Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1175 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Time of the Parousia Defines the Nature of the Parousia

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Delivered 07/16/23

Good morning, Bereans. We are continuing our study of 2 Thessalonians and today we begin chapter 2. Paul brought to a conclusion the introduction to the letter, which included the thanksgiving and the proclamation of the revelation of the Lord and his judgment (vv. 3–10), followed by a prayer for the church (vv. 11–12). The new section he now begins introduces the eschatological and moral themes that constitute the body of the letter (2:1–3:16).

Verses 1-12 contain truth about eschatology that is revealed nowhere else in Scripture as well as some familiar truth. There is a myriad of interpretations of these 12 verses which demonstrates that there is much confusion about what Paul is talking about. One of the main problems is that there is a lack today of exegetical historical research when it comes to the text of Scripture.

G.K. Beal explains it this way:

A significant shift in all levels of education has occurred over the past century: a slow but sure downgrading in the academic core content of curricula and quality in the training of teachers. The Christian subculture has not been immune to this broader "dumbing down" influence. Most seminary curricula have been affected, so that there is a snowballing effect in which the church is influenced not only by the wider culture but also by inadequately trained pastors. When there is less of a focus on the content of the Bible in seminary education and in the church, then the church becomes fertile ground for the seeds of false teaching—and we know there are numerous false teachings sprouting up in churches today.

With that in mind let's look at our text for today.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV

The word "now," is "de" in the Greek. It marks the move to a new subject. It's a transition from the beautiful prayer in verses 11 and 12 to the real heart of the letter, the real doctrinal heart—this matter of the Second Coming.

Paul is talking to the Thessalonians about the Second Coming. Here he uses the word Parousia. Let's talk about Parousia. This word is used 24 times in the New Testament. Six of its uses do not refer to Christ. Of the 18 times it is used of the Second Coming, fourteen of them have a time reference such as this generation, the last hour, near, at the door. Four of them have no time reference. There is no mention of the Parousia in the New Testament that is far off, in the distant future, thousands of years away. None! It is always presented as soon or near and quickly to happen.  

In order to explain away the nearness of the Parousia many will turn to.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8 ESV

They'll contend that time doesn't matter to God. In context, Peter is simply teaching that God is a God who keeps His promises. God is not bound by time, but we are! God speaks to us in language that we understand. And when he says "soon," He means soon to the people to whom He is writing. Otherwise, when He says "soon" it means nothing because it could mean a day or a thousand years. Though God is not bound by time, He can tell time. Look at what Balaam says in Numbers 24.

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Numbers 24:17 ESV

Here Balaam the Prophet made a prediction of Christ's coming. He says His coming is "not now or not near." The coming of Christ was not at hand! It was over 1400 years away and that is a long time. Believers, if 1400 years is a long time, could 2,000 plus years be soon? Notice what Daniel is told.

The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now."  Daniel 8:26 ESV

This chapter contains a prophecy that extends from 530 BC to about 165 BC and the death of Antiochus Epiphanes. So, the time covered is about 365 years. And Daniel is told. "It refers to many days from now."

Daniel was told to seal up his vision because the time for its fulfillment was a long time away—365 years. But in Revelation, John was specifically told

Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Revelation 22:10 ESV

So, if to Daniel 365 years was a long time, how can "near" be thousands of years to John?

Seven of the uses of the word Parousia are in the Thessalonian letters. Over a quarter of 1 Thessalonians and nearly half of 2 Thessalonians deal with problems and issues regarding the Parousia of Christ. Second Thessalonians develops the eschatological themes of 1 Thessalonians. It is obvious that the Lord's return was prominent in Paul's mind.

The Parousia involves three synchronous events, and we see all three of them in these two verses.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV

The Parousia—"the coming of our Lord Yeshua"; the Resurrection—"our being gathered together to him"; and the Judgment"the day of the Lord."  At the second coming of Christ the dead were resurrected and the unbelievers were judged.

"Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ""coming" here is the Greek termparousia meaning "presence." The cultural background of the term related to royal visits for which this word was regularly employed. This is a theme that Paul had addressed repeatedly to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; and 2 Thess. 1:7–10; 2:1-2).

Commenting on these verses, Bob Utley writes:

It must be remembered that the whole subject of the return of Christ is presented in the Bible in a dialectical tension. On one hand, the imminent return of the Lord is balanced with several events which must happen first. One of these truths does not eliminate or contradict the other. Some examples of the predicted preliminary events would be: 1. the apostasy, the great tribulation, gospel preached to all nations, revealing of Anti-Christ, salvation of the full number of Gentiles and Jews.

How can the return of Christ be imminent if there are several events that must happen first? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines imminent as "ready to take place: happening soon." It cannot be imminent if there are things that must happen before it can happen. Have we totally given up on logic?

