Parousia – New Jerusalem Day (Introduction and Article)


INTRODUCTION

Almost two months from now, believers in different parts of the world will celebrate a new holiday known as “Parousia – New Jerusalem Day.” The idea for this holiday came from a friend of mine, Joshua John Trent, who asked me to write about the meaning of the holiday’s name. Joshua is the founder and creator of Iron Scepter Concepts (Los Angeles).

There’s more information about this holiday at www.parousianewjerusalemday.com. That site also hosts a growing list of songs that promote the message of fulfilled eschatology. So far there’s a rap song from T.C. Mayle, a worship song by Jesus Culture, and a classical/folk metal song (based on Isaiah 9:6-7) performed by Illuminandi, a band in Poland. More will be posted soon, Lord willing, including some brand new devotional songs from India. There will also be a way for people to check-in and confirm that they participated. A Facebook page is here.

ARTICLE

(This is taken from my article, “The Meaning of Parousia – New Jerusalem Day,” posted at the holiday site referenced above.)

Parousia – New Jerusalem Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of August (August 7th this year). This is close to August 10th, the day that the famous Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The old temple and the old city of Jerusalem became desolate (Matthew 23:38) and marked for destruction (Matthew 22:7, 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4; Luke 21:5-7), but Jesus became the cornerstone of a new temple, God’s dwelling place made up of His people from all nations (Ephesians 2:19-22). New Jerusalem and the new covenant were chosen while old Jerusalem and the old covenant were cast out (Galatians 4:21-31).

Definition of the Word “Parousia”

The word “parousia” (pronounced par-oo-see’-ah) is a Greek word which means “presence.” According to Wikipedia, it also meant “arrival” or “official visit,” and “was used in the East as a technical expression to denote the arrival or visit of a king or emperor, and celebrated the glory of the sovereign publicly.” The word “parousia” appears 24 times in the New Testament. In several instances it is used to speak of the coming or presence of various individuals: Stephanas, Fortunatas, and Achaicus (I Corinthians 16:17); Titus (II Cor. 7:6-7); Paul (II Cor. 10:10; Philippians 1:26, 2:12); and the lawless one (II Thessalonians 2:9).

In the majority of instances (16 times), though, it is used in connection with the promise of Christ’s coming. The Blue Letter Bible shows that this word comes “from the present participle of G3918 [“pareimi”]; a being near, i.e. advent (often, return; specially, of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked); (by implication) physically, aspect:—coming, presence.”  I’ll develop this study more below.

“Parousia” Goes Hand-in-Hand with “New Jerusalem.”

Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 is the most detailed description of the New Jerusalem, and there we read that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). We also see that the Lamb, Jesus, is the light of God’s city (Revelation 21:22-24; 22:5). New Jerusalem is filled with the presence (“parousia”) of Jesus; New Jerusalem is His dwelling place.

“Parousia” in the New Testament

Here are the 16 New Testament passages where Christ’s “Parousia” is promised:

  1. “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).
  1. “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27).
  1. “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).
  1. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (I Corinthians 15:22-23).
  1. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (I Thessalonians 2:19).
  1. “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (I Thessalonians 3:12-13).
  1. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” (I Thessalonians 4:15).
  1. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23).
  1. “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come” (II Thessalonians 2:1-2).
  1. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (II Thessalonians 2:8).
  1. – 12. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7-9).
  1. “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Peter 1:16).
  1. “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle… that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (II Peter 3:1-4).
  1. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:10-13).
  1. “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).

Professor and author N.T. Wright explains in a video and in his book, “Surprised by Hope” (2008),the typical use of the word “parousia” in the first century AD (pp. 132-133):

“When the emperor visited a colony or province, the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city.  It would be disrespectful to have him actually arrive at the gates as though his subjects couldn’t be bothered to greet him properly.  When they met him, they wouldn’t then stay out in the open country:  they would escort him royally into the city itself.  When Paul speaks of “meeting” the Lord “in the air,” the point is precisely not – as in the popular rapture theology – that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth.  The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from.  Even when we realize that this is highly charged metaphor, not literal description, the meaning is the same as in the parallel in Philippians 3:20.  Being citizens of heaven, as the Phillippians would know, doesn’t mean that one is expecting to go back to the mother city but rather means that one is expecting the emperor to come from the mother city to give the colony its full dignity, to rescue it if need be, to subdue local enemies and put everything to rights” (emphasis added).

