THE LORD’S COMING
The New Testament uses several different words to describe the Lord’s coming. One is the ordinary word for coming. Another is a special Greek word, parousia. Parousia means the Lord’s presence. This word parousia is used in Matthew 24:39 and 44. The Lord’s presence, or parousia, is His gradual coming and begins from the third heavens. When the firstfruit are taken into the house of God in Revelation 14, the Lord’s parousia will begin.
Many years ago, with Brother Watchman Nee’s help, we published several papers on the matter of the rapture. According to our study we realized that the Lord’s presence, His parousia, will begin from the time that the firstfruit are brought up to the third heavens. At that time, in a sense, the Lord will not have left the third heavens, but His parousia will begin at that time. The parousia of the Lord will last at least seven years. By studying all the verses which use this word parousia, we can see that the parousia of the Lord is a long-term matter. It begins from the time that the firstfruit are brought into the heavens, and it will continue until the Lord appears physically to the world. The firstfruit will be taken away before the tribulation, and the Lord’s appearance to the earth in a physical way will be after the tribulation or at least at the ending of the tribulation. As the firstfruit, the mature ones will be taken up to the third heavens. Then they will come back with the Lord to the air. Then the majority of the Christians as the harvest will be reaped and caught up to the air where the Lord Jesus will exercise His judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. This is not the judgment at the great white throne which will occur after the millennium (Rev. 20:11-13). The judgment at the great white throne will be upon the unbelievers related to salvation, whereas the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ will be upon believers related to reward and punishment. At His judgment seat Christ will determine who among the believers will be rewarded and qualified to come with Him to the earth to defeat His enemy. At that time the Antichrist with his army will be on the earth fighting against the Lord and the Lord’s people. Then the Lord will come with His army, the overcoming saints. After the rapture and after the judgment seat, the Lord will choose all the overcomers to come with Him to fight against the Antichrist (Rev. 19:11-16).
(The Kingdom, Chapter 40, by Witness Lee)