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Meaning of Coming in Clouds, Stars, Sun and the Moon

Discussion in 'Bibliology & Hermeneutics' started by Mike Etemadi, Aug 3, 2002.

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  1. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    I would like to hear your opinion on the following passage in the 24th chapter of Matthew. What is meant by "stars", "moon", "sun" and "clouds"? I commonly hear that they are to be taken literally but what are the proofs and biblical references that they are to be taken literally?

    Matthew 24: 29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
    "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.
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  2. Seraphiel

    Seraphiel Seraphim

    It sounds like the Rapture to me. And I would say to take it literally.
  3. Falcon

    Falcon New Member

    Based on the similar language in old testsament prophecy, I tend to think the sun, moon, and stars description is symoblic of judgement. (Isaiah 13:10; 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7,8; Danial 8:10; Joel 2:10; Amos 8:9). I don't know about the clouds though, it could be either literal or symbolic I guess.
  4. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member


    Stars are millions of times bigger than earth. How can they fall upon the earth? Besides, if the Lord rides in the clouds and comes from this physical sky, He will have to make thousands of re-entries to be seen by all the people. You see the earth is round!!! And furthermore, is literal sky meant here or the same sky used in John3:13:

    And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.


    John 6:51

    I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

    Besides, a similar prophecy was fulfilled in Acts 2:14-21

    14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
    17" 'In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
    18Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
    19I will show wonders in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.

    20The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

    21And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

    Knowing that such literal events did not take place, there are those who say that this prophecy refers to the second coming of the Lord, although there is nothing in the context that would support this position.

    So is it didn't happen literally, how was this prophecy fulfilled in Acts?
  5. Patmosman_sga

    Patmosman_sga Member

    "Coming on the clouds" should be interpreted following its Old Testament precedent.

    What Daniel sees here is a vision of Christ's enthronement in heaven as Lord of all creation. This would indicate that "coming on the clouds" refers to his ascension into heaven, not his descent to earth. "Clouds" is often employed as an image in Jewish apocalyptic literature to refer to the vindication of God's people after a time of suffering. Thus, Jesus, having endured the ultimate suffering of the cross in order to redeem God's people, is vindicated through his resurrection and his ascension to the right hand of God in glory.

    The same goes for the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. All of these are used repeatedly in the Old Testament to refer to some act of God within human history that is so decisive as to literally disrupt the whole created order.

    The eschatological significance of all this is really pretty easy to grasp. As God has acted decisively to redeem his creation through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so all creation will eventually share in his victory and vindication. The dead will be raised and the living also will experience the transforming power of the resurrection. Heaven and earth will be joined together in perfect harmony, with Jesus himself being personally present at the very center of God's new creation.

    When we speak of Christ's "coming on the clouds," we are looking forward to the day when he will raise us up to be like him in a fully renewed, fully redeemed creation.
  6. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    You wrote, "The same goes for the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. All of these are used repeatedly in the Old Testament to refer to some act of God within human history that is so decisive as to literally disrupt the whole created order. "

    1. In light of your statement, how do explain the fulfillment of prophecy in Acts 2?

    2. How do you expect the Lord to come?
  7. Patty

    Patty Nice ta see yas!

    Hey Mike,

    Here's something I wrote about part of this topic. Hope you like it.

    "He Will Come on a Cloud"

    Holy Scriptures teaches us that the Lord Jesus Christ will come to us on a cloud. What does this mean? There are many possibilities. To discern the Truth in these words, it helps to reflect on the nature of a cloud.

    A cloud is a large mass of life-giving rain that has not yet fallen to nourish the earth. It has form and substance but cannot be touched or accurately defined as to shape and density. Without clouds and what they give to the earth, nothing would exist.

    The beauty of a cloud is that, no matter what it touches, it cannot be felt. But its presence is known by the one being touched. A cloud caresses and envelops something in such a way that the sight is obscured to all other things but the cloud itself.

    This is how the Lord Jesus comes to us today. He is the source of life for our souls. He has form and substance, and without His Holy Presence in our lives, we would not exist. When He touches our souls with His Divine Love, all other things previously seen by us as important now seem to be meaningless. One cannot see Him, yet His presence is known. One cannot hear Him, yet His Holy Word is recorded in the heart.

    When one embarks on a journey of love, the sensation is akin to being immersed in a fog that obscures all other emotions.
    A sensation of being lifted off one's feet is commonly described.
    To embark on a journey with the Lord Jesus Christ is like traveling in a cloud. Think of how it would feel to be floating on a cloud of love and awareness of God. Nothing else would seem important. Nothing would interfere with the sensation of being enveloped in a blanket of His Great Love.

