Parousia – The Presence

The Watchtower, 15 February 2008, returned to a common theme in the Society’s publications, that of the ‘parousia’, the Greek word which they take to mean the invisible presence of Christ.
According to the Society, Christ ‘came back’ in 1914 but not in visible form, it was just His presence,; in other words He was here but invisibly.
The way they describe it on p.21 of the above Watchtower is that this ‘presence’ started when Jesus was installed as King in the heavens in 1914 and it will continue through to the time of the ‘great tribulation’, thus it is an extended period.
They further explain on p.22 of the same article that the ‘parousia’ runs parallel with another period of time described by the Greek word  ‘synteleia’ or as they translate this to mean  – the conclusion – of this system (see Matthew 24:3).
The NASB renders this verse as:
“… what will be the sign of your coming (parousia) and of the end of the age (synteleia)?”
The claims that the Society make  about this words and the periods they describe need to be investigated to see if what they say is true. Specifically we need to answer three questions:
1. What do the words parousia and synteleia mean in the Greek and how are they used in the rest of the New Testament?
2. Can parousia be used to express an extended period of invisible presence?
3. Does the Watchtower article teach a Biblical view of these events?

PAROUSIA
Strong’s Concordance defines this word as:
“From the present participle of G3918; a being near, that is, advent (often, return; specifically of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked); (by implication) physical aspect: – coming, presence.”
It occurs some 24 times in the New Testament and the way it is used is very significant. Many of the instances refer to the same event mentioned in Matthew, the return of the Lord. Others, however, refer to the coming of people to particular places in a particular time and these are very significant because they show how the word was used by New Testament writers.
Please take the time to look at 1 Corinthians 16:7, 2 Corinthians 7:6-7; 10:10, Philippians 1:26, 2; 12. Each one of these references shows clearly that the person came to a particular place and was physically present in that place. In other words they were clearly visible.
Indeed, as far as my investigations are concerned nowhere in the New Testament is the word parousia used of someone who is invisible but their presence is always physical and clearly manifested. I cannot find one verse or even the context of any verse that supports the idea of an invisible presence.
There is therefore no Biblical justification for saying that the word parousia signifies an invisible presence. The very word itself comes from two Greek words, para which means ‘with’ and ouisa which means ‘being’ and so literally, ‘with being’. It denotes both an arrival and a consequent presence with.

SYNTELEIA
Strong’s Concordance defines this as:
“From G4931; entire completion, that is, consummation (of a dispensation): – end.”
This word appears 5 other times in the New Testament. Each one of them refers to a period of time taking place and then a specific end (synteleia) coming. In other words this is not an extended period but the point at the end of a particular period.
Look at these passages in Matthew 13:39-40, 49, Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 9:26.
There is no evidence here at all that this was an extended period of time, indeed all the evidence points to the ‘synteleia’ being at one point in time.
Interestingly, the two Greek words we are interested in are clearly put together in Matthew 24:3 “sign of your coming (parousia) AND of the end of the age (synteleia)” and so to find that they both are used in a similar way is not surprising.
This being the case, does the Society give any Biblical evidence, in the article, for the point that they try to make. They do write several paragraphs but, as I seek to show below, I believe it is all circumstantial evidence that does not hold up to scrutiny and investigation.

THE CASE MADE
On p.22 the Society claims that an extended period of time is indicated because in Matthew 24:37-39:
“Jesus did not liken his presence to the relatively short period of time during which the flood occurred… (rather) to the much longer period of time that led up to the Flood.”
Can you really, with any degree of confidence, say that this is what these verses are actually meaning? They read:
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
The passage starts with the coming (parousia) and ends with the coming (parousia). At the beginning it is associated with the days of Noah, nothing specific, just a general phrase. But at the end the parousia is clearly linked to the day when the flood came and the people did not understand.
This is clearly the one day because until it came they would still be ignorant but it came and took them away on a specific day, and this is likened to the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man – suddenly without warning when people are involved in other things. There is therefore no actual evidence here for an invisible presence over a long period of time but rather one final act of coming.
The Society then seek to bolster the case they are making by using Revelation 6:1-8 where Jesus is riding on a white horse and being given a crown. They then make a stamen that has no foundation in Scripture:

“After being crowned as King in 1914…”
This is circular reasoning; the Society say He was crowned in 1914 therefore it shows that this refers to a period of time.
However, it shows an extended period of time because He was crowned in 1914. Unless the Society are prepared to provide clear Biblical evidence to prove that Jesus was crowned in 1914 these verses show nothing.
It seems to me that just by looking at another Scripture we can see why the Society cannot prove that Jesus was crowned in 1914; and indeed why it is impossible to do so.

