Paraousia: Unconditional or Conditional?

Paraousia: Unconditional or Conditional?

By Jaymark Molo

Second Coming Jesus 15

Second Coming Jesus 15 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

“Is the second coming of the Lord unconditional or conditional?” the Sabbath schoolteacher asked. That question became the focus of today’s lesson, entitled: The Promised Revival: God’s Completed Mission.[1] Interestingly, both sides had been taken on. Those who claimed that paraousia was in nature conditional, argued that it was dependent on human response. Implying, the Second Advent can be delayed or hasten based on human participation of the gospel. While others who asserted that it was unconditional combats the position that it was conditional by stating that God has His own timetable. That is to say, He will come again independent on any human response whether His people are ready to receive Him or not. Both sides were heard. The teacher gave conclusive answer. Sadly, this question still becomes an ongoing puzzle to some.[2] This will be the main concern of this article (see, the main question above).

1.    Classical Prophecy or Apocalyptic Prophecy? The question in nature can be settled if one will ask whether what type of predictive prophecy are we dealing here.[3] If one will assert that the second coming of Christ can be classified as apocalyptic prophecy—then there is a reasonableness of claiming that it is unconditional. However, if it can be showed that it is classical prophecy—then there will be no reasonable doubt to assert that is conditional. A careful comparative study between the said two genres of prophecy is called to resolve the tension. Some of the major differences may be summarized as Richard M. Davidson compares the two in the following chart.[4]


As we can carefully observe, striking contrasts are made[5] and all of the characteristics discussed in the chart under apocalyptic prophecy can be found in the Second Coming of Christ.[6] Interestingly, the conditionality of this prophecy in the Scripture can be found totally lacking.

2.    Sign, Not Cause. Looking at Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, all of them points to a series of signs, instead of conditions.[7] This can be supported by question of the disciples when they privately asked Jesus, saying: “”Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3, NIV) Evidently, the disciples were looking for signs, not conditions. One cannot separate Matthew 24:14 to be treated as a conditional and yet treat others (vv. 4-13) as apocalyptic.

3.    Divine Sovereignty and Divine Foreknowledge. There might be cases where there is a seemingly delay in Second Coming, but that is only to speak in horizontal plane, not in a vertical plane. It is interesting to note that Ellen White confirms this concept by saying: “Like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God’s purposes know no haste and delay… So in heaven’s council the hour for the coming of Christ had been determined.”[8] Divine foreknowledge sees the seemingly delay in human plane, but divine sovereignty stresses that God is in control, He proved it by sending the Messiah in the “fullness of time” (cf. Gal. 4:4), so He will also do it again in His Second Coming. These two are inseparable elements in apocalyptic prophecy. Although divine sovereignty seemingly negates freedom, it does not. Rather it only foresees choices; it does not fixed them. Therefore, “human freedom must never be isolated from God’s sovereignty; and both must acknowledge His foreknowledge”[9] accurately claims William Johnsson. God still values our response in evangelism, but it will not play a role as a cause of His coming. A respected theologian in Adventist scholarly circle unambiguously concludes:

“The fulfillment of the promises in classical prophecy was dependent on the response of the people (Jer 18:7-10). A Classical prophets tied God’s activities to events in human history. On the other hand, apocalyptic prophecy presents God’s cosmic timetable for the final supernatural appearance of the kingdom of God. Hence it is not conditional. In other words, it is not dependent on the human response, e.g., Christ’s first coming was not dependent on Israel’s or Judah’s obedience. He came, when the fullness of time [outlined in Daniel 9:24-27] had come (Gal 4:4 NKJV), even though the Jews were not ready to receive him. Similarly, the time prophecies in Daniel and Revelation which point towards the time of the end and the Second Coming are independent of any human response.”[10]

So, this is the good news, Second Coming is God centered, not man centered. It does not depend on any human response. We cannot hasten nor delay the second coming of the Lord but we can be rest assured that Jesus is coming again no matter what happen! Maranatha!

[1] See, Mark Finley, “The Promise Revival: God’s Completed Mission”, Adult Sabbath School Lesson Study Guide, edited by Clifford Goldstein (MD, Silver Spring, 2013), 149-160.

[2] In fact, after the lesson study, someone approached the Sabbath teacher and asked: “What is really our stand?” “Is it conditional or unconditional”? This question reflects the perplexing issue of the matter.

[3] See, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary 4 (Washington, DC, 1955): 25-38.

[4] Richard Davidson, Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach Vol 1, edited by George W. Reid (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 2005), 184, 185.

[5] It can’t be classical (conditional) and yet apocalyptic (unconditional). That would be contradictory in terms. It’s either classical or apocalyptic. We can’t simply have both.

[6] This was discussed elsewhere by Ekkehardt Mueller, in his “Jesus and His Second Coming in the Apocalypse” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 11 (2000): 205–215.

[7] William G. Johnsson, A Conditionality in Biblical Prophecy with Particular Reference to Apocalyptic in 70 Weeks, Leviticus, Nature of Prophecy, DARCOM, edited by Frank B. Holbrook, 7 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Research Institute, 1986), 278.

[8] Ellen White, Desire of Ages, 32.

[9] William G. Johnsson, A Conditionality in Biblical Prophecy, 285.

[10] Gerhard Pfandl, “The Pre-Advent Judgment: Fact or Fiction, Part I,” Ministry Magazine (December, 2003): 3. Emphasis mine.

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