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In a word: parousia

By John E. McIntyre

The Baltimore Sun

9:55 AM EDT, October 15, 2012

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Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be acquainted, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

PAROUSIA

Harold Camping has been rather low-key lately, but you perhaps recall his predictions last year of the end of the world. Such predictions are examples of millennialism or millenarianism, the expectation, based on the Book of Revelation, of a thousand-year period of blessedness associated with the Second Coming of Christ. The blessedness, unhappily, is also associated with the Apocalypse, the destruction of the world.

(The Rapture, in which it is thought that the faithful will be caught up into the sky before the bad times begin, is an interpretation of Revelation called dispensational pre-millennialism, an interpretation not universally held among believers.) 

The event that brings about both the Apocalypse and the millennium is the parousia, "the return of Christ in glory (the 'Second Coming') to judge the living and the dead, and to terminate the present world order," the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church explains.

The word is Greek, meaning "presence" or "arrival."

Example: A constant over the centuries explained in the Dictionary of Christian Theology: " Theology could only answer the complaint that the parousia (coming) had not arrived as expected by saying that ... it might occur very soon."