The ‘Parousia’ of Jesus will mean nothing less than the resurrection of the dead, the commencement of the New Creation, and the final judgment.
The Apostle Paul used several terms to refer to the same final event, the “coming of Jesus,” but one that is especially prominent in his letters, “arrival” or ‘parousia.’ In using it, he provided his understanding of what will occur on that day. The Greek noun signifies the “arrival” of someone or something, and not the process of its or his “coming” (Strong’s – #G3952).
On occasion, Paul did employ ‘parousia‘ in its common usage for the “arrival” of someone. For example, on one occasion, he was “comforted by the arrival of Titus” – (1 Corinthians 16:17, 2 Corinthians 7:6-7).
In the New Testament, the first use of ‘parousia‘ for the advent of Jesus is found on his lips in his ‘Olivet Discourse’ recorded in Matthew. Just as lightning flashes from east to west, “so shall be the arrival of the Son of Man.” However, in all probability, Jesus spoke these words in Aramaic, most likely using the verb ‘hâvâh’, meaning “to be, being; to become.” But that is only an educated guess.
In the parallel passage in Mark, instead, the common Greek verb for “coming” or ‘erchomai’ is used. However, Mark cites the passage from Daniel about “one like a Son of Man” and follows the Greek text from the Septuagint version, the source for “coming” or ‘erchomenon’ in Mark’s version of the saying (present tense participle of ‘erchomai’). And so, also, in Luke – (Daniel 7:13, Matthew 24:27-28, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27).
Be that as it may, in Matthew, his “arrival” will disrupt the creation itself (“The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven”), and his appearance “on the clouds” will cause “all the tribes of the earth to smite their breasts.” The description demonstrates that the event will be global of not cosmic in scope – all nations will experience it – (Matthew 24:30, Zechariah 12:10-14, Revelation 1:7).
At that time, Jesus will “sit on his throne” and dispatch his angels to “gather his elect” for the four corners of the earth, from “one end of heaven to the other,” demonstrating, once again, the universal effects of his “arrival” – Matthew 24:30-31).
Jesus compared his “arrival” to the “days of Noah” to picture how the nations will be surprised by his sudden appearance. Just as the men of Noah’s day did not know the flood was coming until it was too late, so, likewise, will be the “arrival of the Son of Man.” In the parallel passage in Luke, the Greek verb ‘apocalyptô’ or “reveal” is used instead of ‘parousia’ – (“so, also, will the Son of Man be revealed” – Matthew 24:37-39, Luke 17:30).
According to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the church in Thessalonica will be his “crown of boasting” at the ‘parousia’ of Jesus. He will “arrive with all his saints”. On that day, disciples will be wholly “sanctified” and “blameless” before him. His arrival with “all his saints” echoes Christ’s prediction of the “Son of Man” being accompanied by his angels.
Paul envisioned the Thessalonians as the jewel in his “crown” on that day, which indicates that he expected to be present “before the Lord,” along with the believers from Thessalonica. For them, it will be a day of glory and rewards – (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 5:23).
Additionally, at his “arrival,” dead believers will be resurrected and assembled along with living saints for “the meeting of the Lord in the air” as he descends from heaven “on the clouds.” He will be accompanied by the “voice of an archangel.” Thereafter, believers will “be with the Lord evermore.” The description parallels Christ’s picture of dispatching his angels to “gather his elect,” presumably, to himself – (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul coordinated the ‘parousia’ with the “day of the Lord,” the time when believers will be “gathered together” to Christ. However, neither that day nor his “arrival” would occur until after the “apostasy” and the unveiling of the “man of lawlessness.” On that day, the “Lord Jesus will slay the lawless one with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze him with the manifestation of his arrival,” along with all those who did not “welcome the love of the truth.” Hence, both the vindication of the righteous and the condemnation of the wicked occur on the “day of the Lord” – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul responded to voices that denied the future bodily resurrection. In the process, he located the resurrection at the ‘parousia.’ The righteous dead will be raised when Jesus “arrives.” That day will also mean the consummation of God’s kingdom, the subjugation of “all rule and authority and power,” the cessation of Death, and the bodily transformation of believers who are still alive when he appears, from mortality to immortality – (1 Corinthians 15:20-57).
‘Parousia’ also occurs once in the epistle of James. 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, they must prepare their hearts, for his arrival is near – (James 5:7-8).
According to Peter, his “arrival” will mean nothing less than the “day of judgment” and the commencement of the New Creation. Like Paul, he links the “arrival” to the “day of the Lord”:
- “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the arrival of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But according to his promise, we look for new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” – (2 Peter 3:10-13).
The preceding passage does not mean the complete annihilation of the creation and its replacement by some nonphysical reality. But the old order must make way for the “new heavens and a new earth…in which righteousness dwells.” In short, that day will conclude the present age and usher in the New Creation. Thus, the “arrival of the day of God” will result in the judgment of the wicked and the replacement of the existing age with the “new heavens and the new earth.”
The New Testament paints a consistent picture. The “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age will be a universal event. All humanity, indeed, the entire creation, will be affected. All nations will be gathered before Jesus for judgment. The day will be marked by celestial and terrestrial upheaval, The “Son of Man” will appear on the “clouds of heaven with great power and glory.” The dead will be resurrected and any living saints remaining on the earth will receive immortality. Christ will be accompanied by his angels, whom he will dispatch to gather his people to himself, both the living and the (until recently) dead. Then, together, his gathered “elect” will inherit everlasting life and be “with him forevermore.”
His “arrival” will also culminate in the final defeat of all God’s enemies, and therefore, the His unopposed reign throughout the Cosmos will commence. Death, the “last enemy,” will cease, and the New Creation will be unveiled in all its glory. All these events will occur on the “day of the Lord” when Jesus “arrives” from heaven.
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