Have you ever wondered why the scriptures speak so much about the clouds of heaven? The inspired writers spoke of those clouds and Jesus, Himself, spoke of them. He spoke of how He will be returning with the clouds of heaven or the clouds of the sky. Matthew records Jesus saying it on two different occasions.
When He spoke to His disciples of the day of His return He said that His sign will appear in the sky, “- - and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)
After He had been arrested Jesus was brought before the high priest to be charged and the high priest asked Him if He was the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus responded, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." (Matthew 26:64)
As if to make sure that we heard the message, Mark recorded Jesus making those same statements about those clouds in his gospel (Mark 13:26 and Mark 14:62).
John did not mention Jesus coming with the clouds in his gospel but he made that statement in his book of Revelation. He said, “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” (Revelation 1:7)
Those clouds are also mentioned in the Old Testament scriptures. Daniel mentioned them, saying, "And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming , And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him" (Daniel 7:13).
Why all the mention of clouds in scripture? What have clouds got to do with anything? Do the scriptures say something that might help us understand what God is telling us? When we look at those scriptures and put them together, we can begin to see some interesting things.
Why does the scripture include that statement about a cloud receiving Jesus when He ascended? If it was just a normal cloud, He would have ascended "into a cloud". Scripture says that cloud "received Him" (Acts 1:9). Would a cloud receiving Him indicate that the cloud had some ability to accept Him?
Paul tells us about how Jesus will be returning. He did not mention Jesus returning in clouds or with the clouds of heaven but he did say how He would be coming with all His saints (1 Thessalonians ).
In the next chapter he says that He will return bringing with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus and He will raise up the bodies of the dead in Christ.
The saints will be coming back with
Jesus and their
bodies will be resurrected. Jesus
resurrect their bodies and they will ascend together with the faithful
still living at that time. Paul said they
with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air".
Paul did not mention Him coming with clouds but he does say that He will be coming with the saints and they will be caught up in the clouds.
Is Paul saying the same thing that Jesus said when He said that He would be returning with the clouds of heaven? Are they both saying that Jesus will be returning with the spirits of the saints? Are they speaking of the same returning?
Some Christians believe that Paul is speaking of an event (The caught up) that will take place long before Jesus returns with the clouds of heaven to judge the nations. From the prospective of our lesson it does not matter. We will see that as we continue reading scripture.
In chapter 11, when the Hebrew writer spoke of the departed faithful, he ended the chapter saying that they could not have been made perfect apart from us. All of the faithful for all time have become perfect in Christ Jesus because of His redeeming blood.
He continued his discussion of the departed faithful and how they are with us (Those alive on earth) in chapter 12. He began by saying that since we have so great cloud of witnesses surrounding us we should strive to run the race that is before us.
He is still speaking of the departed faithful but not as though they are gone on but as though they are still with us in our assembly (Church assembly).
When he wrote those words, the faithful of old had long since died and their bodies were sleeping in the ground. Was he speaking of the spirits of those that have been made perfect being a cloud, surrounding the brotherhood of believers in the church on earth?
With regard to those ancient ones of faith surrounding us as a cloud of witnesses the Greek wording says they are a cloud, not crowd. If he meant exactly what he said about the departed faithful, they are actually present with us in our assembly of the church and with us individually.
He continues by telling us to lay aside everything that could hold us back and run with endurance the race before us. It sounds like the spirits of the departed faithful are a cloud of witnesses around us watching us as we are running our race of faith.
Are they surrounding us like spectators
at the games watching us and cheering for us as we run? Did they first see
If so they know by sight the great prize that is waiting for the faithful. Would that make them cheer all the more for us?
The writer could have been just speaking in general terms of the departed faithful. They had run their race and won their victory before we started and we can read from scripture how they won their race. Was he saying that they have become examples for us when he said they are a cloud of witnesses around us?
If that is the case they would not be surrounding us as witnesses, however. We would be the ones watching them (Looking back). From the wording it sounds like their spirits are now present with each one of us and they are with us in our church assembly.
We can see that possibility in the same chapter of Hebrews (Chapter 12).
After speaking of how we must be diligent as we run our race and of the Father’s discipline, the writer tells us not to come short of the grace of God and be godless or immoral like Esau who sold his birthright for a meal. He continues by speaking of what happened to that old Hebrew nation in the wilderness and how it relates to us.
He says that we have not come to an earthly
mountain, speaking of that earthly
He says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24)
He is speaking of the goal that we are
striving for as we run our race. Our prize is that spiritual
That city is the prize and it belongs to the church. Some of our church members are with us as we have come to the foot of our mountain and it sounds like some have gone on before us and are upon that mountain.
He says that we have come to the assembly of the church and when He lists those who are with us in the assembly he says it includes the Father and the Son and myriads of angels and it includes the spirits of the righteous made perfect.
