b) Matt 24:37–39: Regarding our inability to predict the timing of his return (Matt 24:36), Jesus explained to his disciples, “For even as in the days of Noah, so shall be the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man.”

Most people will ignore the signs and warnings of impending judgment. Yet—as with the flood—it shall affect everyone and everything on earth.[1]

Parousia is a technical term for “the imminent coming of the exalted Lord in Messianic glory.”[2] Within the gospels, it occurs only in Matthew.[3]

This word appears to derive from Greek classical literature, with 255 occurrences. In comparison, parousia occurs only four times in the Greek Old Testament, all in apocryphal books (e.g. Judith 10:18; 2 Macc 8:12–13.[4]

Greco-Roman usage of “parousia” referred primarily to the arrival of a hidden deity which made its presence known by a revelation of power.[5]

For example, Diodorus Siculus (first century BC) wrote:

After he had secured the throne he instituted the initiatory rites of [the goddess] Demeter… transferring their ritual from Egypt.

And the tradition that an advent (parousia) of the goddess into Attica also took place at that time is reasonable, since it was then that the fruits which are named after her were brought to Athens, and this is why it was thought that the discovery of the seed had been made again, as though Demeter had bestowed the gift.

And the Athenians on their part agree that it was…when a lack of rain had wiped out the crops, that Demeter came to them with the gift of grain.[6]

Eventually, “parousia” also could describe the visit of a high-ranking person, such as a king or emperor.[7]

Polybius, a Roman historian (ca. 200–117 BC), recorded this event:

Cornelius with his colleagues went to King Philip. They met him near Tempe, and after speaking with him on the other matters about which they had instructions, they advised him to send an embassy to Rome, to ask for an alliance, in order to [deter] all suspicion of being…in expectation of the arrival (parousia) of Antiochus.[8]

Since the time of Christ’s return remains unknown, many people will neglect to prepare.[9]

Just as the flood overtook people unaware of their peril, the Son of Man shall suddenly arrive without warning to render judgment (Dan 7:13–14).[10]

In the days of Noah, only those who prepared in advance survived. Everyone else perished (Gen 7:21–22; Matt 25:1–13).[11]

Jesus said, “For as it was in those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark.”

The people of Noah’s era engaged in the normal activities of life.[12] Their affairs so consumed them that they failed to recognize spiritual realities (Gen 6:1–7).[13]

Christ continued, “They did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away. In this manner shall be the coming of the Son of Man.”

Noah’s contemporaries lived in ignorance of their precarious state until judgment fell upon them.[14]

In the same way, spiritually unprepared people who live at the time of Christ’s return shall not escape (1 Thess 5:1–6).[15]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Matt 24:37–39. How does the meaning of “parousia” affect the way you view Christ’s return? What made Noah and his contemporaries a particularly apt illustration? Why does this parable add a sense of urgency to your call to share the gospel?





Go to One Will Be Left

[Related posts include Not Knowing the Day or the Hour (Matt 24:36); One Will Be Left (Matt 24:40–41)Continually Watch! (Matt 24:42–44); Kings as Sons of the Gods (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Taking Wives for Themselves (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Limiting Human Life Spans (Gen 6:3); Nephilim in the Land (Gen 6:4); God Grieves (Gen 6:5–6); Wiping Out Everyone (Gen 6:7); A Deluge to Ruin All Flesh (Gen 6:17); Two of Every Kind (Gen 6:19–22); and A Reversal of Creation (Gen 7:5–16); Difficult Times in the Last Days (2 Tim 3:1–4); Having a Form of Godliness (2 Tim 3:5); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 7: God Opens the Heavens and the Earth (Genesis 7:1–24)]


[1]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 940.

[2]Oepke, “παρουσια” (parousia), TDNT 5:858–71, 865.

[3]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 719.

[4]Result of Logos 7 word study on “παρουσια” (parousia).

[5]Arndt, Danker and Bauer, “παρουσια” (parousia), BDAG, 780–1.

[6]Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, 1.29.3, 96, Http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Diodorus_Siculus/1A*.html.

[7]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “παρουσια” (parousia), BDAG, 780–1.

[8]Polybius, Histories (trans. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh; London; New York: MacMillan, 1889), 18.48.4, Http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0234%3Abook%3D18%3Achapter%3D48.

[9]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 940.

[10]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 591.

[11]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 940.

[12]Osborne, Matthew, 904.

[13]Wilkins, Matthew, 801.

[14]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 719.

[15]Wilkins, Matthew, 801.