The Manner of His Presence

“Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming [Greek, parousia, meaning presence] of the Son of Man be.” —Matthew 24:26,27

VARIOUS individuals and groups throughout the professed Christian world are proclaiming their belief that the second coming of Christ is very near; that he may arrive any day, bring this world to an end, and take his own people back to heaven with him. Their conclusions concerning Christ’s near coming are based upon the “signs of the times.” World conditions, they say, denote that the second advent cannot be very far away.

We agree that world events today are prophetically very significant. Indeed, we think that they are even more meaningful when we take into consideration what the Bible says concerning the manner of our Lord’s return, and the purpose of his second visit to earth. At Jesus’ first advent he came to earth as a human, born of an earthly mother, and then grew to manhood’s estate and performed his ministry, which was consummated by his death on Calvary’s cross.

The divine purpose of the first advent called for Jesus’ death as a human being. He gave his flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51) It constituted a ransom, or a corresponding price for Adam. (I Tim. 2:3-6; I Cor. 15:21,22) Jesus was not raised from the dead as a human, but as a divine spirit being, invisible to human eyes. (Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20-24; Heb. 1:3,4; I Tim. 1:17; 6:16; I Pet. 3:18) True, he appeared to his disciples a few times in an assumed body of flesh. To them, as humans, this was the best method of proving that he had been raised from the dead. But on each appearance he assumed a different body. Once he was a gardener, and at other times a stranger, but each time a different-appearing stranger. Once, yielding to the demand of Thomas, Jesus appeared in a body displaying wounds in his hands and feet. John referred to these appearances as “signs.”—John 20:30

Previous to his crucifixion Jesus said to his disciples, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19) The Bible promises that the true followers of Jesus will, in the resurrection, be made “like him,” and “shall see him as he is”—not as he was while here on earth. (I John 3:1-3) They will be able to see Jesus as he is since his resurrection because they will be like him. As humans this would be impossible; and that is why the world of mankind will not see Jesus during the period of his second visit: for it is a visit, not of a man, but of a divine being who is as invisible to human eyes as the great Creator of the universe is invisible.

It is important, therefore, in considering the prophecies of the Bible relative to the second presence of Christ to realize that they pertain not to the presence of a human being, hence we should not look for fulfillments which would disclose the presence of a man, but the presence of a spirit being. Our text reminds us of this. If someone should report that Jesus was in the desert, or in secret chambers, we are not to believe it. We would not find him as we might find a human in such places, because he is no longer human.

Then Jesus explained the manner of his presence, and how it would become manifested. He speaks of a bright shining (translated lightning) which would shine from the east to the west—a world-wide enlightenment. Failing to understand the manner of our Lord’s return, some have concluded that the use of the word lightning in this text indicates the suddenness with which he would appear to a startled world. But the thought is of enlightenment rather than suddenness, an enlightenment that encompasses the whole world—from the east even unto the west. “His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled,” wrote the Psalmist.—Ps. 97:4


THE Greek word parousia in our text, which is translated “coming” in the statement, “So shall also the coming of the Son of Man be,” literally means “presence”; so again we see that Jesus is describing the effect of his presence, rather than the suddenness of his arrival. Through a misunderstanding of the manner of our Lord’s return, theologians have erroneously attached the thought of “coming” to the word parousia, and because of this some Greek dictionaries give “coming” as a secondary meaning. However, careful Bible students will not be misguided by false meanings which have been attached to words by those who did not understand the truth.

More important than the opinions of Greek scholars is the inspired use of this word parousia in the Bible. In Philippians 2:12 we have an example. Here the Apostle Paul employs parousia to contrast his presence with the Philippian brethren with his absence from them. The only possible translation of parousia in this text is “presence,” and thus here in the King James Bible we are given the proper translation of the word.

