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Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4
The Returning Saviour
When Jesus was ascending into heaven, two angels assured his disciples, ‘This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). Christians are looking forward to the return of Christ at the time decreed by God the Father. Perhaps we allow the world’s mockery of the idea of Christ’s return to rob us of the joy and consolation we should have from this great certainty. Our hope is centred on Christ and today we consider his Second Coming in Colossians 3:1-4 The Returning Saviour.
1. Our union with Christ
The most basic way of describing salvation is union with Christ in his death and resurrection. When Christ died and rose again, the Bible tells us that those sinners given to him by the Father in eternity in principle died and rose spiritually with him. This spiritual death and resurrection become our actual experience at our conversion. Thus in v3 Paul tells us, ‘you died’ – that is a single, decisive event. So too in 2:20 we read, ‘you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world’. When we believe in Christ there is a radical, once-for-all break with our spiritual past of deadness and bondage to sin.
The same language of death and resurrection is used by Paul elsewhere. Thus we read in Romans 6:4-5 ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death…If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.’ Also Galatians 2:20 ‘I have been crucified with Christ…Christ lives in me’. It is amazing language. That is how Christians ought to think of themselves.
A total spiritual change has taken place – we have gone from death to life. We are united to Christ in his death and resurrection. Paul says, ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (v3). We occupy a totally secure positon. This fact is invisible to the world and is often misunderstood. The believer has a wholly new perspective, set out in Galatians 2:20 ‘the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God’. Christ and his will are central. All we do is for his glory. Our aim is to reflect his likeness.
2. The glory of Christ
This whole epistle emphasises the glory of Christ. Hence v1 speaks of ‘Christ…seated on the right hand of God’, the place of supreme exaltation. This is the fulfilment of Psalm 110:1 ‘Sit at my right hand’, the Father speaking to the Son. Christ’s present position is the result of his atoning work and so Paul writes in Philippians 2:9 ‘Therefore God highly exalted him’. The full price of redemption has been paid, hence the reward of glory is bestowed. No longer is the glory of Christ veiled as it was on earth. His seat at the Father’s right hand is also one of supreme authority – Ephesians 1:21-22 describes it as ‘far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given…God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church’.
At the God-appointed end of history, that glory will be revealed to every creature – ‘every eye will see him’ (Revelation 1:7). There will be no concealment – ‘When Christ…appears’ (v4). Biblical images emphasise the radiance and glory of the One coming to complete the salvation of his people and judge unbelievers. He ‘will come back again’ – the promise is in Acts 1:11. It is a day believers can look forward to with anticipation, not trepidation. We will meet our Saviour face to face.
3. The glory of believers
At present Christians are being transformed into Christ’s image by the Holy Spirit – ‘from glory to glory’, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18. We are aware of how we fall short and we long for perfection. By the Lord’s power one day the transformation will be completed. We are told in v4 ‘When Christ…appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’. For believers the best really is yet to come, when Christ completes his work.
Salvation includes the body, hence the certainty of resurrection. The fullest description is in 1 Corinthians 15, including the assurance, ‘we shall be changed’ (v52). We will be given ‘glorious bodies’ like Christ’s, as Philippians 3:21 tells us. We will have bodies suited to life in the age to come, in the new heavens and the new earth.
Believers will share in the glory of their Saviour. Note 1 John 3:2 ‘we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’. His image will be perfectly formed in us. We will be free from all sin, beyond the reach of temptation and the possibility of falling. The process will finally be complete. All the efforts of Satan will have come to nothing. There is much about this we cannot now know, but what we do know should stir our sense of anticipation. This is what awaits every child of God since ‘no-one can snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:28). We will be as like the Saviour as it is possible to be.
This is not revealed to us for abstract speculation or argument. It leads to practical results.
4. The responsibility of believers
The final glory we anticipate should shape the way we live now. It is not just a matter of some event in the distant future. Note ‘Christ, who is your life’ (v4). He is the source and sustainer of our spiritual life and the one who means everything to us. Hence we are commanded (literally) ‘keep seeking the things above’ (v1). We are also told, ‘Set your minds on things above’ (v2). The focus of our thinking, desiring and willing must be Christ and the things relating to his kingdom, the things revealed to us in the Bible. Christ commands us in Matthew 6:33 ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’. That will decisively shape who we are and how we live.
We are to apply the fact of Christ’s lordship to the realities of everyday life. We fill our minds with whatever is ‘true…noble…lovely…admirable’ (Philippians 4:8). We are to do all for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). Far from cutting us off from real life, this provides our motivation for living real life for Christ. We live godly lives in the present because we will share Christ’s glory in the future. May our hope rejoice your heart today.