“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” — Matthew 24:3
The Greek word from which “presence” is translated is pa·rou·si?a, formed from pa·ra? (alongside) and ou·si?a (being; derived from ei·mi?, meaning “be”). Hence, pa·rou·si?a 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.—Mt 24:3; see NW appendix, pp. 1576, 1577.
Many translations vary their renderings of this word. While translating pa·rou·si?a as “presence” in some texts, they more frequently render it as “coming.” This has been the basis for the expression “second coming” or “second advent” (adventus [“advent” or “coming”] being the Latin Vulgate translation of pa·rou·si?a at Matthew 24:3) with regard to Christ Jesus.
Could It Be An Invisible Presence?
How did Jehovah’s Witnesses come to believe in an invisible presence?
The year was 1881, “Dark indeed seemed the outlook; all were discouraged. It had seemed as though the Lord had been leading in the past, and yet now all these things which had been thought light seemed to be proved darkness.” Why was the outlook so bleak? They had been proclaiming Jesus second coming as 1874, but they had no visible evidence of his arrival—then the Watchtower published the article, “Cast Not Away Your Confidence” persuading readers that Jesus indeed came—invisibly—in 1874.
“With the remembrance that the time arguments above referred to had been found faultless and unalterable and proved that Jesus was due here in the fall of 1874, came the thought—can it be possible that Jesus does not come in a fleshly body at His second advent?” “Can it be possible that His presence began at the time indicated  in those prophecies and yet we went on eating and drinking, etc., and “knew not” of His presence? A careful examination of the word was begun by all deeply interested, to see whether it, as a whole, would be in harmony with this new thought.”
“The next step was, to see whether the account of the same discourse as recorded by Luke, would harmonize with this new idea of a presence unseen…”
“When it was discovered that “As the lightning which shineth… so shall the Son of Man be in his day;” meant, not that he would be like the shining but “as the lightning” (the invisible electric fluid) which produces the shining, it was manifest why the warning was given: If any man say unto you, lo here is Christ, or lo there! believe it not. Go not after them nor follow them, for I will not be visible to the natural eye, but as the lightning is discernible only by its shining and power, so will I be in my day recognizable to my waiting bride by the light of truth, and afterward to the world, in the light of events and “the flaming fire” of the day of trouble.”
As the January 1, 1924 Watchtower confidently proclaimed, “Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874…”
Jesus Presence—Visible or Invisible?
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. — 20-21, King James Version
Jesus here was rebuking the Pharisees who were ignoring the Kingdom—Jesus—standing before their very eyes. Thus he says the kingdom of God is not observed, as it is within their presence at that very moment but they could not see it, as they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah—the son of God and the foretold king of God’s kingdom.
And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
As for the disciples, who discern he the Messiah, he foretells that they will wish for the better days when he was with them, for soon he wouldn’t be with them any longer.
And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
Regarding his foretold future presence, Jesus continues with a warning for his disciples not to follow people who will point to this presence, explaining that just as lightning can be seen across the sky, so will be his presence in that day.
Jesus had shifted from speaking to the Pharisees about his presence before them in that very day to speaking to his disciples of his future presence.
But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
The Pharisees rejected Jesus, evidence that the god of this world blinds the minds of those who don’t want to see, or to believe Christ Jesus as Lord. — 2 Corinthians 4:4
And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
How was it in the days of Noah?
They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
In the days of Noah people went about their every day lives, right up until the moment arrived.
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
The days of Lot were the same—everyone going about business as usual…
But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
In both cases, people were going about their lives then one day—that was it.
Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
Faith On Earth In His Coming
Jesus asks an ominous question for us today—”When the son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” — Luke 18:8
For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires—just as in the days of Noah and Lot—and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.” — 2 Peter 3:3-4
Indeed, the Bible confirms, “because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11) Some in the world have scoffed at very idea of Christ’s return, Armageddon and the great day of God—no doubt all the more confident in their scorn and ridicule as predictions of dates come and go.
We recall warned regarding his foretold presence, “Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying… ‘The due time has approached.'”
The Manner in Which He Will Come
Appearing to his disciples after his death, Jesus said to them: “”It does not belong to YOU to get knowledge of the times or seasons+ which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction;+ but you will receive power+ when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses*+ of me… And after he had said these things, while they were looking on, he was lifted up+ and a cloud caught him up from their vision.+”
And as they were gazing into the sky while he was on his way,+ ascending into heaven, two angels appeared and asked the disciples: “why do you stand looking into the sky?”
