Behold Your King—Part 4

“In Like Manner”

“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” —Acts 1:11

MORE than thirty-three years had passed since an angel, addressing a group of shepherds on the hills of Judea, had announced the birth of Jesus and proclaimed him to be the Savior of the world. This one whose coming had been foretold by the prophets and whom they described as a king who would rule over and bring peace to all nations was accepted by a few of his day as the foretold Messiah and Prince of Peace. His disciples were convinced that God was with him, for had they not witnessed his miracles? He had healed the sick and raised the dead; yet after a very short period of activity in teaching truths concerning the kingdom of God and illustrating the blessings of that kingdom by the miracles he wrought, Jesus was arrested by his enemies and put to death.

Countless numbers of times in the history of humanity there have been miscarriages of justice due to the unwisdom and prejudice of those whose business it is to judge and punish violators of the law. In most cases these unfortunate experiences are little publicized and soon forgotten by all except the individuals directly concerned. But it was different in the case of the Man of Galilee, who was hung upon a cross until he died—not because he had violated any law of his day, but due to religious prejudice and intolerance. Here, indeed, was a gross miscarriage and travesty of justice; but it was destined to mark the turning point of time and to introduce the most highly civilizing concepts of religion ever known to man. It was the beginning of the Christian era!

There were a few who did not lose faith in Jesus when the mob cried for his death. Among these was Mary Magdalene. She went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning after the Sabbath and found it empty. She notified two of his disciples, Peter and John, who investigated and verified her story. They returned to their homes, but Mary tarried at the tomb. Supposing that someone had stolen the body of Jesus, heartbroken she peered once more into the empty tomb, as if hoping that her senses had belied her and that after all her dead Lord was really there. It was then that she saw two angels (who appeared as men). One was at the head and the other at the foot of the stone slab on which the body had lain.

Mary was weeping bitterly, and in answer to questions put to her by these strangers, she explained that the body of the Master had been taken away and that she knew not where to find it. Outside the tomb another stranger accosted her, and he also wanted to know the cause of her sadness. Mary thought this man was the gardener; and, supposing that he had been in the general vicinity most of the time since Jesus died, she hoped that he could give her some information as to who had taken away the body and where it had been taken; so she asked him about it.

This stranger who appeared as a gardener did know what had become of Jesus’ body, for he was the resurrected Jesus. With the tone of voice and accent with which she was familiar and which on many occasions, no doubt, had stirred her very soul, he now spoke to her, saying, “Mary.” This stranger did not look like Jesus. He was not dressed as Jesus had always dressed. But what Mary heard was the voice of Jesus, and she knew then that he was no longer dead. Yes, Mary knew that she had seen Jesus. But she was keenly aware also that now he was different. He suddenly disappeared from her sight; where he went she did not know.

Later he joined two of his disciples who were en route to Emmaus, and he conversed with them. They did not recognize him until he offered thanks at the evening meal. They did not know him from his appearance, but it was evidently the tone of his voice and his familiar way of expressing thanks that caused them to identify their guest as the Master.

On another occasion Jesus appeared in an upper room where his eleven apostles were conferring. The door was locked, but Jesus came into the room without opening it. This time he appeared in such a manner that they recognized him by sight.

Mary had seen a stranger; two of the disciples had seen and conversed with a stranger; the eleven in the upper room saw the Master as he had formerly appeared. Later a group of his disciples saw Jesus on the lakeshore and thought he was a fisherman. He was with his disciples for forty days following his resurrection, but they saw him only on a few brief occasions. Yes, he was different, so different that they were puzzled to understand him and to know just how they could continue to be his disciples!

When Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of the Creator, he announced to his disciples that all power had been given to him in heaven and in earth. (Matt. 28:18) Accepting this as a statement of fact, there is no obstacle to our believing that one who possessed such power could come and go as the wind, could reveal himself to human eyes in any manner he chose—as a gardener, as a stranger, in a locked room, or by the lakeshore. Or, if he preferred, such a one could be present with his disciples without their being aware that he was near.

