The following is a theme-study I did for a class at Biblical Seminary on the New Testament term parousia:
Jesus’ disciples pose an interesting question to Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming [parousia], and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3 NAS)? Jesus speaks of his parousia as a monumental event. He states, “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man be” (v. 27), and “will be just like the days of Noah…they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man be” (vv. 37, 39).
Other New Testament writers mention Christ’s parousia. Paul is one of the main contributors to one’s understanding of the subject. Firstly, the parousia brings hope. Paul speaks of the order of the final resurrection, “…Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23; cf. 1 Ths. 4:15). Paul asks believers, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Ths. 2:19 NIV)? The parousia provides hope, but Paul reminds Christians that it also calls them to lives of holiness, when he states, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23 NAS; cf. 3:13).
Third, Paul uses parousia to address false teaching. In the midst of explaining “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” (2 Ths. 2:1) and Christ’s slaying of the “lawless one” (v. 8), he extorts the church in Thessalonica to not be swayed by false teaching, which has claimed that the day of the Lord already took place (v. 2). Thus, for Paul, parousia carries a three-fold understanding, that is, a message of hope, call to holiness, and rejecting false teaching.
The other writers remind Christians that they must be patient as they wait for the parousia. Peter builds his reputation on his eyewitness account of the first parousia of Christ (2 Pt. 1:16), and, as many ask today, the early church was confronted with the question about the second parousia, “Where is the promise of His coming” (3:4)? Peter reminds his readers to be patient as the Lord has been patient with them (3:8-9). James says something similar, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord…be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (5:7-8), and John urges his readers to remain in Christ “so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).
Therefore, Christ’s parousia is mostly used for his Second Coming and provides the Church with a multidimensional reminder. Firstly, Christians must continue to be prepared for the parousia of Christ since it will come quickly, as Jesus himself mentioned. The New Testament writers remind the Church in all eras to be ready by remaining holy and not easily swayed by false teaching. Secondly, the parousia provides hope to all Christians everywhere. There is nothing in this world that can provide hope to the lame, poor, blind, homeless, disenchanted, and persecuted like that of the parousia. Lastly, although Christians might be anxious to make bold and whimsical predictions about the parousia, the New Testament writers remind all believers that patience must be the primary response to Christ’s coming. The parousia is used in the Scriptures for a variety of reasons, and the Church must remain in prayer and the biblical text to reap the benefits of this multidimensional reminder.