Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Glorious Cloud Coming of Christ

In many places the Bible speaks of God “coming in” or “on the clouds”. This language is also used many places concerning Christ. But what does it mean & does it always mean the same thing?
Some of the verses that mention clouds being associated with God are as follows:

Exodus 13:21
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. (see also: Exodus 13:22, Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:20, Exodus 14:24)
Exodus 16:10
Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
Exodus 19:9
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.” So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. (see also: Exodus 19:16, Exodus 33:9, Exodus 33:10, Exodus 34:5, Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35, Exodus 40:38)
Leviticus 16:2
and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. (see also: Numbers 9:15, Numbers 10:34, Numbers 11:25, Numbers 12:5, Numbers 14:14, Numbers 16:42, Deuteronomy 31:15, Deuteronomy 33:26, 1 Kings 8:11, 1 Kings 8:12, 2 Chronicles 5:14, 2 Chronicles 6:1)

In the Old Testament, most of the time when God is mentioned with, in, or on cloud(s), it is NOT in judgment but rather in glory. This is one reason this manifestation of God is often called the “Glory Cloud” or “Shekinah Glory” (see: The cloud comings of God were primarily manifestations of His glory, His awesomeness – not His judgment. (see references of glory & cloud:

Perhaps the first place we see God’s judgment associated with a cloud coming is in Isaiah.
Isaiah 19:1
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.
There is otherwise very few O.T. references of God coming in judgment with, on, or in cloud(s).
Perhaps the first transitional text showing Christ taking up the mantle of a “cloud coming” is found in Daniel 7:13 & here too it is NOT in judgment but in glory or manifestation of His position.

Daniel 7:13
“ I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him.
Notice that this verse ISN’T speaking of Jesus coming back to earth, but rather it is about Him going before the Ancient of Days, the Father, God. And it is not, as we’ll see from some more verses only about Christ’s Ascension – it is about Him being glorified as God.
Perhaps the first New Testament usage of God being manifested in or by cloud(s) is found here:

Matthew 17:5
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (see also: Mark 9:7, Luke 9:34, Luke 9:35)
Again, notice it isn’t about judgment but rather about bestowing honor & glory on Christ.
Perhaps the first N.T. reference of just Christ & a “cloud coming” is found here:
Matthew 24:30
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (see also: Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27)
If you recall, the entire context (Matthew 24:29-31) is of what happens immediately AFTER the Tribulation. Now, the problem is, since about the late 1800s, dispensational theology has ingrained it into people, including Christians that the “Great Tribulation” is something in the future that will happen right before or after a “rapture” or taking away of all Christians. This is NOT how historic Christianity has viewed this passage. Matthew 24, as with the parallel chapters Mk 13 & Lk 21 do primarily address the events of the first century including the destruction of Jerusalem & the Jewish Temple. However, Matthew 24:30 STILL is not a verse about judgment, nor is it a verse about Jesus coming back. Matthew 24:30 & Dan 7:13 should be understood in connection with Matthew 26:64 (the next verse about Christ coming on the clouds).
Matthew 26:64
Jesus said to him [the High Priest], “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (see also: Mark 14:62)
Notice as with Dan 7:13, Jesus ISN’T depicted as coming to earth but rather as being with the Father. Again, this is not ONLY about Christ’s Ascension but also about His glory, His honor, His vindication, His authority, and His position.
Perhaps the most well-known cloud association with Christ is found in Acts 1:19.
Acts 1:9
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
There is nothing in this event to indicate this cloud was any thing but a natural cloud that eventually obscured the disciples’ view of Christ as He ascended. This cloud event does NOT appear to be such as the others, a Glory Cloud. So, when we read in Acts 1:11 that Christ will “come in like manner”, we need not to associate it with clouds.
Acts 1:11
who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
The question debated is what does “like manner” mean? Does it mean He will come as visibly as He went or that He would come with the same supernatural manner (not necessarily floating down, but with the same pomp). At any rate, it seems inappropriate to associate this specifically with the prior mentions of Christ’s cloud comings, since those were clearly revelatory of His glory & most often spoke of His coming before God, not back to earth.
The next reference to Christ in association with clouds is found in the passage often cited by dispensationalists as the “rapture” verse.
1 Thessalonians 4:17
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Again, this cloud reference doesn’t appear to be a Glory Cloud event as it mentions “air”, thus making it appear to be natural clouds. What this verse refers to is beyond the scope & focus of this article but I will write upon it sometime in the future.
Perhaps the most cited cloud-coming verse is Revelation 1:7
Revelation 1:7
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Even this verse need not be understood as COMING BACK as much as it is a testament of His vindication – that it would be obvious this Jesus guy wasn’t just some pretender, some fake prophet, but that He is glorified & honored & vindicated as the Messiah He claimed to be would become apparent. This is perhaps the reason this verse specifies “even they who pierced Him”.
All of these cloud-coming verses & hardly any speak of coming in judgment.
Maybe the first verse that seems to indicate a coming to earth is found in Revelation 10:1.
Revelation 10:1
I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.
But when the context (Revelation 10:1-3) is viewed, you can see it is not Christ but an angel coming to John in a vision.
The next verse associated with a cloud-coming of Christ is Revelation 14:14
Revelation 14:14
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. (see also: Revelation 14:15, Revelation 14:16)
Here we see Christ depicted as a great harvester, bringing in a crop. Again, there is no directional indication of “coming back”. The cloud reference is more one of position and authority.


Against contemporary interpretation, the majority of the cloud-comings of the Bible are NOT references of judgment but more of positional honor, glory, & authority. This article is not attempting to interact with eschatological details beyond the fact that the glorious cloud comings of Christ are more about vindicating Him as the Messiah, Lord & God rather than trying to depict Him as coming back (see example of people questioning Jesus’ authority: Matthew 21:23). This however does not negate an eventual culminating factor seen in the plan of God, which is already & not yet completed. This is in no way a contradiction, as we can see all over the N.T. both Jesus & the apostles speaking of things as if they are & are yet to be. (example: John 11:24-26)

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