Jesus, who, in coming to earth to die for the sin-cursed race, humbled himself and was made a little lower than the angels, had now been rewarded for his faithfulness. His enemies had put him to death in the flesh, but God had made him alive in the Spirit. He was no longer flesh, having sacrificed his humanity for the sins of the world.

Yes, Jesus had been raised from the dead and for forty days had been with his disciples, but they had seen little of him. His visits with them had been all too brief, and as the circumstances of each short season of communion were different, the disciples were thus given the definite impression that Jesus had taken on qualities and powers which they did not understand. And now he was with them for what proved to be the last time. They were thoroughly convinced that their Master had been raised from the dead, that they were not being deceived by apparitions produced by over stimulated minds.

On occasions before Jesus was crucified, he had hinted to his disciples that the kingdom which they expected him to establish in the earth would not come immediately. He told them that he was going away and would come again and, that following his return, the promises of God pertaining to the kingdom would be fulfilled. They were dull of perception and did not grasp this idea very clearly. They did, however, begin to have misgivings concerning what would happen to their Master, and just a few days before his death they questioned him, asking, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”—Matt. 24:3

Then he did go away—in death—and while it was only three days before he appeared to them again, he was not the same. In fact, during the forty days following his resurrection he seemed to come and go several times. Certainly they must have wondered about the meaning of it all; so when he was with them for what proved to be the last time, they inquired again concerning the subject which was so close to their hearts—the kingdom. “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” they asked. (Acts 1:6) Possibly they thought that what he had told them about his going away and coming again had taken place and that now the time had really arrived for him to establish the kingdom foretold by the prophets.

But they were disappointed! Jesus’ reply indicated that they were not yet to know the time when the long-promised kingdom of God would actually be established. He explained that previous to its coming there was a work for them to do. He told them to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit and that then they were to publicize the Gospel message of the kingdom throughout all the earth. And then, to their growing amazement over the dissimilarity of this Jesus to the one with whom they had lived and worked prior to Calvary, they saw him ascend into a cloud, thus disappearing from their bewildered sight.

While they stood there in consternation, trying to fathom the meaning of that which defied human understanding, two angels appearing as men assured them that this same Jesus—this Jesus whose powers they did not understand—would come again “in like manner.” (Acts 1:10,11) Now they had the answer to at least one of their questions—Jesus’ second coming was still future. What they had just witnessed was the real going away about which he had told them. Now they knew that all the wonderful promises of God relative to the kingdom and its blessings for them and for all mankind must await his return—until “this same Jesus” would come in like manner as they had seen him go.

Yes, Jesus had left his disciples! From this point onward to the end of the age, every true Christian has waited longingly for his return and for the fulfillment of all the glorious promises which were left unfulfilled when he went away. He had come to earth to be a king, but he died as a malefactor. He had come to deliver Israel from the oppressive hand of Gentile misrule; but the religious leaders of Israel had cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Through the prophet, God had promised Jesus the nations as an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as a possession; but he was killed by the edict of a Roman governor. (Ps. 2:8) He came to heal the sick and to raise the dead. He did heal a few of the ailing ones of his day, and he did awaken some from the sleep of death; but his work was cut short by his enemies, and, as his unbelieving persecutors viewed the matter, he who saved others was unable to save himself.

Truly, much had been prophesied for the Messiah to do that Jesus did not accomplish—many promises of blessing which he did not fulfill—so it is no wonder that his followers should anxiously await his return. It is for this reason that the second coming of Christ is such a prominent teaching of the Bible.

Modernist churches largely ignore this teaching of the Word of God, which is in reality the hope of both the true church and the world. They have ceased to look for Christ’s coming as a solution to human problems. Instead, they have joined with the worldly-wise and self-sufficient in promoting various man-made remedies for the world’s ills. They no longer believe that the God of heaven, the Creator of the universe, will ever intervene to put a stop to human madness, but insist that all the good which will ever come to the human race will be as a result of their own efforts.

