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 Christ is Coming in the Clouds

John Hoole September 11 & 18, 2005


Today we continue our study of "The Seven Churches of Revelation". We are still in the introduction phase of our study. Early in the Book of Revelation we find 7 letters to seven Churches in existence at the time of John.

Revelation 1:10-11 (NKJV) tells us that John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,
11 saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed whether or not there might be any possible significance of the order in which the 7 churches of Revelation are mentioned. Many of today's theologians believe the order of the 7 churches represent successive church eras from its beginning to the coming of Christ.

Chuck Smith - pastor at Calvary Chapel in Cost Mesa, California, proposes the following.

Ephesus -- The Early Church -- 30 - 100 A.D.

Smyrna -- The Persecuted Church -- 100 - 400 A.D.

Pergamum -- The Imperial Church -- 316 - 800 A.D.

Thyatira -- The Unrepentant Church -- 700 - Christ's Return

Sardis -- The Dead Church -- 1500 - Christ's Return

Philadelphia -- The Faithful Church -- 1730 - Christ's Return

Laodicea -- The Apostate Church -- 1900 - Christ's Return

I show you this one to draw your attention once again to the last four churches.

Chuck Smith, and some others, believe the last four eras continue on to the Return of Christ. They draw this conclusion because they believe the message to these church refer to the 2nd coming.

To the church in Thyatira, Christ says, "Hold fast what you have until I come" (Revelation 2:25 - NKJV)

To the church in Sardis, Christ says, "Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you." (Revelation 3:3 - NKJV)

To the church in Philadelphia, Christ says, "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown." (Revelation 3:11 NKJV)

But to the church in Laodicea, I find no mention of the Second Coming. Christ is seen standing at our door and knocking, waiting for us to invite Him in. It also promises those who overcome will sit on Christ's throne. But there is no direct statement concerning the Second Coming of Christ. On the other hand, if you believe the 7 churches represent successive eras of church history from New Testament times until the coming of Christ, then Laodicea automatically goes to the Second Coming, because it is the last church. There is, however, a Passage in Revelation 1 that speaks of the coming of Christ. But it was spoken to all the churches.

Revelation 1:7 NKJV

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

This is the first of 30 times John uses the word "Behold" in the Book of Revelation. It is a simple word asking for our attention. He wants us to take note of what is happening.

In Revelation 3:20, Christ says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock"

In Revelation 3:11, Christ says, "Behold, I come quickly."

And you see the phrase - "Behold, I come quickly…" - again in Revelation 22:7 & 12.

He is saying "look for yourself." It suggests we have a responsibility in the anticipation of His coming. Are you looking for Him to return?

In Revelation 1:7, He is speaking of the second coming of Christ, which is a central topic in the book of Revelation. He speaks of the coming of Christ by giving some of the attributes of that event. And the first thing he mentions is that his coming will be "with clouds."

IS THERE SOME SIGNIFICANCE IN THE FACT THAT ONE ASPECT OF HIS COMING IS RELATED TO THE CLOUDS?

IF SO, WHAT IS THAT SIGNIFICANCE?

For one thing, it corroborates a prophecy given in the first chapter of Acts.

Acts 1:9-11 NKJV

9 ……while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

The people that watched Jesus leave were told by the angels that He would come again. But they also said His coming would be in the "same manner" as His leaving.

SO, WHAT WAS THE MANNER OF HIS LEAVING?

1. He was seen by men and women.

2. It was a physical, bodily departure. It was not just a spiritual or figurative event.

3. A cloud received Him out of their sight.

As a cloud received Him at His ascension, so will His return be with the clouds. And these are not isolated passages noting the presence of clouds at His coming.

Luke 21:27 NKJV

27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Mark 13:26 uses the exact same words as we read in Luke's account.

There are other passages which relate that "clouds" will be characteristics of the coming of Christ. I will get to them in a few minutes. First, let me ask you a question.

ARE THERE CLOUDS IN HEAVEN?

Matthew 24:30 NKJV

30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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.

We also find the clouds of heaven mentioned in the Old Testament.

Daniel 7:13 NKJV

13 I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

There's that word "behold" again. This passage is also speaking of the Lord's return, where, in the next verse, He is setting up His kingdom on earth.

Clouds as a means of transporting God

There are a couple of Scriptures that almost make it sound like God uses clouds to transport Himself around the earth.

