What is the meaning of the apostle Paul’s words “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? This article will tell you the answer and how to pray without ceasing.
If We Just Wait for the Lord to Descend With Clouds, Will We Really Be Able to Meet Him?
By Chang Xin
My uncle has believed in the Lord for many years, and he is a preacher of our church. Since I was young, I have liked to listen to his preachings. He often talked to us about the scriptures about the Lord descending with the clouds and told us that in the last days the Lordwould come upon a cloud to take us up into the kingdom of heaven. He also told us that we must persist in gatherings, reading the , praying to God, and waiting vigilantly so that we would not miss out on the opportunity to welcome the Lord’s return. So, I always waited for the Lord this way, hoping one day He would suddenly descend upon a cloud to raise me up into the heavenly kingdom.
Many years had passed by. Our church had become increasingly desolate. There were fewer and fewer people in our congregation; brothers and sisters all had lost their faith and love, and many of them even had followed the trends of the world and left to work. I felt really confused, “Now the prophecies of the Lord’s return in the Bible have basically all been fulfilled, but we still have not welcomed the Lord. The Lord is faithful and His words will not be unfulfilled. How come after so many years have passed the Lord still has not come?” I had been to my uncle’ house seeking an answer quite a few times, but he couldn’t give me a clear answer and only exhorted me to not lose the faith in the Lord and to believe that one day the Lord would certainly come back to take us.
One day, I went to my uncle’s house, and happened to meet several brothers and sisters who were studying the Bible there. When I knew they were having a discussion of the Lord’s, I was so happy and said to them, “Thank the Lord! What you are talking about is just something I need to understand. I have been hoping for the Lord to descend with the clouds to take me up into the kingdom of heaven, but after many years have passed, I still have not welcomed the Lord’s return. Today, you are fellowshiping about this issue. This is so great!”
Then, my uncle said to a sister, “Sister Tong, you just said that there are two ways in which the Lord will return: one way is out in the open, and the other is in secret. How could this be possible? It is recorded clearly in the Bible: ‘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’ (Matthew 24:30). ‘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. Even so, Amen’ (Revelation 1:7). These two verses both mention that the Lord will come with clouds. So it is proved that He will descend upon a cloud with great glory and everyone will see Him. Could this possibly be wrong?”
Brother Wang said, “I approve of Bother Zhang’s views. In the Bible, there are several different passages mentioning that the Lord will come with clouds. Sister Tong, why did you say that there are two ways in which the Lord will return? We have never heard this before.”
The other brothers and sisters all nodded their heads and said approvingly, “Right.”
After hearing their words, I thought to myself, “Right. These years, we all have been waiting for the Lord’s return in this way, and we really have never heard that the Lord Jesus will first descend in secret and then descend in public. Why did Sister Tong say that there are two ways in which the Lord will return?” So I said to her, “Sister Tong, I also agree with my uncle and Brother Wang. Mark 13:26 says: ‘And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.’ And in several other passages from the Bible, it is also said that the return of the Lord is Him descending with the clouds; that’s what all the pastors and elders have fellowshiped as well. Why did you say that the Lord will return in secret at first and then in public? What is this all about?”
Sister Tong said to us sincerely, “Thank the Lord! I used to have the same views, believing that the Lord would descend upon a cloud and directly take us up into the kingdom of heaven. But after years had gone by, I still hadn’t seen the Lord descend with the clouds to take me. Later, I carefully studied the Bible, and I saw this: ‘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). The ‘Son of man’ in these verses means being born from a human and possessing normal humanity, that is, the ‘Son of man’ refers to the incarnate God. It is just like when the Lord Jesus came to work: God became flesh as the Son of man and worked in secret. The scriptures also mention ‘suffer many things.’ If the Lord Jesus descends upon a cloud and appears to us as a glorious spiritual body when He returns, we wouldn’t resist or reject Him but would be on our knees begging for mercy, so how could God endure suffering? If, as we imagine, the Lord’s return is only descending on a cloud, how could this prophecy be fulfilled?”
After hearing her fellowship, I thought: What she said is right. All the people would certainly be submissive and on their knees begging for mercy if the Lord shall come by descending upon a cloud in public. In this way, God wouldn’t undergo suffering, and the prophecy “But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation” couldn’t be fulfilled at all.
Just when I was lost in thought, Sister Tong continued to fellowship, “Afterward, I saw that it says in the Bible: ‘Behold, I come as a thief” (Revelation 16:15). ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). ‘But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father’ (Mark 13:32). I pondered: If the Lord descends with the clouds, everyone can see Him and everyone can know. Why do these verses say that the Lord comes as a thief, that at midnight someone yells, and that no man knows that day and that hour? Don’t these verses all prove the Lord’s return is hidden? Then, I found all the prophecies concerning the Lord’s return and pondered them carefully. Only then did I discover that there are indeed two ways in which the Lord will return. One way is to descend openly with clouds and the other is to come quietly like a thief. He will become flesh to work in secret and then appear to all peoples openly.”
The brothers and sisters flicked through their Bibles and started to talk.
Brother Liu said, “There are indeed so many verses prophesying that the Lord will come in secret. How could we have ignored this before?”
Brother Zhao said, “Yes. If it were not for today’s fellowship, we would still be in the dark. We have been believing what the pastors and elders said and only upheld the prophecies of the Lord descending upon a cloud, sitting around waiting for the Lord to take us up into the kingdom of heaven, but overlooked other prophecies of the Lord’s return. Alas! We really are ignorant!”
I nodded my head and said, “Mm, it’s true. All along, I have believed that the Lord would come on a cloud. Especially when I read the prophecy in Revelation 1:7: ‘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. Even so, Amen,’ I couldn’t help but imagine that one day the Lord would suddenly come on a cloud to take me up into the kingdom of heaven. After listening to Sister Tong’s fellowship, I awoke from my dream. If the Lord comes on a cloud to raise us up into the heavenly kingdom, everyone would be excited and happy. So how would the scene ‘all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him’ described in the Bible appear?”
Sister Tong nodded with a smile.
I whispered to my uncle, “Uncle, Sister Tong’s fellowship is really illuminating, isn’t it? The Bible clearly prophesies that the Lord’s return involves secret arrival and public arrival, but these years we only have upheld the prophecies of the Lord descending upon a cloud in public. Isn’t that taking meaning out of context? No wonder we haven’t met the Lord’s return. As it turns out, we only clung to the prophecies about the Lord descending with the clouds and waited for Him based on our own conceptions and imaginations. In this way, how could we possibly welcome the Lord’s coming?”
My uncle said remorsefully, “Yes. Through listening to Sister Tong’s fellowship and reading these verses, we can see that there are indeed two ways in which the Lord will return, that is, descending in public on a cloud and descending in secret as a thief. In the past, when it came to the arrival of the Lord, we only paid attention to the prophecies regarding the Lord’s descending with the clouds. For the prophecies about the Lord descending in secret, such as ‘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’ (Revelation 3:3), we neither pondered them nor sought the truth. We even interpreted the Bible out of context, believing that the Lord’s return was a public descent. As a result, all along we stupidly waited for the Lord to descend upon a cloud to take us. Even when we heard someone witness that the Lord Jesus had returned, we didn’t believe that and defined God’s work based on our own notions and imaginations, thinking that the Lord would not possibly come in secret. If we continue to wait for the Lord’s coming in this way, we will be abandoned by the Lord without even knowing it.”
I nodded my head and thought what my uncle had said was reasonable. However, I was still not clear as to why the Lord would return in two ways. Therefore, I asked Sister Tong about this. She answered with a smile, “Xiaoting, the Lord will return both in secret and in public; this contains God’s will and wisdom. All of us who have read the Bible for many years know that in the last days, God will do His work of classing each according to their kind and rewarding good and punishing evil, separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, and the good servants from the evil servants, and then rewarding good and punishing evil. If God directly descends in public to take us up into the kingdom of heaven, then how could good and evil be separated? And how could the work of classing everyone according to their kind be accomplished? So, God first comes in secret to do His work to separate the people who love the truth and who hate the truth, separate good and evil, and then He will descend with the clouds to openly appear to all men and reward or punish each one according to their deeds. Isn’t this God’s righteousness? If God directly descended on a cloud to appear publicly, all men would see Him, and all of them, good and evil, would believe in God, and no one would dare resist. This couldn’t reveal the wheat and tares, sheep and goats, good servants and evil servants, not to mention differentiating true believers and false believers. During the stage where God becomes flesh to do His work in secret, He will practically utter and speak. All those who are wise virgins can understand God’s voice and will return before God’s throne. They are able to receive the watering and nourishment from God’s words so that they will be purified and saved by God. Those who don’t belong to God and condemn or slander God’s work, they are the wicked and God’s enemies exposed by His work. They’re just like the Pharisees who resisted the Lord Jesus back then. They appeared godly outside, but when the Lord Jesus came to work, they not only didn’t seek or examine His work, but also stopped the Jewish commoners from following the Lord Jesus, and even nailed the Lord to the cross. In the last days, God will work in secret to capture the truth of people disobeying and resisting Him and reveal and classify people according to their kind, gathering the wheat into the barn and eliminating the tares. After that, God will appear to all men openly. These are the steps of God’s work in the last days, from which we can see God’s almightiness and wisdom, and it also fulfills the Lord’s prophecy: ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn’ (Matthew 24:30). At that time, God will openly reward good and punish evil. Those who are perfected by God’s words during the time He works in secret will be brought into His kingdom, while those who don’t accept God’s work of judging and cleansing in the last days but resist and condemn it will be left weeping and gnashing their teeth in the disasters.”
After hearing that, I nodded and said, “Thank the Lord! Sister Tong, after listening to your fellowship I understand that God descends in secret to work, on the one hand, to save man, and, on the other hand, to expose man. All those who have truewill return before God’s throne, whereas those who have false faith in God and who are the wicked will be revealed and eliminated by God. This really is God’s righteousness! Thank the Lord! The more we fellowship, the more I feel that God is so wise and almighty.”
The co-workers all nodded and began to express their views.
Co-worker Du saw the light and said, “Oh, God’s work is truly wise! Only through the God’s practical work can man be revealed and be completely convinced. All those who love the truth will pay attention to listening to God’s voice and thirst to seek out the truth. Such people will be able to gain God’s salvation. But for those who don’t love the truth, they will resist and condemn God’s work blindly and hold on to their own notions and imaginations. They are the wicked and unbelievers, and they will fall into disasters and be wailing and gnashing their teeth when God openly appears to man.”
Sister Liu said, “Yes. The Bible has already prophesied that the Lord will be incarnated and secretly descend among men, and we also have read all of those verses, yet we didn’t ponder the Lord’s will. We’re really too numb! If not for Sister Tong’s fellowship, we would still live in our imaginations and wait for the Lord to descend with the clouds to take us, and then we would never welcome the Lord’s return. What’s worse, we might become evil-doers in the end.”
My uncle nodded his head and said, “Right. This is a deviation in our reading of the Bible. We should turn around at once. If we still interpret the Bible out of context, the consequences will be unimaginable. Alas, my understanding of the prophecies about the Lord’s return is too one-sided, and I have led brothers and sisters astray. I should hurry to fellowship with them to correct this mistake so that they will not watch the skies all day long, waiting for the Lord based on my own imaginations and conceptions. We should focus on listening to God’s voice, seek and investigate God’s work and follow His footsteps during the period in which God incarnate descends in secret to work—this is most key.”
Sister Tong nodded and said, “It’s true. When reading the Bible, we should ponder the Lord’s will more in order to avoid interpreting the Bible out of context. Otherwise, it is easy for us to define God within our conceptions and imaginations.”
The brothers and sisters nodded and continued to communicate with each other …
After the meeting, when I looked up at the sky, I saw it was aglow with the setting sun. I hummed to myself as I rode my bicycle home, thinking, “I have got a lot out of today’s Bible study. I will share the light with other brothers and sisters as soon as possible …”
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