“Which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:20-23
First, we notice that the rising from the dead and the seating in kingship are connected with no time gap in between the two statements. A Jehovah’s Witness might argue that it doesn’t say that there is not a gap of some 1,880 years!
True, but read on what else happened. All things were put in subjection under His feet; when did this happen? Surely when Jesus said it is finished! Even if the Witness wants to argue o
ver that stamen having a greater fulfilment at the end of the age I believe the next phrase makes it absolutely clear – ‘head over all things to the church.’ Jesus must have been installed as king by the time the day of Pentecost came, just a few weeks after He rose from the dead. There can be no gap until 1914!
In the next paragraphs of the article the Society seek to use Revelation 12 as proof of an extended period of time but again these can only be used because they are coloured by the assumed truth that Michael is Jesus!
I will not go through the reasoning of why that is not true here as we have dealt with this many times before; simply to say that when you take all Scripture it is impossible for Jesus and Michael to be the same person.
What is interesting is the obvious fact that the Scriptures they have used must be interpreted according to assumed Watchtower doctrine and also that not one of them mention parousia. The only conclusion we can come to is that the comments on these particular verses are a smokescreen and not one of them has any direct relevance to the subject in hand.
Please check carefully for yourself but, to me, there is no question that any honest Bible scholar could not come to the same conclusion as the Watchtower Society. There is no proof in Scripture that from 1914 onwards the parousia and synteleia have been in progress.

RECOGNISING THE SIGN
This Watchtower article then continues, with the same passage in Matthew and seeks to answer the question, “Who will recognise the sign of Christ’s presence and understand its significance?” During this explanation an interesting ‘about-turn’ takes place. From a previous held belief of the Watchtower Society.
First, they say that obviously unbelievers would not recognise the sign but that the disciples would see and recognise the sign, which leads to the change.
Previously, the authorised writer(s) of this article state on p.23, this journal (The Watchtower – which surely was light from Jehovah?) explained that the generation was the generation of unbelieving Jews in Jesus’ day. They add a footnote referring the reader to The Watchtower 1 November 1995; but what they do not tell you is that this article was also a change of belief from a previously held position.
In that 1995 Watchtower they abandoned their long held belief that ‘this generation’ referred to the people living in 1914 and that they would not die before the end of all things. This, the article tells us, was a “more precise viewpoint”. 1914 still was held as the start of the “last generation,” but now rather than a reference to people who were living in 1914; the term generation meant an unspecified length of time.
Of interest to this matter is The Watchtower, 1 February 1938, p. 35 which claimed that,

“The Lord revealed to his people the meaning of the parable of the sheep and the goats, showing how the ‘sheep’ only would be spared by Jehovah when his wrath is expressed at Armageddon. All this information came not from or by man, but by the Lord God. . .”
Very interesting! God obviously made a mistake because now the old meaning of the parable is wrong. But in February 2008, yet again, they have changed things. Why? Because Jehovah revealed it? No, because it makes more sense to what is happening to them. As ever the Watchtower Society does not live their life according to the Scriptures but they fit the Scriptures to the life they are living.
Anyway what is the new understanding? The generation is not the one of 1914 nor the unbelieving Jews of Jesus’ day but,

 “…these anointed ones make up the modern-day “generation” of contemporaries that will not pass away ‘until all these things occur’”
Here we have the clear suggestion that some of the ‘anointed’ will be on the earth when the tribulation begins – no wonder they now teach that the number was not up in 1935 but that Jehovah kept some of the anointed, the 144,000, for today!
I must once again ask the question, as I have so many times over the years, “How can an organisation that so readily stretches, changes and ignores God Word be His mouthpiece on earth today?”
Incidentally I have never had an understandable answer to this.

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