1 Thess 4:17, the Parousia

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.

//Virtually all Christians picture the parousia as an event where God-fearers are lifted up to heaven, to dwell with the Lord. Artwork abounds of this glorious moment, and the picture seems to match the verse above. But is that really what Paul meant? Let’s look at the meaning of the Greek words parousia, the arrival of Christ, and his apantesis, or reception, as used by Paul in Thessalonians to describe how the Christians will meet Jesus in the air.

Picture a king arriving as a visitor to a city. A cluster of citizens, a welcoming committee, go out to meet him, and escort him into the city. This is precisely how these Greek words are used elsewhere.

Perhaps we should turn to Revelation for clarification. In the Revelation story, the parousia occurs just before Christ begins his 1,000 year reign on earth. In other words, if we are to be “with the Lord forever” from that moment on, new life will at least begin on earth, not up in the sky.

So what are we doing up in the clouds, according to Revelation? Well, the New Jerusalem is about to float down to earth, and it is referred to as the bride of Christ. The adornment of the bride, as it settles upon Mount Zion, is God’s people. Thus, we can conclude that in the parousia, we fly up to the sky, welcome Jesus to earth,  enter the New Jerusalem, and float back down inside the city of God.

Yes, I know this is very different than current Christian theology. I don’t make this stuff up!

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