Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Christ cometh with the clouds. Crucified and buried, Christ descended into Hades. On the third day, he rose from the grave. After 40 days, appearing before many witnesses, including 5,000 men at one time, he ascended to heaven. Why did he ascend? Why is the ascension significant?
He ascended to heaven, leading there with him the host of his saints of old, who had long awaited this triumphal procession. He rode upon that celestial road not on a colt, nor upon a stallion, but upon the clouds. Upon arrival, he commanded the gates of heaven to open. And they did. Answerable to no man, the gates of heaven opened before this man, this God Man, this King of kings and Lord of lords. Having conquered, he led his victory parade into his Father’s city to rightfully claim his throne, where he sits now, with dominion over all the earth.
“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.”
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.”
Christ’s ascension to his seat of power was beheld by every eye, even by those who murdered him, as his gospel was preached before all, first by Peter at Pentecost and then by the many who belonged to the church. This is what we do when we preach the gospel. Christ is displayed to sinners through our preaching of the gospel. When the Spirit empowers that preaching with salvific blessing, sinners see the ascended Christ. They truly see the ascended Lord Jesus, they weep for their sins, cry out to him for salvation, and receive it in his name.
Here at the beginning of Christ’s revelation, however, we are not simply reminded of saving news. The establishment of Christ’s kingship means ascension, and it also means wrathful return. It doesn’t simply mean salvation for those who confess him as Lord. It means that he comes again, to whup, to crush, to smash. He comes to judge. He cometh on the clouds.
We read in Nahum 1:2-8,
“God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. 3 The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. 5 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. 6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. 7 The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. 8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.”
Christ cometh on the clouds to take vengeance on his adversaries, to pour out his fierce anger and fury like fire, to pursue his enemies until they are crushed under his feet. This is not referring to Christ’s final coming, but to his coming on the clouds to crush Jerusalem for her apostasy. Instead of receiving the Messiah, the Jews murdered him. And that was not a good move because he was going to rise from the grave, as prophesied. And, rising, he was going to get his. Israel was to be cut off from the olive tree, and the cutting off would be so severe as to undo the earth itself under the false Jews’ feet. They would weep, indeed.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 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. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
Many read this passage from Matthew 24 and assume that Christ is speaking of the end of all things. They think of his final return. But Jesus makes it clear that the cataclysmic events of which he speaks will all take place within the lifetime of his listeners, followers and crucifiers alike. “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” What things? The darkening of the sun and moon. The stars falling from heaven. The shaking of the powers of heaven. The appearing of the Son of man in heaven. The mourning of the tribes of the land. The coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven. The gathering of the elect. All these things will take place before the generation listening to him firsthand pass away. He speaks of his coming in power and wrath against apostate Israel, culminating in the ruination of Jerusalem in AD 70. He cometh on the clouds, was seen by the Jews, conquered, and they wept in death.
John tells us this at the beginning of the revelation because it will be the central theme of it. Many had arrayed themselves against the Lord and his anointed, and Christ’s people. Christ’s people were to be encouraged because Christ would preserve them by and through his complete destruction of their and his foes. He cometh on the clouds. He cometh.
He, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, which is, which was, which is to come, the Almighty, he cometh on the clouds.
All his enemies weep before this coming. All his elect are saved.
If you were born too late to be an eyewitness to the undoing of the earth itself in AD 70, know that it was but a foretaste of what all men will know one day. It is appointed for man to die once, and then comes judgement. And you will see this Christ in power, the Almighty Lord. And you will weep and gnash your teeth, if before that moment of truth you have not repented and called on his name for salvation. So handle your business with this God Man before the point of no return. And, Christian, if your properly in the fight, in the good war, and you’re hounded by foes on all sides, know that Christ knows exactly how to deal with them. He will use your preaching to bring their end. And long after your tears have been wiped away, steam will rise from ceaseless drops in the lake.
He cometh on the clouds. Repent and rejoice.