Coming on Clouds

After describing the destruction of the Temple, Jesus went on to the subject of his return. How much time would pass between the Temple’s demise and his arrival he did not say, but in the intervening period, he warned his disciples to steer clear of deceivers and “false prophets” who would disseminate false information about his coming.

When he does arrive, there will be no mistaking the event. It will be accompanied by celestial and terrestrial upheaval, the gathering of his people, the judgment of their enemies, and the entire world will witness his appearance (“All the tribes of the Earth”).

Clouds Dusk - Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash
[Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash]

  • (Mark 13:21-27) - “And then, if any man will say to you, Lo, here is the Christ; or, Lo, there; believe it not: for there will arise false Christs and false prophets, and will show signs and wonders, that they may deceive, if possible, the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have told you all things beforehand. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. And then will they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then will he send forth the angels and will gather his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

In the ‘Olivet Discourse’, the Greek adverb commonly translated into English as “then” marks a change in the subject matter (“And then” - kai tote). The discussion now moves to the subject of what will occur after the events connected to the “Abomination of Desolation.”

At that time, “there will arise false Christs and false prophets who will show signs and wonders.” The reference to “signs and wonders” echoes the instructions of Moses to Israel concerning false prophets:

  • (Deuteronomy 13:1-3) – “If there arise in the midst of you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass of which he spoke to you, saying, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them; you will not hearken to the words of that prophet.

In the Septuagint version of the passage, the two Greek words translated as “signs and wonders” match those found on the lips of Jesus (semeia kai terata). Like Moses, Jesus forewarned his disciples (“I have told you all things beforehand”). The goal of the “false prophets” is to mislead the “elect,” the people of God.

But take heed” is the same clause found at the start of the Discourse when Jesus warned of coming “deceivers” who would come in his name. He identified those “deceivers” as “false prophets and false anointed ones” who would propagate false information about his return.

When he does appear, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light.” The pictorial language echoes several Old Testament passages about the “Day of Yahweh.” The connection of his return to that day is common in the New Testament - (Joel 2:30-32, Isaiah 13:10, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Thessalonians 5:1-2, 2 Peter 3:3-12, Revelation 6:12-17).

While the element of judgment when he returns is present in his description, his priority was the salvation of the “elect” – “He will send forth the angels and will gather together his elect.” Elsewhere, the term “elect” is applied to his faithful followers – (Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, Colossians 3:12, 1 Timothy 5:21, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1, 2:4- 9).

COSMIC CHAOS


On that day, “the stars will fall from heaven.” Celestial upheaval is a common theme in prophecies about the “Day of the Lord.” Whether this is literal or metaphorical, it points to chaotic events that accompany rather than precede his arrival.

Then, “they see the Son of Man coming on clouds with great power and glory.” This statement alludes to a passage in the Book of Daniel applied frequently in the New Testament to the return of Jesus:

  • (Daniel 7:13-14) – “I saw in the night-visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away, and his kingdom that which will not be destroyed.

The “Son of Man” was “coming” in Daniel to receive his “everlasting kingdom,” a realm that included men from “all the nations.”  In the ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus as the “Son of Man” arrived “on the clouds” to gather his “elect” from the “uttermost parts of the Earth.”

Who are the “they” that will “see the Son of Man coming?” Previously, Jesus warned how “THEY will deliver you up to councils, and in synagogues you will be beaten,” “THEY will deliver you up” for trial and judgment, and “THEY will deceive, if possible, the elect.” The pronoun refers to the persecutors of the “elect,” including the “false prophets” and “false anointed ones” who attempted to deceive them.

That day will mean the judgment of deceivers and the persecutors of the saints, but also the deliverance of the “elect” - (Isaiah 60:1-3, 14, Revelation 3:9-10).

The description of how he will gather “his elect from the uttermost part of the earth” echoes a Messianic prophecy in the Book of Isaiah:

  • (Isaiah 11:1, 10-12) – “And there will come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit… And he will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

Jesus applied the language of gathering the remnant of Israel out of the nations to his disciples or “elect” whom he would gather when he arrived “on the clouds of Heaven.” As to “where” he will gather them, the passage does not say, but logically, it will be wherever he is.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Son of Man - (The one like a Son of Man in Daniel is the source of Christ’s self-designation as the Son of Man and his authority)
  • Day of Christ - (The return of Jesus will be the “Day of the Lord” when the dead are raised, the wicked are judged, and death will cease)
  • Final Events - (In explaining the future resurrection, Paul lists key events that will precede or coincide with the arrival of Jesus at the end of the age)

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