The "Parousia" and "Epiphany" of the Lord
When the Lord comes to the air, to call His living and sleeping saints around Himself there will be a period, undefined in length, in which the Lord with His glorified saints will remain in heaven, hid from the world. This period and condition, is well described in the Greek word “Parousia,” which is in most places where it occurs, rendered in our English Testament, by the word “coming.” But this does not fully express all that it here conveys to us.
“Coming” refers to the moment of the Lord’s arrival in the air, to call His own to Himself, but the Parousia tells of His continued presence with His glorified saints, and includes the whole period from the moment of their rapture into the heavens to His and their return from these heavens with the angels, in manifested glory to the world. And this is the word used by the Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, 3:13, 5:23, and 1 John 2:28, where things subsequent to the moment of the resurrection of the dead in Christ and change of the living are in view.
It is during this period of the Lord’s “Parousia” in the heavens with His people that the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9) with the manifestation, review of, and rewards for their service here, will take place, and probably also the presentation of the glorified saints, faultless in the presence of His glory (Jude 24). But while this day “of Christ,” as the period is elsewhere designated (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16), proceeds, within the heavens, events down on the earth have been rapidly advancing toward open defiance of God and the final concentration of man’s opposition and hostility toward Christ. Two forms of depravity, already existing even in the days of the Apostles, will, during this period, reach their crisis, and at the advent of the Lord from the heavens, in which He has been hid with His own, during this “parousia” period, will meet their speedy judgment:
(1) apostate religion, leavened, corrupted, and concentrated, until it is found in full development in Babylon the Great, as described in Revelation 17 and 18—and
(2) the full manifestation of THE Antichrist, the Man of Sin, whose agents had long been secretly working (1 John 2:18-19; 2 Thess. 2:7), but unable to reach their full manifestation, because of a Restrainer present in the world for a season (2 Thess. 2:6-7). But this being removed, the full flood-gates of evil burst open, and men who had hardened their hearts against God and His truth, having “pleasure in unrighteousness” are then given over to judicial blindness by God (2 Thess. 2:11-12), and join in the common apostacy against all that is of God, to become confessed devotees of Antichrist and of hell, whose servant he is (Rev. 13:12-15).
And all this combined and concentrated wickedness will have the great world-powers backing it up, and for a time at least co-operating with it. A great “League of Nations” will rise from the lands in which the light of the Gospel had for long ages shone, and in which God’s Name was first owned. And these confederate nations will accept the headship and own as their King, the Anti-christ, who will in all probability at first patronize all religions; and bring into focus what the religious parts of the world are seeking after just now—a universal church, inclusive of all beliefs and all classes and conditions of men, which for a season will serve his purpose well, to carry out his Satanic designs. For this great super-man, whom the whole Gentile world will own as their Ruler, and who will possess the whole authority and craft of the Devil (Rev. 13:2, 14) for purposes of deception, will ultimately demand that his subjects shall worship the Dragon, whose Vicegerent he is, and he will at last claim Divine honours and seat himself in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, to be worshipped as God.
The climax of all this will be, that he will lead on the duped and deceived nations who own him as their king and worship him as their god, to open “war with the Lamb” (Rev. 17:13-14). The massed forces of Europe’s chivalry will be found gathered together in this hopeless conflict, led on by demons (Rev. 16:13-16) who will deceive them by a false hope of victory. But the iniquity of men has at last reached its crisis, the cup of human confederacy in evil has become full. The “raging” nations (Ps. 2:2), with their leaders taking counsel “against the Lord, and His Anointed.” His chosen King already in the Divine Counsel “set” by God upon His Holy Hill (v. 6) will now assert His Divine rights; and break the long silence by speaking “in His wrath,” and vexing these rebels in His sore displeasure. And this He does, by drawing aside the veil that has hid the glorified Christ with His people through the “Parousia” period within the heavens, and as in a lightening flash (Mt. 24:27) bringing His Christ, “His First-begotten again into the world” (Heb. 1:6), not in the lowly form of the Babe of Bethlehem, but clothed in majesty and as described in the vividly descriptive words of Revelation 19:14-20. The hour of the concentrated opposition of the enemies of the Lord becomes the hour of their complete and final defeat, and they perish in a moment at the Epiphany, or forthshining of Christ’s Parousia, which event introduces “the day of the Lord,” and causes a loud wail from earth, to reach the very courts of heaven (Rev. 1:7; 6:15-17).
The Antichrist, the ringleader in this last supreme attempt to seize the throne from God’s appointed King, will be caught red-handed at the head of his army, and at the voice of the Lord (Joel 2:10-11) and by the breath of His mouth (2 Thess. 2:8) he will be brought to nought, and hurled alive with his accomplice into the lake of fire, its first occupants, who go thus without mercy to their final doom, while their deceived followers perish in a moment. Thus the scene is cleared by judgment due and direct from the hand of the Lord from heaven. And then and thus, Christ’s kingdom will be set up and established (Dan. 2:44; 7:26-27).
Article series: Our Glorious LordThe Advent of Christ Glory