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Coming With the Clouds (Revelation 1:7)

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

Jesus Ascending to Heaven

John Singleton Copley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

John Singleton Copley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

— Revelation 1:7, ESV

The One Who Rides On Clouds

Several ancient Middle Eastern communities believed Baal was the lord of the heavens who rode on the clouds. However, according to the Bible, only Yahweh (HaShem) is God in Heaven and on Earth (Deuteronomy 4:39). Consequently, HaShem is often depicted as transporting Himself on clouds.

Isaiah presents HaShem as a conqueror riding the clouds to battle against the gods of Egypt as if the clouds were His chariots (Isaiah 19:1). The book of Psalms depicts HaShem dressed in light, having built His chamber on the seas, and riding both the wind and the couds (Psalm 104:1-4).

Moreover, Nahum says the clouds are the dust of HaShem's feet when He moves against His enemies (Nahum 1:3).

Now, these depictions of HaShem on clouds are figurative langauge used to describe the character of HaShem's actions, but the writers did not necessarily mean that God literally used physical couds as his chariot.

When David states that God had hidden himself in clouds to battle on his behalf (2 Samuel 22:12, Psalm 18:11), it is doubtul that David thought God had done this in a literal sense. David did not see HaShem taking hiding Himself in the clouds and literally fighting against David's enemies (that's not something that is found in the Bible).

So then, much of this language about clouds is figurative (or, spiritual).

He Manifested Himself through Clouds

Nevertheless, there are passages in the Bible that indicated HaShem did literally ride on clouds, or at least used them to manifest His presence.

HaShem rode in a pillar of cloud (cloud by day, fire by night) to guide Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). HaShem also looked upon the Egyptian armies from the pillar of cloud to savotage their charriots (Exodus 14:24).

HaShem descended in a cloud upon the mountain (Exodus 19:9, 16), and He spoke to Moses from the cloud (Exodus 24:16). Even when HaShem caused His glory to pass before Moses, He again descended in a cloud (Exodus 34:5).

Moreover, when the tabernacle of congregation was completed, HaShem's glory entered the tabernacle after a cloud settled on the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). Also, in the tabernacle, God used to appear in a cloud on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant (Leviticus 16:2). And, a cloud filled Solomon's temple after it was dedicaged (1 Kings 8:10-11).

Even when God spoke to Job from the whirlwind (Job 38:1, 40:6), it is likely that God was not speaking to Job from a naturally-occurring tornado of wind and dust, but from a supernaturally occurring whirlwind made of cloud, like the pillar of cloud that guided Israel through the wilderness, or like the cloud seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:4). It may even be that Elijah was caught up by one such whirlwind of cloud (2 Kings 2:11).

So then, the poetic language in many biblical passages is based on literal events.

Who Is Coming with The Clouds?

Now, when Revelation 1:7 indicates that "He" is coming with the clouds, the reader should not immediately assume the verse to be speaking about Jesus, the Christ. Revelation 1:7 is found between two references to HaShem (God the Father, see 1:6) as "the one who is, who was, and who is to come" (Revelation 1:4 and 1:8). So then, the one who comes is not Jesus, but God the Father (at least, thus far in the book).

The idea that it is God the Father who comes is reinforced since Revelation 1:8 also says: "and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him" (Revelatin 1:7, ESV). This statement is clearly taken from Zechariah 12:10, where it was not Jesus who was pierced, but God the Father: not on the cross, but by Israel's treason (through rejection and idolatry).

What Revelation Is Really About

If we accept that the one who is coming, thus far in Revelation, is God the Father; and, if we accet that the one who was pierced is also God the Father; then, the theme of the book of Revelation is perhaps, not the second coming of Jesus Christ, but how God the Father returns to save Israel, in fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10.

However, it is understandable why the Christian reader seeks to somehow relate Revelation 1:7 to Jesus.

Do You Rember The Son of Man?

In Revelation 1:12, just five verses after 1:7, John sees "one like a son of man." And, as I explained in this other article, this is a reference to both the one like a son of man in Daniel 7:13 and the resurrected Jesus Christ. In other words, Revelation is teaching that Jesus Christ, who appeared to John, is the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13—the Messiah!

A most fascinating fact about the One Like a Son of Man in Daniel 7:13 is that he came before God the Father (the Ancient of Days) with the clouds of heaven. The One Like a Son of Man does something that only HaShem has done in all the Hebrew Bible: ride on clouds.

Consider how great this Son of Man is. For, whereas Moses went into the cloud on the mountain to speak with God since Moses was only a man (Exodus 24:18), the One Like a Son of Man came before the Ancient of Days with the clouds of heaven, showing that the One Like a Son of Man is also divine.

Jesus and The Clouds

And, because Jesus is the One Like a Son of Man, he was transfigured to reveal to the disciples that he is the One Like a Son of Man (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2, Luke 9:29), as the voice of God testified to them; but Moses covered his face because the glory was God's, and not his own (Exodus 34:29-33).

Moreover, a cloud overshadowed the disciples. Surely they understood that, if Jesus was surrounded by a cloud and God called him His Son, Jesus was the One Like a Son of Man.

But, if that had not been enough, would they not have understood who Jesus really is when they saw him ascend to heaven in a cloud to sit at God's right? (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9).

Moreover, the Lord had told them many times that he would return with the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30, 26:64, Mark 13:26, 14:62, Luke 21:27).

And Paul also taught that, when the Lord returns for his own, we will all be caught up in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Thus, Jesus is somehow related wiht the Father's coming in clouds. But, how?

The answer may be found in Matthew 26:64.

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

— Matthew 24:64

The Power and Authority of The Son

That Jesus sits at the right hand of Power means that he reigns on God's behalf. In other words, God reigns through Jesus (the One Like a Son of Man, the Messiah). The actions of Jesus are the actions of God (John 5:19).

Jesus explained that God the Father has committed all judgement unto him (John 5:22) because Jesus is the Son of Man (John 5:27).

So then, it seems logical to conclude that, when God the Father comes in the clouds to save Israel, He will do so through Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisble God, the visible light of God's glory (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, in the end, the book of Revelation says, "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).

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© 2022 Marcelo Carcach