It sounds like the spirits of the righteous made perfect are present with us in the assembly of the church and the assembly stretches from us to the top of that mountain.
Would our church assembly not include the spirits of those departed faithful that he wrote of as not having been made perfect apart from us (Chapter 11)? He listed them as being in the assembly.
The ones that lived and died before the cross were made perfect with us by the blood of Christ and they have been brought into His church.
Are they not the same ones who are in the cloud of witnesses that now surround us (Hebrews 12:1)? It sounds like they are a cloud of glory around us.
The cloud of glory is on our spiritual tabernacle just as it was on their tabernacle. The LORD’S Spirit was in their cloud but the spirits of the righteous have also been added to our cloud.
Are the departed faithful with us in the assembly of the church as the cloud of glory on our tabernacle? Would that be like the cloud of glory that was on the old wilderness tabernacle? Was that old Hebrew tabernacle and its glory cloud just an earthly copy of our tabernacle and our glory cloud?
Jesus told the woman at the well that
the time had come when people would no longer worship in
He told her, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (John 4:23)
That old Hebrew salvation story was brought about by God as an earthly copy of what is spiritual for us. Their worship was a part of that copy. They worshipped at an earthly tabernacle to foretell how we would worship at God’s spiritual tabernacle.
The Hebrew writer tells us that Christ is our true High Priest (Chapter 7). He begins the next chapter by saying that the main point is that, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” (Hebrews 8:1-2)
That old tabernacle was only an earthly copy of the true tabernacle. Christ is the true High Priest and He is seated in God’s true tabernacle, not the earthly copy. The writer then tells us how those old Hebrew priests were serving a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5).
In the next chapter he tells us that Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, “a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24).
Christ is our true High Priest and He is now seated at the right hand of the Father in the true tabernacle Holy of Holies. He is serving as our High Priest in the inner room Holy of Holies as we serve in the outer room holy place of the church on earth.
Remember, the church is His body (Colossians ). Christ went through the outer tabernacle room of His body of flesh on earth before He entered into the heavenly inner room to be with the Father. The body of Christ is the church and it is God's new covenant tabernacle.
When Moses erected the tabernacle, scripture says, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34-35)
A little later Moses spoke of the
tabernacle and that cloud and said that, "throughout all
their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there
was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of
They were brought out of slavery in
When Moses spoke of how the cloud of the LORD was on that old covenant tabernacle throughout all their journeys was he speaking ahead to our true tabernacle and its glory cloud? Was that old glory cloud on their tabernacle just a copy of a cloud of glory on our tabernacle?
The true tabernacle was raised up when Christ’s body came forth from the tomb. All of His people of faith from all time have been brought into that house of God. The Spirit of God dwells in His tabernacle and it dwells in those who are a part of His church.
Those who are alive today are the serving priesthood in that house but the departed faithful are also a part of that house. It appears that are they a cloud of glory in and on our house.
The Spirit of the LORD was in that old covenant glory cloud. His Spirit has now been poured out on God’s new covenant people. We are the outer room of God’s tabernacle on earth and His Spirit dwells in our tabernacle outer room. Paul said that we who have become joined to the Lord have become one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians ).
If all of the faithful have become one spirit with the Lord and His Spirit dwells in each one of us will we not continue to be one spirit with Him after our earthly body sleeps in death?
Jesus said that those who believe in Him will never die (John ). Will our spirit continue to live with His Spirit in His church assembly as a cloud of glory on our tabernacle?
We heard Daniel speak of one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven and being presented before the Ancient of Days (Daniel ). Daniel then tells how He will be given dominion and Glory and a kingdom that will not be destroyed.
Did that happen on the day of the cross? Was Daniel speaking ahead of Christ being glorified by the sacrifice that He would make for His people?
Just before He was to die on the cross Jesus told His disciples, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23) The Hebrew writer tells us that we can see Jesus crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering and death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).
When the Son of Man appeared with the clouds of heaven before the Ancient of Days, was He given His crown of glory? Were those clouds of heaven the spirits of the righteous made perfect by His sacrifice shouting glory to God because they had been redeemed that day?
Was Jesus speaking of that event when He spoke to the thief on the cross? The one thief had confessed Him and asked Him to remember him when He came in His kingdom.
Jesus told him, "Truly
I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
Jesus said those words in response to that man’s request to remember him when He came in His kingdom. If the thief was speaking of the day when Christ would be given His kingdom and if Jesus was responding directly to that request, was He saying that He would be crowned and given His kingdom that day in Paradise?
Jesus was glorified because He was willing to die on the cross for God’s people. When He returns with the clouds of heaven He will be revealed in clouds of glory. Paul said that when Christ is revealed, “then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4) All people will see Him returning with the saints in clouds of glory.
