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Word Study on "Parousia"

("Parousia" is a Greek word meaning "personal presence" and relates to the Second Coming)

Its Greek To Me!

Parousia is a Greek word used 24 times in the New Testament to mean "coming, arrival, personal presence". It is most often used to indicate the second coming and the arrival of the Son of Man though it can also indicate a visit by a Christian worker, apostle or even the "man of lawlessness" . In the Greek world of the New Testament it meant among other things a) A State visit or b) The presence or appearance of a deity during worship e.g. by divine fire. It has a range of meaning to that of the archaic English word "visitation". Here is a definition from Strong's concordance:


3952. parousia, par-oo-see'-ah; from the pres. part. of G3918; a being near, i.e. advent (often, return; spec. of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked); (by impl.) phys. aspect:--coming, presence.

There are six uses of the word to describe a visit by a person or their personal "presence" (1 Cor 16;17; 2Cor6:6, 2Cor 6;7; 2Cor 10:10; Phil 1:26; 2:12) this combination of "arrival" plus "personal presence" gives the flavor to the word even when it is being used theologically. The Parousia of Jesus Christ is both His arrival and the manifestation of His "presence" to all mankind. We shall concentrate on this aspect for the rest of the word study.

Jesus' use of "parousia"

The word is only used 4 times in the gospels - all in Matthew chapter 24 the "Little Apocalypse" when Jesus discusses the signs of His coming. The references are Matthew 24:3, 27, 37 and 39. In verse 3 the disciples ask "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming,( parousia) and of the end of the age? Jesus then replies:

(Matthew 24:27 NKJV) "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

(Matthew 24:37-39 NKJV) "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be. {38} "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, {39} "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming (parousia)of the Son of Man be.

Jesus emphasis is that His return will be sudden and surprising. It will be as sudden as a lightning flash and it will catch a preoccupied and self-centered world quite unawares. It is pre-eminently a sudden dramatic divine intervention in history for salvation of the elect and judgment of those who have rejected God's rulership over their lives.

Parousia as the hope and goal of the Christian life

The apostles seem to have had a single minded devotion to the return of the Lord. As a child I waited for Christmas with single-minded tenacity, wanting to be good and to be rewarded for it. And Christmas seemed such a long way away each year. But it was certain and it was wonderful. This is a pale but accurate reflection of the apostolic hope which was a certain hope of a glorious reward. There are 11 main passages and they can be grouped under four headings:

i. Resurrection and blessing 1 Cor 15:23, 1 Thess 4:15,

(1 Corinthians 15:23 NKJV) But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.
(1 Thessalonians 4:15 NKJV) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

ii. Holiness /Christian character 1 Thess 2:19,3:13,5:23, 1 John 2:28

(1 Thessalonians 2:19 NKJV) For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
(1 Thessalonians 3:13 NKJV) so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23 NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 John 2:28 NKJV) And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

iii. The destruction of the wicked 2 Thess 2:8,9 2 Peter 3:12

(2 Thessalonians 2:8-9 NKJV) And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. {9} The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
(2 Peter 3:12 NKJV) looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

iv. The patient endurance of the saints 2 Thess 2:1, James 5:7,8; 2Peter 3:4

(2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NKJV) Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, {2} not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
(James 5:7-8 NKJV) Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. {8} You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
(2 Peter 3:3-4 NKJV) knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, {4} and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."

For the Christian the Second Coming will be a joyous royal visit. It is "The day" for which we strain forward with eager anticipation. For the wicked it will be when God arrives in fire and declares His personal Presence to a rebellious world which will then be under the deception and dominion of a man of lawlessness inspired by Satan . This man of lawlessness will be destroyed and God's Kingdom rulership declared. Christians will be gathered up to be with God and resurrected from the dead to receive an eternal reward. The elements will melt with the heat and the universe as we know it will perish. This is also the only day that matters for the Christian - it is the day for which we are keeping ourselves holy, pure and blameless. It is the end of the race when we receive the prize. If we abide in Christ we will have no reason to be ashamed on that day.(1 John 2:28) The manifest Presence of God will re-order all Creation and we are to wait for this with patient and certain expectation similar to that of a farmer waiting for his crop to mature. We are not to be like the mockers who deride the second coming as due to God being tardy or non-existent. Rather we are to "hasten the day" this may mean that we are to engage in mission for it is when the gospel has been preached to all the nations that the end will come and this, in Matthew 24 is the pre-eminent sign Jesus gave of His coming. (Matthew 24:14 NKJV) "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.


Jesus warns of a sudden end to this age that will be as final as the closing and locking of a door.(Matthew 25:1-13) He meant this to give an urgency to our days so that we would not be caught up in serving our appetites rather than our God. While most Christians agree that the end of this age may soon be upon us few are living diligently in the light of that information. As Christians we should cease arguing over trivial details of eschatology and start living as if it was true. This means that we should:

a. Live holy lives abiding in Christ (1 John2:28) and perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)

b. Rejoice in hope knowing that we have a Savior who will certainly appear and all our work for Christ will not be in vain but abundantly rewarded. ( 1 Cor 15:58)

c. Be alert to the various deceptions that Satan will launch against the church in those days. (2 Thess 2:8,9; Matthew 24:11)

d. Engage in radical simplicity knowing that all our material possessions will be just fuel for the fire on that day. (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:10-14,)

e. Be awake to God not "asleep in the light". (Matthew 25:1-13) This means we are to have a sense of perpetual readiness and anticipation and in constant spiritual growth. The attitude that "I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back is "foolishness" and imperils the joy that the believer can enter into.

f. Wait patiently for the coming of the Lord without giving in to skepticism about the apparent delay(James 5:7-8, 2Peter 3:3-4) or alarmist panic (2 Thess 2:1,2) concluding that He has already come.

g. Hasten the day by engaging in world mission and Kingdom activity. (Matthew 6:33, 24:14, 2 Peter3:12)

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.