When the Lord Returns, Will He First Come With Clouds or Come in Secret?
The blue sky was dotted with white clouds floating and rolling along like a flowing landscape painting, and I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh as I thought of how the pastor always used to say, “In the last days, the Lord will return on a white cloud, and as long as we keep watch and wait for His return, then the Lord will raise us up and welcome us into the heavenly kingdom….” Over 10 years ago, I would often gaze at the sky with such high hopes, dreaming that the Lord Jesus would suddenly appear on a white cloud to bring us up into heaven. But more than 10 years had passed since then and I never did see the coming of the Lord. I couldn’t help but feel melancholy as I thought: We’re now well into the last days, so when will the Lord come on a cloud to welcome us? I really wish to one day be able to see the spectacle of the Lord riding on a white cloud down from heaven—that would be so great!
One day, I was visiting a friend and it just so happened that my friend’s nephew, Brother Li, was there. When we got to talking about the state of the world today with disasters everywhere growing bigger and bigger in scale, and about the appearance of the blood moons mentioned in Revelation, we all felt that the prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus’ return had pretty much been fulfilled and that He would soon return. Brother Li then asked me, “Sister, in what way do you think the Lord shall return?” Without thinking, I said, “He will come on a white cloud, of course, for He has said, ‘And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory’ (Luke 21:27). And it’s prophesied in Revelation chapter 1, verse 7: ‘Behold, He comes with clouds.’”
Brother Li said, “Sister, I used to think that the Lord would return on a white cloud as well and that He would come with great glory. But then I attended a co-workers’ meeting, and by discussing the way in which the Lord will return with all the brothers and sisters there, I finally realized that, besides the prophecies in the Bible that state the Lord will come openly with clouds, there are actually many other verses of Scripture that prophesy that the Lord will come in secret when He returns …”
Before waiting for Brother Li to finish speaking, I butted in anxiously, saying, “How could that be? Will the Lord not come on a white cloud? How could He come in secret?”
Brother Li smiled and said, “Sister, in actual fact, there are mysteries relating to the Lord’s return. I consulted the Bible with the brothers and sisters and we fellowshiped and discussed it, and only then did I discover that there are two ways in which the Lord shall return: One is that the Lord shall come openly with clouds, and the other is that He shall come in secret. As it says in 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 says in Matthew 25:6, ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.’ And in Matthew 24:43–44, it says: ‘But know this, that if the manager of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.’ The words in these verses, ‘as a thief,’ ‘at midnight there was a cry made’ and ‘in such an hour as you think not’ are referring to the fact that the Lord will return in silence so that we will remain unaware, they are referring to the Lord coming quietly and in secret. Besides, when the Lord prophesied His return, He 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). The ‘Son of man’ mentioned here refers to someone born of a human and who is possessed of normal humanity. We know that the Lord Jesus was called the Son of man and Christ because He was the incarnation of the Spirit of God. From the outside, He looked like just another ordinary, normal man, and no one could tell that He was God, and no one knew His true identity. To man, His identity remained a secret until the Lord Jesus began to preach and perform His work, and only then did people recognize Him as the Lord and as Christ. Therefore, the Lord prophesied that His return would be as the coming of the Son of man, and this actually means that God will incarnate as the Son of man and come in secret.”
After Brother Li had finished speaking, I carefully contemplated those verses of Scripture and I thought to myself: The brother’s fellowship tallies with the Bible, it has the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and it contains new light. It seems as though the Lord really will return as the Son of man and come in secret. I’ve read these verses before, so how come I never realized this? I therefore said to the brother, “I understand what you have fellowshiped. So, the words ‘the Son of man comes’ and ‘as a thief’ actually mean that God will incarnate as the Son of man and come in secret. This is a pretty pure understanding. But I still don’t quite understand. If, when the Lord returns, He really does come secretly in incarnate flesh, then how can the prophecy in the Bible that the Lord will come with clouds and every eye shall see Him be explained?”
