The Revelation of Jesus Christ
“Brace up your minds for activity, keep completely balanced and set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:13, NW.
1, 2. What has been the hope of sincere persons, and how have some religious-minded persons viewed the matter?
FOR many centuries sincere and honest-hearted persons have longed for the return of Christ. Just how he would come and exactly what would occur at that time have not been too clear to many, but the prospect of realizing the promised blessings has filled them with hope. Although it has been spoken of as a time of judgment and of the end of the world, their hope has not been misplaced, because it is also foretold as a time of deliverance. But this salvation will not come automatically as a result of “good behavior.” Neither will the presence of that day be so easily recognized that all will know judgment is in progress. An accurate study of the Scriptures discloses that when the revelation of Jesus Christ comes it will catch most of the world unaware.
2 Why is this so? Was the only warning man was to receive sounded when Jesus was on earth? Did he indicate that at the end of the world he would suddenly appear unannounced and immediately hold all people accountable? Some religious-minded persons insist that Christ will not have arrived until he visibly appears out of the clouds with his angels and subjects all people to a fiery judgment. These same persons believe that judgment will be entered on the basis of moral behavior or on the acceptance of the preaching of “Christ crucified” or of “Jesus, and the resurrection.” (1 Cor. 1:23; Acts 17:18) Such understanding, however, is purely human reasoning and not based on an accurate knowledge of God’s Word.
3. (a) When and where does responsibility before the Lord arrive first? (b) What is to be preached worldwide, and on what does responsibility at Jesus’ revelation depend?
3 The Bible shows clearly that before anyone would be brought to complete responsibility a way of preparation would be made before the Lord. Only when those earnestly seeking the Lord would have an opportunity to recognize that he is present in his kingdom would he suddenly appear to hold an accounting. The Scriptures show further that this first responsibility would not be with the nations but rather with the “house of God.” (1 Pet. 4:17; Mal. 3:1-5) Then, Jesus pointed out, a full and complete warning would be given in all the inhabited earth. And what does he say will be preached? Not primarily his “crucifixion” or staking, and not primarily his resurrection. While these are important doctrines of the Bible and have a definite bearing on the climax of God’s purpose and judgment today, nevertheless the resurrection of Jesus was given as a sign of Christ’s first presence and has been preached ever since then. Now he says: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14, NW) It is the good news that this kingdom has been established that Paul speaks of in his second letter to the Thessalonians. There he is discussing “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings due punishment upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thess. 1:7, 8, NW) Responsibility at the revelation of Jesus Christ, therefore, depends on whether one accepts or rejects the good news of the presence of the Kingdom that Jesus said would be preached world-wide.
4. What have the nations failed to recognize today?
4 Why, then, do the nations not realize and accept the approach of this climax of judgment? It is because they have not heeded the world-wide advertising of Christ’s return and his second presence. Since long before World War I Jehovah’s witnesses pointed to 1914 as the time for this great event to occur. And since 1914 physical evidences establishing this truth have been pointed to repeatedly in the columns of The Watchtower. The nations continue to ignore this sign and refuse to recognize that a time of judgment is even now in progress. They cannot see that Christ appeared in the temple in 1918 and judgment has already been entered against two classes of lawless ones whom he found there. (Matt. 24:48-51; 2 Thess. 2:8) They have not observed since then a division going on among the people—a separation that is being made before their very eyes. (Matt. 25:31-33) They willfully close their ears to the warning message that a climax of judgment is fast approaching when Jesus Christ will be so completely revealed to the world that his presence will be indisputable. It is this indisputable evidence of his presence that brings destruction, because he reveals himself in the execution of adverse judgment through the war of Armageddon. That is why Peter admonishes: “Hence brace up your minds for activity, keep completely balanced and set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:13, NW) With our eternal destinies in the balance the course of wisdom would dictate gaining all the knowledge possible about this promised return visit of Jehovah’s righteous representative before he is revealed in execution of judgment. Acting upon that right kind of knowledge is the only sure way of defense.—Eccl. 7:12.
