Several Greek terms are used in the New Testament for the return of Jesus at the end of the present age. These include Parousia (“arrival”), erchomai (“coming”), and epiphaneia (“appearance”). Regardless of which one is used, in each case, it is always singular in number, referring to only one future “coming.” The term Parousia is applied to his return most often in the letters of Paul, though not exclusively so. It denotes an “arrival” rather than the process of someone or something “coming.”
For example, in the city of Corinth, Paul was “comforted by the arrival of Titus” – (1 Corinthians 16:17, 2 Corinthians 7:6-7).
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The first use of the term Parousia for his return is found in the version of the Olivet Discourse recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. According to Jesus, just as lightning flashes from east to west, “so shall be the arrival of the Son of Man” - (Matthew 24:27-28).
When he arrives “on the clouds of Heaven,” the creation will be disrupted, and “all the tribes of the earth will smite their breasts.” This event will not be limited to Judea. It will be global if not cosmic in scope.
All nations and peoples will see and experience it. He will arrive “in great power and glory” and dispatch his angels to gather his “elect” to himself - (Matthew 24:30-31, 25:31-46, Zechariah 12:10-14, Revelation 1:7).
Judgment will occur at that time, not years or centuries later. The godly will “inherit the Kingdom of God,” whereas, the ungodly will be cast “into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”
Prior to his “arrival,” life will be “just as it was in the days of Noah” before the Great Flood when 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 - Matthew 24:37-39).
ACCORDING TO PAUL
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul responded to individuals who were denying the future resurrection of the righteous. In the process, he listed several events that would transpire on or before the day of the “arrival” or Parousia of Jesus, including:
- The consummation of the kingdom of God.
- The bodily resurrection of dead believers at Christ’s Parousia.
- The subjugation to Jesus of all “rule and all authority and power.”
- The cessation of death, the “Last Enemy.”
- The bodily transformation of believers who are still alive on that day, from mortality to immortality.
To the Thessalonian Assembly, Paul describes how the saints will become his “crown of boasting” at the Parousia when Jesus arrives “with all his saints.” On that day, believers will be wholly sanctified and made blameless before him - (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 5:23).
At his “arrival,” dead believers will be resurrected and assembled along with those saints who are still alive for “a meeting of the Lord in the air” as he descends from Heaven. He will be accompanied by the sound of a great trumpet and the “voice of an archangel.” Thereafter, believers will “be with the Lord forevermore” - (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul locates the Parousia on the “Day of the Lord” when believers will be “gathered” to the Lord, but that day will not occur until the “apostasy” takes place and the “Man of Lawlessness” in unveiled, the one whom the “Lord Jesus will paralyze with the manifestation of his arrival” - (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 2:1-9).
ACCORDING TO PETER
In his second letter, Peter states that the Parousia or “arrival” will mean nothing less than the “Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” Like Paul, he links this event with 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…the heavens will be dissolved and elements becoming intensely hot are to be melted” - (2 Peter 3:3-14).
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On that day, the old order will make way for the “New Heavens and the New Earth… in which righteousness dwells.” His Parousia will cause the destruction of the present order and the inauguration of the new one.
Thus, the New Testament tells a consistent story. There will be one future “arrival” of Jesus, and it will be a universal event. All men, women, and children on the Earth will see and experience it.
Moreover, that day will be marked by celestial and terrestrial upheaval. Jesus will gather his people to himself. The final judgment will take place when the righteous are vindicated and inherit everlasting life, and the ungodly receive “everlasting destruction.”
His “arrival” will mean the final and total defeat of all God’s enemies, including and especially “death,” and the consummation of His unopposed reign. These events will occur at or just prior to the Parousia or “arrival” of the Son of Man “on the clouds of Heaven.”