JW.org has a front-page linked caption that poses the question: What Is the Battle of Armageddon?
In the brief article, the writers debunk a few common misconceptions, such as the location and scope of the war. Unfortunately, though, the Governing Body reiterates its own misconceptions. The last paragraph in particular is wrought with error and ignorance.
When will Armageddon take place? When discussing the “great tribulation” that culminates in the battle of Armageddon, Jesus said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:21, 36) Nevertheless, the Bible does show that Armageddon takes place during Jesus’ invisible presence, which began in 1914. —Matthew 24:37- 39.
First, the great tribulation does not culminate at Armageddon. Jesus said very plainly that God will intervene to cut short the great tribulation, so there is an interim between the end of the tribulation and the war of the great day of God Almighty at the place called Armageddon.
Even the Watchtower used to teach this. In 1925 the Watchtower suggested that WWI was the start of the great tribulation and that God cut it short. For nearly 50 years Jehovah’s Witnesses believed they were living during the interval between the cutting short of the tribulation and Armageddon. Then in 1970, the Watchtower dropped the idea that the tribulation had already begun and been cut short. (WT, Jan 15, 1970 – Peace with God amid the Great Tribulation) Now, though, there is no interval. The tribulation and Armageddon have been melded together.
Secondly, the article repeats a well-worn falsehood, one repeated by Mark Sanderson at the 2021 Annual Meeting; that being, that the unknowable day and hour pertains to Armageddon. It really is nonsensical. Even taking the Watchtower’s interpretation to be true (which it is not) if false religion is destroyed during the great tribulation and the tribulation segues into Armageddon, how could Armageddon take anyone by surprise?
In context, Jesus forthrightly spoke of his parousia. Here is what he said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”
Jesus spoke further about an unknowable hour when he said: “the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his place with the hypocrites. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.”
The day and hour that only the Father knows is the day and hour that the Son of man will arrive like a thief in the night to commence the judgment of his slaves. That is why Jesus sternly warned us: “On this account, you too prove yourselves ready, because the Son of man is coming at an hour that you do not think to be it.”
The Governing Body claim that Jesus came in 1914. That error is why Christ is certain to come at an hour you do not think to be it.
Lastly, there is no such thing as an invisible presence. Back when the Bible Students first began uncovering the Bible’s basic truth, the primary doctrines, C.T. Russell adopted the Adventist’s error that the parousia would be invisible. In fact, as I have pointed out many times, Russell even taught that the parousia began in 1874!
Russell reasoned that if Jesus came back visibly it would be in the flesh since spirits are invisible. And if Christ returned in the flesh he would essentially nullify the ransom sacrifice. Such reasoning is faulty. For one thing, Jesus has always been invisibly present with his disciples. Did he not assure us that he will be with us all the days until the conclusion? Surely, during the conclusion it will not be more of the same, but rather, something more than an invisible presence will begin. Moreover, Christ visibly appeared to his disciples after he was resurrected, even though, as the apostle Peter said, he was put to death in the flesh and raised in the spirit. So, Jesus appeared to his disciples as flesh even though he was a spirit.
No knowledgable Christian would deny that Jesus became a life-giving spirit, and yet as a spirit, he materialized a human body on numerous occasions to prove to his disciples that he was very much alive. Surely, though, Jesus did not invalidate the ransom by making himself visible to the disciples. That being true, why is a visible presence of some sort deemed to be impossible?
Furthermore, Jesus appeared to Saul long after he had ascended to heaven. And that appearance was not in a materialized fleshly body. Paul saw a glimpse of Christ in glory. It left him stunned and sightless for three days. Years later when writing concerning the first resurrection and the parousia Paul said that Christ appeared to him lastly, “as if to one born prematurely.” Even though the Pharisee only saw a brilliant flash of light Paul said that Jesus appeared to him. Was it a visible appearance even though Christ was an invisible spirit? Yes! Absolutely!
Why did the apostle say that it was as if he had been born prematurely? Because he saw Jesus in the same manner that the chosen will see Jesus when he comes alongside them to minister to them during the parousia. John, who along with Peter saw the transfiguration, which was a foregleam of the parousia, wrote the following: “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.” — 1 John 3:2
Even though Bethel has thousands of years of the collective knowledge of anointed Bible researchers this simple fact has alluded them: The parousia and the manifestation, as well as the revelation of Christ, are all interchangeable terms. Thus, when he is made manifest means that he will be visible to those who are chosen. (See chapter The Parousia)
To be sure, God will cut the tribulation short on account of the chosen ones. During the 42 month interval, those who have seen Christ will serve as his witnesses—symbolized in Revelation as the two witnesses. In Zechariah, (footnoted with the two witnesses in the NWT) the two witnesses are said to be standing alongside the Lord of the whole earth. Are they in heaven? No. Revelation indicates they are very much on earth, being stalked by the beast. In what sense, then, are they standing next to the Lord of the whole earth? Turn it around—if they are standing next to the Lord of the world then the Lord is also standing next to them. And what does parousia mean in Greek? Here is what the Insight book states:
The Greek word from which “presence” is translated is pa·rou·siʹa, formed from pa·raʹ (alongside) and ou·siʹa (being; derived from ei·miʹ, meaning “be”). Hence, pa·rou·siʹa means, literally, “being alongside,” that is, a “presence.” It is used 24 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, frequently with regard to the presence of Christ in connection with his Messianic Kingdom.
Although Jesus will be standing alongside the chosen ones during the 1,260 last days, obviously the people who are tormented by the messaging of the two witnesses will not perceive that the chosen ones are standing alongside the Lord of the whole earth. Hence, when the beast kills all of those who represent the returned Christ, who will then be Jesus’ brothers in the fullest sense, the world will have, at last, arrived at the place known as Armageddon.