There is much confusion today regarding the word "parousia". For newer readers of my blog, it’s a Biblical word which many times refers to Christ’s second coming. The original meaning in the Greek was the idea of physical presence over an extended period of time, but also the idea of coming or advent was there as well. The word is a noun in the Greek, not a verb. It’s an event, not a movement. Let’s start out in Matthew 24.
The disciples ask the question in verse 3, "What will be the sign of your parousia? and of the end of the age?" Jesus answers in verse 5, "Many will erchomai (come) in my name." Erchomai means the coming of persons from one place to another place. Further in verse 14 Jesus states, "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world… then shall the end [of the age] heko (come)". Heko means to have arrived or be present. But this does not change the meaning of parousia to these other words. Parousia still means physical presence over an extended period of time. Note Philippians 2:12 where parousia is contrasted with absence. What is the opposite of absence? Presence!
In verse 27, Jesus compares His parousia to lightning. This is simply a caution to not believe that Christ has secretly arrived somewhere on the earth whereby He would establish His parousia (physical presence) secretly. It will be like lightning flashing from the east to the west for all to see. Then after the description of the signs in sun, moon, and stars, we have the description of the erchomai (coming from one place to another) of the Son of man. The erchomia (coming from one place to another) is what initiates the parousia (physical presence of the King). Many things will happen at the parousia over this extended period of time.
I want to quote The Approaching Advent of Christ by Reese here. This is a great book for those studying the end times especially the question of the timing of events surrounding the coming of Christ. There is only one reason that I have not listed this book in my favorites on my blog. Reese’s style is a bit condescending at points. Gundry (who has pretty much the same position) terms the book as being of an "embarrassingly bombastic style". That aside, Reese’s book contains great insight into scripture. The problem that I have endorsing such a book is that folks may think my style is one of divisiveness as well. I understand what Reese was combatting in the likes of Kelly who claimed anyone who disagreed with him was swimming in ignorance, but that is no reason to respond with the same. So I agree with Reese’s content whole-heartedly on many points. I just can’t agree with the style.
The content of Reese’s book is in the process of being published on the web at this site here
. The bulk of the book is already there so those who want to understand his views will not be disappointed. His chapters on the resurrection are quite thorough. The chapters "The Church and the Glorious Appearing", "The Unveiling of the Son", and "The Parousia of the King" deal with the three Greek word used to describe Christ’s coming: epiphaneia, apokalupsis, and parousia. Reese is dealing with the assertion on the part of dispensationalists that the words can be divided up to refer to different phases of Christ’s second coming, i.e. one phase dealing with establishing an invisible presence at the rapture while appearing gloriously at a later point in time. Reese is ruthless in pulling out the refutations that these PreMillennialsts use against PostMillennialists. The Dispensational PreMillennialists argue against establishing an invisible parousia at the beginning of the thousand year reign asserting that it must be a physical presence here on earth. Reese makes the comparison that those who believe in separating the physical, bodily return of Christ with an invisible parousia at the beginning of a seven year period are simply employing PostMillennial tactics. Christ and Apostles taught one glorious return resulting in a physical presence here on earth.
Let’s get to Reese’s analysis of the word parousia, particularly its uses in secular history. The section I will quote will actually embody a quotation from another work as well. Reese writes:
It is one of the great contributions of modern scholarship that we now understand what the early Christians felt when they read in Paul’s Epistles of the Parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ. Scholars and archaeologists have been digging in the rubbish-heaps of Egypt and found this word used in scores of documents in everyday life for the arrival of kings and rulers, or the visit following. Let us have this in the words of a scholar, who has rendered priceless services in explaining the words of Paul. In his great work, Light from the Ancient East, Deissmann deals with the word Parousia. I quote some paragraphs from it:—
Yet another of the central ideas of the oldest Christian worship receives light from the new texts, namely: parousia, "advent, coming," a word expressive of the most ardent hopes of a St. Paul. We now may say that the best interpretation of the Primitive Christian hope of the Parusia is the old Advent text, "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee" (Zech. 9:9; Matthew 21:5). From the Ptolemaic period down into the 2nd century A.D. we are able to trace the word in the East as a technical expression for the arrival or the visit of the king or the emperor (or other persons in authority, or troops). The parusia of the sovereign must have been something well known even to the people, as shown by the facts that special payments in kind and taxes to defray the cost of the parusia were exacted, that in Greece a new era was reckoned from the Parusia of the Emperor Hadrian, that all over the world advent-coins were struck after a parusia of the emperor, and that we are even able to quote examples of advent sacrifices.
