PAROUSIA AND EPIPHANY
By MICHAEL P. BAXTER
A deeply important point to notice in regard to ante-tribulation rapture, or ascension, is that so far from removing from earth all true Christians, it will only remove a small proportion of them, while the great majority of them will be left behind on earth to confront the terrors of the great tribulation, as a chastisement for their backsliding and Laodicean unwatchfulness and indifference in regard to the prospect of the immediate personal coming of Christ. Yet, being true Christians, they will be finally saved. This is principally shewn in the prophecies in the twelfth and fourteenth of Revelation.
It is a matter of great consequence to distinguish between the parousia or actual presence of Christ in the atmospheric heavens at the first stage of His coming, and the epiphaneia or visible manifestation of that presence to the world years later at its second stage. A significant distinction is apparently observed in Scripture in the use of these terms - the word parousia occurring twenty-four times, and the expression epiphaneia six times in the New Testament. The difference between these two words may thus be explained. The moon may sometimes have risen on a cloudy night above the horizon for five hours, and yet not be visible because of interposing dark clouds which shut it out from our view; nevertheless there is during those five hours an actual (although invisible) presence or parousia of the moon in the ethereal heavens: and when at last the intervening clouds are suddenly withdrawn, the lunar orb becomes at once visible to every upturned eye; this is the epiphaneia, or open manifestation of its previous parousia or presence.
Similarly, there will be the parousia or bodily Presence of the Lord Jesus in the ethereal heavens when He descends from heaven into the air, before the epiphaneia, or open manifestation of that parousia to the world at large, by the withdrawal of the intervening clouds of concealment which will have intermediately shrouded Him from the observation of mortal man.
Various predictions intimate that watchful Christians shall be kept out of and escape the final direful season of Tribulation, and that they may expect redemption even when it begins to come to pass. “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience (that is, the injunction patiently to wait for My Coming), I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” “Watch ye therefore, and pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” “When these things BEGIN to come to pass, then look up…”
But a most distinct narrative of the two separate stages in Christ’s coming is given in the twelfth and fourteenth chapters of Revelation, which demand attentive consideration. In the fourteenth chapter we are plainly told that two separate companies of Christians are to be taken up to heaven at Christ’s coming, and that a considerable interval is to elapse between the removal of each of those companies. The first company is called the Firstfruits, and consists of a company of watchful Christians, who are taken to heaven before the three and a half years of Great Tribulation; but the second company is called the Harvest, being much more numerous than the firstfruits, and is caught up to heaven after the three and a half years.
Compare verses 4 and 15 in Rev. 14. The 144,000 Jews in Rev. 7 are an entirely different company from the 144,000 in Rev. 14. The seventh chapter company are entirely Jews caught up after the Tribulation, but the fourteenth chapter company are chiefly Gentiles, and are caught up before the Tribulation. In no sense can Jews be called Firstfruits.
- The Prophetic News.