Watchtower Comments THE GENERATION CHANGE Featuring LEOLAIA

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  • boyzone

    Hi still-in-74 and thanks for your question. I'm sorry if I havent been clear. Let me try again.

    Just supposing you were joining a group of friends for dinner. What are they likely to ask you? 1) What shall we look for to show us you're going to be present with us, or 2) when are you coming?

    Your answer to 1 would likely be "don't be daft! you don't need to look for anything, I'll be standing right in front of you.

    Your answer to 2 would likely be "about 8 o clock"

    So because the disciples understood Jesus was going to return physically and visibly, they asked for a sign to show them WHEN this would happen. Not when it had already happened invisibly. They had no concept of a invisible return.

    We know the disciples were thinking this way because of the question they asked Jesus when he appeared in person, visibly in front of them after his resurrection. Check out Acts 1 v 6

    I hope you understand but if not, perhaps others could explain it more simply

  • Leolaia

    The sémeion "sign" that the disciples ask for in Matthew 24:3 is the logical antecedent of the sémeion "sign" that is mentioned as accompanying the coming of the Son of Man in v. 30. It would ignore a most basic principle in hermeneutics to ignore this lexical connection and look for the "sign" elsewhere (as the Society does, highlighting the material in v. 6-8 as encompassing a "composite sign", despite the fact that the text denies that the events in v. 6-8 indicate that the end is close), unless there is a very good reason for doing so. The connection between the two is even closer since both instances of sémeion in the discourse represent Matthean redactions of the Markan text (compare with Mark 13:4, 26). Moreover, the text shows that the sign in v. 30 is a highly visible (cf. the use of phainó in the verse) occurrence that would be seen by all the tribes of the earth and which would herald the arrival of the Son of Man, which is related in the very next sentence.

    The use of sémeion with parousia suggests the disciples were seeking a sign to let them know when to prepare for the parousia, like the people of a city who would dress up in white robes and prepare festivities to welcome the arriving king or dignitary. Jesus essentially tells them that there would be no advance warning than the epiphany of the arrival itself, so they should always be prepared in case it happens at a time they do not expect. Indeed, if you consult the wider Greek literature, you can see that forms of sémeion occur with parousia to refer to an advance warning that an arrival is due to occur. The best example is the one I presented earlier in this thread and in my original essay. The sense is best expressed in the translation of Steven Mason:

    Josephus, Vita 90: "So, having perused the letters from Silas, I gathered two hundred men and went on my way, through an entire night. I sent a messenger ahead to signal (sémanounta) my imminent arrival (parousian) to those in Tiberias".

    Here we have sémainó as a verbal form of sémeion, such that the messenger provides a "sign" of Josephus' parousia. Here it is absolutely clear that parousia does not mean "presence" because the purpose of the messenger was not to indicate that Josephus was already present; he was supposed to inform the people that Josephus was on his way and was due to arrive soon. And in the next sentence, Josephus mentions that he arrived at Tiberias when morning came, and a mob was already there to "meet" (hupéntiazen) him, greeting him in a perplexing way (Vita, 91). Another good example of an advance sign of a parousia can be found in Diodorus:

    Diodorus Siculus, 17.10: "Elsewhere in Greece, as people learned the seriousness of the danger hanging over the Thebans, they were distressed at their expected disaster but had no heart to help them, feeling that the city by precipitate and ill-considered action had consigned itself to evident annihilation. In Thebes itself, however, men accepted their risk willingly and with good courage, but they were puzzled by certain sayings of prophets and portents of the gods (theón sémeiois). First there was the light spider's web in the temple of Demeter which was observed to have spread itself out to the size of an himation, and which all about shone iridescent like a rainbow in the sky. About this, the oracle at Delphi gave them the response: 'The gods have all made this sign appear (sémeion phainousi, cf. phanésetai to sémeion in Matthew 24:30) to mortals, to the Boeotians first and also to their neighbours' .... This sign (to sémeion) had occurred three months (trisi mésin) before Alexander's arrival (Alexandrou parousias) to the city, but at the very moment of the king's attack (ephodon tou basileós) the statues in the market place were seen to burst into perspiration and be covered with great drops of moisture".

    This is a bit closer to the situation in the Olivet discourse, with the "sign" being something like a portent or omen of what lies in the future. This "sign" of Alexander's parousia occurred three months prior to his arrival -- it certainly was not a sign that Alexander was somehow already present among them.