The disciples connected the fall of the Temple, the end of the age, and the Parousia. How could the destruction of the temple be imminent today when there is no temple to destroy?

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Luke 21:20-22 ESV

Christ is talking to real people in the first century. This is referring to the coming of Christ as we see in verse 27.

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21:27-28 ESV

The coming of the Son of man and the destruction of the Temple happens together. So, then, how is it imminent when there is no temple today to be destroyed? Does not the Temple have to be rebuilt so it can be destroyed? But there is a problem. The Temple site is now occupied by the Mosque of Omar (the Dome of the Rock). It is the center of the Muslim worship (the third holiest place in Islam after Mecca and Medina). There is going to have to be a huge Muslim-Israelite war which the Israelites must win. Then they will have to tear down the Mosque in order to rebuild the Temple. Considering the long time frame such events would require, how can His return be considered imminent?

"And our being gathered together to him"—this is a reference to the "resurrection" of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so, through Yeshua, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 ESV

"With the sound of the trumpet of God"—the sounding of trumpets was a cultural way of announcing the approach of royalty in the East (cf. Hebrews 12:18-19). It also functioned as a sign of Divine judgment (Revelation 8:2; 11:15-19, Resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:52) and Gathering of the elect by angels (Matthew 24:31). We see in Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 10:2 that trumpets sounded an assembly of God's people. Here the trumpet of God gathers together God's people.

"The dead in Christ will rise first"—this is the resurrection of the dead. Let me ask you a question. How do we know that this was a spiritual resurrection of bringing the saints into God's presence and not a physical resurrection from the grave? Time defines Nature. We know that the resurrection happened in the first century, in AD 70. Thus, we know that it wasn't physical. Bodies didn't come out of graves in AD 70.

"Being gathered together"—isepisunagoges, "a gathering together, an assembly." Sunagg is the word from which you get synagogue, a gathering place. Epi is intensifying it, the place of our collecting together. This is clearly a reference to the event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Matthew 24.

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 24:31 ESV

The idea of"being caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" is a picture of God's elect being brought into His presence in the Holy of Holies.

The Greek construction here forces us to conclude that he has one event in mind. One event. It is not the coming of the Lord Yeshua the Christ AND our gathering together to Him. Again, it is one event. There is a single definite article and it ties them together. Hogg and Vine write, "The Greek has one article with both nouns indicating that the 'coming' and 'our gathering to Him' are complementary elements of one event. [C. F. Hogg and W. E. Vine, The Epistles To The Thessalonians With Notes Exegetical and Expository, Pickering & Inglis, London, 1914, p. 242.]

Despite this, David Guzik writes: "The wording here implies a difference between the coming and our gathering. This strongly suggests that there are essentially two comings of Jesus. One coming is for His church (as described clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18), and the other coming is with His church, to judge a rebellious world."

G.K. Beal refutes this saying:                                                        

Those who hold to the pretribulation rapture say that "the coming" (Parousia) of Christ in verse 1 refers to the pretribulation rapture, but the same word in verse 8 refers to His second coming after the tribulation. The burden of proof is on them to explain why Paul without explanation would use the same word in the same context to refer to two separate events (G. K. Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians [IVP Academic], p. 198).

"We ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed""Quickly"—is the Greektacheos ("quickly, hastily, soon"). Paul was apparently surprised that so soon after he had talked to them about these things, they exhibited so much confusion, fear, and speculation and seemed to have readily accepted other  opinions on this subject.

"Shaken in mind"—issaleuo, which means "to agitate, shake, unsettle, cause to waver." It is a present passive infinitive which speaks of a continuing occurrence by an outside agent. It was used of moving away from something, like a ship which was suddenly torn away from her moorings by strong winds and waves. Paul used the aorist tense with the verb "shaken" but changed to the present tense with the verb, "alarmed."

Psalm 16: 7-8 (Greek Old Testament) states that David would not be "shaken" (the same Greek word as here) because he constantly listened to and heeded God's Word.

"Either by a spirit or a spoken word or a letter"—each claim is preceded by the Greek,mete ("and not" or "neither … nor"). This suggests that those who were bothering the church with the false information were making three distinct claims as to its source.

1. "A spirit" (pneumatos)used in the sense of a prophet's message or another supernatural revelation. 1 John 4:1 relates pneuma with anti-Christ.

2. "A spoken word"—the term "word" is logos which in a variety of contexts can refer to a message preached, a teaching, or a discourse. It could refer to someone's personal interpretation. It is distinguished from the claim to a spirit of prophecy or divine revelation. It may have been just someone's opinion.

3. "Or a letter"—some had evidently forged a letter claiming it was from Paul and his associates, but it was in direct contradiction to what they had taught them. Some writers see this as a reference to a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Paul's previous letter; but in view of Paul's comment "Seeming to be from us," this seems unlikely. Paul began to personally autograph his letters to ensure their genuineness.

