Coming on Clouds

Next, Jesus takes us beyond the destruction of the Temple to the return of the “Son of Man.” How much time will pass between the Temple’s demise and his arrival is not provided. But during the interim, the church must beware of deceivers who disseminate false information about his coming.

When Jesus does arrive, there will be no mistaking the event. It will be accompanied by celestial upheaval, and the entire world will witness his appearance (“all the tribes of the earth”).

  • (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.


And then” (kai tote). In the discourse, this Greek adverb commonly rendered “then” marks a change in the subject matter. Here, the discussion moves to matters that will occur after the events connected to the “Abomination of Desolation.”

At that time, “there will arise false Christs and false prophets and 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 preceding passage, the two Greek words rendered “signs and wonders” match those found on the lips of Jesus here (semeia kai terata).

And while Jesus labels them “false prophets,” nowhere does he stipulate that their miracles are not genuine. Like Moses, Jesus forewarns 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.” This is the same clause employed at the start of the discourse when Jesus warned about coming “deceivers” who will come in his name. Now, the “deceivers” are identified as “false prophets and false christs” that propagate false information about his return.

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 the “day of the Lord” 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 is present, the stress is on the salvation of the “elect” – “He will send forth the angels and will gather together his elect.” Elsewhere, the New Testament applies the term “elect” to the faithful followers of Jesus – (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).

The stars will be falling 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 his arrival. The description suggests the irruption into the present order of an entirely new order, the new creation.

They see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” This statement alludes to a key 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.

In Daniel, the “Son of Man” is “coming” to receive his “everlasting kingdom,” a realm that includes men from “all the nations.”  In the ‘Olivet Discourse,’ he arrives “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.”

In this context, the pronoun “they” refers to the opponents of the “elect,” including the “false prophets” and “false messiahs” who attempt to deceive them. Thus, that day will mean the judgment of deceivers and of the persecutors of the saints, but also the deliverance of the “elect” - (Isaiah 60:1-3, 14, Revelation 3:9-10).

He will gather together his elect from the uttermost part of the earth.” The language reflects promises from 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.”

Thus, Jesus applies the language of gathering the remnant of Israel out of the nations to his disciples or “elect” whom he will gather when he arrives “on the clouds.” As to “where” he will gather them, the passage does not say, but logically, he will gather them to himself wherever that is.

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