DEMONSTRATING THE PATTERN
5. What pattern has Jehovah set in judgment?
5 Jehovah never judges anyone guilty without a fair trial. He clearly points out his will to man and gives man full opportunity to show a good and right heart by adhering to it. He even makes repeated warnings to those who are prone to ignore him. But his judgments are sure and swift when guilt has been established. Throughout the history of his dealings with mankind in judgment this same pattern presents itself. Two examples which are given as types of Christ’s second presence should serve to demonstrate this pattern.—2 Pet. 2:5, 6.
6. What three aspects are there to any advent of Jehovah’s representative in judgment?
6 It should be noted in this connection that there are three distinct phases or aspects to any visitation or advent of a righteous representative of Jehovah in time of judgment. The entire period of the advent is referred to as the presence. Then there is a time when the purpose of the presence becomes clearly manifest. It is a time for judgment to begin on all Christians. Finally there is a climax of the purpose of the presence, which is the execution of judgment. This is a time of revelation because the purpose of the visit is now clearly seen in the deliverance of those favorably judged and in the destruction of those found unworthy of salvation.
7. When did the time of Noah’s presence begin, and how was Jehovah’s mercy expressed?
7 First consider the presence of Noah in the period before the flood. The earth had become filled with violence so that it was ruined in God’s sight and he purposed to destroy it. The history of Noah’s sons recorded at Genesis chapter 6 and beginning with verse 9 Ge 6:9 (NW) says: “Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with God.” While the very presence of righteous Noah condemned the generation in which he lived, Jehovah mercifully gave warning of his purpose to destroy that world and showed a way of escape through his representative that he was sending. “After that God said to Noah: ‘The end of all flesh has come before me, because the earth is full of violence as a result of them, and here I am bringing them to ruin together with the earth. Make for yourself an ark.’” (Gen. 6:13, 14, NW) This giving of advance notice to Noah would mark the beginning of “the days of Noah” or the time of Noah’s presence during which period Noah served as a “preacher of righteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:5) The people of that time certainly knew Noah was there and that he was preaching, but they paid no attention.
8. How did Noah receive evidence of Jehovah’s favor and how was the righteousness of Noah’s presence revealed?
8 Then the day arrived when Jehovah God took Noah, his family and all the animals into the ark. This was certainly a manifestation of divine favor but still not recognized by any of those scoffers who had consistently ignored the advance warning. During the time of this manifestation and Noah’s going into the ark the way was still open—but not for long. “After that Jehovah shut the door behind him.” (Gen. 7:16, NW) The judgment of all in the earth at that time was now sealed. Jehovah had given evidence of his favor to Noah and now proceeded to give evidence of wrath against all who had not recognized Noah’s righteous presence. The flood was an unmistakable climax of the truthfulness of Noah’s preaching and a revelation to the wicked world in which he lived. So it will be at Christ’s second presence.
9. What attitude and course of action did Lot take toward the Sodomites?
9 Lot also stands out in judgment against a people. Peter has this to say about Lot, who was a temporary resident in Sodom: “[God] delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct—for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.” (2 Pet. 2:7, 8, NW) Because of the wickedness of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah Jehovah sent his angels to bring a judgment of condemnation against them. Lot made an attempt to persuade the Sodomites to adhere to the righteousness of God, but they scorned him with the words, “This lone man came here to reside awhile and yet he would actually play the judge.” Lot then tried to persuade his prospective sons-in-law to flee with him for protection. “He kept on saying: ‘Get up! Get out of this place, because Jehovah is destroying the city!’ But in the eyes of his sons-in-law he seemed like a man who was joking.”—Gen. 19:9, 14, NW.
10. What does Jesus clarify as to his own revelation through the example of Sodom’s destruction?
10 No doubt they still thought he was joking when the angels of Jehovah took Lot and his wife and two daughters by the hand and led them out of the city. They did not recognize it as a manifestation of Jehovah’s favor until fire came down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. This revelation of the presence of Jehovah’s angels with righteous Lot was too late for their salvation. Jesus clearly links his own revelation with execution of judgment when he climaxed his account of Lot’s deliverance by saying: “But on the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.”—Luke 17:29, 30, NW.
