Commentary on the Daily Text of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Monday, May 29
I am with you.
Over the years our King has given us tools to use to help prepare the hearts of millions to receive the Kingdom message. Some tools were useful for perhaps a decade or so, while others have proved to be of timeless value. But all these tools have allowed us to develop our skills as evangelizers in some way. One tool that helped many get started in the ministry was the testimony card, which Kingdom publishers began using in 1933. The card contained a brief Bible message. The testimony card was helpful in more ways than one. Although having a strong desire to share in the preaching work, some publishers were shy and did not know what to say. Others would tell the householder everything they knew in just a few minutes, but their presentation was not always tactful! In contrast, in a few concise, well-chosen words, the testimony card “did the talking” for the publisher.
The doctrine of the invisible parousia is unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or more appropriately phrased, it is the unique teaching of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. That is because at no time since Charles Taze Russell organized the original Bible Students has there ever been any expectation of a coming parousia. It has always been considered an accomplished fact.
Originally the Russellites believed that the presence of Christ had begun in 1874. The date 1914 was looked forward to as the culmination of all things. Some of the Bible Students even expected to be raptured then. But after 1914 came and went and the world did not end some 16 years later, in 1930, the Watchtower reset the parousia to 1914 —dropping 1874 altogether. And to this day the Watchtower still teaches that Christ’s presence began in 1914.
But what is the parousia and why is its supposed beginning so easy to shift around?
It is true, popular Bible translations do not consistently translate the Greek word parousia as presence. Most translate it as coming —as in the second coming. But “presence” is the more accurate rendering. And Christ’s coming precedes his arrival and subsequent presence.
However, nowhere in the Scriptures do we find the expression — “invisible presence.” Besides, has not Jesus always been invisibly present with his true disciples as the day’s text indicates? Jesus’ parting words to his 11 faithful apostles recorded in the very last passage in Matthew assures Christians of this very thing. Jesus said to them: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
If Jesus is with his disciples all the days until the conclusion what happens during the conclusion? Is it merely more of the same preaching and disciple-making, more baptizing, more invisibility on the part of Christ as he directs Christians from heaven? Interestingly, the Watchtower article from which the daily text is taken states in the second paragraph:
This great work, Jesus foretold, would be carried on right up to “the conclusion of the system of things,” and that has proved to be the case. Quite likely you are having a share in the fulfillment of that commission and prophecy.
No doubt some at Bethel’s writing desk realize the contradiction they are teaching in regards to the parousia and conclusion beginning in 1914, and so to smooth it over they give the impression that the conclusion begins in the future or that there is a seamless transition from before the conclusion to the conclusion; hence, the expression: “carried on right up to ‘the conclusion of the system of things.’”
Unfortunately, this sort of sleight-of-hand trickery on the part of Watchtower writers is not at all uncommon. It takes a trained eye to spot it. However, all such Kingdom tricksters would do well to take note of Zephaniah; indeed, the oft-quoted passage in the third chapter concerning Jehovah providing a change to a pure language shall come in the aftermath of the banishment of all those speaking a lie with a tricky tongue.
But, again, the bigger question is: what is the parousia of Jesus Christ? That question is most pertinent given the fact that Jesus said he would be with his disciples all the days until the conclusion, or until the harvest.
Regarding the definition of the presence the NWT Reference Bible under section 5B cites a writer from the Russell era, stating:
Concerning the meaning of this word, Israel P. Warren, D.D., wrote in his work The Parousia, Portland, Maine (1879), pp. 12-15: “We often speak of the ‘second advent,’ the ‘second coming,’ etc., but the Scriptures never speak of a ‘second Parousia.’ Whatever was to be its nature, it was something peculiar, having never occurred before, and being never to occur again. It was to be a presence differing from and superior to all other manifestations of himself to men, so that its designation should properly stand by itself, without any qualifying epithet other than the article,—THE PRESENCE.
This is a very important statement of truth. The presence of Christ is different and superior to all other manifestations of himself to men. Turn that phrase over in your mind a time or two and let it sink in.
Now, since the Watchtower ascribes to the above statement honest-hearted Jehovah’s Witnesses should thoughtfully consider the following question: How has Jesus manifested himself since 1914? Is there any discernible difference in the relationship of Christians to Christ from before 1914 and after? If any of Jehovah’s Witnesses submitted that question to the Watchtower for consideration what answer, if any, do you suppose would be put forward? The answer should be obvious to all. There has been no apparent change.
