Summary of the Parousia

SYNOPSIS - The New Testament foresees a single event that means nothing less than the resurrection of the dead, New Creation, and final judgment

Heavens Opened - Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash
Several Greek terms are applied in the New Testament to the future “coming” of Jesus Christ. This includes the noun parousia with the sense of “advent,” “arrival,” or “presence.” It occurs most frequently for his advent in the letters of Paul to the Thessalonians. In each instance where parousia refers to the “arrival” of Jesus, only one final event is in view.

The term signifies “arrival” rather than the process of someone or something “coming.” For example, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul expressed joy at the “arrival of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.” Similarly, he was “comforted by the arrival of Titus.” – (1 Corinthians 16:17, 2 Corinthians 7:6-7).

The first use of parousia for the “arrival” Jesus was by him as recorded in his ‘Olivet Discourse.’ Just as lightning flashes suddenly from east to west, “so shall be the arrival of the Son of Man” - (Matthew 24:27-28).

Christ warned of deceivers who would disseminate false information about this event, claiming that the messiah was “over here or over there…in the wilderness…or in the secret chambers.” The analogy of lightning indicates a sudden, unexpected, and universal event experienced by all men, something no one could possibly miss.  The day will be characterized by celestial and terrestrial upheaval - “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her brightness, and the stars will fall from heaven.”

The creation itself will be disrupted by his arrival. At that time, “all the tribes of the earth smite their breasts.” The event is not limited to Judea and its environs - It is global if not universal in scope. All nations will experience it - (Matthew 24:30, Zechariah 12:10-14, Revelation 1:7).

Jesus will arrive “upon the clouds in great power and glory” and dispatch his angels to gather his disciples to himself:
  • When he comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his throne of glory. And there will be gathered before him all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” - (Matthew 24:30-31, 25:31-46).
Judgment will occur at the time of his arrival in glory, whenever that is, not years or even centuries after the fact. The godly “will inherit the kingdom,” while the ungodly will be cast “into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”

Noah's Ark
Those days will be “just as in the days of Noah” prior to the great flood - Men were “eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage” until the flood came suddenly and destroyed them all. This is a description of normalcy - men and women going about their daily business as if nothing catastrophic was about to occur - (“They observed not until the flood came and took them all away” - Matthew 24:37-39).

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul responded to some voices that denied the future resurrection. In the process, he listed several events that would transpire at or before the “arrival” of Jesus, including – (1 Corinthians 15:20-57):
  • The bodily resurrection of dead believers at Christ’s parousia.
  • The consummation of the kingdom of God.
  • The subjugation to Jesus of all “rule and all authority and power.”
  • The cessation of death, the “last enemy”.
  • The bodily transformation of believers that remain alive at the time, from mortality to immortality.
His converts will become Paul’s “crown of boasting” at the parousia of Jesus when he arrives “with all his saints”. On that day, disciples will be wholly sanctified and made blameless before him - (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 5:23).

At his arrival, dead believers will be resurrected and assembled with the living saints for “a meeting of the Lord in the air” as he descends from heaven “on the clouds.” He will be accompanied by the sound of a great trumpet and the “voice of an archangel.” Thereafter, believers will “be with the Lord evermore” - (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

The parousia will coincide with the “Day of the Lord,” the time when believers will be “gathered together” to Christ. However, neither that day nor the parousia will occur until after the “apostasy” and the unveiling of the “man of lawlessness” - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

At his “arrival,” the “Lord Jesus will slay the lawless one with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze him with the manifestation of his arrival.” Thus, if the “man of lawlessness” is identical with the “Antichrist,” then that latter is destroyed at his arrival in glory on the clouds of heaven.

Christians must remain “patient until the arrival of the Lord.” Like a good farmer, the Lord is patiently “waiting for the precious fruit of the earth.” In the interim, disciples are to remain patient and prepare their hearts, for the arrival of the Lord is near - (James 5:7-8).

According to Peter, the parousia means nothing less than the “day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly men.” Like Paul, he links the arrival of Jesus with the “Day of the Lord,” when--:
  • The heavens will pass away with a rushing noise…and the earth and the works therein will be discovered…the heavens will be dissolved and elements becoming intensely hot are to be melted.”
The old order must make way for the “new heavens and a new earth according to his promise in which righteousness dwells.” The parousia of the Lord means judgment, the destruction of the present world order, and the inauguration of the New Creation - (2 Peter 3:3-14).

Thus, the New Testament presents a consistent picture of the parousia of Jesus. It will be a universal event - All men and women will experience it – Both the godly and the ungodly. He will arrive on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. The day will be marked by celestial and terrestrial upheaval, and Jesus will send his angels to gather his people to himself. Then, the righteous will inherit everlasting life, and the ungodly will receive everlasting punishment.

His arrival culminates in the final defeat of all God’s enemies and the consummation of His unopposed reign throughout the Cosmos. Death, the “last enemy,” will cease - The New Creation will be unveiled in all its glory. All these events occur at the parousia or “arrival” of Jesus.


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