The Messiah’s Presence and His Rule
“This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky.”—ACTS 1:11.
1, 2. (a) How did two angels comfort Jesus’ apostles when he ascended to heaven? (b) What questions are raised by the prospect of Christ’s return?
ELEVEN men stood on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, staring up into the sky. Just moments ago Jesus Christ had risen up from among them, his form fading away until it was obscured by a cloud. In their years with him, these men had seen Jesus give abundant proof that he was the Messiah; they had even lived through the heartbreak of his death and the ecstasy of his resurrection. Now he was gone.
2 Two angels appeared suddenly and spoke these comforting words: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky.” (Acts 1:11) How reassuring—Jesus’ ascension to heaven did not mean that he was finished with the earth and mankind! On the contrary, Jesus would be back. No doubt these words filled the apostles with hope. Millions of people today also attach great importance to the promise of Christ’s return. Some speak of it as the “Second Coming” or “Advent.” Most, though, seem confused about what Christ’s return really means. In what way does Christ return? When? And how does this affect our lives today?
The Manner of Christ’s Return
3. What do many people believe about Christ’s return?
3 According to the book An Evangelical Christology, “the second coming or return of Christ (parousia) establishes the kingdom of God, finally, openly, and for all eternity.” It is a widely held belief that Christ’s return will be openly visible, literally seen by everyone on the planet. To support this notion, many point to Revelation 1:7, which reads: “Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him.” But is this verse meant to be taken literally?
4, 5. (a) How do we know that Revelation 1:7 is not meant in a literal sense? (b) How do Jesus’ own words confirm this understanding?
4 Remember, the book of Revelation is presented “in signs.” (Revelation 1:1) This passage, then, must be symbolic; after all, how could “those who pierced him” see Christ return? They have been dead nearly 20 centuries! Furthermore, the angels said that Christ would return “in the same manner” as he departed. Well, how did he leave? With millions watching? No, just a few faithful ones beheld the event. And when the angels spoke to them, were the apostles literally watching Christ’s journey all the way to heaven? No, a cloud cover had obscured Jesus from view. Sometime thereafter, he must have entered the spirit heavens as a spirit being, invisible to human eyes. (1 Corinthians 15:50) So, at most, the apostles saw only the beginning of Jesus’ journey; they could not watch its ending, his return to the heavenly presence of his Father, Jehovah. This they could only discern with their eyes of faith.—John 20:17.
5 The Bible teaches that Jesus returns in much the same way. Jesus himself said shortly before his death: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more.” (John 14:19) He also said that “the kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness.” (Luke 17:20) In what sense, then, will ‘every eye see him’? To answer, we first need a clear understanding of the word Jesus and his followers used in connection with his return.
6. (a) Why are words such as “return,” “arrival,” “advent,” and “coming” not adequate translations of the Greek word pa·rou·siʹa? (b) What shows that the pa·rou·siʹa, or “presence,” lasts much longer than any mere momentary event?
6 The fact is, Christ does much more than simply “return.” That word, like “coming,” “arrival,” or “advent,” implies a single event in a brief moment of time. But the Greek word that Jesus and his followers used means much more. The word is pa·rou·siʹa, literally meaning a “being alongside” or a “presence.” Most scholars agree that this word incorporates not only an arrival but also a subsequent presence—as in a State visit from a royal personage. This presence is not a momentary event; it is a special era, a marked period of time. At Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus said that “the presence [pa·rou·siʹa] of the Son of man” would be like “the days of Noah” which culminated in the Flood. Noah was building the ark and warning the wicked for decades before the Flood arrived and wiped out that corrupt world system. Likewise, then, Christ’s invisible presence lasts over a period of some decades before it too culminates in a great destruction.
7. (a) What proves that the pa·rou·siʹa is not visible to human eyes? (b) How and when will scriptures that describe Christ’s return as visible to “every eye” be fulfilled?
7 Undoubtedly, the pa·rou·siʹa is not literally visible to human eyes. If it were, why would Jesus spend so much time, as we shall see, giving his followers a sign to help them to discern this presence?* However, when Christ comes to destroy Satan’s world system, the fact of his presence will be overwhelmingly manifest to all. It is then that “every eye will see him.” Even Jesus’ opponents will be able to discern, to their dismay, that Christ’s reign is real.—See Matthew 24:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 1:5, 6.
When Does It Begin?
