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Friday, July 9, 2010

Manner of the Lord’s Return

In course of time there came other stirrings among those Christians who professed to be of the “chaste virgin” class, particularly that in connection with a man born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in the year 1781. This man was William Miller, who became the founder of the so-called Millerites or Adventists. Says M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 6, page 271:

About 1833, when a resident of Low Hampton, N.Y., he began his career as an apostle of the new doctrine, which taught that the world was coming to an end in 1843. The main argument on which his belief rested was that relative to the termination of the 2300 days in Daniel 8:14, which he regarded as years. Then considering the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24, as the key to the date of the 2300 days of the preceding chapter, and dating the periods B.C. 457, when Artaxerxes, king of Persia, sent up Ezra from his captivity, to restore the Jewish polity at Jerusalem (Ezra 7), and ending the seventy weeks, as commentators generally do, in A.D. 33, with the crucifixion of Christ, he found the remainder of the 2300 days, which was 1810, would end in 1843. For ten years he held forth to this purport, and succeeded in gathering a large number of followers, which is said to have reached fifty thousand, who awaited, with credulous expectation, the appointed day. The result, however, turning out contrary to the teaching of their apostle, the Adventists, as they are sometimes termed, gradually forsook Miller. He died at Low Hampton, Washington County, N.Y., December 20, 1849.

Evidently, then, the launching of the Millerite movement did not turn out to be the midnight cry, “Here is the bridegroom!” The heavenly Bridegroom did not appear in the flesh visibly to those Adventists and take them in a rapture to their desired heavenly home, in 1843. And yet Bible study continued on. Thirty years later found a small group of men, not associated with the Adventists or affiliated with any of the religious sects of Christendom, studying the Holy Scriptures at Pittsburgh (Allegheny), Pennsylvania, U.S.A. They studied independently so as to avoid looking at the Bible through sectarian spectacles. Among these men was one Charles Taze Russell, just entered into his twenties. They were, of course, intensely interested in the second coming of the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. However, their Bible studies led to their discovery that Christ’s return would be an invisible one, not visibly in the flesh as a materialized man, but invisibly in the spirit, inasmuch as he was no longer flesh and blood. His arrival would therefore be unseen to men, and this arrival would begin an invisible presence or parousia on his part. But it would be made manifest by evidences.

- God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached, 1973, WTB&TS

It was in the mid-1870’s that Brother Russell and those who were diligently examining the Scriptures along with him discerned that when the Lord returned he would be invisible to human eyes.—John 14:3, 19.

Brother Russell later said: “We felt greatly grieved at the error of Second Adventists, who were expecting Christ in the flesh, and teaching that the world and all in it except Second Adventists would be burned up in 1873 or 1874, whose time-settings and disappointments and crude ideas generally as to the object and manner of his coming brought more or less reproach upon us and upon all who longed for and proclaimed his coming Kingdom. These wrong views so generally held of both the object and manner of the Lord’s return led me to write a pamphlet—‘The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return.’” This pamphlet was published in 1877. Brother Russell had some 50,000 copies of it printed and distributed.

In that pamphlet, he wrote: “We believe the scriptures to teach, that, at His coming and for a time after He has come, He will remain invisible; afterward manifesting or showing Himself in judgments and various forms, so that ‘every eye shall see Him.’” In support of this, he discussed such texts as Acts 1:11 (‘he will come in the same manner as you have beheld him go’—that is, unobserved by the world) and John 14:19 (“a little longer and the world will behold me no more”). Brother Russell also referred to the fact that The Emphatic Diaglott, which had first been published in complete form in 1864 with an interlinear word-for-word English translation, gave evidence that the Greek expression pa‧rou‧si′a meant “presence.” In analyzing the Bible’s use of that term, Russell explained in this pamphlet: “The Greek word generally used in referring to the second advent—Parousia, frequently translated coming—invariably signifies personal presence, as having come, arrived and never signifies to be on the way, as we use the word coming.”

When discussing the purpose of Christ’s presence, Russell made it clear that this was not something that would be accomplished in a single world-shattering moment. “The second advent, like the first,” he wrote, “covers a period of time, and is not the event of a moment.” During that time, he wrote, the “little flock” would be given their reward with the Lord as joint heirs in his Kingdom; others, perhaps billions, would be given opportunity for perfect life on an earth restored to Edenic beauty.—Luke 12:32.

Within just a few years, on the basis of further study of the Scriptures, Russell realized that Christ would not only return invisibly but also remain invisible, even when manifesting his presence by judgment upon the wicked.

In 1876, when Russell had first read a copy of Herald of the Morning, he had learned that there was another group who then believed that Christ’s return would be invisible and who associated that return with blessings for all families of the earth. From Mr. Barbour, editor of that publication, Russell also came to be persuaded that Christ’s invisible presence had begun in 1874. Attention was later drawn to this by the subtitle “Herald of Christ’s Presence,” which appeared on the cover of Zion’s Watch Tower.

Recognition of Christ’s presence as being invisible became an important foundation on which an understanding of many Bible prophecies would be built. Those early Bible Students realized that the presence of the Lord should be of primary concern to all true Christians. (Mark 13:33-37) They were keenly interested in the Master’s return and were alert to the fact that they had a responsibility to publicize it, but they did not yet clearly discern all the details. Yet, what God’s spirit did enable them to understand at a very early time was truly remarkable. One of these truths involved a highly significant date marked by Bible prophecy.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS



By C.T. RUSSELL, Pittsburgh, PA. Price ten cents.

Such is the title of a pamphlet of sixty four pages. The author is one of my very dear friends, and is a sincere lover of truth. I have not the slightest doubt of his stern integrity, and nothing but a full conviction that it is the truth he is promulgating which will lead him on in the work which he is engaged. His sacrifice of time and money shows his faith. Much that he has written is interesting. His belief that Christ "has come" -- "is present" -- in the Scripture sense of His "second time," I cannot for a moment admit; but as the time for its demonstration is in the next few weeks, I shall not enter into controversy on the subject.

BRO. CHAPLIN, Editor of THE RESTITUTION, in noticing the above named pamphlet, has expressed views of the "Second Advent" of our Lord which I heartily agree. He says:

"We think that the coming Messiah is the same Jesus that died, was buried, rose from the dead, and subsequently ascended from Mount Olivet into heaven; and we also think that He will change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body. We look, for more tangibility in the resurrection than our brother seems to expect. We also think that Christ in the first stage of the advent will only descend to the aerial regions where He will be met by his raptured saints, with whom he will afterward descend to earth."

Such I regard as a true statement of the facts to be realized in that glorious return of our Lord "from heaven."