Behold Your King—Part 7

The Bright Shining of His Presence

“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming [presence] of the Son of man be.” —Matthew 24:27

NEVER has the presence of an earthly potentate been so glorious and all-powerful as to be likened properly to a brightness sufficient to enlighten the whole world—from the east unto the west. This, however, is to be true of the presence of Jesus; for this is his own description of the manifestation of his presence as he explained it to his disciples when he answered their question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming [presence], and of the end of the world?” The fact which at once strikes us as we ponder the meaning of these words is that they do not, and could not, apply to the presence of a human king but can be understood only with relation to a divine being, one who, like the Creator himself, is invisible to the human eye and is all-powerful.

The Master’s own preface to this explanation of the evidence of his second presence bears out this conclusion; for he warned his disciples not to believe it if anyone claimed to have discovered him in some secret hiding place, for he would not be present in the earth in that manner, that is, as a human. Jesus had previously explained that his presence (Greek, parousia) would be as a thief in the night, that is, unknown to all except those who would be watching for him; but he did not want them to understand this to mean that he would be hidden away somewhere as a human and that his followers could discover his whereabouts by searching for him.

The disciples had asked concerning the indications of the Master’s second presence, and in telling them of his lightning like presence he not only gave them one of the signs but explained much concerning the manner in which his presence would become known—first to his own people, and ultimately to the whole world. What then did Jesus mean when he said that his presence would be like the lightning, shining from the east to the west? Luke answers this question when, also quoting Jesus, he says, “For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.”—Luke 17:24

The meaning of these words is evident: Jesus’ presence will enlighten the world. And as light is used in the Scriptures to symbolize knowledge—the knowledge of God and his plan for the salvation of the people—what the Master really told the disciples in symbolic language was that his second presence on the earth would be manifested by a great increase of knowledge that would ultimately become so all-pervading that the knowledge of the glory of God would be caused to fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14

While the “lightning” associated with the presence of the Lord first of all precipitates a storm of human passions destroying the old social order, it symbolizes much more than this. As we have seen, the Scriptures indicate clearly that the primary thought is that of enlightenment—indeed, it is through the enlightenment of the people that the world is brought to an end. This prophetic enlightenment in the last days of Satan’s world is described by the Prophet Daniel as an increase of knowledge, accompanied by much and rapid travel over the earth—a worldwide “running to and fro.” (Dan. 12:4) And Daniel associates this increase of knowledge with a great “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

It is apparent from this and other prophecies that the beginning of Christ’s second presence is marked by a worldwide upheaval of civilization, in which the kingdoms and governments of this world, one after another, are to be destroyed.

Jesus qualified the lightning which he said would reveal his parousia, or presence, saying that it would come out of the east and shine even unto the west. There is only one great light which regularly traverses an east to west course in its enlightenment of the earth, and that is the sun. But the effect of the Master’s presence is not in every way like the sun; hence Jesus did not use the word which denotes sunlight. The word in the Greek text he used in this remarkable illustration of the manner in which his presence would be revealed is astrape.

This is the only Greek word in the New Testament translated ‘lightning,’ but it is also used to describe other forms of light. It is the word which is used to describe the light of a candle (Luke 11:36); and it is also used with respect to the brilliance of the garments of the angels at Jesus’ tomb following his resurrection. (Luke 24:4) It is properly translated lightning when associated with thunder, but the word is broad enough in its meaning to denote a ‘brightshining’ of any nature.

It was this word that Jesus used when he said his parousia would be like a brightshining coming out of the east, ultimately illuminating the whole earth. Thus far the enlightenment has been largely along material and scientific lines, but in God’s due time it will include the light of the knowledge of the glory of God; for it will be then that Jesus will be that true light which will enlighten every man that cometh into the world. The east-to-west shining of the Master’s presence suggests the rising of the sun; and as we are all aware, those who are awake and watching for the dawn are the first to know that a new day is approaching; for they alone see the gray streaks in the east, which are the harbingers of the rising sun. It is this blessed privilege that is now being enjoyed by the Lord’s watchmen on the walls of Zion.

The first to be blessed by the brightshining of the Master’s presence are his own people, his footstep followers. The knowledge of truth pertaining to the divine plan is also symbolized in the Bible as meat, and Jesus promised that when he returned he would serve his people with “meat in due season.” (Luke 12:37; Matt. 24:45) This is another promise which indicates that the Lord’s own people would be the first to be enlightened by the brightshining of his presence. This promise has been, and still is being, wonderfully fulfilled.