Fundamentalists, on the other hand, still believe in Jesus’ second coming; but their conception of what that event will mean for the peoples of the earth is usually far from reassuring. The “orthodox” view is that it will mean the destruction of the earth by fire and the end of hope for all except believers. Others believe that his coming will usher in a thousand years of grace for those who are still alive, but insist that at the end of that thousand years everything mundane will come to an end.

While the Fundamentalists hold varying views as to what will occur following Christ’s coming, they are generally agreed that he will come in a body of flesh, with wounds in his hands, feet, and side, and that he will be suspended in the sky in such a manner that every eye of all human beings living on the earth at that time will see him and thus know of his coming.

We mention these various beliefs and disbeliefs merely to impress the fact that the second coming of Christ as portrayed in the Bible is not only different from all these views but is much more reasonable and understandable than any of them. Back in the Dark Ages one could not have been blamed for holding views concerning the return of Christ which now, in the light of the increased knowledge of our day, are found to be out of harmony with the Bible.

The plan of God does call for the return of Christ. Jesus himself promised it. So did the prophets and the apostles. It is such an important part of the divine plan that, unless he comes, the creation of the human race will have been in vain. For this reason, former misconceptions and crude theories concerning this great event should not be permitted to hinder us now from ascertaining the simplicity of thought concerning it, as set forth in the Word of God.

An important factor in our approach to the subject is to realize that the one who returns to earth to establish the long-promised kingdom of righteousness is not a human; nor should we expect to see him as such. It is, rather, the highly exalted Jesus, the one who, at the time he was raised from the dead, was rewarded with a nature and glory far above angels and principalities and powers and every name which is named. It is the one who is now the “express image” of the Father’s person and who dwells in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen nor can see. (Heb. 1:3; I Tim. 6:16) This is in keeping with what Jesus said to his disciples before he was crucified, when he explained that in a little while the world of mankind would see him no more.—John 14:19

It is, then, the divine Christ who returns. This must be taken into consideration as we examine the prophecies relating to this marvelous event in God’s plan for human salvation and restoration. Just as the personality and movements of God himself defy description by the limited language designed for the use of human beings, so it is with the divine Christ who, at the time of his resurrection, was exalted to the right hand of the Creator. The language of our stammering tongues is limited in meaning to the material things with which we are surrounded and which our senses can see and touch and smell and taste and hear. But when these words are applied to things spiritual and invisible, it is little wonder that men have arrived at so many conflicting conclusions as to what is meant.

God said, through the prophet, that his thoughts are as much higher than our thoughts as the heavens are higher than the earth. (Isa. 55:9) How true! And how necessary, therefore, that God used material things with which we are acquainted to illustrate his thoughts; and this helps us even in a limited way to understand them. One of these illustrations was used by Jesus when he said to Nicodemus that those who are born of the Spirit can come and go as the wind.—John 3:8

The Scriptures explain that Jesus himself was born of the Spirit at the time of his resurrection, but this does not mean that his movements since then have been in every respect like the wind. This is an illustration to convey to our minds some idea of the powers possessed by those in the spirit world. The wind is both powerful and invisible. One cannot tell from whence it comes, nor whither it goes; and Jesus, since his resurrection, is like the wind in this respect. As he explained, Jesus now possesses all power in heaven and in earth. Because he is both powerful and invisible, marvelous results are accomplished by his presence, yet he is not seen.

Such is the lesson of the wind as applied to Jesus since he was “born again” in the resurrection. But this is only one of the word pictures which the Scriptures give to help us understand the manner and result of his second coming. When the angels said to the amazed disciples who saw the Master ascend into the clouds that he would come again in like manner as they had seen him go, a word picture was thus painted to help us grasp an idea that is almost beyond human comprehension. Yes, he does come “in like manner,” but what does that mean? The manner of his going was quiet and unobserved except by that handful of his disciples. A cloud received him out of their sight.

