Timothy must keep the commandment blameless and spotless unto the glorious appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ in His final return and manifestation. He must flee all carnal striving after earthly riches and glory, and must do so by pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love patience and meekness. He has herein a great contest to finish, and must strive constantly to lay hold on, to get a firm spiritual grip on eternal life; he must know God in the face of Jesus Christ!
To impress this upon the heart and mind of Timothy Paul gives him a commandment before the face of God, who gives life and breath to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who confessed the good confession concerning his kingdom, and the nature and purpose of his coming into the world (Incarnation), before Pilate in the latter’s judgment-hall.
The implications and motivations of these injunctions we have attempted to set forth in bold relief in former essays. We now stand before the difficult task of elucidating the meaning and conception given by Paul of the “manifestation” of Christ in his blessed return. The text to which we call attention reads, “Which in his own time will shew who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and. Lord of bards; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the unapproachable light, whom none of men hath seen nor is able to see. To whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.” Verses 15, 16.
It is quite evident in the Greek text that the relative pronoun “which” refers here not to “God who quickeneth all things,” nor to Christ Jesus,” but refers to the “manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ” in verse 4. It is until that “manifestation,” that the commandment to seek the heavenly things must be kept by the church as addressed in Timothy. After that there will be no earthly glory of this world to allure, and there will be no evil men to tempt us; then all that which is in this world, into which we have brought nothing and from which we shall be able to take nothing, shall be no more. That final manifestation of Christ is the purpose of the world, it is the harvest-time, the final terminal of history, and the reward of all who pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, meekness and patience. It is definitely this manifestation (“epiphaneias“) of which Paul is speaking here, and to which the relative pronoun “which” refers.
O, I know that all Unitarians, who deny the Deity of Christ, would refer this relative pronoun to “God.” Thus Thayer in his Lexicon remarks concerning the verb “shew” (deikesei) as follows “spoken of God as the author of Christ’s visible return.” We are of the considerate opinion, however, that the “manifestation of Christ” will show who is the blessed and only Potentate, the Lord of lords, etc. That exact point in the manifestation that Unitarian unbeliever, Arians, Socinians, the followers of Rutherford (Jehovah-Witnesses) are unwilling to admit. Nevertheless, upon this point we shall adamantly insist; the grammar in the text leaves no other alternative.
The “manifestation” refers, of course, to the glorious self-revelation of the triune God in the glorified Son of God in the flesh; it will exactly set forth that he is the “only begotten God in the bosom of the Father.”John 1:18. What the Theophanies were in the Old Testament dispensation, and Christ’s partial manifestation was in the days of his humiliation on earth in his wonders and powers, and his “glorification on the mount” (Matt. 17:2, 5; II Pet. 2:17, 18) this will be in the final and consummating sense of the word. It will be the Tabernacle of God with man, the fulfillment of the Decree of God. “I have anointed my King in Zion the hill of my holiness” (Psalm 2:8); and, again, “thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” Truly, that will be Immanuel, God-with-us!
Let us attempt to understand the several elements here in the text.
What will be manifested, Paul states here, will be in “his own time.” Here too we are left in the dark as to just when this shall be as far as our astronomical calendar date is concerned. The day and the hour the Lord has kept and put in his own power. Acts 1:7. No one knows just when the Lord shall return, not even the angels in heaven, but my Father only.Matthew 24:36. And to this rule Paul too is bound in his giving this command to Timothy to keep the commandment until the manifestation of Christ. Only thus will Timothy and the entire church be watchful and vigilant in hopeful expectation and patience. That time is the proper occasion for this manifestation; it will come at the right moment at the end of history, the history of of nations, of Satan and the dragon; it will come when all the elect of all ages shall have been born, called, justified, and to be glorified all together. When this manifestation of Christ is realized, history as the unfolding of the Counsel of God is ended; the meaning of history as given in Col. 1:16 will be evident to all, namely, “that in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, the things seen and the things unseen, whether they be thrones or lords, principalities or powers, all things were created by him and unto him.”
This fact that all is centered in God’s revelation in Christ, His Son is now not yet evident, except to the eye of faith and hope. We do not yet see that all things are subjected unto Christ. Hebrews 2:8. All we have seen (the eye-witnesses on Olivet) is Jesus crowned with glory and honor for the suffering of death; but then it shall be seen. It is, in fact, ready to be revealed, Peter tells us. I Peter 1:4. All is prepared in heaven and is kept there for us. For this we wait in earnest expectation as does the entire creation with uplifted head. Rom. 8:19.
What will particularly be revealed, manifested in his own time is “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the Lord of lords and the King of kings . . .”