PRESENCE, MANIFESTATION, REVELATION
11. What is the meaning of parousía, and what does it indicate as to Christ’s second coming?
11 The Christian Greek Scriptures make a clear distinction between the three phases or aspects of Christ’s second advent by using a different Greek word in each instance. The word parousía is consistently translated “presence” in the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures because that is the actual meaning of the word in the original. As applied to the second coming of Christ it is used to indicate either the years of the beginning of his visit or to refer to the entire time he is with mankind. This time began in 1914 and means that Christ is now present though invisible.
12. What does the word epipháneia mean, and to what does it point as to faithful Christians then?
12 A second word, epipháneia, translated “manifestation,” means appearing, manifestation or a coming to light or to view. The use of this word points to Christ’s appearance in the temple for judgment in 1918 and marks the beginning of favorable judgment, first, in the resurrection of the anointed already asleep in death (2 Tim. 4:8) and, second, in the entrusting of Kingdom interests to those of the anointed found faithful on earth.
13. What does apokálypsis mean, and to what does it refer at Christ’s return?
13 The third word, apokálypsis, which is translated “revelation,” means a disclosure, taking off the covering, or uncovering. When this word is used it indicates that a clear and unobstructed view is meant, and in connection with Christ’s second presence it refers to the time his manifestation is turned into an unmistakable revelation at Armageddon and even the unwilling are forced to recognize his presence.
14. Why does an outstanding sign accompany each visit, and what caused the Jewish leaders to stumble at Christ’s first presence?
14 It is significant to note also in regard to the pattern that has been set that each presence is accompanied by an outstanding sign. This serves to identify the representative of Jehovah and establish him as having authority. Also it serves to clarify the purpose of the visit as well as to fix the responsibility of the people. This becomes evident in considering the first presence of Jesus Christ. Many things had been foretold by the Jewish prophets that would be fulfilled in the Messiah. However, until he presented himself it would be impossible to determine accurately just how he would accomplish the purpose of his visit, or, for that matter, just what the full purpose of his presence would be. For this reason the self-wise religious leaders among the Jews stumbled at Christ’s first presence, endeavoring to read into the prophecies interpretations of their own that did not conform to God’s will in sending his Messiah. Their minds had not been braced up by the patterns that had been recorded and they were not prepared for the kind of activity the presence of the Messiah in their midst called for. Looking only for self-exaltation through a return of Davidic kingdom rule they could not see that a “first” presence of the promised King was necessary. Neither could they recognize when he did appear that this presence would accomplish deliverance for them far beyond their own private expectations.
FIXING THE RESPONSIBILITY
15. What was the primary reason for Jesus’ first presence?
15 Jesus’ first advent was to accomplish a twofold purpose. It was of secondary importance that he came to provide a ransom for mankind. (Matt. 20:28) The primary reason was that he might prove his integrity to the One who sent him and establish the universal sovereignty of Jehovah. In doing so he would through much suffering thereby establish his right to inherit the Kingdom. (Heb. 2:18; 5:8) This righteous course in itself was a sign to Israel. It showed his ministry was one of vindication and salvation.
16. How did Jesus’ healing of the blind man establish the condemnation of Israel?
16 It was this ministry of preaching and healing that condemned those of Israel even though Jesus had not come for judgment of the world. He said: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24, NW) The apostle John testifies they would not accept his works: “He came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in.” (John 1:11, NW) An example of this is shown in the account of Jesus’ healing of the man blind from birth. The Jews had already agreed among themselves that if anyone accepted Jesus as the Christ or Messiah, then that one should be expelled from the congregation. The healed man boldly testified to the miracle and admitted belief that Jesus must be a prophet. The Pharisees reviled him and said: “You are a disciple of that man, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man we do not know where he is from.” “In answer the man said to them: ‘This certainly is a marvel, that you do not know where he is from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, he listens to this one. From of old it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing at all.’ In answer they said to him: ‘You were altogether born in sins, and yet are you teaching us?’ And they threw him out!” Eventually Jesus heard that the man had been put out of the congregation and when he found him he asked him if he was putting faith in the Son of man. The healed man answered that he was and did obeisance to Jesus and then Jesus said: “For this judgment I came into this world: that those not seeing might see and those seeing might become blind.” “Those of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things, and they said to him: ‘We are not blind also, are we?’ Jesus said to them: ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, “We see.” Your sin remains.’”—John 9:28-41, NW.
