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Return of Christ – 1914?

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that:

  1. The return of Christ occurred invisibly in the fall of 1914 C.E [1]
  2. The duration of the “times of the gentiles” can be ascertained to be 2,520 years by a study of Daniel chapter 4 [2]
  3. Christ will not return visibly to earth [3]
  4. The Watchtower Society is God’s sole channel of truth today and has proven to be a faithful guide in the interpretation of Bible prophecy [4]

What does mainstream Christianity believe?

 

Q1. Do the 24 occurrences of the Greek word “parousia” (presence) in the New Testament support the JW teaching of an ‘invisible presence running from 1914 until Jesus comes at Armageddon?’

Answer: For all 24 occurrences and meaning of the word Parousia denotes an arrival (a coming) and a consequent ‘being with’ (presence) – often a royal visit. Christ’s presence starts with (a) His yet future coming for His saints, resurrecting them, and (b) with them, at Armageddon, followed by His millennium reign.

Even the JW Reference Bible [appendix 5B Christ’s Presence] admits, “The force of [‘coming’] ends with the arrival; that of [‘parousia’] begins with it.”

(a) Resurrection (rapture):

1 Cor 15:21-23 The resurrection of the dead but each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming [parousia: ‘in his presence’, Young’s Literal] those who belong to Christ.

1 Thess 4:15 We who are alive, who are left until the coming [‘the presence’, Young’s Literal] of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

2 Thess 2:1 Concerning the coming [‘presence’, Young’s] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed.[“Slow down and don’t go jumping to conclusions regarding the day when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come back and we assemble to welcome him.” Message]

1 John 2:28 Abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming [‘presence’, Young’s]

(b) Armageddon:

Matt 24:39 They were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming [‘presence’, Young’s] of the Son of Man.

2 Thess 2:8 The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming [‘manifestation of his presence’, Young’s Translation]

2 Pet 3:4,12 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming [presence]? … Waiting for and hastening the coming [presence] of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved

(Also, Matt 24:3,27,37; 1 Cor 16:17; 2 Cor 7:6,7; 10:10; Phil 1:26; 2:12; 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:9; Jas 5:7,8; 2 Pet 1:16)

Q2. Will Christ visibly return to the earth?

Answer: Most mainstream Christians believe that Jesus will return to the earth.

Zech 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley

Matt 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Acts 1:9,11-12 He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight…. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” … from the mount called Olivet

Acts 3:20-21 Jesus whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago

Phil 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ

Heb 9:28 Christ … will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

1 John 2:28 Little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Rev 1:7 He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. (Zech 12:10)

(Also, Mark 13:26; Luke 17:24; 21:27; 1 Thess 4:16; 2 Thess 1:7; 1 Tim 6:14; 2 Tim 4:8; Tit 2:13; 1 John 3:2)

Q3. Are we to know in what year Christ is to return?

Answer: Predicting dates for Christ’s return reveals disobedience to Christ’s express commands. See examples of such Predictions here.

Matt 24:42-44 Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming … If the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake … For the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Luke 21:8-9 “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, … ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

Acts 1:6-7 “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

(Also, Deut 29:29; 2 Thess 2:9-11; 1 Tim 6:14-15; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 7)

Q4. Is the basis of JW’s view of 1914 sound?

Answer: They claim that the vision in Daniel 4 of a fallen tree revived after 7 years – which pictures the restoration of King Nebuchadnezzar – applies to God’s Kingdom being restored after a symbolic period (of 7 times [years] = 2520 days = 2520 years) from 607 BC to 1914 AD.

See JW Predictions here

How is this reasoning faulty?

  • Should we be even investigating this date? “The Father is the one who sets the fixed dates and the times of their fulfillment. You are not permitted to know the timing of all that he has prepared by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7, Passion Translation)
  • The context clearly shows the application was only to the proud king Nebuchadnezzar, “The tree you saw … it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.” (Dan 4:22)
  • How does it honour Christ to assert that a restored pagan king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, pictures Jesus and His kingdom?
  • Is the claimed starting point of this period in 607 BC correct? Researchers state that the destruction of Jerusalem was 587, twenty years later.

Deep dive additional articles on the JW date of 607 here, here, and here

  • Do the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) run until 1914? “Swords will cut them down, and they will be carried off into all nations as prisoners. Nations will trample Jerusalem until the times allowed for the nations [to do this] are over” (God’s Word Translation) Could the context point to literal Jerusalem being ‘trodden down’ by Roman armies in the first century? Others connect it to a future fulfillment as in Rom 11:26. See links here and here

Q5. What are some of JW teachings that depend on 1914 as the date of Christ’s return?

Answer: The fulfillment of prophecies especially in Revelation

Rev 1:10 “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”:

  • Birth of God’s Kingdom and Last Days begin (Rev 12:5)
  • Watchtower leaders imprisoned 1918-1919 (Rev 11:7-11)
  • Appointment of Faithful and Discreet slave in 1919 (Matt 24:45-47)
  • The first resurrection from Spring 1918 (1 Cor 15:23; Rev 20:4-6)
  • The seals, trumpets, and bowls judgment messages (Rev 6-16)
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (Rev 7:3-8)

See Faithful and Discreet Slave, Q3

See Watchtower Prophecies

Summary

  • The return of Christ did not occur invisibly in the fall of 1914 C.E. This visible event is still future
  • Christ will have a visible return to earth
  • The duration of the “times of the gentiles” cannot be ascertained by a study of Daniel chapter 4

Endnotes

  1. Watchtower 2014 July 15th pp 21-26, para 10
  2. Revelation Climax pp 22-24
  3. Reasoning p 313,343
  4. Watchtower 1989 Sep 1st p 19; Watchtower 2001 Feb 15th p 14

 

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