Two months from today, believers in different parts of the world will celebrate a new holiday known as “Parousia – New Jerusalem Day.” The idea for this holiday came from a friend of mine, Joshua John Trent, who asked me to write about the meaning of the holiday’s name. Joshua is the founder and creator of Iron Scepter Concepts (Los Angeles).
Parousia – New Jerusalem Day will be celebrated on the first Sunday of August (in 2016 that will be August 7th). This is close to August 10th, the day that the famous Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD. While the old temple and the old city of Jerusalem were desolate (Matthew 23:38) and marked for destruction (Matthew 22:7, 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4; Luke 21:5-7), Jesus became the cornerstone of a new temple, God’s dwelling place made up of His people from all nations (Ephesians 2:19-22). New Jerusalem and the new covenant were chosen while old Jerusalem and the old covenant were cast out (Galatians 4:21-31).
Definition of the Word “Parousia”
The word “parousia” (pronounced par-oo-see’-ah) is a Greek word which means “presence.” According to Wikipedia, it also meant “arrival” or “official visit,” and “was used in the East as a technical expression to denote the arrival or visit of a king or emperor, and celebrated the glory of the sovereign publicly.” The word “parousia” appears 24 times in the New Testament. In several instances it is used to speak of the coming or presence of various individuals: Stephanas, Fortunatas, and Achaicus (I Corinthians 16:17); Titus (II Cor. 7:6-7); Paul (II Cor. 10:10; Philippians 1:26, 2:12); and the lawless one (II Thessalonians 2:9).
In the majority of instances (16 times), though, it is used in connection with the promise of Christ’s coming. The Blue Letter Bible shows that this word comes “from the present participle of G3918 [“pareimi”]; a being near, i.e. advent (often, return; specially, of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked); (by implication) physically, aspect:—coming, presence.” I’ll develop this study more below.
“Parousia” Goes Hand-in-Hand with “New Jerusalem.”
Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 is the most detailed description of the New Jerusalem, and there we read that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). We also see that the Lamb, Jesus, is the light of God’s city (Revelation 21:22-24; 22:5). New Jerusalem is filled with the presence (“parousia”) of Jesus; New Jerusalem is His dwelling place.
“Parousia” in the New Testament
Here are the 16 New Testament passages where Christ’s “Parousia” is promised:
- “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).
- “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27).
- “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).
- “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (I Corinthians 15:22-23).
- “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (I Thessalonians 2:19).
- “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (I Thessalonians 3:12-13).
- “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” (I Thessalonians 4:15).
- “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23).
- “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come” (II Thessalonians 2:1-2).
- “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (II Thessalonians 2:8).
- – 12. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7-9).
- “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Peter 1:16).
- “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle… that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (II Peter 3:1-4).
- “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:10-13).
- “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).
Professor and author N.T. Wright explains in a video and in his book, “Surprised by Hope” (2008), the typical use of the word “parousia” in the first century AD (pp. 132-133):
“When the emperor visited a colony or province, the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city. It would be disrespectful to have him actually arrive at the gates as though his subjects couldn’t be bothered to greet him properly. When they met him, they wouldn’t then stay out in the open country: they would escort him royally into the city itself. When Paul speaks of “meeting” the Lord “in the air,” the point is precisely not – as in the popular rapture theology – that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth. The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from. Even when we realize that this is highly charged metaphor, not literal description, the meaning is the same as in the parallel in Philippians 3:20. Being citizens of heaven, as the Phillippians would know, doesn’t mean that one is expecting to go back to the mother city but rather means that one is expecting the emperor to come from the mother city to give the colony its full dignity, to rescue it if need be, to subdue local enemies and put everything to rights” (emphasis added).
More than 100 passages in the New Testament declared that the events of “the last days,” including the Great Tribulation and the coming of Christ, were “near” and about to take place “soon” in the first century. Jesus Himself promised to come before His disciples could go through the cities of Israel (Matthew 10:23). He promised to come  in the glory of His Father  with His angels  in judgment, and  in His kingdom while some of His disciples would still be alive (Matthew 16:27-28). He promised to come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” before His generation would pass away (Matthew 24:30, 34).