More than 100 passages in the New Testament declared that the events of “the last days,” including the Great Tribulation and the coming of Christ, were “near” and about to take place “soon” in the first century. Jesus Himself promised to come before His disciples could go through the cities of Israel (Matthew 10:23). He promised to come [1] in the glory of His Father [2] with His angels [3] in judgment, and [4] in His kingdom before all of His disciples would die (Matthew 16:27-28). He promised to come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” before His generation would pass away (Matthew 24:30, 34).

Jesus told His disciples that when they would see “all these things” (earthquakes, wars, famines, etc.) promised in the Olivet Discourse, they would know that He “is near, at the very doors” (Matthew 24:33). As we saw above, James declared that Christ’s coming was at hand and that the Judge was standing “at the door” (James 5:8-9). James wrote that nearly 1,950 years ago, and it’s apparent that he saw those things come to pass in his lifetime just as Jesus promised.

John wrote in his first epistle that it was already “the last hour” in his day (I John 2:18). It was the last hour of the old covenant age. His opening words in the book of Revelation declared that the visions he saw “must shortly take place” because the time was “near” (Revelation 1:1, 3). The angel echoed these words at the end of the book (Rev. 22:6, 10) and Jesus declared three times that He was coming quickly (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20).

In summary, “parousia” is a Greek word used repeatedly in the New Testament to describe the first century arrival of Jesus’ presence in the New Jerusalem, and into the kingdom that He established, the corporate body of His followers. His “parousia” (presence) is in our midst today.

New Jerusalem

Isaiah prophesied that God would create new heavens and a new earth, and “Jerusalem as a rejoicing” (Isaiah 65:17-18). In those days there would still be childbirth, death, building, and planting (65:20-23), i.e. the realities we know and experience today. There would also be joy, peace, satisfaction, glory, and comfort like a mother’s comfort (65:19; 66:10-13).

The apostle Paul also described “the Jerusalem above” as a comforting mother (Galatians 4:26-28). The author of Hebrews told the first century saints that they had already come to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). These two passages, along with the book of Revelation, contrast two covenants (the old and the new), two women (the harlot and the bride), and two cities (old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem):

Two Covenants

The New Jerusalem is described by John in Revelation 21:1 – 22:5. In these 32 verses, there are numerous parallel passages in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles described the life of those who follow Christ. In other words, we are the New Jerusalem community right now. In these 32 verses there are also numerous parallel passages in the Old Testament where the prophets looked ahead to this present new covenant age. Here are some of them:

Passage Description and Parallels
Rev. 21:2 New Jerusalem is God’s holy city, pictured as a bride. Jesus said His people are a city set on a hill, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). See also Hebrews 12:22-24, Galatians 4:26.
Rev. 21:3 God dwells with His people, He’s with them, and He’s their God. See Ezekiel 37:27, 43:7, 48:35; II Corinthians 6:16.
Rev. 21:9 John sees the New Jerusalem as a bride, the Lamb’s wife. He contrasts the bride with the harlot/”great city” of Rev. 17, old covenant Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8). Paul also contrasted two women/two covenants in Galatians 4:21-31.
Rev. 21:12-13 The new Jerusalem has a high wall with 12 gates, bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel; three gates each on the east, north, south, and west sides. Compare to Isaiah 60:18, Luke 13:29, and to Ezekiel 48:30-35 (“…and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE”).
Rev. 21:14 The city’s foundations bear the names of the 12 apostles. Compare to Ephesians 2:20.
Rev. 21:15-18 The new Jerusalem in John’s vision is cube-shaped, as was the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple (I Kings 6:20). The holy of holies was overlaid with pure gold, and the holy city in John’s vision is also entirely made of pure gold.
Rev. 21:19-21 The foundations of the city walls are covered in precious gems. This fulfills Isaiah 54:11-12, and Paul clearly affirms that Isaiah 54 is about the church (Galatians 4:27).
Rev. 21:22-23 Jesus is the temple and the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:19.
Rev. 21:24 The nations of those who are saved walk in the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:3, 10.
Rev. 21:25-26 The gates of the city are never shut, and the glory and honor of the nations come in to the city. See Isaiah 60:5, 11.
Rev. 21:27 Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life enter this city. See Isaiah 60:21.
Rev. 22:1 A pure, clear river of water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. See John 4:13-14, 7:37; Zechariah 14:8; Rev. 22:17.
Rev. 22:2 On both sides of the river is the tree of life, which bears different fruit each month. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. See Ezekiel 47:1-12.
Rev. 22:5 There’s no night in the city, and no need for a lamp. See Isaiah 60:1, 19-20; Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:43, John 8:12. The citizens of New Jerusalem reign forever and ever. See Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:33, Rev. 1:6.

