Colossians 3:4 (ESV) … “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
The believer’s life, which is hidden in Christ, will be revealed. At his return each person will see him and, perhaps for the first time, be confronted with the magnificence of his person. The theme of hidden/manifestation occurs here. The Christian’s life is hidden now, but it will be obvious to all when Christ is manifest to them. The second coming of Christ will be a time of glory (doxa).
In Col 3:4 Paul communicated this glory. Believers will appear in glory with Christ. Christians will share in Christ’s glory, and Christians will contribute to his glory. The present time is a time of death. Often Christians suffer for their faith, but they continue with a life source unknown to those who do not know Christ. Someday, however, Christ will be revealed. When he is, the source of Christians’ lives will become apparent to all persons. The reason Christians have had the values, outlook, and service to God and others will be clear. The hidden life will be manifested.
The values and goals of Christians will also be vindicated. The glory of Christ will captivate the minds of unbelievers as well as believers. Unbelievers will know that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:10), and they will know that they based their lives on the wrong principles. They will also see that Christians built their lives correctly. Their lives and ambitions were energized by Christ through the Spirit, and they sought to contribute to the concerns of Christ on earth.
Until then, the Christian life remains hidden. Christians are misunderstood, belittled, and persecuted. Unbelievers attack both Christians and the Christ whom they love and worship. Someday, however, that will change. The King of glory will return and become the preeminent one in creation and redemption, as Paul wrote in 1:15–20. Christians will share in that great day.
For these reasons, Christians should seek higher things. The concerns of the false teachers caused misguided Christian living. Christians had a greater destiny than earth. They were to prepare for heaven. They were to call the people of earth to consider the things of heaven and of Christ’s rule. They were to work for the reconciliation of all things—natural and human—in the spirit of 1:15–20. In this, any preoccupations with the things of this earth sidetracked the real concerns.
While Paul spoke so pointedly against preoccupation with earthly things, he spoke equally challengingly about the earthly nature within Christians. The world is one thing, the heart is another. Both the outlook and the heart must conform to the higher things identified with the rule of Christ in the universe. Paul turned to that subject in the next section.
The strictly theological portion of the epistle ends here. Paul began with a prayer for a real knowledge of God’s will. He ended with a call to live in accord with that will. All personal resources should contribute to the rule of Christ. Significantly, Paul ended this section with the believer’s hope—the revelation of Christ. The Christian virtues Paul so appreciated in the Colossians were based on hope (1:3–8). The instructions Paul issued made sense only in light of this hope—the manifestation of Christ’s glory and the vindication of Christian living.