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Why Christ's Return Is Not Our Escape

While most of us are conditioned to think of the Second Coming as the beginning of our escape or rapture from the world, nothing could have been further from St. Paul’s mind. Based on the Jewish hope of the Creator-God setting His world right and the 1st-century context of Caesar as a returning king visiting his colonies, esteemed theologian N. T. Wright re-reads Paul’s words with fresh power and insight.

The parousia, or “Second Coming” is about the return of a king. When Caesar would return from battle, the citizens would leave the city to meet him and then escort him in parade-like fashion back into the city. In a similar way, when Paul says we will “meet him in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17), he’s referring to our resurrection, our going to meet the risen Christ, with the implication that we will come back to the earth with Him to reign with Him. Thus the return of Christ is the beginning of making “all things new” (Rev. 21), the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). Christ’s return marks not our escape from earth to heaven but the beginning of the colonizing– the renewing and remaking– of earth with heaven, the beginning of “new heavens and new earth.”