Please note that in this study, the scriptural references to “the Son of Man” should actually read, “Son of the Man.” In Greek, the indefinite “son of man” does not mean the same thing as the definite “Son of the Man”. See our study: “Son of Man and Son of God“
While we are not with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of the books many cite related to our Biblical studies is Jehovah of the Watchtower“, by Walter Martin and Norman Klann. Our references to this work are to the Ninth Printing, dated 1981 (Copyright 1953, 1974). On page 88 of that book, we read: “In Luke 17:20-21, the Lord reveals the kingdom of heaven as within the believer in one aspect but clearly states that the heavenly aspect will be visible and observable at His return (vv. 23-26).” Actually, we find nothing in Luke 17:20-21 that says that kingdom of heaven is “within the believer”. Jesus was not speaking to believers, but unbelievers, the Pharisees. Was Jesus saying that the kingdom of heaven is “within” the Pharisees? Was Jesus’ illustration as presented in Luke 17:23-26 meant to say that the kingdom “will be visible and observable at His return”?
Before answering those questions, we first want to note what Martin and Klann next stated: “In Matthew 13, the Lord Jesus portrays the kingdom of heaven symbolically in parables, yet it is always pictured as a reality, not invisible phantom government.” We agree that the parables present the kingdom of heaven symbolically, and that it is always pictured as a reality. Martin and Klann seem to be under the false assumption, however, that an invisible presence means that it is not a real presence. This kind of reasoning, if applied to some scriptures, would mean that God is not real, since he is the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 6:15) God is a reality, however, even though we cannot physically see Him. Likewise, initially, when Jesus returns in his parousia, we believe that his parousia is unnoticed by the world, as we will show from the scriptures.
In the context, Jesus had stated:
Matthew 24:23 Then if any man will tell you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There,’ don’t believe it.
Matthew 24:24 For there will arise false Christs, and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Matthew 24:25 Behold, I have told you beforehand.
Matthew 24:26 If therefore they tell you, ‘Behold, he is in the wilderness!’ don’t go out; ‘Behold, he is in the inner chambers,’ don’t believe it.
Jesus here warns against expecting to see him return in the flesh. As he stated elsewhere, however, “the world will see me no more.” (John 14:19) Jesus knew that the world would not see him when he returned because he knew that he was to sacrifice that flesh for all time. (Luke 22:19; John 6:51; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Hebrews 10:10) He knew that he would not return in the flesh, and yet he also knew that many would be claiming that he had returned in the flesh, and, in effect saying, “Here he is,” and “there he is.” And there have been many false prophets claiming such. Additionally, there have been many false prophets claiming that they have the authority of the Kingdom, and thus the sole right to speak for Jesus, such as the claims for the Papacy and that of the leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other religious sects and leaderships.
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come with observation.” (Luke 17:20, World English Bible translation) “nor will they say, `Look, here it is!’ or, `There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, `Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them.” — Luke 17:21-23 NASB translation.
And there have been many, from the first century to this very day, who have proclaimed this or that outward organization to be God’s Kingdom on earth; likewise, there have been many who have claimed to be Jesus, or in some way to exclusively represent Jesus. Nevertheless, because Jesus has sacrificed his flesh for sin (Luke 22:19; John 6:51; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Hebrews 10:10), one cannot point to any human being and claim that this or that human being is Jesus, as many have done are are still doing; when Jesus comes in his kingdom, one will not “see” Jesus’ body of flesh, since Jesus is no longer flesh, and since there is to be no more sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:26), he has no reason to come back in a body of flesh.
See our study: “Jesus Died a Human Being – Raised a Spirit Being“
Then Jesus states, as rendered by the New American Standard version of the Bible in Matthew 24:27:
“For just as the lightning (Greek, astrape: light, bright shining) comes from the east and flashes [Greek, phaino: shines] even to the west, so will the coming [Greek, Parousia: presence] of the Son of Man be. (NAS)
Westcott & Hort Interlinear
hwsper gar hee astrapee exerchetai apo
AS EVEN FOR THE LIGHTNING IS COMING OUT FROM
5618 1063 3588 0796 1831 0575
anatolwn kai phainetai hews dusmwn houtws
EASTERN [PARTS] AND IS SHINING UNTIL WESTERN [PARTS], THUS
0395 2532 5316 2193_5 1424 3779
estai hee parousia tou huiou tou anthrwpou
WILL BE THE PRESENCE OF THE SON OF THE MAN;
1511_4 3588 3952 3588 5207 3588 0444
lightning; light, ray of light
The old English word “lightning” is a variant of “lightening”:
lightning. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lightning.