  • Leolaia

    I forgot to also mention the confirming evidence from the Didache, an early Christian manual from the late first century or early second century AD, which has a very close relationship with Matthew (see the recent book Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents From the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu?, edited by Huub van de Sandt and published in 2005). The book ends with an apocalyptic section (ch. 16) that is dependent on the Olivet discourse or the traditions underlying it, and it relates a similar apocalypse of the last days: first there would be false prophets and lawlessness would increase, with Christians being hated and persecuted (v. 3-4). Then the "world deceiver" (= the antichrist figure from 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13-17) would appear and the world would be delivered into his hands, and he would perform miracles and wonders, and would commit abominations (= the abomination of desolation in the Olivet discourse) never before seen in the world (v. 4). This would bring the entire world into a fiery tribulation, with many perishing (v. 5). It is after this tribulation is underway that finally a threefold sign appears that signals the end: "First the sign of an extension in heaven (= the "sign of the Son of Man in heaven" in Matthew 24:30), then the sign of the sound of a trumpet (= the trumpet call in Matthew 24:31), and third, the resurrection of the dead" (v. 6-7). Then after these three "signs of truth" (sémeia tés alétheias), "the world will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven" (v. 8). Just as our exegesis of Matthew 24 suggested, the "sign" pertains to the material in v. 30-31 and not the "beginning of the birth pangs" and the persecution mentioned earlier in the chapter.

    Moreover, van de Sandt's book has a chapter on "Eschatology in the Didache and the Gospel of Matthew" by Joseph Verheyden that makes some interesting points about the two descriptions of the end times:

    "In Matt. the disciples ask Jesus a double question ... the answer to these questions does not follow immediately. It is embedded in a long discourse and it could perhaps have been formulated in a somewhat less complex way. The reader could indeed be tempted to find the answer to the first question in the description of the end time scenario in vv. 4-31, esp. if he identifies his own situation with one of the various tribulations that are described and then gives full weight to the eutheós of v. 29... Some kind of clarification follows in vv. 24-26. It is now emphatically stated that 'this generation will not pass away till all these things take place' (v. 34) and that only the Father knows 'that day and hour' (v. 36). That seems to be the real answer to the 'when' question and it is repeated again in vv. 42 and 44 and in the Parable of the Maidens. Yet the aporia that was created in the earlier half of the discourse is not solved.

    "The question of the sign is hardly more satisfactorily answered. The disciples/readers are given a detailed scenario of the events that will lead up to the parousia (vv. 4-31), but the structure is not as transparent as one would have wished. Jesus first tells the disciples about certain events that could be mistaken for the end but definitely are not, though they nevertheless are 'the beginning of the birthpangs' (v. 8; cf. v. 6). There follows a description of troubles involving the faithful of which it is not clearly said how they relate to the previous section. They are obviously not the end yet, for that is mentioned only in v. 29. However, by the time the reader has reached v. 29 he has been taught that the kind of speculations that is linked to such scenarios will be rather useless, for the coming of the Lord will be as obvious as the strike of lightning (v. 27). This idea is taken up again in vv. 32-33 and seems to be the real answer to the 'what' question of the disciples.

    "Did. [the Didache] deals with the same questions but in a much more direct way. The answer to the 'when' is given right at the beginning and it is clear and simple: ou gar oidate tén hóran [for you do not know the hour] (v. 1). And so is the answer to the 'what'. It is a fixed and simple scenario and there is no room for speculations about what has already happened or what is still to come, and even less about what does and what does not belong to the end. Vv. 3-8 are the scenario of what will happen 'in the last days.' No more talks of 'beginnings of birthpangs.' There will be an unspecified period of tribulations (16:3-5). Then there will appear three signs announcing the parousia (16:6-7). And finally the Lord will come (16:8). Did. has been true to Matthew's scenario but it has set the records straight. There is a clear answer to the 'when' question, and it is the same as the one that really counts for Matt. By putting it right at the beginning the reader is no longer tempted to look for the answer in the wrong place. And there is also an equally clear answer to the 'what' question, and it is one that integrates both parts of Matthew's answer for it describes in detail and without further complications what the signs of the parousia will be ('the signs of truth') and by the same token also illustrates that the parousia will be clearly recognizable" (pp. 201-202).

    Verheyden also perceptively points out that the phrase sémeia tés alétheias "signs of truth" in Didache 16:6 is intended to contrast these real signs of the end with the false sémeia mentioned in v. 4 that were earlier performed by the "world deceiver". In other words, the wonders and woes mentioned in the preceding verses as the work of the antichrist figure are indicated as non-signs, just as the tribulations and woes in Matthew 24:4-26 are non-signs that false prophets use to say that Lord has arrived (v. 26).

  • Leolaia

    As promised, here are some additional statements from the critical literature on the meaning and manner of the parousia in the NT, and the coming of the kingdom:

    "The eschatology of the Synoptic Gospels deals with the consummation of the kingdom of God. This kingdom is represented under two aspects, now as present, now as future; now as inward and spiritual, now as external and manifest. Thus in Mt. 6:33, 7:13, 11:12, 12:28, 21:31, Lk. 17:21 it is already present, whereas in Mt. 6:10, 8:11, 26:29, Mk. 9:1, Lk. 9:27, 13:28f, 14:15f it is expressly conceived as still to be realised. The two views are organically related, and are combined in a well-known saying of Jesus (Mk. 10:15), which declares that entrance into the kingdom as it shall be is dependent on a man's right attitude to the kingdom as it now is...

