Behold, he is coming with the clouds
Writer: Vassilis Zafeiroglou (September 25, 2018, Greece)
Biblical references from: ASV, ESV, AKJV and others if they fit better with the Grk txt
The Ascension of the Lord Jesus into the cloud
We know that, according to the scriptures, Jesus appeared to Cephas after His resurrection, then to the twelve, then to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, then to James, then to all the apostles, and after his ascension, he appeared to the apostle Paul, and so all of them became eyewitnesses of His resurrection. The elected apostles and servants of the divine word not only did they see Jesus for forty days after his resurrection, but they also saw him ascending to heaven "in a cloud." (Luke 1:2, 1 Corinthians 15:4-8)
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3)
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
Through the words of the angel, who spoke to them using the terminology of the prophets, just like Jesus did, a very important piece of information emerged about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, which concerned the generation of the apostles:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (namely, in a cloud).
The importance of the cloud
For the Jewish disciples, the angel's words were of particular importance. Besides, they had also heard the same words from Jesus. The command they received to testify the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and in far countries, involved persecutions, mockeries, losses, imprisonments, sorrows, and all kinds of plots by Jews who were deniers of God's grace. Jesus' promise was that they would receive power from above throughout their testimony, and after the completion of their work he would come to reward them and take vengeance on those who refused their testimony and saddened them. The apostle Paul confirms:
“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (2 Thess. 1:6-9)
The consequences of the Second Coming "in a cloud" for those who expected the Savior Jesus to come would be different from the consequences for the denying Jews who saddened them.
Jesus, having placed the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans as a sign of his presence "in a cloud," said to them:
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near.” (Luk. 21:27-28)
Very clearly, the word of God proclaims that Jesus Christ would come for the Second Time "in a cloud" during the lifespan of some of Jesus' disciples. In fact, the disciples wouldn't have managed to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all the cities of Israel before the second coming of Jesus.
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Truly I say to you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Mat. 16:27-28)
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will whip you in their synagogues;” (Mat. 10:16-17)
“But when they persecute you in this city, flee you into another: for truly I say to you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” (Mat. 10:23)
When God poured his wrath upon a people or a man, he came against them/him with clouds
We will see below how the prophets of the Old Testament illustrated the wrath that God sent against every man and people that didn't keep His commandments, with clouds upon which God rode.
“A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength …. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” (Psalms 18:1-19)
From the words of the above psalm, the parabolic speech used by the psalmist-prophet to show how the destruction of his enemies would come from the glorious arm of the Lord is very evident. God used "the clouds" in a parabolic way to fulfill His purpose.
The Lord took revenge on King Saul "flying upon the wings of the wind." The Lord used "thick clouds of the skies." At the brightness [that was] before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
Those who study the Word of God know that the wrath of the Lord against Saul came with the Philistine army. In short, the enemies of the Israeli people and of Saul came like "thick clouds of the skies" to bring destruction to the disobedient and impious king.
Similarly, in the following psalm, it seems that the judgment of God, which came with "clouds that poured out water" against the Pharaoh of Egypt through Moses, originates from the omnipresence and omnipotence of God.
“You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. — Selah
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Psalms 77:14-20)
“And we cried aloud to the Lord; and he put a cloud and darkness between us and the Egyptians, and he brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in the land of Egypt; and ye were in the wilderness many days.” (Josh. 24:7, LXXE)
Jeremiah, prophesying about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem in his days, likens it to "a dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people," which "would come up as a cloud" and as a "whirlwind."
“Behold, he shall come up as a cloud, and his chariots as a tempest: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are in misery. Cleanse thine heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved: how long will thy grievous thoughts be within thee? For a voice of one publishing from Dan shall come, and trouble out of mount Ephraim shall be heard of.” (Jer. 4:13-15, LXXE)
When God wanted to warn a people or a kingdom of His upcoming correction through another people, he presented the attacking people as a cloud.
“THE VISION OF EGYPT. Behold, the Lord sits on a swift cloud, and shall come to Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and their heart shall faint within them. And the Egyptians shall be stirred up against the Egyptians: and a man shall fight against his brother, and a man against his neighbor, city against city, and law against law.” (Is. 19:1-2)
“At Tehaphnehes the day shall be dark, when I break there the yoke bars of Egypt, and her proud might shall come to an end in her; she shall be covered by a cloud, and her daughters shall go into captivity.
Thus I will execute judgments on Egypt. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” (EZ. 30:18-19)
Indeed, the final destruction and fall of Egypt by the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, occurred in 572 BC.
