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Bible Q

What is the Parousia?

Parousia is a common Greek word for the arrival of an individual.

The term occurs only twice in the Greek Old Testament (2 Maccabees 8:12 and 15:21), but is used 24 times in the New Testament. 7 of these concern the arrival of individuals; Paul (2 Corinthians 10:10, Philippians 1:26, 2:12), Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17), Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6, 7) and the “coming of the lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:9), while 16 of these refer to the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28) and the final 24th use of the word refers to the “coming of the Day of God” (2 Peter 3:12).

In some Christian theological texts the term parousia may sometimes be applied to other forms of ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’ of Christ than his return to the earth, although as this is not the way the word is used in the New Testament this usage is limited.

The parousia and Jehovah’s Witnesses

The term Parousia is sometimes used in connection with the teaching of Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942), who introduced into Jehovah’s Witnesses a new teaching concerning an invisible parousia of Christ in 1914, after Christ failed to appear at the date set by the church’s founder.

Visible parousia – as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west

The idea of an invisible or secret coming is contradicted by Christ himself:

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming (Greek parousia) of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.  “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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:23-31)

Other references to Christ’s coming also show that it will not be secret or invisible.

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