    "The parusia or second advent introduces the consummation of the divine kingdom founded by the Messiah. It is certainly to take place at the 'close of the age' (sunteleia ton aiónos), Mt. 13:39f., 49, 24:3, 28:20...The parusia is within the current generation and preceded by certain signs. This was very natural because in the OT the foundation and the consummation of the kingdom are closely connected. Hence Jesus declared that 'this generation' (hé genea haute) should not 'pass away' till the prophetic destruction had been realized (Mt. 24:34)....The same expectation is attested in Mt. 10:23, where Jesus declares to his disciples that they will not have gone through the cities of Israel before of the coming of the Son of Man, and likewise in Mt. 17:27f., Mk. 8:38, 9:1, Lk. 9:26f., where it is said some shall not taste of death before that time. It must be abundantly clear from the evidence that the expectation of the nearness of the end formed a real factor in Jesus' views of the future. There are, on the other hand, many passages which just as clearly present us with a different forecast of the future, and this view demands as careful attention.

    "The parusia will not take place till the process of human development has run its course, and the Gospel has been preached to Jew and Gentile. The kingdom must spread extensively and intensively, till its final expansion is out of all proportion to its original smallness (cp. the parable of the mustard seed); intensively, till it transforms and regenerates the life of the nation, or rather of the world (cp. the parable of the leaven, Mt. 13:31-33)...It is hardly possible to avoid the conclusion that the discourses relating to different events and from absolutely different sources are confused together in Mk. 13 = Mt. 24 = Lk. 21. The parusia was to be likewise the 'day of judgment' (Mt. 10:15, 11:22, 24, 12:36), also called 'that day' (Mt. 7:22, 24:36, Lk. 6:23, 10:12, 21:34).

    "Christ himself will be the judge; for all things have been delivered by the Father into his hand (Mt. 11:27). All nations shall be gathered before him (Mt. 25:32). He will reward every man accordng to his works...The kingdom is consummated, 'comes with power' (Mk. 9:1), on the advent of Christ. The elect are gathered in from the four winds (Mt. 24:31), and now, after being, we must assume, spiritually transformed, enter on their eternal inheritance (Mt. 25:34), equivalent to eternal life (Mk. 10:17)... We have seen when Christ's parusia (1 Thess 3:13, 2 Thess 2:1) is to come. The precise day is uncertain: it 'comes as a thief in the night' (1 Thess 5:2; cp. Mt 24:43); but the apostle expects it in his own time (1 Thess 4:15, 17). With what vividness and emphasis he must have preached the impending advent of Christ is clear from 1 Thess 5:1-3, as well as from 2 Thess, where he had to quiet an excitement almost bordering on fanaticism. When Christ descends from heaven (1 Thess 1:10, 4:16; 2 Thess 1:7), angels will accompany him as his ministers (2 Thess 1:7), and his glory will then first be fully revealed. The parusia is likewise the day of judgment, as the designations applied to it show" (T. K. Cheyne and J. S. Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica, 1903, Vol. 2, pp. 1373-1375, 1382).

    "There was one coming which He [Jesus] foretold in language of exceptional emphasis and impressiveness, -- His appearance in celestrial majesty at the end of the world, to perfect the work interrupted by His death, but still to be renewed and carried on through the ages by His spiritual energy. This was to be the supreme manifestation of His glory; and to it the term Parousia is distinctively applied (Mt. 24:3, 27, 37).... As to the manner of the Parousia, a considerable number of passages represent it as altogether startling and unexpected. It is to break in upon the world as a sudden surprise, while men are busied with their earthly affairs, like the Flood in the time of Noah, or the destruction of Sodom in the time of Lot (Lk. 17:26-30, 34). Its approach shall be as that of a thief, stealing into the house without warning (12:39f), or as the arrival of an absent master at an hour when his servants are not looking for him (vv. 42-46), or as the return of the bridegroom in the night-time, leading his bride and the marriage party to the wedding-feast (Mt. 25:1-14). On the other hand there are passages in the Eschatological Discourse in Mt. 24 and Mk. 13 which seem to represent the final coming as preceded by certain manifest signs which shall give evidence of its nearness -- the appearance of false Christs (Mt. 24:5, Mk. 13:6, 22), wars, earthquakes, and famines (Mt. 24:7, Mk. 13:7-10), persecutions and tribulations (Mt. 24:9, Mk. 13:11-12), the darkened sun and falling stars (Mt. 24:29, Mk. 13:24, 25). If, however, the view of the composite character of that discourse as we now have it is accepted, the passages describing such arresting phenomena may be interpreted as vivid pictorial forecasts of the calamitous state of things by which the threatened Jewish crisis would b? ushered in. But whether that view is accepted or not, special weight must be attached to the warning given by Jesus that even the most striking and palpable signs might be misread. The heralds of the great climax, He declares, must not be taken as the climax itself; 'All these things must come to pass but the end is not yet' (Mt. 24:6). After all, apparently, whatever may be the catastrophic social or other upheavals by which it is preluded, the signal event is to come suddenly and unexpectedly, at such an hour as men think not (Mt. 24:44, Lk. 12:40, 46). Yet when it does come, there shall be no dubiety; the splendour shall be dazzlingly patent, like the lightning-flash illumining all the heaven (Mt 24:27)" (John Chisholm Lamber, A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 1908, p. 322)
    "Taking the evidence as it stands in the synoptics, even when late accretions are taken into account, the proclamation of the kingdom appears unmistakably to have this double-sided aspect [of present and future]. It is present in the work of Jesus because of the power of Satan is already being overcome (Lk. 11:20); from the smallest of beginnings, it will come to fruition, as the parables of the kingdom show; in the person of Jesus, the kingdom itself is already in the midst of his contemporaries (Lk. 17:20, 21). The future aspect of the kingdom is so prominent a part of the gospels as to need to documentation. Of course, if this futuristic terminology does not mean what it seems to say, then that is another matter, and we are without a reliable key to the enigma. But the prima facie evidence surely suggests that Jesus expected the sunteleia of the New Age in the not-too-distant future.

