Paul’s Concept of Parousia

Parousia is a Greek word used 24 times in the New Testament to mean “coming, arrival, personal presence.” It is most often used to indicate the second coming and the arrival of the Son of Man though it can also indicate a visit by a Christian worker, apostle or even the “man of lawlessness.”. In the Greek world of the New Testament it meant among other things A State visit or the presence or appearance of a deity during worship. It has a range of meaning to that of the archaic English word “visitation.”

There are two views to this Christian doctrine: it is either largely disregarded, or it is the main theme in all preaching and teaching.

Paul’s pictures of the second coming are mainly Jewish: The Jews were the great pessimists in history, as well as the greatest optimists in history. They were the chosen people, always dominated by foreigners, longing for the time when God would intervene in history and put His people at the top where they should be. God would do this with a supernatural intervention in human affairs.

The Jews divided all history into two ages:This present age of trouble, wickedness and evil; The age to come – the golden age of God

  1. The age of plenty: abundance
    1. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine, And all the hills will be dissolved. “Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live [in them], They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit. (Amos 9:13-14)
    2. Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fertile field And the fertile field is considered as a forest. (Isaiah 32:15)
    3. Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody. (Isaiah 51:3)
  2. The age of friendship: even man and beasts
    1. “In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky, And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. (Hosea 2:18)
    2. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze; Their young will lie down together; And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
  3. The age of relief: no more pain
    1. “No longer will there be in it an infant [who lives but a few] days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Shall be [thought] accursed. (Isaiah 65:20)
    2. “They shall not build, and another inhabit, They shall not plant, and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, [so shall be] the days of My people, And My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:22)
    3. And no resident will say, “I am sick”; The people who dwell there will be forgiven [their] iniquity. (Isaiah 33:24)
    4. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)
  4. The age of peace:
    1. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. (Isaiah 2:4)
    2. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
    3. Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places; (Isaiah 32:18)
    4. “And all your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great. (Isaiah 54:13)

The place of God’s people in the universe:

  1. Jerusalem as the center of the world
    1. Now it will come about that In the last days, The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3)
    2. And it will come about in the last days That the mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, And the peoples will stream to it. And many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD And to the house of the God of Jacob, That He may teach us about His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law, Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1-2)
  2. Jews having a missionary duty: very few believed this
    1. He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
    2. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see [it] together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)
  3. The dream of power: most common
    1. “For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish, And the nations will be utterly ruined. (Isaiah 60:12)
    2. Thus says the LORD, “The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush And the Sabeans, men of stature, Will come over to you and will be yours; They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains And will bow down to you; They will make supplication to you: ‘Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God.'” (Isaiah 45:14)
    3. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no [rain will fall] on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:17-18)

The way in which these changes will come:

  1. Under human leadership
    1. Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)
    2. “For if you men will indeed perform this thing, then kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David’s place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, [even the king] himself and his servants and his people. (Jeremiah 22:4)
    3. ‘But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. (Jeremiah 30:9)
    4. “Behold, [the] days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23:5)
  2. Direct intervention of God in history
    1. Destruction and terror
      1. Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. (Isaiah 13:9)
      2. Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty. (Joel 1:15)
      3. A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness, (Zephaniah 1:15)
    2. Cosmic upheaval
      1. “And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire, and columns of smoke. “The sun will be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. (Joel 2:30-31)
      2. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises, And the moon will not shed its light. (Isaiah 13:10)
      3. Therefore I shall make the heavens tremble, And the earth will be shaken from its place At the fury of the LORD of hosts In the day of His burning anger. (Isaiah 13:13)
    3. Judgment: Thus I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud, And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. (Isaiah 13:11)

Day of the Lord and Second Coming: Christianity was cradled in Judaism, so naturally there would be an identification of the Day of the Lord and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ; both were the great intervention of God in human affairs. This doctrine was an essential part of the church’s teaching. The word, kerugma means “a herald’s announcement.”

  1. Fulfilled prophecies – new age inaugurated at His birth
  2. Born of the seed of David
  3. His death, to deliver us out of this present age
  4. He was buried
  5. He rose on the third day
  6. He is exalted at the right hand of God
  7. He will come again as Judge and Savior of men

Frequency of inclusion: In the book of Acts, only three references, but with Paul it is different. Paul mentions it in every letter except Galatians and possibly Ephesians.

Two special references by Paul:

  1. An essential part of the Gospel: “On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:16)
  2. A motive for the Christian life: “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1)

Thessalonians: beginning with the earliest letters:

  1. Paul believed He would return in his lifetime: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15)
  2. Believers should be presented blameless to the Lord: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Romans: wake out of sleep. “And this [do,] knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11)

First Corinthians: the time is short, concentrate on being ready. “But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none.” (1 Corinthians 7:29)

Philippians: beginning the latter letters. “Let your forbearing [spirit] be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)

Ephesians: no mention, some say he had outgrown the concept. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)

Corinthians: mid-life for Paul.

  1. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)
  2. If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22) – The Aramaic phrase would not be known to any Greeks, yet he ends the letter to the Greeks with maranatha.

Paul speaks of waiting for Jesus Christ:

  1. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, [that is] Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
  2. And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
  3. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
  4. So that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 1:7)
  5. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20)

Paul often used language of the scholars: (Isaiah 26-27)

  1. The Lord’s coming
    1. For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed, And will no longer cover her slain. (Isaiah 26:21)
    2. Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, (2 Thessalonians 2:1)
  2. The coming judgment
    1. For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed, And will no longer cover her slain. (Isaiah 26:21)
    2. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
    3. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
  3. The resurrection from the dead
    1. Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. (Isaiah 26:19)
    2. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
  4. The sound of the trumpet
    1. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:13)
    2. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
  5. Gathering of the elect
    1. And it will come about in that day, that the LORD will start [His] threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. (Isaiah 27:12)
    2. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

The Jewish idea is repeated often:

  1. The Day of the Lord becomes the Day of Christ
    1. That you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (2 Thessalonians 2:2)
    2. Who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8)
    3. Just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:14)
    4. Holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (Philippians 2:16)
  2. It will come without warning – and with signs
    1. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
    2. Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for [it will not come] unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains [will do so] until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; [that is,] the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word [of mouth] or by letter from us. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-15)
  3. It will be God’s holy wrath on a rebellious world
    1. So that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13)
    2. Who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8)
    3. And [to give] relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed–for our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)
    4. For after all it is [only] just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and [to give] relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)
    5. And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, [that is] Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
    6. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
  4. God will send judgment
    1. But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (Romans 2:5)
    2. On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:16)
    3. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath [of God] through Him. (Romans 5:9)
    4. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, [but wait] until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of [men’s] hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
    5. Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. (Colossians 3:24-25)
    6. Knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. (Ephesians 6:8)
    7. Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is [to be] revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:13)
    8. If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:17)
    9. But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (1 Corinthians 5:13)
    10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

What has grace to do with judgment?

  1. 1) Judaism is an intensely ethical religion (Matthew 7:20)
  2. 2) Paul was a missionary – preaching to the immoral
  3. 3) The greatest gift called for the greatest responsibility
  4. 4) Justification by faith is the beginning of new life, one must go on to sanctification

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.