Saturday, March 4, 2017

Christ Will Come in the Clouds!

Photo by Laurie Collett 2017

As we saw last week, Old Testament appearances of God to His people were always veiled in clouds, for no man in his mortal flesh can experience the full glory of God and live (Exodus 33:20; Judges 13:22). When God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, His glory was shadowed in the earthly tabernacle of human flesh (John 1:14).

God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Jesus, as part of the Triune God (1 John 5:7), is the true Light Who lighted and gave life to all men in the darkness, even though that darkness could not understand and therefore rejected Him (John 1:1-9)

Only by becoming man could Jesus, Who Himself was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), experience physical pain and death, offering His suffering as the perfect sacrifice to reconcile sinful man to holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18). As He died to pay the price for our sins in full, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), He forever conquered sin, death and Satan for those who trust Him as Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

But as a newborn babe He lay humbly in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, while the glory due Him appeared to the shepherds as the angelic host filled the skies. That glory from Heaven empowered the shepherds, once they saw the Infant, to be His first witnesses (Luke 2:7-20).

The glory of the Spirit had entered their mortal bodies much as sunlight veils itself with clouds, setting them on fire to tell others what they had seen. How strange it must have been for those who knew these rough-mannered men to see their faces aglow with reverence and zeal as they spoke of the newborn Messiah!

And yet this phenomenon was not unique to the shepherds, but is shared by all born-again believers (John 3:3-8) until He comes again! God not only commanded the light to shine out of darkness (Genesis 1:3) as He created the universe, but He has shined in our hearts, to give us the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and lighted upon Him, suggesting that the clouds parted momentarily to reveal the glory of God the Spirit illuminating God the Son. Then the voice of God the Father proclaimed that Jesus was His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased, yet the Father was not visible, for clouds presumably shielded Him from view (Matthew 3:16-17).

At Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36), His inner circle briefly beheld the pristine brilliance of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in all their glory until Peter interrupted their ecstatic vision by returning to the mundane, offering to build tents for the three!

At that point a cloud overshadowed them and they were terrified. Perhaps the (no doubt unintended) irreverence of Peter’s suggestion caused the Deity to veil Himself in mystery once more. The voice of the Father boomed forth from a bright cloud, which blocked Him from view as He expressed His pleasure with His beloved Son.

Until we see Him face to face in glory, we must see Him as if through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 15:12). The apostle Paul here refers to a window pane that is cloudy, allowing some light but not visual details to pass through, because of impurities and uneven thickness resulting from the glass blowing process.

Because of our sin nature (Romans 5:12), our vision and knowledge of Him is impure and clouded. But praise God, He has redeemed us, blotting out our sins as if with a thick cloud! (Isaiah 44:22)

Until He comes again or He calls us home, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, like a heavenly cheering section! Angels and those who have gone home to the Lord rejoice when we trust and serve Him! Knowing this should encourage and strengthen us to refrain from sin and even from distractions so that we can patiently and faithfully run the race Christ has set before us (Hebrews 12:1).

Jesus told His disciples and the priests that questioned Him that He would come to earth a second time, but not as a helpless infant laid in a manger. He would return in the clouds from the right hand of the Father (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62) and appear “in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30; see also Mark 13:26).

When Jesus ascended into Heaven in His glorified body, His disciples saw a cloud receive Him, and the angel told them that He would one day return in the same fashion (Acts 1:9-11). 

The prophet Ezekiel’s describes His vision of God in His heavenly chariot as a whirlwind and fire emerging from a great cloud, and he compares it to the brilliance of a rainbow appearing in a cloud of rain (Ezekiel 1:1-4,28). Daniel also experienced a vision of the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13).

In contrast to the Lord’s brightness, the Day of the Lord, Christ’s Second Coming to judge the earth, will be “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness” (Joel 2:1-2; see also Zephaniah 1:15).