    "The very base of the kerygma was that the consummation of the kingdom was assured because the eschatological powers were already at work among Jesus and his followers. Acts speaks repeatedly of the signs and wonders which attest the validity of the proclamation of the coming of the kingdom through Jesus...This was an indispensible antecedent to the other facet of the gospel; that the fulfillment of the promise of the kingdom was imminently to follow" (Howard Kee, "Development of Eschatology in the New Testament," Journal of Bible and Religion, 1952, Vol. 20, p. 189).

    "There can be no doubt that the early tradition includes both sayings of Jesus that promise the coming of God's rule and the appearance of the Son of Man in glory, and other sayings that proclaim the presence of Jesus [during his ministry] as beginning the relaization of the promised eschaton. This assertion could be established with certainly only through a discussion of all the words of Jesus that could be proven to be early, something which in this connection is impossible. However, it must be pointed out that only through exegetical violence is it possible to rob the promises of the speedy beginning of the eschatological fulfillment of their meaning. Particularly Jesus' answer to the question of the high priest (Mark 14:62) and the statement about the introduction of the kingly role before all of Jesus' hearers should die (Mark 9:1) have been recently the object of such attempts. [A discussion of some of these attempts follows] .... It is therefore impossible to explain away the fact that Jesus here reckons with the temporally limited nearness of the eschatological fulfillment; similarly there is no adequate reason to question -- with respect to the wording of Matt. 12:28 -- the fact that Jesus spoke of a present existence of God's kingly rule...

    "However, even if an accurate delineation of the concepts held by the earliest Christian community is impossible, nevertheless, the combination of the facts that can be demonstrated -- namely, that the primitive community held its meal celebrations en agalliasei (Acts 2:46) and prayed for the coming of the glorified Lord maran tha (I Cor. 16:22) -- shows that there was also in the primitive community the consciousness of living in the final period of time that had begun, as demonstrated in their expectation of the impending coming of the glorified Lord....As a matter of fact, even in his earliest letters Paul not only is an unambiguous witness for the expectation of the imminent parousia of Christ (I Thess 1:9-10, 4:13ff.) and a witness that salvation from this evil age has already come to pass for the Christian (Gal. 1:4); he also appropriated both of these statements of faith, and we see from the tradition embodied in Rom. 1:4 and in I Cor. 11:26; 16:22, Paul systematized these juxtaposed statements of faith through the idea of the interlocking character of the dying evil age and the new age that had already begun, but he always held fast both to the conviction that the eschatological fulfilment had already begun and to the hope that slavation would be fully completed (cf. Phil. 1:23 with 3:20-21; 4:5)" (Werner Kummel, "Futuristic and Realized Eschatology in the Earliest Stages of Christianity," Journal of Religion, 1963, Vol. 43, pp. 309-311).

