The invisible presence of our Lord is a staple of the Bible Students movement. Pastor Russell taught, believed and promoted this most important doctrine. All Christian denominations believe that our Lord is to return. Most believe he is to come physically on a cloud where “every eye shall see him.” Pastor Russell of course had a differing thought, while he believed in the second coming, he believed that it had already occurred and that it would be invisible to the masses, known only to those disciples who were awake and alert to the signs he gave in Matthew 24.
He stated that the scriptures “ … informs us that his Second Coming will be unobserved, unknown to the world; that he will be present in the world, and have to do with the gathering together of his saints and with the great time of trouble which will follow, yet be entirely invisible to men, recognizable only by outward signs of his presence and known only to the saintly few of humanity.” (R4705)
He also stated the following:
“That our Lord intended his disciples to understand that for some purpose, in some manner, and at some time, he would come again, is, we presume, admitted and believed by all familiar with the Scriptures. True, Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and by his spirit and by his Word he has been with the Church continually, guiding, directing, comforting and sustaining his saints, and cheering them in the midst of all their afflictions. But though the Church has been blessedly conscious of the Lord’s knowledge of all her ways and of his constant care and love, yet she longs for his promised personal return; for, when he said, “If I go, I will come again” (John 14:3), he certainly referred to a second personal coming.” – The Divine Plan of the Ages, P. 89
As we can see, Pastor Russell not only believed in a “invisible Presence”, but he believed in a “personal” one.
Is there a contradiction? How can one be “invisible” AND “personal”? There is no contradiction. The Lord second advent is both invisible and personal. As stated, it is invisible to the world at large, but visible to the Watchers, those who are ever watching, keeping alert like the wise virgins (Matthew 25). It is personal in that while He is invisible, the Lord is personally here, within the earth’s confines, it’s atmosphere. After all, in order to do battle with the fallen angels, he would have to do so within their space, to where they have been confine since the flood.
Years later, the very Society that Russell founded would abandon that view. Still promoting an invisible presence, they stated:
“Not only are we not to look for Christ to be visible to human eyes when he comes again but we should not even think of his leaving heaven and coming within the confines of earth’s atmosphere for him to be present. He returns or “visits” the earth as did Jehovah in times past, by turning his attention to things of earth. Thus Jehovah did not literally come down or “visit” (King James Version) the Israelites while they were in Egypt or at the time of the birth of John the Baptist; rather, he “turned his attention” to them. Likewise, when he began to call out a people from the nations for his name he did not literally “visit” but “turned his attention to the nations.” (Ex. 4:31; Luke 1:68; Acts 15:14, NW) See also An American Translation and Moffatt.” – The Watchtower February 15, 1955, pp. 102-103
“Then should you think of Jesus as invisibly present in the earth’s atmosphere? When the Bible speaks of Jesus’ return, it does not at all follow that for him to be present he has to leave his abode in the heavens.” – The Watchtower August 15, 1969, p. 485
“When a foreign head of State visits a country, the dates of his presence there are generally announced. This has been true of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence to honesthearted students of Bible prophecy that Jesus’ presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914. Events since that year testify to Jesus’ invisible presence. (Matthew 24:3-14) So by saying that certain Christians living during the Lord’s presence would be “caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” Paul meant that those survivors would be meeting Christ, not in earth’s atmosphere, but in the invisible heavenly realm where Jesus sits at God’s right hand. (Hebrews 1:1-3)” – The Watchtower January 15, 1993, p. 5
And while the above thoughts make rational sense, we need to realize that our ways are not God’s ways. We also need to realize that we cannot compare the Almighty Jehovah God to that of His Son, Jesus.
In Matthew 12:29, our Lord asked, “how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?” The Apostle describes our Lord at his second coming as a “thief in the night” (1 Thess 12:2) This thief (our Lord) breaks into the strong man’s house. The “strong man” here referred to is Satan, who is the powerful “prince of this world” – his dominion or house. Our Lord returns to the earth, thus breaking into Satan’s house. They do battle, and our Lord binds Satan, (we believe this binding is in effect now, a subject matter for another time).
How else can we explain these verses? Does turning ones attention to the things of the earth bind Satan? How does Jesus as a thief break into Satan’s house without entering it? Even in a court of law, it would be hard press to prove a thief plundering a man’s goods, without even stepping foot inside his home.
Surely this is a case of not “rightly dividing the word of Truth” (2 Ti 2:15)
Of course such a departure from the Truth is to be expected from the current Watchtower Society, who have departed further and further from the Bible Truths taught by Pastor C.T. Russell since his death in 1916.
What is even sadder are those who claim to support Pastor Russell, continue to print his volumes and at the same time reject what he wrote.
The DAWN one of the larger of the Bible Student groups, have a similar view, and agree with The Watchtower.
“After our Lord’s resurrection he said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18) Sometimes we fail to appreciate fully our Lord’s great power and glory. We think that our Lord does not necessarily need to be here, or there, or elsewhere, to accomplish his purposes. Of our Heavenly Father it is written, “He uttered his voice, the earth melted.” (Ps. 46:6) Thus we see that the great God of the universe does not need to leave his heavenly throne and come down here to earth to exercise his overruling providences in the world. Nor does our Lord Jesus need literally to change his location in any way whatsoever to accomplish his purposes in harmony with the Heavenly Father’s plans.
“These incidents give us a small inkling of Jesus’ mighty power, immeasurably multiplied since his resurrection, and they clearly illustrate an important principle with relation to our Lord’s second presence. He does not necessarily need to alter his position in the slightest degree in order to accomplish any of the various aspects of God’s great plan for man’s ultimate and everlasting restitution. As can the Heavenly Father, so also can Jesus freely exercise his great power at any time, and from any location.” THE DAWN – August 1976, pp 23, 24
The above is taken from the article titled: “Whom the heavens must receive” or “Retain”. This is a quote from Acts 3:19-21. Now, if the Lord only turns his attention to the things of the earth, then the heavens must still retain him, because he never left.
Consider also John 14:3; “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” The key words are “go” and “place”. It’s a specific “location” or “room”. He says “I will come again.” Meaning “I will come back and take you to this place I have prepared for you”. He doesn’t say “I will call you up to the place I have prepared for you.”
This is a dangerous view and one that erodes the doctrine of our Lord’s second presence.