We address this article to recent publications expressing doubt concerning what we believe to be a correct understanding of our Lord’s second presence.

The fact of his invisible presence during the current Gospel Age harvest was considered a foundation doctrine of the truth during the days of Pastor Russell’s ministry, well substantiated by the time prophecies of the Bible, and their related fulfillment in his time. Events that have transpired during the more than seventy years since his death have served to reconfirm many times over that his view was indeed correct.

We strongly believe this, and here are some of our reasons.

Our Lord’s Return

IN THIS DAY of chaos and threatened destruction by the misuse of nuclear fusion and by environmental pollution, the hearts of the people are filled with fear as they look ahead to what may happen to themselves and to the human race if no solution for the world’s troubles can be found. Students of the Bible who have faith in its promises and prophecies believe that the only solution to the problems which have been brought about by human sin and selfishness is the return of Christ and the setting up of his long-promised kingdom of righteousness and peace.

Views concerning this great event in the plan of God are widely variant. Some claim that Jesus returned at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the waiting disciples, and that since then, as each sinner is converted, it constitutes a further coming of Christ, and that when all are converted he will have fully come. We are told that this is the way Jesus fulfills his promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age].”—Matt. 28:20

On the other hand, many claim that Jesus will return to earth as a man and that he will be recognized by the print of the nails in his hands and in his feet and by the spear wound in his side, which he received at the time of his crucifixion. This latter view depends to a considerable extent upon a literal interpretation of certain prophecies, such as that of Revelation 1:7, where we read, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.”

We believe that the truth of the matter, supported by the entire testimony of the Scriptures, lies between these two extreme and opposing views. The first view erroneously renounces the necessity of a personal coming of Christ yet approximates the truth concerning the nature of Jesus, in that it considers him to be so far above humans in nature that he can be said to be present with them without their being able to see him.

The second view holds to the clearly established scriptural fact of a personal return of the Master, but circumscribes the grandeur and possibilities of that momentous event by the unscriptural claim that he returns to earth as a sort of glorified man and not the powerful, invisible divine being which he became when the Heavenly Father raised him from the dead and gave him a name which Is above every name.

The Scriptures teach that when Jesus was raised from the dead he was no longer a human, but a powerful divine being, the “image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15; II Cor. 5:16; I Pet. 3:18) This means that by nature Jesus is now invisible to the human eye, even as God is invisible. It is this divine Christ who returns to earth; hence the fact of his return will need to be recognized otherwise than by seeing him with the natural eye.

True, Jesus did appear as a man to his disciples on several occasions following his resurrection, but this does not mean that he was, by nature, still a human. The circumstances of his few brief appearances prove to the contrary. For exam pie, he always appeared in a different body, which would not have been the case had the human body in which he appeared been his real body.

Only once did Jesus appear in a body similar to the one which was crucified, and that was because Thomas made it plain that he would not believe the Master had been raised from the dead unless he could see his wounds. Jesus satisfied his lack of faith, although only this once did the disciples see any wounds, and this appearance is described by the Apostle John as one of the “signs” by which Jesus proved to them that he had been raised from the dead. (John 20:29-31) On the other occasions of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his resurrection, they did not recognize him by his personal appearance, but by the things which he said and did.

Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his resurrection were of the same nature as those of angels in more ancient times. For example, three angels appeared to Abraham. They talked and ate with him, but they were not humans—although for a time Abraham thought that they were.—Gen. 18:1,2; Heb. 13:2

Jesus was present with his disciples for forty days between the time of his resurrection and his ascension; but during only a very small portion of this time were the disciples able to see him, and then only when he miraculously appeared to them. It is this Jesus, who is able to be invisibly present among humans, who was to return to earth for the purpose of establishing his kingdom of righteousness by means of which the redeemed race of mankind is to have the problems of human selfishness solved, and be restored to happiness and life upon the earth.

Jesus’ Flesh a Ransom

Jesus was made flesh in order that he might give his humanity as a corresponding price—a ransom for Adam and his race. The Master said, “My flesh … I will give for the life of the world,” (John 6:51) Had Jesus been raised from the dead as a human it would have meant that the ransom was taken back, and that the world of mankind would not have been redeemed.

