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Coming on the Clouds

A Word for Today | Revelation 1:7

In the theatre, there is a practice known as “upstaging,” when the supporting characters turn their back on the audience, forcing their gaze on the lead actor who has entered the stage.  John is doing something like this in the opening section of Revelation, drawing all our attention to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In the doxology of verses 5 and 6, John glorified the present and past work of Christ for our salvation: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (1:5-6).  Now, John completes his spotlighting of Christ by pointing to His future return: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds” (Rev. 1:7).  Charles Spurgeon said of this theme: “Brethren, no truth ought to be more frequently proclaimed, next to the first coming of the Lord, than His Second Coming.”[1]  According to the Bible, the return of Jesus is just as important as His first coming.  The writer of Hebrews said: “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:26-28).

When John speaks of Jesus “coming with the clouds,” he refers to Christ in the terms of Daniel 7:13.  After seeing the judgment of the wicked kingdoms, Daniel saw “with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man.”  Like Daniel, John faced the beastly opposition of wicked earthly rulers, against which Christ will ultimately be revealed as sovereign conqueror in HIs glorious coming.  What a comforting message to Daniel, living as a captive in pagan Babylon, just as it encourages Christians in our uncertain times.  Daniel saw the glorification of Christ as the answer to the ungodly powers of history, just as Psalm 2 saw God’s coronation of His Son as the answer to the plotting kings of the earth.  John declares to Christians that the sovereign rule of Christ at history’s end is our hope as well.

The imagery of Jesus returning “with the clouds” emphasizes His divine glory and authority.  Psalm 104:3 says that God “makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind.”  These are the same clouds that sheathed Mount Sinai when God came upon the mountain to give his law (Ex. 19:16-19) and then later filled the temple of Solomon with glory (1 Ki. 8:10-11).  For Jesus to “come with the clouds” is to return to earth in glory and power to bring His judgment upon the world.

A focus on Christ’s coming will produce a different lifestyle than one that is focused on earthly things.  Paul saw the purpose of his life in terms of spiritual growth: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).  In saying that Christians “await a Savior” from heaven, Paul means a life of godly service, biblical devotion, prayer, and witness to the gospel – actions that point us forward to the hope that we have, no longer in the world, but in the coming of Christ.  Can these things be said of us?  Does our manner of life suggest that we await a Savior from heaven?  Or is our life fixed on earthly things?

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Phillips

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Second Coming, ed. David Otis Fuller (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1943), Preface.

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