This word does not necessarily mean lightning in the sky as is often associated with thunderstorms.
Jesus’ words in Luke 17:24 read as:
“For just like the lightning, when it flashes [shines] out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.”
Jesus, in answering the Pharisees, first lets them know that when the kingdom comes it will not be with observation, something that will be observed as such. No one will be able to legitimately say that the kingdom is ruling here, or it is ruling there, as though it will be actually seen, but that it is to be in their midst. He then explains to his disciples — not the Pharisees — that there will be those however, that will claim that God’s kingdom is ruling and can be seen, and warns not to follow these. Such claims have been made by Rome and many other church-state systems, including, I believe, the JW leadership. These proclamations of God’s kingdom, being seen amongst men, Jesus said, are not the real kingdom, and he tells his followers not to recognize them as such.
Then Jesus tells how God’s kingdom will come upon the world, by describing the light, that progresses from east to west in the sky. Many translations present this light as lightning and use the word “flash” rather than simply shines, but we believe that this leaves one with the wrong idea, as we will present below.
Electrical lightning associated with thunderstorms does not generally come from the east and shine even to the west, but the sun does. The word “lightning”, in the context given, is a poor choice to represent the Greek word “astrape,” which signifies “bright shining” (as given in Luke 11:36 in the KJV), or simply “the light”. The bright “light” actually being described here and applied figuratively to the parousia of the son of the man, as the context indicates, to the sunlight which shines always from the east even to the west, while on the other hand, lightning flashes in a variety of directions, wherever the electrical forces producing it may be discharged. A flash of lightning would only luminate the sky for a split second, which also is not a good illustration of Jesus’ return. When the the Greek word often transliterated as “parousia” is understood and “presence” rather simply as “coming” (in a split second?), the statement is seen to declare that the presence of Christ will be like the sunlight, gradually illuminating the world. It is not a split second of time, in which all the world sees and recognizes Jesus in the instant that he returns, as some have assumed.
Those who are awake and watching, the children of the light, are the first to discern and rejoice in His presence. The children of the night and of the darkness will awake when the Sun of Righteousness will arise in His full glory, and all the sin-sick will rejoice in the healing to be gained through the influence of His rays. Therefore, Jesus uses here the illustration of how the sun brings light as it comes up the east and goes to the west. This well depicts the sun of righteousness who arises with healing in his wings. (Malachi 4:2) The shining is not confined to any one place, but its effect is different in different places. The bright shining (verse 27) means truths and knowledge greatly increases, especially during the time that Christ is returns and is present. That this shining is visible from the east to the west, refers to the fact that our Lord’s presence reveals truth that not only is seen now, but even unto the west, the end of the Millennium, even as the sun gradually moves across the sky from east to west. (Revelation 21:23-24). When the sun first rises in the east, it is not especially bright, but the rays of light can be seen gleaming through the sky. As it continues its journey, the shining gets brighter and brighter.
The sun shine of this new day, however, is different from a normal day, for the prophecy says that the bright shining is darkened by the clouds. (Isaiah 5:30; Joel 2:2; Zephaniah 1:15) The clouds, in this instance, we understand to mean obscurity — darkness and trouble on earth. (Isaiah 8:22) It is a unique day, different from what we have known before, for we are told that at evening time, rather than darkness coming, there will be light. (Zechariah 14:7) Thus seen, we can see that this day endures on into the millennial rule, when the world will be instructed in the ways of Yahweh, and the knowledge of Yahweh will fill the earth. — Isaiah 2:2-4; 6:11.
