The “second coming” of Jesus Christ is a commonly used expression, especially among various Adventists groups, LDS and the many evangelical sects. Catholics, Orthodox, Methodist, etc, not so much.
Oddly, though, the phrase “second coming of Christ” does not resonant with Jehovah’s Witnesses at all. And there is a very good reason why that is so. It is because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the second coming has already occurred —although many JW’s may not even realize it. But it is true. The Watchtower has essentially rendered the epic second coming of Jesus into a non-event. In case you missed it, it occurred in 1914.
If you doubt that to be true, here are a few references from Watchtower literature over the years.
IN THE year 1879 it became evident which of the many early voices announcing Christ’s second coming were being chosen by Jehovah to be united in action as his witnesses. Now, 75 years later, it clearly appears that in those early days Jehovah’s hand was upon the small Pittsburgh (Pa.) Bible group under C. T. Russell’s chairmanship. For the eight years prior to 1879 these “layman” students of the Bible had gained much experience as to right Christian doctrine, prophetic time, and in preaching to the public as well as in printing their new-found truths. —WT 1/15/55
According to this excerpt from a 1955 Watchtower the Bible Students were chosen by Jehovah to announce Christ’s second coming. As far as having experience in “prophetic time,” the article fails to mention that the Bible Students originally believed the second coming took place in 1874, invisibly of course. No matter.
The book God’s Kingdom has Approached (1973) quotes from a previously published article in the 40’s, stating:
Messiah, the Son of man, came into Kingdom power A.D. 1914 and . . . this constitutes his second coming and the beginning of his second parousía or presence.”
So, there you have it. Christ’s second coming took place in 1914 —not 1874. Whatever. Most telling, though, is that in more recent years the Watchtower does not refer to the second coming as taking place in 1914. The phrase has been phased out. In fact, there is no mention of it at all except in the context of referencing what others erroneously believe about the second coming. For instance, doing a search on the WT’s CD ROM and the JW Library Online, one has to go all the way back to 1985 to find the last reference to the second coming as having taken place in 1914. Here is that is stated in the February 1st, 1985 WT in an article entitled: Who Can Read the Sign Aright? :
People of this 20th-century generation who do not desire or believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ do not read aright the “sign” of this system’s end.
Of course, according to the Watchtower, the “sign” of Jesus’ second coming appeared in 1914. But if that is true, if the monumental second coming of the Lord took place over 100 years ago, why do not Jehovah’s Witnesses use that expression? Should it not be shouted from the rooftops that the Lord’s second coming has been a reality these past 103 years? For example, why have we never seen a poster heralding the second coming of Christ in 1914 on a JW info cart? Indeed, why has the Watchtower all but erased that phrase from their theocratic pure lingo?
The reason should be obvious. The Watchtower no longer wishes to tout 1914 as the date for the second coming because the Governing Body knows it would appear ridiculous. Quite likely even many of Jehovah’s Witnesses would begin to grasp the absurdity of the Watchtower’s 1914 invisible return doctrine.
Contradictorily, though, while quietly retaining 1914 as the year of the second coming the Watchtower also preaches that Jesus is still coming. Here is a link to a recent article on JW.org on the future coming of Jesus. But if we take all things into consideration, at least in terms of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, a future coming of Jesus would constitute a third coming. To underscore the dishonesty involved, about 20 years ago the WT reset the separation of the sheep and the goats to a point in the future. (Previously the WT taught that the sheep and the goats were being separated by their response to the preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses.) However, in the article linked to above the Society cites Jesus’ parable:
The Scriptures make dozens of references to the future time when Christ comes to judge the people of the earth. For example, Matthew 25:31-33 says: “When the Son of man [Jesus Christ] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.”
The Bible does indeed make dozens of references to the future time when Christ comes to render judgment. It boggles the mind, but the Governing Body actually teaches that although Jesus’ second coming was supposedly accomplished in 1914 and it was then that the Lord took up his awesome Kingdom power, sitting down on his heavenly throne, he is coming again in the future to also sit down on his glorious throne to judge the sheep and goats. Clearly, there is some interpretive fraud involved here.
The Watchtower’s deceit is even more apparent when we consider their latest adjustment in understanding. After decades of teaching that Jesus appointed the faithful slave over all of his belongings back in 1919, in 2013 the Watchtower flipped it to the future. (I wrote a series of articles on this subject in Watchtower Review.) But they seem oblivious to the fact that the reward and punishment of the faithful and unfaithful slaves is precisely what occurs at the beginning of the second coming of Christ. Does not judgment begin with the house of God first? And did the master not appoint a slave to feed the domestic servants of his house?
The fraud of the second coming in 1914 is evident in light of the fact that Jesus was explicit in connecting the judgment of his anointed slave with his second coming. For example, in the context immediately preceding his illustration of the faithful and wicked slaves 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.” –Luke 12:35-40
Within the short span of verses above the words “come” and “coming” appear six times. Please notice, too, that the coming of the Son of man is not in connection with the judgment of the sheep and the goats. Jesus is coming again to call his anointed slaves to account. To be sure, if Jesus exhorts his slaves to be ready for the “return” of the master, is that not a reference to the second coming? If Jesus returned in 1914 then that is when the slaves would have been called to account. But since the Watchtower now teaches that the master’s return is in the future, how is it that his second coming took place in 1914?
A similar sort of misrepresentation is employed regarding the third chapter of Malachi. That prophecy also refers to the coming of Christ —the messenger of the covenant. It states: “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will clear up a way before me. And suddenly the true Lord, whom you are seeking, will come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant will come, in whom you take delight. Look! He will certainly come,” says Jehovah of armies. But who will endure the day of his coming, and who will be able to stand when he appears? For he will be like the fire of a refiner and like the lye of laundrymen.”
The Watchtower has, of course, provided an answer to the rhetorical question of who will endure the day of his coming. Judge Rutherford and the International Bible Students did! In fact, those Bible Students were able to stand before Christ when he appeared, invisibly! Unfortunately, although they were apparently refined in the fire they have long since died off. And although Jesus came back then and judged them, he is coming once more to do it all over again! Such are the absurdities and contradictions inherent in the Watchtower’s bogus invisible second coming of Jesus Christ.
To be sure, the second coming of Christ cannot be so easily ignored. Appropriately, the first casualty of Jesus’ fiery return will be the Watchtower’s sacred 1914 hoax.