    "It is true that sometimes parousia does mean 'presence.' Paul contrasts his presence (parousia) with the Philippians with his absence (apousia) from them (Phil. 2:12). The Corinthians accused Paul of inconsistency, because 'his letters ... are strong, but his bodily presence was weak' (II Cor. 10:10). However, the word does not always mean 'presence'; more often it means 'arrival'. When Paul in Ephesus received envoys from Corinth, he rejoiced at their parousia, that is, their coming or arrival (I Cor. 16:17). When Paul was concerned about the condition of things at Corinth, he was comforted by the arrival (parousia) of Titus (II Cor. 7:6). It was not the presence of Titus but his arrival with good news from Corinth that provided the comfort. To translate parousia by 'presence' would empty it of its particular point. This is illustrated in the following instances: 'Be patient, brethren, until the parousia of the Lord .... Be ye also patient; establish your hearts; for the parousia of the Lord is at hand' (Jas. 5:7-8). 'Where is the promise of his parousia?' (II Pet. 3:4). In these verses it is the coming, the return, the advent of the Lord which is called for; 'presence' does not suit the context.

    "It is not the presence so much as the coming of Christ which is required in the verses we have just discussed. It is at the coming, the advent of Christ, that the dead will be raised and the living caught up; "presence" does not fit. It is at his coming, his advent, not his presence, that he will be accompanied by his saints. His coming, his advent, will be like a bolt of lightning. The parousia of Christ is his second coming, and it will bring both salvation and judgment: salvation for the saints, and judgment of the world" (George Eldon Ladd, The Last Things: An Eschatology for Laymen, 1988, pp. 51-52).

    "Material from an entirely different storied world has bearing on our study and is found when explores the meaning and use of the term 'parousia' before and during the New Testament period. The word means 'presence' or 'arrival'. From the Ptolemaic period to the second century A.D. there is clear evidence that the term was used for the arrival of a ruler, king, or emperor. For instance, a third-century B.C. papyrus refers to a crown of gold to be presented to a king at his parousia. Or again, a parousia of King Ptolemy the Second, who called himself savior, is expected, and it is said that 'the provision of 80 artabae ... as imposed for the parousia of the king.' In memory of the visit of Nero to Corinth, special adventus/parousia coins were cast. These coins were cast during the period when Paul was writing to Corinth (1 Cor. 15:23).

    "Equally interesting is the evidence G. D. Kilpatrick has collected showing that 'parousia' often was the Hellenistic term for a theophany. For instance, in the Greek form of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, at Test. Jud. 22:3(2) and Test. Levi 8:15(11) we find it used to refer to the final coming of God. Josephus uses the term 'parousia' for the divine appearances in the Old Testament theopahies (Ant. 3.80, 202-203; 9.55; cf. 18.284). Of perhaps equal importance is another sort of 'sacral' use of the term, found in an inscription from the Asclepion at Epidaurus, which reads, 'and Asclepius manifested his parousia' (cf. 2 Thess. 2:8). One should not make too sharp a distinction between the sacred and the profane use of 'parousia,' not least because by Paul's time the emperor was already being given divine status of a sort....

    "Paul may have been the first person to use the term 'parousia' to refer to the return of Christ. The term itself does not mean 'return' or a 'second' coming; it simply means 'arrival' or 'presence.' Applying it to Christ's coming from heaven in a sense changes what the word connotes. The word occurs twenty-four times in the New Testament, forteen of which are in the Pauline letters, sometimes in a mundane sense to refer to the arrival or presence of Paul or one of his coworkers (cf. 1 Cor. 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6-7). This shows that the term does not have to connote the arrival/presence of a deity or king.

    "It may seem puzzling that Paul uses the term 'parousia' of the coming of Christ from heaven in only three letters, all of them early: 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8-9; 1 Cor. 15:23. This is perhaps explained because the situations Paul was addressing in the Thessalonian correspondence and in 1 Corinthains required him to speak at some length on matters pretaining to the eschatological future....It is reasonable to expect Paul to use the royal imagery and accompanying appropriate metaphors and terms when he speaks of Christ's parousia, and we might expect the description of the Day of the Lord to draw more on Old Testament theophanic and Yom Yahweh traditions. To a certain extent this expectation is justified; but because it is also the case that 'parousia' could refer to the arrival of a deity, it is not surprising that in some Pauline texts where the term is used we also find theophanic terms and imagery....Paul's first reference to the Parousia is at 1 Thess. 2:19. It is clear that the meaning of the term here is 'arrival,' because Paul conveys the idea of presence by another phrase, 'before our Lord,' and because he says 'in/at his arrival/coming.' A note of joy permeates this whole passage, and there is no hint that his converts will undergo judgment. Paul's converts are his crown about whom he will boast when the Lord comes.... When Paul uses the Yom Yahweh language, the theme of judgment is usually found in the immediate context. Thus, for instance, in 1 Thess 5:3, which follows our first reference to 'The Day of the Lord,' we read, 'destruction will come upon them suddenly.' This comports with the use of the thief in a night metaphor that stresses the sudden unexpected intrusion aspect of the Parousia" (Ben Witherington, Paul's Narrative Thought World: The Tapestry of Tragedy and Triumph, 1994, pp. 189-192, 198).