The Scriptures foretold that following the death of the apostles there would develop a great falling away from the true faith of the Gospel and that the truth of the divine plan would become corrupted. This occurred with respect to practically every doctrine of the divine plan. The apostasy developed until the nominal church actually set up a counterfeit kingdom of Christ by uniting with the civil governments. Thus the hope of the real kingdom of Christ and the blessings it would bring to the people was lost.

The Scriptures clearly reveal that in the creation of man it was God’s intention that he live forever on the earth and have dominion over it. Man sinned and lost the privilege of living, being sentenced to death. There is no truth more clearly taught in the Bible than that “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) But during the Dark Ages the term death was distorted to mean eternal torture in a fiery hell, and the notion was developed that Jesus came to save sinners from this terrible future abode of the wicked, and that those who believe on him would be taken to heaven instead. Thus this basic truth of the Bible was buried in the rubbish of human theories.

The Scriptures teach, on the contrary, that Jesus came to die for Adam and his entire race, that they might have an opportunity to be restored to life on the earth. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” is the way the Apostle Paul states the matter. (I Cor. 15:22) The period in which man will be restored to life on the earth is described by the Apostle Peter as “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21) This great hope of the world is now seen by the faithful watchmen in Zion, being one of the rays of heart-cheering light which has gladdened the hearts of those who have first detected the brightshining of the Master’s presence.

Many of the false doctrines of the Dark Ages had a semblance of scriptural support. It was thus with the claim that believers go to heaven when they die. The Scriptures do hold out a heavenly hope for the true followers of the Master, but the reason they are called to this high position in the divine plan is not for the purpose of snatching them from eternal torture, but that they, as representatives of the human race, may have the privilege of reigning with Christ after they have been exalted to glory in the first resurrection, (Rev. 20:4,6) and, together with him, share in the blessing of all the families of the earth. This great truth was made clear to the watchers in Zion as a result of the brightshining of the Master’s presence.

It was particularly fitting that the true relationship between the heavenly calling of the church and the hope of restitution for the world should be made more clear at this time, for it is the will of God that the faithful followers of the Master during the Gospel Age should proclaim as widely as possible the great hope of restitution for all mankind when the opportunity is given to them. The kingdom age, when the world of mankind will be given the privilege of living on the earth forever, is now near.

We are apt to forget that the enlightenment of the world today is something that has developed suddenly, in comparison with the thousands of years of the past during which there was little or no increase of knowledge. Both with respect to the general education of the people and in the matter of scientific achievement, the world has advanced incomparably more in the last one hundred years than in the previous six thousand years. It is claimed that today knowledge is doubling every ten years.

But it was not until the fifteenth century, when the printing press with movable type came into use, that there was much opportunity for real progress in scientific knowledge and achievement. It is impossible, therefore, to attribute the progress of our day to the growing intelligence of man, as evolutionists would like to have us do.

There is only one reasonable explanation as to why the world should continue in ignorance for thousands of years, and then suddenly emerge into an era in which—throughout some parts of the earth at least—children of ten know more than did the lords and barons of the past—an era also in which large masses of the people, including wage earners, enjoy comforts of life unknown to the wealthiest of the ancients. That explanation is the one given us in the Bible; namely, that it is due to the brightshining of Christ’s presence, bringing about the increase of knowledge which the Prophet Daniel said would characterize the time of the end of this present evil social order.—Dan. 12:4

The use of the printing press signaled the beginning of a new day of progress, although it was years before the art of printing became general enough, and a sufficient volume of information was made available by this means, to change the course of the world. But finally the printed page began to make knowledge available to everyone, and the darkness of the past could no longer resist the increasing brilliance of the rays of knowledge which began to flood the earth more and more.

Very significantly, the first book to be produced by printing was the Bible. In the early part of the nineteenth century large Bible societies were formed, and the Bible, the torch of civilization, was beginning to flood the world in ever-increasing volume. Public schools and compulsory education became the order of the day, largely made possible by the printed page. Newspapers, magazines, and public libraries became general. These various media for the dissemination of knowledge were soon augmented by the telegraph, telephone, radio, and now, television. Thus suddenly the world was ushered into an era in which the developments in one part of the earth were known and published internationally within a matter of hours and, in many instances, within minutes.

With the increase of knowledge, rapid means of travel were soon developed, so that within less than a century (previous to which no progress had been made along this line for thousands of years) the people of all nations began to traverse the earth by steamboat, by railroad, by automobile, and by jet plane. While our forefathers up to a little more than a century ago traveled no faster on the average than ten to twelve miles an hour, it is now common to cross continents and oceans at speeds of many hundreds of miles an hour.

