ANSWER: The Watchtower is correct in saying that clouds may symbolize something that is invisible to human eyes. And, of course, clouds may also be used to denote gloom and doom. Surely the vision of the seventh chapter of Daniel depicting the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven and gaining access to the Ancient of days is an event that takes place in the invisible realm – in heaven itself.
Likewise, Jesus foretold that all the tribes of the earth will see the sign of the Son of man displayed in heaven and they will see him coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And Jesus repeated that expression in Revelation as well, saying: “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 will beat themselves in grief because of him. Yes, Amen.”
True, the untaught masses insist that what the Bible says in regard to every eye seeing him is literal, but such persons have no appreciation for the fact that seeing Jesus is a privilege reserved exclusively for the faithful chosen ones.
But there is another important usage of clouds, in this case literal clouds in the sky, that can help us understand how clouds can be used to symbolize something that is concealed from human vision. Consider the account of Jesus’ ascension to heaven. The account in the first chapter of the book of Acts states: “And after he had said these things, while they were looking on, he was lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision. And as they were gazing into the sky while he was on his way, also, look! two men in white garments stood alongside them, and they said: ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky.’”
Notice, please, that when Jesus was caught up into a cloud he was concealed from their vision, at which point two angels appeared as men among them to explain the manner of his return. But Jesus was visible to them for a time as he was levitated into the sky. No doubt the awestruck apostles and disciples understood the angels to mean that they would also visibly see Jesus descend from heaven in the same manner. It is reasonable, then, to expect that the return of Jesus will occur in the reverse manner; namely, that he will make himself visible to his disciples in some manner, as if emerging from the cloak of a cloud.
It is noteworthy that after Jesus was resurrected he appeared to his disciples on numerous occasions in different bodies. In the 15th chapter of first Corinthians Paul explained that up to 500 disciples had seen Jesus after his resurrection. And that they served as his witnesses. Not only that, they had been preselected beforehand to serve as witnesses of his resurrection and ascension. On no occasion after his resurrection did Jesus appear to unbelievers. Jesus appeared only to those who had put faith in him before his death and resurrection. That is a very important
So the point is, Jesus coming on the clouds and those of the tribes of the earth who are said to “see him” and beat themselves in anguish as a result, will not literally see Jesus. After all, it says “the sign of the Son of man” will appear in heaven. But they will be forced to accept the fact that Jesus has returned and they have been adversely judged and condemned by him for their faithlessness.
But there is an entirely different aspect of the parousia having to do with Jesus revealing himself to the chosen ones.
It should be noted that nowhere in the Scriptures does the expression “invisible presence” appear. That phrase was invented by the Watchtower. Consider the fact that when Jesus left his disciples he said he would be with them all the days until the conclusion of the system of things. And, the conclusion and the parousia are the same thing. As Jehovah’s Witnesses are aware the Greek word “parousia” literally means “a coming alongside,” specifically by a person of royalty. But now here is the question: If Christ has been with his disciples since his ascension and the conclusion of the system began in 1914, what has changed? Expressed differently, if Christ was with the Bible students in 1913, shouldn’t we expect that his coming alongside them would have been manifest in some noticeable way? Of course, the Bible students back then were laboring under the delusion that the parousia had begun in 1874!
But the point is the Watchtower has rendered the parousia into virtual meaninglessness.
In the chapter entitled “Parousia” in the book Jehovah Himself Has Become King I presented the biblical usage of several related terms translated in the New World Translation as manifestation, revelation and presence. And in many of those passages the apostles explained that Jesus will literally manifest himself to his disciples and they will see him as he is. The Watchtower has no appreciation for this at all. They imagine that Jesus is referring to the disciples seeing him as he is when they are united with him in heaven. But if that is the case why would Jesus have to be unveiled to them or made manifest? Is Jesus concealed from other heavenly beings? Being revealed or manifested only has meaning if prior to the manifestation or unveiling the thing or person is hidden or concealed in some way.
And Bethel has no appreciation for the meaning of Paul’s being born prematurely and the fact that he is the only person to have literally seen Jesus after his ascension.
The fact is, Jehovah’s Witnesses are blind. There is no invisible parousia. Christ did not return in 1914. All of Jehovah’s Witnesses are laboring under the Watchtower’s operation of error. The actual presence of Christ will shatter the Watchtower’s delusion. And just as Christ sternly rebuked his apostles after his resurrection for being ‘senselessness and slow in heart to believe all the things the prophets spoke,’ so too, the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses is going to have to answer for their senselessness and refusal to accept the things of Scripture.