    "The arrival of a royal or other dignitary was an occasion for an ostentatious display designated to court the favor and/or placate the wrath of the visiting celebrity. In the Hellenistic world this combination of arrival and greeeting was often associated with terms such as parousia, apantao, and hupantao -- but even if these particular terms were absent, other elements in a description would have made it clear that a special sort of entry was in view. The importance of the occasion in the ancient world is illustrated by the fact that eras were often reckoned from the date of a given parousia. There is overwhelming evidence to indicate that Luke and his readers would have been familiar with parousiai.

    "In the Hellenistic world a parousia most often signaled the coming of a ruler or royal figure. It began to be a notable feature of imperial practice during the Principate. What could the ancient observer have expected of the event? ... Several features of these parousiai were normal and typical. First, the welcome was commonly bestowed on kings or other ruling figures. Second, the welcome was normally extended as the dignitary approached his city, that is, before the city was entered. Third, the religious and political elite from the city, along with other bands of 'welcomers' would meet the guest and escort him back into the city. Fourth, the large body of citizens in attendance would mark the occasion by wearing ornamental clothing such as white robes and wreaths. Finally, the dignitary would be lauded in speeches presented on behalf of the city, expressing its sense of privilege at the visitation. The magnitude of the greeting could indicate the gratitude of the city for past benefactions as well as lay the groundwork for favors the city might hope to receive from its guest in the future; a failure to provide a customary welcome could have grave consequences" (Brent Kinman, "Parousia, Jesus' 'A-Triumphal' Entry, and the Fate of Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-44)," Journal of Biblical Literature, 1999, pp. 281-284).

    "The basic meaning of the word is to be derived from the vb. --> pareimi "be present." Thus parousia originally meant presence. Since, however, pareimi can take on the sense of 'come, approach' (e.g. Judg 19:3 LXX), parousia frequently means "arrival as the onset of presence" (BAGD s.v. 2). This is the sense that parousia usually has in the NT; only in 1 Cor 16:17; 2 Cor 10:10; Phil 2:12 (1:26?) is the presence of the apostle or his fellow worker intended.

    "In regard to the meaning arrival one can further distinguish between the general concept and the specific use of the word. Only 2 Cor 7:6, 7 (Phil 1:26) speaks of a common arrival. In 2 Thess 2:9 and 2 Pet 3:12, where the Antichrist and the Day of the Lord respectively are the subjects of the coming, the use of parousia approaches the more specific usage. In the remaining 16 occurrences parousia is a t.t. [technical term] for Christ's coming at the end of time...

    "The Parousia itself (apart from accompanying events such as the resurrection of the dead or world judgment) is described more specifically only in Mark 13:23-27 par. Matt 24:29-31 / Luke 21:25-27; 1 Thess 4:16f; 2 Thess 1:7-10, 2:8; Rev 14:14-16; 19:11-16. The motifs treated in these texts are derived from OT and Jewish salvation expectations, which anticipate an earthly personality such as the messianic king ... or Yahweh himself (cf. Mic 1:3; Isa 59:20; 63:19; 64:1; 66:15), or a transcendent redeemer figure with human features (cf. Sib. Or. iii.49f, 286f, 652-54; 2 Esdr. 7:28; 12:31f; 2 Bar. 29:3; 53:8-11), whose arrival, esp. in apocalyptic writing, is portrayed in vivid colors. The figure of the coming Son of man is of decisive influence (cf. Dan 7:13 LXX; 1 Enoch 46:1; 53:6; 2 Esdr. 13:3f, 32). His advent from heaven (cf. Acts 3:20f; Phil 3:20; 1 Thess 1:10; 2 Thess 1:7) is the heart of the NT concept of parousia" (Horst Balz, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 2003, p. 44).

  • watson
    'celebrated' WT scholars

    What does this mean?

    Thank you,


  • Mary
    'celebrated' WT scholars
    What does this mean?

    It means the boys in the Writing Department are legends in their own minds.

  • still_in74

    The sémeion "sign" that the disciples ask for in Matthew 24:3 is the logical antecedent of the sémeion "sign" that is mentioned as accompanying the coming of the Son of Man in v. 30. It would ignore a most basic principle in hermeneutics to ignore this lexical connection and look for the "sign" elsewhere (as the Society does, highlighting the material in v. 6-8 as encompassing a "composite sign", despite the fact that the text denies that the events in v. 6-8 indicate that the end is close), unless there is a very good reason for doing so. The connection between the two is even closer since both instances of sémeion in the discourse represent Matthean redactions of the Markan text (compare with Mark 13:4, 26). Moreover, the text shows that the sign in v. 30 is a highly visible (cf. the use of phainó in the verse) occurrence that would be seen by all the tribes of the earth and which would herald the arrival of the Son of Man, which is related in the very next sentence.