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 2 Thessalonians 3:17 ESV

What is Paul saying here? If you've got something else and it doesn't look like this, I didn't write it.

What was this false teaching that was coming to them in these different forms?

"To the effect that the day of the Lord has come"—"has come" is from enistēmi which means "has come." Some commentators do cartwheels around trying to make it mean something else. It cannot. It simply means they believed that it had come, had arrived, and, therefore, it was actually there. They were in the Day of the Lord. It had arrived and they were in it. Morris writes, "The verb does not really mean to be at hand, but rather to be present." The Greek commentator Dean Alford translates the passage, "To the effect that the day of the Lord is present; not, 'is at hand': the verb used here occurs six times in the New Testament, and always in the sense of being present; in two of those places, Romans 8:38, 1 Corinthians 3:22, the things present are distinguished expressly from the things to come." The Thessalonians were not afraid that the day of Christ was coming but that they were in it.

Some have sought to take, "is present" to mean "is imminent," but the consistent meaning of the Greekenistemi in past tenses is "be present, have come." [Bauer, Gingrich, Danker] This is especially true of the perfect used here. Paul is not denying the imminency of the day of the Lord, rather, he is rejecting its presence.

Beal writes: "It is appropriate to speak of the end-times as having been inaugurated but not yet consummated, but for Paul the actual phrase the day of the Lord always refers to the consummation of the latter days (e. g., 1 Cor 1: 8; 5: 5; 2 Cor 1: 14)."

He goes on to say, "2 Thessalonians 2:8 suggests that the day of the Lord is equivalent to Christ's final coming, since Christ's parousia there occurs right on the heels of the revelation of the lawless one, which is best understood as an end-time event."

What is the traditional view of the Day of the Lord? If you asked the average Christian what is the Day of the Lord what would he say?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV

Most Christians would say that this is the end of the world as we know it. They claim that it is the destruction of the physical heavens and earth that is to happen in our future. But if it is referring to the end of the world, and heaven and earth have not yet passed away, shouldn't the Mosaic Law still be in effect?

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 ESV

If the passing away of heaven and earth is the end of the world, then the Law should still be in effect. This would mean that all 613 commandments in the Torah must be followed until the cataclysmic end of the world. It means Jews should be sacrificing lambs on the alter. Are they? No. They haven't sacrificed an animal in Judaism since AD 70.  If heaven and earth have not passed away, then the Law of Moses is still in force. But most believers today would say that it obviously has not passed away because the earth has not been burnt up; the elements have not melted.

Modern Christians come up with an end-of-the-world scenario because they are so unfamiliar with the first three-fourths of the Bible and the meaning of terms found there. They, therefore, take that same language literally when they find it in the New Testament. All of the language that Yeshua and the writers of the New Testament use comes from the Hebrew Scriptures. It is unfortunate that those writings are referred to as the "Old Testament." The Mosaic Covenant is OLD in that it was replaced by the NEW. But the first three-quarters of our Bible are not OLD. That term too often suggests that that portion of God's Word has been replaced or is irrelevant. It should not be called OLD. It is essential to understanding the NT because everything taught there comes from the Jewish Tanakh. Paul said:

To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: Acts 26:22 ESV

Notice carefully what Paul is saying here. He said that He was,"saying nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said would come to pass." Everything he preached came from the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore, if you want to understand Paul or any New Testament writer, you MUST understand the first three-quarters of our Bible.

If you are not familiar with the apocalyptic language of the Scriptures, you will not understand what Peter is saying here. If you approach the New Testament's apocalyptic language without recognizing it for what it is and do not know how to deal with its tone, images, and symbols, you are sure to go astray.

Now think with me on this. If the Thessalonians thought the Day of the Lord was the end of the world and the destruction of the physical heavens and earth, how could they have thought that it had already happened? Does that make any sense?

not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ESV

This verse shatters the paradigm that views the Second Coming as the fiery destruction of the whole earth. Do you see that? If the Thessalonians believed the modern view that the nature of the Second Coming was to involve an earth-burning, total destruction of the planet, how could they have been deceived about its arrival? Why wouldn't Paul have written them and said, "Look out the window, the earth is still here, so the Lord has obviously not come." They thought it had already happened, so they must have viewed the nature of the Second Coming differently than most folks today view it. They must have viewed it as a spiritual event. They thought it happened but there was no physical evidence of it. Throughout the Scriptures we see that Time Defined Nature.

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28 ESV

"But if… then the kingdom of God has come upon you"—this is a first-class conditional sentence, assumed to be true by the author for his literary purposes. Yeshua asserted that His exorcisms demonstrated that His Messianic power proved the arrival of the new age of the Spirit!

