Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.
By continuing to ponder over spiritual things, we will maintain our enthusiasm for the truth. Thus we will be a source of refreshment to our brothers and to the interested ones we meet in the field service. Meditating deeply on God’s greatest gift, the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, will help us to cherish the privilege of having a close relationship with our Holy Father, Jehovah. Mark, a South African who spent three years in prison because of his Christian neutrality, said: “Meditation can be compared to an exciting adventure. The more we meditate on spiritual things, the more we discover new things about our God, Jehovah. At times when I’m feeling a little discouraged or anxious about the future, I pick up the Bible and meditate on a passage of Scripture. I feel that it really calms me down.”
Meditating on the Scriptures is good. It can help us connect the dots, so-to-speak —broadening our grasp, deepening our understanding and discernment. To that end, if you have looked up the verse in the fourth chapter of James cited in the Daily Text, why not turn to the next chapter in James and consider verses 7-8. Those verses read: “Be patient then, brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! The farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until the early rain and the late rain arrive. You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”
It is true, meditating on the ransom Jesus provided and the undeserved kindness of God that the sacrifice makes possible can help us cherish our relationship with God and Christ. But meditating on the meaning of James 5:7-8 can have a similar effect. Whereas, the ransom makes it possible for us to have an approved standing before God now, the presence of Christ will determine our eternal fate and open up a whole new world —literally!
Notice in the passage above that the word “presence” is used twice. As Jehovah’s Witnesses well know, the word “presence” is translated from the Greek word “parousia,” which means “being alongside.”
Parousia is sometimes used in a mundane way too, such as when Paul spoke of his being present with fellow believers —as opposed to being absent, or only present in spirit. This must mean that the presence of Jesus is something extraordinary —something never before experienced. Why can we say that? Because when Jesus left this earth to go back to his Father in heaven he assured his followers that even though absent he would be with them in spirit all the days until the conclusion of the system of things. That means that all of Jesus’ genuine followers have had Christ’s oversight, regardless of the time period in which they lived. That being the case, obviously there must be a significant and profound difference between Christ being with his disciples from afar and his coming and being alongside them.
So, what does the presence of Christ signify when he has been with his followers all along? Well, meditating on the passage in James —as the Watchtower advises —ought to reveal to our minds that the presence of Christ is the end of the matter —at least the end of the Christian era, which is why some translations refer to the end of the age —the Christian age.
Read the passage again if you need to. Is it not clearly implied that the presence of Christ brings an end to the work? In the illustration the farmer must be patient and wait for the early rain and the late rain to bring his crop to fruition. But once the crop is ripe then the harvest occurs. The farmer’s wait is over at that point. And in his illustration James likened the presence of Christ to the end of the growing cycle.
Now meditate on the situation Jehovah’s Witnesses find themselves in. Originally the presence of Christ was said to have begun in 1874. Then around 1930 it was readjusted to have begun in 1914. In any case, whether 1874 or 1914, if the presence of Christ has already begun why is it necessary to continue to exercise patience? To emphasis the point, James reveals that the presence is the end of the wait, not the beginning of an extended, generations-long period requiring the continued exercise of faith and patience. Clearly, something is not right with the Watchtower’s parousia.
To be sure, James is not the only Bible writer that presents the parousia of the Lord in this manner. Just as James exhorts Christians to make their hearts firm until the presence, so too, Paul says the same thing, writing: “Moreover, may the Lord cause you to increase, yes, to abound in love for one another and for all, just as we do for you, so that he may make your hearts firm, blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the presence of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” —1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
Meditating on the verse above, if in his presence Christ is accompanied by all his holy ones, that means that at that point all the holy ones have been called and chosen. And since the first resurrection commences during the parousia, Christ will be accompanied by the resurrected holy ones when he comes alongside the remnant of holy ones still in the flesh.
But what does it mean —his being alongside them? Jesus gave us some indication of what the parousia means when he exhorted his followers to remain on the watch for his coming. At Luke 12:35-40 Jesus said: “Be dressed and ready and have your lamps burning, and you should be like men waiting for their master to return from the marriage, so when he comes and knocks, they may at once open to him. Happy are those slaves whom the master on coming finds watching! Truly I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. And if he comes in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them ready, happy are they! But know this, if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely, the Son of man is coming.”
