SYNOPSIS – The note of finality in passages about the return of Jesus leaves no room for any interim period after his arrival.
Several of the passages in the New Testament present the future return of Jesus as an event of great finality. His “arrival” in glory will be accompanied by celestial and terrestrial upheaval, the ushering in of the New Creation, the resurrection of the righteous, the judgment of the ungodly, and the cessation of death, all of which leaves little if any room for any subsequent interim period during which sin and death continue, however rare.
The Apostle Paul, for example, responding to others who denied the bodily resurrection, presented several events that will precede the parousia or “arrival” of Jesus, including the consummation of the kingdom of God, the subjugation of all His enemies, the resurrection, and the cessation of death:
(1 Corinthians 15:20-28) – “But now has Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christs at his coming. Then comes the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. For He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who did subject all things unto him. And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all.”
(Psalm 2:6-9) – “Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said unto me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for your inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; You will dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.”
Christians will be resurrected just as Jesus was, but only at his parousia. The day will not arrive until after he has put “all things under his feet,” just as the Psalmist predicted. His parousia, his “arrival” in glory and power will mark the consummation of the kingdom of God – There will be no more enemies to subdue.
Paul described this day as “the End.” Moreover, the “last enemy” to be eliminated will be death itself; death will no longer hold sway over humanity.
This last claim is incompatible with any notion of death continuing to occur after the “arrival” of Jesus; however rare instances of individual death might be thereafter. Additionally, Paul declared:
“We will not all sleep, but we will be changed, in a moment…the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed…But when this mortal frame puts on immortality, then will come to pass the saying, Death is swallowed up in victory” – (1 Corinthians 15:51-56).
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle also taught that the resurrection occurs at the parousia of Jesus, his “arrival from heaven.” The dead in Christ will rise first, then, “we that are alive and remain until the parousia the Lord” will together with them “meet him” as he descends from heaven. This passage also affirms that Christians will be alive on the earth when at his “arrival” – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul identified the Parousia with the “Day of the Lord,” a day that will include the “gathering together” of the saints and the destruction of the “man of lawlessness” – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-9).
In his second letter, the Apostle Peter warned of “scoffers” who will mock and ask, “Where is the promise of his parousia,” an event he also links to the “Day of the Lord.” But believers may rest assured–:
“God is not slack concerning his promise…for the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are in it will be burned up…But according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which dwells righteousness” – (2 Peter 3:3-12).
His parousia means nothing less than the replacement of the old created order by the promised “new heavens and new earth.”
Paul taught the Corinthians and Thessalonians that the bodily resurrection of believers will occur at the parousiaof Jesus, as well as the elimination of death. In his letter to the church at Rome, he also coordinated the resurrection of the righteous with the promised new creation:
At present, the entire universe groans and travails as it “waits for the revelation of the sons of God…for the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God…even the redemption of our body” – (Romans 8:19-23).
Thus, the New Testament presents the day of his “arrival” at the end of the age as an event of great finality. It will mean nothing less than the resurrection of the righteous, the consummation of the kingdom, the judgment of the wicked, the cessation of death, and the arrival of the New Creation. This leaves no room for sin or death subsequent to that day.