We’ve been warned.
Jesus Christ will return, and this cosmic life-changing event could happen at any moment.
Many do not see Christ's future return as relevant to present-day living. They choose to ignore it, even deny it.
I’ll review the who, where, what, when, and how of his return. Then, I’ll give you the why – five ways in which it matters to you now. This is introductory rather than exhaustive.
The ‘who’ is Jesus; the ‘where’ is Earth.
This should be a no-brainer, but some prefer to twist and distort the obvious.
When Jesus left Earth, he promised to return. Here’s how the disciples remember it. Forty days after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus met and spoke with his followers just outside Jerusalem (Acts 1:9-11):
After he said this, [Jesus] was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
You’ve probably spoken to people who imagine that Jesus has already come back, or will come back, in some other form or in some other way. That’s why I highlighted the words: “This same Jesus” – not someone or something else – “will come back in the same way” – that is, physically and visibly.
The biblical record relates much to us of the return to Earth of the Lord Jesus. I’ll focus on one aspect of his return: the parousia.
Parousia is a Greek word that refers to “the state of being present at a place, presence” (BDAG). It is not the promise or the process of coming, it is the result of coming – the actual presence of the person.
Of the 24 occurrences of this word in the New Testament, six of them are used in an ordinary sense of a person being present such as Paul (2 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 1:26; 2:12), Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6-7), or others (1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:9).
Eighteen times, parousia is used of the future presence of the Lord Jesus.
Other events are triggered by the parousia including:
Peter gives us a glimpse of the parousia of Christ. He recalls his experience of the Transfiguration decades earlier (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:28-36).
Of this transfiguration, Matthew (for example) records (17:2):
[Jesus Christ] was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
Peter views the Transfiguration as a foretaste of Christ at his parousia. He writes (2 Peter 1:16-18):
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
Reading this text, and reflecting on the Transfiguration accounts, I sense that we will be overwhelmed with the glory of our Lord at his parousia.
There is a certain impatience on the part of believers, and denial on the part of those who do not believe.
The disciples asked Jesus “when will this happen” (Matthew 24:3) in a context of future events, including the parousia.
In Matthew 24:37-44, parousia is used twice (24:37, 39 – “coming” in v. 42 is a different word for the process of coming). In this context and elsewhere, Jesus tells his disciples, “you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
Nevertheless, many have embarrassed themselves by trying to predict the date of the parousia of the Lord Jesus, and events surrounding his return.
Others argue that the delay in his return means he is not coming at all (e.g., 2 Peter 3:1-14 where parousia occurs in vs. 4 and 12):
“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
These people are in for a rude awakening.
Using an agricultural metaphor, James (5:7-9) relates the patience of a farmer waiting for a crop to ripen for harvest. In the same way, we should exercise an informed patience for the parousia. Our Lord will return when the time is ‘ripe’.
Earlier we quoted two angels: Jesus “will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Jesus himself tells the disciples that “as the lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27).
And Paul writes:
… the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God … (1 Thessalonians 4:16; parousia occurs in v. 15)
The parousia of Jesus Christ will be physical and visible.
Here are five ways in which the parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ matters to you.
1. Motive for personal purity.
In the previous post (“An Understanding of Prophecy That Will Make a Difference”), 1 John 3:2-3 was cited to demonstrate that the future return of Jesus Christ is a present incentive for “purifying yourself” (also 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:23; 1 John 2:28).
2. Motive for faithful service.
The parousia could happen at any time. Jesus tells parables that illustrate the need to be alert, watchful, serving faithfully now: “so you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (e.g., Matthew 24:44, 50; 25:13).
3. Reliance in God’s judgment.
Not infrequently, people complain about God’s (apparent) lack of intervention and judgment of evil. One question is often, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Another is, “Why aren’t the wicked punished?”
At the parousia there will be a great reckoning when things will be set right by God who is all-righteous and all-knowing.
Confidence in God’s future judgment enables us to release the present causes of anger, bitterness, vengeance, and other real and perceived injustices. Easier said than done I know but I encourage you to build it into your perspective of life.
4. Guarantee that service and suffering are recognized.
This is the positive side of the previous point. Faithful service and suffering often go unnoticed by others – but not by God.
If you protest that you aren’t in it for the rewards, I understand – but there is another purpose for rewards that we will expand in future posts.
5. Invigorated by hope.
In Psalm 42-43, the psalmist asks his question three times: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” Each time it is answered by an aspect of “hope in God …” (42:5, 11; 43:5). Hope in the future parousia, invigorates your soul in the present.
Among other things, it is the hope of vindication, joy, salvation, and above all, the presence (the parousia) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you want to add something? Contact me.
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