That which is being accomplished in the viewpoint and the outlook of the people makes this prophetic increase of knowledge one of the marked fulfillments of the Master’s prediction concerning the brightshining of his presence. The ability and opportunity to read, the airplane, the radio, television, and other scientific achievements of this marvelous day in which we are living would not necessarily, as such, be marked evidence of the Lord’s presence—what is more significant is the impact of these on the minds of men. Through the increase of knowledge manifested in these many ways, the whole world has been changed. We can go even further and say that thereby the present social order is fast being destroyed, for the old concepts and traditions which held it together are rapidly being cast aside, and their power to hold mankind under control is waning. This is a necessary first step in preparation for the blessings of Christ’s kingdom, which are to follow the complete passing away of the present social order.

The western segment of the civilization which is now crumbling under the impact of increasing knowledge is called ‘Christian’—and indeed some of the moral standards and laws of the pre-1914 governments were based in part upon the ethical code of the Bible. But, intermingled with these righteous laws, were corrupting superstitions, so gross in their misrepresentation of real Christian principles that they blasphemed the true God of love. Take, for example, that God-dishonoring doctrine of eternal torture and its slightly more merciful companion, purgatory. These were long held as whips over the backs of the people to make them obey the powers that be. Through the use of these fear-instilling superstitions, the people—particularly in Europe—were exploited and robbed, while kept in abject subjection to a corrupt ruling clergy class, which used the arm of the state to enforce the unjust demands of an apostate church.

But with the increase of knowledge these shackles of fear and superstition are gradually being broken. Indeed, in most parts of Europe, where the people suffered most because of them, they have almost completely lost their hold upon the masses. True, in the turning away from the evils of corrupt teachings and practices, the good is discarded as well, and the world is fast becoming atheistic. Moral and religious restraints of all kinds are on the wane, and where the masses are not kept under rigid subjection by dictatorship, the world is fast reaching the point where every man is a law unto himself.

But this is merely the first, the immediate result of the increase of knowledge—the brightshining of the Master’s presence. And it is an essential result; for in order that the minds of the people may be prepared to understand, worship, and serve the true God, they must first lose all confidence in, and respect for, the false gods which they have been worshiping. While it is true that some of the moral laws of professed Christianity have been in harmony with the Bible, the teachings of the nominal church as a whole have been so distorted and so corrupted by the traditions of men that they have not revealed to the masses the true God of the Scriptures.

Therefore, in turning away in unbelief from the gods of the creeds, the people are not rejecting the true God; for, in reality, they have never known him. It is the god of the creeds that has been declared dead; for those who propagated this pronouncement never knew the true God of the Bible, the God of wisdom, justice, love, and power. So it is that the prophetic increase of knowledge, by destroying men’s faith in the superstitions of the past, is likewise breaking down their confidence in the institutions and governments built upon those superstitions, even inciting the people, in many instances, to clamor for their overthrow. Thus in this very understandable manner the brightshining of the Master’s presence is bringing about the collapse of the old world in preparation for the establishment of the new, that is, God’s world of tomorrow. The rays of light from the Master’s presence—the foretold increase of knowledge—are penetrating into the marshes of superstition and the quagmires of error, producing a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.

One of the prophecies which calls attention to the destroying power of knowledge when it exposes the superstitions of the past is that of II Thessalonians 2:8, in which Paul explains the manner in which the great antichrist is destroyed as a result of the second presence of Christ. He explains that before Christ would return there would come a great falling away from the true faith of the Gospel, that an apostasy would occur, making possible the development of a powerful antichrist system, which he describes as the “man of sin.”

Then Paul explains that when Christ’s presence did become a reality at the end of the age, its manifestation would destroy the antichrist. We quote: “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming [Greek, parousia, meaning ‘presence’].”—II Thess. 2:8

Notice that first Paul speaks of a consuming work which would be done by the spirit of his mouth. The spirit of the Lord’s mouth is the Word of God, and it was the printing press flooding the world with Bibles in preparation for the brightshining of the Master’s presence that began to weaken the stranglehold this wicked church-state system of Europe—the counterfeit kingdom of Christ—had upon the nations of the world. But following this consuming or undermining of prestige was to come, as Paul explains, the destruction of this system by the brightness of his presence.

The real antichrist system whose destruction is thus foretold, is not merely a false church but rather the union of a false church with civil governments. The claim was that this union constituted Christ’s kingdom on earth. Fragments of this unholy alliance still exist, but the system made up of the union of the two is to all practical purposes already destroyed. The very idea of church-state union as a form of government to rule nations is today scorned by all the politicians and statesmen of the world who hope to be given a hearing by the enlightened public. True, a nominal church-state government still exists in Great Britain, but it is not the real ruler of the British people and has not been for many years.