At first, only those who are spiritually awake recognize this presence, (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6) but after Satan is abyssed, all men will become aware of his presence, including those who pierced (who have to first be raised from the dead) him. (Revelation 20:3; Isaiah 25:7; Revelation 1:7) To many of the watchers who compare spiritual revealing with spiritual revealing in order to “see” spiritually, this light is now seen in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies, as well as a flood of knowledge that causes understanding of many spiritual truths that were hidden in the darkness of the wilderness for over a thousand years. Thus to them it has a special meaning. But to the world the light first brings a time of trouble, as never seen before in history, for poor humanity, still being out of harmony with God and truth, cannot properly control the increase of knowledge that has so gradually filled the world since 1799. (Daniel 12:1,4) Yet they are still ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:7) God’s kingdom is in their midst, but they do not recognize it. — Luke 17:21
Thus seen, in agreement with other scriptures, Christ’s parousia, covers a period of time, in which many things occur. Yes, Jesus does arrive at the beginning of his parousia, his presence as King, and thus remains present. His presence is not just a split second event. The Greek word parousia means more than just his arrival, but it also includes the many events prophesied concerning his coming.
W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: Parousia, literally, a presence, para, with, and ousia, being: denotes both an arrival and a consequent presence with. Robert Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible: Parousia, a being alongside, presence.
Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Foreword: “Parousia, as applied to the return of the Lord, is simply the anglicizing of the Greek word which literally means ‘presence.’
One way of showing that the parousia is a period of time can be seen by comparing two scritpures:
Matthew 24:37-39 – As the days of Noah, so will be the coming [parousia — kingly presence] of the Son of Man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they didn’t know until the flood came, and took them all away, so will be the coming [parousia – Kingly presence] of the Son of Man
Luke 17:26 – As it happened in the days of Noah, even so will it be also in the days [parallels with “parousia” of Matthew 24:37] of the Son of Man.
Thus the world in general is carrying on these affairs in the days of Jesus’ parousia, that is, his parousia is not known to them, as testified by the fact that they don’t know, or understand. When this present evil world is destroyed, then the sunlight of the kingdom and the righteous will be revealed — the revealing of the saints. Then will follow the resurrection of the world. It is not until after the world’s resurrection, that even those who pierced him will be brought back to life so that they may “see” him, and thus “They also who err in spirit shall come to understanding, and those who murmur shall receive instruction.” — Revelation 1:7; Isaiah 29:24.
Someone has objected that lightning does go from east to west. This may be true in some cases, but such lightning is between clouds and still only lasts for a split second. Cloud-to-cloud lightning is said to occur more often than cloud to ground strikes, but such cloud-to-cloud lightning may or may not be seen from the ground, and is more often seen as light behind the shadows of the clouds. While it is very doubtful that this is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke his words, nevertheless, this could describe the conditions set forth in Isaiah 5:30; Joel 2:2; Zephaniah 1:15.
The National Lightning Saftey Institute states: “Lightning’s behavior is random and unpredictable.”
Lightning, as seen from earth in the sky in Israel, usually is seen as going downward, not from east to west. This is in agreement with Luke 10:18, in which Jesus may have used astrape to describe lightning as falling from the sky in the land of Israel, although more than likely Jesus was referring to Satan figuratively as what we often call a “falling star” which falls from the sky.
He said to them, “I saw Satan having fallen like lightning [astrape] from heaven.”
True, Jesus is speaking figuratively, but, as it reads in most translations, the figure be using natural lightning to depict what happened when Satan disobeyed and fell out harmony with God.
However, as stated before, we tend to believe that astrape in Luke 10:18 refers to a falling star, not lightning, which would tend to support the idea that Matthew 24:27 refers, not to lightning, but to the sun traveling from east to west. This view is supported by the fact that astrape is derived from the Greek word *aster* which does mean “star.” Nevertheless, we should not expect that the Bible would use the words for “star” with the same classifications that modern scientists have developed.
Additionally, the Hebrew word often transliterated as ‘owr (Strong’s Hebrew #216) is used similarly, sometimes meaning lightning, sometimes meaning sunlight, light of a lamp, etc.