The term in the Greek for Potentate is “Dunastees.” The term does not so much emphasize authority as it does innate strength, ability, might; it emphasized that with him nothing is impossible. He upholds all creation, he conquered death and hell, in which he is revealed to be the Son of God in power. (dunamis) All his commands are executed and he never fails through inability. God’s Decree is executed by Him. Hence, he is called the “blessed” Potentate. This term (makarios) in Greek is not so much a term indicating what men and angels call him in worship, but rather emphasizes what he is in his Divine self as the Son, whom the Father hath given to have life in himself even as the Father bath life in himself. In him is the never ending fullness of the life of the Godhead. Does not the fullness of the Godhead dwell in him bodily? Col. 2:9. What a Divine delight there is in the heart of this Potentate, who has established his throne in justice and righteousness and who has been anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows! Heb. 1:9 (Ps. 45:6, 7). Never is his blessedness marred by the fear of weakness, sin, limitation; he need not fear. Is he not the “only” Potentate, the blessed one? For as the Song has it “For who among the mighty shares, the likeness that Jehovah (Jesus) bears.” Has he not wrested all power from Satan, having destroyed all his works, and made an open shame of the powers, setting them forth as stripped and in shame? He has really no foe who can successfully oppose Him. Has he not redeemed his saints, and will he not give them a place forever, as heirs, in his kingdom? Is he not Jehovah, the man of war, in our flesh who took captivity captive and gives gifts unto men? When the heads of royalty fall in this world and all live in mortal fear, they are not blessed, for they are not the only potentates.
But this Potentate’s name is “LORD OF LORDS, KING OF KINGS.” Is not his vesture portrayed to us by the Seer John on Patmos as being “dipped in blood?” And is his name not “The Word of God?”Rev. 19:13 And do not his armies follow him riding upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, clean and white? Pray, what battalions and hosts of the angel-world are not under his dominion. He is the Head of all principalities and powers. Col. 2:10. What earthly king is there who shall not bow the knee to Christ, and what earthly lord is not under his dominion? He is the Lord in the actual “reigning” and “lording” of the earthly or heavenly kings and lords. All angels and men are under his feet. Never is there a decision made or executed among the kings and lords of the earth and the nations, but what they are executing that which is written in the “Book” of Him who sitteth on the throne, and which was given to Christ that he might take it and break the seven seals of it. Such will incontrovertibly be revealed in that manifestation of Christ Jesus, unto which time we must keep the commandment without spot, blameless.
Furthermore, it should be observed this Lord of lords and King of kings is the only one who has eternal life. Says the text, “Who only has immortality, who dwells in the unapproachable light, whom no man hath seen nor is able to see.” Verse 16.
What does this imply that it is said that this Christ “only has immortality?” That he “dwells in the unapproachable light?” That none of men “have seen him,” or are “able to see” him?
First of all we would reflect on the implications of the phrase “Who only has immortality.” We should observe that for the second time Paul writes the adverb “only.” Christ is the only blessed potentate. He is in a class all by himself as such. Thus too here Christ is in a class all by himself. He is the “one having” immortality alone. He has this as the Son of God who is given to have life in himself. He is equal with God. He is God in the flesh. He is the resurrection and the life. Immortality does not simply mean that we will not die, but rather that wecannot die. It, therefore, presupposes that we have life which we cannot lose; it is eternal life. Being very God, yet, having come in our human nature and being real man, he has the distinction that he alone “has immortality.” He laid down his life and took it up again. But he never was mortal as the Son of God. He is life in the midst of death. Yes, he was found in the likeness of man, and he assumes wholly the role of a servant, even unto death; yet he is all the while equal with God, in the very bosom of the Father. While he is on earth he is also in heaven, He ever speaks what he “sees” with the Father in the deep things of God. I Cor. 2.
It is for this reason that it can be said by Paul that he “dwells in the unapproachable light.” He never began to dwell there. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God.” We only dwell in the light-rays which shine forth from him. He is in that light. His is the expressed image of God’s being, the very effulgence of the glory of God. Heb. 1:3, 4 and in the Being of God none can ever approach. The distance between him, dwelling in the light, and our walking in the light must ever be infinitely great. He is God and we are man!
No man hath ever seen the Son as he is in the depths of God’s light. He is hid in the very effulgence of the glory. Yes, we shall see God, face to face! I Cor. 13:12. Only that will be in the face of Jesus Christ, who is God revealed. We shall see him as he is, holy, just, gracious, almighty, but we shall not penetrate into the Godhead itself. We shall ever prostrate ourselves before God, even when we shall behold him, being like unto him. I John 3:2, 3. Thus there is no conflict between the fact that we shall see God (I John 3:2, 3) and that none of men ever saw Him, or are able to see him.
None shall in the day of Christ’s appearance doubt that the Son of Man is indeed God blessed forever, Amen. To him is all the honor and power. Worthy is the Lamb to receive all glory, honor, power, wisdom and might. In the vision of the throne in Rev. 4, one does not hear a Unitarian sing!