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STUDY 6: THE STAGES OF OUR LORD’S RETURN

 

Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

 

THE act of our Lord’s coming and the moment of His arrival at His Second Advent are too

frequently emphasized, whereas it should be thought of as a period of presence, as was His First

Advent. Our Lord’s First Advent was not marked by any sudden or surprising demonstration, but

it was manifested and proven by the gradual fulfillment of prophecy, which showed to

thoughtful observers that the events then to be expected were being accomplished on time.

 

Four Greek words are used to indicate the three different stages of our Lord’s Second Advent:

parousia, epiphaneia, apokalupsis and basileia. Let us now examine these Greek words and

their use in the Scriptures in relation to the Second Advent.

 

Christ’s Parousia, or Presence

 

Nearly all Greek dictionaries and Greek scholars agree that the word parousia means presence,

not coming, approaching or drawing nigh, as of one being on the way, but rather a stay at a place

after one’s arrival there. Nor does it mean arrival, for it presupposes an arrival. Those Greek

scholars and dictionary-makers who hold that parousia means coming or arrival do so almost

always because of their creed’s teaching that Jesus’ Second Presence lasts only a part of a 24

hour day.

 

The Bible teaches that the first part of our Lord’s stay on earth after His return from heaven is a

secret one, the world at first not being aware of it, only His prospective Bride knowing of it

through the light of the Bible and the signs of the times (1 Thessalonians 5: 1-5). From the

descriptions given in Matthew 24: 23-41 and Luke 17: 20-37, we conclude that our Lord’s

special activities in this first stage of His Second Advent would be: (1) gathering His Elect Bride

into closer fellowship with Himself through His Word and spirit, described as Harvest reaping

(Matthew 13: 30, 39) (Revelation 14: 14-16), preparatory to her deliverance from the earth, and

her glorification with Him (Colossians 3: 4); and (2) preparing for the Great Tribulation, during

which the epiphaneia, or apokalupsis, the manifestation or revelation of our Lord as present in

His Second Advent takes place – when He will reveal Himself to the world as the Overthrower

of Satan’s empire and the Establisher of God’s Kingdom.

 

Parousia as the Reaping Period

 

First, we will prove that the word parousia is used in certain passages with specific reference to

the period during which the Gospel-Age Harvest reaping takes place. We will substitute for

“coming” the proper translation “presence.”

 

Matthew 24: 3: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy presence,

and of the end of the world [age]?” It is because of the secret character of this first stage of our

Lord’s Second Presence that the disciples asked for the sign of His parousia. If this stage were

visible, it would not have required a sign to prove its having set in. The sign that Jesus gave to

prove that His presence had set in was the symbolic sunlight – the Truth on religious and secular

subjects (Matthew 24: 27, 28, 30, 31).

 

Matthew 24: 27: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so

shall also the presence of the Son of man be.” The Greek word astrape may be translated either

lightning or light. The word lightning does not fit here, for it is not a peculiarity of lightning to

shoot across the whole heaven, nor to start from the east and go even to the west. It should have

been translated light; for it is a peculiarity of the sunlight to shine out of the east even unto the

west. The light of the sun as an evidence of the sun’s presence is used as a simile, illustrating that

the Truth, figurative light, is the sign, or proof, of the initial stage of the Second Presence of the

symbolic sun, our Lord Jesus.

 

Matthew 24: 37-39: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the presence of the Son of man

be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and

giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood

came, and took them all away; so shall also the presence of the Son of man be.” The unbelief as

to, and consequent ignorance of, the coming flood, on the part of the world during the days of

Noah’s presence before the flood, while the world was going about the ordinary affairs of life,

are here paralleled with a similar unbelief and ignorance on the world’s part while it would be

going about the ordinary affairs of life during the Parousia of our Lord, before the trouble.

