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

30 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

The disciples clearly connected His coming in the clouds with the judgment that would cause the close of the age, a.k.a. temple worship, or Jewish polity. They were thinking about the judgment on the Jewish age and people, and believed that the two would be the same event.

3   As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” Matthew 24:3

The Olivet Discourse began with the disciples admiring the beauty of the temple, and ending with Messiah speaking about the destruction that was to end one age and begin another. To be sure, when the disciples heard that Messiah was coming they did not think it was good tidings of great joy for the city. They understood, in the context of the destruction of the Temple, the term meant judgement.

Coming on the Clouds

Coming on the clouds of heaven is a common theme in the Old Testament.  The language is a figure of speech for either God’s presence, or His actions bringing about judgement. The disciples would know it well, and they used it in their writings. Such a phrase is called a polysyndeton.

And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:  Mark 4:2

And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; Mark 4:10-11

The power of God to make Himself “seen” to those on the earth, is often written as coming, coming in the clouds, or coming from above. It is a literary devise; that is figurative, a parable or comparison that indicates the sovereign power of God.

In the clouds is a term used when God is actively affecting the lives of men and their kingdoms. [Ex 16:10; Ps 104:3; Isa 19:1-2; Dan 7:13]

Other passages where God came in the clouds: Ex 19:9; 34:5; Ps 18:9-12; Jer 4:13-14; Ezek 30:3-4, 18-19; Joel 2:1-2; Nahum 1:3; Zeph 1:14-15; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Rev 1:7; 14:14


The word translated in this passage as “coming” is echomai, it means to move from one place to another, either coming or going, to relocate. It does not convey the idea of the Son of Man being seen in a literal sense, but a figurative presence.

God’s presence was shown in a pillar of cloud as the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years; also in the shekinah glory in the tabernacle.

21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; 22 the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.  Ex. 13:21-22 

. . . and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Lev. 16:2

In other instances, clouds are meant to impart their uncontrollable nature as to the swiftness of the judgement of the Lord.  Just as we have no control over the forces of nature, neither do we control the judgment of the Lord.

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. Is. 19:1 

The LORD is slow to anger and of great might, 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. Nah. 1:3


There are quite a few words in the Greek Bible that are translated into  English as “coming.” Passages that are about the return of the Lord use the word parousia, which means arrival, advent, or being literally present. But, over the centuries the church has become lackadaisical and uses the term Second Coming, a phrase that is not in the Greek.

This allows the average reader to make the mistake that coming, in any passage about the Lord, means the Second Coming. However, this is not the same as the coming in the Olivet Discourse.

FYI: In Hellenistic Greek it (parousia) was used for the arrival of a ruler at a place, as is evidenced by inscriptions in Egypt, Asia Minor, etc. Indeed, in an Epidaurus inscription of the 3rd century BC (Dittenberger, Sylloge (2), Number 803, 34), “Parousia” is applied to a manifestation of Aesculapius. from Burton Scott Easton

Verses with Parousia

But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1Cor. 15:23

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 1Th. 2:19

. . . so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 1Th. 3:13

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1Th. 4:15

May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Th. 5:23

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, 2Th. 2:1

8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, 2Th. 2:8-9

7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2Pet. 1:16  

. . . and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2Pet. 3:4

. . . waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! 2Pet. 3:12

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 1John 2:28  

Not all the comings are used in a strict interpretation. The visible return of the Son of Man on a cloud is literal, but, uses echoai (presence) for His coming back.

. . . 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 1:11 

Verses that use parousia (visible appearance) are about the Lord’s return, with one exception, and that would be the revealing of the lawless one in 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. 2Th. 2:8

The Olivet Discourse is about the Son of Man coming in judgement to destroy Jerusalem and the sacrificial system. His coming should not be confused with the verses that are about His return. Although we cannot be dogmatic about the use of the two comings in every instance, it is the context that is the most helpful to determine the usage.


See Also: Coming in the Clouds ( part 1)

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