    The use of sémeion with parousia suggests the disciples were seeking a sign to let them know when to prepare for the parousia, like the people of a city who would dress up in white robes and prepare festivities to welcome the arriving king or dignitary. Jesus essentially tells them that there would be no advance warning than the epiphany of the arrival itself, so they should always be prepared in case it happens at a time they do not expect. Indeed, if you consult the wider Greek literature, you can see that forms of sémeion occur with parousia to refer to an advance warning that an arrival is due to occur.

    Excellent, thank you. Your first paragraph outlines exactly what I was thinking regarding the first and second occurence of "sign" (albeit your words are much more effective and to the point than I would use!) The WTS seeks to inidicate 2 signs when the point of the discussion is one sign, of which the answer is give in v30.

    Your 2nd paragraph answers well as to why they inquired of a sign when they expected a visible return. Thanks for the crystal clear explanation. I look forward to examining this further in your later posts within this thread.

    Thanks to both boyzone and Leolaia - I dont believe I have ever examined this passage in such detail. I feel even further that my eyes are being opened and scriptures make so much more sense when you take them for what they are!


  • Leolaia
    The WTS seeks to inidicate 2 signs when the point of the discussion is one sign, of which the answer is give in v30.

    still_in_74....I think Verheyden really hit the nail on the head in the quote I presented above. The problem is that the original passage in Matthew 24 was written in a rather confusing way, which could mislead some to look for the "sign" in the wrong place in the discourse. The "beginning of the birthpangs" are not signs of the parousia itself, although they do indicate the view of the author that the age was then moving towards a conclusion within the space of a generation (i.e. "all the things" being inclusive of both the "beginning of the birth pangs" and the parousia of the Son of Man). But that single indicator was useless for the first-century Christian in terms of preparing for the parousia, which could theoretically happen any time in his lifetime. That is why the author is so resolute that the coming itself will occur suddenly at an unexpected time, and that not even the main actors of the parousia know themselves when it will occur. What is interesting about the mention of false prophets in the discourse is that they are mentioned with the "beginning of the birthpangs", with the suggestion that false prophets misinterpret the "beginning of the birthpangs" (e.g. the occurrence of war, famine, disease, etc.), possibly associated with the lead-up to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, as signs of the parousia. Jesus tells his disciples to not be alarmed by these events directly after mentioning the false prophets (v. 4-8), implying that such prophets were alarmed themselves by these events. Since the author retains the additional reference to false prophets to the section about the abomination of desolation in Jerusalem (v. 15-26), specifically pertaining to the arrival of Christ ("If anyone tells you, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it," v. 26), and he adds a third reference to v. 11-12, it is tempting to regard the evangelist as responding to a kind of realized eschatology similar to that criticized in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Timothy 2:18, etc. This would make an interesting parallel to the Society, which in the 20th century, took the events surrounding 1914 as corresponding to the "beginning of the birthpangs" in v. 4-8 and claimed on this basis that the parousia has already happened and that the resurrection has also already begun (since 1918).

    In the list of quotes in my last post, I forgot to include a very important and influential study, which I've previously mentioned elsewhere in this forum, Apocalyptic Eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew, by David Sim, published in 1996 by Cambridge University Press. Let me quote some relevant passages:

    "At the very beginning of this speech, Matthew rewrites the Marcan version of the disciples' question so that they now ask about the coming of Jesus and the end of the age, 'Tell us ... what will be the sign of your coming (to sémeion tés sés parousias) and of the close of the age' (Matt. 24:3 and Mark 13:4). Since Jesus then relates the end events in terms of the arrival of the Son of Man, the reader is meant to infer that it is Jesus himself who returns as the Son of Man and that the disciples knew this when they posed the question to Jesus...The arrival of the Son of Man will be totally unexpected. Just as the victims of the flood (and the citizens of Sodom) were caught unawares in the course of their daily activities, so too will be the present generation when the Son of Man arrives. In the final text, 24:27 (//Luke 17:24), the emphasis is not on the inexpectedness of the arrival of the Son of Man, but on its very public nature. His appearance will be as a lightning flash which lights up the sky.

    "In the last three sayings (24:27, 37, 39), Matthew uses a set expression in reference to the arrival of the Son of Man, houtós estai hé parousia tou huiou tou anthrópou. The Lucan parallels offer a number of alternative expressions and there is no doubt that Matthew is responsible for the fixed form in his three sayings. As noted earlier, he inserted the reference to the coming (parousia) of Jesus in 24:3 (cf. Mark 13:4) .... This technical term for the return of Jesus at the eschaton is found only in Matthew of the gospels, but it has a very clear Christian background. It appears in this sense in the Pauline letters (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23) and in other New Testament texts (Jas. 5:7-8; 2 Peter 1:16, 3:4; 1 John 2:28). What makes this reference different in Matthew is that it now applies to the coming of Jesus the Son of Man.... Jesus was the Son of Man during his historical mission, is now the Son of Man at the right hand of God and will return in glory as the Son of Man. The coming or parousia of Jesus which is affirmed in many strands of the New Testament is specifically applied by Matthew to the arrival of the Son of Man. The evangelist's description of the arrival of this figure on the clouds of heaven with power and glory derives from his Marcan source and reflects an early Christian interpretation of Daniel 7:13-14. Matthew often refers to the arrival of the Son of Man, but he only puts this notion into a meaningful framework in 24:4-31. Verses 4-14 spell out the eschatological woes which must occur prior to the arrival of the Son of Man, the breakdown of the social and natural orders, while verses 15-28 detail the appearance of the antichrist and the resultant eschatological conflict which this brings. While much of this scenario has been taken from Mark 13, Matthew intensifies it considerably. This intensification continues in the following verses which describe the arrival of the Son of Man as a military commander leading the armies of heaven....