 

2 Thessalonians 2: 1: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and by our gathering together unto him.” Here the initial stage of our Lord’s Second Presence is

referred to: (1) because the Thessalonians had been deceived into believing that the Lord had

returned, and (2) because St. Paul then proceeds to prove that the Second Advent had not yet set

in, by showing that a preceding sign, not yet fulfilled, must first set in – Antichrist’s rise, reign,

revelation and consuming. If St. Paul and the Thessalonians had believed that Jesus’ Second

Advent was to be visible, not having seen Him, the latter would not have believed the error that

it had already set in, and the former would have appealed to their sense of sight in disproof of

their error.

 

Parousia as the Entire Harvest

 

We will now prove that both the first and second stages of our Lord’s Second Advent are covered

by the term parousia. The second stage of His Second Advent is the trouble time, the Day of

Wrath (the Epiphany or Apocalypse, as a period); and this Time of Trouble precedes the third

stage, the basileia, of our Lord’s Second Presence.

 

1 Thessalonians 2: 19: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in

the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his presence?” St. Paul, acting as the mouthpiece of all

the faithful teachers of the Church during the Gospel Age, here says that those whom they win

for the Lord’s own, will be their hope, joy and crown of rejoicing during the Lord’s parousia.

 

Since the sleeping saints were to be raised from the dead first (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17) and the

last ones of the remaining saints were not to get their deliverance until “caught up together with

them in the clouds” of trouble in the great Time of Trouble, and since all of such faithful

teachers, to have the above-mentioned privilege with all those whom they won, must be with the

Lord, it follows that the word parousia in this verse covers both the first and second stages of

His Return.

 

1 Thessalonians 3: 13: “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before

God, even our Father, at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” In order for all

the saints to be present with God and Jesus during the parousia mentioned here, it must cover

also the time of His epiphaneia, the time of His appearing, when all the saints appear with Him

in glory (Colossians 3: 4).

 

1 Thessalonians 4: 15: “We which are alive and remain unto the presence of the Lord shall not

prevent them which are asleep.” Here all the saints are included, hence, the word parousia

covers both the first and second stages of our Lord’s Return.

 

1 Thessalonians 5: 23: “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless

unto the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.” For the same reasons as given above, this passage

should be placed into the same category.

 

2 Thessalonians 2: 8, 9: “Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with

the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his presence: Even him, whose

presence is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” Here again,

the first and second stages of our Lord’s Second Advent is meant, because Antichrist is to be

destroyed in the time of wrath (Daniel 7: 8-11), the second stage of our Lord’s Second Advent,

as an effect of the Truth shining during both of these stages.

 

James 5: 7, 8: “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the presence of the Lord. . . . Stablish your

hearts: for the presence of the Lord draweth nigh.” We have here two other occurrences of the

word parousia used with reference to the first and second stages of our Lord’s Second Advent,

because before all the brethren will have exercised the longsuffering here urged, the second stage

will have set in; for not until then do all the saints receive their eternal reward.

 

2 Peter 3: 3, 4: “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And

saying, Where is the promise of his presence? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue

as they were from the beginning of the creation.” The expression “last days” (the Parousia and

Epiphany days), proves that the scoffing at our Lord’s Presence here refers to the first and

second stages of His Presence.

 

2 Peter 3: 12: “Looking for and hasting unto the presence of the day of God.” The expression

“presence of the day of God” is synonymous with the first and second stages of our Lord’s

Second Presence – the first stage prepared the symbolic heaven and earth for the wrath of the

second stage.

 

1 John 2: 28: “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have

confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his presence.” Here is a reference to the

confidence that all the Faithful have before the Lord during His parousia, at His shining forth.

This passage refers to the first and second stages of our Lord’s Second Advent; for then, the

Body members come to be with Him (1 John 3: 2).

 

Parousia as the Entire Millennium

 

Let us now consider the passages in which the Kingdom (basileia) phase of our Lord’s Second

Advent is included under the word parousia.

 

1 Corinthians 15: 23: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that

are Christ’s at his presence.” In verse 22 the Apostle explains that all in Christ shall be made

alive, experience resurrection, perfection. In verse 23 he specifies two companies that shall be

made alive: (1) “Christ the firstfruits” refers to the Church, who were made alive in the First

Resurrection, and (2) “they that are Christ’s at his presence” refers to the obedient of mankind

during the Millennium.