For a more detailed study of these things, please see this article.

The New Jerusalem means “the new city of peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace and His presence, His parousia, is in this city. He is peace (Micah 5:5), and there will be no end to His government and peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). Let’s rejoice and celebrate, not only on August 7th, but every day that His presence is in our midst, in the city of God, the New Jerusalem.

Parousia Sunday - August 7, 2016

(Photo Credit: Dr. Cindye Coates)

Book of Acts: The Hope of Israel Fulfilled (Conclusion)


This is the final section (part 4) of Don K. Preston’s overview of the book of Acts, titled “Introduction to Acts and the Restoration of Israel.” This overview demonstrates that, throughout the book of Acts, “the hope of Israel” and “the restoration of Israel” are shown to be fulfilled in Christ. Preston’s commentary is part of the “Fulfilled Covenant Bible” project, and can be accessed at the “Bible Prophecy Fulfilled” site run by Mike Day, Gary and Audrey Parrish, Terry Kashian, and Lahaina Dave. See Part 1 of this series here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

The Nature of the Restoration of Israel

In Paul’s affirmations that he preached nothing but the hope of Israel, and in Luke’s record of the proclamation of that gospel, we have seen the revolutionary re-shaping and re-identification of the Israel of God. The restoration was a spiritual restoration that eschewed and rejected the geopolitical-military restoration of the Davidic kingdom longed for by the Jews. This is evident from Acts 1 to Acts 28. We need to review a bit of this to drive home the point that, first of all, Acts truly is about the restoration of Israel, as foretold in the OT prophets, and, secondly, that restoration was not what the Jews of the first century anticipated or desired.

Acts 1 draws directly from Isaiah 43 that predicted the creation of a New Israel, a New Creation and called on Israel to forget the former days.

Acts 2 shows us that Christ was sitting at the right hand of the Father, in fulfillment of YHVH’s promise to raise Messiah to David’s throne. But Jesus was sitting at the right hand in the heavenlies, not on a literal throne in literal Zion.

Acts 3 records Peter’s call to the Jews to repent so that God would grant them a time of rest before the coming judgment. He reminds them of the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18 that God would raise up a prophet like Moses. And, he warns them that to reject Jesus would result in being “utterly cut off out from among the people” (Acts 3:23). This text is all but definitive in identifying the true Israel: they are the followers of Jesus! Thus, as we noted above, John the Baptizer initiated the “restoration of all things” and Jesus would consummate that restoration at His parousia. But what cannot be denied is that the restoration begun by John, and thus the work of Jesus, was not in any way related to the restoration of nationalistic Israel.

Acts 4 shows us that one of the key markers of Israel, the land, was being overtly rejected by the nascent body of Christ. In a radical, unprecedented move, the members of the body of Christ began to sell their land! This was strictly forbidden by Torah, but they had begun to learn that their salvation was not in the land. They were now – in fulfillment of Isaiah 66 – all priests unto the Lord, and even in Torah God Himself was the true inheritance of the priests; they got no inheritance of physical land (Numbers 18:20).

Likewise, Acts 4 shows that the Chief Corner Stone of the long anticipated Messianic Temple had been laid. Thus, Israel was being restored! Yet the Temple being constructed was a living edifice, built on the living Messiah. And this truth signaled the coming destruction of the Old Temple. Thus, once again, the nature of the restoration of Israel is undeniable. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the old form. It had nothing to do with the old Temple. It had nothing to do with the old City either.

Acts 6-7 records Stephen in the Temple recounting Israel’s long history of rejecting God’s plans and purposes, even killing all of His prophets sent to her. Stephen had the “audacity” to even quote Isaiah 66 which spoke of Israel’s inordinate affection for things physical, i.e. the Temple, and calling their attention to the fact that “God does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Isaiah 66:1). Isaiah 66 not only noted that physical temples were not God’s intended abode, but that the time was coming when the Lord would come against Jerusalem and the old Temple in judgment, to bring in the New People and the New Creation.

