What is the Sign of the Son of Man in heaven?

What do you make of these words of Jesus?

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30)

What is this prophecy about? And what is the sign of the Son of Man in heaven?

Mr. Futurist: “This is about Christ returning from heaven and coming back to earth.”

Mr. Preterist: “This is about Christ coming in judgment on Jerusalem.”

Actually, it’s about neither. It is about Jesus coming into his kingdom with power and glory. Jesus is quoting Daniel:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14)

Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord ascended to heaven. He rose as a man, was led with honor into the presence of the Almighty, and given a name above all names. It’s just about the most thrilling thing that ever happened.

But what is the sign of the Son of Man in heaven?

Since Daniel’s prophecy is evidently not well-known, some have offered fantastic interpretations of the heavenly sign. Some say it was a cross that appeared in the sky around the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem. A thousand years ago people thought it was a bright supernova. Thirty years ago people said it was Halley’s Comet. Today they say it’s blood moons, solar eclipses, and aligning planets.

Mr. Preterist: “This is all nonsense. The sign is Jesus returning in judgment to destroy Jerusalem, which he did in AD70.”

If that sounds a bit left-field to you (and it certainly does to me), you will be surprised to learn that many eminent theologians agree with Mr. Preterist. Matthew Henry said AD70 was “when Christ came to destroy the Jewish nation by the Roman armies.” John Gill said Matthew 24:30 was about Jesus coming to the Jews to “give the finishing stroke to the destruction of that people.” And Albert Barnes said the passage was most likely about the Son of Man “coming to destroy the city of Jerusalem.”

(Is it any wonder that many view God as vindictive and punitive when some of our most notable theologians believe Jesus destroyed Jerusalem?)

Personally, I think it’s incredible that Jesus, of all people, would talk about returning to destroy Jerusalem (and I don’t believe he did). But there are Old Testament scriptures one could draw on to make this connection. (If you’re interested, I discuss Isaiah 19:1, Joel 2:1–2 and Jeremiah 4:13 in my AD70 book. TL:DR; Jesus is not quoting those passages; he’s quoting Daniel 7, which has nothing to do with judgment.)

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Lord’s prophecy.

When did Jesus come into his kingdom?

Mr. Preterist would say it happened in AD70 for no other reason than there was a big fire. “When Jerusalem was burned by the Romans, the clouds of smoke signified Christ coming to his temple in judgment, power, and glory.”

Uh-huh.

“Seriously. Jesus said the Son of Man would come on the clouds and there were smoky clouds!”

It would be funny except many people actually believe this. They mix up various OT prophecies and scriptures about unrelated comings, and come to the awful conclusion that Jesus torched Jerusalem.

He didn’t. Jesus did not come into his kingdom in AD70 but 40 years earlier when he ascended into heaven, just as the prophet foretold. And just as he foretold. When Jesus ascended he disappeared into a cloud. “A cloud received and carried him away out of their sight” (Acts 1:9, AMP). There’s your cloud.

(The Bible describes at least five different “comings” of Jesus and it is easy to mix them up. However, the scriptures are consistent and clear. Whenever Jesus is described as coming with angels, he is coming to earth. And whenever he is coming on the clouds, he is coming to heaven.)

Who mourned?

Jesus said, “The peoples (or tribes) of the earth (or land) will mourn.” In short, the Jews would mourn when they realized they had crucified the Messiah. Just a few weeks after uttering these words, his prophecy was fulfilled. On the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 Jews were pierced to the heart (Acts 2:37). Pierced means upset or deeply troubled. They were mourning the death of their Messiah. Throughout the New Testament Jews continued to mourn whenever the penny dropped. You can bet Saul was upset when he realized he had been persecuting the Lord (Acts 9:4).

What is the heavenly sign?

It’s not what you think. The Interlinear Bible translates the words of Christ’s prophecy like this:

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.

