“Our Lord’s Parousia in the Harvest”
“The Greek is a very exact language: a fact, which greatly enhances its value in giving exact expression to truth. Thus, for instance, in our common English Bibles, the word COME is used to translate thirty-two Greek words, each of which has a fine shade of difference. Instances:
“Ephistemi” signifies to overtake, as in Luke 21:34–“COME upon [overtake] you unawares“;
“Sunerchomai” signifies to gather or come together, as in 1 Cor. 11:18–“COME together in the church“;
“Proserchomai” signifies to approach, or come toward, as in Heb. 4:16–“Let us therefore COME [approach] boldly“;
“Heko” signifies to arrive, or have come, or came, as when the action of coming is completed, as in John 2:4 –“Mine hour is not yet COME [arrived]“;
“Enistemi” signifies to be present, and is so translated, except in two instances where it should be so rendered: 2 Tim. 3:1–“Perilous times SHALL COME“–be present; and 2 Thess. 2:2–“That the day of Christ IS AT HAND“–present.
“Parousia”, too, signifies presence, and should never be translated coming, as in the common English Bible, where it is twice rendered properly, PRESENCE. (2 Cor. 10:10; Phil. 2:12)
The “Emphatic Diaglott” (containing the original Greek text), a very valuable translation of the New Testament, renders Parousia properly, PRESENCE, in almost every occurrence of the word.
The two Greek words, “heko” and “parousia”, and their use in the New Testament, are what we desire to notice at present, and particularly the latter of these; because a correct appreciation of their significance sheds light upon the manner of our Lord’s return, through passages in which they occur, while the common but erroneous translation beclouds the very point it should illuminate. *
*The word Parousia occurs twenty-four times in the Greek Testament, and is only twice in the English common version (2 Cor. 10:10; Phil. 2:12) correctly translated PRESENCE. The other occurrences, in which it is mistranslated COMING, are as follows: (Matt. 24:3,27,37,39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6,7; Phil. 1:26; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1,8,9; James 5:7,8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28).
With the correct thought as to the meaning of Parousia in mind–not that of COMING, as being on the way, but PRESENCE, as after arrival–let us examine some passages in which the word is used. And from these we will learn that PRESENCE does not necessarily imply sight, but that it is applicable also to things present but unseen. Thus, for instance, angels, spirit beings, can be present with us, yet unseen, as our Lord was present in the world and often with the disciples during the forty days after his resurrection, without being seen of the world, or by his disciples except on the few brief occasions already referred to. Those days were days of his Parousia (presence), as much as the preceding thirty-three and a half years had been.
In the conversation previous to the question of Matt. 24:3, our Lord had foretold the destruction of the temple and the rejection of Israel after the flesh until a time when they would gladly recognize him as their Messiah and say, “Blessed is he.” He had told his disciples that he would go away, and come again and receive them unto himself. He called their day the “harvest,” or end of that age, and he had told them of a future “harvest” at the time of his second coming. (Matt. 9:37, 38; 13:39, 40)
Doubtless remembering that few recognized him as the Christ at his first advent, they wanted to know HOW he might be surely recognized at his second advent–expecting probably that his second advent would occur in their day. Hence their inquiry,
“What shall be the sign [the indication] of thy PAROUSIA [presence] and of the end of the age?”
Because of their disposition to mix the closing events of the Jewish age, or harvest, in which they already were, with the then future “harvest,” or end of the Gospel dispensation, our Lord gave quite a detailed account of events which must intervene, indicating a lapse of a considerable period between, yet giving no clear idea of its length; for even he did not then know how long it would be. (Mark 13:32)
Our Lord’s reply in (Verses 1 to 14) covers the entire Gospel age; and his words in (Verses 15 to 22) have a double application –literally to the close of the Jewish age, and figuratively to the end of this Gospel age, of which the Jewish age was a shadow. (Verses 23-26) contain words of warning against false Christ’s, and in (Verse 27) he reaches their question regarding his Parousia, and declares [properly translated],
“As the bright shining [the sunlight] cometh out of the east and shines even unto the west, so shall the PAROUSIA [the presence] of the Son of man be.”
