who is full of infinite perfections. His glory is that He is infinite in love, in mercy, in grace, in righteousness and truth, in wisdom and honor, etc.
Not only will Jesus’ coming be with the appearance of glory, but this glory is what God has prepared to give to His people in Christ on the basis of Christ’s merits. We already have the essence of this glory in the grace of salvation that justifies us and sanctifies us. But it is not yet manifest what we shall be (). When Jesus appears, then we shall be like Him, seeing Him as He is ( ).
This glory is bound up in “our Savior Jesus Christ.” It is His work as Savior that earns the glory. As Savior He “gave Himself for us.” It was the supreme act of Self-sacrifice! And His giving of Himself was the supreme evidence of His love for us!
His giving of Himself was first to “redeem us from all iniquity.” This is the negative purpose. His death paid the punishment that all of our lawlessness and sinfulness earned from the righteous and just God. He liberated and released us from the bondage and slavery of sin.
And He gave Himself to “purify unto Himself a peculiar people.” This is the positive purpose. He makes us clean. He frees us from defilements. He consecrates and dedicates us by cleansing and purifying us. Consider how clean we must be in order to be clean before Him! The holy God will only commune with that which He has purified.
He purifies us to be His. He makes us His peculiar possession. Everything in all the world is His, but we are His in a special way. We are “His own.” We are His and not our own. This indicates that He values us more than all the rest of the universe. We as sheep are what makes Him the Shepherd. We as the body are what makes Him the Head. We are the fullness of Him who filleth all in all ().
This purification is not an end in itself. We are purified unto a zeal for the good works of gratitude. This zeal is a red-hot fervency. It is not just talk. We are saved to be on fire. That we are saved by grace alone makes us fervent and vigorous for that which is right and true. Those who sincerely profess salvation in Jesus Christ are the most anxious to express their thanks in good works, that He might be thanked and glorified now and forever.
The result is an anticipation
The grace of God that saves and sets before us the hope of the appearance of the glory of the great God moves the saved to look with eager anticipation. Our “looking” implies that we know that the object of our hope is true and real. Also we long for it as we look for it. And we expect to receive that for which we hope. So we are looking with great anticipation.
Our blessed hope is in constant tension with our being earthly and our living on the earth. As a powerful magnet we are pulled heavenward. We know that our present possession of salvation is only the beginning. As real and as wonderful as it is, we have only a small beginning. So we stretch out for the perfection (completion) of the glory in everlasting life.
This looking and longing is a constant activity. We keep longing and expecting.
The grace of God that saves works godliness and a hope. Let us learn to evidence the grace we receive in these ways!