“Behold, he comes with clouds” (Rev. 1:7)
As we continue to consider the mysteries of Christ’s appearing, we arrive at His coming with clouds. Various times in scripture the cloud is mentioned in reference to unique spiritual events that surround the Lord’s appearing. God uses different aspects of nature to relay spiritual truths of which the cloud is one. The sun, moon, stars, lightning, rain, mountains, rivers, trees, oceans are a few of the numerous images used in the Bible.
Millions of Christians today understand biblical references to clouds as meaning literal clouds. And so the general assumption is that the Lord will come through the clouds in the atmosphere. However, such understanding is inconsistent with scripture. Jeremiah prophecies: “Behold, he shall come as clouds” (Jer. 4:13). In other instances we read that: “He comes with clouds” (Rev. 1:7), and “the Son of Man… coming in clouds” (Mar. 14:62). His coming AS clouds, WITH clouds, IN clouds should tell us that there is more to the matter that transcends the appearing of a man coming through natural clouds.
One of the initial events related to the cloud occurs during Israel’s exodus in the wilderness where they were led by a pillar of cloud. The cloud was evidence of God’s presence, protection and guidance through the unfamiliar terrains of the wilderness. It was a visible manifestation of the Lord to the children of Israel. For “the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud” (Exo. 13:21). The Lord appeared to Moses in a cloud atop Mount Horeb from which the Lord spoke to him. The Lord also descended in a cloud over the tabernacle. For we read: “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exo. 40:34). In all these events, it was the Lord Himself who appeared in the form of a cloud to show forth His glory.
It shouldn’t be contentious that the cloud was the visible manifestation of God’s glory. The omnipresent God who had always been among the children of Israel had revealed Himself making His presence visible in a cloud. As we read on in Israel’s history, we come to Solomon’s temple which was also covered with the glory of the Lord, so much so that “the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kin. 8:10-11). Thus, it should be clear that this was a supernatural cloud, for there was a weight, a majesty, a substance, a power, and an authority to the cloud which caused the priest to be unable to stand. The cloud wasn’t mere condensed water vapor it was the manifestation of the Lord. That’s why the cloud is synonymously mentioned with the glory. The cloud filling the house is thus identified as the glory filling the house.
So what are we to ascertain from this regarding the coming of the Lord? Are we to wait for a cloud of glory to descend, as it did in the days of Moses? There was a recent incident in a well-known American church where a cloud had appeared during the service. The incident has caused much debate.
Such events should not cause us to be moved for the Lord has ordained a more glorious manifestation that exceeds any external sign or wonder. In these last days, God has chosen another vessel which is to manifest His glory. Israel was baptized in the cloud of the former glory. Paul reminds us saying: “brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1-2).
What does Paul mean by being baptized into Moses in the cloud? Moses represents the law. Thus, Israel was baptized into the law and the glory of that ministration. But we have been baptized into the ministration of righteousness which is of greater glory. Paul affirms: “For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory” (2 Cor. 3:9).
This greater glory is the glory of the new covenant; where we have been made the righteousness of God having His laws and nature in our mind and written on our hearts. For the Lord has said: “I will dwell in them and walk in them” (2 Cor. 6:16). It is for this very cause that Jesus prayed: “the GLORY which You gave Me I have given them” (Joh. 17:22). Indeed the kingdom of God is within you and it does not come by observation (Luke 17:20-21). In light of these truths, where else should we expect His glory to be revealed?
It is a great tragedy that men look for His glory outside of themselves. Dear saint, you have been made a partaker of His glory and God is well pleased in this. He is now bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). For we, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from of glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).
A people are now being raised up through whom the Lord’s glory shall be seen by all of creation, for Isaiah prophesies: “the glory of the Lord is risen upon you… and His glory will be seen upon you” (Isa. 60:1, 2). Therefore, unlike the order of Old Testament, the manifestation of clouds is not in literal clouds but rather through His saints. We are the clouds that are to manifest His glory on the earth.
I tell you of a wonderful mystery hidden from many – the Lord has come in clouds, is now coming in clouds and will continue to come in clouds. Jesus said to all the chief priests, elders, and scribes assembled at His trial: “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Luk. 14:62). So did those in the Sanhedrin see the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven? If so, when and how?
They saw it in the day of Pentecost, for “suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…when the sound occurred, the multitude came together… everyone heard them speak in his own language…the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:2-3, 6, 11). That same Shekinah glory which filled Solomon’s temple had not only filled the house where the disciples gathered, but it had filled each of them.
The Lord who had been taken up and received by a cloud of God’s Shekinah glory had come back in like manner to fill a small cloud of 120 witnesses, endowing them with His life and glory until they eventually grew exceedingly in number. Of this cloud of witnesses we are each members. Is this not why God refers to His ministers as “CLOUD of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) while false ministers are referred to as: “CLOUDS without water” (Jude 1:12) and “CLOUDS carried away with a tempest” (2 Pet. 2:17)?
This is also why references to the cloud of the Lord’s glory changes from a singular ‘cloud’ in the Old Testament to ‘clouds’ (plural) in the New Testament. Consider a few verses: “Behold, He is coming with CLOUDS” (Rev. 1:7); “they will see the Son of Man coming on the CLOUDS of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30).
In the Old Testament, it was the Lord always appearing in a single cloud. For instance, “The glory of the Lord appeared in the CLOUD” (Ex. 16:10), “then Moses went up into the mountain, and a CLOUD covered the mountain” (Ex. 24:15), “the CLOUD filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kin. 8:10). However, in this new dispensation no longer will the Lord descended in a CLOUD but manifest His glory in innumerable CLOUDS of saints.
Under the new order of the new covenant, God has made man His dwelling place for the “tabernacle of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3) and He is coming “to be glorified in His saints” (2 Thes. 1:10). There is now coming a ministration that exceed much more in glory from the cloud that appeared to the children of Israel. This is the manifestation of His glory in a corporate company of sons who are destined to be vessels who make visible His glory unto creation. For you and I have been made to be a “partaker of the glory that will be revealed” (1 Pet. 5:1).
Dear saint, turn your gaze from external events to the glory of indwelling Christ for He desires to manifest His glory through you. Is this not why creation groans in eager expectation for the manifestation of sons (Rom. 8:19)? It longs in anticipation for the Lord’s coming with clouds of witnesses who will guide creation to the Promised Land of His fullness. These are beloved sons who possess no glory in themselves or their soulish existence for they have become overshadowed by Lord’s glory. Although right now they may be as the cloud which Elijah’s servant saw atop Carmel – as small as a man’s hand, yet to those who have eyes like Elijah, there is a sure witness that there is coming a sound of the abundance of rain that will fill the earth with His glory.
Together with those who treasure this beautiful hope, may He come with clouds!