The word of the day is “love.” Today’s reading prompts us to consider what is our ultimate hope in life and death. In 2 Timothy 4:5-9, St. Paul says, “Finally, 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” (vs. 9).
Poured Out as a Drink Offering
Paul believes that his death is near. “For I am already,” he says, “being poured out as a drink offering” (vs. 4:6). The Mosaic Law required that “libations” (“drink offerings”) accompany the daily burnt offerings, the Sabbath offerings, the monthly offerings, the Passover offering, and the Feast of Weeks offerings (Number 28:1-30).
Paul compares the end of his life with these libations. The hardships that he is now facing in his imprisonment are the beginning of his sacrifice to God. The final completion of his self-offering will be the libation of the flowing blood from his lifeless body.
Yet Paul faces the offering of his life with a sense of peace and fulfillment. He says, “I have fought the good fight” (vs. 7). The referee is about to raise his arm in victory. Alternatively, he says, “I have finished the race” (vs. 8). The ribbon at the finish line is already in sight. The Lord has already set out the trophy of victory, the “crown of righteousness” for him.
What is Paul’s Best Hope?
However, we might ask what is the thing that St. Paul most looks forward too? Is it a reward for his accomplishments? Is it the consolation for his sufferings? Is it the rest from his labors? Yes, all these things are to be his. But he suggests that these are not the most important feature of his hope. These blessings which the Lord will give to “all who love His appearing” (vs. 80) are secondary. They are the result of his appearance, not its goal.
The Unveiling of His Righteousness, Majesty, and Honor
The Greek term for “appearing” is transliterated “epiphany,” that is, “manifestation” (Strong’s #2015, 101). At the end of the age, Christ Himself will shine forth in all his divine glory. It will be the unveiling of His righteousness, majesty, and honor.
At that time, there will be those who “eagerly wait for him.” As Isaiah prophesied, “Then it will be said in that day, ‘Behold this is our God, in which we have rejoiced exceeding, and we shall be glad in His salvation’” (Isaiah 25:9). On the other hand, there will be those who lament according to the prophecy of Revelation, “Behold He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him forever and ever. Amen” (vs. Revelation 1:7).
The Difference Between Rejoicing and Mourning at His Coming
What is the difference between the rejoicing and the mourning? Today’s passage teaches that it is the “love of His appearing.” The distinction rests on whether people love Him or fear Him. At his manifestation those who love Him will “see Him face to face” (vs. 1 Corinthians 13:12). This is our ultimate hope, the primary goal of our faith. There will be no greater reward. There will be no greater compensation. There will be no greater consolation. There will be no better rest than this—that we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
We do not love the Lord as a Santa Claus who will give us earthly or heavenly blessings. We love him for His own sake–His goodness, His grace, His lovingkindness, His righteousness, and His holiness. We love Him. That is why we “love his appearing.”
Elder Porphyrios said: Christ is joy, the true light, happiness. Christ is our hope. Our relation to Christ is love, eros, passion, enthusiasm, longing for the divine. Christ is everything. He is our love. He is the object of our desire. This passionate longing for Christ is a love that cannot be taken away. This is where joy flows from (St.-Prophyrios 2018, 96).
With this in mind, may the appearing of Christ be our highest hope and may He be our greatest love throughout the coming year.
St.-Prophyrios. 2018. Wounded by Love: Denise Harvey Publishers.