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There are at least three different appearances by Jesus in the end times;

And then the sign of the Son of Man 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 NASB)

All has either on, in or with the clouds Matthew 26:64, Mark 13:26, 14:62, Revelation 1:7 (Daniel 7:13).

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, with a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. (Revelation 14:14 NASB)

Revelation 14:14 Has him sitting on the clouds with a crown on his head and a sickle in his hand.

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. (Revelation 19:11-14 NASB)

And Revelation 19:11-14 here he's riding out of heaven.

  • Are any of them to be interpreted as literal or a they all symbolic?
  • Are all three one and the same event?
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  • 2
    Related hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/74570/…
    – Henry
    Oct 13, 2023 at 8:28
  • 1
    What makes you think he can't come both on the clouds and on a horse? Oct 16, 2023 at 20:06
  • @RobbieGoodwin The title is a rhetorical question that doesn't seek an answer but function as to challenge the reader. My questions are those two at the bottom! Oct 17, 2023 at 9:37
  • Oh, really? You might be able to justify that within the Stack Exchange rules and personally, I wouldn't be so rash. I'd try to ensure my Questions were meaningful in themselves, even if they were merely precis for the expositions that followed. Oct 17, 2023 at 21:32
  • That aside still, what makes you think he can't come both on the clouds and on a horse? Oct 17, 2023 at 21:33

1 Answer 1

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As the OP and most others on this web-site will be very well aware, the Bible contains several types of literature including

  • simple literal narrative
  • predictive prophecies
  • highly symbolic apocalyptic literature
  • metaphoric poetry
  • parables
  • etc, etc.

If one is seeking any kind of literalness about anything, the last place to look is highly symbolic prophecy. Indeed, the book of Revelation opens with this unambiguous statement:

Rev 1:1 (BLB) - The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants what things it behooves to take place in quickness. And He signified it through having sent His angel to His servant, John,

That is, by its own declaration, the book of Revelation is written in signs and symbols (with the obvious exception of the prologue and epilogue). Even a casual reader will draw the same conclusion when reading many of the cartoonish prophecies with chimeric beasts, swords coming out of the mouths, etc.

So, here are some statements about Jesus' return from the narrative literature:

  • Matt 24:30 - At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
  • Matt 26:64 - Jesus says to him, "You have said. But I say to you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven."
  • Mark 14:62 - And Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven."
  • Acts 1:9-11 - After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “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.”
  • 1 Thess 4:15-17 - By the word of the Lord, we declare to you that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.
  • Rev 1:7 - Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, and those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail because of Him. Yes! Amen!

All these allude to the famous, "Son of Man" passage in the OT:

  • Dan 7:13 - In my vision in the night I continued to watch, and I saw One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven.

Now, let us examine the apocalyptic literature:

Rev 19:11-16

Then I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse. And its rider is called Faithful and True. With righteousness He judges and wages war. He has eyes like blazing fire, and many royal crowns on His head. He has a name written on Him that only He Himself knows. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is The Word of God.

The armies of heaven, dressed in fine linen, white and pure, follow Him on white horses. And from His mouth proceeds a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. And He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

It is obvious that this picture of Messiah Jesus leading the armies of heaven dressed in white linen robes (cf Rev 19:8) is highly symbolic and not literal because we have:

  • eyes like blazing fire
  • many diadems on his head
  • has a name that is unknown yet immediately declared (V16)
  • has a sharp sword to strike the nations from His mouth!
  • robe is white yet dipped in blood
  • He rides a white horse yet treads the winepress of God
  • how do horses ride in the sky (assuming they are not Wagner's Valkyries)?

Rev 14:14

And I looked and saw a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was One like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.

Note the differences between this symbolic picture and that of Rev 19:

  • many diadems vs one diadem
  • sword in the mouth vs sickle in the hand
  • one cannot literally "sit" on a cloud (however, one can come with the clouds!)

However, this picture in Rev 14 of the two-fold judgement cannot be literal (despite the allusion to the cloud and the Son of Man) because the Son of man supervises the two harvests:

  • the righteous grain
  • the wicked grapes

Thus, again, this is a symbolic picture of Jesus' return. The narrative literature should be taken more literally.

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  • And clouds are symbolic of God's presence or nearness. +1 Oct 13, 2023 at 13:11
  • And horses are symbolic of power and control (compare with the 4 horsemen). Oct 13, 2023 at 13:38
  • Since clouds are vaporized water, this may be relevant: Revelation 17:15 “The waters that you saw where the harlot lives represent large numbers of peoples, nations, and tongues." Applying this to the OP's question clouds could represent 'clouds of witnesses" who will accompany the Second Advent. Oct 13, 2023 at 16:41
  • @DanFefferman - that is using modern physics to answer a question. Hermeneutics uses only the meanings of the words at the time of the writer to answer questions.
    – Dottard
    Oct 13, 2023 at 19:10

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