All of those students of Torah present that day would have known full well what Stephen was saying in his citation of Isaiah: that wonderful edifice in which he was standing, in which they took so much (too much) pride, was doomed. It was to give way to the New Creation. Acts 8 tells us the story of the restoration of Israel in a profound manner. Israel had been scattered. Samaria was the symbol of that diaspora. Yet now the gospel of the kingdom – Israel’s hope – was being proclaimed in Samaria! But of course, the message being preached was not one of nationalistic restoration. It had nothing to do with a re-gathering to the land. It had nothing to do with the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem. It had nothing to do with the destruction of the Romans or the conquering of Israel’s national enemies. Nonetheless, Israel was being “gathered.” She was being gathered in the very manner that Jesus had desired to gather her (Matthew 23:37) – a covenantal gathering into fellowship with Him. The proclamation of the gospel in and to Samaria was a profound fulfillment of the restoration of Israel. But, once again, the unexpected nature and form of the restoration was on full display.

Acts 8 likewise portrays the restoration of Israel in the story of the conversion of the eunuch. In the prophets, the radical nature of the restoration of Israel under Messiah was hinted at, strongly suggested, but never fully grasped by the Jews. Isaiah had foretold the time – when Israel was restored, and God’s temple was present – that even foreigners and the eunuchs would be given a place in that Temple. They would no longer be outsiders, but true children of God! (See Isaiah 60:5-7 where YHVH foretold the time when “the wealth of the nations” would flow to Jerusalem and those who had always been rejected, foreigners, would actually ascend the altar of the Lord to offer sacrifices! This is a stunning “reformulation” of the priesthood, in the manner of Isaiah 66).

In similar stunning fashion, Acts 10-15 records the conversion of the Gentiles and ensuing controversies. What is so stunning is that, although the OT prophets clearly foretold this, Paul’s inspired interpretation of those prophecies was that the Gentiles were equal partners, equal partakers of the kingdom blessings (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:3-11)! Salvation was no longer confined to one ethnic group, but, just as God had called Abraham out from the nations to be His people, God was now calling the nations to be His people (Cf. Zechariah 2:10)! So “God’s people” were being re-identified. “Israel” was no longer identified according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit by faith.

Acts 15 is extremely powerful proof that God’s “Israel” – the kingdom – was now fundamentally different, radically transformed. From Abraham foreword, and under Torah, physical circumcision was one of the key markers of the “children of God.” Circumcision was Israel’s covenant sign between YHVH and that nation which gave her the right to the land. No circumcision = no land. And yet, the Jerusalem Council determined that Gentiles – as equal partakers of the promises of Israel – were under no obligation to be circumcised.

Keep in mind that no one taught “the hope of Israel” more firmly, more zealously than did Paul, as we have seen. Yet, as he preached that hope of Israel, he vehemently rejected any attempts to impose physical circumcision – or any of Israel’s cultus – on Gentiles (cf. Galatians 2), and openly taught that to impose it on Gentiles resulted in the loss of fellowship with Christ (Galatians 5). What mattered (matters) was not physical circumcision (and thus, not physical land) but the New Creation foretold by the OT prophets (Galatians 6:15-16).

Here is a fine exemplification of what Isaiah 43 foretold. God said He was going to do a “New Thing” in the last days, and called on Israel to forget the past things. And now here was Paul calling on Israel to forget her past, and look to the New Thing being created in Christ. Stunning indeed! Nothing could have been more revolutionary, more stunning, more offensive to the Jews than this message! This is why Paul called his “circumcision free” gospel an “offense” to the Jews. They realized that the nullification of circumcision was, in fact, the declaration that their right to the land had now been voided! They failed – like so many today – to grasp the spiritual significance of that message. The true “land” that Abraham had longed for, the heavenly Zion, was about to be realized (Hebrews 11:13-16- 12:21f).

Spatial considerations forbid further development of this theme, but what we have presented powerfully illustrates that Luke and Paul were on the same page. Luke’s narrative was about how God had not abandoned Israel. Paul’s gospel was the same. God was fulfilling His promises to Israel. The problem was that Israel longed for the wrong things – national restoration when the promises were, from the very beginning, the promise of spiritual restoration.

