TRUTH TRIUMPHANT III:
Parousia and Transformation
After the feast of the Passover, before Jesus was arrested, tortured and crucified, he assured his disciples:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I AM, there ye may be also. — John 14:1-3, emphasis supplied.
Then, after his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee and declared, “ . . . I AM with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20, emphasis supplied).
About 40 days later Jesus again met with his disciples on the Mount of Olives (Har Migdo = “God’s Fruitful Mountain”). After “speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3),
he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” — Acts 1:9-11.
Assurances and Warnings
Ever since Jesus’ ascension, his followers have anticipated his return. Some have even predicted the time of his return.1 Some have predicted that his return would be accompanied by earthly violence — the Battle of Armageddon, etc. Many have asserted that his return would bring salvation for some, tribulation for others, and eternal damnation for still others. However, an important stream of New Testament thought raises serious questions about such an assertion. For example, Jesus himself taught:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on they right cheek, turn to him the other also. . . .
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven . . . — Matthew 5:38, 39, 43-45.
On the cross, surrounded by his enemies, Jesus declared of those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). As the apostle Paul wrote, “Love keeps no score of wrongs; . . . there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance” (1 Corinthians 13:5-7, NEB). Again Paul wrote:
. . . God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. — Philippians 2:9-11, emphases supplied; cf. Romans 14:10-12.
While this Pauline passage does not necessarily endorse the conclusion that all will choose eternal life, it does suggest a Parousaic (“enthronement”) appearance of Jesus that involves a universal enlightenment regarding his person and work. One writer who does believe in universal salvation has assembled a host of New Testament passages that emphasize the “all”:
God’s plan is “to unite ALL things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). The Father has “put ALL things under Christ’s feet” (Ephesians 1:22) and has “given ALL things into his hands” (John 13:3). Jesus has promised to “draw ALL men” to Himself (John 12:32) because “the Father loves the Son and has given ALL things into his hand” (John 3:35). Jesus said, “ALL that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37). Jesus says that, like a good shepherd, He will search for each of His lost sheep “until he finds it” (Luke 15:4). “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for ALL people” (Titus 2:11).
Jesus is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus gave His flesh as bread “for the life of the world” (John 6:51). “He gives life to the world” (John 6:33). He is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “He is the Savior of ALL people” (1 Timothy 4:10), “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). . . .
Jesus “abolished death” (2 Timothy 1:10). “He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). His power “enables him to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). . . .
“In Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 16:22). He “accomplished the work” that the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4). “He restores all things” (Acts 3:21). . . . “Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, heard I saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13).2
Of course, the New Testament record contains numerous and often dire warnings against any who would not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Warnings against inhumane treatment of others should not be dismissed. Yet there is ample evidence of an intolerance among Jesus’ followers that fails to reflect his own spirit of forgiveness, love and compassion toward even the enemies who demanded his death. This raises the issue of how to properly handle Scripture — particularly of how the spirit of the One-and-Only Living Word should always take precedence over the letter of the written word (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:6).
The Risen One, who is with us “alway” (Matthew 28:20), has promised to again appear (John 14:3). This appearance (parousia) will reveal him as both the Judge and the final Judgment to those already alive and to all others whom he has raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 2:9-11).3
In view of the reciprocal human relationality inaugurated at his First Coming (John 15:15), we can conclude that the Parousia (Second Coming) will explicitly reveal what Jesus implicitly recognized in his incarnation — that he long necessarily employed command, possession and power4 and that, in the interest of “free process,” he permitted created beings to do likewise. However, in his own sacrifice at Calvary, he submitted to the consequences of his necessary use of command, possession and power and to the consequences of permitting created beings to use the same.5 Thus, in his death Jesus Christ took the old God, the old humanity, and the old covenant of command, possession and power to irrevocable death. And in his resurrection from the grave as “the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), he inaugurated the new God, the new humanity, and the new covenant of irrevocable self-giving life and compassionate love.
We can further conclude that the Parousia will involve a universal enlightenment that the Risen One offers to give himself to any and all, unconditionally and irrevocably, as the Way, the Truth and the Life and as undying Faith, Hope and Love (Philippians 2:6-11; cf. Romans 14:10-12).
Finally, we can conclude that this revelation, conveyed to all Creation, will involve the invitation for all to receive and share his attributes and to enjoy everlasting life with him and with each other (cf. John 12:32; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Philippians 2:5-8; Revelation 3:20; 22:17). Hopefully, everyone will accept these divine gifts. If not, the freedom for which Jesus suffered and died surely provides the option to refuse human relationality (life) and thus choose nonexistence (death). At the same time, the idea that such a choice would mean eternal torment at the hands of an angry God is wholly contrary to the spirit of Jesus.
Then the Lord God will transform all Creation:
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth . . . — Isaiah 65:17.
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. — Isaiah 66:22.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. — Revelation 21:1-4.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. — Revelation 22:20, 21.
- See “Second Coming of Christ,” at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming_of_Christ. (go back)
- See richardwaynegarganta.com/Universalism Is Not in the Bible.htm, and read the context of the entire manuscript. (go back)
- See “For Judgment I AM . . . ,” Outlook (September 2010). (go back)
- See “The Gospel for the Postmodern World III: The ‘Other Side’ of God,” Outlook (January 2008); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ III: Command,” Outlook (December 2009); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ IV: Possession,” Outlook (January 2010); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ VI: Empowerment,” Outlook (March 2010). (go back)
- See “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ VIII: The Incarnate God,” Outlook (May 2010). (go back)