The advent of Jesus.
Also known as the παρουσια.
What is a παρουσια?
Commentary on Mark 8.27-16.20,
The anticipated arrival of the emperor was referred to as a παρουσια (Latin
adventus). In honor of the Roman emperors, "advent coins"
were struck; e.g., a coin struck in 66 C.E. in honor of Nero reads adventus Augusti, "the coming of Augustus." An inscription in honor of
Hadrian speaks of the "first παρουσια of the
god Hadrian" (both examples from Deissmann, Light, 371-72). P.Teb. 48 announces
the παρουσια of the king
to the forum. This manner of speaking is known to Judaism of late antiquity, as seen in
Josephus, who also speaks of the "παρουσια of the
king" (Ant. 19.8.1. 340; cf. 3 Macc 3:17; T. Abr. 13:4-6).
Papyrus Tebtunis 48 is dated to the second century before Christ.
In 3 Maccabees 3.17a, Ptolemy Philopater is writing (in a letter) of his
royal visit to the temple in Jerusalem:
And they in word received our coming, but in deed
[it was apparent that they did so] spuriously....
F. F. Bruce, Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, page 57:
of a very important person might inaugurate a new era, as happened with the visit of Hadrian
to Athens and other Greek cities in A. D. 124--an inscription of A. D. 192/3 at Tegea is
dated "in the year 69 of the first παρουσια of the
god Hadrian in Greece...." Not long after 1 Thessalonians was written, coins bearing some
such legend as adventus
Augusti were struck at Corinth and
Patras to commemorate an official visit of Nero.
N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, page 341:
Parousia means 'presence' as opposed to apousia, 'absence';
hence it denotes the 'arrival' of someone not at the moment present; and it is especially
used in relation to the visit 'of a royal or official personage'
[note 95: Liddell-Scott-Jones, page 1343].
The following instances of παρουσια
are the only three in the Wars, and all refer to the presence
or coming of a military leader or force:
- 2.21.6 §79, of Josephus with his army.
- 4.5.5 §345, of the Idumeans.
- 5.9.4 §410, of Titus.
The following instances of παρουσια in the
Antiquities refer to the presence or coming either of
human beings (including royal personages or official dignitaries) or of things:
- 1.8.2 §168, of Abraham.
- 1.19.1 §281, of good things.
- 1.19.3 §287, of Jacob.
- 1.19.5 §296, of Esau.
- 2.3.1 §20, of Joseph as housemate.
- 2.13.1 §279, of Aaron and Moses.
- 4.8.2 §180, of things lacking.
- 5.1.26 §109, of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
- 5.8.10 §304, of Samson.
- 5.11.2 §355, of the ark of the covenant.
- 6.4.2 §102, of Samuel.
- 8.13.3 §325, of Elijah.
- 11.8.4 §328, of Alexander the king.
- 12.2.11 §86, of gift-bearers.
- 12.2.11 §93, of elders from Jerusalem.
- 12.6.2 §160, of an ambassador.
- 12.8.6 §352, of Judas Maccabeus to a military encampment.
- 13.9.2 §266, of ambassadors homeward.
- 18.6.4 §161, of Tiberius Caesar.
- 19.8.1 §339, of a king.
- 20.2.2 §31, of Izates, king-to-be.
- 20.2.2 §32, of Izates, king-to-be.
The following instances of παρουσια
in the Antiquities refer to the presence or coming of
- 3.5.2 §79, on Sinai.
- 3.8.5 §202, in the tabernacle.
- 3.8.5 §203, in the tabernacle.
- 9.4.3 §55, to the servant of Elijah.*
in New Testament usage.
The word παρουσια,
as we have noted, can simply mean the presence of a person as opposed
to his or her absence, or απουσια.
All instances of this usage in the New
Testament may be found in the following passages:
- 1 Corinthians 16.17.
- 2 Corinthians 7.6.
- 2 Corinthians 7.7.
- 2 Corinthians 10.10.
- Philippians 1.26.
- Philippians 2.12.
- 2 Thessalonians 2.9 (the advent of the man of lawlessness).
But the more common New Testament
usage is for the advent of Jesus Christ.
