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Jesus told the high priests just before His crucifixion,

"I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One" and "coming on the clouds of heaven".

How can these two actions be reconciled?

And why would the mention of this irritate them so much? Are there any first-century rabbinical interpretations extant that would give a background?

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    Does "coming" necessarily involve the appearance of physical movement? If the vision suddenly appears in front of them, then it has "come"- it has arrived. Feb 10, 2023 at 22:38
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    I suggest consulting the apostles of Jesus Christ on the matter. How would first century rabbis help ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 11, 2023 at 0:09
  • If Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven on a throne - what is the conflict you are trying to resolve?
    – Dottard
    Feb 11, 2023 at 3:20

3 Answers 3

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God speaks in parallels at times. He will mention one thing, and in the very next part of the verse say it differently as another thing. When He does this He is equating the first with the second, and one becomes a simile or metaphor for the other.

“Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” (Psa. 97:2, KJV)

In the example above “clouds and darkness” are equated to ”righteousness and judgment.” Sitting at the right hand of the Father equals judgment. When a king takes his seat on his throne he is sitting to hear matters to be judged.

”13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:13-14, KJV)

Coming in the clouds was God’s prophetic judgment language that the people would feel his presence and see the results of the judgment He delivered against them. It did not mean that the people would literally see God in the clouds. The scriptures speak of God traveling in the clouds (Psa. 104:3), of the clouds being the dust of His feet (Nah. 1:3).

"7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. 8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. 10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. 12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. 14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.” (Psa. 18: 7-14, KJV)

Clouds and darkness were picture images of coming judgment. In the judgment against Judah and Jerusalem, Jeremiah used this language of God’s chosen lion / destroyer, Nebuchadnezzar.

“7 The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant... 12 Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them. 13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.” (Jer. 4:7, 13-14, KJV)

”1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; 2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” (Joel 2:1-2, KJV)

This was the judgment prophesied by Joel of the destruction of Jerusalem expressed in the prophetic judgment language of the day of Lord, and coming in the clouds. Again, the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem by the prophet Zephania -

”That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, (Zeph. 1:15, KJV)

This is the same judgment language used when Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem in Matt. 24.

”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. (Matt. 24:30, KJV)

And still again before Caiaphas in Matt. 26:64.

”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.”

Sitting on the right hand of power was judgment authority, and stating it with the words from the OT prophets warning of judgment in a day of the Lord as “coming in the clouds of heaven”. Caiaphas became angry because he knew the judgment language of the prophets, but he did not recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Caiaphas then drew the false conclusion that Jesus had blasphemed as he knew that only God was to pronounce judgment. That is why Caiaphas tore his clothes.

The scripture does not mean that Caiaphas would literally see Jesus in the clouds. It is judgment language. “Sitting on the right hand of power” equals “coming in the clouds of heaven” and both of them equals judgment from on high. That is how you reconcile the two.

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The text in a little larger context:

Matthew 26

63 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.
66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

Why would the mention of this irritate them so much?

The reason the high priest gives for his show of indignation by tearing his clothes is that he thinks Jesus spoke blasphemy.

Why would he think this? He had just asked Jesus, under oath, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God."

Jesus' answer "Thou hast said" may sound somewhat vague. "Those are your words". However, we might understand Jesus' answer, it seems the high priest appears to have understood it as a "yes".

According to the Bible, blasphemy included claiming to be God.
John 10:33

The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

John 19:7

The Jews answered him (Pilate), We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

In looking for that law, it's often understood to refer to Leviticus 24:16.

But then, if Jesus' first words were vague, He goes on and says the phrase under consideration: "I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One" or "the right hand of power",

What does it mean to "sit at the right hand of the Mighty One?" To sit on the right hand of a king was recognized as a position of honor, a position of authority with the king. That authority continued whether he was literally sitting, or going about the tasks of his position.

In Psalm 110, the Messiah is called "my Lord" and invited to sit on the right hand of God. He will crush kings on the day of his wrath, and judge the nations. The right hand of God is a metaphor for the place of great authority and judgment.
Psalm 110:1, 2, 5, 6

1The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill [the places] with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.

It's very possible that those priests at Christ's trial figured He was equating Himself with this psalm.

Then Jesus told them they would see Him coming in the clouds. No wonder they reacted as they did. They were plotting to kill Him and He was telling them in the future they would have to face Him, basically claiming to share equal power with God.

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  • "I was watching in the night visions, "And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. (Dan. 7:13 NET). The Jews remembered Daniel 7:13-14.
    – Betho's
    Feb 11, 2023 at 15:21
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They are two separate events. No need to make more of it. There is a conjunction between the sitting and coming phrases. They will see Him sitting at the right hand of the Father, His position, then coming in the clouds, His return when Israel will see Him whom they have pierced.

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  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Feb 11, 2023 at 2:06
  • The Community Bot comment is par for the course on here because answers normally require a bit of explanation: reasoned support. However, you have chosen to only address the main Q, and not the 2 supplementary ones at the end of the OPs comments. Technically, OPs should only ask 1 Q, so you are within your rights to stick to only 1 Q. Also, anybody just reading the verse in question would see the simple truth of your answer. It's not your answer that should be improved, but the Q!
    – Anne
    Feb 15, 2023 at 14:48
  • @Anne - The second question is exactly the same as the first! As far as the answer of Anthony, a closer look will see that a new topic was introduced: a future alleged Return which, contrary to the previous answers here, is separated as another event. Does this mean that the answer should be improved, after all?
    – ray grant
    Mar 6, 2023 at 22:20
  • @ray grant There's usually room for improvement with many answers, and if Anthony wanted to expand on it, he probably could and would. But I sense from his brief answer that - to him- the answer is simple. Others may disagree, but this really is up to Anthony.
    – Anne
    Mar 7, 2023 at 17:33

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