    "The evidence strongly supports the view that Matthew actively promotes an imminent eschatological expectation. The evangelist affirms the nearness of the parousia in a number of passages, but this theme is best represented in the apocalyptic discourse. The eschatological timetiable which he constructs in 24:4-14 is of paramount importance in this respect and reveals that Matthew placed his own time toward the end of this end-time schedule. The one major unfulfilled prediction is that the gospel must be preached throughout the world but Matthew probably considered that this was close to fulfillment. Of relevance here is the mission discourse which legitimates a final mission to the Jews of Palestine in fulfillment of this final prophecy and itself affirms the imminence of the arrival of the Son of Man. That Matthew expected his readers to witness the coming of this saviour figure is plainly suggested by a number of comments in both the apocalyptic and mission discourses which provide comfort in the face of distress: those who endure to the end will be saved (10:22b; 24:13), the days of tribulation have been shortened (24:22) and immediately after the tribulation the Son of Man will arrive (24:29). Such consulatory words lose their point if the evangelist had abandoned an imminent end expectation...In Matthew 16:28, the redacted version of Mark 9:1, the Matthean Jesus proclaims that there are some standing here who will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. Matthew 24:34 is taken directly from Mark 13:30 and states that 'this generation' will not pass away until all the events mentioned previously in the apocalyptic discourse take place. Taken at face value, these two texts do seem to affirm the imminence of the end. It matters little whether Matthew applied the 'some standing here' and 'this generation' to the contemporaries of Jesus or to his own contemporaries; in either case the nearness of the parousia and not its deferral is clearly in view. These texts thus set a general (not precise) time for the arrival of the end. The parousia will occur before the present generation dies out....In 10:22b Matthew takes from Mark 13:13 the words of comfort which he also uses in 24:13, 'but he who endures to the end will be saved.' This is followed immediately by the promise in 10:23b that the missionaries who are to flee from persecution will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Precisely the same set of themes is found in 24:13-14....

    "In 24:36-25:13 Matthew is deliberately discouraging any speculation about the time of the end, either in terms of its imminence or in terms of its deferral. The evangelist is full aware that the end has been delayed (24:48; 25:5, 19), but he does not perceive this in itself to be a problem. What does cause problems, from Matthew's point of view, is any speculation regarding the timing of the parousia. This applies equally to (apocalyptic) speculation which counts on its nearness and to the contrary belief which reckons with its continued deferment. The latter view especially can lead to moral laxness and the abuse of authority. In order to combat both beliefs, he focuses in this section on the fact that the time of the parousia is unknown and will therefore be sudden and unexpected. His exhortations to watchfulness therefore assume a paraenetic function, advising the reader to reckon continually with (but not count on) the arrival of the Son of Man and live a proper life accordingly... Matthew is warning his readers to be watchful and to be prepared (by living a proper life) precisely because the end is near, even if its exact date is unknown; it is the imminence of the event which leads to the calls for vigilence" (p. 94, 97, 108-109, 153-155, 171, 174).

    The whole book is really worth the read and does a masterful job in placing the apocalyptic scenario of Matthew in its first-century social context. The author really goes far beyond what I've posted to account the many various features of the gospel's eschatology.

  • Praying4Justice

    fresia, you mentioned in one of your earlier posts about how much you hate when opposers and apostates lie. I don't like when people lie either, so please answer this question honestly (as you say you are a Jehovah's Witness).

    Does the Watchtower teach Jehovah's Witnesses that All non-Jehovah's Witnesses are worldly? If you want to give an explanation, that's fine, but please start with a yes or no.


  • fresia

    Billy the ex-bethelite (so so) says..

    Even 'scholar JW' has been so disappointed by the wormwood of Watchtower's teaching that this person is known to have been hungrily feeding at 'apostate websites', seeking meaty spiritual food from Leolaia. Indeed, 'scholar' is provoking arguments in order to dip deeper into the refreshing waters of spiritual truth that flow so abundantly on this website, but are sorely lacking at

    boy when they turn they turn, or are you a nerd as well. Preposterous statement.

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