This final book of the Bible, written by John (most people believe this to be the Apostle John), is both a literary and an eschatological work. The language of Revelation is rich with symbolism, so we are not encouraged to read all of Revelation literally.
For example, is Revelation 1:7 meant to be taken at face value? Will Jesus come in the clouds at the end of days?
Chapter one, verse seven, is nestled in the prologue for all of Revelation, which is a description of Christ’s return and what will happen to those who are faithful and to the unbelievers at that time.
John starts by introducing his work as “the revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place” (v. 1). John introduces himself and his intentions and names his audience: “the seven churches in Asia.”
Once John has exalted the Lord, he moves from his synopsis of the whole book to the real opening of Revelation, which starts where all things begin: with Jesus. “Look, he is coming with the clouds.”
As the verse continues, we meet the other characters in this revelation, every single person on earth. They will all “see him, even those who pierced him.” The result will be that “all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him.”
Pointing to Jesus coming on the clouds connects Revelation to other nephrological imagery in Scripture where something comes from heaven, whether in judgment or mercy. Isaiah 19:1 makes “a pronouncement concerning Egypt: Look the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. Egypt’s idols will tremble before him, and Egypt will lose heart.”
God sends judgment from the heavens, but this judgment is also a blessing. Isaiah declares destruction, followed by God’s rescue of Egypt as the people come to the Lord through Christ.
David Guzik indicates that this was an historical event, not a reference to Christ’s return. Christianity would become strong in Egypt for several centuries.
But these verses still leave their mark and drag our attention back to Egypt and God’s history with those people, the hard heart of Pharaoh, and the seemingly impossible spiritual transformation that occurred.
God destroys and then saves Egypt. He often destroys before he saves, the most obvious example being Christ’s death on the cross.
But this is also a biblical pattern, such as when Moses fled from his privileged life in Egypt and became a shepherd before God turned him into a leader of his people.
Or Ruth and Naomi, who were utterly broken by grief but then rescued by Boaz into the security and benefits of a good marriage. Or the man who had lost his mind and whom Christ saved by casting out the demons that plagued him. Lazarus died and was raised by Christ from his tomb.
When Christ returns on a cloud, does this warn us to expect suffering before restoration? Sometimes in the Bible, a cloud is just a cloud. But when those bodies gather, they might swell with judgment or blessing.
There could be an end to drought (Psalm 147:8) or a drought of righteousness (Isaiah 45:8). Clouds could also cover the sun (Isaiah 5:30), leading to darkness both physically and spiritually.
Revelation 1:7 announces darkness and light at one time, but Christians know what happens next. Christ will destroy all those who rejected him, but every believer will be raised with Christ to heaven. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Weather Forecast: Jesus in the Clouds
Some cloud imagery previous to Revelation invites us to connect Jesus with both the Old Testament and his promised return. The Lord coming on the clouds in Isaiah does point forward to the events of Revelation by literary continuity.
Jesus, recorded by the Apostle Mark, said of himself, “They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
Jesus painted this picture for the disciples himself, so perhaps John remembered. If so, Revelation 1:7 hearkens to those days spent with Jesus.
John is restating what Christ said of himself, reinforcing the veracity of Mark’s narrative and ensuring that the reader sees that John is not the author of this revelation: the Lord is.
But Will Jesus Come on Clouds?
John Gill wrote about the nature of Revelation 1:7. “This coming is personal, and with clouds, when he will be seen by every eye.”
He further explained how “the grand and magnificent manner, in which he will come, making the clouds his chariots [will] strike terror into his enemies, clouds, and darkness being about him, thunder and lightning breaking out of them, as tokens of that vengeance he comes to take upon them.”
Gill saw the picture of Christ’s return from the heavens as deeply personal, exciting, and terrifying.
Sometimes even Christians will ask, “will I recognize Jesus when he returns?” They have either not understood Revelation, or they have not read it.
One thing we learn from Revelation 1:7 is that Jesus will not return to earth and mingle for a few years before destroying Satan and bringing his people home.
He will not be born as a child again but will leave the place he has occupied ever since ascending into heaven, which is at the right hand of God. Jesus “is at the right hand of God, [he] indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). He will be visible and recognizable to every eye. There will be no mistaking who Jesus is, his power, or why he came.
The Christians who live during the tribulation will long to see this sight. Before he comes back, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light” (Mark 13:24).
That is when Christ will break through a sunless sky on a cloud, reminding us that Christ is light. The gathering cumuli of destruction will not and cannot obscure his light.
Christ’s return will be breathtaking, magnificent, unmistakable, and dramatic, all with the heavens as his backdrop. He will fill the hearts of those suffering for his name’s sake with joy and unimaginable relief, like a swelling rain cloud hovering over the desert.
The Last Word
The most important point about Revelation 1:7 is that Jesus is coming back, and every person will know who he is. They will not only recognize him as “Jesus” but will also realize, perhaps too late, that he really is the Lord Almighty. John does not claim to be the last word on this revelation either.
He reminds us that “He who testified about these things [Jesus] says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’” The picture he paints in this last book of the Bible should be a warning to those who do not believe in Christ for salvation: Jesus will return to fulfill his promise to rid the earth of darkness. And this same picture is an encouragement to Christians who will one day cry out, “’Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).
For further reading:
What Do We Know about the Second Coming of Jesus?
When Is Jesus Coming Back? Is it Soon?
Why Is God ‘Like A Thief in the Night’?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/peemadech bangsiri
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.