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Catholic Apologetics


Chapter 24 -- Parousia


 
Heb 9:27-28 - Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

Jesus will come a second time to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him. He will bring salvation at His second coming, not His third, fourth or greater coming. The Bible only speaks of a second coming. Let's research some of the verses of Scripture that address the second coming.

The End of the Age

The "end of the age" is not the same as the "end of time". The end of the age refers to the end of the old covenant; when God will no longer require animal sacrifices and Levitical rules. The end of time refers to the end of the earthly existence as we know it; when Jesus comes again to hand over the kingdom to the Father, and we enter into eternal existence. Let's see how Jesus addressed the two.

Matt 24:1-3 - Jesus left the temple area and was going away, when his disciples approached him to point out the temple buildings. He said to them in reply, "You see all these things, do you not? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, "Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Notice the disciples asked Jesus three distinct questions: They asked when the temple would be destroyed, what sign will there be of Jesus' coming, and what sign will there be of the end of the age. First, Jesus addresses when the temple will be destroyed and the sign of the end of the age.

Matt 24:4-13 - Jesus said to them in reply, "See that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Messiah,' and they will deceive many.

You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.

Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.

From the time Jesus spoke these words to His disciples until the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., there were false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, nations rising against nations, famines and earthquakes. Every word Jesus spoke came true, just as He said it would.

Just as the Israelites wandered in the desert for one generation (40 years) until they entered the promise land, so too the early Christians wandered spiritually for one generation from Jesus' death (?33 A.D.?) until they entered the age of the new covenant (?70 A.D.?).

Just as a woman in labor experiences many pains before the birth, so it was that Jesus' bride, the Church, would experience tribulations before the birth of the age of the new covenant. They were persecuted, killed, hated by all. Jesus claimed if they perservere to the end, they will be saved.

God was transitioning mankind from the old covenant, with animal sacrifices and Levitical laws, to the age of the new covenant, with bread and wine and sacraments. The destruction of the temple signified the end of the old covenant, the end of the age. From that point on, God's glory did not dwell in the temple (building), but dwelled in the temple (body of Christ). It was the end of the age.

Matt 24:14-19 - And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come. "When you see the desolating abomination spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, a person on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house, a person in the field must not return to get his cloak. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days.

During those 40 years, the apostles and disciples did preach the gospel throughout the empire. Then the end came.

Jesus warned all Christians when they see the abomination of desolation spoken by Daniel standing in the holy place, they must flee. Do not hesitate. Do not turn back to get your personal belongings. You do not have time. Flee to the hills.

Note--Jesus can not be speaking of the end of time. When Jesus comes the second time, you won't be able to escape anything by fleeing to the mountains.

Daniel Chapter 12 prophesied about the destruction of the temple by the Romans. Therein Daniel describes the "desolating abomination" as being similar to the desolating abomination performed by the Syrian king in 1 Macc 1:54. The Syrian king erected a statute of Zeus within the Holy of Holies in the temple.

Matt 24:20-22 - Pray that your flight not be in winter or on the sabbath, for at that time there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect they will be shortened.

Again, at Jesus' second coming, it won't matter if it is winter or summer, Saturday or Sunday. At the second coming, it is all over--the end of time has arrived. Here, Jesus is speaking of the end of the age, not the end of time.

In 70 A.D., the conquering Roman army intended to punish the Jews as severely as possible. They erected statues of their gods in the Holy of Holies and offered sacrifices to these statues, knowing this would completely defile the Jewish temple.

That was the sign. All Christians knew of Jesus' prediction and took to the hills as soon as this happened. The historian Eusebius reported the Christians fled to Pella, across the Jordan. Thereafter, the Romans burned and demolished the temple, then slaughtered or starved over one million Jews who defiantly remained in Jerusalem too long. Reportedly, not one Christian was harmed.

Matt 24:23-28 - If anyone says to you then, 'Look, here is the Messiah!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. So if they say to you, 'He is in the desert,' do not go out there; if they say, 'He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Jesus tells his followers that the return of the Son of Man will be a cosmic event. It will be plain for all to see. Just as you can see lightning all the way from the east to the west, so will Jesus' return be obvious. They are not to take anyone's word for it, they will see for themselves.

Acts 1:9-11 - When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

After Jesus' ascension, the angel told the onlookers He will return in the same way he ascended.

Matt 24:29-31 - "Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Jesus pulls from Old Testament imagery to make His point here. Isaiah said the sun, moon and stars would be darkened on the destruction of Babylon (Is 13:10). Ezekiel said God will make the stars dark, moon without light, and the sun blocked by clouds (Ezek 32:7). Those who recognize the language used by the prophets of old would see that Jesus was using prophetic apocalyptic language describing the destruction of the city.

The temple was the cosmos in miniature. It was constructed to resemble parts of the earth. There was an outer court resembling the sea. The sea was a symbol of the Gentiles, as that is from where they came. The inner court resembled the land, the promised land, and thus symbolized the Jews. The innermost region was the Holy of Holies, which symbolized God. This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and no person could enter, except the High priest, and even then, only on the Day of Atonement. The ceiling of the temple resembled the sky, complete with sun, moon and stars. The miniature cosmos, the temple, was destroyed. The sun, moon and stars shown on the ceilings fell from the sky. All the twelve tribes of Israel mourn A Jewish historian, Josephus, reported a sign resembling a sword appeared in the sky above Jerusalem even as Rome attacked. A sword is shaped like a cross. Christians who were cross-centered would have seen this and recegnized it as the sign of the Son of Man appearing in Heaven.