17. What evidence of the Messiah were the Jewish religionists seeking, and what did they request of Jesus?
17 Jesus showed by these words that a spiritual healing also was in progress which could deliver them from condemnation due to sin or which, if rejected, would leave them under God’s wrath. The Pharisees, however, continued to hold on stubbornly to their own conception of what evidences would indicate the arrival of the Messiah. “Here the Pharisees and Sadducees approached him and, to tempt him, they asked him to display to them a sign from heaven. In reply he said to them: ‘ . . . A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’” (Matt. 16:1-4, NW) They had in mind the prophecy of Daniel that foretold the sign of the Son of man and were insisting that it be fulfilled in their day if they were to believe the Messiah was present. Obviously they were not interested in the coming of Christ as a representative of Jehovah. To them the promised Messiah was coming only to serve their own selfish interests.
18. What sign did Jesus indicate would establish his first presence?
18 However, in spite of the fact that Jesus’ preaching and healing works were sufficient to convince right-hearted ones (Luke 7:18-23), he gave the nation an outstanding sign by which they could recognize that certainly he was the one sent by God. “No sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”—Matt. 12:39, 40, NW.
19. How did the Jewish leaders react to the sign, and what further did the sign serve?
19 But did the religionists welcome this sign and accept it in evidence? Did they now discern that through the resurrection Jesus had been justified in the spirit and hence the primary purpose of his first presence had been accomplished? On the contrary. When the time came for the sign to appear they tried to prevent it by causing Pilate to put a seal on the tomb and posting a guard of soldiers. Their ruse failed miserably, however, and then in an effort to hide their hypocrisy they added to their guilt by trying to obscure the significance of the sign. When the soldiers on guard at the tomb reported on the events of Jesus’ resurrection, “they gave a sufficient number of silver pieces to the soldiers and said: ‘Say, “His disciples came in the night and stole him while we were sleeping.”’” (Matt. 28:12, 13; 27:62-66, NW) Hence the sign of Jesus’ first presence not only identified him as the tried and proved Messiah but also served to fix the responsibility of both Jews and Gentiles through the preaching of the disciples.
20. How does modern-day Christendom follow the pattern of Israel?
20 Modern-day Christendom is following this same pattern. She claims to be looking for the return of Christ just as the Jews claimed to be looking for his advent then. And just as the Pharisees and Sadducees demanded a sign, ignoring all the evidences that Christ was already in their midst, so the many sects of Christendom turn blind eyes to the sign of Christ’s second presence and insist upon awaiting the sign of his revelation, which can mean only their destruction.
21, 22. To what sign did Jesus point as evidence of his second presence, and what does its appearance indicate as to his revelation?
21 They are in fact refusing the very sign the Jews were seeking in their day, the “sign of the Son of man” foretold by Daniel. (Dan. 7:13, 14) This sign over which the Jews stumbled was definitely pointed to by Jesus himself as evidence that he would be present among men the second time. “And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will go to wailing and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24:30, NW) Since Daniel links the sign with the giving of the Kingdom it is obviously a sign pointing to the beginning of Christ’s presence and his coming into his kingdom. This could not occur until his return, and so, along with other things that were to happen at a later date, Jesus gave to John a revelation of this sign and identified it as marking the beginning of his presence and of his kingdom and power. (Rev. 12:1, 2, 5, 10) All the evidences point to 1914 as the date.
22 Since Christ has already taken up his kingdom authority with the beginning of his presence in 1914, and since his presence begins a time of judgment, it follows that his revelation in symbolic fire for execution of judgment at the battle of Armageddon must follow very shortly. (Matt. 24:34) All persons of right heart toward God and his sent-forth One will eagerly lay aside all other interests as of secondary importance and, having their minds braced up with accurate knowledge, will plunge wholeheartedly into the only activity that can bring deliverance.