The Parousia and the Judgment
1 Thessalonians 4 speaks about the Parousia of Christ (verse 15). But it is important to remember that when it was written there was no chapter divisions. It was a continuous document. Paul is addressing the same event in chapter 5. How do we know? Because at the end of the 4th chapter Paul says, " Therefore encourage one another with these words" (verse 18). Then, in verse 10 of chapter 5 Paul again says, "He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." He is still addressing the same subject of those who have fallen asleep and those who are still alive.
This admonition to encourage one another reminds me of Paul's words to the Hebrews, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25). We can encourage one another though our suﬀerings, because we know the glory that awaits us. Romans 8:18 says, "I consider that our present suﬀerings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." When will this glory be revealed in us? At the Revelation of our Lord. Peter tells us in his epistle: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the ﬁery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s suﬀerings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed" (2 Peter 4:12-13). When will His glory be revealed? At the revelation. When is that? "When the Chief Shepherd appears" and we receive our unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).
What does all this show us? First it shows us that christians should expect to suﬀer before they enter into His glory. As Jesus told us, "no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him" (John 13:16). So why do so many people teach that we will not have to suﬀer before the coming of the Lord? The opposite is true. We can expect to suﬀer persecution, so that we can escape the wrath of God in the Day of judgment.
The Day of judgment will come at the Parousia. James tells us "Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the Parousia of the Lord...be patient. Establish your hearts, for the Parousia of the Lord is at hand...the Judge is standing at the door" (James 5:7-9). When is this Parousia that Jesus was speaking of? Jesus told the Pharisees "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day" (John 12:47-48). So, the Parousia is on "the last day." The resurrection is also on "the last day" (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24).
So, who will be raised and judged on the last day? Paul tells us, "He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead" (Acts 10:42). The living are those who believe. The dead are those who do not believe. Concerning unbelievers, Peter says, "They are surprised when you do not join them in the same ﬂood of debauchery, and they malign you; but They will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (1 Peter 4:5). And Paul told Timothy, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander oﬀ into myths (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
So, according to 1 Peter 4:5, the ungodly will give account to Jesus on the day of judgment. And, according to 2 Timothy 4:1-4, the day of judgment occurs on the day of His appearing. And, oh yeah, all this is on "the last day." Therefore, Jesus appears on "the last day." Hebrews 9:28 says, "Christ was sacriﬁced once to take away the sins of many, and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." This means christians will be waiting for Jesus here on earth on the day He appears a "second time." And since this is "the last day" there is no third appearing. This is Judgement day! The day He appears. The last day. Resurrection day.
Two of my favorite passages are 1 John 2:28 and 1 John 3:2: "And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be conﬁdent and unashamed before him at His Parousia.... ...what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. We will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) and we will be transformed into His image – spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:13). This lowly body that we have now, will be transformed to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:21) on the day He appears. On that day, Paul says, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).
On Judgment day (the Parousia) we can stand "conﬁdent and unashamed before Him" because we will have been transformed "spirit, soul and body." Paul told the Corinthians "You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you ﬁrm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). Another favorite verse of mine is Philippians 1:6 which says, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Therefore, we will be perfect (1 Corinthians 13:11) on the day of Christ Jesus as we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Romans 14:10-12 says, "For we will ALL stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’" So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
To make it even more interesting, Peter says, "So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every eﬀort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him" (2 Peter 3:14). What is it that Peter says we are "looking forward to"?
The Day of the Lord!
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on ﬁre and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10-13)
Paul says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4). He tells the Thessalonians, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing ﬁre with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be gloriﬁed in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). Here we have Christ appearing with His angels. This is called the Revelation or "the Apocalypse." This is when we appear with Him in glory. This is when we stand before Him "conﬁdent and unashamed" – "blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
So, the destruction of this present world, the resurrection, the transformation of our bodies, the judgment of the living (believers) and the dead (unbelievers), and the new heaven and the new earth all occur on the same day – the last day. And when is this day? On the day He appears. The Parousia.