Jesus is telling His disciples what will happen in their generation. In verse 24:30, He shifts to discuss what the unbelieving Jews will see when the temple is destroyed. Later, in answer to Caiaphas’ question: “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matt. 26:63-64). Jesus spoke to Caiaphas and the entire Sanhedrin, “hereafter YOU will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.“ (Matt. 26:64). The Greek of this text is in the second person plural. Jesus was not just addressing Caiaphas, but was addressing the Sanhedrin as a body, and that some of them would see the coming (Parousia). (This goes back to the same words Jesus promised some of His disciples that they would “see” Him coming in His Kingdom in Matthew 16:27-28).
It is important for us to understand, as “five senses” creatures, that the operations of God go far beyond what we can experience or see in our realm. The entire spiritual realm (God, angels, demons, those already departed) is in a sphere that we cannot experience with our physical senses. There is tremendous activity going on all around us continuously in the unseen realm and our physical five senses have no idea about it.
What do we have happening at the coming (Parousia) of Christ? We have some promised interaction between the seen and unseen realms –> however, far more was going on in the unseen spiritual realm than ever was revealed to those in the seen realm.
By nature, we are always thinking that things revolve around us –> thus we impose upon scriptures our notions that all the events described around the Parousia were to be things that all could visually see. While there definitely was the promise of a Christophany and angelophanies in the seen realm at the Parousia à many fail to understand that just as God was said to “come” many times in the OT, besides a few occasions of reported spiritual realm experiences and angelophanies (2 Kings 6:17; 2 Sam. 5:23-24, et al), almost all of the activity in the unseen spiritual realm at these “comings” were never seen visibly. In the seen realm the visual realities were mainly restricted to just seeing one nation coming and destroying another.
Yes, in the Parousia of Christ there most definitely was the promised visible Christophany and angelophanies, but those were mere moments of the curtain to the unseen realm being rolled back for a glimpse into the coming battle in the unseen spiritual realm. For those in Judea, their main observances would be seeing the visible earthly attacks of the Roman armies as multitudes of their people died throughout their land, culminating with their beloved city Jerusalem and temple being destroyed (Luke 21:20-24).
Recall that Jesus had promised His 1st century Hebrew audience that His coming was predominantly going to be “in like manner” to how His Father had come in judgment in the past (read John 5:19, 22).
Recall this one example of YHWY “coming” in Isaiah 19:1, “Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.”
Few, if any, students of the Word believe that God was actually visibly seen on a cloud by anyone during the period of His judgment He did through the Assyrian army against Egypt (Isa. 19:23, 20:4). In fact, most have no difficulty in acknowledging that while there was a literal judgment against Egypt, this apocalyptic description is not to be taken literally or visibly of God going back and forth through Egypt riding on a cloud personally enacting vengeance on the people. So, while Christ did promise the Sanhedrin that they would visible see Him at His Parousia, where is it imposed that for His entire Parousia events that He was to be visibly seen by those on earth? The OT Hebrew language and depictions, and even other NT passages, clearly dictate otherwise. Let’s look further at this verse:
“Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matt. 26:64)
When the high priest heard Jesus say this, he tore his clothes and accused Jesus of blasphemy. Why? Because he knew what coming on the clouds of heaven meant à that Jesus was claiming to be God, and was promising He would come in judgment against them. The Jewish council, before whom Jesus spoke these words, knew that cloud-comings were woven throughout the OT scriptures. Did they deem Him deserving of death because He claimed He could ride on a cloud, or because He had just stated, in familiar language which all of them knew so very well, that He was God, and that He was going to come in judgment upon them just as His Father had done upon other nations throughout the past –> by sending another nation to destroy them (Rome) (John 5:19, 22)?