But if I, by the Spirit of God, cast out the demons, then the Kingdom of God has already come to you. Matthey 12:28 Literal Standard Version

Now, if the kingdom of God had come in the first century, then it should be clear that the nature of the kingdom was spiritual. Time defines nature. Yeshua said that the kingdom "has come" (TIME).  Therefore, the NATURE of his kingdom must be spiritual. I think that Yeshua tried to stress this point by saying that the kingdom did not come with observation.

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." Luke 17:20-21 ESV

The spiritual nature of the kingdom is easy to understand if you see that the kingdom is the church. The Kingdom and the Church are synonymous. The two words are used as synonyms in Matthew 16:18-19.

Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28 ESV

The word "receiving" is from the Greek wordparalambano, and it is in the present tense, showing progression. The kingdom was being brought into its fullness during the first century by progression.

Now, if the kingdom of God had come in the first century, then it should be clear that the nature of the kingdom was spiritual. Time defines nature. Yeshua said that the kingdom "has come" (TIME). Therefore, the NATURE of his kingdom must be spiritual.

The nature of the kingdom that Christ preached was entirely contrary to that which the Jews anticipated. The Jews anticipated a complete usurping of the empire of Rome.

having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; Acts 24:15 YLT

The words "there is about to be" are the Greek wordmello. Whenevermello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated "about to." Paul told his first-century audience that"there is about to be a resurrection."

If we are going to understand what Paul is saying about the resurrection, we must understand "audience relevance." Paul is not talking to us; he is talking to Felix, Ananias, Tertullus, and the elders in the first century. Paul told them that there was about to be a resurrection. So, if the timing of the resurrection was "soon," what does this tell us about the nature of the resurrection? It must be spiritual! Time defines nature.

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:23 ESV

Clearly, then, if the resurrection was to happen at the Parousia and the Parousia was to happen soon, in the first century, then the resurrection was also to happen soon. As Paul said, it was about to happen.

We can see several things about the resurrection beliefs of the early Christians from the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus.

and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:17-18 ESV

The early Christians must have believed that the resurrection would be spiritual in nature, and, therefore, not subject to confirmation by any physical evidence. If the early Christians had believed that the resurrection would involve the physical bodies coming out of the graves, as is taught today, Hymenaeus and Philetus could never have convinced anyone that the resurrection had already happened.

They also must have believed that life on earth would go on with no material change after the resurrection. They didn't believe that they would be on a renovated planet earth as a consequence of the resurrection. Otherwise, the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus would have been impossible. No one would have paid any attention to them.

The reason that their teaching that the resurrection had already happened was overthrowing the faith of some was that it postulated a consummation of the spiritual kingdom while the earthly Temple in Jerusalem still stood. This was a mixture of Law and grace. This destroyed the faith of some by making the works of the Law a part of the New Covenant.

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34 ESV

Yeshua said that the Parousia would happen in the generation to whom he was speaking. So, if the Parousia happened in the first century, it must have been a spiritual coming.

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ESV

Paul tells them that some of them would be alive at the coming of the Lord. That would be a first-century coming which would make it spiritual and not a physical coming on a cloud.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, Revelation 17:1 ESV

This is the wrath of God poured out on Jerusalem in AD 70. We are told in the first three verses of the book and the last sixteen verses that everything prophesied in the book was to happen soon to the first-century readers. The TIME of the judgment was soon, so the NATURE of the judgment was spiritual. It was a judgment of Old Covenant Judaism. The removal of the old heaven and earth.

not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ESV

A major textual variant in this verse provides the options of either the day of Christ or the 'Day of the Lord'. Because there is better and older manuscript evidence, because the context involves Divine judgment, and because Paul argues that they cannot be in the Day of the Lord (2:3–12), then the Day of the Lord rather than the Day of Christ is the best alternative.

The Day of the Lord is an event that happens between the two ages, it happened between "this age" and "the age to come."  Zechariah 14 teaches us that the "Day of the Lord" and the destruction of Jerusalem were connected. So, the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the Day of the Lord, marked the end of one age, the Jewish age, and the beginning of the new age, the Christian age of the New Covenant. To put it simply "the day of the Lord" is a time of judgment on Israel; it is the end of the Old Covenant age.

The various references to "the day of the Lord" in the Tanakh referred to various nations that Yahweh was judging, but all the references in the New Testament are to that "day of the Lord" which came in A. D. 70 when the nation Israel was destroyed. The phrase "The day of the Lord," therefore, in 2 Thessalonians 2, refers to God's judgment of the apostate Jewish nation at the end of the age when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman armies. This was the end of the Old Covenant and the consummation of the New Covenant.

Why would the teaching that the Day of the Lord had already come so upset the Thessalonians? It was upsetting them because Paul had promised them relief at the Second Coming, Resurrection, and Judgment.  

since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV

If the Day of the Lord had come, they should have had relief from their persecutors, but they did not. The Day of the Lord was near, but it was still future to them.

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