But the Scriptures show that while Jesus was put to death in the flesh he was made alive in the Spirit, or as a spirit being. (I Cor. 15:44-47; I Pet. 3:18) Jesus had previously explained to Nicodemus that one who is born of the Spirit can come and go as the wind, that is, be invisible to the human eye and have great power. He proved this to be true in his own case, for after his resurrection his disciples could not tell from whence he came or whither he went when appearing to them.—John 3:8

That Jesus still has the power to appear to humans as he did to his disciples following his resurrection from the dead we do not dispute. However, the Scriptures do not say that his return to earth will be revealed to the world in this manner. His appearances to his disciples following his resurrection were evidently intended to establish in the minds of the disciples the fact that he had been raised from the dead; but this fact having been established we have no reason to expect their repetition.

In Romans 1:20 we read concerning God that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Here is a key which will help us to understand the significance of the prophecies pertaining to the return of Christ. He is now invisible to human eyes, even as the Heavenly Father is invisible; hence at his return he can be recognized only by the visible things which transpire and which can be identified through the prophecies of the Bible as the “signs” which were to mark his second visit to earth.

Let us state the matter in another way. We believe in the existence of God, not because we have ever seen him, but because we see his works. With our limited’ abilities we survey the vast universe and we say there must be a powerful, all-wise Creator back of this. Similarly, in the divine Word we find set forth an impressive array of events which were to take place in the world following the return of the divine Christ; hence, if we can see that many of these events are already taking place, the logical conclusion is that that which the Bible describes as Christ’s second visit to earth must already be a reality.

God of this World Invisible

The Scriptures teach that there is a personal Devil, yet no human has ever seen him; but we have all seen the result of his nefarious influence. The Apostle Paul informs us that Satan is the “god of this world,” the one who now works in the hearts of the “children of disobedience.” (II Cor. 4:4) Paul also explains that Satan is a spirit who is the “prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2) Jesus spoke of Satan as the “prince of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) If we believe the Bible we must realize that this powerful being has, throughout the centuries, been exercising control over the affairs of men.

The Devil is the invisible ruler of “this present evil world.” Peter declares that he goes about as a “roaring lion” seeking whom he may devour. (I Pet. 5:8) This dearly indicates that Satan’s field of operation is right here on earth; yet even those who realize this most fully have never heard him literally “roar.”

With the return of Jesus, and as a result of his presence, a new world, or social order, is ultimately to be instituted, and in this new social order Jesus will be the king, supplanting the rulership of Satan. In vision John saw an angel come down from God out of heaven and lay hold upon Satan and bind him with a mighty chain. Following this, Christ and his church are seen to reign for a thousand years. As Satan, who is bound, is invisible, certainly the agencies which bind him, likewise must be invisible.—Rev. 20:1-4,6

Satan’s power and influence in this, the present evil world, are no less potent because of his invisibility. On the contrary, It has given him a certain advantage in that, unseen, he has been a powerful force for evil. Thus he has been able to make his influence felt in the council chambers of the rulers and princes of earth, and to a considerable extent direct their affairs. Jesus’ rulership will also be an invisible one, exercised through human agencies. He will rule the people with a rod of iron; but he will rule them in righteousness and not in unrighteousness as Satan has done. Even as the evil results of Satan’s rulership are now easily discerned, so Jesus’ reign will be recognized by all mankind through the righteous results that will be accomplished.

Truth Concealed by a Mistranslation

Important truths pertaining to the manner of our Lord’s return have been long hidden by a mistranslation. As we all know, the Bible was not originally written in the English language, hence we who use the English language must depend upon translations from the original Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament. While in most instances in our English Bibles very little of the richness of meaning has been lost through mistranslation, there are exceptions in which profound truths of the divine plan have been long hidden by unwitting mistranslation.

One of these exceptions is in the case of the Greek word parousia which is used by Jesus and the apostles to describe the Master’s second visit to earth. In our King James Version of the Bible this word is almost universally translated “coming.” The result of this has been that many students of prophecy have attempted to interpret the prophetic signs pertaining to our Lord’s return as denoting that his coming was near. However, the true meaning of this Greek word is ‘presence’, and it follows that the fulfilled signs of the Master’s parousia, or presence, indicate that he is already here.

When, for example, the disciples inquired of Jesus, “What shall be the sign of thy coming [parousia, ‘presence’]?” (Matt. 24:3) they were not asking how they might know in advance when he would come, but how they would know of his presence when he had come. In other words, they wanted to know what visible things they were to look for as tokens that the invisible Christ had returned and that his kingdom would ultimately be established.

Archeological discoveries reveal that the Greek word parousia was used in ancient times to describe the visits of kings and emperors to various cities and provinces of their realms. One such discovery shows that taxes to pay the expenses of such a visit were raised by the issuing of a special “parousia coin.” How appropriate, then, that this word should be used in connection with the visit to earth of the King of kings, and Lord of lords! (Ps. 8:4) But, as in the case of the earthly rulers whose visits are thus described, so with Jesus, parousia does not merely mean the moment of coming, but covers the entire duration of the visit.

The first presence of Jesus, when he was here on earth as a man, lasted in all but thirty-three and one-half years. He remained forty days longer as a divine being, invisible to the world, and then he returned to the heavenly courts. There are many prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus’ first presence. Some tell of his birth, some of one or another part of his life and ministry. Some tell of his death as man’s Redeemer. The fulfillment of these prophecies did not, as a rule, run concurrently.

The prophecies and promises of Christ’s second visit to earth likewise cover a great variety of events, culminating in the destruction of death and Satan. The fulfillment of some of these prophecies runs concurrently, but in other instances there is a sequence of events. This calls for carefulness in our study of the prophecies relating to Christ’s second visit lest we fall into the mistake of expecting them all to be fulfilled at a given moment of time, or within a relatively short period of time.

Manner of His Presence

Jesus said to his disciples, “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 [Greek, astrape, ‘bright shining’] cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall the coming [parousia, ‘presence’] of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:26,27) By these words Jesus is conveying to our minds that his coming and presence were not to be like that of a human. He was to return as a great divine being, the express image of his Father’s invisible person. You won’t find me, Jesus is saying, hidden away in some secret chamber, as you might find a man or a woman. Rather, you will discern my presence even as you discern the existence of God himself, and that is by the great things which you ascribe to him.

And so it is. We behold the sunshine and the rain, watering the earth and warming it that it may bring forth and provide for those upon it. So Jesus explained that we would know of his second presence because it will be like the lightning, or bright shining, which, similar to the sun, comes out of the east and shines even unto the west. The blessings to be dispensed to humankind after being brought forth from their graves during the time of Christ’s presence are represented as coming to the people because the “Sun of righteousness” shall arise, bringing healing and life to the peoples of earth.—Mal. 4:2

An Increase of Knowledge

As we have noted, Jesus explained that his second presence would be like a bright shining. (Matt. 24:26,27) Here unmistakably is the idea of enlightenment, symbolizing increasing knowledge. The Prophet Daniel, describing conditions which were to obtain in the “time of the end,” declares among other things that “knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan. 12:4) The “time of the end” here referred to is the period in which the rule of sin, selfishness, and death is to be brought to an end as a result of Christ’s return and second presence. The world is even now experiencing this foretold increase of knowledge; but, because fallen man does not have the wisdom to use it properly, chaos results, even threatening the destruction of the human race.

Due to man’s unwisdom and selfishness, his great strides in knowledge have already led to what the Prophet Daniel described as a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) In speaking of this same time, Jesus said there would be tribulation on the earth so great that unless it was shortened no flesh would survive. We face this very situation today. The misuse of nuclear fusion, as well as the pollution of our environment, could well cause the destruction of all living things on the earth. Indeed, only divine intervention through the establishment of the long-promised kingdom of Christ will prevent this.

Through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom, when established, the increase of knowledge will be a great boon to humanity, especially in the fact that then it will include an understanding of God and of his love in providing redemption from sin and death through the sacrificial work of Jesus. The long reign of sin and death under Satan, the prince of this world, is described in the Bible as a nightmare of darkness. The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” And in contrast we read concerning the time when Christ’s kingdom will be governing in the affairs of men, “The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”—Isa. 60:2,3; Luke 2:32

In John 1:9 it is said that Jesus is that “true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The prophecies dearly show that the complete fulfillment of this promise will be during the second presence of Christ; that ultimately the “earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9) Not until the end of the reign of Christ and his church will this prophecy be completely fulfilled.

“He Cometh in Clouds”

In Revelation 1:7 we are informed that Jesus returns in clouds, and that every eye shall see him. As Christ is a divine being, the express image of God himself, humans can see him only through the incidents and events which accompany his return. The time will yet come—and that time is not far off, we believe—when these events will be of such a pronounced character that all will readily recognize their true significance.

In Joel 2:1,2 there is further reference to the “clouds” which become so distressingly ominous in the period of Christ’s presence prior to the establishment of his kingdom. Here we are informed that this period is not to be a time of peace but, rather, the reverse. It is to be “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there bath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.”

It will be noted from this that the clouds here mentioned by the prophet really consist in this case of “a great people and a strong,” the like of which has never before been known. This is evidently a reference to the uprising of the discontented of mankind in such tremendous numbers as to cause civilization to crumble and fall under the impact of the revolutionary struggle they precipitate.

These clouds of trouble are even now forming. Already the people of earth are filled with fear because of them, although as yet they do not “see” the Master’s presence as being associated with the forces which are gradually destroying “this present evil world.” Jesus said that there would be great mourning because of his presence, that there would be upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity. (Luke 21:25,26; Matt. 24:30) How perplexed the people of earth are today! No permanent solutions can be found for the many baffling problems which combine to fill the world with chaos, and the hearts of the people with fear.

God’s Hand over Israel

But how, some may ask, will the people in general be made to recognize that these worldwide troubles are the death throes of the present social order and are caused largely by the presence of the king of the new world? The Scriptures indicate that one of the ways in which this will be brought about will be through divine intervention on behalf of the Jewish people in Israel. The experiences of the Jews throughout these days of trouble constitute additional evidence of Christ’s second presence. It is the time, according to the Scriptures, when their land was to be restored to them. What has occurred along this line since 1914 is miraculous, and without doubt has been in preparation for the blessings which will be theirs in the messianic kingdom. This regathering of Israel was prophetically due at the very time when the nations as a whole were being gathered to the final destructive battle of Armageddon. Joel 3:1,2 reads, “Behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”

This prophecy indicates that, while the Jewish people would be restored to their land, it would be amidst a time of trouble for them as well as for the nations in general; and other prophecies indicate that additional trouble is in store for them—which is not difficult to foresee, in view of the circumstances which have existed for several years, and which still exist.

It is not wise to go into detail concerning events which have not yet transpired, but the Scriptures do make it plain that near the end of the death-struggle of the nations, with virtual annihilation threatening them through the misuse of modem military implements of war and nuclear fusion, there will be an attack against the Israelites in their Promised Land, and that then the Lord will intervene on their behalf, rescue them from their enemies, and through their resurrected prophets and other worthies of ancient time establish his kingdom as a literal governing power over the whole earth.

Ezekiel 38:14-23 presents some of the details of this final trouble. The etymology of the names given to Israel’s enemies in this prophecy indicates that they are used prophetically to identify armies, particularly of Europe and the Middle East. The prophecy shows that these forces eventually will attack the Jewish people. Agreeing with the prophecy of Joel already quoted, Ezekiel explains that the clouds are the anti-God forces which finally will threaten the destruction of the returned Israelites.—Ezek. 38:16

It will be a time of “shaking,” the prophet explains. But the promise is that the Lord will deliver his ancient people, and that through this deliverance the “eyes” of the nations will discern the presence and the power of the new king of earth who, as the agent and right hand of Jehovah, will be directing the issue. (Ps. 110:5) Thus will all eyes discern the presence of Jesus in the clouds (Rev. 1:7) and become convinced of his majesty and glory through the new kingdom arrangements which will then be put into operation.

This same series of events will lead to the opening of the eyes of the Israelites. We read, “So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen [nations] shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.” (Ezek. 39:7) What a change this will bring about in the outlook of the Israelites! The defense of Israel by divine power will be merely the first manifestation of the operation of the new world powers. From then on the kingdom agencies will rapidly calm the storm of human passions, which by that time will have brought the people of the whole earth to a state of desperation and despair.

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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