Jesus told His disciples that when they would see “all these things” (earthquakes, wars, famines, etc.) promised in the Olivet Discourse, they would know that He “is near, at the very doors” (Matthew 24:33). As we saw above, James declared that Christ’s coming was at hand and that the Judge was standing “at the door” (James 5:8-9). James wrote that nearly 1,950 years ago, and it’s apparent that he saw those things come to pass in his lifetime just as Jesus promised.
John wrote in his first epistle that it was already “the last hour” in his day (I John 2:18). It was the last hour of the old covenant age. His opening words in the book of Revelation declared that the visions he saw “must shortly take place” because the time was “near” (Revelation 1:1, 3). The angel echoed these words at the end of the book (Rev. 22:6, 10) and Jesus declared three times that He was coming quickly (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20).
In summary, “parousia” is a Greek word used repeatedly in the New Testament to describe the first century arrival of Jesus’ presence in the New Jerusalem, and into the kingdom that He established, the corporate body of His followers. His “parousia” (presence) is in our midst today.
Isaiah prophesied that God would create new heavens and a new earth, and “Jerusalem as a rejoicing” (Isaiah 65:17-18). In those days there would still be childbirth, death, building, and planting (65:20-23), i.e. the realities we know and experience today. There would also be joy, peace, satisfaction, glory, and comfort like a mother’s comfort (65:19; 66:10-13).
The apostle Paul also described “the Jerusalem above” as a comforting mother (Galatians 4:26-28). The author of Hebrews told the first century saints that they had already come to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). These two passages, along with the book of Revelation, contrast two covenants (the old and the new), two women (the harlot and the bride), and two cities (old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem):
The New Jerusalem is described by John in Revelation 21:1 – 22:5. In these 32 verses, there are numerous parallel passages in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles described the life of those who follow Christ. In other words, we are the New Jerusalem community right now. In these 32 verses there are also numerous parallel passages in the Old Testament where the prophets looked ahead to this present new covenant age. Here are some of them:
||Description and Parallels
||New Jerusalem is God’s holy city, pictured as a bride. Jesus said His people are a city set on a hill, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). See also Hebrews 12:22-24, Galatians 4:26.
||God dwells with His people, He’s with them, and He’s their God. See Ezekiel 37:27, 43:7, 48:35; II Corinthians 6:16.
||John sees the New Jerusalem as a bride, the Lamb’s wife. He contrasts the bride with the harlot/”great city” of Rev. 17, old covenant Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8). Paul also contrasted two women/two covenants in Galatians 4:21-31.
||The new Jerusalem has a high wall with 12 gates, bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel; three gates each on the east, north, south, and west sides. Compare to Isaiah 60:18, Luke 13:29, and to Ezekiel 48:30-35 (“…and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE”).
||The city’s foundations bear the names of the 12 apostles. Compare to Ephesians 2:20.
||The new Jerusalem in John’s vision is cube-shaped, as was the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple (I Kings 6:20). The holy of holies was overlaid with pure gold, and the holy city in John’s vision is also entirely made of pure gold.
||The foundations of the city walls are covered in precious gems. This fulfills Isaiah 54:11-12, and Paul clearly affirms that Isaiah 54 is about the church (Galatians 4:27).
||Jesus is the temple and the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:19.
||The nations of those who are saved walk in the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:3, 10.
||The gates of the city are never shut, and the glory and honor of the nations come in to the city. See Isaiah 60:5, 11.
||Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life enter this city. See Isaiah 60:21.
||A pure, clear river of water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. See John 4:13-14, 7:37; Zechariah 14:8; Rev. 22:17.
||On both sides of the river is the tree of life, which bears different fruit each month. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. See Ezekiel 47:1-12.
||There’s no night in the city, and no need for a lamp. See Isaiah 60:1, 19-20; Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:43, John 8:12. The citizens of New Jerusalem reign forever and ever. See Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:33, Rev. 1:6.
For a more detailed study of these things, please see this article at my blog.
The New Jerusalem means “the new city of peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace and His presence, His parousia, is in this city. He is peace (Micah 5:5), and there will be no end to His government and peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). Let’s rejoice and celebrate, not only on August 7th, but every day that His presence is in our midst, in the city of God, the New Jerusalem.