|Topical Bible Study||October 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson X
Manner of Our Lord’s Return
WHEN considering the manner of Christ’s return to earth at his second advent, it is essential to remember that he is no longer a human being, that he sacrificed his humanity to provide redemption from death for Adam and his posterity, the human race. (Heb. 2:9; II Cor. 5:16) The Scriptures speak of the experiences of Jesus “in the days of his flesh,” which are in the past. (Heb. 5:7) The Scriptures also inform us that Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but in the resurrection was made alive in the Spirit, or a spirit being, the express image of his Heavenly Father.—Heb. 1:3; II Cor. 3:17; I Pet. 3:18
Being exalted to the divine nature when raised from the dead, Jesus is now invisible to human eyes, even as the Creator himself, and even as the angels. (I Tim. 1:17; 6:15,16) To prove to his disciples that he had been raised from the dead, he miraculously appeared to them on different occasions in a body of flesh—once as a gardener, once as a stranger, etc. But these appearances are referred to in the Scriptures as “signs” and “proofs.” (I John 20:30; Acts 1:3) The apostles knew that in order to see Jesus as he is, a divine being, they would have to be made like him, and they entertained this hope.—I John 3:1-3
Jesus taught his disciples that the world of mankind would not see him after his death and resurrection. (John 14:19) Jesus explained that his disciples would see him, and this is because they, in the resurrection, are to be made like him. Because human eyes are not able to see the resurrected and exalted Jesus, he is able to return secretly, while the world goes on with its ordinary affairs of life.—Rev. 16:15; I Thess. 5:2; II Pet. 3:10
Jesus explained that it would be necessary for his followers to watch the signs which would denote the fact of his second presence on earth, and that for a time his presence would be unknown to all who did not “watch.” Jesus likened this to the days of Noah before the Flood when the world went on with its ordinary affairs of life, not knowing the real significance of the times in which they were living.—Matt. 24:38,39; Luke 21:36; 17:26,27
To be “watchers,” as this term is used in the Bible, does not mean to gaze into the sky to see Jesus returning. The thought is, rather, to watch world events for the fulfillment of the prophecies pertaining to the time of our Lord’s return. Peter speaks of the “sure word of prophecy.”—II Pet. 1:19
Eventually the whole world of mankind will “see” or discern the fact of our Lord’s second presence. The Bible says that they will “see” him in the “clouds,” meaning the chaotic and distressing experiences incidental to the breakdown of earthly rulership and the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. The people of the world will never see Jesus in a literal sense.—Rev. 1:7; II Thess. 1:7-10
The world of mankind will discern Jesus in much the same manner as Job saw God. After his faith was severely tested by the afflictions which the Lord permitted to come upon him, Job said in prayer: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 42:5) Job did not see God literally, but had gained a better understanding of him.
Why do we know that Jesus will never return to earth as a human? Cite scriptural proof.
How was it possible for the disciples to see Jesus after he had been raised from the dead? Will Jesus’ followers ever be able to see him?
How do we know that the world of mankind will never see Jesus again?
How and by what means do the true followers of Jesus at this end of the age discern the fact of his return and second presence?
Explain what Jesus meant by his admonition to “watch.”
When and how will the whole world eventually “see” Jesus?
“The Time is at Hand,” pages 106-108.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
In studying the prophecies pertaining to the return of Christ and his second presence on earth, it is essential to remember that he is now a divine being, the “express image” of his Heavenly Father.