Lightning travels in both directions, upward and downward, but that which is usually seen from the earth is the shining which extends downward, not east to west.
Someone argues: “The point of Matthew 24:27 is to try to convey a understanding that when Jesus returns ‘every eye shall see him,’ just as every eye (person) sees the sun as it appears to go from east to west.” Yes, “every eye” will see Jesus, but Revelation 1:7 refers to a later stage of his return, not to the first appearance as likened to the sun. Those who pierced Jesus hve to be raised from the dead before they “see” Jesus in glory coming in the coulds. Thus, it is one of the events to take place sometime after the initial return of Jesus. After the sun has arisen, and Satan has been abyssed, all will be enabled to “see” the sun; this will be the time when he comes with all his saints to judge the world, that the world may be delivered (saved) from the bondage of corruption when the saints are revealed. (1 Thessalonians 3:13; Isaiah 2:2-4; Romans 8:19-21) However, Jesus first comes as a thief to harvest the earth, in which the tares are bound in bundles and symbolically cast into the symbolic furnace of fire, after which the sons of God are manifested; when the sons of God are finally made manifest Jesus comes with all his saints, and every eye shall see him, after the harvest is ended, and after Satan has been abyssed.
See the study:
The Parousia, Seventh Trumpet, and the Harvest
But what did Jesus mean when he said, “the kingdom is your midst”? (Luke 17:21) In the King James, and many other translations, this reads: “the kingdom is within you.” This leads to the false reasoning that the kingdom is within a person. Directly, however, Jesus was speaking to the unbelieving Jews; was he saying to those unbelieving Jews that the kingdom was within them? In the first century, the kingdom was in their midst in that the king of the kingdom was standing their in their midst, but they did not recognize him; they could “see” his body of flesh, but did not “see” him for who he was. (Matthew 13:13-17; John 1:10) Although more than likely Jesus was speaking prophetically of the future time when he would return in his kingdom, the circumstances of his first appearance in the first century do provide an illustration of this second appearance. At his second appearance, however, he does not come in the flesh, for he does not come again to sacrifice his flesh, since that flesh was sacrificed at his first appearing, and offered to God after Jesus ascended into heaven. — Hebrews 9:28; 10:10; 26; 1 Peter 3:18.
Quote from Adam Rutherford:
The translation of the Greek word astrape by “lightning” in Matthew 24:27, Luke 17:24 in our English Bibles is misleading and is partly responsible for wrong conclusions regarding the manner of the Second Advent. It is true that astrape means “lightning” but it also has a wider meaning. Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon gives the meaning of astrape in New Testament Greek as “any bright light”. Jesus Himself, as recorded in Luke 11:36 speaks of “the bright shining (astrape) of a lamp”. The same Greek word is used again in Our Lord’s Great Prophecy of Matthew 24, where in verse 27 He speaks of a bright light “coming forth from the east and shining even unto the west”. There is only one bright light that does this, namely the sun (moonlight is faint and the starlight is small). So the correct translation of Matthew 24:27 is “For as the sunlight (astrape) cometh forth from the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the presence (parousia) of the Son of man be.” Only those who are awake and watching see the first gleams of light and watch the increasing light and dawn, whilst later when the sun rises in the sky and moves over to the west, it is observed by all. So likewise, only those awake to the signs of the times and watching discern the Lord’s presence in the early days of the Second Advent, whilst later, when He manifests Himself, “every eye shall see Him”, for His parousia, i.e. His presence continues throughout the Millennium. (Pyramidology, Book IV, 1972, page 1487)
Related Pages Online
We do not necessarily agree with all statements made.
Signs of Christ’s Presence: Bright Shining Sun
As The Lightning Cometh
Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, December 1956.
The Appearing and Revealment of Jesus Christ
The Promise of His Presence
Herald of Christ’s Presence (booklet)
Messiah’s Kingdom To Be Invisible
Zion’s Watch Tower, Reprints 5455.
Sign’s of Christ’s Presence
Beauties of the Truth, February 1992
Parousia (Discourse by Home Montague, Agawam Convention, 2009 – MP3)