The Bright Shining of His Presence

“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming [presence] of the Son of man be.” —Matthew 24:27

NEVER has the presence of an earthly king or potentate been so glorious and all-powerful as properly to be likened to a brightness sufficient to enlighten the whole world—from the east unto the west. This, however, is to be true of the presence of earth’s new King, Jesus, for this is his own description of the manifestation of his presence as he explained it to his disciples when he answered their question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming [presence], and of the end of the world?” The fact which at once strikes us as we ponder the meaning of these words is that they do not and could not apply to the presence of a human king, but can be understood only with relation to a divine being, One who, like the Creator himself, is invisible to the human eye, and all-powerful.

The Master’s own preface to this explanation of the evidence of his second presence bears out this conclusion, for he warned his disciples that if anyone claimed to have discovered him in some secret hiding place, not to believe it, for he would not be present in the earth in that manner; that is, as a human. Jesus had previously explained that his presence (Greek, parousia) would be as a “thief in the night”; that is, unknown to all except to those who would be watching for him, but he did not want them to understand this to mean that he would be hidden away somewhere as a human, and that his followers could discover his whereabouts by searching for him.

The disciples had asked concerning the indications of the Master’s second presence, and in telling them of his lightning-like presence he not only gave them one of the signs, but explained much concerning the manner in which his presence would become known—first to his own people, and ultimately to the whole world. What then did Jesus mean when he said that his presence would be like the lightning, shining from the east to the west? Luke answers this question when, also quoting Jesus, he says, “For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.”—Luke 17:24

The meaning of these words is evident: Jesus’ presence will enlighten the world. And as light is used in the Scriptures to symbolize knowledge—the knowledge of God and his plan for the salvation of the people—what the Master really told the disciples in symbolic language was that his second presence on the earth as the King of the new world would be manifested by a great increase of knowledge that ultimately would become so all-pervading that the knowledge of the glory of God would be caused to fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14

The object of Christ’s return is to establish a righteous government over the earth—the kingdom of God. All the wonderful promises of the Old Testament concerning the Lord’s kingdom are to be fulfilled through and by Christ, as the “Mighty God” of Isaiah 9:6, 7. One of these promises is recorded by the Prophet David, and reads, “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.”—Ps. 97:1-5

All of the Master’s prophetic utterances were based upon the prophecies of the Old Testament, and were designed to clarify what had been written. The disciples believed that Jesus had come to be the great King foretold by the prophets, and it is apparent that Jesus, in explaining to them how the presence of the King would affect the world, had in mind the revealing prophecy just quoted in which David states that the “lightnings” of the new King would “enlighten the earth,” and that when the people would see these lightnings they would “tremble.”

It is important also to notice that while this is a prophecy descriptive of world conditions at the time “the Lord reigneth,” it shows clearly that conditions the world over would not at once become tranquil and peaceful as a result of his reign. “Clouds and darkness are round about him,” the prophet declares. “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies,” David continues. The people tremble at the lightnings which reveal the presence of the new King, and the “hills” melt “like wax” at his presence. These thoughts are very revealing, and it is most essential to keep them in mind if we are to understand clearly all that is involved in the second coming and presence of Christ.

He returns to reign. The Apostle Paul explains that he must reign until all enemies are put under his feet, “and the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:25,26) We are glad that the great enemy Death is to be destroyed; but there are other enemies as well which are to be destroyed by the reign of Christ, and among these are the “kingdoms of this world.” It is these that are referred to by the prophet as the “hills” which melt like wax at the presence of the Lord.

It is apparent from this and other prophecies that the beginning of Christ’s reign on earth is marked by a worldwide upheaval of “civilization” in which the kingdoms and governments of this world, one after another, are destroyed. Obviously such a condition as this would cause the people to “tremble”; and since they do not understand the real cause of the trouble, so far as the world is concerned the presence of the new King is in “clouds and thick darkness”; that is, they do not know that the overthrow of the world is due to the fact that a new King, even Christ, has taken unto himself his “great power, and hast reigned.”—Rev. 11:15,17,18

But while the “lightnings” associated with the presence of the Lord first of all precipitate a storm of human passions destroying the old social order, they symbolize much more than this. As we have seen, the Scriptures indicate clearly that the primary thought is that of enlightenment—indeed, it is through the enlightenment of the people that the world is brought to an end. This prophetic enlightenment in the last days of Satan’s world is described by the Prophet Daniel as an increase of knowledge, accompanied by much and rapid travel over the earth—a worldwide “running to and fro.” (Dan. 12:4) And Daniel associates this increase of knowledge with a great “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) Thus in plain language the prophet tells us of the same sequence of events described by David as the “lightnings” which enlighten the world, causing the people to tremble and the governments to “melt.”

Jesus qualified the “lightnings” which he said would reveal his parousia, or presence, saying that it would come out of the east and shine even unto the west. There is only one great light which regularly traverses an east to west course in its enlightenment of the earth, and that is the sun. But the effect of the Master’s presence is not in every way like the sun, hence Jesus did not use the Greek word which denotes sunlight. The word he did use in this remarkable illustration of the manner in which his presence would be revealed is astrape.