The first New Testament use of the word parousia is in Matthew 24:3. The disciples asked Jesus what would be the sign of his parousia. It is in response to this that Jesus gave his detailed prophecy of events that would occur at the end of the age, a period which he described as “the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17:26) Because parousia is mistranslated “coming” in this text many students of prophecy have been misled, as we have noted, to believe that the various signs which Jesus mentioned would constitute proof that he would come soon. But when we realize that parousia means presence, we see that the fulfillment of the signs betokens the fact that Christ has already returned.

In Matthew 24:37 Jesus compares the days of Noah with the days of his second presence, or parousia. To use the word “coming” in this text, as the translators do, destroys the comparison which the Lord makes. He is not comparing the coming of Noah with his second coming, but “the days of Noah” with the days of his own parousia, or presence. Luke’s account establishes this fact. It reads, “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the, days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17:26) There can be no question here as to what is meant; and by comparing this statement with Matthew’s account we find unmistakable proof that the parousia of the Son of Man does not refer to the moment of his arrival, but covers the entire period of his presence.


ANOTHER Greek word used in the New Testament with respect to Christ’s second presence is epiphaneia. Prof. Strong gives the meaning of this word as “manifestation.” It also has associated with it the thought of brightness, which indicates a manifestation by means of bright shining. This Greek word is not used in the prophecies of our Lord’s return and second presence to denote a special period of his presence. The only manner in which it may indirectly indicate time is in the fact that the manifestation of Christ’s presence is progressive. First it is manifested to his own people, and later to the world.

Christ’s second presence, we believe, became a reality as long ago as 1874. Shortly thereafter the bright shining of his presence, illuminating the prophecies of the Bible, manifested the fact of his parousia to faithful watchers in Zion. The epiphaneia, or brightness of Christ’s presence, has continued and increased since then, manifesting to thousands that our Lord has returned.

As yet, however, mankind in general is unaware of Christ’s presence. It is true that the world is affected by the bright shining. The “lightning” referred to in our text, in its east to west shining, has affected the world to such a degree that there is increasing confusion among men and the institutions of men. It has led to the desire for greater liberty, and more of the good things of life, and on the other hand, to trouble, indeed “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

The bright shining of the Lord’s presence is, to begin with, causing the tribes of the earth to mourn, which Jesus said would be one of the signs of his presence. (Matt. 24:30) The people see the initial result, and experience the turmoil precipitated by the epiphaneia of the parousia, but as yet are unaware of the real cause of earth’s troubles. And certainly they do not know that the chain of events initiated by the beginning of the brightness of the Master’s presence will continue until Satan’s empire is completely overturned, and the kingdom of Christ fully established, causing the knowledge of the Lord to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9

In II Thessalonians 2:8 Paul uses both parousia and epiphaneia. In this inspired use of the two words in the one text is revealed the manner in which they are related to each other in the prophecies. The apostle speaks of the epiphaneia of Christ’s parousia. In English this would mean the brightness, or bright shining of Christ’s second presence. Thus we see that parousia denotes the fact of Christ’s presence, while the word epiphaneia simply indicates the manner in which his presence is revealed—first to the church, and then to the world.

This text reads, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness [epiphaneia] of his coining [parousia].” “That Wicked” referred to in the prophecy is the great apostate system of Antichrist described by Paul earlier in the chapter, as “that man of sin.” (vs.3) Paul said that the spirit of this “wicked” system was beginning to manifest itself even in his day, and that soon there would be a great falling away from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”—Jude 3

Briefly this “faith” was that Christ would return to establish his kingdom on the earth, and that those who faithfully followed in his footsteps of self-sacrifice would then be raised from the dead in the first resurrection and would live and reign with him. (Rev. 20:6) But some, even in Paul’s day, seemingly wanted to reign with Christ even in this life. (I Cor. 4:8) Following the death of the apostles this ambitious spirit increased, until finally the nominal church succumbed to it, and joined hands with the civil powers to set up what they called Christendom, Christ’s kingdom. This is symbolically described in the Book of Revelation as a harlot woman, the apostate church, committing fornication with the kings of the earth.—Rev. 17:1-6,15,18; 18:1-5,16,17,21