“An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet …….. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.” (Nahum 1:1-8)
Apart from his wrath upon the impious ones, God also pours his blessing upon his beloved ones through his clouds
“Let the heaven rejoice from above, and let the clouds rain righteousness: let the earth bring forth, and blossom [with] mercy, and bring forth righteousness likewise: I am the Lord that created thee.”
(Is. 45:8, LXXE)
“Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out. For he makes small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distil on man abundantly. Also can any understand the spreading of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle? Behold, he spreads his light on it, and covers the bottom of the sea. For by them judges he the people; he gives meat in abundance. With clouds he covers the light; and commands it not to shine by the cloud that comes between. The noise thereof shows concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapor.” (Job 36:29-33)
“Out of the south comes the whirlwind: and cold out of the north. By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened. Also by watering he wearies the thick cloud: he scatters his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatever he commands them on the face of the world in the earth. He causes it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy. Listen to this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.” (Job 37:8-14)
It is very clear that God uses the celestial phenomena (clouds, lightning, thunder, rain, hail, cataclysm, storm, etc.) in a parabolic language to bring His wrath upon the impious and disobedient ones or His blessing upon His beloved ones.
The lamentations of Jeremiah
In his lamentations, Jeremiah foretells the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Someone could say that this image prefigured the great destruction that would come against the Jews of Jerusalem in the days of the Apostles.
“How has the LORD covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven to the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!” (Lam. 2:1)
The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goes before him, and burns up his enemies round about. His lightning enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.” (Ps. 97:1-6)
The last days of the reign, of the God-established biological people of Israel, and of the typical Judaism
Speaking of the last days of the reign, of the fleshly people of Israel and of the destruction of Jerusalem and of its Temple and of those who participated in the persecution of the First Church of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, the Lord proclaims:
Then Moses commanded them, saying: “Assemble unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death ye will in any wise deal corruptly, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the end of days; because ye will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him through the work of your hands.” (Deu. 31:28-29, Tanakh 1917, see also CPDV and Darby)
“Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.” (Deu. 32:43, LXXE see also ESV2011)
“In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, (the book of life) when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.” (Is. 4:2-4)
“The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the inhabitants of the world, that foe or enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem. This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous.” (Lam. 4:12)
“And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste. Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” (Rev. 18:19-20)
“And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” (Rev. 18:24)
In the last days of the apostles' generation, the disobedient Jews would unleash a terrible persecution against the believers of the true church of Jesus Christ with the help of the Romans. Indeed, in the last three and a half years of Nero's reign, from 64-68 AD, the worst until then persecution of Christians took place in Rome, motivated by the Jews of Rome with the help of his wife, Poppaea.
But the Romans who supported the Jews against the Christians would become the instrument of the annihilation of the entire renegade Jewish people by the Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
The servants of God, who were wise men, secretaries and prophets, proclaimed that the end of the spiritual Babylon was approaching, which was no other than the city "which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified," namely, the earthly Jerusalem at the time of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
“Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land (of Israel) tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.” (Joel 2:1-2)
“The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.” (Zeph. 1:14-16)
“Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation: Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven.” (Ps. 78:21-23)
No man, king, or people can compare to the power of God's judgment and wrath. The army, the chariots and the horses cannot be a point of bragging and arrogance even by the great empires, against the Omnipotence of God. That's why the psalmist in the following psalm wonders:
“For who in the heaven can be compared to the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD?” (Ps. 89:6)
Just who can overcome the power and sovereignty of the true God?
No one can see the kingdom of God unless "they are born again from above," and no one can enter the kingdom of God unless "they are born of water and the Spirit."
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit». (John 3:6)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the wonderful King who, after His crucifixion, burial and glorious Resurrection, becomes the Father of a New Nation and a Kingdom that will no longer be left to another king and people. All this would happen in the days of the fourth beast (i.e. in the days of the reign of Rome, Daniel 2:44-45). But during the consolidation of this Kingdom, the faithful heirs of this Kingdom should wait until the enemies of the Kingdom are crushed under the King's feet.
While the heavenly New Jerusalem was being built with "its spiritual children" in heaven, and until the completion of its construction, the fall and destruction of the earthly Jerusalem and "its fleshly children," who not only didn't accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Only Eternal and True King, but they also persecuted his church, were being announced. The inhabitants of the spiritual New Jerusalem, whose craftsman and creator is God, who is Spirit, are alive and cannot be shaken in the New World of God, unlike the Jerusalem below, which was built by human hands, and its inhabitants, who were shaken and perished at the rebuke of the Lord's countenance in 70 AD.
“It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Thy countenance.” (Ps. 80:16)
Thus, the written: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds (Rev. 1:7)” was fulfilled.
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