The saving invisibility – the Mystery of emergency solutions

by Will Cook


"Today one of my readers quit again. Nelson Barbour, the editor of the publication "Herald of the Morning", "Herold des Morgens", looked at his new partner worriedly. "If things go on like this, it will be financially difficult."

The new partner mentioned, Charles Taze Russell, shared the concerns of his Adventist partner. Russell had met Nelson H. Barbour, the editor of the paper, in 1876, after he had received a copy of his organ of communication during a train journey in January of that year. He had apparently recognized a kindred spirit in the Adventist Barbour and had joined forces with him without further ado, since he shared his fundamental view of the return of the Redeemer.

Barbour and his associate Paton were "burnt children" and were in a crisis of faith, as was the young "pastor" Russell, because of the end-time proclamation they preached and failed for the year 1874. For years they had preached and long after they had written that the second coming of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ was to be expected in 1874.

"Since October 1874 our Lord, the called King, is again present, for so it testifies the prophetic word, and he who has ears to hear hears it. Since April 1878 he has drawn his royal power to himself ..." (Charles Taze Russell, Studies of Scripture Vol. 4, The War of Armageddon, 1886, German edition 1926, p. 496)

But in fact nothing had happened and now they were trying together to find an explanation for the absence of their so hopefully expected event. They bravely tried to convince themselves that their theory for 1874 could not have been so fundamentally wrong.

"I think we must hold fast to the fact that the 2520 years since King Nebuchadnezzar and thus the foretold times of the nations expired in 1874 and our Lord Jesus Christ then took over his dominion, " Charles replied. "A mistake is excluded." "But then how shall this have happened and proceeded? I mean, none of us noticed anything... Nelson seemed to have his sorrows written all over his face. "And above all, how shall we explain this to our readers?"

At this point also the so eloquent "pastor" did not know further and their common insecurity lasted for some time. Until one day Nelson surprisingly visited his partner. Radiant with joy, he swung a letter in his hand, which he laid triumphantly on Charles' table.

"That's it, that's the solution", he announced. "How am I to understand that?" Charles could not share the enthusiasm of his visitor. "One of our readers, a B.W. Keith, wrote to us and told us that the word "parousia" used in the Greek scriptures means "present". A form of a Lord's continuing return," Barbour told him. A continuous return, the Parousia, Barbour said, must logically have taken place invisibly to human eyes, even if the Lord's actual presence is obviously invisible.

That also convinced Russell and that would finally be the key Barbour, Paton and he had been looking for in vain so far. Thus the explanatory model of invisibility was born. Together with Barbour and Paton, Russell developed Keith's idea further and so formulated their theory of the invisible return and continued invisible presence of the Lord in 1874. This allowed them to explain to the astonished world that they had been right in their original prophecy.

The "invisible return and presence of Christ" initially remained their common word until Russell adopted it alone for his publications and, after his separation from the Adventists, made it an integral part of the teachings of the Watchtower Society, which has remained the case to this day.


So or so it must have been when the Watchtower model of "saving invisibility" was born. Russell was a connoisseur of human nature and knew how to use qualities such as vanity, addiction and opportunism for his own purposes.

Hardly anyone would like to come out as a doubter if he admits that he lacks conviction and has difficulty believing in the invisible presence of our Lord and Savior. Especially since he had told his disciples something completely different about his Second Coming.

But Russell knew his Andersen – the fraudulent tailors could not only convince the court and the emperor himself of the splendour of his invisible clothes. And the people did not want to embarrass themselves with the fact that they lacked the intelligence to see the magnificent robes.

Until – yes, until an innocent child came along and honestly said what he saw, namely nothing.

Only a naked emperor ...


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