The great counterfeit of Christ’s kingdom, then, the Antichrist, is this pseudo-kingdom of Christ, headed up in what the world today calls “papacy.” And what has been happening to this system? Note that the prophecy states that first it would be consumed by the Spirit of the Lord’s mouth. This is a reference to the Word of God. We believe that this consuming work began about the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. It was then that the Bible, having for centuries been almost completely buried in dead languages, began to be published and distributed freely throughout the earth. Most of our large Bible societies came into being about that time.

It is true that not many who had supported the papacy accepted the truth of God’s Word and withdrew from the system. It has been said, however, that the Bible is the torch of civilization, and certainly its wide circulation and more general use throughout the nineteenth century furnished a climate of opinion which was unhealthy for the further growth of the church-state system of government, which was the core of papacy’s autocratic strength.

The apostate church itself recognized that the wide circulation of the Bible by these societies was detrimental to its best interests. In 1825 Pope Leo XII issued a bull to the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland in which he said:

“It is no secret to you, venerable brethren, that a certain society, vulgarly called the Bible Society, is audaciously dispreading itself through the whole world. After despising the traditions of the holy fathers, and in opposition to the well-known decree of the Council of Trent, this society has collected all its forces, and directs every means to one object—to the translation, or rather the perversion, of the Bible into the vernacular languages of all nations.”

Later in the nineteenth century Pope Pius IX expressed his great displeasure over the increasing circulation of the Bible. We quote:

“Accursed be those very crafty and deceitful societies called Bible Societies, which thrust the Bible into the hands of the inexperienced youth.”

But this was only the beginning. The prophecy further states, that this “Wicked” would be destroyed by the brightness [epiphaneia] of the Master’s presence, or parousia. It has been since the beginning of his parousia that the church-state system of government, as a vital factor in world affairs, has been just about completely destroyed; and it has come about through the enlightenment of the people—their enlightenment concerning the evils of that system of government. Very few, as yet, have been enlightened concerning the true kingdom of Christ which ultimately is to take the place of the counterfeit, but this will come as the epiphaneia of the parousia progressively continues.

In the Clouds

BECAUSE of human selfishness entrenched in all the institutions of earth, the brightness of the Master’s presence has, as we have seen, first of all led to chaos and trouble—“distress of nations, with perplexity.” (Luke 21:25,26) This is referred to in Revelation 1:7, which reads, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” Clouds symbolize trouble, and the Lord’s presence is first manifested by trouble.

This prophecy states that “every eye shall see him,” that is, discern him. If Jesus came as a human in literal clouds, no one could see him literally. But these symbolic clouds reveal the fact of his presence to the point where eventually “every eye,” all mankind, that is, will recognize the meaning of the chaotic and distressing events of which they are a part. The plan of God has not yet progressed to this point, but we can discern enough to know that our Lord is present, and in this we rejoice.

The prophecy divides those who finally recognize the Lord into groups—they which pierced him, “and all kindreds of the earth.” Attention is called to these two groups in the 38th and 39th chapters of Ezekiel. In these chapters some of the details of the final phase of the great “time of trouble” are outlined. They involve an attack by the Gentile nations upon the regathered people of Israel in the land of Palestine. The prophecy reveals that the Lord will at the proper juncture intervene on behalf of his people—“they that pierced him”—and that then their “eyes” will be opened to behold his glory, as well as the “eyes” of the Gentiles who attack them.—Ezekiel 38:16,21-23; 39:7

