Coming in the Clouds ( part 1)

Then They Will See (a sign)

home130 then will appear the sign of the Son of man 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; 31 and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matt. 24:30-31

26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  27 And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. Mark 13:26-27

27 And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:27-28

In this passage it is very important to keep the context in mind. Matthew states that there will be a sign, and angels will trumpet loudly to gather the elect. Mark states that the elect will be gathered from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. Luke says when “these things take place,” look up for your redemption is near.

It has an immediate sense of the Second Coming, a final redemption for the Elect of God. Some believers consider this a “rapture” passage. But, that is not the subject of Matthew 24.

Our passages must remain within the context of the Olivet Discourse.  And, they are all similar in their wording. Gathering the elect (to safety) and raising your heads because (your safety) is near, are both phrases invoking heavenly actions to protect the elect. That understanding will keep us squarely in context.

Redemption is the greek word polutrosis it means to free or liberate a slave or servant. [c.f. Luke 2:28, Eph 1:7] All Israel was to be liberated from the temple sacrificial or cerimonial law.

There is no language is this passage that propels us to a distant future. Quite the contrary. This was to happen within a generation, or about 40 years.

So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place.  Luke 21:31-32 

[Editor note: notice that the Lord said this generation – to those listening to Him]

Prophetic language is often metaphorical and should never be confused with historical narative. The coming in the clouds is symbolic language which the next post will address. Here, the elect will be gathered by the angels to an unnamed place or situation made possible by the commands of heaven. We are not told where they are going, this sounds vague and rather spiritual.

There is also no language in these passages which states that the elect will be with the Lord forever. There is no rapture here. This is not about the Second Coming, or the Lord’s Return.

Sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples are still listening to the Lord describe the signs relating to the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. They are told it will bring about the end of the Jewish age, and  begin a kingdom age that is given to “another.”

Disciples

New Testament passages support the idea that not only the elect would see this, but also some of the disciples would see it themselves.

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” Matt. 16:28

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Mark 9:1

Ruling Elders

Messiah also told Caiaphas (as a symbol representing the Sanhedrin) that he (they) would “see it.” What the ruling Elders of Israel would see, is the  power of Heaven taking the kingdom from them.

Jesus said to him,(i.e. the high priest, Caiaphas) “You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matt. 26:64

FYI: Epiphanius (ca. 315-403) commented on the Nazoraioi (Nazarenes), said to be descendants of those Jerusalem believers who fled to Pella before the destruction of the city in A.D. 70.

The Elect

Keeping in the context of the prophecy on the mount of Olives, the elect will be safely taken out of harms’ way. Because of these warnings, believers knew to look for the armies surrounding Jerusalem as a sign to leave before the coming onslaught. And, that is exactly what history records; they left for Petra, Jordan.

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Luke 21:20

. . . then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; Matt. 24:16

. . . for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written. Luke 21:22

This is just a simple warning, that to stay alive, they must pay attention to the signs of the times. History does in fact record just such vigilance on the part of the early church. They did leave Jerusalem just ahead of the Roman armies. They went across the Jordan and settled in the region around Pella.

Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire. These mysterious prophecies had pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, with the usual blindness of ambition, had interpreted these mighty destinies of themselves, and could not be brought even by disasters to believe the truth. I have heard that the total number of the besieged, of every age and both sexes, amounted to six hundred thousand. All who were able bore arms, and a number, more than proportionate to the population, had the courage to do so. Men and women showed equal resolution, and life seemed more terrible than death, if they were to be forced to leave their country. Such was this city and nation; and Titus Caesar, seeing that the position forbad an assault or any of the more rapid operations of war, determined to proceed by earthworks and covered approaches. The legions had their respective duties assigned to them, and there was a cessation from fighting, till all the inventions, used in ancient warfare, or devised by modern ingenuity for the reduction of cities, were constructed. Tacitus Book 5

What Will They “See?”

There is a “and then they will see,” in each of our passages. After all of the birthpangs of the wars, famines, earthquakes, false Messiahs, etc., then they will see a sign. And that sign is the Son of Man coming in power to accomplish all He said He would do to bring about His kingdom. The sign is used here in a symbolic sense.

Heaven and the angels themselves would be involved in protecting the elect by making an escape before the armies destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Petra was the record of that fulfillment.

Messiah also clearly linked the temple’s end to ushering in His kingdom.  The elect will be “gathered” from all parts of the earth and heaven to be His body. The universal Church is the evidence of that fulfillment.

The power of the Lord brought about the end of the Mosaic Age through the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and gave birth to a new and everlasting kingdom, the Messianic Age.

 

See Also: The Son of Man coming on the Clouds of Heaven (part 2)