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In Acts 1:11, the disciples are spoken to by two men in white (NIV):

"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

To what are they referring when they say "in the same way" they will see him come back? Is this referring to a being on a cloud? Or does it refer to some other manner, such as "before their very eyes" or in power or as a human being?

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Yes, it refers to Jesus coming back on clouds. Jesus Himself says this to Caiaphas the high priest at His arraignment before the Sanhedrin:

62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

64 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 the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” -Matthew 26:62-64 (NKJV)

Jesus also told His disciples the same thing:

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days [spoken of in verses 15-28] the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 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. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. -Matthew 24:29-31 (NKJV)

Paul also speaks of this:

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. -1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NKJV)

As does John in Revelation:

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. -Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)

Scripture is clear that Jesus' return will involve Him coming on the clouds of heaven, in power and still as a human being. For after His resurrection, Jesus confirmed to His disciples in Luke 24:39 that He still has flesh and bones.

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Peace.

Jesus shall come in like manner as the disciples saw Him go into Heaven: in a “cloud”…that is, a “cloud of witnesses”.

This is not literal as it is not about literally “gazing into Heaven” as the “men of Galilee” did.

Acts 1:6-11 KJV (6) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (7) And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

This “cloud of witnesses” also includes the apostles who were made “witnesses” unto Jesus unto all the earth.

"You shall be witnesses unto Me"....a "cloud of witnesses".

(8) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (9) And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

The 2 men in white apparel that stood by the apostles signify the Law and the Prophets. Moses and Elijah (the biblical saints of the law and the prophets) with all of the biblical disciples whose witnesses are written about in the Bible are the “cloud of witnesses”.

Jesus comes to open up the Scriptures unto the eyes of our understanding and the only way to enter in to understand is to put on Christ….the white (light) apparel…as He transforms the words of the Biblical witnesses into His words of eternal life.

(10) And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

Earthly-minded men (“you men of Galilee”) are looking literally into Heaven awaiting Jesus to come on a literal cloud. The point of this statement unto the disciples at that time is that this (His coming) is not to expected to be a literal event.

(11) Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

All of the eyewitnesses written of the Bible are the “cloud” that Jesus comes in as He interprets the Scriptures to our hearing ears. His interpretation of their words is the “cloud” of His witnesses as they all wrote about Him and lived in faith in Him.

We are caught up together with those eyewitnesses who had died in faith (dead in Christ) in “clouds” also as we become His witnesses to this earth also. The Lord Himself descends from Heaven with a shout...that is, a command: To ARISE from the "dead"..

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 KJV (15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Again, we are compassed about with so great a “cloud of witnesses”.

Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV (1) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

They (the witnesses that died in faith) without us should not be made complete as we are to be part of this “cloud of witnesses” that comes upon this earth before the kingdoms of this earth become His. This coming "cloud" will certainly disturb the nations of this world when they shall see it as it will darken their current joy and ruling status.

Hebrews 11:39-40 KJV (39) And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (40) God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Today, we are to “awake” from our “sleep” and put on Christ (the white garments) at the hearing of His voice who interprets the Scriptures….the law and the prophets…even as Moses and Elijah “stood with Him”.

They “stand” as He interprets their words to our hearing ears as they are transformed/transfigured. The divisions...the denominations...of men do not know what they are speaking about. Only the Son does whom we are to hear speaking to us from Heaven as He interprets the Scriptures.

Luke 9:32-35 KJV (32) But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. (33) And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.

The disciples feared as they entered into the “cloud”. The only way to enter into the “cloud of witnesses”…entering into the understanding of His interpretation of them and becoming part of this “cloud of witnesses”… is to fear God and keep His commandments of which He commands us to HEAR His beloved Son as He opens up the Scriptures to our understanding.

(34) While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. (35) And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

In the holy mount, the apostles also became “eyewitnesses of His majesty” as they entered into the “cloud of witnesses”…becoming part of it.

Jesus comes in a “cloud” with great power and glory…and His cloud of witnesses make known unto us the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:16-18 KJV (16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (17) For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (18) And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

This coming “cloud of witnesses” that the Son of man comes in shall darken this earth so to speak as the sun shall be darkened and the moon will not give her light.

The “tribes of earth”….those who are bogged down in their earthly wisdom of envy, strife, hatred…shall mourn (worldly sorrow) when they see this “cloud” coming upon the earth as their joy shall be darkened.

It will be a sorrowful event for them as they see the Son of man coming the “clouds of Heaven”…those who are focusing in things above and are part of His witnesses. It will darken this world as those who are "earthly" shall be distressed when they see these things happening...coming upon the earth. The rulers will also be shaken to the core.

Matthew 24:29-30 KJV (29) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

The unbelieving religious leaders who are overseers (every “eye”) of the churches shall greatly mourn as did the high priest in Matthew 26 when he “rent his clothes” after hearing the response of Jesus: Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Even those who pierce Him with their unbelieving words shall see the effect of the coming of the Son coming upon this earth...and they will mourn it and ill not believe and speak evil of it.

Matthew 26:63-65 KJV (63) But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. (64) Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (65) Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

They will greatly mourn as did the chief priests and scribes of the day who did hear the children crying in the temple and saying “Hosanna to the Son of David”. They were “sore displeased”…that is, they had much grief when they hear those who have humbled themselves as children praising God in this coming time as the "cloud" comes to darken this earth of those who will mourn it in their worldly sorrow.

Matthew 21:15-16 KJV (15) And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, (16) And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

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Not only will Christ return on the clouds, but the Acts passage refers to how He will return triumphantly and in great glory. Christ's ascent into Heaven also underscored how He had triumphed over death, which is a shadow of how, when He returns again, He will fully put death in its place and will call all of "those who have fallen asleep" to rise from the grave as He did. Since His triumphant return is when the dead will rise, and since His return will be sounded with trumpets, it would appear as though a prior "secret rapture" does not fit into this eschatological event.

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