This is another of the prophecies relating to the time of our Lord’s presence which is not fulfilled sufficiently to enable us to know the details of future events, although it is apparent that the stage is gradually being set for this final attack upon Israel, and the details will be revealed as they take place, and in the Lord’s own due time and way. The main point we are establishing now is that the east to west enlightenment (like the sun) caused by the Master’s presence is clearly visible in its effects upon the peoples of the world. This world-wide diffusion of light will not be complete until the end of the Millennium, but we rejoice in the fact that we can even now see its beginning, that the foretold “increase of knowledge” is already taking place.—Dan. 12:4


THE inspired writers of the New Testament often used the Greek word apokalupsis in their reference to the period of Christ’s presence. Prof. Strong defines this word as “disclosure.” In our Common Version it is frequently translated “revelation.” Apokalupsis appears to be more limited in meaning than the word epiphaneia, which not only denotes a manifestation, but indicates the manner in which it occurs; that is, by means of a bright shining.

Like the word epiphaneia, apokalupsis does not relate to time, such as a specific period during the parousia. Only from the standpoint of the increasing revelation of our Lord’s presence, first to the church, and then to the world, does the word apokalupsis in any sense relate to time. We could say, for example, that the apokalupsis, or revelation of the Lord’s presence to the world is yet future, and thus a future time would be attached to the word in the sense that what it relates to in the prophecies is yet to come; but the word itself is not related to time, nor does it describe a period of time.

It was the bright shining of the Lord’s presence that revealed it to the watchers in Zion soon after it became a reality. It is the bright shining of his presence that will reveal it to increasing numbers until all will become acquainted with the fact that he has returned and is the reigning King of earth. That will be the time when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”—Isa. 40:5

The word apokalupsis appears six times in the New Testament with respect to the second presence of Christ. One instance is I Corinthians 1:7. This is simply a reference to the waiting of the church for the revelation of Jesus Christ, here mistranslated “coming,” the margin correcting this.

I Peter 1:7 uses the Greek word apokalupsis, and in the King James Version it is translated “appearing.” Here Peter explains that the Christian’s trial of faith is very important because it is through this trial that he is “found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing” or unveiling of our Lord Jesus.

I Peter 1:13 uses the word apokalupsis in an exhortation to soberness and a stedfastness of hope until the revelation [apokalupsis] of our Lord Jesus. Peter makes another very interesting use of the word. He speaks of the exceeding joy to be experienced by the faithful overcomers when the glory of Christ is “revealed” to the world. (I Pet. 4:13) What is this exceeding joy? Turning to Romans 8:19 we find the answer. Here Paul uses the word apokalupsis with reference to a blessing that is coming to mankind during the time of Christ’s kingdom. He says, “For the earnest expectation of the creature [Diaglott, creation] waiteth for the manifestation [apokalupsis] of the sons of God.”

Jesus is the chief of these sons of God, and the others are his footstep followers, those who, according to Romans 8:17, suffer and die with him that they might live and reign with him. This text also reveals that when the presence of Jesus is revealed to the world, those who live and reign with him will also be revealed as sharing in his glory. A further confirmation of God’s plan for the church to share in the glory of Christ when that glory is revealed to the world is found in II Thessalonians 1:7, which reads, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [apokalupsis] from heaven with his mighty angels [his messengers, the church].”

Jesus mentions this same great event which occurs during the time of his presence, saying, “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations.” (Matt. 25:31,32) This is Jesus’ introduction to the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, a judgment day parable. Not until the individual work of judgment begins will it be the due time for the revealment of Christ’s parousia to mankind in general, and then his followers, here described as “angels,” will be revealed with him.

What a joyful experience it will be when all the faithful members of the church, glorified together with Jesus, will be revealed to the world as judges, priests, and kings, to direct the affairs of the people for a thousand years, and to dispense the rich blessings of life and happiness promised by the Heavenly Father, and guaranteed by the shed blood of the Redeemer! Not until this work is entirely complete will the full scope of the apokalupsis of Christ’s parousia be fully seen and appreciated, and surely every consecrated follower of the Master is earnestly longing for that time to come.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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