Of course, the Watchtower claims that the Kingdom preaching work is the visible proof that Jesus is ruling in his Kingdom, but as pointed out here and in other articles, that contradicts the fact that Jesus said he would be with his disciples all the days until the conclusion. Certainly the first century Christians accomplished a great work without any modern devices. They did so, not because the Kingdom had come or Christ’s parousia had begun, but because Jesus was with them, as he said he would be.
Consider now another statement in the same New World Translation appendix:
“Had our translators done with this technical word ‘parousia’ as they did with ‘baptisma,’—transferring it unchanged,—or if translated using its exact etymological equivalent, presence, and had it been well understood, as it then would have been, that there is no such thing as a ‘second Presence,’ I believe that the entire doctrine would have been different from what it now is. The phrases, ‘second advent,’ and ‘second coming,’ would never have been heard of. The church would have been taught to speak of THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD, as that from which its hopes were to be realized, whether in the near future or at the remotest period,—that under which the world was to be made new, a resurrection both spiritual and corporeal should be attained, and justice and everlasting awards administered.”
First, there is nothing unscriptural or inappropriate with the expression “second coming.” While the so-called churches have confused Christ’s coming and presence, so has the Watchtower —only in a different manner, as will be shown. But the term “second coming,” although not appearing precisely in verse, the concept is certainly implied. At John 14:3 did not Jesus say explicitly that he would “come again”? He surely did. Does not the word “again” indicate a repeat —a second coming? It most surely does.
Furthermore, Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews (9:28): “So also the 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.”
All Christians believe that the Son of God appeared on earth some 2,000 years ago, so the “second time he appears” not only implies a second coming, but is in direct conflict with the Watchtower’s mind-bending notion of an invisible appearance.
But as regards the second quote above, the concluding sentence makes a very important point; namely, that the purpose of the parousia is to make new, to accomplish the resurrection and administer justice and reward those deemed faithful. In other words, the presence of Christ is when the judgment of the house of God is carried out. This can be discerned from a few passages that speak of the presence of Christ:
“For what is our hope or joy or crown of exultation—why, is it not in fact you?—before our Lord Jesus at his presence?” — 1 Thessalonians 2:19
Paul, here, indicates that the disciple making work would culminate at Jesus’ presence, which is why there would be joy and exultation over the fruits of their labor.
“Moreover, may the Lord cause you to increase, yes, make you abound, in love to one another and to all, even as we also do to you; to the end that he may make your hearts firm, unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the presence of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” — 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
If the goal is to be found unblamable in holiness at the presence of our Lord Jesus that indicates that the presence is the end of Christianity, when all are judged. And although the goal is to be found unblamable, obviously some will be found guilty. Also, if all the holy ones are with Christ at his presence, obviously that comes at the conclusion of the preaching, teaching and readjustment of the holy ones.
“Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! The farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early rain and the late rain. You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.” — James 5:7-8
Clearly, James taught that the presence of the Lord was the end of our faith. It is what Christians are waiting for. Therefore, if Christ’s presence began in 1914 why is it necessary to keep exercising patience? Why is the theme of the 2017 conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses “Don’t give up”? The answer should be obvious to anyone who is not deluded —the presence of the Lord has not begun.
“So now, little children, remain in union with him, that when he is made manifest we may have freeness of speech and not be shamed away from him at his presence.” — 1 John 2:28
Finally, the apostle John links the manifestation of Jesus and the judgment of all anointed persons with his presence. Again, if the goal is to be able to stand before Christ and not be shamed away from him, then the presence is the end of Christ’s work. Has anyone been shamed away from Christ over the past 100 years during his supposed invisible presence? More to the point, even the Watchtower has now reset the judgment of the slaves of Christ to the future, when he comes as a thief. That being true, obviously once the Son of man arrives and the presence of Christ commences then he is no longer coming and it is evident that those who will be shamed away from him at his presence are the hypocrites who will be judged to be evil and sluggish slaves. Their being shamed away is where the weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.
The truth is, according to the Scriptures the second coming of Christ and the beginning of the parousia will conclude the worldwide preaching and teaching work. That is why it is called the conclusion —it is the end of the Christian era. The parousia is when Christ judges his slaves as to their faithfulness in his absence, when he was with them from afar.
Amazingly, the apostle Paul indicated that prior to the actual coming and manifestation of Jesus a man of lawlessness would promote a false parousia. This is precisely what the Watchtower has done and that is why it has never placed the parousia in the future. The Watchtower’s invisible parousia doctrine bears all the earmarks of the delusion that Jehovah permits the Devil to put into operation immediately prior to the authentic coming of Christ.