The Parousia of Jesus will be a singular event, and one of great finality, both for the righteous and the unrighteous.
The New Testament presents a consistent picture. The “arrival” of Jesus will be a universal event; all humanity will experience it, both the godly and the ungodly. He will appear on the clouds of heaven. Celestial and terrestrial upheaval will occur, and the Lord will send his angels to gather his people to himself. On the same day, the wicked will receive “everlasting destruction,” but the righteous “everlasting life.”
Several Greek terms are applied in the New Testament to the future “coming” of Jesus, including the noun parousia, meaning “advent,” “arrival,” or “presence” (Strong’s – #G3952). Each time it is applied to his “arrival,” it refers to one, and only to one, event that is to occur at the end of the present age. Its basic sense is “arrival,” the state of having arrived at a specific place, condition, or time.
For example, Paul expressed joy at the “arrival of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.” Similarly, he was “comforted by the arrival of Titus.” In both cases, it was the actual arrival of the person that brought him joy – (1 Corinthians 16:17, 2 Corinthians 7:6-7).
The first application of parousia to the return of Jesus is found on his lips in the ‘Olivet Discourse’ as recorded in Matthew. He compared its “arrival” to lightning, an analogy indicating a sudden, unexpected, and universal event, something no one could possibly miss:
- (Matthew 24:27-28) – “For just as the lightning flashes from the east and shines into the west, so shall be the arrival of the Son of Man.”
Deceivers and “false prophets” will disseminate misleading information about this event, even claiming that the Messiah is “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 “arrival” of the Son of Man will occur “after the tribulation of those days.” How long afterward is not stated. It 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 universe will be disrupted by his sudden arrival, and “all the tribes of the earth will smite their breasts.” That day’s events will not be limited to Judea; it will be global, even universal. All nations and all men and women will experience it. And he will arrive “upon the clouds in great power and glory” to dispatch his angels to gather all his disciples to himself – (Matthew 24:30, Zechariah 12:10-14, Revelation 1:7).
The judgment will occur following his “arrival,” not years or centuries later. The godly will “inherit the kingdom,” while the ungodly will be cast “into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” – (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Revelation 20:11-15).
Those days will be “just as in the days of Noah” before the Flood. Men were “eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage,” until the flood came suddenly and destroyed them all. This describes normalcy, men going about their daily business as if nothing catastrophic would ever occur – (“They observed not until the flood came and took them all away”). Thus, also, will it be at his parousia – (Luke 17:26-30, Matthew 24:37-39).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul responded to some believers who were denying the future bodily resurrection. In the process, he listed several events that will transpire at or prior to the parousia of Jesus – at the “last trumpet” – including:
- The bodily resurrection of dead believers at his “arrival.”
- 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 still alive from mortality to immortality.
In Thessalonica, Paul expected his converts to grow and become his “crown of boasting” at the Parousia, when Jesus arrived “with all his saints.” On that day, his disciples would be sanctified wholly and made blameless – (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 5:23).
At his “arrival,” dead believers will be resurrected and gathered with the saints still alive for “a meeting with the Lord in the air.” He will be met by the 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 will “be with the Lord evermore.” Precisely where they remain with him is not stated in the passage – (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle explained that the parousia will coincide with the “day of the Lord,” the time when believers are “gathered together to Christ.” This “gathering” must refer to the same one described in his first letter:
- (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) – “But we request you, brethren, in behalf of the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, that you 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 has set in; that no one may cheat you in any one respect. Because that day will not set in, except the apostasy come first and the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, is revealed.”
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 “arrival,” Jesus will slay the “man of lawlessness” with “the Spirit of his mouth, and paralyze him with the manifestation of his arrival” – (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).
Until that day, 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.” Likewise, 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 ungodly men.” Like Paul, he also links the “arrival” of the Lord to 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” – (2 Peter 3:7-13).
When that day arrives, the “heavens will be dissolved and elements becoming intensely hot are to be melted,” as the old creation order makes way for the “new heavens and new earth, according to his promise, in which righteousness dwells.” The parousia of the Lord means the final judgment, the dissolution of the present world order, and the arrival of the new one.
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).
While God alone knows the timing of that day, it will not occur until “after the tribulation of those days,” the proclamation of the gospel “to all nations,” the apostasy, and the unveiling of the “man of lawlessness,” and then the “end will come.” Humanity will be judged and separated into two groups: the righteous who inherit everlasting life, and the ungodly who receive everlasting punishment. The “man of lawlessness” will be destroyed, the “last enemy” – death – will cease, and the New Creation will begin.
In each of the preceding passages, one future “arrival” of Jesus is envisioned – And only one. He will arrive with great finality. Glory and reward for the righteous, but everlasting destruction for the wicked.