Jesus Christ Will Come Again
The return of Jesus from heaven is clear from what he said to his disciples nearly 2000 years ago. His words were, "I go and prepare a place for you...I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 13:3).
Jesus also spoke about this in his Mount Olivet prophecy warning his disciples to beware of false claims of deceivers; he said, "For as the lightning cometh out of the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt.24:27).
Everyone knows when there is a flash of lightning. With this comparison multitudes will know when the Lord Jesus has returned from heaven, especially those who have believed in his return and have waited for him. In the context of these verses Jesus speaks of mourning because of major disasters overtaking his people at this time; so Jesus says, "and then all the tribes of the earth (land) will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24:30).
Jesus Returns with Angels
The reference to the clouds of `heaven' must mean the angels: they are referred to as clouds because there will be multitudes of them.
In the next verse Jesus reveals one of the next duties assigned to them, "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt.24:31).
If the sounding of the trumpet is to be understood literally it would mean that a miraculous heralding of great events is about to be accomplished, the emphasis of this verse is laid on the extent of the operation which will be world-wide and will consist of gathering together the elect of the Lord Jesus and will include the resurrection of those sleeping in the dust of the earth. (Genesis 3:19, Dan.12:2).
Many scriptures can be quoted to show that those responsible will be required to appear before the judgement seat of Christ that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor.5:10).
On another occasion Jesus repeated the need for the responsible to be gathered together for judgement. In the opening sentence he said, "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 one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats." (Matt.25:31-32).
It is clear from the above that the Lord Jesus, together with the angels, will be engaged in the judgements of the saints after he returns from heaven and has established himself as King on the throne of his glory.
The location for the judgement must be somewhere in the Holy Land which means that those that have been gathered from other parts of the world will have to be transported, in some cases long distances to the Holy Land. The idea of those to be judged is therefore said to be brought together in clouds (or groups) is what Paul refers to when he writes, "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thess.4:17).
An Explanation in Luke's Gospel
In this gospel Jesus foresees the situation where those who are called to judgement are singled out so that for example, "Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left." And they (the disciples) answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?" So He said to them, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together" (Luke 17:36-37).
It seems that the purpose of this reference to eagles or vultures flocking to a dead body to eat it is to illustrate how they will arrive at that location from all directions: some having flown long distances. Similarly some of the saints to be present at the judgement will have to be transported long distances by the angels.
The Fig Tree
Lastly, in his historical survey of his return described in his Mount Olivet prophecy, Jesus introduced a developing fig tree to describe the progress of his return, "When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near; so you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the very doors" (Matt. 24:32-33).
The fig tree represents the nation of Israel which was re-established in the holy land in 1948. I suggest that Jesus actually referred to this event when he said, "The sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven" (v30). The reference to `in heaven' meaning that the State of Israel would be established in the political world, its birth being recognised by many major nations at the time.
The State of Israel has now developed into one of the major nations of our time in 2013, and we can rest assured that this development is a sure sign that the return of the Lord Jesus is `near, at the door' (v33).
Bro. Ralph Green