But once we are saved by His grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we need not fear that day. If our mortal body dies before His return, we shall be absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). And if we are still living when Jesus calls us up to meet Him in the skies, we shall receive our glorified bodies that will never experience pain, sickness, death, aging, sorrow or sin (1 Corinthians 15:42-53).

First those who died in Christ will rise from their graves into glorified bodies, then we who remain will be instantly transformed into our glorified bodies and meet with them and with Christ in the clouds, to be with the Lord forever! (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Approximately seven years after this Rapture, at the conclusion of the Tribulation, Christ the King will return with clouds to defeat His enemies and judge the earth (Revelation 1:7). He is described as the mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, as was the Shekinah Glory filling the temple. He has a rainbow, which is the symbol of His faithfulness, upon his head; His face resembles the sun; and His feet are like pillars of fire (Revelation 10:1).

After the two witnesses testify and display God’s great power, they are beheaded by enemies but resurrected by the Spirit in three and a half days. They ascend to Heaven in a cloud after a great voice calls, “Come up hither,” (Revelation 11:12) much as God’s children will be summoned in the Rapture (Revelation 4:1).

From His vantage point on a white cloud in Heaven, the Son of man, wearing a golden crown signifying that He is King of Kings, views the earth before threshing it with a sharp sickle (Revelation 14:14). When the bloodshed is over, and all Christ’s enemies are defeated by the word of His mouth (Revelation 19:15-21), He will reign with perfect peace and justice in the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 22).

The prophet Isaiah foretold that when Christ does return, the presence of the Lord will inhabit every dwelling in Mount Zion as a cloud and smoke by day, and as the shining of a flaming fire by night (Isaiah 4:5).

I have always liked the Judy Collins song “Clouds” and its refrain “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now – from up and down.” Thanks to airplane travel, we can now look down as well as up at clouds. But I eagerly await that day when Christ returns for his children (1 Corinthians 15:51-54), raises us up to meet Him in the air, and we are literally walking on the clouds in our glorified bodies!

© 2017 Laurie Collett
Womanhood With Purpose
Adorned From Above
No Ordinary Blog Hop


Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I love the power that is in the Word of God, and thank God for Jesus, (the express image of God) without Whom we could not know God's ways and thoughts. I too look forward to the promise of what is spoken of in 2 Corinthians ch. 4 v.14:-

' because we know that the One Who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.'

God bless you for sharing Laurie.

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
It is good to be reminded that after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the first to see the newborn, other than his parents, were shepherds. I believe that these people who took care of sheep were the pariahs of society, and who were looked down upon by what we would call "the middle class" today. Yet the angelic hosts were not ashamed to reveal the glory of God, and to speak directly to them and delivered the most heart-warming revelation.
I guess it reminds me of the experience Isaiah had when he saw the train (clouds?) of God fill the Temple, and this glory was so marvellous that Isaiah cried out, probably spontaneously, "Holy, Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty..."
How life changing it would be if we too caught a glimpse of the Glory of God here and now, in this life!
An excellent blog. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Amen! One fine day the Spirit will raise us with Jesus in our glorified bodies, and so will we ever be with the Lord. Thank you as always for your encouraging comment.
God bless you too,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
I agree that it was no accident that the announcement of Jesus' birth first came to those who realized they were sinners in need of a Savior, and not to the self-righteous.
This morning a visiting missionary preached on that passage in Isaiah. You bring up a good point, that Christ's "train" may well have been composed of clouds, perhaps the heavenly equivalent of the ermine trains on robes worn by human emperors such as Napoleon.
Thanks so much for your uplifting and insightful comment.
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Few seem to understand the glory and holiness of God. As you pointed no human can see him in all his glory and survive. he must constantly protect us with clouds or smoke to dim the glory.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald! May we constantly be in awe of His glory and holiness.
God bless,

Aritha said...

Thank you Laurel, for this post! I am no searching for Judy Collins song “Clouds” ...

Laurie Collett said...

Hope you like it! Your comment has inspired me -- I think I'll write some Christian lyrics to that music!
Love in Christ,