 

2 Peter 1: 16: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto

you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.” St. Peter, in 2 Peter 1: 16-18, refers to the

transfiguration on the mount, the vision of the Kingdom in its widest sense (Matthew 17: 1-5).

 

The Biblical Use of the Word Epiphaneia

 

The word Epiphany, though frequently used in English, does not occur in the English Bible;

however, the Greek word epiphaneia, from which it is derived, does occur in the original Greek

of the New Testament. The noun epiphaneia is derived from the Greek verb epiphaino. The

latter word means to shine brightly, to manifest clearly, hence epiphaneia means bright-shining,

clear manifestation – it makes an obscure or unseen thing very apparent to the physical or to the

mental eyes.

 

The word epiphaneia occurs in six passages in the New Testament, and is used in two different

ways: (1) as the act of manifesting persons, principles and things, previously obscure or hidden,

by the Truth shining with special brightness; and (2) as that period of our Lord’s second stay on

earth in which the Truth will shine in special brightness, manifesting persons, principles and

things hitherto obscure or hidden (1 Corinthians 4: 5).

 

The four passages in which the word epiphaneia is used as an action are: 2 Timothy 1: 9, 10;

Titus 2: 13; 2 Thessalonians 2: 8; and 2 Timothy 4: 8.

 

The Epiphaneia as a Period of Time

 

Let us now consider the two passages in which the word epiphaneia is used as a period of time

during our Lord’s Second Presence.

 

1 Timothy 6: 14, 15: “Keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing

of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which [appearing] in his times [in its own seasons] he shall shew, [He]

who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” St. Paul is here

addressing the Lord’s people throughout the Gospel Age, encouraging them to be faithful, until

that period of our Lord’s Return which he here calls Jesus’ appearing, His Epiphany.

 

2 Timothy 4: 1: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge

the quick and the dead at [during] his appearing and his kingdom [basileia].” Jesus and His

Church will judge the dead during the thousand years’ reign. The “dead” of this verse refers to

Adam’s condemned children. These will have their judgment – trial for life – during the

Kingdom, the basileia period. The “quick,” the living, refers to the fallen angels and new

creatures, none of whom, as such, have ever been under death sentences, therefore, they will be

judged during His appearing, His Epiphany.

 

Christ’s Apokalupsis, or Revealing

 

The Greek noun apokalupsis is derived from the Greek verb apokalupto. The latter word means

to take off the cover, to disclose, or reveal, hence apokalupsis signifies uncovering, disclosure,

revealment or unveiling.

 

Both epiphaneia and apokalupsis imply a manifestation, a revealment of that which would be

otherwise hidden. Thus our Lord now epiphanizes or apokalypsizes God, Himself, the Church,

the Great Company, the Truth, the hidden things of darkness, the counsels of hearts – He brings

all pertinent persons, principles and things to bright light and uncovers or reveals them in their

real character. Hence the epiphaneia, the apokalupsis, of our Lord means, not His making

Himself visible to men’s natural eyes, nor simply His making Himself known, but: (1) His

making also every other person and every principle and every thing clearly known that is to be

made clearly known, especially in the end of this Age; and it refers to (2) the second stage or

period of our Lord’s Second Advent, the Time of Trouble, the Epiphany, or Apocalypse, the

special time of such epiphanizing or apokalypsizing.

 

There are a number of texts in the New Testament which use the verb apokalupto, and a number

of texts which contain the noun apokalupsis.

 

Christ’s Basileia, or Kingdom

 

The third stage of our Lord’s Second Presence on earth is the Kingdom, called in Greek the

basileia (2 Timothy 4: 1). We will not discuss it here, since we have given many details on it in

Study 3.

 

The three stages of Christ’s second stay on earth are the Parousia, the Epiphany, or Apocalypse,

and the Basileia, the Kingdom. The Parousia is preparatory for both the Epiphany, or

Apocalypse, and the Basileia, the Kingdom; and the Epiphany, or Apocalypse, carries forward

the results of the Parousia, and introduces the Basileia, the Kingdom.

 

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