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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Parousia

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PAROUSIA. The ‘appearance,’ Advent , or Second Coming of Christ at the end of ‘this age’ in order to establish His Kingdom.

1. Origin of the expectation . The Messianic interpretation given to Jesus by the Apostles was essentially eschatological. No one of them understood Him to be engaged in the work of establishing the Kingdom of God during the period culminating in His death. He was the Christ in the sense that ( a ) He was anointed (empowered) by God to deliver men; ( b ) He was gathering and preparing men for His Kingdom; ( c ) He died and rose to manifest the Justice and love of God, and thus save those who accepted Him as Christ; ( d ) He would return to conquer Satan, judge both the living and the dead, and establish His Kingdom either in heaven or on a renewed earth. How far we are to believe that this view was held or countenanced by Jesus Himself will he determined by the view taken as to the authorship of Mark 13:1-37 and other apocalyptic sections of the Synoptic Gospels. At this point Christain scholars are divided into three groups: first, those who believe that Jesus was thoroughly in sympathy with the eschatological views of His contemporaries; second, those who hold that He rejected those views, and that the eschatological sayings attributed to Him are the result of reading back into His word the admitted eschatological expectation of the Apostles and the early Church as a whole. There seems little likelihood at present of agreement between these two groups, for the reason that the second group uses as critical criteria dogmatic or highly subjective presuppositions concerning Jesus. The nearest approach to a compromise view is to be found in the position of the third group, who hold that Jesus to some extent utilized the eschatology of His day, but that His references have been developed and made specific by the Evangelists. However these larger questions may be answered, an impartial criticism and exegesis can hardly deny that Jesus referred to His future in terms which, if interpreted literally, would mean His return in judgment (cf. particularly Mark 14:61-68 , Matthew 23:37-39 ). As to the exact time at which He expected His return we have no information, except such sayings as Mark 8:34-38 [ Matthew 16:24-28 , Luke 9:23-27 show influence of Apostolic interpretation] and Luke 17:22 .

2. Expectation in the early Church. The elements in the expectation of the Parousia found in the Gospels and in the Epistles can be formulated without serious difficulty. It was expected within the lifetime of the writers (except 2 Peter 3:3-9 ): 1 Thessalonians 4:15 , 1 Corinthians 15:51 f.; or immediately: James 5:8 , Philippians 4:5 , Romans 13:11 , 1Co 7:29 , 1 Peter 4:7 . The exact day is, however, not known ( 1 Thessalonians 5:2 ), but will be preceded by sorrows and the appearance of Antichrist ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8 ) and the conversion of the Jews ( Romans 11:25-26 ). The order of events awaited is the descent of Jesus with His angels from the upper heavens to the lower; the sounding of the trumpet and the voice of the archangel which will summon the dead from Sheol; the giving to the saints of the body of the resurrection; the catching up of the living saints, who have been changed in the twinkling of an eye, to meet Jesus and the risen saints in the air; the general judgment of both living and dead; the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, which, after a period of struggle, is to be victorious over the kingdom of Satan; and finally the fixing of the eternal supremacy of God. Among certain Christians this view was further elaborated, so that the appearance of Christ in the sky was followed by the resurrection of the martyrs, a thousand years of peace, during which Satan was to be bound, then the conquest of Satan, the general resurrection, and the establishment of the final conditions of eternity. This latter view, however, although popular in the 2nd cent., does not appear in the NT except in Revelation 20:2-7 (see Millennium). It easily passed over into the sensuous chiliastic views which were finally rejected from the main current of Christian thought largely through the influence of Augustine, but which have continued to exist among different sects or groups of Christians.

3. Various identifications of the Parousia. ( a ) With Christ’s resurrection . Such a view, however, disregards many of the elements of the NT expectation, and has never been widely accepted. ( b ) The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost a view commonly held by those who reject the literalistic interpretation of the apocalyptic elements of the NT, and identify the influence of the risen Jesus in the world with the Holy Spirit. This view makes such passages as John 14:23 ; John 16:7 ff. the exegetical point of approach to the entire question. ( c ) The destruction of Jerusalem . This is generally combined with ( b ) and said to be forecast in Mark 13:1-37 and Mark 14:61-63 . ( d ) The theory of the successive comings of the Christ in judgment . Thus various historical crises, such as the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Roman Empire, are regarded as due to the immediate influence of the Christ and as a part of the new dispensation of the Spirit. ( e ) The death of the believer a view exegetically untenable. ( f ) The historical-critical view sees in the expectations of the NT Christianity survivals of Jewish eschatology. Such a view does not deny an element of truth in the expectation, but regards the belief as due to the attachment to Jesus of Jewish expectations (cf. Eth. Enoch 48) now seen to be impossible of realization.

The view probably most generally held at the present time involves elements from several of these specific explanations, and is to the effect that, while the Apostles doubtless expected the eschatological cataclysm to occur in their day, they saw the future in prophetic rather than historical perspective. As a consequence the Second Coming with its attendant events is still to be expected. At different times men have endeavoured by the interpretation of the Book of Daniel to determine the precise date at which it will occur; but among those who still await a literal appearance of Christ in the air it is usual to regard the Parousia as likely to occur immediately, or at any time during an indefinite future period.

Shailer Mathews.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Parousia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/p/parousia.html. 1909.

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