When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.


Writing to the Corinthian believers, Paul promised full spiritual deliverance and stability in the knowledge that Jesus Christ “is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” He also assured the Colossian believers: “You are complete in Him!”

Our great need, then, is simply Jesus Christ. He is what we need. He has what we need. He knows what we need to know. He has the ability to do in us what we cannot do—working in us that which is well-pleasing in God’s sight.

This is a difficult point in spiritual doctrine and life for many people who may have been prominent and ambitious, and used to doing their own thing in their own way!

But no matter who we are, we must acknowledge that it is a gracious plan and provision for men and women in the kindness and wisdom of God. Brothers and sisters, we get Christ and glory and fruitfulness, a future and the world to come and the spirits of just men made perfect; we get Jesus, mediator of a new covenant, and the blood of the everlasting covenant; an innumerable company of angels and the church of the firstborn and the New Jerusalem, the city of the living God!

And before we get all that, we have the privilege and the prospect of loving and joyful service for Christ and for mankind on this earth![1]

The Revelation

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (3:4)

Although the world may not now recognize those whose lives are hidden with Christ in God, that will not always be the case. When Christ… is revealed at His second coming, we also will be revealed with Him in glory. The apostle John describes that scene in Revelation 19:11–13, 15–16:

I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God.… And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

To this description of our Lord at His return in judgment, the vision adds that He will be accompanied by saints. John also wrote, “The armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses” (v. 14).

The verdict of eternity will reverse the verdicts of time. On that day, it will become apparent who really belongs to the Lord. “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19), and He will reveal them to the world. Lightfoot comments, “The veil which now shrouds your higher  life from others, and even partly from yourselves, will then be withdrawn. The world which persecutes, despises, ignores now, will then be blinded with the dazzling glory of the revelation” (Lightfoot, p. 210). John wrote, “We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Paul adds a wonderful parenthetical thought. He describes Christ as our life. Christ does not merely give life; He is life. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). He told the Corinthians that the life of Jesus was manifested in his body (2 Cor. 4:10). When facing possible martyrdom, he could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

The key to living the risen life is to have a life centered on Christ. The Son, not this present world, is the center of the believer’s universe.[2]

3:4 To climax his description of the believer’s portion in Christ, the apostle now looks on to Christ’s coming again. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. At the present time we are raised with Him and enjoying a life that is not seen or understood by men. But the day is coming when the Lord Jesus will return for His saints. Then we will appear with Him in glory. Men will understand us then and realize why we behaved as we did.[3]

4 If one motivation for thinking about the things above concerns the Colossians’ past (they died [with Christ]), a second pertains to their Christian future. Paul is at pains in this epistle to stress the believer’s present life in Christ (see esp. 2:12; 3:1). (Here he asserts that Christ is (y)our life [cf. Php 1:21]; the NIV reads “your,” the NASB reads “our.” The former is probable, though the latter is possible. Regardless, it makes little difference along interpretive lines.) In doing so, Paul hopes both to counter the “philosophy” and to encourage the congregation. Despite the detractors, the apostle contends that the assembly is already well equipped spiritually. Lest the congregation come to the erroneous conclusion that all that will occur has occurred, however, Paul sprinkles reminders throughout the letter that there is an eschatological “not yet” as well as an eschatological “already” (1:22–23, 27; 3:6, 24–25; 4:5). “Realized eschatology” is tempered by “future eschatology” (see my “Eschatology in Colossians”).

Paul clearly strikes a note of eschatological reservation in 3:4. What is now hidden in heaven will be made manifest at Christ’s revelation. Full and final revelation awaits the consummation. It is atypical of Paul to speak of Christ’s coming as an epiphany, as he does here in verbal form (Gk. phaneroō, “appears,” GK 5746; cf., however, 2 Co 4:10–11; 2 Th 2:8; note also 1 Ti 6:14; 2 Ti 1:10; 4:1, 8; Tit 2:13). The apostle most frequently employs the term parousia (“coming,” GK 4242; see esp. 1 Co 15:23; 1 Th 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Th 2:1) to speak of Christ’s ultimate advent. While some scholars seize on this point to argue for the non-Pauline character of Colossians, a more probable explanation is that “the language of being revealed rather than coming is shaped by the hidden/revealed contrast of vv. 3–4” (Lincoln, 639). Moreover, the verb “appears” is employed here “to emphasize the point that what will be openly demonstrated at the end is what faith has known all along to exist in hidden form” (Caird, 203).

When Christ is revealed by God (the verb is a first aorist passive subjunctive), so also will the Colossians be revealed (a future passive indicative verb) with him in glory (i.e., “heaven”). Christ is the Christian’s present help and future hope (cf. 1:27). Indeed, the whole of the believer’s story is inextricably linked to Christ’s. Even as Christ was crucified and raised and will be revealed, so also those who are his have been crucified and raised and will be revealed.[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 131–132). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2008). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 323–324). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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