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08 April 2020

Single and Final Return of Jesus

SYNOPSIS - The Parousia of Jesus will be a singular event of great finality, both for the righteous and the wicked.

Iceland - Photo by Huper by Joshua Earle on Unspla
Iceland - Joshua Earle - Unsplash
More than one Greek term is applied by New Testament authors to the future “coming” of Jesus Christ, including the noun parousia or “advent” - “arrival,” “presence” (New Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 315). Each time so used, it is applied to his arrival in glory and refers to one and only one event destined to occur at the end of the age. The basic sense of parousia is “arrival” - The act or state of arriving at a place, condition, or time, and not to the process of “coming.”

For example, in 1 Corinthians 16:17, the Apostle Paul expressed joy at the “arrival of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.” Likewise, he was “comforted by the arrival of Titus.” It was the actual arrival of Titus that brought him joy, not the knowledge that he was in the process of traveling to meet Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6-7).

The first application of the Greek term parousia to the "arrival" of Jesus is found on his lips in the Olivet Discourse when he compared it to lightning, an analogy that indicates a sudden, unexpected and universal event. It will be experienced by all men and will be something no one could possibly miss:
  • (Matthew 24:27-28) – “For just as the lightning goeth forth from the east and shineth unto the west, so shall be the presence of the Son of Man. Wheresoever the corpse shall be, there shall be gathered the vultures!” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Christ warned that deceivers would disseminate false information about this event, even claiming that the Messiah was “over here or over there…in the wilderness…or in the secret chambers.” However, just as lightning flashes suddenly from east to west, “so shall be the arrival of the Son of Man.”

The parousia or “arrival” of the Son of Man will occur “after the tribulation of those days.” How long afterward is not stated. Moreover, that 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 created order will be disrupted by his sudden arrival.

When Jesus does arrive, “All the tribes of the earth smite their breasts.” The event will not be limited to the tiny territory of Judea - It will be global 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” to dispatch his angels to gather all his disciples to himself:
  • (Matthew 24:30-31) – “And then will be displayed — The sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then will smite their breasts — all the tribes of the earth; and they will see the Son of Man — coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. And he will send forth his messengers with a great trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen — Out of the four winds from heavens’ bounds unto their bounds.” - (The Emphasized Bible. Compare - Matthew 25:31-46).
Noah's Ark Adrift
Noah's Ark Adrift
The judgment of the nations will occur at the time of his arrival, 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” (Compare - Revelation 20:11-15).

Those days will be “just as in the days of Noah” prior to the great Flood when men were “eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage” - Until the flood arrived suddenly and destroyed them all. The description of Noah's time portrays normalcy, not chaos - Men and women going about their daily business as if nothing catastrophic would ever occur (“They observed not until the flood came and took them all away” - Matthew 24:37-39). And, so, it will be at the parousia of the Son of Man.
  • (Luke 17:26-30) – “And as it came to pass in the days of Noah, so will it be even in the days of the Son of Man: They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage — until the day that Noah entered into the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all. In like manner, as it came to pass in the days of Lot, They were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building — But on the day Lot came out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all: — According to the same things will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul responded to believers who denied the future bodily resurrection. In the process, he presented arguments to demonstrate the necessity for the resurrection of Christians, and he listed several events that must transpire at the “arrival” or parousia of Jesus, at “the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:20-57). These include:
  • 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.
Paul expected the saints at Thessalonica to become his “crown of boasting” at the parousia of Jesus when he would arrive “with all his saints.” On that day, his disciples would be found sanctified and blameless (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 5:23).

At his "arrival," dead believers will be resurrected and gathered together with the saints who remain alive for a “meeting of the Lord in the air.” Jesus will be met by his church as he descends from heaven, accompanied by the sound of a great trumpet and the “voice of an archangel.” Paul said nothing about what occurs after this meeting “in midair,” except that believers would “be with the Lord evermore.” Precisely where they remain with him “forever” after this "meeting" is not stated (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul explained that the parousia would coincide with the “Day of the Lord,” the time when believers are “gathered together to Christ.” This “gathering” of believers must refer to the same “gathering” like the one described in his first letter:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) – “But we request you, brethren, — in behalf of the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, That ye be not quickly tossed from your mind, nor be put in alarm — either by spirit or by discourse or by letter as by us, as that the day of the Lord hath set in: That no one may cheat you in any one respect. Because that day will not set in — except the revolt come first and there he revealed the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Neither the “Day of the Lord” nor the parousia will occur until after the “apostasy” and the unveiling of the “man of lawlessness.” Furthermore, at his parousia, “The Lord Jesus will slay the lawless one with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze him with the manifestation of his arrival.” If this “man of lawlessness” is identical to the Antichrist or the “Beast” of Revelation, then he will be destroyed at the arrival of Jesus in glory, not several years after that event (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

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 to prepare their hearts, for the arrival of the Lord is near (James 5:7-8).

According to 1 Peter, the parousia means nothing less than the “Day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly men.” Like Paul, he also links Christ’s arrival to the “day of the Lord,” an event when the “heavens will pass away with a rushing noise…and the earth and the works therein will be discovered” (2 Peter 3:7-13).

When the day arrives, the “heavens will be dissolved and elements becoming intensely hot are to be melted,” as the old order makes way for the “new heavens and new earth according to his promise in which righteousness dwells.” The arrival of the Lord means the final judgment, the destruction of the present world order, and the inauguration of the New Creation (2 Peter 3:7-13).

Finally, Christians must “abide in him.” In this way, at the parousia of Jesus they “may have boldness and not be put to shame” (1 John 2:28).
The New Testament presents a consistent picture of the parousia of Jesus. It will be a universal event - All humanity will experience it, the godly and the ungodly. He will arrive on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory on a day marked by celestial and terrestrial upheaval, a day when the "Son of Man" will send his angels to gather his people to himself from every part of the earth.
While God alone knows the timing of Christ’s advent, it will not occur until “after the tribulation of those days,” the completion of the gospel mission, the apostasy, and the unveiling of the “man of lawlessness.” Then men will be judged and separated into two groups. The righteous will inherit everlasting life in the kingdom; the ungodly will receive everlasting punishment. His arrival is the “Day of the Lord,” the time when the just are vindicated and the unjust are punished (Matthew 24:14, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9).

His "arrival" will mean the final defeat of all the enemies of God, the consummation of His unopposed reign throughout the Cosmos, the destruction of the “man of lawlessness," and the cessation of death. The arrival of Jesus means nothing less than the New Creation in all its glory.

In each of the preceding passages, one future “arrival” of Jesus is envisioned, and only one. The picture painted by the New Testament leaves no room for the removal of the saints from the earth prior to the commencement of the Tribulation or any other interim period. Jesus will arrive with great finality – Glory and reward for the righteous, but everlasting destruction for the wicked. The New Testament envisions no in-between category.

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