That, appropriately, brings us to the next element in Jesus' prophecy of Jerusalem's destruction: "and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." The word tribes here has primary reference to the tribes of the land of Israel; and the "mourning" is probably meant in two senses. First, they would mourn in sorrow over their suffering and the loss of their land; second, they would ultimately mourn in repentance for their sins, when they are converted from their apostasy (see Chapter 14).
But how is it that they would see Christ coming on the clouds? Those who have read Chapters 7 and 8 of this book should have little trouble answering that question. In the first place, all through the Old Testament God was coming "on clouds, " in salvation of His people and destruction of His enemies: "He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. 104:3). When Isaiah prophesied God's judgment on Egypt, he wrote: "Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence" (Isa. 19:1). The prophet Nahum spoke similarly of God's destruction of Nineveh: "In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet" (Nab. 1:3). God's "coming on the clouds of heaven" is an almost commonplace Scriptural symbol for His presence, judgment, and salvation.
More than this, however, is the fact that Jesus is referring to a specific event connected with the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant. He spoke of it again at His trial, when the High Priest asked Him if He was the Christ, and Jesus replied:
I AM; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62; cf. Matt. 26:64).
Obviously, Jesus was not referring to an event thousands of years in the future. He was speaking of something that His contemporaries - "this generation" - would see in their lifetime. The Bible tells us exactly when Jesus came with the clouds of heaven:
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9).
So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).
We noted in Chapter 8 that it was this event, the Ascension to the right hand of God, which Daniel had foreseen:
I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a Kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His Kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14)
The destruction of Jerusalem was the sign that the Son of Man, the Second Adam, was in heaven, ruling over the world and disposing it for His own purposes. At His ascension, He had come on the clouds of heaven to receive the Kingdom from His Father; the destruction of Jerusalem was the revelation of this fact. In Matthew 24, therefore, Jesus was not prophesying that He would literally come on the clouds in A.D. 70 (although it was figuratively true). His literal "coming on the clouds," in fulfillment of Daniel 7, had taken place about 40 years earlier. But in A.D. 70 the tribes of Israel would see the destruction of the nation as the result of His having ascended to the throne of heaven, to receive His Kingdom.
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Preparing for Armageddon, Natural Disasters, Nuclear Strikes, the Zombie Apocalypse, and Every Other Threat to Human Life on Earth. Most of us have thought about how we would handle various types of scenarios that could signal the end of the world. There are plenty of movies on the subject, psychological papers, and even survivalists that are part of reality TV shows. Perhaps you have had dreams about being one of the few left and what you would do in order to survive.