THE COMING—PAROUSIA (PRESENCE)—OF CHRIST
Now we will speak concerning the coming—parousia—of Christ. The Greek word parousia means presence; in ancient times it was applied to the coming of a dignified person. In the New Testament this word refers to the coming of Christ, the presence of the most dignified One. This presence will last for a period of time. It will begin first in heaven with the rapture of the overcomers before the three and a half years of the great tribulation (Rev. 12:5; 14:1; Luke 21:36); then, toward the end of the great tribulation, it will come down and remain in the air (1 Thes. 4:16-17); finally, at the conclusion of the great tribulation, it will come from the air to the earth (2 Thes. 2:8).
The Rapture of the Saints
As far as the overcomers are concerned, the rapture of the saints to Christ’s presence will take place before the great tribulation, but as far as the majority of the saints are concerned, it will occur on the last day of the great tribulation. Before the great tribulation, the man-child will be caught up to the presence of Christ in the heavens where the throne of God is (Rev. 12:5). The firstfruit also will be raptured to the presence of Christ in the heavens, where the heavenly Mount Zion is (Rev. 14:1-4). In addition, the other overcomers who are living at that time will be raptured to the presence of Christ in the heavens and will stand before Him (Matt. 24:40-41; Luke 21:36; Rev. 3:10) to enjoy the Lord’s presence and escape the great tribulation.
The majority of the believers, those who are not raptured before the great tribulation, will be left to pass through the great tribulation so that they may reach maturity. During that period of time, there will be numerous supernatural calamities, and Antichrist will do all he can to cruelly oppress the saints. As a result, the world will no longer be a lovable place. Although they will experience God’s care and nourishing, the believers will still be miserable. Then, at the completion of the three and a half years, at the sounding of the last trumpet, all the dead saints throughout the generations will be resurrected and, together with the living saints who remain, will be raptured to the presence of Christ in the air (1 Thes. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52). This will include the rapture of the ten resurrected virgins (Matt. 25:1-12) and the rapture of the two witnesses, who will be resurrected (Rev. 11:11-12). At that time the Lord will set up His judgment-seat to judge all the saints (2 Cor. 5:10), and He will also marry His overcomers who will be invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb as the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7-9). After that, Christ will appear openly.
The Destruction of Antichrist
After the wedding feast of the Lamb, Christ will come with His overcomers, His newlywed wife, as His army to fight with Antichrist, the kings under him, and their armies at Armageddon (Rev. 16:14, 16). At that time, the armies of Antichrist will gather there for war to destroy the nation of Israel. There Christ will tread the great winepress of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:19), and the blood will reach to the bridles of the horses (Rev. 14:20). Because of His treading, Christ’s garment will be dipped in blood (Rev. 19:13). On the one hand, Christ will bring Antichrist to nothing by the manifestation of His coming (2 Thes. 2:8); on the other hand, like lightning, He will appear to the children of Israel, and the whole house of Israel will be saved (Matt. 24:27, 30; Rev. 1:7; Rom. 11:26-27; Zech. 12:10-14). After this, Christ will send an angel to bind Satan and cast him into the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3). Thus He will bring His kingdom to the earth (Rev. 11:15; 12:10a). He will sit on His throne of glory to judge the nations who are living at that time and separate them from one another. The "sheep," those who obey the eternal gospel and who treat the suffering believers well, will be blessed and be counted righteous to inherit the kingdom; but the "goats," those who disobey the eternal gospel, will be cursed and will suffer eternal perdition (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 10:42b; 2 Tim. 4:1).
(The Up-to-Date Presentation of the God-Ordained Way and the Signs Concerning the Coming of Christ, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)