What exactly is an epiphany?
The word epiphany comes from a Greek word epiphainein, which means "reveal." There are three meanings or usages of the word. The first is the name of a Christian feast, Epiphany, which occurs in early January. The exact day depends upon the location and the culture of the church celebrating Epiphany, but most of the time, it occurs on January 6th, which is also referred to as Twelfth Night. The Epiphany feast celebrates the revelation of God Incarnate and the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.
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Epiphany is also used to describe any divine revelation, including Theophanies (visible appearances of God) and Christophanies (visible appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ). Many times in the Old Testament, biblical characters were visited by "the angel of the Lord," which some scholars believe to have been a pre-incarnate Christ, making all of these appearances Christophanies (Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 22:11-18; Judges 5:23; 2 Kings 19:35). It is believed that these appearances foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ in human form, as "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Other notable epiphanies include the call of Paul the Apostle on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), and the appearance of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9-20).
A general definition of the word epiphany, and how it is most commonly used today, is "a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, or an intuitive grasp of reality through a simple or striking event; an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure or a revealing scene or moment." The root word "reveal" is still apparent in this definition. God often uses such moments of illumination to bring people to the knowledge of Himself. This illumination, or epiphany, is one of the central aspects of Christianity, for without God's intervention, none of us would see the truth. This is clearly stated in Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." We do not find God because of our upbringing, our opportunities, or our intelligence or education. We find Him because He chooses to enlighten us, to reveal Himself to us, to give us an epiphany, and to open the "eyes of our hearts" (Ephesians 1:18).
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