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What is an epiphany?

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An epiphany is, generally speaking, a revelation. Beyond that, there are three different definitions for the word epiphany. Capitalized, the word Epiphany refers to a Christian feast day, observed primarily in the Eastern churches (the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Northeastern Africa). It occurs on January 6 and commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child and the revelation of God the Son as a human being.

A second definition of epiphany is “an appearance or manifestation, especially of a divine being.” Theophanies and Christophanies are types of epiphanies. A theophany is a manifestation of God in the Bible that is tangible to the human senses. In its most restrictive sense, it is a visible appearance of God in the Old Testament period, often, but not always, in human form. Some Bible commentators believe that, whenever someone received a visit from “the angel of the Lord,” this was, in fact, the pre-incarnate Christ. These appearances can be seen in Genesis 16:7–14; Genesis 22:11–18; Judges 5:23; 2 Kings 19:35; and other passages. While there are no indisputable Christophanies in the Old Testament, every theophany wherein God takes on human form foreshadows the Incarnation, when God took the form of a man to live among us as Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

A third definition of epiphany is “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, or an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking.” It is also defined as “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure or a revealing scene or moment.” For the Christian, the ultimate epiphany is the realization of our need for Christ as Savior and Lord. Many people come to Christ as a result of a traumatic event such as an accident or serious illness. They have an epiphany about the tenuousness of life and the reality of eternity. Others have a quiet epiphany in which the Spirit speaks in a small, still voice, wooing them to the Savior. However it happens, all Christians have some sort of epiphany about the reality of God, sin, heaven, hell, eternity, and the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. We respond to the epiphany by repenting of sin and accepting Christ as Savior.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022