As all the scholars cited above note, the term tends to take on
special meaning when applied to a very important figure such as a king
or emperor. In the New Testament,
all instances of the παρουσια of
Jesus refer to a future coming, not to an abiding presence in the
church or any other kind of presence to which απουσια would be the
Indeed, Wright elaborates on the παρουσια in
Matthew 24.3 (the word does not appear in either Mark or Luke) on
page 342 of Jesus and the Victory of God:
What, after all, were the disciples waiting for? They
had come to Jerusalem expecting Jesus to be enthroned as the
rightful king.... The disciples now
'heard' his prophetic announcement of the destruction of the Temple
as the announcement, also, of his own vindication; in other words,
of his own 'coming'--not floating around on a cloud, of course, but
of his 'coming' to Jerusalem as the vindicated, rightful
It is in this royal sense of advent, and not in any mundane sense
of merely being present rather than absent, that the New Testament speaks of the παρουσια
Listed below are all the New Testament instances of the παρουσια
In Matthew 24.3b, the disciples link the advent with the
consummation of the age:
Tell us when these things shall be, and what
the sign will be of your advent and the consummation of the
For just as the lightning goes out from
the east and appears unto the west, so shall the advent of the son
of man be.
For just as the days of Noah,
so shall be the advent of the son of man.
And they did not know until the cataclysm
came and took them all. Thus shall be the advent of the son of
Note that all four Matthean instances occur in chapter 24, on
1 Corinthians 15.23:
But each in his own order, Christ the
first-fruits, afterward those who are of Christ at his
1 Thessalonians 2.19:
For what is our hope or joy or crown of
boasting? Is it not you before our Lord Jesus at his
1 Thessalonians 3.13:
...that he might establish your hearts
blameless in holiness before our God and father at the advent of
our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The saints here are οι
αγιοι, the holy ones, which could
mean either angels or humans... or both.
1 Thessalonians 4.15:
For this we say to you by a word of the
Lord, that we who are alive and remain to the advent of the Lord
will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
1 Thessalonians 5.23:
And may the God of peace himself sanctify
you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept whole,
blamelessly, at the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2.1-2:
But we request you, brethren, with regard
to the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering unto him,
that you not be quickly agitated from your mindset, nor disturbed,
whether by a spirit or by a word or by an epistle as if from us,
to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
2 Thessalonians 2.8:
And then the lawless one will be revealed,
whom the Lord will slay by the breath of his mouth and destroy by
the appearing of his advent.
James 5.7a, 8:
So be longsuffering, brethren, until the
advent of the Lord.
You too be longsuffering; establish your
hearts, because the advent of the Lord is at hand.
2 Peter 1.16 is the only reference to the advent of Jesus that
could possibly refer to his incarnation or earthly life. But it is
certainly best understood as his future coming even in this verse,
of which the transfiguration was a foreshadowing (1.17-18). The
prophetic word of 1.19, then, is the prediction of the future
and it was made more sure by the transfiguration:
For we did not follow sophisticated myths
when we made known to you the power and advent of our Lord Jesus
Christ, but became eyewitnesses of his majesty.
2 Peter 3.4:
...and saying: Where is the promise of his
advent? For ever since the fathers fell asleep all things continue
just as from the beginning of creation.
I include 2 Peter 3.12 here, despite the fact that the advent is
actually that of the day of God instead of Jesus, because
of its obvious relationship to the rest of the references:
...watching and hastening the advent of the
day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed,
burning, and the elements will melt in flames.
1 John 2.28:
And now, children, remain in him, in order
that if he should appear we might have boldness and not be put to
shame by him at his advent.
amongst the church fathers.
All of the above New Testament
instances refer to a future advent of Jesus Christ,
not to his earthly tenure in Galilee and Judea.
Some of the apostolic fathers, however, soon began to apply the term
to the incarnation as well, and to write of both the first and
the second παρουσια of
This tendency to count which advent is meant by numbering it with
an ordinal finds
a close parallel in the Tegean inscription dated
to year 69 of the first παρουσια of
Hadrian to the city.
When, however, the context makes it manifestly clear to the reader
which advent is meant, the term may stand without the ordinal, as in
the epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians 9.2a:
But the gospel holds out something
exceptional, to wit, the advent of the savior, our Lord Jesus
Christ, his passion, and the resurrection.
Justin Martyr writes of the two advents, one in humility and the
other in glory, in his Apology
52. See also his Dialogue with
Trypho 14, 32, 40, 52, 110, 121. This motif, in fact, seems
to have been a favorite of his.
Lines 20b-26a of the Muratorian canon,
late century II, affirm that the four gospels, all together by one
and the same spirit, speak...:
- ...de nativi-
- tate, de passione, de resurrectione,
- de conversatione cum discipulis suis,
- ac de gemino eius adventu,
- primum in humilitate despectus quod fu-
- it, secundum potestate regali prae-
- clarum, quod futurum est....
- ...of the nativity,
- of the passion, of the resurrection,
- of conversation with his disciples,
- and of his twin advent,
- the first despised in humility, which is past,
- the second manifest in royal power,
- which is future....