8. What event marks the beginning of Christ’s presence, and where did this happen?
8 The Messiah’s presence begins with an event that fulfills a recurring theme of the Messianic prophecies. He is crowned as King in heaven. (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 9:6, 7; Ezekiel 21:26, 27) Jesus himself showed that his presence would be tied to his kingship. In several illustrations, he likened himself to a master who leaves his household and slaves behind, traveling for a long time to a “distant land” where he receives “kingly power.” He gave one such illustration as part of his answer to his apostles’ question about when his pa·rou·siʹa would begin; another he gave because “they were imagining that the kingdom of God was going to display itself instantly.” (Luke 19:11, 12, 15; Matthew 24:3; 25:14, 19) So during his time on earth as a man, his coronation was still a long time away, to occur in the “distant land” of heaven. When would it happen?
9, 10. What evidence is there that Christ is currently ruling in heaven, and when did he begin his rule?
9 When Jesus’ disciples asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” Jesus responded by giving them a detailed description of that future time. (Matthew, chapter 24; Mark, chapter 13; Luke, chapter 21; see also 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation, chapter 6.) This sign amounts to a detailed portrait of a troubled era. It is a time marked by international wars, rising crime, deteriorating family life, disease epidemics, famines, and earthquakes—not as localized problems but as globe-embracing crises. Does this sound familiar? Every passing day confirms that the 20th century perfectly fits Jesus’ description.
10 Historians agree that 1914 was a turning point in human history, a pivotal year after which many of these problems began to get out of control, escalating on a global scale. Yes, physical world events in fulfillment of Bible prophecy all point to 1914 as the year when Jesus began to rule as King in heaven. Furthermore, a prophecy in Daniel chapter 4 provides chronological evidence that leads us to the very same year—1914—as the time when Jehovah’s appointed King would begin his rule.*
Why a Time of Troubles?
11, 12. (a) Why is it hard for some to believe that Christ is ruling in heaven right now? (b) How might we illustrate what took place after Jesus was crowned as King?
11 Some wonder, though, ‘Why is the world so troubled if the Messiah is ruling in heaven? Is his rule ineffective?’ An illustration may help. A country is run by an evil president. He has set up a corrupt system with tentacles extending into every corner of the land. But an election is held; a good man wins. Now what? As is the case in some democratic lands, a transition period of some months ensues before the new president is inaugurated. How would these two men act during such a period? Will the good man immediately attack and dismantle all the evils his predecessor has wrought throughout the country? Would he not, rather, concentrate on the capital city first, setting up a new cabinet and serving notice on the former president’s crooked cronies and henchmen? That way, when he comes into full authority, he can operate from a clean, efficient seat of power. As for the corrupt president, would he not take advantage of the short time he has left to extract from the land all the ill-gotten gains that he can before he loses all power?
12 In effect, it is similar with Christ’s pa·rou·siʹa. Revelation 12:7-12 shows that when Christ was made King in heaven, he first hurled Satan and the demons out of heaven, thus cleaning up the location of His government. Having suffered this long-awaited defeat, how does Satan behave during the “short period of time” before Christ exerts his full authority here on the earth? Like that corrupt president, he tries to get everything he can out of this old system. He is not after money; he is after human lives. He wants to alienate as many people from Jehovah and His reigning King as he possibly can.
13. How do the Scriptures show that the beginning of Christ’s rule would be a troubled time here on earth?
13 No wonder, then, that the beginning of Messiah’s rule means a time of “woe for the earth.” (Revelation 12:12) Similarly, Psalm 110:1, 2, 6 shows that the Messiah begins his rule ‘in the midst of his enemies.’ Only later does he completely crush “the nations,” along with every facet of Satan’s corrupt system, into oblivion!
When Messiah Rules the Earth
14. What will the Messiah be able to do after he destroys Satan’s wicked system of things?
14 After he destroys Satan’s system and all who support it, the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, will at long last be in a position to fulfill marvelous Bible prophecies that describe his Millennial Reign. Isaiah 11:1-10 helps us to see just what kind of ruler Messiah will be. Isa 11 Verse 2 tells us that he will have “the spirit of Jehovah . . . , the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of mightiness.”
15. What will the ‘spirit of mightiness’ mean in the Messianic rule?
15 Consider what ‘the spirit of mightiness’ will mean in Jesus’ rule. When he was on the earth, he had a degree of mightiness from Jehovah, enabling him to perform miracles. And he showed a heartfelt desire to help people, saying, “I want to.” (Matthew 8:3) But his miracles of those days were just a foregleam of what he would do when ruling from heaven. Jesus will work miracles on a global scale! Sick, blind, deaf, maimed, and lame people will be healed for all time. (Isaiah 35:5, 6) An abundance of food, fairly distributed, will end hunger forever. (Psalm 72:16) What of those countless millions in the graves that God is pleased to remember? Jesus’ “mightiness” will include the power to resurrect them, giving each the opportunity to live forever in Paradise! (John 5:28, 29) Yet, even with all this mightiness, the Messianic King will always be profoundly humble. He finds “enjoyment . . . in the fear of Jehovah.”—Isaiah 11:3.