Daniel tells us in his prophecy, “see there! with the clouds+ of the heavens someone like a son of man*+ happened to be coming”, while John in Revelation confirms, “Look! He is coming with the clouds,+ and every eye will see him.”+ (Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:7)
The angels, Daniel and John are all witnesses that foretell the manner of Christ’s return.
Having faith in the Bible, as “all scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, and for setting things straight”, certainly then we must heed Jesus’ warning regarding the last days before his presence—”false Christs and false prophets will arise+ and will give signs and wonders+ to lead astray, if possible, the chosen ones.+ You, then, watch+ out; I have told you all things beforehand.+ But, in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling out of heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.+ And then they will see the Son of man+ coming* in clouds with great power and glory.+ And then he will send forth the angels and will gather his chosen+ ones together from the four winds, from earth’s extremity to heaven’s extremity.+ — Mark 13:24-27
“Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874.” — The Watchtower, 1924
Jesus Invisible Presence in 1874
Since before 1874 until 1931 the Watchtower preached to millions around the world that Jesus presence began 1874. In 1881, to restore confidence in disappointed followers who believed the prediction had failed, The Watchtower reasoned that it was it was an Jesus return in 1874 was as an invisible presence.
- “The Millennium began in 1874, with the Return of Christ”. — The Finished Mystery (1918)
- “The Scriptures show that the second presence [of the Lord] was due in 1874… This proof shows that the Lord has been present since 1874.” — The Watchtower, March 1923, pg. 67
- “Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874.” — The Watchtower, January 1924, pg. 5
- “The scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 A.D.” — Prophecy (1929), pg. 65
What About 1914?
The Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe—today—that Jesus came invisibly in 1914. It was not until 1931 that the belief that Jesus came invisibly in 1874 was changed to the belief that Jesus came in an invisible in 1914. Thus, from Russell’s Bible Students to the Watchtower, and from 1874 until 1931—for seventeen years after 1914—it was taught Jesus came in 1874.
False Christs and False Prophets Will Arise
According to Insight on the Scriptures, “Christ” is a title from the Greek Khri·stos? is equivalent to the Hebrew Ma·shi?ach, “Messiah; Anointed One.”
Thus when Jesus warned “false Christs and false prophets will arise” he was warning us of “false anointed ones”.
Regarding false prophets, the Bible says, “the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak+ or who speaks in the name of other gods,+ that prophet must die.+ And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?”+ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it.+ You must not get frightened at [fear] him.’+” — Deuteronomy 18:20-22
Insight on the Scriptures defines the word prophet: “the Greek pro·phe?tes literally means “a speaker out” and thus describes a proclaimer, one who makes known messages attributed to a divine source.”
In 1916 Charles Taze Russell died.
Until the day he died, Russell published “The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence” teaching that Christ’s presence began in 1874. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom estimated that through 2,000 newspapers Russell’s message reached 15 million reader’s worldwide—that’s twice the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses today!
C.T. Russell, publisher of The Watchtower, the man that began the religion which became known as Jehovah’s Witnesses never believed Jesus Christ came in 1914. He died proclaiming Jesus’ invisible presence began in 1874.
“Jehovah has not sent you, but you yourself have caused this people to trust in a falsehood.” — Jeremiah 28:15
In 1931, “Judge” Rutherford established 1914 as the date of Christ’s return and introduced the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses”. He renamed “The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence” as “The Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom“, then “The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom“. Rutherford died in 1942.
Both Russell and Rutherford professed to be “anointed ones”.
“True, there have been those in times past who predicted an ‘end to the world’, even announcing a specific date. Yet nothing happened. The ‘end’ did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing? … Missing from such people were God’s truths and evidence that he was using and guiding them…” — Awake, October 8, 1968
Jesus disciples asked when will these things be, and what will be the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?
The Signs of the End
- Look out that nobody misleads you: for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am the anointed one,’ and will mislead many — Matthew 24:4-5
- “You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” — Matthew 24:6-8
- “Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.” — Matthew 24:9
- “Then, also, many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another.” — Matthew 24:10
- And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. — Matthew 24:11-13
- And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.
“Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place—let the reader use discernment—
“And during that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your people.
And there will certainly occur a time of distress such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time.
And during that time your people will escape, every one who is found written down in the book.
And there will be many of those asleep in the ground of dust who will wake up, these to indefinitely lasting life and those to reproaches [and] to indefinitely lasting abhorrence.