The destruction of the church-state ideology as a form of government was accomplished by the increase of knowledge. It could not stand up before the light of this day of preparation for the real kingdom of Christ. True, the Roman church still lives and is making every possible effort to assert its influence in the political affairs of the nations; but any gains she may make are doomed to be but temporary, for a public enlightened by the increasing knowledge foretold in the prophecies will not long submit to threats of being re-enslaved by a system which ruined Europe and from which the founding fathers of America fled in their search for liberty and peace.

We are not arguing that the motives which have induced the destroying attacks upon the civilization built upon the ideology of Rome have always been righteous. In most instances those who would replace this rulership with another have nothing to offer that is very much better. The point is that knowledge, or enlightenment, concerning the evils of Christendom has prepared the way for selfish men to destroy the system. Human wisdom is quite unable to find a solution for the problems of the world which already have been precipitated by this uprising of the people against the evil exploitations of the past—only Christ’s kingdom can do that. But meanwhile, the way is being prepared for that kingdom by the knowledge which has come to the world because Christ has returned.

The prophecies of the Bible, particularly those pertaining to the return of Christ to be the King of earth, are replete with meaningful symbols. A very revealing example of this is the Apostle Paul’s prophecy of the second advent of Christ, in which he says, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” (I Thess. 4:16) All three of the terms used in this prophecy—the shout, the voice, and the trumpet—are symbolic of that which is brought about in the earth as a result of the foretold increase of knowledge and are quite in keeping with the general teaching of the Scriptures that the Master actually returns and is present in the earth for a period of time as a “thief in the night.”

Certainly a thief does not literally shout as he enters a home, nor does he speak with a booming voice, nor blow a trumpet, as some have erroneously supposed Jesus would do when, allegedly, he would come down out of the sky as a human in full view of all the people of the earth. But when we think of these statements from a symbolic standpoint, all is clear. The Greek word translated ‘shout’ carries the thought of incitement or encouragement to action, a command. Undoubtedly the reference is to the incitement or encouragement of the people throughout the world to assert their rights, as humans, to rise up in rebellion against the tyrannies of the past which held them as slaves to overlords and robbed them of their just share of earth’s bounties.

This has been one of the results of the prophetic increase of knowledge, the brightshining of the Master’s presence. The shout is today going up from millions of individuals within nations, as well as by downtrodden nations which in the past have been exploited by power. The concessions being obtained from earthly governments as a result of this shout will not satisfy the demands of the awakened masses of the earth, but in all that is happening along this line there is to be seen the preparation for kingdom blessings.

Small nations, too, which formerly have been outwardly willing to contribute their resources to enrich an empire while they suffered poverty, are demanding the privilege of a free existence in order that they might control their own resources, and in many instances they have already obtained this concession. Already these are realizing that the obtaining of their liberty does not always result in the blessings they had hoped for; but the shout is being heard, and in due time Christ—together with his faithful followers reigning with him—will bless them with peace and security, for the promise is that “the desire of all nations shall come.”—Hag. 2:7

The voice of the archangel symbolizes from another standpoint what is being accomplished by the brightshining now coming out of the east and shining even unto the west. There is only one Archangel referred to in the Bible, and his name is Michael. (Jude 9) This is also the name given to Jesus in connection with the early phase of his second presence in the earth. Daniel’s prophecy refers to this, declaring that at that time Michael would stand up and that the result would be a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

The title ‘Michael’ means one who speaks for, or represents, God. So his standing up would indicate the exercise of divine authority, and the fact that a time of trouble follows shows that this power is exercised for the overthrow of humanly constituted rulership in the earth.

The prophecies further associate the term ‘voice’ with this overthrow of the nations and kingdoms of the world. Concerning this, Psalm 46:6 reads, “The heathen [nations] raged, the kingdoms were moved: he [God] uttered his voice, the earth melted.” Following this declaration concerning the overthrow of earth’s governments, the prophet declares, “Come, behold the works of the Lord [Jehovah], what desolations he hath made in the earth.” (Ps. 46:8) These desolations are designed to prepare the way for Christ’s kingdom; for the next two verses read: “He [God] maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.”

