Some 30 years ago, my wife and our
youngest daughter were playing in
It was a rather large back yard, and
one of the features that sold us on
We we looking for plenty of room for
our three children to play without
wandering into the streets. Then
one afternoon, while playing in the
backyard, we heard this loud boom from what sounded like an explosion. The next thing we saw was a ball of fire and objects falling from the sky.
Our daughter terrified with fear, began to cry. While my wife’s motherly instinct overcame my curiosity of what had happened, she ran straight for my daughter, grabbed her, lifted her in her arms and headed for the house.
We initially thought that the world was coming to an end and that it might have been Christ coming on the clouds. It was not. Rather, two airplanes had collided in mid-air, a smaller plane in which a new pilot was learning to fly with a larger jet.
Although that was an alarming false alarm, the question remains, Is Christ coming on the clouds? many would answer yes. They are looking for an experience similar to the one we experienced with the Lord descending from heaven in a cloud.
Cloud Symbols in the Old Testament
To answer this question, consider the use of clouds in the apocalyptic language of the Old Testament. To the Jewish mind, trained in the genre of Old Testament literature, they would not be inclined to look to the sky for passages that mentioned God coming on the clouds.
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night,
He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.” (Ex. 13:21, 22)
When the Egyptians pursued Israel, God looked down upon their army through the pillar of fire and the cloud (14:24). See how God’s presence in the cloud leaves the tabernacle after Israel sins and only returns as Moses goes in and out. (Ex. 33:9)
Finally after Israel is restored to fellowship, God’s presence in the cloud returns to them to lead them on their way. (Ex. 40:34–38).
God’s Presence in Clouds as Judgments Upon Nations.
Later in Israel’s history and as a result of the spectacular events during the Exodus, Israel came to understand God’s presence in the clouds as judgments upon nations of disfavor.
When God sought to destroy Pharaoh Necho’s Egypt through Nebuchadnezzar, he speaks of coming in the clouds.
The burden against Egypt, behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst. (Isaiah 19:1)
David, the Psalmist describes God coming on clouds to deliver him from the hands of Saul.
He made darkness his secret place; His canopy around Him as dark waters and think clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him His thick clouds passed with hail stones and coals of fire. (Psa. 18:11)
The Minor Prophets and the Cloud Comings of God
God comes against Jerusalem, in the Chaldean (Babylonian Invasion in the 6th century BC, Joel 2:2; Zephaniah 1:15
Daniel: The Coming of the Son of Man in the Clouds
Perhaps the most notable text in the Old Testament which speaks of God coming in the clouds is found in Daniel 7:13.
This text is noteworthy because it is a reference to the Messiah coming in the clouds to execute judgment in the last days. It is the verse from which all N.T. references draw upon as their source for “coming on the clouds” passages.
Particularly are Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:11; and Rev. 1:7; 14:14. All these references have Daniel 7:13, as their background. They are all apocalyptic references to Christ’s in judgment upon his enemies and presence among his people.
The idea is drawn from the Exodus and interestingly so, as the second coming is a type of Exodus. (See Hebrews 3–12).
Christ’s coming on the clouds would happen within his own generation. “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” (Matt. 24:34)
Thus, each time the text appears in the N.T., it is always a reference to Christ’s coming or presence in judgment upon Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, just as God had come upon Egypt in the and Jerusalem in the past.
Whether it is in his promise to come within the lifetime of Caiaphas the High Priest, or to the disciples at his ascension, all is governed by the statement of imminence within the first century generation.
We should not look to the literal skies to see Christ descending from a cloud in glory. Rather we should see his presence as revealed to us in the N.T. through his coming in judgment upon the world at the time Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.
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