WHAT IS THE “APPEARING” OF THE LORD IN 2 TIMOTHY 4:8?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The King James Bible reads in 2 Timothy chapter 4: “ For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” What is this “appearing” of the Lord (Jesus Christ) in verse 8?
One explanation for this “appearing” of Christ is His life being manifested in our life. In other words, “Christ ‘appears’ to people when they observe us Christians as we live by faith in sound Bible doctrine.” This is quite a bizarre interpretation of the verse: Christ “appearing” is an awkward way of conveying how we manifest His life to the people around us. We do not think that is the sense of the term “appearing” as it sits in this passage.
The modern English versions—NIV, NASB, Amplified, HCSB, ESV, and NKJV—have replaced “love” (present tense) with “have loved” (present perfect tense). The NRSV reads “have longed.” It may not be immediately apparent, but this textual alteration is more detrimental to our understanding than beneficial. It obscures what the verse is teaching in the King James Bible. With the verb tense changed to present perfect, modern versions read here such as the “appearing” could have already happened. In other words, with the modern reading, one could easily conclude, “Those who loved Christ’s ‘appearing’ is His earthly ministry” (namely, His incarnation). The King James has a superior wording, and we will stick with it! It is a future not historical appearance.
We believe the context of 2 Timothy 4:8 already established or defined the “appearing.” Start reading at the beginning of the chapter: “ I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
The “appearing” of verse 8 is the same “appearing” of verse 1. Now, what is the “kingdom” of verse 1? Again, the context defines this as well: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (verse 18). Here is not the establishment of Israel’s earthly kingdom, the Millennium or 1,000-Year Reign of Christ. Paul is referring to the establishment of God’s heavenly kingdom, the installation of us the Church the Body of Christ in the governmental positions of the heavenly places (see Ephesians 1:20-23 and Colossians 1:16-20). Since the context of 2 Timothy chapter 4 is God’s kingdom in the heavens, the “appearing” of the chapter would be connected to it. It is not Christ “appearing” in the form of Christian living, and it is not Christ’s earthly ministry either. The “appearing” here is the manifestation of Jesus Christ to establish God’s authority in the heavenly places. To wit, it is Christ’s coming for the Church that is His Body—what we call “the Rapture.”
The Apostle Paul’s ministry concerns “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2), God’s current dealings and present-day words/directions to mankind. Christ’s coming in wrath to destroy unbelievers, redeem Israel, and set up His earthly kingdom was known and preached prior to Paul (for example, see Matthew 13:37-43 and Matthew 24:30-41). Bodily resurrection was understood and proclaimed prior to Paul as well (for instance, see John 5:28-29 and Job 19:25-27). However, Christ’s coming to physically deliver from this present evil world the Church that is His Body, His coming to Earth to prepare His people’s entrance into Heaven, a bodily resurrection of these Heaven-bound people, were secrets God kept in Himself until He revealed them to and through Paul. We read about them in the Pauline Epistles, Romans through Philemon.
First Corinthians chapter 15 speaks of a “mystery” (secret) coming of Christ and a “mystery” resurrection: “ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Here is what is called “our gathering together unto him [Jesus Christ]” (2 Thessalonians 2:1). This “gathering” will occur—not on the Earth as concerning Christ’s coming for Israel but—in the air. Be sure to recognize that difference!
Turn now to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, and read, “ For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [Latin, “raptured”] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” This is not—NOT!—to be confused with Jesus’ coming as described in Matthew 24:30-41. We are gathering to meet the Lord in the air, whereas Israel will meet Him on the Earth several years later. It is absolutely critical (!) to differentiate between these two comings!!! This cannot be emphasized enough.
SUPPLEMENTAL: WHAT ABOUT CHRIST’S COMING TO SAVE PAUL?
Some Pauline dispensationalists claim the Lord’s “appearing” in 2 Timothy 4:8 is when He appeared to save Saul of Tarsus in Acts chapter 9 (cf. chapters 22 and 26). This is as strange as the idea that Christ’s “appearing” is Him manifesting His life in and through us. Personally, this author does not believe Christ’s appearance to save the Apostle Paul is in view in 2 Timothy 4:8.
Yet, now that we are on the subject, we should point something out. Unless we realize Christ unexpectedly (not in prophecy but in mystery/“un-prophesied”) came to save Saul of Tarsus in grace and peace to open our Dispensation of Grace, we will not recognize Christ’s coming a second “mystery” time to close our Dispensation of Grace. In other words, there are close parallels between Christ’s coming in Acts 9 to save Saul and Christ’s coming in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians to physically save/deliver us from this present evil world (Rapture). The main reason why Christian people often dislike and deny the concept of the Rapture is that they fail to recognize and appreciate the Lord’s special return/“appearance” to save and commission Saul of Tarsus (2 Timothy 1:8-11, noting especially verses 10-11). Having not understood the Dispensation of Grace beginning, they cannot appreciate it closing (the Rapture). Instead, they see just one future coming of Christ—the one in Revelation chapter 19. Unless they see Christ’s appearing in Acts chapter 9, the really cannot truly “love” the appearing for which we are currently waiting!
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
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