Jesus said, “Behold, I come as a thief.” (Rev. 16:15) Paul explained that the Master would come with a “shout,” also with the “voice of the archangel,” and with the “trump of God.” (I Thess. 4:16) Certainly thieves do not blow trumpets and shout, nor did Jesus blow a trumpet when he left the disciples. But these are not contradictions. They are word pictures to help our finite minds comprehend more clearly some of the great factors involved in the second coming of Christ and what that event will mean to all mankind.

We know something about the manner of a thief’s coming. We know a little concerning the purpose of blowing trumpets. We are familiar with shouts of command. We know something of the characteristics of clouds and what they signify. When we put all these together and add to them the many other illustrations of the Bible pertaining to Christ’s second coming, we begin to understand that what we are to look for is not a human being coming down through the literal clouds, setting fire to the earth and toppling over the mountains, but an upheaval of human society, leading to a conversion of mankind from selfishness and hate to love and sympathy; from war and destruction to peace and reconstruction; from sickness and death to health and life; from funeral processions to a great homecoming of the dead.

Just as the people of a nation become conscious of changes of government, not by seeing their new rulers face to face, but by the manner in which their own way of life is affected, so the world of mankind will ultimately “see” Jesus, not in a literal sense, but by the evidences all around them of the beneficent results of his rulership of righteousness and love. The prophet refers to Jesus at his second advent as the “Arm of the Lord”—that is, the instrument by which Jehovah’s glorious purposes on behalf of mankind will be accomplished—and tells us that this “Arm” will be revealed to all the nations and that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”—Isa. 52:10

“Oh, I see,” is an expression frequently used to denote comprehension. The Scriptures often employ the term “see” in exactly this same manner. It is essential to realize this if we are to find harmony in the many prophetic statements which tell of Christ’s second coming. The “Arm of the Lord,” which is Jesus, will be revealed in the “eyes” of all the nations; but here the word eyes is a symbol of discernment. So when the angels said to the disciples that they would see the Master returning in like manner, we should understand this also to signify discernment. He went away in a “cloud,” and in Revelation 1:7 we read, “Behold he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” Thus the literal cloud which received him out of the disciples’ sight was an illustration of the symbolic clouds which reveal his presence at his return.

Concerning literal sight, Jesus said to his disciples, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more.” (John 14:19) Manifestly, therefore, when we read that every eye shall see him, we must understand the meaning to be discernment. Clouds are often used in the Scriptures to symbolize storms of human passion; and the world will first discern the fact of Christ’s return, not by seeing him as a man, literally in the sky, but by recognizing him in the clouds of trouble which will destroy “this present evil world,” in preparation for the establishment of his kingdom. (Gal. 1:4) Thus will be fulfilled the “like manner” prophecy of the angel to the amazed disciples as they gazed into the clouds which had just received Jesus out of their sight. His disciples now are the first to recognize his return, even as his disciples then were the only ones to see him go.

In the increasing light of these days, an important factor in connection with Christ’s return has been revealed by noting the true meaning of the Greek word parousia so often used in the New Testament relating to his return. This word means “presence,” not coming. It was this word that was used by the disciples when they asked him concerning the sign of his return. Their question was, “What shall be the sign of thy presence?” (Matt. 24:3) This makes an important difference in the understanding of Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question, for it means that the signs which he enumerates betoken the period of his presence, rather than a time when his coming would be near.

Jesus not only described numerous signs of his parousia, or presence, but he also explained several points relative to the manner of his presence and what the attitude of his people should be in connection therewith. For example, he admonished his disciples to “watch,” telling them that the need of watching was because of the fact that they would not know in advance the time of his return. This implies also that those who do not watch are apt not to be aware of the Master’s return, that he would be present without their knowledge.

Jesus also explained there was a possibility that, after he returned, an unfaithful servant might claim he had not come, that he had delayed his coming. Thus we see that the fact of Jesus’ second presence could be a matter of controversy among his followers. This means the manner in which Christians see Jesus at his second coming and know of his presence is by discerning the meaning of the signs of the times. If they could see him in the sky with their physical eyes, no one could well deny the fact of his return.

