THIS Study will investigate the Biblical use of the word Epiphany and some related thoughts. While the word Epiphany is frequently used in English, it does not occur in the English Bible; however, the word epiphaneia, from which it is derived, does occur in the Greek of the New Testament. In all, it is found in six passages: 2 Thessalonians 2: 8; 1 Timothy 6: 14; 2 Timothy 1: 10; 4: 1, 8; and Titus 2: 13. In order to arrive at an understanding of its meaning, let us consider: (1) the word epiphaino, from which epiphaneia is derived; (2) the meaning of its basic part, phaino; (3) the meaning of the preposition epi, with which phaino is compounded; (4) the force added to the word phaino by this preposition; (5) all the occurrences of epiphaneia in the Bible; (6) its various uses in the Scriptures; and (7) the general trend of Scriptural thought connected with the word.
Meaning of Epiphaino and Epiphaneia
On point (1), the word epiphaneia is not derived from a simple, but a compound word – epiphaino – which is formed by uniting the preposition epi, meaning on, over, at, etc., with the verb phaino, meaning to shine, to manifest. Epiphaino derives its basic meaning from the verb phaino, and the preposition epi intensifies the meaning of phaino in the compound word, so that epiphaino means to shine brightly, to manifest clearly. We therefore recognize, in harmony with Greek dictionaries, that the word epiphaneia means bright shining, clear manifestation. It refers to making an obscure or unseen thing very apparent to the physical or to the mental eyes.
Following are the four passages in which epiphaino, the root of epiphaneia, is found in the New Testament. The English words that translate epiphaino are italicized:
Luke 1: 78, 79: “The dayspring [sunrising, in the margin, that is, Christ] from on high hath visited us, to give light [to give the bright shining of the Sun of Truth] to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Jesus is here referred to as the One who clearly manifests the Lord’s ways to sinners and to saints.
Acts 27: 20: “And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.” Here the bright shining of the heavenly bodies is referred to as unseen.
Titus 2: 11, 12: “The grace [favor] of God that bringeth salvation [for all men] hath appeared TEACHING us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly.” The Gospel message has here been clearly manifested as beneficial for all mankind, and teaches especially God’s people to live holy lives.
Titus 3: 4: “After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.” Here the Gospel is referred to as causing the kindness and love of God toward man to shine brightly before us.
Epiphaneia in the New Testament
Study of the six passages in which the word epiphaneia is found will reveal that it is used in two different ways in the New Testament: (1) the act of manifesting persons, principles and things, previously obscure or hidden, by the Truth shining with special brightness; and (2) that period of our Lord’s Second Advent in which the Truth will shine in special brightness, manifesting persons, principles and things hitherto hidden or obscure (1 Corinthians 4: 5). We now present, in order of their clearness, first the four passages in which epiphaneia, whose English equivalents we italicize, is used to mean “the act of manifesting persons, principles and things, previously obscure or hidden, by the Truth shining with special brightness:
2 Timothy 1: 9, 10: “Who [God] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling . . . according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but [which] is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath . . . brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Here the Plan and favors that God prepared before the world began for His people are spoken of as being clearly revealed by the epiphaneia, the bright-shining, the clear teaching, of Jesus respecting persons, principles and things.
Titus 2: 13 (American Revised Version, ARV): “Looking for the blessed hope [of seeing and being with and like the Lord] and the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ.” This passage says that the Church was to expect two things in connection with the Lord’s Second Advent: (1) the realization of their hopes of seeing and being with and like Him, and (2) a clear manifestation of the glorious characters of God and Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2: 8: “Then shall that Wicked [one, the Antichrist] be revealed [manifested], whom the Lord [Jesus] shall consume with the spirit [power] of his mouth [the Bible, the Truth], and [whom the Lord Jesus] shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” [His second presence on this earth]. This passage shows that the Truth of God will shine so brightly that through its manifestation of the Papacy, in its teachings, character and effects, the Lord will annihilate the Antichrist, the Papacy, at His Second Advent.
2 Timothy 4: 8: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day [the Judgment Day]: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” This passage refers to the Lord’s Second Advent, when He will reward all God’s servants; and when He will manifest Himself in His glory by the brightness of His Word and works.
Epiphaneia as a Period of Time
Let us now consider the two passages in which the word epiphaneia refers to the period of time during our Lord’s Second Presence in which He will manifest persons, principles and things by the Truth shining with special brightness:
1 Timothy 6: 14, 15: “Keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which [appearing] in his times he shall shew [make known], who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” St. Paul seems in Timothy to address the Lord’s people generally, especially the Truth servants, encouraging them to be faithful, until that period of the Lord’s Return which He here calls His appearing, Epiphany.
2 Timothy 4: 1: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick [living] and the dead at [during] his appearing and his Kingdom.” The Scriptures assure us that Jesus with His Elect Bride will judge the dead during the thousand years’ Reign. The quick, the living, [fallen angels and new creatures] therefore, will be judged, according to this passage, during His appearing, Epiphany; hence it is a period of time connected with our Lord’s Second Advent.
The word epiphaneia, in the first sense of the word (bright shining, manifesting principles, persons and things), has the same primary meaning as the word apokalypsis (revelation). Thus the Lord now epiphanizes or apokalypsizes God, Himself, the Church, the Great Company, the Truth, the hidden things of darkness, the counsels of hearts – He brings all pertinent persons, principles and things to bright light in their real character, in so far as this is necessary at the present stage of God’s Plan. Hence the epiphaneia, the apokalypsis, of our Lord means, not Jesus making Himself visible, nor simply Jesus’ making Himself known, but His making every other person and every principle and everything clearly known that is to be made clearly known in the end of the Age.
Apokalypsis, like epiphaneia, also means the Epiphany period (1 Corinthians 1: 7) (2 Thessalonians 1: 7) (1 Peter 1: 7, 13; 4: 13). The special time for such epiphanizing, apokalypsizing, is the Time of Trouble – from 1914 onward for a considerable number of years yet. This epiphanizing, apokalypsizing, will increase and finally come to a climax at the end of the Epiphany – the end of the Time of Trouble.
(to be continued)