Volume 24, Issue 30 (July 24, 2022)
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ”
By Kyle Pope
In the opening words of Peter’s first epistle, after speaking of the salvation of his readers, the apostle writes:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7, NKJV).
His hope for them is that their faith, after this time of testing, will lead them to “praise, honor, and glory” at a time he refers to as “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” To what time is Peter referring? What does the Holy Spirit mean by His use of this phrase?
The Phrase in the New Testament
Four times in Scripture we see this phrase. First, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he explains of his teaching, “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12). Unlike Peter’s use, this describes a process rather than a point in time. Paul’s teaching was revealed to him directly by the Lord. Another example of its use comes in the opening words of the book of Revelation. It begins:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw (Rev. 1:1-2).
This could be taken several different ways. It could refer to the book as a whole as prophetic revelation from the Lord. It could, like Paul’s use, refer to the process of revelation to John. That is, this vision about Jesus Christ came to John by direct revelation. It could, like Peter’s use, be referring to a point in time which would “shortly take place” or at some point subsequent to “things which must shortly take place.” John could even combine elements of all these ideas in recording many things involved in the “revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The fourth instance of the phrase comes only six verses after Peter’s use in 1 Peter 1:7. He urges his readers, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). Like verse 7, this also speaks of a time it calls “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Since it comes in the same context and within the same epistle this verse together with the surrounding text likely offer the best clues to understand Peter’s meaning.
Clues in the Context
Let us notice what these verses say about things that will happen at “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We noted earlier that Peter says it is a time when the faithful will receive “praise, honor, and glory” (1:7). In verse 13, Peter also describes it as a time when “grace” will “be brought” to believers. Before this, Peter spoke of an “inheritance” that cannot “fade away” which he describes as “reserved in heaven” (1:4) that they will receive at this time. This is set in synonymous parallel with what Peter calls their “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5). This “salvation” of their “souls” he calls “receiving the end of your faith” (1:9).
So, from the context we can determine that the time the apostle refers to as “the revelation of Jesus Christ” is a time called “the last time” when grace, praise, glory, honor, and salvation come to the faithful. It is a time when not only Christ is revealed but salvation is revealed. This salvation is when the “end” (i.e. the goal and termination) of faith is accomplished. Has this already happened? No. At that time, this inheritance in heaven will be “incorruptible” and “cannot fade away” (1:4). Now Christians can be lost (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20-22). At the “revelation of Jesus Christ” those found in Him will receive a grace that brings an incorruptible inheritance.
“When the Lord Jesus Is Revealed from Heaven”
While the phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” is found only four times, many passages address the revealing of Jesus Christ. For example, the gospel of Christ’s incarnation is a revelation of Jesus. Paul told Timothy that God’s grace, “has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). This is not the same thing Peter describes. Yes, Christians have now received grace in Christ, but Peter is discussing a grace yet to be brought as “the end” of our faith (1 Pet. 1:9, 13). The Hebrew writer explains that Christ “has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26) and yet “He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:28). This echoes Peter’s teaching—salvation comes at the “second” appearing or “revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica that God will give those, “who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:7-8). What does this text say will happen at Christ’s revelation? First, He will be “revealed from heaven” accompanied by “His mighty angels.” This did not happen in His first appearing, nor has it yet happened. Second, He will take “vengeance on those who do not know God” and “on those who do not obey the gospel.” This also did not happen at His first appearing, nor has it happened yet.
Later in Peter’s first epistle he tells us more about this future “revelation of Jesus Christ.” In discussing the suffering Christians must endure, he urges them, “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:13). In the next chapter, to elders he writes, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed” (1 Pet. 5:1). These texts promise that at Christ’s revelation those who have shared Christ’s suffering will see His glory and partake of it. John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). John teaches that at Christ’s revelation “we shall see Him as He is” (cf. Rev. 1:7)—something that has not yet happened. Like Peter, John teaches that we shall share in His glory when in some measure beyond simply imitation “we shall be like Him.” That too has not yet taken place.
The promises and blessings associated with Christ’s second appearing (or revelation) should cause the believer to look forward to it, prepare for it, and anticipate it. In a final reiteration of his words in the first chapter, Peter tells the elders, “when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pet. 5:4). John urged the faithful, “abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28). Paul urged Titus to live “soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13). This shows Christ’s “appearing” (or revelation) is distinct from “the present age.” The Christian should strive to be “without spot” and “blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing” (1 Tim. 6:14) because “the Lord Jesus Christ. . . will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1). This has not yet happened, but it will. Paul described it as a “Day” in which “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). May we all long for and love “His appearing.” May you long for and “rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).