When Christ told the thief that he would be
with Him in
His Soul was in Hades but I have
Paul spoke of the time when he was “caught
up into Paradise"
God’s home is up in the third heaven. It
There is no doubt about the fact that Jesus
Paul seems to be saying that in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He speaks of being hopeful that God will sanctify them entirely and then he says, "may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Paul said that our being consists of our spirit and soul and body. We hope to be preserved complete in all three when He comes. Could that imply that some may not be made complete when Christ returns?
We heard Paul tell how Christ will be returning on that day and He will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus and He will raise the bodies of the dead in Christ (1 Thessalonians, chapter 4). They will then be caught up with the living faithful to meet the Lord in the air.
If He will be bringing the spirits of the departed faithful with Him to receive their resurrected bodies will the spirits of others not be returning for their resurrected bodies? When Christ returns all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come forth (John -29).
Will there be some who will not receive their spirit and be sanctified entirely in spirit and soul and body? If so, then they will come forth dead because the body without the spirit is dead (James ). The dead will be cast into hell fire. Their bodies and souls will be cast into hell (Matthew ).
Regarding Christ's resurrection from the dead, Paul says, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
If Jesus was raised as the first fruits of those who are asleep, then, there are later fruits. Christians are the later fruits. They have also become children of God. Will they not be sanctified entirely and made complete in spirit and soul and body when He returns?
Between the time of their death and His coming
their bodies will be asleep in the tomb and their souls will be in Hades.
Will their spirits not have been with Jesus and seen
Did it not happen to Stephen when he died? He was brought before the council to answer for preaching against Moses (Acts, chapter 6). When he spoke of seeing the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, they drug him out and stoned him.
Just before his body fell asleep, he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" His spirit went to be with Jesus when his body fell asleep. Will it not happen for all of the faithful?
When we die, will our spirit see
The ones who fell in the wilderness never arrived at their land because they were not faithful. If we are not faithful, will we be left behind in our wilderness? If we remain faithful, will we not continue to travel along with our tabernacle toward our land?
Will those who have been born again of water and the Spirit be set free to blow where they wish after their departure? Jesus spoke of those born of the Spirit, saying, "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).
What did Jesus mean when He said that everyone who is born of the Spirit is like the wind blowing where it wishes? Could it be like what happened on the Day of Pentecost? Remember what happened that day? It had not been long since Jesus had ascended back to the Father and the disciples were together in one place that day. That was when the Spirit came upon them.
Scripture says, “- suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:2) They were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit directed them.
We remember what happened next. The Jews that were gathered for the feast heard the sound and came to see what was happening. By the power of the Spirit, the apostles preached the first gospel message to the crowd of Jews that had gathered and they preached it in the different languages of all of those who were there. Each one heard the message in his language.
Those Jews were amazed and wondered what was happening. Peter stood up and told them that what was happening had been foretold by the prophet, Joel. Joel had foretold how that in the “Last Days” God would pour out His Spirit on all mankind and how they would prophesy and have visions and dreams.
The Last Days had come and God’s Spirit was poured out on man that day and it come with a loud noise like the sound of a violent wind.
Was that what Jesus was referring to? He said that the wind blows where it wants to blow and you can hear the sound of it but you don’t know where it is coming from or where it is going and so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Everyone who has obeyed the gospel message has been born of the Spirit and they have been given that same Spirit of God. That includes all of the saved today. It came like the sound of a rushing wind for those back then but it is not happening to us today. We can’t hear the sound of it. Why not?
Could He have been speaking of the spirits of the faithful who have been made one Spirit with Christ blowing about like the wind?
We can't blow where we wish; at least not
while in the flesh. Is He speaking of the departed spirits that are in
the cloud around us blowing where they wish?
Have the spirits of the departed faithful been blowing about to the four winds and surrounding God's people wherever they have been scattered over this earth? Are they blowing around among the scattered assembly of the church?
Some day, Christ will send forth His angels "with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, "from one end of the sky to the other" (Matthew 24:31).
Was He speaking of gathering from the four winds those born of the Spirit that have been blowing about like the wind?
Was Jesus saying the same thing through Ezekiel when he had seen that valley of dry bones become assembled into dead bodies? He was commanded to prophesy to the breath and tell the breath to "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life" (Ezekiel 37:9).
He went on
will put My
Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on
your own land."
When we look at the Hebrew wording and Strongs Definitions, we see the Hebrew word for breath is the same word as the word for Spirit.
There is something else to remember. The one who has been joined to the Lord is one Spirit with Him (1 Corinthians ).
Did not the Old Testament prophets show us the same picture that we read about in the New Testament? Does not Jesus speak to us from the Old Testament scriptures, telling us of the cross and its resulting glory?
Peter said, "the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow" (1 Peter 1:10-11).
When the prophets spoke of the cross and the glory to follow, it was really Christ speaking. When Ezekiel spoke of that valley of bodies being raised up and of God calling the breath from the four winds to breathe life into them and then of His bringing them into the land of promise, Christ was speaking and He is telling us about the glories to come.