This is the only Greek word in the New Testament translated lightning, but it is also used to describe other forms of light. It is the word which is used to describe the light of a candle (Luke 11:36); and it is also used with respect to the brilliance of the garments of the angels at Jesus’ tomb following his resurrection. (Luke 24:4) It is properly translated lightning when associated with thunder, but the word is broad enough in its meaning to denote a “brightshining” of any nature.

It was this word that Jesus used when he said his parousia would be like a brightshining coming out of the east, ultimately illuminating the whole earth. Thus far the enlightenment has been largely along material and scientific lines, but in God’s due time it will include the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, for it will be then that Jesus will be that “true light” which will enlighten every man that cometh into the world. The east-to-west shining of the Master’s presence suggests the rising of the sun; and as we are all aware, those who are awake and watching for the dawn are the first to know that a new day is approaching, for they alone see the gray streaks in the east which are the harbingers of the rising sun. It is this blessed privilege that is now being enjoyed by the Lord’s watchmen on the walls of Zion.

The first to be blessed by the brightshining of the Master’s presence are his own people, his footstep followers. The knowledge of truth pertaining to the divine plan is also symbolized in the Bible as “meat,” and Jesus promised that when he returned he would serve his people with “meat in due season.” (Luke 12:37; Matt. 24:45) This is another promise which indicates that the Lord’s own people would be the first to be enlightened by the brightshining of his presence. This promise has been and still is being wonderfully fulfilled.

The Scriptures foretold that following the death of the apostles there would develop a great falling away from the true faith of the Gospel, and that the truth of the divine plan would become corrupted. This occurred with respect to practically every doctrine of the divine plan. The apostasy developed until the nominal church actually set up a counterfeit kingdom of Christ by uniting with the civil governments. Thus the hope of the real kingdom of Christ and the blessings it would bring to the people was lost.

The Scriptures clearly reveal that in the creation of man it was God’s intention that he live forever on the earth, and have dominion over it. He sinned, and lost the privilege of living, being sentenced to death. There is no truth more clearly taught in the Bible than that “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) But during the Dark Ages the term “death” was distorted to mean eternal torture in a fiery hell, and the notion was developed that Jesus came to save sinners from this terrible future abode of the wicked, and that those who believe on him would be taken to heaven instead. Thus this basic truth of the Bible was buried in the rubbish of human theories.

The Scriptures teach, on the contrary, that Jesus came to die for Adam and his entire race, that they might have an opportunity to be restored to life on the earth. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” is the way the Apostle Paul states the matter. (I Cor. 15:22) The period in which man will be restored to life on the earth is described by the Apostle Peter as “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21) This great hope of the world is now seen by the faithful watchmen in Zion, being one of the rays of heart-cheering light which has gladdened the hearts of those who have first detected the brightshining of the Master’s presence.

Many of the false doctrines of the Dark Ages had a semblance of scriptural support. It was thus with the claim that believers go to heaven when they die. The Scriptures do hold out a heavenly hope for the true followers of the Master, but the reason they are called to this high position in the divine plan is not for the purpose of snatching them from eternal torture, but that they, as representatives of the human race, may have the privilege of reigning with Christ after they have been exalted to glory in the “first resurrection,” (Rev. 20:4,6) and together with him share in the blessing of all the families of the earth. This great truth was made clear to the watchers in Zion as a result of the brightshining of the Master’s presence.

It was particularly fitting that the true relationship between the heavenly calling of the church and the hope of restitution for the world should be made more clear at this time, for it is the will of God that the faithful followers of the Master during this “day of the Lord” should proclaim as widely as possible the great hope of “restitution” for all mankind when the opportunity is given to them. The kingdom age, when the world of mankind will be given the privilege of living on the earth forever, is now near.

We are apt to forget that the enlightenment of the world today is something that has developed suddenly in comparison with the thousands of years of the past during which there was little or no increase of knowledge. Both with respect to the general education of the people and in the matter of scientific achievement, the world has advanced incomparably more in the last one hundred years than in the previous six thousand years. It is claimed that today knowledge is doubling every ten years.

But it was not until the fifteenth century, when the printing press with movable type came into use, that there was much opportunity for real progress in scientific knowledge and achievement. It is impossible, therefore, to attribute the progress of our day to the growing intelligence of man, as evolutionists would like to have us do.

There is only one reasonable explanation as to why the world should continue in ignorance for thousands of years, and then suddenly emerge into an era in which—throughout some parts of the earth at least—children of ten know more than did the lords and barons of the past—an era also in which large masses of the people, even many wage earners, enjoy comforts of life unknown to the wealthiest of the ancients. That explanation is the one given us in the Bible; namely, that it is due to the brightshining of Christ’s presence, bringing about the “increase of knowledge” which the Prophet Daniel said would characterize the “time of the end” of this present evil social order.—Dan. 12:4

Continued in May 1973

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