Christ’s Return—How Seen?
1. (a) What promise did Christ make? (b) What need is there for Christ’s return?
“I AM COMING AGAIN.” (John 14:3) Jesus Christ made this promise to his apostles when he was with them the night before his death. You will probably agree that never has there been a greater need for the peace, health and life that Christ’s return in Kingdom power will bring to humankind. But how does Christ return? Who see him, and in what way?
2. (a) When he returns, where does Christ take his anointed followers, including his apostles, to live? (b) What kind of bodies do they have there?
2 At his return, Christ does not come to live on earth. Rather, those who are to rule as kings with him are taken to live with him in heaven. Jesus told his apostles: “I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:3) So, when Christ returns, those who are taken to heaven become spirit persons, and they see Christ in his glorified spirit body. (1 Corinthians 15:44) But do the rest of humankind, who do not go to heaven, see Christ when he returns?
WHY HE COULD NOT RETURN AS A HUMAN
3. What Bible evidence shows that humans will never see Christ again?
3 That same night Jesus went on to say to his apostles: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more.” (John 14:19) The “world” refers to humankind. So Jesus here plainly said that people on earth would not see him again after his ascension to heaven. The apostle Paul wrote: “Even if we have known Christ according to the flesh, certainly we now know him so no more.”—2 Corinthians 5:16.
4. What shows that Christ returns as a mighty invisible spirit person?
4 Yet many persons believe that Christ will return in the same human body in which he was put to death, and that all those living on earth will see him. The Bible, however, says that Christ returns in glory with all the angels, and that he sits “down on his glorious throne.” (Matthew 25:31) If Jesus were to come and sit as a man on an earthly throne, he would be lower in station than the angels. But he comes as the mightiest and most glorious of all these spirit sons of God and is therefore invisible, just as they are.—Philippians 2:8-11.
5. Why could Christ not return in a human body?
5 On the other hand, over 1,900 years ago it was necessary for Jesus to lower himself and become a man. He needed to give his perfect human life as a ransom for us. Jesus once explained it this way: “The bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” (John 6:51) Jesus thus gave up his fleshly body in sacrifice for humankind. For how long was that sacrifice to be in effect? The apostle Paul answers: “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” (Hebrews 10:10) Having given up his flesh for the life of the world, Christ could never take it again and become a man once more. For that basic reason his return could never be in the human body that he sacrificed once for all time.
FLESHLY BODY NOT TAKEN TO HEAVEN
6. Why do many persons believe that Christ took his fleshly body to heaven?
6 However, many persons believe that Christ took his fleshly body to heaven. They point to the fact that when Christ was raised from the dead, his fleshly body was no longer in the tomb. (Mark 16:5-7) Also, after his death Jesus appeared to his disciples in a fleshly body to show them that he was alive. Once He even had the apostle Thomas put his hand into the hole in His side so that Thomas would believe that He had actually been resurrected. (John 20:24-27) Does this not prove that Christ was raised alive in the same body in which he was put to death?
7. What proves that Christ went to heaven as a spirit person?
7 No, it does not. The Bible is very clear when it says: “Christ died once for all time concerning sins . . . , he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Humans with flesh-and-blood bodies cannot live in heaven. Of the resurrection to heavenly life, the Bible says: “It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 15:44-50) Only spirit persons with spiritual bodies can live in heaven.
8. What happened to Christ’s human body?
8 Well, then, what happened to Jesus’ fleshly body? Did not the disciples find his tomb empty? They did, because God removed Jesus’ body. Why did God do this? It fulfilled what had been written in the Bible. (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31) Thus Jehovah saw fit to remove Jesus’ body, even as he had done before with Moses’ body. (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6) Also, if the body had been left in the tomb, Jesus’ disciples could not have understood that he had been raised from the dead, since at that time they did not fully appreciate spiritual things.
9. How was it possible for Thomas to put his hand into a wound in the materialized body of the resurrected Jesus?
9 But since the apostle Thomas was able to put his hand into the hole in Jesus’ side, does that not show that Jesus was raised from the dead in the same body that was nailed to the stake? No, for Jesus simply materialized or took on a fleshly body, as angels had done in the past. In order to convince Thomas of who He was, He used a body with wound holes. He appeared, or seemed to be, fully human, able to eat and drink, just as did the angels that Abraham once entertained.—Genesis 18:8; Hebrews 13:2.
