“The Nature and Definition of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Coming"
The following three Greek words are used in the New Testament to describe and define the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Parousia, Epiphaneia and Apokalupsis
Jerome’s Latin translation called the Vulgate (5th Century A. D.) was translated from the Greek New Testament and the Greek Old Testament which is called the Septuagint. The Latin Vulgate was the first translation to use the terms rapture and advent.
-rapture: To seize (Lat.) from the Greek harpazo: To catch away
-advent: Arrival (Lat.) from the Greek parousia: An arrival and continuing presence
These two Latin words were not adequate to describe in English the true meaning of the Greek words because they lack the Biblical precision necessary to completely convey the truth. This inadequacy has contributed greatly to the confusion surrounding the return of Christ, its timing and events associated with His Second Coming.
Pre-tribulationists falsely believe in two distinct future comings or advents of Christ. They say that the Greek word parousia translated ‘coming’ I Thessalonians 4:15 and the parousia found in Matthew 24:3 are two different events. They also claim that the I Thessalonians 4:15 parousia is the rapture at the beginning of the so called 'tribulation period', and the Matthew 24:3 parousia refers to the so called 'second advent' at the end of this 'tribulation period'.
Note: Terms such as ‘tribulation period’ or ‘the tribulation’ and ‘second advent’ are not found in word for word translations of Scripture/KJV/NASB/ESV. Therefore, they are not Biblically definitive terms and should not be used in serious Bible study. Daniel’s 70th Week, the great tribulation, the second half of Daniel’s 70th Week and the Day of the Lord/wrath of God encompass the end times periods of trouble/tribulation and judgment. These periods of time must be distinguished and studied according to the Bible’s teaching using these terms. Distinguishing the wrath of Satan (Revelation 12:12) vs. the wrath of God (Revelation 6:17) is where much of the confusion concerning Rapture timing positions originates.
Parousia is a precise, technical Greek word. It refers to Christ's arrival and continuing presence throughout a period of time which begins at the rapture of the Church continuing through the Day of the Lord's final event the battle of Armageddon which is followed by His 1000 year earthly reign called the Millennium. So, it must be understood that parousia is a precise, technical Greek term having the same meaning every time the word is used.
When Jesus comes, He will come [parousia] to rapture the saints (Matthew 24:29-31; I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Then, He will continue to be present throughout the entire Day of the Lord described in Revelation 8-19. Notice, the heavens are rolled back as a scroll in Revelation 6:14 revealing the throne of God to the entire planet just before Jesus comes [parousia] and His Day of the Lord wrath also called ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ begins (Revelation 6:17).
The throne of God may well remain visible throughout this extended time of judgment of the planet and its inhabitants. Notice, the throne of God is mentioned seven times in Revelation 7, once in chapters 8, 12, twice in chapter 14 and then at the completion of His global judgment in Revelation 16:17 when the Lord announces from His throne in heaven: “It is done.” This refers to His global judgment of the planet and its inhabitants
Then, He brings specific judgment upon one entity, “MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:5) utilizing the ten horns/kings/nations (Revelation 17:12-18). However, the Lord’s presence continues throughout this time of supernatural judgment through His Divinely appointed messengers.
On this one occasion, the judgment of Babylon, His agents are ‘The ten horns’. However, throughout the history of mankind and the majority of the Day of the Lord His agents are His angels. The angels deliver the plagues of judgment in the Revelation and are active throughout this time of supernatural wrath from the God of heaven when the earth is convulsing and reeling under His mighty hand.
Then, the heavens open once again (Revelation 19:11) when the Lord Jesus Christ brings destruction upon the Antichrist and his armies as described in the following passage (Revelation 19:11-21). His arrival when He raptures the saints and His continuing presence demonstrated by His supernatural judgments of the earth executed by His angels throughout the Wrath of the Lamb/Day of the Lord underlines and emphasizes the definition of the most used word for His Second Coming [parousia] in the New Testament.
Greek Word Definitions
-Deissman: From the 2nd century B.C. parousia was used to describe an arrival and continuing visit of a king or emperor.
-Reiter: Prior to 1940's parousia, epiphaneia, apokalupsis were all considered technical terms specifying distinct phases of the Lord’s return by pre-tribulationists. Parousia was described as Christ's appearance in the sky to rapture and epiphaneia/apokalupsis referred to the return of Christ following the Great Tribulation.
However, as the following sources indicate, the Pre-tribulationist’s assertions were not founded upon the ages-old accepted definitions of parousia which is cited in Thayers Greek Lexicon. This trustworthy lexicon provides the following information:
Thayers Greek Lexicon (1896)
-Parousia: Presence, coming, arrival, advent-The future visible return from heaven of Jesus, the Messiah, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God
-Epiphaneia: To make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown
-Apokalupsis: To uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up; to disclose, make bare
The first Greek word, parousia, is found in the New Testament twenty-four times. Four times in the Lord’s Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39, fourteen times in Paul’s letters: I Corinthians 15:23, 16:17; II Corinthians 7:6, 7, 10:10; Philemon 1:26, 2:12; I Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23; and II Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9, two times in James 5:7, 8, three times in II Peter 1:16, 3:4, 12 and once in I John 2:28.
The Lord Jesus, James, Peter and John used the word exclusively to indicate the Second Coming while Paul also uses the word to describe the coming of Stephanas, the coming of Titus, his own coming, the coming of the Antichrist and the Second Coming of the Lord. An arrival and continuing presence is the meaning in each of the passages where parousia is found in the Word of God.
The second Greek word, epiphaneia, is used exclusively by Paul on six different occasions. Once in
II Thessalonians 2:8 with the other occurrences recorded in the three Pastoral Epistles: I Timothy 6:14, II Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 8 and Titus 2:13. These references utilizing the word epiphaneia focus upon the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming.
The third Greek word, apokalupsis is a noun appearing eighteen times in the New Testament. The verb form appears twenty-six times but only one of these twenty-six occurrences: “when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:30) refers to the Second Coming of Christ.
However, the noun apokalupsis is used five times (I Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 1:12; II Thessalonians 1:7; I Peter 1:7, 13, 4:13) to indicate the Lord’s return with the emphasis focusing upon the revealing/revelation, unveiling or uncovering of the Lord when He comes.
Therefore, the Word of God clearly utilizes three different Greek words to describe three definite aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. Parousia, the most used Greek word for the Lord’s Second Coming indicates His arrival and continuing presence. Epiphaneia on the other hand emphasizes His glorious manifestation while apokalupsis focuses upon the revealing, unveiling or uncovering of the Lord.
“The unveiling [apokalupsis] and glorious manifestation [epiphaneia] of His coming [parousia] will occur in the clouds.” This simple sentence demonstrates how all three words can be rightly used to define and describe the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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