Who is that at the door?
The day of visitation is an expression found only a few times in the Bible. In light of this event, we are exhorted as believers to keep our “conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that…they may…glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12).
There is an aspect of visitation that sheds some light on the expression itself. The Greek word for “visitation” is episkope, which is the same word that is used to describe overseers in the church (1 Tim. 3:1,2; etc.). Visitation is more than just dropping by to see someone. Rather, it is a looking on to oversee a person’s life and helping to work in them that which is pleasing to the One to whom we shall give an account. It is comparable to the inspection and superintendence of a shepherd overseeing his sheep. This gives us the connection to the shepherding work of the Lord Jesus. After all, He is “the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls” (1 Pet. 2:25). But adding to the uniqueness of this ministry of the Lord Jesus, there is a particular segment of time that is referred to as “the day of visitation.”
Think of how you would anticipate a visit with someone of great importance. You would mark it on your calendar, post a note on your refrigerator, and ponder in your heart just what the time will be like when you meet. But the difficulty with the Lord’s day of visitation is that we don’t know which day it will be. Let us therefore look at some insightful verses to appreciate the impact that the day of visitation should have on us.
Old Testament Visits
Joseph’s last word to his brethren was the promise that “God will surely visit you” (Gen. 50:24). It was a promise that the children of Israel held on to from one generation to another for nearly four hundred years in Egypt. Then, one day, the Lord visited His people and delivered them out of bondage (Ex. 3:16).
Four hundred years is a long time to wait for a visit. But there was also a four-hundred-year wait from the last word of warning by the prophet Malachi to the glad tidings surrounding the Lord’s birth when Zacharias declared that the Lord “has visited and redeemed His people” (Lk. 1:68).
In the Scriptures, we find some good visits. For instance, when Ruth was in Moab, she heard that the Lord had visited His people with bread (Ruth 1:6). Unfortunately, Ruth was not at home in Bethlehem, and she missed it. But the news of the goodness of the Lord drew her home again to stay.
We also read of visits that were not for blessing, but rather for judgment. God warned Moses about Israel’s rebellion, saying, “Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin” (Ex. 32:34).
New Testament Visits
The saddest account was our Lord’s lamentation as He wept over Jerusalem, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day” (Lk. 19:41-42). It was their day of visitation (Lk. 19:44), and they had missed it! Had they recognized Him as their Messiah, they could have enjoyed “the things that make for peace” (Lk. 19:42). It was worse than coming and not finding them at home. They had rejected Him; and, consequently, the peace that He brought and offered to them was then hidden from their eyes. They did not recognize the time of their visitation. The tears of the Lord Jesus were a result of the destruction that was ahead for Jerusalem and its inhabitants. His sad words warned them of the days that would come when they would be surrounded by their enemies on every side, besieged, and leveled. They would die at the hands of their enemies, and not even their children would be spared (Lk. 19:43-44). This heartbreaking prophecy was fulfilled by the Roman army under the direction of Titus in AD 70.
Rejected by Israel, the Lord turned to visit the Gentiles. Simon Peter declared that through his ministry, “God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). According to James, quoting the prophet Amos, this visit was planned long ago (Acts 15:16-17; Amos 9:11).
The Final Visit
Will the Lord visit His people again? Yes, indeed! He will come again. Then Israel will say, “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isa. 25:9). Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!