A) (Matt. 24:30a) THE SIGN IN HEAVEN – and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth (Greek: “ge” = land) smite the breast… (YLT)
- This tells us that the “sign” of the Son of Man would be seen. This sign appears in heaven (Greek: ouranos). The “tribes” refer to the Israelites. The New Testament uses tribes for the twelve tribes of Israel. The tribes are the summation of the Jewish people. “Tribes of the earth” is never used in the Old Testament. The Greek word for earth is “ge” and also means “land”. The context determines the meaning. Since Judea is being indicated (24:16), and the audience is “you”, Jesus’ first century audience, a global event is not being discussed – He is looking at and talking directly to the Old Covenant Hebrews standing in front of Him.
- This same word “ge” is used in Luke 23:44, referring to the local area of Jerusalem. It is best translated “darkness fell over the whole land,” not the whole earth. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman legions was the heavenly “sign” to the Old Covenant Jews that Jesus was the Christ. They mourned when they finally realized this, 40 years after His crucifixion and resurrection à within that generation as He promised.
B) (Matt. 24:30b) COMING ON CLOUDS – …and they will see the Son of Man Coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(1) The sign is the fact or proof that the Son of Man had already received His kingdom and was returning to destroy those who did not want Him to rule over them.
- (Read) Luke 19:12-15, 27 in the parable of the nobleman gives us the prelude to Christ’s Parousia. Verse 1 parallels the ascension of Christ in Acts 1:9 where He went away to receive the Kingdom.
- Luke 19:15 states that after he received the kingdom he then returned.
- Verse 27 tells us what was to happen to those in verse 14 who did not want him to rule over them.
- This story would have been absolutely stinging and fully understood by His Old Covenant Hebrew audience. As they were well aware that when both Herod and Agrippa each went away to Rome to receive right to rule over their kingdoms, the Jews both times sent a delegation to Rome saying to Caesar that they did not want Herod nor Agrippa to rule over them. Upon Herod’s return from receiving his kingdom he did the very thing Jesus was threatening here, and Herod killed his enemies. Christ’s Parousia was going to do the exact same thing against those disobedient OC Hebrews who had rejected Him.
- His coming (Parousia) was going to remove the kingdom from OC Israel and give it to His New Covenant church. (Matt. 21:43-45).
- He would “destroy those murderers, and burn up their city.” (Matt. 22:7)
- Read Dan. 7:13-14 is referencing the same event as Luke 19. Christ’s glorification took place “at the ascension” (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Tim. 3:16) when He went to the Father to receive the Kingdom: John 12:16, 23, 13:31, 17:4-5, 7:39; Acts 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:21; Phil. 3:21; 2 Cor. 5:16; 1 John 3:2.
- He received the Kingdom at His ascension described in Dan. 7:13-14.
- Christ commenced His “millennial” reign in His Kingdom at the ascension when He went to the Ancient of Days (read Psa. 110:1-4; Acts 2:30-35).
- He reigned in His millennial Kingdom until all of His enemies were put under His feet (read 1 Cor. 15:25).
- After which time Christ returned with His Kingdom to judge those (OC Hebrews) who did not want Him to reign over them (Luke 19:27; Matt. 24:30), and at His return the saints then take consummated possession of the Kingdom (read Dan. 7:22).
- He received the Kingdom at His ascension described in Dan. 7:13-14.
2) This Matt. 24:30 verse depicts Jesus as High Priest coming out from the Holy of Holies in the heavenly temple (Heb. 9:24, 28), descending as King of Kings from the highest heaven with the Holy of Holies and the Kingdom He had received. He was coming in His Kingdom as He had promised in Matt. 16:27-28 before all of His “eagerly waiting” first century followers had died. He was bringing it to earth to consummate it in the church where He will set His sanctuary and dwell in the midst of His people forevermore (Ezek. 37:26-28; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rev. 21:3).