Now, this may be a little deep —it is certainly not something you will ever read in the Watchtower, but meditating on the passage above ought to reveal this simple truth; namely, that the coming of the Son of man at an hour you do not think likely commences the parousia. That, of course, is not the way Jehovah’s Witnesses presently understand it. The WT teaches that the parousia has already begun, but the Son of man is still coming.
However, please take specific notice of what Jesus said in the passage above, where he said that “he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them.”
Jesus was clearly making reference to the original observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal, where he literally girded himself with a waiter’s apron and washed the feet of his apostles as they reclined at the table after having shared the Passover meal, after which Jesus passed the emblems of communion.
Interestingly too, at 1 Corinthians 11:26 the apostle indicated that the observance of the Evening Meal proclaims the death of the Lord only until he comes –implying that at his coming the ritual of observing his death will end. And is that not the subject Jesus was discussing —his coming, when the fulfillment of the Evening Meal communion is realized?
Thus, this coming alongside his disciples to minister to them at the passover table is an obvious reference to the parousia. Since even the Watchtower is forced to admit that the coming of the Son of man is a future event, so too is the parousia. Still, the question remains: What exactly is the parousia? It is when Christ reveals himself to those whom he comes alongside. There is, in fact, no such thing as an invisible parousia.
The transfiguration of Christ was a foregleam of his presence. Even the Watchtower recognizes this. However, the Governing Body would do well to meditate on the fact that the apostle Peter, who was on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, said of the experience: “No, it was not by following artfully contrived false stories that we made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather, we were eyewitnesses of his magnificence.”
Being an eyewitness of the transfiguration, Peter said it signified the power and presence (parousia) of our Lord. Mind you, Peter was not an eyewitness to an invisible transfiguration. He saw Christ in resplendent glory, the glory such as he will have when the Son of man comes in the glory of his Father and comes alongside his holy ones to minister to them. In other words, the parousia will be visible —at least to those whom Christ comes alongside.
Indeed, do you realize the apostles wrote of the visible return of Christ? For example at Hebrews 9:28 Paul said: “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.”
Needless to say Christ has not appeared to anyone during the past century of his supposed ongoing invisible presence.
Not only that, the apostle John, who was also an eyewitness of the transfiguration, wrote concerning his coming: “Beloved ones, we are now children of God, but it has not yet been made manifest what we will be. We do know that when he is made manifest we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.”
Please note, John was not speaking in terms of the children of God seeing Jesus in heaven. How do we know? Because the apostle was speaking of his manifestation. Jesus has always been manifest in heaven, has he not? To be made manifest is to be revealed. Something that is revealed is previously hidden until its revelation, which is what apocalypse means —a revelation of things previously undisclosed. In truth, the parousia, the manifestation and the revelation of Christ are interchangeable terms.
Also, it should be regarded as having the utmost relevance, the word that the New World Translation has rendered as “manifestation” is a translation of the Greek word “epiphaneia.” “Epiphaneia” literally means an “appearance,” and also carries the connotation of “brightness,” being derived from the Greek verb “epiphaino,” which means, “to shine forth”—suggesting a glorious, brilliant appearance, even a rapturous epiphany for the observer of the appearance. Some translations even render epiphaneia as “the brightness of his coming.” I have laid these matters out in detail in the chapter entitled Parousia in Jehovah Himself Has Become King.
Amazingly, even the Watchtower connects the manifestation of Christ to his presence, but only as an ancillary footnote –attaching no importance to the fact that the Greek word literally means the brightness of his appearance, harkening to the glorious transfiguration.
Hopefully, by meditating on these matters you may gain a deeper appreciation of the significance of the coming of Christ and how the Watchtower’s artfully contrived false story has only served to conceal these matters from searching minds until such time as the arrival of the Son of man blows the lid off. And since the apostasy must come first, prior to the manifestation of his presence, and judging by the increasing lawless ferment within the Watchtower, the presence of the Lord has indeed, drawn close.