Matt 24:30, 26:64; Mark 13:26, 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7
The World Mission Society Church of God says that clouds are symbolic of flesh, so they say that these verses mean that Jesus will return in the flesh.
I too believe that Jesus will return bodily, as the angels said in Acts 1:11, "...This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
When He went into heaven, Jesus rose bodily into the clouds/sky. To come back in the same manner would be to return bodily from the clouds/sky.
But, instead of Jesus returning in the same body He left with, the WMSCOG uses their "clouds=flesh" interpretation to say that Christ will return by being born into a new body. In other words, rather than Christ coming back "in the same way you have seen him go into heaven," they say He will come back in the same way He came the first time, born into flesh as a baby again.
Do "clouds" represent "flesh" this way in the Bible, that Christ will return by being born in the flesh? Or do “clouds” represent … “clouds", that Christ will return from the sky or in a cloud?
To find out, I did a keyword search for "cloud" and got 152 hits in the NKJV and sorted through them all.
- In many verses, it is clearly an actual cloud, such as a raincloud or a cloud of smoke, as from a fire (such as Genesis 9:14 and Judges 20:38).
- In several verses it is used to describe a day of darkness, but it may not necessarily be actual clouds—it may be figurative for the darkness of oppression and despair (such as Ezekiel 30:3 and 34:12).
- But in many, many verses it is the cloud of the Lord’s presence, such as that led the Israelites or covered the temple or mountain (such as Exodus 40:38 and Leviticus 16:2).
Using the official church website, and Ahn Sahng-Hong's Water of Life book (Chapter 15), I've examined each of the Scriptures they've used to interpret "clouds" as "flesh"....
Hebrews 12:1--Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
The WMS COG says that in Heb. 12:1 “clouds” represent people, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…,” because the witnesses are people. This Greek word is Strong’s # 3509 defined as “a cloud, a large dense multitude, a throng,” and it denotes a “great shapeless collection of vapor” rather than a “definite and particular masses of vapor with some form or shape.” This is like when we say there is a “cloud of flies” over the picnic. We do not mean an actual rain-type of cloud; we mean a whole bunch of flies gathered together, kind of like the water vapor that gathers together to make a cloud. In Hebrews 11, we just had a description of many people of great faith who had died, and the author is now picturing them surrounding us (like a cloud of flies would) encouraging us. This is not quite the same sense of “cloud” as a fluffy cloud in the sky. But we can give it the benefit of the doubt, if the other Scriptures also support “cloud” being “flesh.”
Jude 1:12--These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots
2 Peter 2:17--These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
Proverbs 25:14--Whoever falsely boasts of giving
Is like clouds and wind without rain.
The WMSCOG says these verses show that "clouds" (or mists/water) represent "people". Actually, in literature, we call these expressions metaphors and similes. Similes and metaphors are used to suggest a resemblance between things that are not literally the same, like saying, “His heart was a block of ice.”
If we use this same reasoning, then “clouds” can be:
A dead person (not exactly what you’d want in a Savior)—“As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up.” (Job 7:9)
Or safety (is Jesus returning “safely”?)—“Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.” (Job 30:15 NIV)
Or a king’s favor (will Jesus return with “favor”?)-- “In the light of the king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.” (Prov 16:15)
Or offenses/sins (Is Jesus returning with sin and offense?)-- “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins....” (Isa 44:22)
Or ships (Jesus will return in a ship, maybe with big white sails?)-- “Who are these who fly like a cloud, And like doves to their roosts? Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me; And the ships of Tarshish will come first...” (Isa 60:8-9)
Or armies (Jesus may come with an army. I can imagine that, and it can be supported by Rev 19:14-16.)—Isa 14:31 and Eze 38:9, 16. “You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land.” (Eze 38:16)
Or anger (Jesus will return angry?)--“How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger!...” (Lam 2:1)
So linking "clouds" with "flesh" is not as straight forward as it might first appear. I'll have more about this tomorrow...
Click here to go on to Part 2.