Among the signs which Jesus mentioned as those which would mark the time of his second presence is one which he described as “distress of nations, with perplexity, … men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:25,26) Describing details of this sign, Jesus said that the distress of nations would be so severe that unless the days of trouble were shortened, no flesh would be saved. (Matt. 24:21,22) Briefly, the highlights of this sign are distress of nations, fear, and the threatened annihilation of the race. That this is a realistic description of events through which the present generation has been passing, as well as the fearful foreboding of the people now as they visualize the horrors which might be inflicted upon the human race by the misuse of nuclear fusion and by environmental pollution, there can be no doubt.

In outlining this particular sign of his presence, Jesus quotes from the prophecy of Daniel in which that ancient servant of God foretold that there would be “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) It is this time of trouble, Jesus explained, that constitutes the “distress of nations” which marks the end of the age and the time of his second presence. Jesus speaks of certain features of this period of distress as “the beginning of sorrows.” (Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8) The Greek text here translated “sorrows” has reference to spasms of travail, as in childbirth.

The Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul both refer to this same matter. Paul explains that the destruction of man-made institutions in the day of the Lord would be as travail upon a woman with child. Pains of travail come in spasms, with periods of easement between the “sorrows.” (Isa. 42:13,14; I Thess. 5:3) It is exactly in this manner that we have witnessed the development of the great time of distress which has come upon the nations in our generation. The first major spasm of “sorrow” began in 1914. The global war of 1939-45 was another and a more severe birthpang.

Who but one inspired by the Spirit of God could foretell so accurately, nineteen centuries in advance, what has now become such a tragic reality! No longer can the scoffers say that the events of our day are but a matter of history repeating itself, for surely the world has never before been threatened with a destruction such as is now feared imminent. These are new threats to the human race. The extent of the horrors which now can be inflicted upon the people in time of war defies imagination. What an outlook! Is it any wonder that the hearts of the people are filled with fear? Surely mere human wisdom could not so accurately foretell this condition of things centuries in advance.

Never before has there been such fear! Never before has the very existence of the race been threatened! Jesus foretold both of these developments and said that they would mark the time of his presence. There are two important lessons we should learn from this. It should teach us to have unbounded confidence in the inspiration of the Bible, that it is indeed the Word of God. And it should give us great joy to realize that even though the world is now filled with sorrow, and global calamity is threatened, divine intervention is near—that peace on earth, established by the Prince of Peace, is soon to become a reality.

When the disciples asked Jesus, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” he replied, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons.” His reply was in keeping with his previous admonition that his followers should “watch” in order that they might know when the time did come. It was only a few moments after he gave this final word to his disciples that Jesus disappeared in the cloud and the angel explained that he would come again “in like manner.” Surely we can now see the foretold symbolic storm clouds of darkness hovering over the fear-stricken and distressed world, just as the prophecies indicate would be the case. As yet, only the watchers can discern the significance of what is occurring. To them it is a cause for rejoicing, not in the world’s troubles, but in the fact that the end of all trouble is so near.

Jesus said to his disciples, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [deliverance] draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28) The deliverance of the Master’s true disciples means their exaltation in the “first resurrection,” to “live and reign” with Christ “a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4,6) These are to be made like him, to see him as he is, and to share his glory. The deliverance and union as his “bride” will mean that the time has come for blessings of life to go out to the world, not heavenly life, but the joy of living forever in a restored earthly paradise.—Rev. 19:7; 22:17

It is for this sunrise of joy and life that the world is now longing and waiting. As yet, however, the world has little real hope that the sun will rise. But just as the natural sun rises irrespective of who may be awake to see it and regardless of how few or how many may be waiting for its appearance, so the sun of God’s returning favor to the people is certain, and its blessings sure.

Click here to go to Part 5
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |