He is Coming with the Clouds
The Testimony of Jesus, Chapter 16
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
PROFESSOR A. T. ROBERTSON
Citing Theodotion in his distinguished work, Word Pictures of the New Testament, Archibald Thomas Robertson (1868-1935) states that the verb in the phrase, “Behold, He is coming with clouds…” is:
“Futuristic present middle indicative of ἔρχομαι…“
Rather than dissecting and analyzing the original Greek text, let us consider the phrase from Scripture, since it presents a truth that is used of Christ in the past, present, and future.
The term reflects the prophetic past. Daniel’s prophecy comes especially to mind:
v13“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. v14And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14
Daniel stated that Israel’s Messiah came to the Ancient of Days, YHVH God, with the clouds of heaven. This prophecy, of course, was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ. During His earthly ministry, when the Lord Jesus referred to Himself, He most often referred to Himself as the Son of Man, the Aramaic term used above in Daniel 7:13. The term was בר־אנש (bar an-ASH), not the Hebrew בן־אדם (ben a-DAM). It was the mention of this verse, in connection with who He was, that caused the high priest to condemn the Messiah to death:
v63But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.” v64Jesus 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.” v65Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard His blasphemy. v66What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Matthew 26:63-66
Jesus, coming with the clouds, also has future implications, and that by the Lord’s own words to His disciples:
v29“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. v30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. v31And 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.” Matthew 24:29-31
The angels standing by at the Lord’s ascension into heaven also testified of this truth:
v9And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. v10And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, v11and 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 1:9-11
Moreover, while it doesn’t speak of clouds per se, the Book of Revelation also testifies of this future event regarding the Lord’s return from heaven:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. Revelation 19:11
While there are many who will readily acknowledge the futuristic aspect of this book, its current, present relevance is oft forgotten, or worse ignored altogether. Were the symbolisms relevant for John’s day? Are they relevant for our day? It just doesn’t make sense that John would receive all this truth from the Lord Jesus only for the first three chapters to be useful for him and the seven churches in Asia minor.
I believe that if the imagery is not relevant for our Christianity today, its future implications will soil and spoil our Christian walk.
The phrase itself from Revelation 1:7, translated in English, expresses a present reality. The question would naturally arise, “How then does the Lord Jesus come in the clouds as a current truth?”
When the Lord Jesus comes with the clouds at His return, one of the things that will occur will be our ultimate glorification (1 Cor 15:51-54; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Jn 3:2). Yet this expression also pertains to every salvation since the Day of Pentecost as well as the progressive, sanctifying growth of every soul saved until the Lord Jesus returns.
Unless the Lord Jesus Christ comes with the clouds, not a soul would be saved. First, the clouds with which our Lord Jesus comes speak of His gospel grace. We know that…
…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. Romans 10:17
This faith is not a simple belief we can muster from the dead dust of our natural senses. This faith must be imparted by God from heaven above. The Epistle to the Hebrews is informative in this regard. We’re told…
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
This “assurance” is translated “substance” in the King James Version. It comes from the Greek root word ὑπόστασις (hoo-POS-tas-is). This same Greek root is used at the very beginning of the Hebrew epistle, as it speaks of the Lord Jesus Himself:
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, Hebrews 1:3
The KJV reads,
Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,
Our English words “nature” and “person” from the ESV and KJV respectively are from the same Greek root, ὑπόστασις. In other words, saving faith contains the nature and person of God. Therefore, this faith contains the very power of God to enable a sinner to both repent from sin and dead, fleshly, self-justifying works as well as to believe and trust in Christ’s person and work for salvation.
The Holy Spirit must awaken such a soul to the need for Jesus from the preached word of Scripture, because apart from His illumination, the gospel and the Scriptures containing Christ’s gospel will not make sense to our natural, earthly understanding:
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
One objection several sinners have to the gospel is that they don’t believe the Bible, or they cannot trust the Bible to be true. Because of the above verse, and others in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, I can only tell them that they can’t believe it nor trust it unless they are saved. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, testifies of the Lord Jesus Messiah (John 5:39). They can read the words and comprehend its meaning in the most simple and fundamental way, but until they have trusted in Christ alone for salvation, the Scriptures will never arrest their hearts, never renew their minds, and never illuminate their understanding.
Not only does Jesus coming with clouds testify of salvation by God’s grace alone, it also testifies to the person and work of Christ Jesus by His atoning sacrifice. For this, we must bring our attention back to the verses of Scripture cited above, from Matthew 26:63-66. Since the Lord Jesus was condemned to death by the high priest and the Sanhedrin because He referred to Himself as being the subject of the passage from Daniel 7:13-14, His coming with clouds pertains to His substitutionary suffering and death upon that Roman cross.
Jesus suffered the infinite and eternal wrath of God for sins He did not commit while hanging upon the cross, paying a debt He did not owe for a debt we owe and cannot possibly pay. By His death on Calvary’s tree, Jesus paid the penalty for sins committed against a holy God as well as for willing worship omitted from a supreme God worthy and deserving of absolute adoration from all His creation.
Indeed, for every salvation since Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, and for every salvation until Jesus comes again, He is coming with the clouds.
The Lord Jesus Christ is also coming with the clouds for all those He has already saved, as it pertains to our sanctification.
If you will, there are only two kinds of human beings mentioned in the Bible: saints and ain’ts. Either you’re a saint, saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, or you’re not (ain’t). This comes by God’s immediate declaration when once we are saved because it comes in, by, and through the merit of Christ’s sinless perfection alone. This is what the theologians and Bible scholars call imputation. Christ’s righteous life is placed upon our account. He lived the life you and I cannot possibly live. Therefore, we are declared holy, just, good, and glorified when we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It is written:
And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. Romans 8:30
God is eternal and not confined to, constrained with, or confounded by time. Eternal life means that the Father sees us as a completed work in the Son. Nevertheless, until the Lord Jesus Christ returns, time confines us, constrains us, and confounds us. You and I must grow in grace and be strengthened in faith. Everything we experience in this space-time reality is meant to mold and shape us to become more and more like Jesus, as it is written:
v28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. v29For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29
While we are already sanctified (holy) by God’s eternal declaration in Christ, Jesus also commands us through the apostle to be holy:
v14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, v15but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, v16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16
This is an impossible command. Holiness is the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, a heavenly grace. Does this mean we do nothing? God forbid. Since we are now new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), we respond to the God of love (1 Jn 4:8), who has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3; John 3:16), with His command to love Him with all our heart, soul, and very-ness (Deut 6:4-5). Though we do so imperfectly, we want to please Christ by living as righteous a life as possible, as much as a sinner saved by grace is able, by God’s grace. Jesus said,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15
Just because we’ve been saved by God’s grace, it doesn’t mean that grace has replaced God’s law. Jesus fulfilled the law, and therefore, the law has become more excellent. It is holy, just, and good (Rom 7:12). The Lord has elevated the law far beyond our reach in fulfilling it. We are not what the theologians call “antinomian.” Antinomianism, a replacement of the law, is heretical and dangerous.
God’s grace, love, and mercy help us to keep from becoming legalists or lawless rebels.
PARSING THE BOOK
Our introduction to the Book of Revelation has nearly ended. It is at this point where we would benefit from a basic outline of the book. Since the gospel of Jesus Christ includes His return, there are certainly elements yet future contained in the signs, symbols, and expressions throughout the book. Nevertheless, as understood with the expression “He is coming with the clouds,” a failure to understand this writing as it pertained to the Christian hearer of John’s day, as well as with every believer since, reaching even to you and me, a future perspective alone would soil and spoil our Christian walk (I’ve written it earlier, but it is worth repeating).
So how do we approach our study and understanding of this wonderful, gospel book? While this is not the only way Revelation may be parsed and analyzed, this is how I’ve chosen to explain it for this commentary, by seven distinct perspectives from our redemption in Christ.
In this first chapter, we understand who Christ Jesus is.
Chapters Two and Three
In the second and third chapters, we hear Christ Jesus speak to His church.
Chapters Four through Six
In the fourth through sixth chapters, we see Christ Jesus ruling upon His throne over all His gospel domain.
Chapters Seven through Nine
In the seventh through ninth chapters, we recognize the spiritual warfare Christ’s church engages in against the dark forces of this age.
Chapters Ten through Fourteen
In the tenth through fourteenth chapters, we rejoice over the saints’ victory in Christ Jesus by the power of His gospel.
Chapters Fifteen through Eighteen
In the fifteenth through eighteenth chapters, we must also realize that while we are saved by God’s grace, Christ’s judgments abide upon the children of disobedience in a Christ-rejecting, God-hating world.
Chapters Nineteen through Twenty-Two
In the nineteenth through twenty-second chapters, we ready ourselves to receive Christ’s majestic return, the marriage supper of the Lamb, and the new heaven and earth.
I pray that this overview of the Book of Revelation is helpful to you. Next time, we will examine the remainder of this seventh verse of chapter one. We can see that there’s no way around the wording as pointing to an event yet to come. Nevertheless, we will see how it is not only distinctive in showing us who Christ Jesus is, its truth is especially relevant to the church today, as well as to you and me as individual saints in Christ.
May the Lord Jesus continue to bless and keep you.
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 Theodotion was a 2nd century Hellenistic Jewish scholar who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek circa 150 AD.
 This will be made clearer throughout the lessons to come as the commentary in Revelation continues.