“ 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.” (Acts 1:11)
First, the Old Covenant usage of the cloud coming of God always symbolized divine presence in Judgment over a nation.
“The burden against Egypt. Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.” (Isaiah 19:1).
Secondly, Christ’s coming in A.D. 70 is neither upon a physical cloud nor in a physical body. It too was a spiritual coming, yet real, and actual. Do recall that he doesn’t have a physical body in the heavens but a glorified one which is spiritual.
“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.” (Matthew 24:30).
Thirdly the angel used the phrase “in like manner” a return in like manner means that he would return in a cloud. Which takes us back to the Apocalyptic use of the return on clouds.
“He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning” (Psalm 18:9-12).
“The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind” (Psalm 104:2-3).
“The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. That day will be a day of wrath—a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Zephaniah 1:14-15).
In Acts 1:9-11 Jesus did not take ride on a literal cloud past the galaxies scaling past Mars, Venus, Jupiter, etc. Clouds are used throughout the Bible in a symbolic manner.
Now see how Jesus states his return;
Speaking to His disciples Jesus said:
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28)
Speaking to His disciples Jesus said:
“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.” (Matthew 24:30)
Speaking to Caiaphas Jesus said:
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 26:64)
John wrote to the seven churches in Asia Minor:
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth (literally – “land”) will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” (Revelation 1:7)
How will this return be fulfilled in our time or sometime in the future when the return has been qualified:
- Some who would not die until he returns
- The tribes of the land refer to Israel which is a localized application of the prophecy.
- The high priest would witness the return
- That generation would not pass away till everything prophesied be fulfilled.
It can be disappointing to accept that we are not expecting a physical bodily return of Jesus on the earth but it better to stay with truth than live with inherited error. The truth is that his return was on an Old covenant system that could not produce perfection and unveil His glory over the earth. We are now live in the age where His kingdom will spread not in judgment but in justification and grace upon all men. We should look forward to his revelation in our hearts rather than look at the skies.