Preparing For Parousia

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” Colossians 1:15-16

This week we begin the Advent Season. This time of year we often focus on celebrating Christ’s First Coming in the manger and that is it.  But this event is about so much more than a baby on a manger. As all events in the Bible look forward to their final fulfillment this birth while fulfilling prophesy at the time also looks forward to Christ’s Second Coming being fulfilled. The word “Advent” speaks of both realities. The Latin word “adventus”, from which the word “Advent” is derived, literally means “coming.” Positioned as it is, in the weeks before Christmas, Advent places Christ’s First Coming into the world, in a manger in Bethlehem, within the larger historical context of redemptive history and the long-expected promise of God to send a Messiah. At the same time, “Adventus” is the Latin translation of the Greek word “Parousia”, which is used repeatedly in the New Testament to describe Jesus’ Second Coming, when He returns in glory at the end of the age.

Prior to this usage by Paul and other New Testament authors, parousia referred to the arrival of the Emperor or a conquering hero into a city or a province. When notified of his coming, citizens would scramble to properly greet this very important person, preparing great feasts, providing gifts and dressing in their finest clothes. Then they would meet him along the road into the city and immediately return for a great feast.

So, with this being so, the original readers of the New Testament not only would have understood parousia in this context, they would have seen it as an explicit rejection of Caesar’s claim of lordship. While Christians today think and talk of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in personalized terms, such as “Jesus is my Lord and Savior.”… the earliest Christians understood it as a public, definitive, and risky proclamation. In other words, to say “Jesus is Lord” is to say, “Caesar is not.” Which was a capital crime at different times in Rome’s history. By using parousia to refer to someone other than the Emperor, Christians were saying something about who was really in charge.

Advent, then, invites us to prepare to greet the One who is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” through whom “all things were created.” As believer we are expected to prepare for this reality through prayer and generosity…looking back on Jesus’ First Coming as confirmation that God keeps His promises. Also, as  believers we are expected to array ourselves in our “finest.” Not so much in garments but in truth, love, compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness, gentleness, patience, holiness and godliness. To prepare this way…is not only to remember Christ’s First Coming but to anticipate in hope His Second Coming. This is still every bit as countercultural as using the word parousia was two-thousand years ago. It’s a way of living as if Jesus is Lord. Because…well… He is.

God’s coming in the form of His Son IS a great gift and we need to receive it as believers…with an eye towards His Second Coming…being alert…staying awake…being prepared. So let us live accordingly.

God Bless y’all.

In His Grip,
Pastor Mike

Picture of Mike Singenstreu

Mike Singenstreu

Mike Singenstreu is Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Victoria, TX.

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