    To be lifted off one's feet in a cloud of love for God is at first awkward. One wonders where the ground of familiarity has gone. One feels as though the cloud has swept away every trace of recognition one once had for nearly everything in one's life.

    To many, the sensation of fear of falling off the cloud and landing with a thump on the old turf is nearly overwhelming. But, to the wise, letting go of the fear of falling in favor of the beautiful voyage in the cloud of God's Love soon makes the fear disappear. Then, the voyager is able to relax and enjoy the journey, sinking more deeply and more willingly into the gentle, loving arms of God.

  8. Patmosman_sga

    Patmosman_sga Member

    Peter declares in Acts 2 that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. 

    "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11b)

    The question, then, is, "In what way did the disciples see Jesus go into heaven?" If Luke is, in fact, the author of both the Gospel of Luke and Acts (and we have no reason to think otherwise), then we find an important clue in his Gospel account:

    "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." (Luke 9:51)

    The Greek for "taken up" is the same in Luke 9:51 and Acts 1:11. Luke sees Jesus being "taken up" into heaven not as one single climactic act, but as a series of events beginning when "he set his face to go to Jerusalem." From that time until the time of his departure recorded in Acts 1:11, a number of significant events take place, including the triumphal entry, the Last Supper, betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

    After the resurrection, Jesus appears several times to his disciples. Each time, however, he appears in their midst "as they were talking about these things," namely the events leading up to his death and resurrection. In other words, every time they begin to talk with one another about the things which had taken place from the time Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem" until the time of his resurrection, Jesus himself came and stood among them.

    This suggests that the proper posture for waiting and expecting the coming of Christ is that of worship. In worship, the Church recounts, remembers and re-lives all the events surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection, culminating with his being "taken up" into heaven to be enthroned as Lord of all. In worship, Jesus is perpetually enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords. Luke's account of the journey to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) is the model for the Divine Liturgy used by the Church for centuries. Two or more people gather, they begin recounting the events of Jesus' death and resurrection, Jesus himself comes into their midst, opens the Scriptures, invites them to the table, is recognized in the breaking of the bread, and the people go forth to proclaim the good news of Jesus' resurrection.

    How, then, will Jesus come? In the same way he comes whenever two or three are gathered in his name. Worship is anticipated parousia. It is the posture of actively moving toward the fulfillment of our hope, until at last we see him face to face in the midst of a creation fully redeemed to reflect the perfect glory of God.
  9. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member


    It is a lovely explanation. Please explain how you see this relate to the fulfillment of the prophecy regarding the second coming? That is, in His second coming He is supposed to come inthe clouds. Do you take this literallY?


    Acts cites the whole text in fulfillment of the prophecy. Therefore, the moon did indeed turn into blood, but not in a way that we expect it to turn into blood. What it means is beyond me for now. But it was fulfilled. One cannot only take part of the text and say that only that part is fulfilled and the rest is not.

    Now let me ask you this: Do you expect the Lrod to come in the clouds from this physical sky or not? If so, how would you react is He doe not come that way? After all, God fulfills His promises in His own way and not according to the understanding of the mortal men?

    Let us not act like the Jews who put conditions on how their Messiah was to appear and when He appeared not according to their expectations, they denied Him and heaped on His blessed Person such unbearable calamities. Let us be very careful, that the Author of the Prophecy decides on how it is going to be fulfilled.
  10. Patmosman_sga

    Patmosman_sga Member

    I thought I had already answered these questions. The prophecy of Joel, quoted by Peter in Acts 2, was fulfilled at Pentecost. No question about it. I also explained my understanding of the Lord's coming and how we anticipate it in worship. Obviously, the "clouds" imagery has a much deeper meaning than is generally conveyed in a woodenly literalistic interpretation. In addition to symbolizing vindication after suffering, "clouds" are also closely associated with the Temple sacrifice, that is, the burnt offering rising up as a "cloud" or "billow of smoke" into the presence of God. True worship under the New Covenant is the Church offering itself up to God as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. The communion liturgy of my church (Methodist) states it this way:

    And so, in remembrance of these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving, as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ's offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

    Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
  11. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    So are you saying that Christ, in His second coming, will not come in the clouds from this physical sky? That the moon will not turn into blood literally. That the sun will not be darkened literally and neither will the stars fall uponthe earth literally (they could not anyway)?
  12. Patmosman_sga

    Patmosman_sga Member

    If Jesus is Lord of all creation, he can make any created thing do whatever he commands it to do. He can even command the sun to go dark, the moon to become blood and the stars to fall from the sky. I do not presume to know precisely how the renewal of creation will be finally consummated. I only know that it is an ongoing act of God in Christ, which we are supposed to be taking part in even now (2 Peter 3:11-13). The apocalyptic language used by the biblical writers (which we also ought to use if we are to fully understand the significance of our task in showing forth the presence of Christ in the world today) ought not be seen as hyperbole but, rather, as understatement.
  13. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    Are we to read the scriptures blindly and not seek the inner meaning intended by them? How can a star Trillions of miles away from earth and millions of times bigger than earth fall upon earth? Besides, one should be fair and ask what in the world should falling stars have to do with the coming of the Lord? Therein lies the connection: Whatever significance the falling of the stars, the darkening of the moon and other signs have, only the interpretations could be accepted that have a relevance to the coming of the Lord.

    You also mentioned apoclyptic catasrophes and calamities in your response. I submit that the greatest calamity that has befallen mankind has been to turn away from God Almighty. In all honesty, can you think of any calamity, any catasrophe greater than this, that a man be bereft of knowing and worshipping His Lord?

    Now let me share with you something that I think might be appropriate here. I believe that when our Lord appeared the first time, the stars of the Jewish Faith, namely the leaders of the Jewish religion fell from the Heaven of undestanding. After all, they were the representatives of God on earth and by denying their Lord, they literally fell from power (the sky). Their light was eclipsed by the New teachings that our Lord brought. Hence the stars did fall in Acts, the moon did turn to blood and the sun did not give light. All of these came to pass in a spiritual way. He also came from the HEaven the first time (John 3:13) and indeed He came in the clouds the first time also. The clouds being the following and more:

    1. He was born of a Virgin. A lie to the Jews and hence they thought among themselves that how can a [wash my mouth][wash my mouth][wash my mouth][wash my mouth][wash my mouth][wash my mouth][wash my mouth] be our Saviour.

    2. He came with heavenly power and the jews were expecting a military leader.

    3. He came to release them from their sins. The jews expected the Messiah to release them from their bondage under the romans. And even worse in 70 A.D. they were slaughtered by Titus. They asked why Jesus did not help them, if He was the true Messiah.


    All of these were the clouds that obscured their minds and hardened their hearts. Eyes have they, but see not and ears have they but hear not.

    I know that I am at a minority in my way of understanding the Bible. And my guiding principle has been to understand the Second Coming in light of His first coming.

    He came from HEaven the first time and indeed He will come back from Heaven the second time. he will be seen by everyone as He was seen by everyone when He came the first time (Luke 3).



  14. Patmosman_sga

    Patmosman_sga Member

    Understanding the second coming in light of the first is not a "minority" view. The Church has always understood it precisely this way. The predominance of dispensationalism, particularly in the United States, has obscured this understanding for nearly two centuries. Dispensationalism posits an unbiblical dualism which sees the earth as inherently "evil" and heaven as inherently "good." Hence, the Christian eschatological hope is reduced to belief in the "rapture," the physical removal of the Church from the earth into heaven prior to a period of "tribulation" culminating with Jesus literally busting out of the sky and flying down to earth on a cloud.

    If that is really the essence of the Christian's hope for the final consummation of the kingdom of God, then all that Christ accomplished by coming in the flesh is ultimately meaningless. If, in the end, the physical world is to be destroyed, why did God go to all the trouble in sending Christ to the cross to redeem it in the first place? There is no other way to understand the second coming except in light of the first.
  15. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    Wonderfully put!!! This physical world will not be destroyed precisely for the observations that you have made.

    My "minority" position, rather has to do with the way I see the significance of the prophecies regarding the clouds, etc. Do you or anyone else share my understanding the way I have described it in the foregoing posts? Is it possible in your estimation, that the Lord will not be coming from this physical sky but rather from heaven even as He came down from it the first time (John 3:13)?
  16. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    Allow me to also add share some more of my thoughts here. Christ said that He had come from the sky, from Heaven - that He came forth from God - while He was born of Mary, His Mother. But when He declared that He had come from Heaven, it is clear that He did not mean the blue firmament but that He spoke of the Heaven of
    the Kingdom of God, and that from this Heaven He descended upon the clouds.

    As clouds are obstacles to the shining of the sun, so the clouds of the world of humanity hid from the eyes of men the radiance of the Divinity of Christ. Men said, `He is of Nazareth, born of Mary, we know Him and we know his brethren. What can He mean? What is He saying? That He came forth from God?' The Body of Christ was born of Mary of Nazareth, but the Spirit was of God. The capacities of His human body were limited but the strength of His spirit was vast, infinite, immeasurable.

    Men asked, `Why does He say He is of God?' If they had understood the reality of Christ, they would have known that the body of His humanity was a cloud that hid His Divinity. The world only saw His human form, and therefore wondered how He could have `come down from Heaven'. Even as the clouds hide the sun and the sky from our gaze, even so did the humanity of Christ hide from men His real Divine character.


  17. Patmosman_sga

    Patmosman_sga Member

    Whenever the language of "descent/ascent" is used in Scripture (eg. Matthew 24 and parallels, 1 Thessalonians 4, Ephesians 4), it needs to be understood within the whole context of the Incarnation. Christ's "descent" from heaven began with his conception by the Holy Spirit and his humble birth by the Virgin Mary. It came to its completion with his death on the cross and his burial in the tomb, when he went down to the very depths of death itself, piercing its very heart so that, in rising again, he set free those who were held in its clutches, as the Psalmist foresaw, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and gave gifts to men" (quoted by Paul in Ephesians 3:8). "Coming with the clouds" denotes an upward trajectory (ascent), not a downward trajectory (descent).

    We do not look for Christ to come again riding downward on a cloud from a heaven somewhere "up there." Rather, we look for Christ to come again as the risen, glorified and vindicated Son of God and Son of Man to raise us (and all of creation) up out of our fallen state of brokenness and imperfection and into the very state of glorified, immortal, eternal life which he has already attained. The full, complete, consummated kingdom of God is all creation--heaven and earth as one--sharing, with Christ and in Christ, the glory and vindication that is the resurrection.
  18. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    Praise the Lord! I am certain that you and I are in a definite minority. Just about everyone I talk to, expects a physical, riding on the clouds descent. When I press the issue and ask the same type of questions that I have asked here, they end up telling me that "with God everything is possible", "it does not matter how much a bigger a star is, God will make it a smaller and makes it fall on earth" and so on.

    So if you do not believe that He will be coming in the clouds, how do you expect Him to return?
  19. Thunderchild

    Thunderchild Sheep in Wolf's clothing

    And of course, the angel's declaration to the disciples that Jesus would return in precisely the same manner that they had seen him go (ascending into the clouds) is entirely meaningless.
  20. Mike Etemadi

    Mike Etemadi New Member

    I take it that you're refering to Acts 1. It is entirely MEANINGFUL. Here are the verses:

    9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
    10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
    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.

    I have struggled with some questions here:

    1. If Jesus was literally taken up, then Elijah was literally taken up also in chariots of fire and the Jews had every reason to disbelieve in Christ for His indentification of John the Baptist as Elijah. Prophecies clearly pointed to Elijah coming back before the day of the Lord. And yet Christ introduced John the Baptist as Elijah, a person who had been born recently. Why make the same mistake that the Jews made and expect a physical descent from the sky?

    2. If the event in Acts is as literal as it appears, why in the world is the author of Acts so casual about it? He writes about it as if it were a common event in those days for people to go up to heaven.

    3. Why did the author of Acts include the question of the Angel? That is why did the Angel ask the witnesses why they were looking at the sky? Were they looking at the right place or the wrong place?

    4. The text suggests that the return will be in the clouds and out of sight and that He will come in the same manner that He went up. That is He will not be seen when He comes back. This directly contradicts the other prophecies regrading His second coming. People will see Him descending. That is the people that are in the area where He descends.

    5.Due to the curvature of the earth, He will have to make many thousands of reentries for everyone to see Him.

    6. How far can one stretch "the same manner"? Will He be coming alone as suggested here, or will He be coming with angels?

    7. Where is Heaven after all? Or better asked, what is&nbsp;Heaven?&nbsp;The Lord came down from it the first time also: John&nbsp; 6:51&nbsp;I am the living <B>bread</B> which came down from heaven....

    He&nbsp;claimed to be in Heaven although He was in Jerusalem talking to people:

    John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

    So how did He go up to a Heaven which is on earth?

    8. Where is this Physical Heaven that Christ has ascended to? Telescopes have not discovered it yet! How far up is it?

    9. How are we going to know the wolves from the sheep if the events take place literally? No wonder that Elijah didn't descend from the sky in chariots of fire! Which unbeliever would have dared not to believe? Does the Lord want us to believe by choice or by force?&nbsp;&nbsp;

    Let us adopt an explanation that we could uniformly apply across the Holy text. The foremost guiding principle that I have adopted in my study of the scriptures has been to steer clear away from the mistakes that the Jews made in rejecting the Lord. They merely expected too many literal fulfillments of the prophecies. The obvious is obvious to everyone, but the diligent will read between the lines.

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