The apostles knew that Jesus’ resurrection was different from the resurrections that preceded it. People who were brought back to life earlier came back with physical bodies and eventually died again. Jesus was resurrected with a spirit body that was imperishable. Peter wrote that Jesus “is at God’s right hand, for he went to heaven, and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.” The previous resurrections were both marvelous and miraculous, but none compared to this supreme miracle. Jesus’ resurrection had a profound impact on his disciples. He was no longer dead but was alive as a mighty spirit person whom no human could harm. His resurrection proved that he was the Son of God, and knowing that fact, the disciples found their spirits lifted from that of profound sorrow to great joy. Furthermore, their fear was replaced by courage.
If Jesus was resurrected as a spirit, then why did he say when he appeared to them on one occasion after his resurrection: “‘Why are you troubled, and why have doubts come up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you see that I have.’ And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.”
The answer is simple. Jesus materialized flesh just as invisible spirits in God’s service had done many times before. For example, in the days leading up to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah three “men” paid a visit to Abraham. They ate a meal with him, just as Jesus ate with his disciples after his resurrection. One of the visitors was even called “Jehovah,” apparently because he spoke for God.
The fact is, the apostles simply would have never believed that Jesus had been resurrected had they not seen him with their eyes and felt him with their hands. That is why Jesus had to make an allowance for their disbelief. Otherwise Christianity would have never happened.
Jesus even had to walk them through his ascension back to heaven or else the disciples never would have believed that either. So, in front of a small gathering of his followers Jesus was physically levitated off the earth and lifted up into the sky, high up into the clouds —at which point he obviously dissolved his flesh and vanished into the invisible realm.
Interestingly, two angels materialized at the moment Jesus was being lifted up into the heavens and they said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was taken up from you into the sky will come in the same manner as you have seen him going into the sky.”
What did the angels mean? Are we to expect Jesus to materialize flesh again when he returns? No. That is not necessary. For one thing, we already believe that Jesus was resurrected. We do not need to see his flesh to be convinced that he rose from the dead to the right hand of God.
But in what way will Christians see Jesus “in the same manner” as those astonished disciples who were privileged to “have seen him going into the sky”?
One piece to the puzzle is found in Paul’s experience. Some time after the original disciples saw Jesus depart from this earth Paul also saw the Lord. However, Paul or rather Saul, as he was called then, did not see a physical, materialization of Christ.
Here is what the account of his encounter says: “Now as he was traveling and getting near Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, and he fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ He asked: ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said: ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ Now the men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing, indeed, the sound of a voice but seeing no one. Saul then got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he did not see anything, and he neither ate nor drank.”
The account does not specifically say that Paul saw Jesus. It simply says that “a light from heaven flashed around him.” However, some years later Paul wrote that he had seen the Lord. So, while Luke’s account in Acts does not specify that Saul actually saw Christ, the person who had the encounter testified that he did.
Writing to the Corinthians Paul also referred to Christ appearing to him. “After that he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still with us, though some have fallen asleep in death. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. But last of all he appeared also to me as if to one born prematurely.”
What did Paul mean that his seeing Christ lastly was as if he had been born prematurely? As is evident, all the others saw a materialized, human Jesus. Paul saw Jesus as he exists in the spirit. The reason that it was as if Paul had been born premature is because he saw Jesus the way all of the chosen ones will see him when he returns. That is why Paul also wrote to the Hebrews: “Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many; and the second time that he appears it will be apart from sin, and he will be seen by those earnestly looking for him for their salvation.”
If Christ is to “appear” and “be seen” why do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in an invisible appearance? How is it even possible for someone to appear invisibly?
Basically, Jehovah’s Witnesses are disbelievers at this point, just like the disciples prior to Jesus appearing to them. The fact that on one occasion he rebuked them for being “senseless and slow in heart to believe all the things the prophets spoke” is surely portentous of Christ’s future appearance.
Not coincidently, speaking of the deception to take place during the Confusion, Jesus said that even the chosen would be deceived —if that were possible. The question is, why will it not be possible for Satan to deceive the chosen ones when his dupes proclaim he is here and there? It will not be possible because they will have seen Jesus.