Parousia is a word we may not know, but a word we long for. We know that Jesus will return a second time and usher in a new heaven and new earth. What should we know about Jesus’ second coming?
If you were to ask me the definition of parousia before this article, I would draw a blank. I’d probably make some joke about everything being “Greek to me,” as parousia does stem from a Greek word meaning “presence” or “the coming.”
In eschatological terms, this word refers to the second coming of Christ. As Christians, we know that Jesus came to the earth in the first century AD to usher in a way for salvation. Two millennia have passed, and we await his return, where he will judge the living and the dead—and bring about the new heaven and new earth. So what do we need to know about parousia, the second coming? And what does the Bible have to say about it?
What Is Parousia in the Bible?
It’s important to mention that parousia doesn’t always refer to the second coming in Scripture. Because English and Greek aren’t the same in terms of language, we miss some of the nuances of various words.
As we established before, parousia means presence. There are 24 instances of this word in the New Testament. Although we can’t break down any of them, we can look at a sampling to see the word usage.
Matthew 24:3: The disciples ask Jesus what the sign of his coming will be. They ask about “your coming and the end of the age,” indicating they know a second coming will bring about the end of the earth as they know it. Although the disciples didn’t fully understand Jesus’ work before the crucifixion, they seem to understand that certain signs accompany the second coming. Parousia appears elsewhere in this chapter of Mathew, including 24:27, 24:37, and 24:9.
1 Corinthians 15:23: This passage talks about the end times. It mentions “those who belong to him.” A big theme in Revelation is those who belong to Christ versus those who belong to the Beast (i.e., Satan’s dominion). The lambs and the goats. When it comes to Jesus’ second coming, there is no fence-sitting. People are either all in or all out.
Philippians 1:26: Paul explains parousia in terms of him “currently being there” with the Philippians. This means he is presently with them. Regarding Christ’s second coming, we can often forget as Christians that the kingdom is here and not yet here. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God had come because he had arrived. Yet the full fulfillment would come with his second coming. To be involved in God’s kingdom, we must be invested in what’s happening now and in the future. If we solely focus on the End Times and forget our mission here, we forget that Christ is present, even if he has not returned yet.
James 5:7: In this passage, James calls for the patience of Christians as they wait for the second coming. We can often want to rush the events of Revelation—as though we even had control over those in the first place. Although we do keep watch, no one knows the hour.
We have now highlighted some of the verses that discuss parousia. Let’s consider its characteristics.
What Are the Signs of Parousia?
How can we identify Jesus’ second coming? What does the Bible say we should know about it? Let’s tease out some of the details given.
1. It will happen at a time that no one can predict. When Jesus answers the disciples’ question about when the second coming will come, he says that even here doesn’t know when the hour will arrive (Mark 13:32). Only God the father knows. Why this is true is hard to say. D.A. Carson is quoted in The Case of Christ as saying it may have to do with Jesus emptying himself (Philippians 2:6-7) while he was a human being on earth. Whatever the reason is, we need to look at the passage’s central point. Jesus says that we can’t predict the second coming, so we must remember our mission at hand. The war isn’t over until God says it’s over. Since he gave us a greater mission in Matthew 28, we must continue in that mission until the time comes and he cries out, “Come!” It does us no profit to attempt to predict the day or hour. No one knows.
2. Many signs will precede It. What are some of these signs? First, the Antichrist has to step onto the scene. He will speak of peace. Many will fall in love with him. Secondly, the Gospel will reach every tribe, tongue, and nation. Everyone will be given a chance to know about God and turn to him in repentance. Third, wars and rumors of wars will abound (Matthew 24). Fourth, men will become lovers of themselves. They will praise evil and punish good (2 Timothy 3).
We could go on. Obviously, we have seen many signs come to pass, such as the Euphrates river drying up (Revelation 16). We know that a tribulation period will also take place for seven years. Whether God will rapture Christians before that period or afterward is a heavy debate in Christian circles.
3. The second coming will accomplish several things. The second coming (in Revelation 19) places Christ toe-to-toe with the beast, and he defeats the beast. After this, and after 1,000 years, Satan will challenge the people of God and attempt to wipe them out at Armageddon (Revelation 20). He will receive his due defeat and his judgment. On the White Throne of Judgment, God will judge those whose names cannot be found in the book of life. Subsequently, God will bring about the new heaven and the new earth. We will forever live with him in paradise.
Why Do Christians Say “Maranatha”?
Parousia is often coupled with the phrase maranatha. The phrase originally comes from 1 Corinthians 16:22. It translates to “Come, Lord Jesus” or “O, Lord, Come.”
Christians often state this when they look forward to the second coming. All creation groans for the return of our Savior, and we groan along with it. We can all feel a sense of being foreigners, longing for home. And our home exists at the other end of Revelation 22.
This begs the question: is it wrong to long for the second coming of Jesus, to cry out, “Maranatha”?
In short, no. It makes sense for us to long for the one who calls us home.
At the same time, we must understand that we cross an event horizon, a point of no return, when the events of Revelation occur. That means that every nonbelieving person in our lives has set out on a path toward the Great White Throne of Judgment. And although we cannot control the decisions they make, we can spread the Gospel to them and give them every opportunity to come to Christ while they still can.
Until Jesus shows up in Revelation 19, we have a duty to do what we can to help others return to the path of righteousness.
What Can We Learn from Parousia?
We can glean several takeaways from this particular word.
First, things will get bad before they get better. Even if Christ happens to rapture us before the tribulation, brothers and sisters die in the name of Jesus every day. Persecution will abound before Christ’s return, and the antichrist will only worsen it.
Second, no one can predict the hour. We can feel the End Times drifting nearer and nearer, but no one knows precisely when Christ will return. We can know the signs and should remain watchful and awake. But will still need to recall our mission at hand.
Finally, remember Christ is here (and not yet here). Parousia means “present.” Although Christ has not made a visual second coming, we still have pockets of heaven with us. We can show Christ to people now and show them what they have to await in the world to come.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kevron2001
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.
This article is part of our larger End Times Resource Library. Learn more about the rapture, the anti-christ, bible prophecy and the tribulation with articles that explain Biblical truths. You do not need to fear or worry about the future!
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