This brings us to consider that throughout Acts, from beginning to the end, there are powerful suggestions and pointers that indicated that while God was indeed restoring Israel as promised, that found in her Old Covenant promises all along was the reality, as painful and traumatic as it was to be, that when Israel was restored, the Old Covenant body had to pass away. As when a person has a pecan, and to reach the wonderful “meat” inside, the outer shell has to be crushed, the outer shell of Old Covenant “fleshly” Israel had to be crushed, having fulfilled her purpose, to reveal the “inner man” of the body of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:16f). This was truly a “good news / bad news” scenario, but one that is evident throughout Acts, if we have our eyes open. So, look at a few of those earlier references and warnings.

Acts 1 – Isaiah 43 – If indeed Isaiah 43 lies behind the beginning of Luke’s narrative, then one can hardly help but notice that the coming of the New Thing that God would do would necessitate the passing of the Old Creation.

Acts 2:40 – “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” There are numerous things in Acts 2 that would have been foreboding to the observant.

A.) The outpouring of the Spirit was to be magnified in the last days before the Great And Terrible Day of the Lord. This Great Day was the Day foretold by John the Baptizer, as Elijah, when the wicked would perish (Malachi 4). It would likewise be when the Lord would judge Israel for violation of Torah (Malachi 3:1-6).

B.) Peter was citing Deuteronomy 32 (in Acts 2:40). The Song of Moses was about Israel’s latter end, when the Lord would avenge the blood of His saints in judgment.

C.) Even the marvelous affirmation that Jesus was sitting at the Right Hand of the Majesty in the heavens had a dark lining to the silver cloud. Psalm 110 not only foretold the enthronement of Messiah, it likewise foretold judgment of His enemies (i.e. those who had rejected Him!) when he would send forth the rod of His anger.

D.) Very clearly, Peter affirmed that his audience needed to save themselves from what was coming on that generation.

Acts 3:23 – While Peter proclaimed the marvelous fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, he nonetheless warned them that failure to accept Jesus as Messiah would have dire consequences: “And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” It should be noted that the force of the language is very graphic. The destruction of those rejecting Jesus would be utter destruction “out from among the people.” The true “the people” are thus identified as followers of Jesus. Those who refuse to accept him are no longer “the people” and are doomed to be cut out from among “the people.” This is both stunning and graphic.

Acts 4 – The thrill of hearing that the Chief Corner Stone of the long anticipated Messianic Temple had been laid was tempered by the somber reality that those who rejected that Stone were to be, according to the Old Covenant promises, crushed by that Stone. As we have seen, this is precisely how the chief leaders in Jerusalem understood the wonderful message of the gospel. While the gospel truly was “good news’ that Israel was being restored as promised, it was “bad news” in that those who had killed Him were now doomed to destruction.

Acts 13:40-41 – As Paul proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, the Jews rejected that message. Consequently, Paul spoke a warning to them: “Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: ‘Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you.’”

Paul was quoting from Habakkuk, where the Lord warned Judea and Jerusalem that failure to obey Him would bring – was just about to bring – judgment. There can be no doubt that Paul’s Jewish audience would have fully realized what the apostle was saying. Failure to obey Christ would be a mistake, resulting in national destruction.

Skipping over some other passages, we return to Acts 28. Luke tells us that as Paul expounded on the hope of Israel and the kingdom, and some of the Jews were convinced, but “others disbelieved” (28:24). And when that unbelief became clear to Paul, he cited a text from Isaiah that Jesus himself had cited Isaiah 6:9f: “Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see and not perceive; for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

We find here an additional echo of what we have seen above: Judgment was about to fall on the Old Covenant Body of Israel for rejecting Messiah and the restoration of Israel taking place in Him.

Paul’s Roman Mission Fulfilling the Mystery of God and the World Mission Awaiting the End

Informed by the Spirit that he was to be imprisoned and taken to Rome, Paul informed the elders of Ephesus of his fate. They were, naturally, deeply disturbed and sorrowful. Yet, Paul told them: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)

Paul realized that as Christ’s specially chosen apostle, appointed to “fulfill the mystery of God” and to “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24f), that he had to suffer and eventually die. He realized that he had to take the gospel to the “end of the earth” and there complete that task before the Roman authorities.

