Posts tagged ‘Parousia’

ABC Extra – Christ’s Hidden Presence

It was my first night at college.  I was sitting in my dorm room with my roommate, the only other person on campus who I knew, when I heard a knock at my door.  Outside stood another student, a sophomore, who asked my roommate and I, “Hey, you wanna come outside and play Capture the Flag?”

Capture the Flag.  As best as I can tell, it’s kind of like Hide-n-Go-Seek for grown-ups.  Your team hides a flag while the other team seeks it.  And along the way, the other team not only seeks your flag, they seek you.  And they try to tag you out.  And so, you not only try to hide your flag, you try to hide yourself.

That night, I almost managed to capture the flag.  In fact, I made it all the way to the other team’s flag and was about to snatch it up and win the game for my Capture the Flag comrades when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  “Tag, you’re out,” the voice gleefully exclaimed.  It was the same guy who, just moments earlier, was standing outside my dorm room inviting me to come and join in the fun.  “What?” I asked in exasperation.  “Where did you come from?  I didn’t see anybody anywhere.”  “I was hiding behind that bush the whole time,” he responded.  “And you didn’t even know it.”

“And you didn’t even know it.”  This phrase has often come to my mind as and appropriate way to describe what Jesus’ return will be like.  In our text from this weekend, Paul describes the return of our Lord thusly:

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)

Notably, when Paul speaks of “the coming of the Lord” in verse 16, the Greek word for “come” is parousia, meaning, “presence.”  In other words, it’s not just that the Lord will arrive from some distant cloud to the earth on the Last Day, it’s that the Lord will reveal that He’s been present with us the whole time.  And, a lot of times, we didn’t even know it.

In Matthew 25, Jesus explains the hidden nature of His presence to His followers thusly:

“I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?” The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Jesus was there the whole time as we were feeding the hungry, carrying water for the thirsty, extending hospitality to the lonely, clothing the naked, and visiting the infirmed…and we didn’t even know it.  But the promise is, on the Last Day, we will know it.  Because we will see Jesus.  As Paul explains it: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  With the Last Day, Jesus’ hidden presence will be hidden no longer.

Often, this world looks anything but sacred, holy, and blessed.  It looks sinful, depraved, and broken.  And indeed it is.  But that’s not all it is.  Because Jesus is here with us the whole time – even if we see Him only dimly.  Jesus is here with us the whole time – even if we don’t know it.  And so, as we wait for our Lord’s final revelation, may His presence give us comfort and hope.

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August 23, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Sermon Extra – “Long Time In Coming”

I am not a person who likes to wait.  I can remember standing in the HEB automatic checkout line a  few years back behind a person who was painfully slow as he scanned and bagged his groceries.  He would search intently for each item’s barcode and then carefully slide it across the scanner only to find that it did not register.  So he would inspect the barcode and try it again.  And again.  And again.  It took him a full ten minutes to check out his “20 items or fewer.”  I was furious.  “If these people can’t figure out how to use this machine, they should go to a checker,” I fumed to Melody.  My wife, of course, was embarrassed by my bad attitude and she reminded me that I was a pastor who needed to act charitably.  My anger, however, was not dissuaded.  “This is ridiculous,” I protested, “I don’t have all day!”  My turn finally did come to check out my items.  And so I, employing my best breakneck speed, frantically slide my first item over the scanner just to prove how competent I was in using this machine and how inept the person before me was.  I had to scan the item again.  And again.  And again.  Maybe the machine wasn’t as user friendly as I thought it was.  It took me ten minutes to check out.

In our text for this weekend from Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable about ten bridesmaids who are waiting on the arrival of the groom so that they can escort both the bride and groom to the wedding reception.  Jesus makes this simple note about the groom’s anxiously anticipated arrival:  “The bridegroom was a long time in coming” (verse 5).  The Greek word for “long time” is chronizo, from which we get our English word “chronology.”  Apparently, this groom took so long to arrive to meet his bride, it felt to the bridesmaids as if they were waiting through decades long chronological epic.

Jesus’ parable, of course, is meant to give us insight into His Second Coming.  He too will be “a long time in coming.”  And indeed He has been.  2,000 years after His first advent, we are still awaiting His second.  But already in the first century, people were becoming impatient as they waited for their Lord.  They were not people who liked to wait.  Thus, the apostle Peter must remind them that Jesus has already promised to be “a long time in coming.”  Peter writes:  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  The Lord’s slowness in returning is not really slowness at all, Peter argues.  Rather, it’s an opportunity for repentance and faith.

In 1910, a German theologian and physician named Albert Schweitzer published a book titled The Quest of the Historical Jesus. In it, he portrayed Jesus as a failed eschatological prophet who believed that the advent of God would come sooner and quicker than it did.  Thus, Schweitzer estimates Jesus’ ministry to be a failure and the belief that Christ will come again to be delusional.  Schweitzer cynically states:

The whole history of “Christianity” down to the present day, that is to say, the real inner history of it, is based on the delay of the Parousia, the non-occurrence of the Parousia, the abandonment of eschatology, the progress of the “de-eschatologis-ing of religion which has been connected therewith. (Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 358)

The Church, Schweitzer contends, has deliberately downplayed and dismissed the urgent eschatological expectations of Jesus and His first century followers.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  For we remember Jesus’ words:  “The bridegroom was a long time in coming.”  Our Lord is a long time in coming.  But make no mistake about it, He will come.  And so we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20), no matter how long that coming may take.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
and check out audio and video from Pastor Zach’s
message or Pastor Josh’s ABC!

July 26, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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