3) The Destruction of Jerusalem and the temple through the instrument of the Roman armies was the “sign” to the Jews that the Son of Man had conquered all of His enemies and was reigning and ruling over the world (both in the seen and unseen realm). That destruction by the Roman armies would be a major visual sign to them of so many unseen things that were going on in the spiritual realm, and it was to be proof to them that He had come on the clouds of heaven in His Kingdom He had received from His father. The destruction of Jerusalem was the manifestation of the power and glory of the Son of Man. It was proof to the first century Old Covenant Jewish people that Jesus Christ was truly the Messiah. (Same Hebrew metaphoric Hyperbole language as describing the Father’s “coming” in OT as the same way: Isa. 19:1; Psa. 18:7-12; Jud. 5:3-5, 13; 2 Sam. 22:8-16; Like Manner: John 5:19-22)
(For other verses on the Biblical usage and meaning of the word “clouds” please refer to “Study Series 5b Hebraic Language Symbolism” in the back of Study Series 5: Psa. 97:2, 104:3; Jer. 10:13, 51:16; Ezek. 30:3; Joel 2:1-11; Nah. 1:3; Zeph. 1:14-15; Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:61-62; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7, 14:14).
4) To “see” the Son of Man coming did not require that all would literally have to see Jesus physically coming from heaven. The Hebrew concept for the word is more like Matthew 5:8. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God is “invisible”, but “see” means to be personally aware of or perceive God. By being born again, we “see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The meaning we are given is both: 1) We are able to personally perceive/understand and belong to the Kingdom of God; 2) We are guaranteed to literally see God and His heavenly Kingdom when we die and go to heaven. The events occurring in AD 70 would cause the tribes of Old Covenant Israel to recognize that what Jesus had been saying was true. He was indeed the Son of Man and the Messiah.
5) “See” the Son of Man coming.
- Greek = Horao à Strongs Concordance 3708 Definition: I see, experience, perceive, discern.
- Helps Word-studies: horáō – properly, see, often with metaphorical meaning: “to see with the mind” (i.e. spiritually see), i.e. perceive (with inward spiritual perception).
Even though the Greek meaning of this word does not necessitate that anyone would literally have to see Jesus physically coming, we have other promises in the Bible that the Parousia would have aspects of it which some would “visibly” see (Matt. 26:64; Luke 21:25-26; Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 1:7).
–> Historians record some very clear and profound visible signs seen among the people in Judea. We looked extensively into this in Study Series 7 Lesson 3a2. Let us just recall one section from the 1st century Hebrew historian writings of Sepher Yosippon (The book was generally understood to have been authored by the first-century historian as a version produced for his fellow Jews.) (A Medieval History of Ancient Israel. Translated from the Hebrew by Steven B. Bowman. Excerpts below from Chapter 87 “Burning of the Temple“), where it records:
- For one year before Vespasian came, a single great star shining like unsheathed swords was seen over the Temple. And in those days when the sign was seen it was the holiday of Passover and during that entire night the Temple was lit up and illuminated like the light of day, and thus it was all seven days of the Passover. All the sages of Jerusalem knew that it was a malevolent sign, but the rest of the ignorant people said that it was a benevolent sign.
- … Now it happened after this that there was seen from above over the Holy of Holies for the whole night the outline of a man’s face, the like of whose beauty had never been seen in all the land, and his appearance was quite awesome.
- Moreover, in those days were seen chariots of fire and horsemen, a great force flying across the sky near to the ground coming against Jerusalem and all the land of Judah, all of them horses of fire and riders of fire. When the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) came in those days, during the night the priests heard within the Temple something like the sound of men going and the sound of men marching in a multitude going into the Temple, and a terrible and mighty voice was heard speaking: “Let’s go and leave this House.
Historical Notes: Much of the aforementioned writings in the Sepher Yosippon is verbatim with what was recorded by two other famous non-biblical historians, including the Jewish historian, Josephus (AD 37–100) and the Roman historian, Tacitus (AD 56–117), who have written about that tribulation that occurred between AD 63–70. Please refer to our Study Series 7 Lesson 3a1 and 3a2 for the extensive documentation of their recording of the above events, and much more.
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 3a1 and 3a2”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 4 Matt. 24:29-31”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 14 Lesson 2 Resurrection: 1 and 2 Cor. And Acts”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 14 Lesson 3 Resurrection: 1 Thess. 4:13-17”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 14 Lesson 7 The Parousia Acts 1:9-11”]