Brother Li smiled and said, “I used to be confused by this as well. I used to think that it was surely a contradiction that one prophecy said the Lord would come in secret like a thief, while another prophecy said that He would come on a white cloud and would appear openly. Only later, by continuing to seek and discuss this matter with the brothers and sisters, did I come to understand that God’s wisdom is behind it. Actually, the two ways in which the Lord shall return are not contradictory at all, but rather they are sequential. First, the Lord will incarnate as the Son of man, and will appear and perform His work, and then He shall come with clouds and appear openly. Moreover, this is related to God’s work in the last days, as it says in the First Epistle of Peter 4:17, ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.’ And in John 12:48, it says, ‘He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.’ We can clearly see from these verses that when God incarnates in the last days, He shall perform the work of judgment beginning in God’s house, and by expressing the truth, God shall judge and purify man in order to perfect a group of people into overcomers. The wise virgins hear the voice of God and can then welcome Him and follow the footsteps of the Lamb. Therefore, while God works in secret, all who accept the watering and nourishment of God’s words, whose corrupt dispositions are purified and who are able to thoroughly cast off the dark influence of Satan, will become the overcomers made complete by God. This precisely fulfills the prophecy in the Book of Revelation: ‘These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God’ (Revelation 14:4–5). Once the overcomers are made complete, the secret work of God incarnate will be finished, God will return to Zion with glory and the great disasters shall then descend upon the world. At that time, all the people who resisted and condemned Christ of the last days while He performed His work in secret will become embroiled in the disasters and will be punished. This fulfills the prophecy spoken of 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.’ Therefore, when God returns in the last days, He comes first in secret and then openly. The time when God is performing His work in secret is the stage during which God saves and perfects man, and when He comes with clouds, that will be the time when God shall appear openly to mankind and shall reward the good and punish the wicked, and those who have not accepted God’s secret work shall become embroiled in the disasters with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. In this way, the wheat shall be separated from the tares, the sheep from the goats and the wise virgins from the foolish virgins.” After listening to Brother Li’s fellowship, my heart was suddenly filled with light and, filled with emotion, I said, “Brother, I’ve understood your fellowship. So it turns out that the way the Lord will return will be that He first incarnates as the Son of man to perform the work of judgment and, after He has made complete a group of overcomers prior to the disasters, when the disasters do actually descend, God will then begin to reward the good and punish the wicked, and He will appear openly to all nations and peoples. This way, there is no contradiction in the prophecies in the Bible. I also understand that if God were to come straight away with clouds and appear openly to all, then everyone would fall to the ground to receive Him and obey Him, and then the wheat would not be separated from the tares, nor the sheep from the goats—the Lord is so wise to come in secret! However, seeing as the Lord’s return will first be that He comes in secret, how will we then be able to welcome Him?”
Smiling, Brother Li said, “Thank the Lord. This is a crucial question, and I sought the answer to it when I was at that co-workers’ meeting. The brothers and sisters read several verses of Scripture to me.”
Amazed, I said, “This is recorded in the Scriptures as well? Which verses?”
Brother Li said, “In John 16:12–13, the Lord Jesus said, ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.’ Revelation 3:20 says, ‘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.’ And in John 10:27, the Lord Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.’ These are just a few examples. From these prophecies we can see that, when God returns in the last days, He shall speak more words, and it is through expressing the truth that God will knock at our doors, seeking His flock. We must therefore take heed to listen to God’s voice, for only then can we be as the wise virgins and welcome the appearance of the Lord. Like when the Lord Jesus called on Nathaniel, for example. Without even seeing Nathaniel, the Lord knew that he was praying beneath the fig tree, and He knew that the heart of Nathaniel harbored no deceit, and so Nathaniel could tell from the Lord Jesus’ words that He was ‘the Son of God’ and ‘the King of Israel.’ And because the disciples, such as Peter and John, heard the Lord Jesus speak, they recognized that He was indeed Christ. We can see from these facts that those who hear the Lord’s voice, who can tell that the Lord’s words are the truth and can accept and obey God’s appearance and work, only they are the ones who can be raised up before God, and only they are the wise virgins. As for us welcoming the Lord, therefore, we should have hearts that seek with an open mind, and when we hear someone testifying to the returned Lord’s work and words, then we should actively seek and investigate them, for only then will we have the chance to welcome the Lord.”
I fully agreed, and said, “If we want to welcome the Lord’s return, then we must learn how to hear God’s voice, and this is the path we must tread. The Pharisees during the time of Jesus looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, but they failed to listen to God’s voice, and so when the Lord Jesus appeared and worked as the Son of man, they delimited God to their own notions and imaginings. Even though they heard the Lord speak and knew that His words could not have been spoken by man, they still refused to accept them and chose to cling to their own notions and imaginings. They resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus, and finally they had the Lord Jesus crucified, thus angering God’s disposition, and Israel then suffered the pain of national subjugation. The failure of the Pharisees serves as a warning to us. I myself have been so ignorant, always clinging to the idea that the Lord will come on a white cloud. If it hadn’t been for our fellowship today, perhaps I would have continued to cling stubbornly to my notions like the Pharisees did. Well, I won’t be gazing at the sky anymore. Instead, I must take heed to listen to God’s voice, for only then will I have the chance to welcome the Lord’s return.”
Before I knew it, the morning had passed into afternoon. On my way home, I occasionally looked up at the sky and saw the white clouds rolling by. I had an inexpressible feeling in my heart, and I thought to myself: I won’t be gazing at the sky anymore. I must be as a wise virgin, and if any church preaches that the Lord has returned and that He is expressing the truth, then I will take heed to listen to God’s voice. Only in that way will I be able to welcome the appearance of the Lord and be raised up into the heavenly kingdom …
» You may be interested in reading more: