Posts Tagged Parousia
I wrote the following essay back in 2004. It explores Christ’s Second Coming by interacting with the thoroughly Jesus-shaped theology of Jurgen Moltmann. Warning: Theology geeks only!
For most of Christian history, the doctrine of the parousia of Christ (his “coming” or “effective presence”, i.e., Second Coming) in glory and judgment has been neglected and pushed to the margins of Christian theology and devotion.
While the cross and resurrection serve as the pillars upon which systematic theologians construct their doctrinal towers, the parousia has often remained a mere appendage to our creeds with a quite subsidiary role in our faith. For most, it would seem, the parousia is that far-off future hope, only to be tasted in the hereafter, and quite removed from our present concerns.
More recently, however, theologians such as Jurgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg have alerted us to the thoroughly eschatological character of the Christian gospel, insisting that the future hope of the parousia should significantly shape and guide our present relationship with God (who is the promising God), our understanding of the meaning and direction of history (which is proleptic in nature), and our knowledge of and faith in Christ (who is the coming Redeemer and Judge).
While a renewed interest in the eschatological parousia has touched virtually every aspect of Christian theology (soteriology, eschatology, pneumatology, etc.), this study will focus specifically on some christological issues related to the parousia.  Some initial points are necessary before proceeding.
First, christological investigations in the past have tended to draw almost exclusively upon the ‘finished work of Christ’—his life, death, resurrection and ascension. Yet, Moltmann argues that Christ’s work is not ‘finished’ until he returns in glory to judge and restore all things. The past and future Christ-events must be considered together in our christological inquiries. Or, as Moltmann put it, “Christ’s messianic mission, his apocalyptic suffering and his eschatological resurrection from the dead would remain incomprehensible fragments if we were not to take into account the future ‘Day of the Messiah’…”
Secondly, while the ‘Second Coming’ has always dominated eschatological conversations, the parousia is rarely consulted in christological discussions examining the person and character of Christ. A biblical understanding of the parousia should not only focus on what is to come, but also on the precise character of the one who is to come. And this ‘who-question’ is a thoroughly christological one.
Thirdly, and most importantly for this paper, studies on the parousia of Christ have tended to let popular, preconceived images of the Final Judgment – often influenced by Dante, the Sistene Chapel or Left Behind novels — shape our images of the coming Christ; rather than letting what we know of the character and will of Christ as revealed in Scripture reshape our images of the events surrounding the parousia. I suggest that Christology (which is more clearly defined in Scripture) should shape our apocalyptic eschatology (which is more elusive and multivalent in Scripture)—not visa versa.
Having made these few preliminary remarks, we may now precede to the main argument of this essay. The basic claim being made is that if we approach the doctrine of the parousia of Christ through christological lenses—that is, considering what is to come in light of what we already know of who is to come—some of our traditional understandings of the Final Event may be misguided and in need of reconsideration.
I believe that Jurgen Moltmann has rightly challenged some traditional views of the nature and purpose of the parousia. Letting Moltmann guide the conversation, I will draw from some patristic writers along the way who either support or challenge his basic claims. Read the rest of this entry »