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The Coming of Christ (Parousia)

Julian Spriggs M.A.

'Parousia' is one of several Greek words used to describe the second coming of Christ. Its essential meaning is 'arrival', or more precisely 'arrival and consequent presence with'. It can simply be used for the arrival of a person, like Titus (2 Cor 7:6). It can also mean the presence of a person - the Corinthians said that Paul’s bodily presence (parousia) was weak (2 Cor 10:10). It described a royal visit by the emperor, when special coins were struck or monuments were erected. This word therefore pictures Jesus as the coming king who is currently seated in glory at the right hand of God.

A variety of other words are used for the coming of Christ. His coming is an 'apocalypsis', or unveiling (2 Thess 1:7), meaning that he is currently invisible, but will be revealed to all the world at his coming, when every eye shall see him (Rev 1:7). The other term is 'epiphaniea' or appearing, which is used for both his first (2 Tim 1:10) and second comings (Tit 2:13). Dispensationalists separate Jesus’ coming to rapture the church before the seven-year tribulation, from his coming to establish his millennial kingdom.

Teaching on the parousia is prominent throughout the New Testament as an encouragement to believers (1 Thess 4), particularly those facing persecution. It is the blessed hope (Tit 2:13) anticipated by believers. Academic speculation about future events is discouraged, as his coming is also intended as a stimulus to holy living (2 Pet 3:11ff).

His coming will be visible and unmistakable. Every eye will see him (Rev 1:7), it will be as bright as lightning flashing across the sky (Lk 17:24), and accompanied by the sound of God’s trumpet (1 Thess 4:16), a major argument against a secret rapture of the church. His coming will be sudden (Lk 17:22, Rev 22:20), and unexpected, like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2, 2 Pet 3:10), as the judgement in the days of Noah (Mk 24:37). His coming will also cause a separation of peoples (Lk 17:34), like sheep being separated from goats (Mt 25:31ff).

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus used many parables to teach about his coming. Disciples are called to be ready, like the wise bridesmaids (Mt 25:1ff). The parables of the kingdom tell that his coming will be the time of harvest at the end of the age (Mt 13:39ff), when evildoers will be gathered for punishment, and the righteous will shine like the sun.

In John’s gospel, Jesus spoke about the general resurrection at the end of the age, when all who are in their graves will be raised, the righteous to eternal life, and the wicked to condemnation (Jn 5:25-29). Paul also predicted the resurrection, believers will be raised at his coming (1 Cor 15:23), in imperishable bodies (v52), when the final enemy, death will also be destroyed (v55).

Throughout the NT there is a paradox or tension between the imminence of Jesus’ return and a delay. Believers are called to be alert and ready because they do not know the day of his coming (Mk 13:33), but are called to get on with life, using the talents given by God (Mt 25:14ff). Some have claimed that Paul thought that the coming would be in his lifetime (1 Thess 4:15), but was mistaken. The early church expected him to return soon, and had to adjust their expectations as the years passed without him returning. Some scholars have seen this as a major problem for the early church and a possible reason for Luke writing his gospel and Acts. Paul corrected this expectation when writing to the Thessalonians, telling them not to be lazy but to work hard (2 Thess 3:6ff), and that the man of lawlessness must appear first (2 Thess 2:1ff).

In Acts, after the ascension, the angel predicted that Jesus will return in the same way he ascended (Acts 1:11), again implying a visible return. However, in their preaching, the apostles tended to emphasise the recent death and resurrection of Jesus more than his future return.

The author of Hebrews emphasises the incarnation of Jesus and his earthly sacrifice as the great high priest, but he does state that Jesus will appear a second time to save those eagerly awaiting him (Heb 9:28).

The coming of Christ is a major theme of Revelation (1:7). However his coming is not necessarily the final coming at the end of the age (eg. 2:5). He is described as coming on a white horse of victory to judge the nations (19:11ff), and the forces of evil (the beasts and the dragon), and to establish a new heaven and new earth (21:1). Again, his coming is intended to act as an encouragement for persecuted Christians to persevere, rather than to provide a detailed plan of events for the end of time.

Many believe that there will be specific signs to show that his coming is soon. Jesus said that the good news of the kingdom must be preached to all nations and then the end will come (Mt 24:14). When faced with scoffers grumbling about the delay, Peter said that God is waiting for people to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). Paul taught that the man of lawlessness must appear first, and will be destroyed by his coming (2 Thess 2:8).

Unfortunately, although the coming of Christ is intended to be an encouragement to believers, it has also been the source of much controversy and argument in the church. The main source of debate is over the millennium (only mentioned in Rev 20), whether Jesus will return before (pre-) the 1000 years, or after (post-), or whether the 1000 years is symbolic for the present age (amillennial). The pre-millennial view separates the parousia from the final judgement by 1000 years, a concept not explicitly taught elsewhere in the New Testament. Within the pre-millennial view, there is also a debate over the timing of the rapture, whether it comes before or after the tribulation. A pre-tribulational view can effectively mean there are three separate comings of Christ.

M.J. Erickson: Second Coming of Christ in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. ed. W.A. Elwell. Baker 1984.
D. Guthrie. New Testament Theology. IVP 1981.
G.E. Ladd. Theology of the New Testament. Eerdmans 1974
L. Morris: Parousia in International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (ISBE). ed. GW Bromiley. Eerdmans 1986

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS