Will the Lord Jesus Come as a Thief or Come Upon a Cloud?

Bai Xue

Jin Hua fetched Sister Zheng and Sister Yang (back from another province) from the railway station. After they three had lunch, she put them to bed. Jin Hua was about to lie down and take a nap when Sister Wang of her church came to tell her that ten more brothers and sisters had been arrested by the police of the CCP the day before, so she didn’t want to attend meetings and planned to go to another place to work. Hearing that, Jin Hua’s heart sank with the realization that the extent of the CCP’s persecution was becoming more and more grievous. But at that moment, she was too busy comforting Sister Wang to think more, “God uses it to test our faith in Him, and it also fulfills the sign of the Lord’s return. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. … But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved’ (Matthew 24:9-13). Now the prophecies of the Lord’s return have already been fulfilled and the day of the Lord has already come. Wait till He descends with the clouds, and we’ll be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near’ (Luke 21:27-28). At this crucial moment, we should keep our faith in Him even more—we must endure to the end, no matter how great the persecution and tribulation. Today, our light affliction, which is but for a moment, will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the future.”

Sister Wang said with an impatient look, “I know it’s worthwhile for us to suffer in order to welcome the Lord’s return. But the point is how to welcome His return when we don’t even know how He will return. Are we going to just look up to the clouds in the sky and wait for His descending day after day? Has the Lord Jesus come?” Before Jin Hua could say a word, Sister Wang had hurried off, on the pretext of catching the bus. Now Jin Hua did not have the heart to nap any longer. The words of Sister Wang hit her heart like a heavy hammer and her heart, she felt, were as if falling apart. She smoothed her hair, sat in the chair by the window, and looked subconsciously out of it: There the trees on each side of the road joined to form a long green shade, which was in verdant luxuriance; fleecy clouds, like masses of cotton, were floating in the azure sky. Staring at the floating clouds, Jin Hua thought: She is right. Can it be that we just look at the sky and wait for the Lord Jesus to come upon white clouds day after day? Has the Lord Jesus come? With so vast a sky and so many clouds, how can we see Him if He doesn’t come on clouds within our view but in another place?

All of a sudden, Jin Hua’s heart became heavy. Lately, the CCP government had restarted another round of persecution. Besides, smog had been heavy and news of deaths from it kept coming, throwing many people who didn’t believe in the Lord into panic. So a majority of brothers and sisters were more eagerly expecting the Lord Jesus to return earlier. But they all were confused about how to wait for His return. Jin Hua opened the Bible to study the prophecies about the coming of the Lord Jesus. She saw Revelation 3:3, “If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you,” and Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” It’s mentioned in these verses that the Lord will come as a thief. Thinking that “as a thief” means coming quietly and secretly, rather than openly on clouds, she was startled: How should I have ignored these verses? The Lord will come as a thief, which is to say that He will come secretly. In that case, how can we meet Him?

When Jin Hua was thinking over this question, Sister Yang and Sister Zheng came up. Sister Yang was a preacher and always had a unique insight into the scriptures. So, when Jin Hua saw her, as if seeing a lifeline, she poured out all her confusion. She said eagerly, “I had thought the Lord will come openly upon a cloud. But just now I read several verses and felt He will come secretly. So I can’t make out how He will come. What are your opinions on this question?”

Sister Zheng said smilingly, “Revelation 3:3 says, ‘If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you.’ Here it says the Lord will come as a thief and that people don’t know when He will come. So the Lord will descend in secret.”

Sister Yang said, “You say the Bible prophesied the Lord will come as a thief and that nobody knows when the Lord will come. I don’t deny that. But the Lord Jesus also prophesied, ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). These verses have made this clear: At midnight someone cries that the bridegroom has come, and if someone hears the voice and opens the door to welcome the Lord, they will attend the feast with Him. This shows that there is a voice when the Lord comes and people can know it. In addition, Revelation 1:7 says, ‘Behold, he comes 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.’ According to these verses, I think, it’s very possible that the Lord will first descend secretly and then change His form and descend openly on a cloud after finishing His work.”

Will the Lord Jesus Come as a Thief or Come Upon a Cloud

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Sister Zheng said, “According to the prophecies in the Bible, the Lord’s descending on a cloud is entirely different from His coming as a thief. If He comes upon a cloud and we can see Him, it will be much easier for us to recognize Him. But if He comes as a thief, it’s hard to know. We may meet with many difficulties, and must seek and investigate, because it’s not easy to hear the voice of the bridegroom. What does the voice of the bridegroom actually mean? Can it be the words of the Holy Spirit to the churches? If we find the words of the Holy Spirit to the churches, does it mean that we hear the voice of the bridegroom? I suppose the voice of the Holy Spirit equals that of the bridegroom, and that can’t be wrong. If the words of the Holy Spirit to the churches have been expressed, that would be wonderful!”

Jin Hua said, “There are mysteries in the biblical prophecy that the Lord will descend on a cloud, which we can’t delineate. We all know that the earth is round, so which place is suitable for all mankind to see the Lord Jesus descending on a cloud? How far can we mankind see? If He descends on a cloud over our city, we can see Him, but can we see Him if He does so on the opposite side of the globe? So I think this prophecy that the Lord will descend on a cloud can’t be as simple as we’ve thought. We should carefully seek and investigate the Lord’s return. Revelation prophesied, ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches’ (Revelation 2:7). This indicates that the Holy Spirit will undoubtedly speak to the churches in the last days. If we hear the words of the Holy Spirit, does it mean that we hear the voice of the bridegroom? And when we seek the appearance of the Lord, what’s the most important is to hear the voice of the bridegroom. Is it right?”

Sister Yang said, “Yeah. After hearing your communication, I think that the Lord may come as the incarnate Son of man to speak and work. Aren’t the words of the Son of man exactly the voice of the bridegroom? Here I think of another significant prophecy about the coming of the Lord. The Lord Jesus said, ‘For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines to the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation’ (Luke 17:24-25). In these two verses, it’s mentioned that when the Lord comes, He must “suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.” It cannot refer to the public appearance on a cloud of the spiritual body of the resurrected Lord Jesus. For the spiritual body is supernatural and not subject to space and geographical constraints, walking through walls and entering into the house with the doors closed. If the Lord descends with clouds in the spiritual body after resurrection, who dares to reject Him? How can He suffer a lot? According to the prophecy of the Lord, I think it is very likely that He will come as the incarnate Son of man, just as when the Lord Jesus came, outwardly, He was an ordinary, normal man, so no one recognized Him as God Himself. They treated Him as an ordinary man and rejected Him; besides, the Jewish chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees frantically resisted Him, condemned Him, and even nailed Him to the cross. Therefore, I think the Lord’s prophecy—He will return as the Son of man and as a thief—probably means that He will incarnate as the Son of man and descend secretly. The utterances of the returned Lord should be the words of the Holy Spirit to the churches. Such understanding is probably out of the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit.”

Jin Hua said, “Thank the Lord! There are many prophecies about the Lord’s return in the Bible: Some say that the Lord will descend on a cloud and everyone will see Him; some say that the Lord will come secretly as a thief and that no one knows when He will come; still some say that the Lord will arrive as the Son of man, who will suffer a lot and be rejected by this generation, and so on. In these prophecies, there are mysteries and truths to be sought. Most believers in the Lord are waiting for Him to descend upon a cloud, and many pious servants of the Lord are all waiting watchfully, eager to see one day that the Lord descends with clouds and takes them into the kingdom of heaven. But no matter how He comes, since He promised to come again, the Lord Jesus will certainly come to receive us. The Lord is faithful. We believe those who wait for Him will never be disappointed. So if someone hears the bridegroom’s voice, he should notify the church as soon as possible and we all should go out to meet Him; if someone hears the testimony of the Lord’s coming, we should not miss the chance but should seek and investigate.”

Sister Yang said, “Well, I came across a relative who believes in the Eastern Lightning on the road yesterday. He testified to me that the Lord Jesus has already secretly returned in the flesh as the Son of man and expressed the truth to do the work of judgment starting from the house of God. We didn’t fellowship too much because the environment was not good. But I can invite him to fellowship together.”

All of them were ecstatic. Jin Hua suddenly had her direction and was brightened within. At that moment, the first thing she thought of was to call Sister Wang immediately. She picked up the cell phone …

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