“And the ones having insight will shine like the brightness of the expanse; and those who are bringing the many to righteousness, like the stars to time indefinite, even forever.
“And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant.”
And I saw, I Daniel, and, look! there were two others standing, one on the bank here of the stream and the other on the bank there of the stream. Then one said to the man clothed with the linen, who was up above the waters of the stream:
“How long will it be to the end of the wonder-ful things?”
And I began to hear the man clothed with the linen, who was up above the waters of the stream, as he proceeded to raise his right [hand] and his left [hand] to the heavens and to swear by the One who is alive for time indefinite:
“It will be for an appointed time, appointed times and a half. And as soon as there will have been a finishing of the dashing of the power of the holy people to pieces, all these things will come to their finish.”
Now as for me, I heard, but I could not understand; so that I said:
“O my lord, what will be the final part of these things?”
And he went on to say: “Go, Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of [the] end.
Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will certainly act wickedly, and no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.
“And from the time that the constant [feature] has been removed and there has been a placing of the disgusting thing that is causing desolation, there will be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.
“Happy is the one who is keeping in expectation and who arrives at the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days!
“And as for you yourself, go toward the end; and you will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.”
The Great Tribulation
Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.
In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.
So, “then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the anointed one,’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false anointed ones and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. Look! I have forewarned you. Therefore, if people say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; ‘Look! He is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it.
The Presence of the Son of Man
For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the presence of the Son of man will be. Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
Those words may recall the two witnesses of Revelation 11:
“And when they have finished their witnessing, the wild beast that ascends out of the abyss+ will make war with them and conquer them and kill them.+ And their corpses will be on the broad way of the great city which is in a spiritual sense called Sod?om+ and Egypt, where their Lord was also impaled.+ And those of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations+ will look at their corpses for three and a half days,+ and they do not let their corpses be laid in a tomb. And those dwelling on the earth rejoice+ over them and enjoy themselves, and they will send gifts to one another,+ because these two prophets tormented those dwelling on the earth.”
Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near. — NLT
And after the three and a half days+ spirit of life from God entered into them,+ and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon those beholding them. And they heard a loud voice+ out of heaven say to them: “Come on up here.”+ And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. And in that hour a great earthquake occurred, and a tenth+ of the city fell; and seven thousand personswere killed by* the earthquake, and the rest became frightened and gave glory to the God of heaven.+
—The second woe+ is past. Look! The third woe is coming quickly.—
And the seventh angel blew his trumpet.+ And loud voices occurred in heaven, saying:
See!—The Sign of The Son of Man—His Coming
Immediately after the tribulation of those days…
- the sun will be darkened, and
- the moon will not give its light, and
- the stars will fall from heaven, and
- the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
- And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and
- then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and
- they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
- And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound,
- and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.
This Generation—You See It Is Near
“Now learn from the fig tree as an illustration this point: Just as soon as its young branch grows tender and it puts forth leaves [in spring], you know that summer is near.
“when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near” — NLT
Likewise also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors. Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.
“Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.
What Will It Be Like?
For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.
Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned.
Keep on the Watch—Why?
Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Prove Yourselves Ready—Why?
“But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.
If—On His Arriving
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.
“The second presence was due in 1874…
The Lord has been present since 1874.”
— The Watchtower, March 1923, pg. 67
“God’s faithful people on the earth emphasized the
importance of the dates 1914 and 1918 and 1925…
but all they predicted did not come to pass.”
— Vindication, Book I, pg. 146 (1931)
“But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, 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 will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites. There is where [his] weeping and the gnashing of [his] teeth will be.
The Message: Woe on God’s Judgement Day
Woe to all of you who want God’s Judgment Day! Why would you want to see God, want him to come? When God comes, it will be bad news before it’s good news, the worst of times, not the best of times. At God’s coming we face hard reality, not fantasy— a black cloud with no silver lining. “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want. — Amos 5:18-24, The Message
False Prophets—The Workers of Lawlessness
“Be on the watch for the false prophets+ that come to you in sheep’s covering,+ but inside they are ravenous wolves.+ By their fruits you will recognize+ them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they?+ Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit;+ a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire.+ Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those [men].+
Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord,+ did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works* in your name?’+ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you!+ Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.+
“Therefore everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them will be likened to a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass.+ And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded upon the rock-mass.
Furthermore, everyone hearing these sayings of mine and not doing+ them will be likened to a foolish man,+who built his house upon the sand. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and struck against that house+ and it caved in, and its collapse was great.”+ — Matthew 7:15-27
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings. — Matthew 24:45-47