The sunlight becomes present instantly, yet noiselessly; and it is first discerned by those who are first awake.
Leaving other intermediate features of our Lord’s discourse for examination in their appropriate place, we note his second reference to their question regarding his Parousia in (Verses 37 and 39). He says,
“As the days of Noah, so shall also the PAROUSIA [presence] of the Son of man be.”
Notice that the comparison is not between the COMING of Noah and the COMING of our Lord, nor between the COMING of the flood and the COMING of our Lord. The COMING of Noah is not referred to at all; neither is the COMING of our Lord referred to; for, as already stated, Parousia does not mean COMING, but PRESENCE.
The contrast, then, is between the time of the presence of Noah among the people “BEFORE the flood,” and the time of the presence of Christ in the world, at his second advent, BEFORE the fire–the extreme trouble of the Day of the Lord with which this age ends.
And though the people were wicked in Noah’s day, BEFORE the flood, and will be wicked in the time of our Lord’s presence, BEFORE the hot fire of trouble comes upon them, yet THIS IS NOT the point of comparison or likeness to which our Lord refers; for wickedness has abounded in every age. The point of comparison is stated clearly, and is readily seen if we read critically: The people, except the members of Noah’s family, were IGNORANT of the coming storm and UNBELIEVING as to the testimony of Noah and his family, and hence they “KNEW NOT“; and this is the point of comparison.
SO shall also the PRESENCE of the Son of man be. None but those of the family of God will believe here: others will “know not,” until society, as at present organized, begins to melt with the fervent heat of the time of trouble now impending. This is illustrated by the words, “As in the days that were BEFORE the flood, they were eating, drinking and marrying [Luke (17:28) adds “planting and building“], until the day Noah entered into the ark, and knew not, so shall also the PAROUSIA [the presence] of the Son of man be.”
In the time of the PRESENCE of the Son of man, therefore, the world will go on with its eating, drinking, planting, building and marrying –not mentioned as sinful doings, but as indicative of their IGNORANCE OF HIS PRESENCE, and of the trouble that will prevail in the world.
This, then, is our Lord’s answer to the question of the disciples–What shall be the sign [indication] of thy [PAROUSIA] presence and of the end or harvest of the age? In substance, he says:
There will be no sign for the worldly masses (or for the professing church, the church nominal); they will not know of my presence and the new dispensational changes. Only the few will know, and they will be taught of God (in a way not here explained) before there is any SIGN (indication), which the worldly could discern.
Luke’s account of this same discourse (Luke 17:26-29), though not in the same words, is in perfect accord. Luke does not use the word Parousia, but he expresses this exact thought, saying:
“As it was IN THE DAYS OF NOAH, so shall it be also IN THE DAYS OF THE SON OF MAN“–in the days of his PRESENCE. Not before his days, not after his days, but IN (DURING) his days, the world will be eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting and building.
These scriptures, then, clearly teach that our Lord will be PRESENT in the end of this age, entirely unknown to the world, and unseen by them.
Though there shall never be another flood to destroy the earth (Gen. 9:11), it is written that the whole earth shall be devoured with the fire of God’s jealousy (Zeph. 3:8)–not the literal, physical earth in either case, but the existing order of things in both cases: in the first instance accomplished by drowning all the people except Noah’s family; in the last, by burning all except the family of God in the symbolic fire—the great trouble of the Day of the Lord.
The faithful children of God shall be counted worthy to escape all those things coming on the earth (Luke 21:36): not necessarily by being taken away from the earth, but possibly by being rendered fire-proof (in the symbolic sense), as in the typical illustration of the three Hebrews who walked in the midst of the fiery furnace heated seven times, on whose garments, even, was not the smell of fire; because one like unto the Son of God was present with them. Dan. 3:19-25 (B158-162)
In our next post we will examine scriptures which teach that many in the Church, the “Professing Church as well as the “True Church” will, for a time, be ignorant of the Lord’s presence, AND of the “harvest” and the ending of this age, while he is actually present, and the harvest work in progress.