Isaiah 19:1 NKJV

1 Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud,…
This is speaking of the Second Coming of our Lord. Notice again that word "Behold!" This is the same event that is described by our original text - Revelation 1:7, which says, "Behold, He cometh with clouds…".

So, does God ride on clouds? These passages indicate such.

Psalms 104:1-3 NKJV

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, 2 Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. 3 He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind,

Again we have a verse speaking of clouds as being God's mode of transportation.

Psalms 68:3-4 NIV

3 But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds [Here, again, we have God riding on the clouds] - his name is the LORD - and rejoice before him.

Clouds as something God sits on

Revelation 14:14-16 NKJV

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud , and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud ,"Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe."
16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Learning from the clouds

So, what can we learn from the clouds in the Bible? I have 7 things I want you to think of when you see a cloud.

1. God uses clouds to teach us about His promises

Genesis 9:13-15 NKJV

13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;
15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

The rainbow is one of God's covenant signs to the world. The rainbow comes only when there have been clouds present. Up until the flood, it had never rained on the earth (Genesis 2:5-6). After the flood was over and they had disembarked, can you imagine what Noah thought when he saw a dark rain cloud in the sky? He might have thought about running back inside the ark, until he remembered God's promise.

Maybe there are some dark clouds in your life. You feel like the cartoon character who always had a black cloud following him. We used to sing a song when I was growing up. The words of the second verse go like this:

Though clouds may gather in the sky,
And billows round me roll,
However dark the world may be,
I've sunlight in my soul.
(Sunlight, Sunlight)

We need to look beyond the dark clouds to the rainbow God has promised for us. There is always a rainbow of God's presence beyond every dark cloud. Dark clouds mean showers of blessing.

2. God uses clouds to teach us about His Guidance.

Exodus 13:21-22 NKJV

21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.
22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

Where the cloud went, Israel went. When it moved, they moved…and when it stopped, they stopped. God used the cloud to guide them through the wilderness. They didn't have a map. They didn't even have roads or a human guide. They had a cloud. The cloud didn't go faster than they could follow. But they had to keep up with the cloud. They could see it…it did not go away…it was always there. In like manner, we walk by faith, not by sight. We can't see the cloud……but, we still have a Guide through the wilderness of our life. We need to keep our eyes on Him. He will never lead you astray. And we have His Word, which is something we can see.

3. God uses clouds to teach us about His Protection.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE ISRAELITES CAME TO THE RED SEA WITH PHARAOH AND HIS ARMY BREATHING DOWN THEIR NECKS?

When Pharaoh and his army pursued the Israelites, we are told that the cloud that was leading them, moved from the front of them and went to the rear of the Israelites. God positioned Himself between the Israelites and the Egyptians. But notice what else He did.

Exodus 14:19-20 NKJV

19 And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.
20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.

The presence of God in the cloud brought darkness to the Egyptians, while bringing light to the Israelites. The cloud became a partition between them and their enemy. Likewise, our God stands in the clouds. The Word of God says He becomes a partition between you and your enemy, the Devil.

Psalms 34:7 NKJV

7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.

Psalms 5:12 NKJV

12 For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

Isaiah 59:19 NKJV

19 ……When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.

When you see a cloud in your life, remember that Jesus will be there to protect you.

4. God uses clouds to teach us about His Provision.

God had guided the Israelites and protected them thus far. Would He NOW, not also provide for them?

Exodus 16:10-12 NKJV

10 Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
12 "I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'"

God continues to provide for us, His children. His provisions are abundant.

o Abundant Life - John 10:10 tells us, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

o Abundant Power - Ephesians 3:20 tells us, "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us."

o Abundant Supply - Philippians 4:19 tells us, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

When Israel looked at the clouds, it reminded them of God's presence…His guidance…His protection…and His provision. Will God do any less for us?

5. God uses clouds to teach us about His Glory.

Exodus 24:15-18 NKJV

15 Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain.
16 Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
17 The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.
18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Moses goes up to the top of Mt. Sinai to receive God's Law (Ex. 24:12). God once again manifests Himself in the form of a cloud. What a privilege it must have been to see the cloud and hear the voice of God and see His glory.

CAN WE SEE THE GLORY OF GOD TODAY? IF SO, HOW?

How about looking into a mirror.