He spoke through the prophets what He would later speak in the flesh and through the inspired writers of the New Testament.
When Ezekiel spoke of how he was commanded to prophesy to the breath and tell the breath to "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life", was he saying the same thing that Paul said when he spoke of Jesus returning?
In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, Paul said He will return, bringing with Him those who had fallen asleep (In Jesus) and then He will resurrect their bodies and they will rise to meet Him.
Will that not be the day
when Jesus will lead
them to their own land?
Did Ezekiel, show us the same picture in chapter 1 of his book? Ezekiel says that he saw, a storm wind coming with a great cloud and bright light and continuous flashing fire.
Ezekiel will say, "As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day" and "Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD".
Was Ezekiel foretelling the Lord's return in His glory clouds? Could the appearance of the likeness of the LORD'S glory that Ezekiel saw be the same as what Jesus described about His return?
Could fire flashing forth be, "For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day" (Luke 17:24).
Is Ezekiel seeing Jesus sending forth His angels to gather His elect from the four winds?
Whatever Ezekiel saw it was not just some prophet rambling on. This was not just Old Testament poetry. It was Christ speaking through Ezekiel and He is telling of that day when He will return in glory. Ezekiel was seeing Jesus coming on the clouds of the sky.
When He comes He will be coming on the clouds and be "revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire" - - "when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed" (2 Thessalonians ). Will He be glorified in His saints in the GLORY CLOUDS OF HEAVEN?
Ezekiel foretold it all again in chapter 34. In verse 12, he said, "I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day".
It will be a cloudy and gloomy day for most but a day of glory for those who are called from the four winds to be revealed in clouds of glory.
Those departed faithful are there in the clouds now but they can only be seen by faith. Some day they will be revealed with Him in glory. When it happens, every eye will see Him coming with the clouds of heaven ("BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him , even those who pierced Him ; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him" - Revelation 1:7) .
Paul said that whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4). It was written so that we might have hope. We can have hope to live with Jesus in eternal glory but as our earthly tabernacle is still traveling toward our land can we not hope to continue to travel with it after we depart this life?
Jesus will keep His promise; He truly will be with us to the end of the age. He will not leave us alone, even after our bodies fall asleep. He is with those who are serving in the tabernacle outer room and He is with those departed ones who are in the cloud around us.
So, how is it that the spirits of the departed saints are now in the clouds around us but Judgment Day is yet to come? How are the departed saints with Jesus, in a cloud of glory if they have not yet been judged? Is it possible that they have been judged?
We don't know all of the answers but everything God wanted us to know is in the scriptures. We do know that all scripture is God breathed and we know that JESUS IS LORD and He is the Word spoken in the Holy Scriptures. We know that all will be judged and we know that when He returns in clouds of glory, all bodies will be raised and the saints will ascend to meet Him in the air.
We also know that Jesus will judge the nations when He comes. He will judge the nations in body and soul and the bodies and souls of the damned will be condemned and cast into hell.
Will the saints be judged before the unbelieving nations are judged? Will it happen when we depart this life (Except for those who will still be living when He returns)? Was Peter speaking of that when he wrote, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God" (1 Peter )?
Peter included himself and he said that we, who are of God's household, will be judged first, before unbelievers are judged. He also said the time had come for judgment of the saints to begin. He made that statement nearly two thousand years ago.
Did judgment of the saints begin as the first century saints fell asleep? Were their souls judged and separated in Hades? Does the story of the rich man and Lazarus tell us about that (Luke -31)?
Remember, the rich man died and found himself in torment in Hades. The poor man was in comfort. The last day had not come because the rich man was concerned about his brothers, still living on earth. The bodies of those two men were still in the tomb; only their souls would have been in Hades.
A judgment had happened to separate the souls of those two men and it happened before Jesus will come in glory and judge the nations. A judgment of the saints who are still living and serving will happen on that last day but the souls of the departed saints may be judged first to determine where they will dwell until the final resurrection and judgment takes place.
If the departed faithful have already been judged and selected, then they have obtained eternal life and will not "come into judgment but has already passed out of death into life" (John ).
Will they not come into judgment in the flesh if their souls have been judged when their bodies fall asleep? Are their souls in comfort (in Hades) and their spirits in clouds of glory?
We must be
careful not to go
beyond what is written and for fifty years I have tried to meet that
requirement but I may have been cutting some scriptures short and not
believed they meant what they said.
Some are hard to understand and we may not be able to find answers to all of our questions but we must continue to search the scriptures. All scripture is true and it will happen, just as Jesus said it will happen.
You will notice that I have used the New American Standard translation for the copied scriptures in this book. You may wish to also read the same scriptures from the translation that you normally use.
Image of the cross is from FreeFoto.com
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org )