The eschatological role of Paul is overlooked by many commentators. Yet Paul clearly saw himself as a covenant mediator (2 Corinthians 3-4), and specially appointed by Christ to bring in the “fullness of the Gentiles,” thereby hastening Israel’s salvation at the parousia (Romans 11:25f).

For Paul, his imprisonment in Rome and the opportunity to preach the gospel to the ruler of the ancient world constituted the climax and consummation of his task: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 4:16f).

Jesus had said that the gospel was to be preached into all the world, as a witness to the nations, then the end would come. And now, at the end of Acts, Paul was about to preach the gospel to the ruler of the nations, fulfilling his task and role as apostle to the Gentiles. Scholars have pondered why Luke ended his history so abruptly. Why quit the record with Paul in Rome, preaching to the Jews and Gentiles alike? Why not record what he said to Nero? Why not record the success or failure of the great apostle?

I suggest that Luke, as well as Paul, considered the task of the world mission as now completed. The end was near. The gospel had been preached to kings and governors, and even once before Nero, evidently. All that remained was for the judgment suggested by Paul’s warning to the Jewish leaders in 28:26 to now come. Thus, the abrupt ending of Acts is best explained by the fact that Luke’s purpose in recording the “restoration of Israel” had now been properly recorded. The warnings of the passing of the Old Covenant body were about to come to pass. The New Covenant body of Christ was about to be manifested, vindicated and glorified at the parousia that was now about to take place.

J. Stuart Russell on the Single Fulfillment of Jesus’ Words


It’s a fairly popular idea today to say that Jesus’ predictions in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) pointed to a dual fulfillment. In other words, some say, Jesus foretold events that took place before or during the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD, but that this was only a precursor to an ultimate fulfillment of those same predictions in the far distant future. There are plenty of indications within the text of the Olivet Discourse which show that this is not possible, and Michael Fenemore points out a number of these indications in this 2004 article.

J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book, “Parousia,” offered yet another proof that Jesus didn’t promote a dual fulfillment: the complete absence of any such interpretation in the words of Luke, Paul, James, Peter, John, or any inspired author of the New Testament. Russell’s book was endorsed by Charles Spurgeon, who said that it “throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable for all.” This is what Russell said concerning the idea of dual fulfillment in the Olivet Discourse, particularly Matthew 24:34/Mark 13:30/Luke 21:32.

“There is not a scintilla of evidence that the apostles and primitive Christians had any suspicion of a twofold reference in the predictions of Jesus concerning the end. No hint is anywhere dropped that a primary and a partial fulfillment of His sayings was to take place in that generation, but that the complete and exhaustive fulfillment was reserved for a future and far distant period. The very contrary is the fact. What can be more comprehensive and conclusive than our Lord’s words, ‘Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled’? What critical torture has been applied to these words to exhort from them some other meaning than their obvious and natural one!

How has γενεά [the Greek word for “generation”] been hunted through all its lineage and genealogy to discover that it may not mean the persons then living on the earth! But all such efforts are wholly futile. While the words remain in the text their plain and obvious sense will prevail over all the glosses and perversions of ingenious criticism. The hypothesis of a twofold fulfillment receives no countenance from the Scriptures. We have only to read the language in which the apostles speak of the approaching consummation, to be convinced that they had one, and only one, great event in view, and they thought and spoke of it as just at hand.”

(“The Parousia: The New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming,” J. Stuart Russell, 1878, page 545)

Indeed, the New Testament is riddled with statements of a fast-approaching consummation of “the end-times.” Peter said that the day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of the last days prophesied by Joel (Acts 2:16-17). Hebrews 9:26 says that Jesus put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (i.e. His work on the cross) at the end of the age. James talked about greedy people already storing up earthly treasure “in the last days” (James 5:1-3). Peter said that “the end of all things” was at hand in his own day (I Peter 4:7). John said that it was “the last hour” when he wrote one of his epistles (I John 2:18). Etc. Etc. Etc.

David Green has compiled a thought-provoking list of 101 “time-indicator” passages clearly showing that the authors of the New Testament believed this consummation was just around the corner in their own time, and that they were united in holding to this idea. Where did they get this idea? They got it from the words of Jesus.