Terrible things, therefore—yet preparing the way for Christ’s kingdom—result from the voice of God and the voice of the Archangel. These, of course, are not literal voices, nor are the forces which destroy the kingdoms of this world miraculous upheavals of nature. The prophecies generally indicate that this work will be done by the nations themselves in a great and final struggle to gain world supremacy. We are told that God will turn every man’s sword against his brother, that “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”—Matt. 24:7

Another prophecy portrays the Lord coming with a great army, before which the earth shall quake and the heavens shall tremble. The Prophet Joel states that this occurs in the “day of the Lord [Jehovah],” when through his Arm he executes his word; that is, when the words of the prophecies concerning the overthrow of the kingdoms of this world, preparatory to the establishment of his kingdom, are being fulfilled. “The Lord [Jehovah] shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great,” declares the prophet.—Joel 2:1-11

Turning from symbolism to reality, it is not difficult to see the fulfillment of this prophecy in the wild clamor of the peoples and nations of earth, as they relentlessly press for their rights to the point that civilization itself is being destroyed. The great army of the Lord probably embraces all the discontented of the earth who have been stirred up by the increase of knowledge to start on the march for freedom. Both the heavens and the earth crumble before them; that is, both the religious and the civil elements of the pre-1914 world are being destroyed, for such is the great power of the voice of the Archangel, Jehovah’s Arm.

Paul describes another manifestation of the Lord’s return as the trump of God. The trump, or trumpet, is used much in the prophecies to symbolize the proclamation of a message, the sounding forth of information concerning impending and developing events. How appropriate it is, therefore, that one of the symbols used by Paul to describe the effects of Christ’s second presence should be the trump of God.

Christ’s first visit to earth was for the purpose of redeeming Adam and his race from death, and he returns as the great Emancipator, or Restorer, of mankind. It is appropriate, therefore, that one of the facets of the prophetic increase of knowledge in this time of the Lord’s presence should pertain to God’s plan for blessing the people, not only with peace and security, but also with health and everlasting life. It is this that is symbolized by the trump of God.

For many years past a definite message of this nature has been proclaimed throughout the civilized world. By millions of books, pamphlets, sermons in thousands of newspapers, motion pictures, the radio, and television the people have been told that the messianic kingdom is at the door and will result in the restoration of the human race to its lost dominion and to everlasting life on the earth. Churchianity has scorned this message, while continuing to cooperate with the kingdoms of this world in an effort to establish an era of peace and righteousness through human efforts.

The turmoil of the people resulting from the prophetic increase of knowledge is a necessary prerequisite to the blessings of the messianic kingdom which are to follow. Christ, the new King of earth, and his glorified faithful followers associated with him, will not use present humanly constituted and imperfect governments and institutions as channels through which to dispense the blessings of life and happiness promised in the Word of God; hence these must be set aside to make way for the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom, which will take their place.

The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from death is an assurance that divine power is capable of raising all the dead in order to bring the promises of God to realization. (Acts 17:31) The first to be awakened from the sleep of death are those who qualify, through faithfulness in following the Master’s example of sacrifice in the service of God and on behalf of others, to live and reign with him in the spiritual, or invisible heavenly phase of the millennial kingdom. The awakening of these from death and their exaltation to glory, honor, and immortality is described in the Scriptures as the first resurrection. And of those who come forth from death in the first resurrection the Scriptures declare that they live and reign with Christ a thousand years.—Rev. 20:4,6

The resurrection of Christ’s true followers in the first resurrection is but preliminary to the resurrection of all others who have died; for, as the Scriptures declare, there is to be a “resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” (Acts 24:15) The Apostle Paul declares that it is the will of God that all shall be saved (that is, from death) and given a knowledge of the truth concerning the loving provision made for them through the redemptive work of Christ.—I Tim. 2:4-6

This will be accomplished during the thousand-year reign of Christ and his church, which is near. It will be then that humanity will be enlightened concerning the true and loving God. Thus the brightshining of the Master’s presence will continue and increase throughout the Millennial Age, dispelling every vestige of superstition concerning the false gods of the creeds and of the heathen, and enlightening all concerning the true God of the Bible. Then will be fulfilled the statement that Christ is that “true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9) The enlightenment itself will not guarantee everlasting life; for only those who accept the light and order their lives in keeping therewith will live forever: “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

That life, for all except those who participate in the spiritual phase of the kingdom, will be on the earth; for since it was a human life that Adam forfeited, it will be human life that will be restored to him and to his children. This is why the Apostle Peter so appropriately referred to the blessings which will be given to the people during the Millennium as “restitution.”—Acts 3:19-21

But Peter emphasized that the blessings of restitution will be for those only who hear and obey. “It shall come to pass,” he says, “that every soul, which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) But the encouraging thing to know is that all will be enlightened with the truth concerning God’s plan of salvation during this ultimate aspect of the brightshining of the Master’s presence, and thus they will be given an opportunity to obey intelligently and, through obedience, to live forever. In speaking of that glorious time when divine favor will thus be manifested to mankind, the Apostle Paul declares: “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”—I Cor. 15:54,55

Click here to go to Part 8
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |