What does the coming of the Son of Man really mean? There are several verses which suggest about this event happening sometime after the crucifixion of Jesus, not two thousand or more years later. Are we really missing something? Did we misunderstand what Jesus said? In this post we will explore an alternate view which also agrees with what Jesus said.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.Matt 24:29-30
Matthew, Mark, and Luke – all mention this event with near identical words. Luke pushes this event until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled as in Luke 21:24 which is completely missing in other gospels. Hence, according to Matthew and Mark, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven was not expected to happen several millenniums later. Even Abraham lived closer to Jesus than us.
Who sees The Event
Jesus said to him, “[It is as ]you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”Matt 26:64
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus directly says to the high priest, that next time when he sees Jesus, he will see Him sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”Mark 14:62
Similar to Matthew, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus directly says to the high priest that he will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.
“Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”Luke 22:69
Luke, however, completely misses the key point we are looking for. Will the high priest be able to see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power of God?
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.Rev 1:7
If we ask John, the author of the book of Revelation, even those who pierced Jesus will be able to see Him coming with clouds. This gives us a perspective that the event of His second coming should have happened in that generation itself, and we shouldn’t be expecting two thousand years later. However, there is another view which does not negate the fact that it is yet to happen while they all will see Him coming in the clouds.
When is The Event?
When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.Matt 10:23
Based on the Gospel of Matthew, the coming of the Son of Man is during the generation of the disciples of Jesus which He told directly to His disciples, not two thousand years later for a distant future generation.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides [his] sheep from the goats.Matt 25:31-32
Based on what Jesus said, the event is when He judges all people where everyone will be gathered before Him, which will happen in that generation.
How can the high priest and those who pierced Jesus can see Him coming on the clouds when they are long dead and the event never happened?
When we die, we remain dead until we are raised from the dead and the Judgement happens. We can see this from those Jesus raised from the dead. When Jesus raised Lazarus or the 12-year-old girl from the dead, there are no records in early Christianity of their out of this world experience. It should be just blank.
When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”Mark 5:39
Jesus Himself confirmed what will happen when someone dies. They will be just ‘sleeping’.
These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”John 11:11
For Lazarus too, Jesus very clearly mentioned that he was just sleeping – not having a tour in heaven. Hence, everyone will go into a ‘sleep’ when they die and remain in that state God raises them on judgement day.
When someone dies, they aren’t going to ‘wait’ in some place for a very long time until the judgement day. This is because, when they die, the next moment, they will be standing before Christ on the judgement day. This is true for us even today. In other words, from ‘our perspective’, the day we die is the judgement day irrespective of we being dead for thousands of years. Hence, while the judgement day is yet to happen, as Jesus said, the high priest will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven immediately after he is dead.
No one knows the day or hour of His coming which He explained using a parable in Matt. 24:36-44, Mark 13:32-37 and Luke 21:34-36. He was not preaching this only to a distant future generation but directly to his generation. It seems, Jesus used the term ‘coming of Son of Man’ synonymously to an individual’s death. Death is something no one will never know when and immediately after they will see the coming of the Son of Man coming with clouds.
But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”Acts 7:55-56
Based on the testimony of Stephen, we can see a similar description of Jesus standing at the right hand of God when he was about to die. Hence, it seems plausible the coming of the Son of Man could be synonymously used to refer a person’s death because the next moment after his death, they will see the Son of Man coming on clouds of heaven.