When the Lord passes judgement on a city or country, prophets use language like "Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt" (Is 19:1). When a king came to judge his subjects, it was said he would come upon the clouds with power and great glory. This is why the high priest, Ciaphas, tore his robes and shouted "blasphemy" when Jesus declared he would see the Son of Man coming in the clouds in glory. Jesus just told Ciaphas he would be judged by the Son of Man. Just so, when Jesus tells his disciples in Matt 24 the tribes of the earth will see "the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory", He is saying a judgement is about to occur.

Matt 24:32-34 - "Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

See also Luke 17:23-37, 21:5-32 and Mark 13:1-37 for comparable discourses

Jesus said that generation would not pass away until all this took place. In the Bible, one generation is 40 years, and it took place in 70 A.D. Yet again, Jesus can not be speaking of the end of time since no more than one generation would pass away until all these things have taken place.

The Second Coming

That answered the first question about when the destruction of the temple would occur, and the last question about what the sign would be of the end of the age. Jesus then turned to answering the question of what would be the sign of His second coming.

Matt 24:35-36 - Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

Your first clue Jesus is now speaking of the end of time is the first sentence. He speaks of cosmic events (Heaven and Earth will pass away), not of the destruction of the temple. The second clue is the second sentence. Jesus states no one will know when this will occur. He stated previously the temple would be destroyed within one generation. His second-coming could come at any time.

If anyone ever tries to tell you they know when Jesus will return, they are claiming to be more knowledgable than the angels and Jesus Himself. Jesus says here, quite plainly, no one knows except God, the Father.

Matt 24:37-42 - For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

In the days of Noah, the evildoers on Earth were taken up by the flood. Noah and his family were left behind. So it will be when the Son of Man returns. The evildoers will be taken away. The chosen ones will be left behind. Then, all those who are left behind will meet the Lord in the air, as we shall see.

Matt 24:43-44 - Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

Jesus says to stay awake and be prepared. You do not know when He will come.

Matt 24:45-51 - "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is long delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

If you serve God and care for your charge, you will be ready when Jesus returns. If you are taken in by the treasures of this world, you will lose your treasures in Heaven when Jesus comes on a day you are not prepared.

The Parousia

Parousia is from the Greek word meaning the official visit of a ruler to a city. After conquering a city, the victor would demand allegience from the survivors and execute those who refuse. Then the victor would go off to conquer other lands, or return home. Eventually, the ruler would return to check on his subjects. The ruler would send emissaries ahead to announce his coming, called his parousia, and the people of the town would venture out to greet the ruler and escort him back into the city.

We saw this when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. When His followers in Jerusalem heard He was coming, they went out of the city to greet Him, and escort Him into Jerusalem.

1 Thess 4:13-17 - We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.

There was some confusion in the Thessalonian community. What of those friends and relatives who have already died; would they not participate in the second coming? Paul made it clear for them that they need not worry; the dead in Christ would rise first, then those who have not yet died will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air. All would then escort Jesus back to earth--just like a parousia. From this, the word 'parousia' became synonymous the second coming of Christ.

2 Tim 3:1-5 - But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power.

Paul describes signs that will appear in the last days.

Matt 25: 31-46 - "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

This parable describes the general judgment that will take place at the end of time. Jesus will come in glory with all His angels to judge the living and the dead.

2 Thess 2:1-2 - We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a "spirit," or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.

Again, there is unrest in Thessalonica. Rumors were spreading that Paul announced the Day of the Lord was already come. Paul said no such thing and had to quelsh the rumors.

2 Thess 2:3-12 - Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god-do you not recall that while I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. But the one who restrains is to do so only for the present, until he is removed from the scene. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord (Jesus) will kill with the breath of his mouth and render powerless by the manifestation of his coming, the one whose coming springs from the power of Satan in every mighty deed and in signs and wonders that lie, and in every wicked deceit for those who are perishing because they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved. Therefore, God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned.

Paul reminded them of the signs that were to occur before the second coming, the signs Paul himself told them in a previous visit. The apostasy comes first wherein the lawless one, the Anti-Christ, claims to be a god, and indeed, the spirit of lawlessness is already at work. This Anti-Christ is the one whose coming springs from the power of Satan. He will have mighty deeds, and will show signs and wonders, but it is all a lie. Those who have not accepted the faith will be deceived, and thereby condemned. The Lord will overcome this one at His coming.

2 Thess 2:13-15 - But we ought to give thanks to God for you always, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth. To this end he has (also) called you through our gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.

But, the Thessalonians will be saved because they believe the gospel taught by Paul. Paul concludes by admonishing them to hold fast to the traditions they were taught, by mouth or by letter.

1 Cor 15:20-24 - But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.

Ultimately, at His coming, Jesus will hand over the kingdom to God, the Father. Thus, at the Parousia, Jesus will have destroyed every authority and power.

Parting Comments

Jesus will come a second time to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him. The "end of the age" is not the same as the "end of time". The end of the age refers to the end of the old covenant; when God will no longer require animal sacrifices and Levitical rules. The end of time refers to the end of the earthly existence as we know it; when Jesus comes again to hand over the kingdom to the Father, and we enter into eternal existence. On that Day of the Lord, the dead in Christ would rise first, then those who have not yet died will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air. All would then escort Jesus back to earth--just like a parousia.


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