16. What kind of Judge will the Messianic King be, and how will that contrast with the record of human judges?
16 This King will also be a perfect Judge. He “will not judge by any mere appearance to his eyes, nor reprove simply according to the thing heard by his ears.” What human judge, past or present, could be described that way? Even a very judicious man can judge only by what he sees and hears, using whatever wisdom or discernment he may possess. Thus, judges and juries of this old world may be swayed or confused by clever sophistry, courtroom antics, or conflicting evidence. Often it is only the wealthy and powerful who can afford an effective defense, in actuality buying justice. Not so under the Messianic Judge! He reads hearts. Nothing will escape his notice. Justice, tempered by love and mercy, will not be for sale. It will always prevail.—Isaiah 11:3-5.
How His Rule Affects You
17, 18. (a) What glowing picture of mankind’s future is painted at Isaiah 11:6-9? (b) To whom does this prophecy primarily apply, and why so? (c) How will this prophecy have a literal fulfillment?
17 Understandably, the Messiah’s rule has a profound influence on its subjects. It changes people. Isaiah 11:6-9 shows just how extensive such changes are. This prophecy paints a touching picture of dangerous, predatory animals—bears, wolves, leopards, lions, cobras—in the company of harmless domestic animals and even children. But the predators pose no danger! Why? Isa 11 Verse 9 answers: “They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”
18 Of course, “knowledge of Jehovah” could have no effect on literal animals; thus these verses must primarily apply to people. The Messiah’s rule sponsors a global education program, teaching people about Jehovah and his ways, teaching all to treat their fellowman with love, respect, and dignity. In the coming Paradise, the Messiah will miraculously raise mankind to physical and moral perfection. The predatory, animalistic traits that mar imperfect human nature will be gone. In a literal sense, also, mankind will come to be at peace with the animals—at last!—Compare Genesis 1:28.
19. How does the rule of the Messiah affect the lives of people in these last days?
19 Remember, though, the Messiah is ruling now. Even now, the subjects of his Kingdom are learning to live peaceably together, fulfilling Isaiah 11:6-9 in one sense. Moreover, for almost 80 years, Jesus has been fulfilling Isaiah 11:10: “It must occur in that day that there will be the root of Jesse that will be standing up as a signal for the peoples. To him even the nations will turn inquiringly, and his resting-place must become glorious.” People of every nation are turning to the Messiah. Why? Because ever since he began ruling, he has been “standing up as a signal.” He has been making his presence known worldwide by means of the vast educational program described above. In fact, Jesus foretold that a global preaching work would be an outstanding sign of his presence before the end of this old system.—Matthew 24:14.
20. What attitude should all subjects of the Messiah’s rule avoid, and why?
20 So Christ’s presence in Kingly power is not a remote, theoretical affair, merely a subject of intellectual debate among theologians. His rule touches and changes lives here on the earth, just as Isaiah foretold it would. Jesus has drawn millions of subjects for his Kingdom out of this corrupt world system. Are you such a subject? Then serve with all the enthusiasm and joy that our Ruler deserves! Granted, it is all too easy to tire out, to join in the world’s cynical cry: “Where is this promised presence of his?” (2 Peter 3:4) But as Jesus himself said, “he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matthew 24:13.
21. How might all of us enhance our appreciation for the Messianic hope?
21 Every passing day draws us closer to the great day when Jehovah will direct His Son to make his presence manifest to the whole world. Never let your hope in that day grow dim. Meditate on Jesus’ Messiahship and on his qualities as reigning King. Think deeply, too, about Jehovah God, the author and mastermind of the great Messianic hope outlined in the Bible. As you do, no doubt you will feel more and more as the apostle Paul did when he wrote: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!”—Romans 11:33.
Back in 1864 theologian R. Govett put it this way: “This seems to me very decisive. The giving a sign of the Presence shows that it is secret. We need no signal to make known to us the presence of what we see.”
For details, see the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” pages 133-9.
How Would You Answer?
□ In what manner does Christ return?
□ How do we know that Christ’s pa·rou·siʹa is invisible and lasts over a considerable period of time?
□ When does Christ’s presence begin, and how do we know this?
□ What kind of heavenly Ruler is the Messiah?
□ In what ways does Christ’s rule affect the lives of its subjects?
[Picture on page 15]
The hope that Jesus would return meant much to his faithful apostles
[Picture on page 17]
Ruling from heaven, Jesus will perform miracles on a global scale
Earth: Based on NASA photo