The subject of parusia dues and taxes in Egypt has been treated in detail by Wilcken. The oldest passage he mentions is in the Flinders Petrie Papyrus II. 39e, of the 3rd century B.C., where, according to his ingenious interpretation, contributions are noted for a crown of gold to be presented to the king at his parusia: "for another crown on the occasion of the parusia, 12 artabæ." This papyrus supplies an exceptionally fine background of contrast to the figurative language of St. Paul, in which Parusia (or Epiphany, "appearing") and crown occur in collocation. While the sovereigns of this world expect at their parusia a costly crown for themselves, "at the parusia of our Lord Jesus" the apostle will wear a crown— "the crown of glory" (1 Thess. 2:19), won by his work among the Churches, or "the crown of righteousness" which the Lord will give to him and to all them that have loved His appearing—2 Timothy 4:8.
I have found another characteristic example in a petition, circa 113 B.C., which was found among the wrappings of the mummy of a sacred crocodile. A parusia of King Ptolemy, the second, who called himself Soter ("saviour"), is expected, and for this occasion a great requisition has been issued for corn which is being collected at Cerceosiris by the village headman and the elders of the peasants. Speaking of this and another delivery of corn, these officials say: "and applying ourselves diligently, both night and day, unto fulfilling that which was set before us and the provision of 80 artabae which was imposed for the parusia of the king…."
Are not these Egyptian peasants, toiling day and night in expectation of the parusia of their saviour king, an admirable illustration of our Lord’s words (Luke 18:7) about the elect who cry day and night to God, in expectation of the coming of the Son of Man (Luke 18:8)?
How graphically it must have appealed to the Christians of Thessalonica, with their living conception of the parusiae of the rulers of this world, when they read in St. Paul’s second letter—("the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus… shall destroy by the manifestation of His parusia, whose parusia is according to the workings of Satan"— 2 Thess. 2:8-9)—of the Satanic "parousia" of Antichrist who was to be destroyed by "the manifestation of the parousia" of the Lord Jesus!
It is not too much to say that these facts about the language in which the N.T. was written must revolutionize some old and favorite ideas. In particular, when we open the Epistles to the Thessalonians, we know for certain that Paul, in speaking of the Parousia of the Lord, is referring to the arrival, nay, the arrival in triumph, of Christ the Lord. The humble believers in Thessalonica, when they witnessed the imposing parousiæ of the emperor or his representative, and when they read the words of the Apostle about the Parousia of the Lord, would remember with joy that their Emperor, Jesus the Messiah, will have His Parousia, which will be an overpowering manifestation of divine power and glory, full of joy for the righteous, full of terror for the impenitent and the ungodly, and opening up a new era for the world.
I would challenge you to read Reese’s entire chapter on the subject of the parousia at this link. It seems that the usage of the word in secular history precludes the idea of some type of invisible presence from heaven being established, but instead, a physical presence of royalty for which the citizens were even now preparing for. The arrival which would initiate a new era is the primary meaning, but it would be a physical presence during which many events would happen over an extended period of time.
Now for some conclusions of my own. The physical presence of Christ will occur after the gospel has been preached in the midst of intense persecution, Matthew 24:9-14. The physical presence of Christ will also occur after the great tribulation, Matthew 24:29-31. It is this physical presence of Christ that Paul writes about in I Corinthians 15. He states that this is the time when church believers will receive their resurrections bodies or be changed without experiencing death, vs 23, 51-54. It’s the word parousia being used in I Corinthians 15:23. This is also the time when Christ comes with the saints, I Thessalonians 3:13. This is also the time of the rapture. Notice I Thessalonians 4:15, "we which are alive and remain unto the parousia of the Lord", will be caught up to meet Him in the air as He descends from heaven.
The parousia of Christ will also "cut short" the days of the great tribulation. If these days were not "cut short" then no believers would be saved alive to welcome Christ at His parousia, Matthew 24:21-22. The great tribulation will not extend to the end of Daniel’s seventieth week. The antichrist will remain in power for 42 months, however, the time for him to persecute the saints is "cut short". A careful reading of Revelation 13:5-7 uncovers this fact. It is during this remainder of time that the wrath of God will be poured out upon the ungodly, including the antichrist and his kingdom. This will occur during the trumpet and bowl judgements. In II Thessalonians 1:6-10, note that our "rest" with the Lord Jesus will occur when He is revealed with His mighty angels to take vengeance on the ungodly.
I hope no one feels left out. In the above two paragraphs I have set forth views that are contrary to PreTrib, MidTrib, PostTrib, PostWrath, and even the classic PreWrath position. Classic PreWrath "bumps" the bowls to the 30 days following Daniel’s seventieth week, whereas I see a straightforward reading of scripture placing them within the 42 months of antichrist’s reign. I hope to get them straightened out on this issue, but they just won’t debate me. Well, I take that back. They debate me, but they can’t get past Revelation 13:5.
What did I mention earlier about not being divisive?
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman