CHRIST'S PRESENCE
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As seen here, current Watchtower Society doctrine teaches that Jesus Christ was enthroned as the Heavenly King of God's kingdom in 1914 C.E. The immediate problem with this teaching is that it is in opposition with the Scripture at 1 Peter 3:22, which shows Christ already received the Throne soon after His ascension to Heaven:

1 Peter 3:22
He is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to Heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.

Notably, if “angels, authorities, and powers” were made “subject” to Christ, that can't be anything short of the actual rulership of Christ. Since this Scriptural passage is speaking in the past tense (he went... powers were), this can only mean that Christ has already been in Heavenly power ever since He returned to Heaven.

VISIBLE, OR INVISIBLE, PRESENCE?

According to the Watchtower Society's teaching, Christ's enthronement in 1914 coincides with the biblical signs of His “invisible presence” during the time of the end, with World War I being the most significant sign (The Watchtower, March 15, 2009, p.16, para.4), and that this “presence” will be invisible to mankind. According to their book "Bearing Thorough Witness About God's Kingdom, book, 2009, p.17, para.15 “The angels said that Jesus would return, not in the same form, but in the same manner...In the book the Watchtower Society goes on to explain thatin the same manner” parallels the fact that He was not in sight when the angel spoke these words, and that only a few men – His apostles – were the ones who perceived that He had left the Earth. And thus, the Watchtower Society concludes, Christ's presence today is the same way: only those who havespiritual discernment realize that Christ is now reigning as king in Heaven; just as He left invisibly, so He also returned invisibly .

What this teaching completely dismisses, though, is the fact that the apostles actually WATCHED Jesus ascend with their own eyes before He was covered by the cloud – certainly not an invisible event; a fact that the Watchtower Society itself even acknowledges (underline ours): “His followers gaze after him as he ascends into the sky. Finally, a cloud hides him from their view” (Bearing Thorough Witness About God's Kingdom, 2009, p.14, para.2).

This, then, brings up a valid question: Since the angels said that Christ would return in the same manner” in which He ascended, and His ascension began visibly to His disciples, then why do the Watchtower Society's publications insist that Christ's return is to be completely invisible? Especially since, according to Scripture, not only His disciples, but everyone else in the world, will see it, as reported in Revelation 1:7:

Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the Earth

How do the Watchtower Society's publications reconcile this Scripture in Revelation to their teaching? They have explained that the “clouds” in this passage are symbolic of invisibility, using the example of an airplane becoming invisible when it enters a cloud; people can discern the airplane is there by the evidence of the engine noise, but they cannot actually see it. They further dismiss a visible return by stating that, if Jesus Christ came visibly, He couldn't be seen simultaneously world wide, giving this example: If He were to return over Australia, He couldn't possibly be visible to people in Europe, Africa, or the Americas (Reasoning From the Scriptures, book, 1989, p.343, para.1). They have also explained that Jesus can't be seen with our literal eyes because He is now a spirit “who dwells in inapproachable light” and is unable to be physically seen (The Watchtower, March 15, 2007, p.5).

These sound like logical arguments at first, but then consider this, (keeping in mind the Bible never states that Christ will return in a flesh body): The power of the sun is a mere speck in comparison to Christ's power. And yet, the sun is powerful enough for an entire hemisphere of the Earth to view on the daylight side, while at the same time reflecting off the moon for those to see on the night side of the Earth. In truth, this means that the light of the sun can be seen by “every eye” on both sides of the globe simultaneously. If a speck of power such as the sun can be seen world wide at any time, how much more visibly can the Son let Himself be seen world wide!

So then, what about this inapproachable light that the Scriptures refer to at 1 Timothy 6:16? (with its surrounding verses for context)

1 Timothy 6:13-16
(13) In the sight of God, who preserves all things alive, and of Christ Jesus, who as a witness made the fine public declaration before Pontius Pilate, I give you orders (14) that you observe the commandment in a spotless and irreprehensible way until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. (15) This [manifestation] the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times, [he] the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords (16), the one alone having immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see. To him be honor and might everlasting. Amen

Although this passage speaks of Jesus as one who dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see,” note that it does not say that Jesus Himself is the unapproachable light; no, it states that He dwells in it. And where has Jesus been dwelling? In Heaven, and yes, Heaven is inapproachable to mankind living on Earth. Therefore, this is not about Christ remaining invisible; it is only about Heaven being inaccessible to us humans. As a result, the only reason we cannot see Jesus Christ right now is because He is in a place in which we humans on Earth have no access to. His return to Earth will require Him to leave this unapproachable light, thus all mankind will see Him just as the Scriptures say (Matthew 24:27, 30-31).

The Watchtower Society also teaches that, since Christ's ascension was a quiet event that only his disciples witnessed, then likewise His return would also be a quiet event that only His modern day disciples,those with spiritual discernment,” would realize (Bearing Thorough Witness About God's Kingdom, book, 2009, p.17 para.14-15). By deciding thatin the same manner” means quiet and invisible, they've disregarded the Scriptures which state it will be a loud and visible event (underline ours) :

Matthew 24:27, 30-31
(27) For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the presence of the Son of man will be...(30) And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the Earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the Heavens to their other extremity.

Although the Watchtower Society teaches that this passage is figurative (The Watchtower, February 15, 2008, p.23 para.9), nowhere does the Bible make such an indication.

 

STRIKING OBSERVABLENESS?

Another Scripture the Watchtower Society uses to teach a “quiet” and “invisible” presence is the passage at Luke 17:20 :

    But on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them and said: “The kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness...”

The Watchtower Society's view is that Jesus Christ wasn't speaking of something that could be seen with physical eyes; instead they teach He was speaking symbolically to help them discern what would occur in Heaven, thus He said The kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness” (The Watchtower, January 1, 2008, p.8). According to the Watchtower Society's teaching, the non-Jehovah's Witnesses “see” only in a figurative sense; it is claimed that, in the future, when Jesus Christ finally shows His authority to the remainder of the world, the wicked will finally be forced to “see” or perceive that Jesus Christ is acting as God's judge (The Watchtower, March 15, 2007 p.5, seventh paragraph) It is their view that, since Jesus saidA little longer and the world will behold me no more” (John 14:19), this supports the idea of an invisible presence. Interestingly, though, the Watchtower Society's teaching totally ignores that this verse at Luke 17:20 is actually only one half of a full sentence; if you read the entire sentence, which spans two verses, you get a different picture:

    (20) But on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them and said: “The kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness, (21) neither will people be saying, ‘See here!’ or, ‘There!’ For, look! the kingdom of God is in YOUR midst.”

When you put the entire sentence together you can see that it is actually spoken in the present tense, The kingdom of God is in YOUR midst.” It becomes very clear that Jesus was not speaking of a future event, as the Watchtower Society would have us believe. What's more, the Watchtower Society treats this second half of the sentence as though it were a completely other matter unrelated to the first half. Specifically, the Watchtower Society teaches that, when Christ saidthe kingdom of God is in YOUR midst., He was stating that, since He was among them as a representative of God's Kingdom at that time, then the Kingdom of God was in their midst at that present time. (The Watchtower, January 1, 2008, p.13). So yes, the Watchtower Society shows a divided teaching towards the single-sentence passage at Luke 17:20-21 by claiming verse 20 to have one meaning while claiming verse 21 to have a completely different meaning even though both verses are halves of the same sentence.

So then, what about the verse at John 14:19 in which He states that the world will no longer behold Him? Most likely it points to the fact that His physical form will no longer be seen. Remember, during His first coming He came in the flesh as “the lamb” to be slaughtered (John 1:29, 35; Acts 8:32; 1 Corinthians 5:8). Notably, on His second coming He will come as a blazing warrior spirit who conquers (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 19:11-16). Ergo, the fleshly “lamb” appearance of Him will, indeed, no longer be seen.

NO “STRIKING OBSERVABLENESS?”

So then, let's talk about this passage in Luke a little more: Jesus Christ stated that the Kingdom of God wouldn't come withstriking observableness,” and that the Kingdom of God was right there with them at that time. Christ was not invisible when he walked the Earth as a human, therefore others could easily observe His presence among them. Note that Jesus didn't say He would be unobserved, instead He stated that there would be nostriking observation. And Jesus was not a striking person to observe. Let me explain this:

He was born to a low-income family (compare Luke 2:22-24 with Leviticus 12:3-8), from the insignificant city of Nazareth (John 1:46) (Nazareth was much smaller in those days). His human father's trade was not prestigious as he was simply a common carpenter (Matthew 13:55). Although Jesus was literate, He had no formal education (John 7:15). In His adult life He was homeless (Matthew 8:20). He was neither tall nor handsome, and lacked any kind of splendor (Isaiah 53:2). He associated with the tax collectors and those with questionable reputations (Matthew 9:10). He was mistaken for being a a drunk (Matthew 11:19). He associated with outcasts (Matthew 26:6). To the common eye He was nothing more than a short, plain-looking, homeless, bum wandering around and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Indeed, Jesus Christ, who was the Representative of God's Kingdom, enjoyed no celebrity within in His earthly life; He was nothing prestigious, or striking, to observe.

WARNING SIGNS OF HIS PRESENCE

Just for the sake of argument let's say the Watchtower Society's point of view is correct. If their teaching is true, then why hasn't the entire world “seen” him with their “mental eyes” yet, being that Christ has supposedly been present for about 100 years now? Where in Scripture does it state that there will be a century-long delay between His presence and the world recognizing His coming?

Without giving any Scriptural support, the Watchtower Society tries to cover these questions with this supposition: "Clearly, men will be aware of what is taking place at “the revelation”... This, however, still allows for an invisible presence that goes undiscerned by all but the faithful prior to that revelation. And then they go on to say: We may recall that Jesus, when paralleling his presence with “the days of Noah,” states that in Noah’s time the people “took no note” until watery destruction came upon them, and “so the presence of the Son of man will be”(Insight On the Scriptures, 1988, Vol.2, p.678). In line with this thinking the Watchtower Society has gone so far as to speculate that perhaps the time period between Christ's presence and his coming could parallel the 120 year time period that they claim occurred between the building of the ark and the flood:

In Noah’s day, Jehovah declared: “My spirit shall not act toward man indefinitely in that he is also flesh. Accordingly his days shall amount to a hundred and twenty years.”...Only 120 years more and Jehovah would bring “the deluge of waters upon the earth to bring to ruin all flesh in which the force of life is active from under the heavens.”...Noah received the warning of the upcoming catastrophe decades in advance, and he wisely used the time to prepare for survival... What about us? Some 90 years have passed since the last days of this system of things began in 1914. We are certainly in “the time of the end...Jehovah has kept these warnings in front of his people by means of timely reminders through the spiritual food provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” This warning is not to be taken lightly. Almighty God always keeps his word. He did in Noah’s day, and he will in our day. (The Watchtower, December 15, 2003, pp. 15-16, para.6-9)

Although the above quote is the boldest speculation they've offered on the topic, it isn't the only instance in which they alluded to such a thing (the following are less bold): The Watchtower, March 1, 2002, pp.6-7; The Watchtower, June 1, 1999, pp.5-6 subheading “A Measure of Error to be Filled”; The Watchtower, August 15, 1999, pp.16-18, para. 12-17. As far as I could find, they haven't printed any further similar lines of thought since 2003. HOWEVER, they do continue to teach the idea that Christ's presence and the time of the end are two events separated by a span of time.

How valid is that line of thought?

First, in order to know what is being referred to here, we must look at the Biblical passage that is central to this teaching:

Matthew 24:36-39
(36)“Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the Heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. (37)For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. (38)For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; (39)and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.

As you can see from this passage, the presence of Christ is meant to parallel the time of Noah; but this shouldn't be taken to mean a 120 year time period. Remember, the Scripture is saying that no one knows the “day” in which this will happen. Thus, for the Watchtower Society to claim that Christ's presence began in October 2, 1914 (The Watchtower, November 1, 2007, p.24, para.11; Jehovah's Witnesses – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993, p.61)), and to suggest that the time period could be 120 years, would mean pinpointing the day at October 2, 2034. And, since the Scripture states that Jesus Christ Himself doesn't even know the day, then it would be impossible for the Watchtower Society to know such a thing. Therefore, the parallel cannot include a time line. So, then, what did Jesus mean when He said for just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of Man will be.”?

As you can see from the Bible account, the majority of the people in Noah's time took no notice of the warnings until sudden destruction comes upon them. In Noah's time, the warning signs which preceded the flood were: The construction of the ark, Noah's preaching to the wicked (see explanation here), and the boarding of his family and the animals on the ark (Genesis 6-7; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5). In the modern day parallel, the warnings preceding Christ's presence include wars, tribulation, and the preaching of the Gospel (Matthew 24:7-14). Just as the building of the ark, the preaching, and the boarding of the animals didn't happen during the actual presence of the flood, neither are the wars, tribulations and preaching happening during the presence of Christ. The warnings come first, the culmination follows after.

The Watchtower Society, however, has a different teaching: They believe Christ is already present and that these wars, famines, and tribulations mentioned in Matthew are the sign of his actual presence. The Watchtower Society uses the Scriptural passage at Matthew 24:7-14 as their list of signs: Increase in wars, Earthquakes, famine, hatred, etc.

It used to be that the Watchtower Society taught that there has been a major increase in Earthquakes since 1914, and it was considered to be one of the hallmark signs mentioned in Matthew. In 2002 though, they recanted this teaching by stating that the number of Earthquakes has not been increasing although the amount of Earthquake-caused damage increased due to the growth of population and the modern construction of buildings (Awake! March 22, 2002, p.9).

What about the other signs? It is agreed that there has been increases in wars, famine, hatred, an groups trying to preach; these are undeniably true. HOWEVER...are these the signs of Christ's presence?

No.

The listing in Matthew does not say it lists the signs of His presence -- it is actually a listing of signs showing that the time of His presence is imminent; this is a major difference! Let's take a look at the passage at Matthew 24:1-31 to verify this (Because the New World Translation, is copyrighted I chose to use a public domain version, the World English Bible, for such a large passage):

1 Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way. His disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all of these things, don’t you? Most certainly I tell you, there will not be left here one stone on another, that will not be thrown down.” 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Be careful that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will lead many astray. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you aren’t troubled, for all this must happen, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in various places. 8 But all these things are the beginning of birth pains. 9 Then they will deliver you up to oppression, and will kill you. You will be hated by all of the nations for my name’s sake. 10 Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. 12 Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved. 14 This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. 15When, therefore, you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take out things that are in his house. 18 Let him who is in the field not return back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are with child and to nursing mothers in those days! 20 Pray that your flight will not be in the winter, nor on a Sabbath, 21 for then there will be great oppression, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever will be. 22 Unless those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved. But for the sake of the chosen ones, those days will be shortened. 23 “Then if any man tells you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There,’ don’t believe it. 24 For there will arise false christs, and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the chosen ones. 25 “Behold, I have told you beforehand. 26 If therefore they tell you, ‘Behold, he is in the wilderness,’ don’t go out; ‘Behold, he is in the inner rooms,’ don’t believe it. 27 For as the lightning flashes from the east, and is seen even to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there is where the vultures gather together. 29 But immediately after the oppression of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; 30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 He will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

To begin with, the scripture at Matthew 24:1-2 shows Jesus telling His disciples that the Temple in Jerusalem will be completely destroyed (which eventually happened in 70 C.E. with the Roman armies) After telling them this, they had two different questions for Jesus:

1 -- When would this temple destruction occur?
2 -- What would be the signs of His return in the future?
(Matthew 24:3)

Jesus chose to answer the second question first: He stated there would be false Christs, an increase in warfare, famine, hatred of Christians, betrayal, false prophets, a lack of love, and an end-time awareness of the Gospel (vs. 4-14, compare with Acts 2:17-21).

Next, He answers the first question: The temple destruction will occur after the appearance of the “abomination of desolation” (disgusting thing that causes desolation”– NWT). Those recognizing thisdisgusting thingshould flee to the mountains immediately – not grabbing any personal belongings, just FLEE. (vs. 15-19).

The next two verses, vs. 20-21, are very interesting: He decides to give an answer to both questions in one single sentence (which spans the two verses): Pray that the flight won't be badly timed because then there will be great oppression unlike anything ever seen before, or will be seen again.

With this singular sentence, one gets the impression that Jesus is paralleling the inescapable destruction of Jerusalem to the inescapable destruction to be seen in the end times; (much like He previously paralleled the inescapable flood of Noah to His inescapable future coming). Note that in this passage Jesus specifically mentions a “great oppression” that has never been seen before nor will be seen again. This is clearly something more widespread than the destruction of Jerusalem, therefore we know He was alluding to the end-times. The Watchtower Society even sees this, as evidenced by their own words: Biblical evidence indicates that the tribulation upon Jerusalem in 70 C.E. pointed forward to a far greater tribulation.” (Insight On the Scriptures, 1988, Vol. 2, p.1127). Along with this, Jesus Christ specified that unless those end-times are cut short, no person will survive the aftermath of the times.

After correlating these two events, He continues to speak more on the signs of His impending presence:

False preachers will claim that the Christ has already come; false prophets will arise and mislead all sorts of people. People will be gathering around these false Christs as vultures to a carcass (vs.23-28). BUT...these are NOT to be considered as the signs of His presence, because it is only after these things that He states (underline ours) immediately after the oppression of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; 30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. (vs.29-30).

In other words, He doesn't tell them when the destruction of the Temple will be, nor does He tell them exactly what the direct sign of His presence will be. However, He does tell them of the developments which foreshadow these events – events which correspond to each other. In Luke's account of these signs, it is revealed that Christ gave this information so that, when believers see these things happening, they canraise yourselves erect and life your heads up, because YOUR deliverance is getting near” (Luke 21:27-28).

The Watchtower Society confuses the issue and claims that these foreshadows are the actual signs of Christ's presence. However, since Christ Himself stated that the Sign of His Presence doesn't appear until AFTER these events, it is clear that the Watchtower Society is mistaken.