10. What shows that Jesus put on different physical bodies?
10 While Jesus appeared to Thomas in a body similar to the one in which He was put to death, He also took on different bodies when appearing to His followers. Thus Mary Magdalene at first thought that Jesus was a gardener. At other times his disciples did not at first recognize him. In these instances it was not his personal appearance that served to identify him, but it was some word or action that they recognized.—John 20:14-16; 21:6, 7; Luke 24:30, 31.
11, 12. (a) In what manner did Christ leave the earth? (b) So in what manner should we expect Christ’s return?
11 For 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus made appearances in a fleshly body to his disciples. (Acts 1:3) Then he left for heaven. But some may ask: ‘Did not the two angels present tell the apostles that Christ “will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky”?’ (Acts 1:11) Yes, they did. But notice that they said “in the same manner,” not in the same body. And what was the manner of Jesus’ leaving? It was quiet, without public display. Only his apostles knew about it. The world did not.
12 Consider how the Bible describes the manner in which Jesus left his apostles on his way to heaven: “While they were looking on, he was lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision.” (Acts 1:9) So when Jesus began going into the sky, a cloud hid him from the literal eyesight of his apostles. The departing Jesus, therefore, became invisible to them. They could not see him. Then in his spiritual body he ascended to heaven. (1 Peter 3:18) Thus his return also would be invisible, in a spiritual body.
HOW SEEN BY EVERY EYE
13. How are we to understand the statement that “every eye will see” Christ when he comes with the clouds?
13 How, then, are we to understand the words of Revelation 1:7? There the apostle John writes: “Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him.” Here the Bible speaks of seeing, not with physical eyes, but in the sense of discerning or perceiving. Thus, when a person comprehends or understands a matter, he may say, ‘I see it.’ The Bible, in fact, speaks of “the eyes of your understanding.” (Ephesians 1:18, King James Version) So the expression “every eye will see him” means that everyone will then understand or recognize that Christ is present.
14. (a) Who are meant by “those who pierced him”? (b) Why will there be great grief when everyone finally recognizes Christ’s presence?
14 Those who actually “pierced” Jesus are no longer alive on earth. So they represent persons who, by hurting Christ’s present-day followers, copy the conduct of those first-century men. (Matthew 25:40, 45) The time will soon come for Christ to execute such wicked ones. They have been warned in advance about this. When this execution takes place, they will “see” or recognize what is happening. And their grief will indeed be great!
DOES CHRIST COME BACK TO EARTH?
15. In what way is the word “return” often used?
15 To return does not always mean that one goes to a literal place. Thus sick persons are said to ‘return to health.’ And a former ruler may be said to ‘return to power.’ In a similar way, God told Abraham: “I shall return to you, next year at this time, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14; 21:1) Jehovah’s return meant, not literally returning, but turning his attention to Sarah to do what he had promised.
16. (a) In what way does Christ return to earth? (b) When did Christ return, and what then came to pass?
16 In the same way, Christ’s return does not mean that he literally comes back to this earth. Rather, it means that he takes Kingdom power toward this earth and turns his attention to it. He does not need to leave his heavenly throne and actually come down to earth to do this. As we have seen in the previous chapter, Bible evidence shows that in the year 1914 C.E. God’s time arrived for Christ to return and begin ruling. It was then that the cry was heard in heaven: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.”—Revelation 12:10.
17. Since Christ’s return is invisible, what did he give so that we could know that he had returned?
17 Since Christ’s return is invisible, is there a way to confirm that it has really occurred? Yes, there is. Christ himself gave a visible “sign” by which we may know that he is invisibly present and the end of the world is near. Let us examine that “sign.”
[Picture on page 142]
Christ gave up his body as a sacrifice. He could never take it back and become a man again
[Pictures on page 144, 145]
Why did Mary Magdalene mistake Jesus for a gardener after his resurrection?
Into what fleshly body did the resurrected Jesus ask Thomas to put his hand?
[Picture on page 147]
Christ was to return in the same manner that he left the earth. In what manner did he leave?