2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

You and I are made to reflect the glory of God. If we aren't, it is not because there is anything wrong with God's glory. It's because there is something wrong with the reflector.

HOW CAN WE REFLECT THE GLORY OF GOD OR BRING HIM GLORY?

1. By Good Works</strong> - Matthew 5:16 tells us, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven."

2. By Bearing good Fruit - John 15:8 tells us, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."

3. By Dedicating our Life to Him - 1 Corinthians 6:20 tells us, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's"

The glory of God should reflect from each one of us. We should be constantly "being changed," as we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18. We are being changed into a clear reflection of the image of the glory of God.

6. God uses clouds to teach us about His Presence.

The clouds, in reference to God, seems to indicate Divine presence. You often find a physical cloud at those times when God comes near mankind. When God came down to Mount Sinai to speak to the people, Exodus 19:9 (NKJV) says:

9 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

WHAT DO WE CALL THIS PRESENCE OF GOD?

It is called the "Shekinah Glory."

DO YOU KNOW WHAT "SHEKINAH" MEANS?

It means "that which dwells"

And with reference to God, it indicates a physical or visible Divine presence among mankind. "Shekinah" comes from the Hebrew word "Shakan"……which means "to dwell." A derivation of "Shakan" is the word "Mishkan" which is translated as "tabernacle." When used of God, it indicates that He has chosen to dwell with us. Or, one could say that "God has chosen to tabernacle with us." In other words, He has pitched his tent among us. It is used to speak of the presence of God in the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

When the Israelites finished constructing the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, we read:

Exodus 40:33-38 NKJV

33 So Moses finished the work.
34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys.
37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up.
38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

HERE WAS GOD'S PRESENCE IN THIS TABERNACLE?

The physical manifestation of Jehovah's presence was seen above the mercy seat between the two cherubim that covered the Ark of the Covenant.

Leviticus 16:2 NKJV

2 And the LORD said to Moses: "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.

God's presence in a cloud did not only occur during the 40 years in the wilderness. When Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount, here is what happened.

1 Kings 8:10-11 NKJV

10 And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD,
11 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

You see the cloud at the presence of God in the New Testament as well. On the Mount of Transfiguration, we find the cloud was present.

Luke 9:33-35 NKJV

33 Then it happened, as they [Who are "they?" - Moses & Elijah] were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" - not knowing what he said. (NIV says "He did not know what he was saying.")
34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.
35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!"

So, we find a cloud often accompanies divine (Godly) visits.

When God took up residence in the Tabernacle, the cloud of God's presence filled the place. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit resident in us. We are His temple - the dwelling place of God. It is because of His presence that we have strength and victory in the Christian life.

The Israelites saw the cloud of the presence of God every day. This should be true in our lives as well. We are to experience His presence in our life every day.

7. God uses clouds to teach us about His Coming Again.

Acts 1:9-11 NKJV

9 …… while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

The people that watched Jesus leave were told by the angels that He would come again. But they also said His coming would be in the "same manner" as His leaving.

SO, WHAT WAS THE MANNER OF HIS LEAVING?

1. He was seen by men and women.

2. It was a physical, bodily departure. It was not just a spiritual or figurative event.

3. A cloud received Him out of their sight.

As a cloud received Him at His ascension, so will His return be with the clouds.

Jesus before Caiaphas

Caiaphas asks, "Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed?" In Mark 14:62, we find His response.

"I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

Once again, the clouds are mentioned with his Second Coming.

Just like it was a cloud that took Jesus home, it will be a cloud that will take us home.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 (not on slide) Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We will rise to meet the Lord in the air in the clouds. I hope all of you are ready for that event. The only way we can go home to be with Jesus, is if we are accompanied by His glory. We have no glory of our own. We are only reflectors of His glory.

When you look up into the sky and see a cloud, it should remind you of:

1. The Promises of God - that He will never fail you
2. The Guidance of God - that He will never lead you astray
3. The Protection of God - that He is always there to give you victory over the devil.
4. The Provision of God - that He will provide all your needs.
5. The Glory of God - that He is to be seen in your life, reflecting His glory.
6. The Presence of God - that He will never leave you or forsake you.
7. The Coming of God - that Jesus will return in the clouds to take you home with Him.

Whenever the storm clouds darken your life, remember that the light of God's glory will always shine through. Let the clouds remind you of the presence of Christ.

   
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Last Updated: Thursday September 08 2011
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