Questions From Readers
● How can it be said that Christ’s second presence is as an invisible spirit and not as a visible body, in view of Revelation 1:7?—J. E., Illinois.
John 14:19 clearly states that Christ will not come again in visible form: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more.” (NW) After his death as a human creature he was raised a spirit creature, invisible to human eyes, and it is in this invisible spirit form that he will remain at the time of his second presence. This is not contradicted by Acts 1:11 (NW), concerning Jesus’ ascension: “This Jesus who was received up from you into heaven will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into heaven.” It does not say that those disciples who saw him ascend would see him come again, nor does it say that those who would be on earth at the future time would see him in a visible form. They were not discussing his form at all relative to his second presence, but spoke of his coming as being in the same manner as his departure. The way he went away was quiet, with no great demonstration from heaven, and without being observed by the unbelieving world under Satan. That agrees with the way other scriptures say he would come again and be present.
But how does this view harmonize with Revelation 1:7? is the question. That text reads (NW): “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.” Revelation is written in symbolic language, and this verse is partly symbolic. Throughout this book clouds are used symbolically and hence represent something other than literal clouds in the sky. If Christ came in a human body certainly not every eye on earth could see him at once; so that must not be literal. Those who pierced him are dead and could not see him. So the seeing and the piercing of him must be in a symbolic way.
Jesus’ disciples asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the consummation of the system of things?” In reply Jesus foretold happenings and conditions that would be a visible reflection of his invisible second presence. If his presence were to be visible in human form, the many physical evidences would not be needed as a sign signifying his presence. Among these evidences was the earth-wide preaching of the good news of Christ’s kingdom. (Matt. 24:3-21, NW) This preaching, along with the other visible, foretold evidences, enlightens many to see with the ‘eyes of their heart’ the second presence of Christ. (Eph. 1:18, NW) But for the majority their eyes of understanding will not discern his invisible presence until it is manifest in the great tribulation of Armageddon. Then all tribes of the earth will grieve because of the destruction wrought against them, a selfish grief for their own plight and not a repentant grief for their own wrongdoing. Then, at the latest, every eye will see him at work in Armageddon’s destruction, and will know he is present and that Jehovah is supreme.—2 Thess. 1:6-10; 2:8.
How do some of these symbolically pierce him? By persecuting his followers now on earth. Jesus foretold that at this time he would separate the people as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. The sheep are given life because they gave Christ food when he was hungry, gave him drink when he was thirsty, received him hospitably when he was a stranger, clothed him when he was naked, tended him when he was sick, and visited him when he was in prison. But since Christ is not physically present to be so treated, the sheep ask when they did such things for him. He replies: “To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” The goats were condemned because they did none of these things for Christ, since they did none of those favors for his followers. (Matt. 25:31-46, NW) When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting Christ’s followers Jesus appeared to him miraculously and said: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked the identity of the speaker, and the reply was: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4, 5, NW) So by persecuting and piercing Christ’s followers persons on earth today can be classed as “those who pierced him”.