Who’s in heaven? Not the sign but the Son. And what is the sign? It is Daniel’s vision come true. It is Jesus sitting enthroned at the right hand of God. It is heaven’s vindication for the One rejected by the Jews. The Son in heaven is the sign.

But how would the unbelieving Jews know that Jesus was sitting at the right hand of God? How would they see, as Daniel had seen, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven?

They would know because his prophecies were all coming true. Jesus said there would be famines, earthquakes, and great distress, and there were. He said Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies, and it was. He said the temple stones would come down, and they did.

Jesus made no less than 40 specific prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem and all of them were fulfilled within 40 years. Each prophecy-come-true was a sign pointing to the One who had come on the clouds and now sat enthroned in heaven.

Adapted and extracted from chapter 14 of Paul Ellis’ book AD70 and the End of the World.

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16 Comments on What is the Sign of the Son of Man in heaven?

  1. Lot of misinterpreted scripture, when Father and Son as won for us just love us all, thanks for belief Paul. Jeremiah 29:11

  2. Grace has surely open up the scriptures for me. Things I used to believe and couldn’t understand while on the ‘manster wheel’ of religion are now coming clear and I can see!!! (I seems so obvious now…) Thanks so much for the time and effort you spend deep diving into these tangled passages. Grace and Peace be multiplied to you and your family. ~Mark

  3. Interesting… I like it…. have to think more. I believed the Preterist way. I knew of Daniel‘s prophecy and used it quite a bit, but I never used it in that context…it makes some good sense

    Blessings!

  4. He is going to sit enthroned in Jerusalem too! And his will will finally be done on this earth as it is in heaven, when His Kingdom arrives in all its fulness! All peoples and nations will worship him and if they don’t they’ll get no rain ☔! Zechariah 14. Amen come quickly Lord Jesus!

  5. No, sorry I just don’t get the “coming” bit. I know you explained it in your AD 70 book, which I loved, but I still don’t get it.

    • What don’t you get about it?

    • Donna Stead – I too take issue with the word used, “coming”. What about coming says, going or is already there? Surely, “coming would connote something in the future [as in this time; Age].

      • The key to understanding Christ’s prophecy is to realize he is quoting Daniel’s. Daniel said he saw the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. Where was Daniel when he saw this? In heaven. Daniel saw the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days and being led into his presence.

        The Bible describes at least five different “comings” of Jesus and it is easy to mix them up. However, the scriptures themselves are very clear. The prophets and epistle writers were never confused about these different comings. One of the things we can learn from the scriptures is this: whenever Jesus is described as coming with angels, he is coming to earth. And whenever he is coming on the clouds, he is coming to heaven.

  6. Hi Paul… thanks for your time to post this article. In Acts 7:55-56 there is the account by Stephen, as he is being stoned, that he saw the heavens opened and Jesus, the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. This is a powerful witness from a dying man of great integrity, one which the Jews of the time and everyone else would now know authenticates, that Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, His Father in heaven. James

  7. Smiling. God is so good. Jesus, wonderful Saviour. And I am sick of seeing Jesus portrayed as a monster. Thank you for this lovely post. Jesus is Lord.

  8. What do you mean when you say “whenever the penny dropped?” I’m unfamiliar with that saying.

    • My apologies for using an obscure English idiom. To say “the penny dropped” means they finally realized something. In this case I’m referring to religious Jews like Saul who realized that Jesus is who he said he was. The penny dropped = they finally understood. It’s describing an aha moment. Do you get it? If so, then the penny has dropped.

  9. Richard Nkunze // October 19, 2018 at 11:01 pm // Reply

    Paul, truly there is a lot I am learning from your messages. I really need more of this for indeed the Truth is setting me free. Glory to God

  10. Does the bible not tell us, Yahusha (Jesus [Son of man]) – when He was taken up that He will return the same way? Or am I mis-understanding the point of the Son of man in heaven – sitting at the right hand of Yahuah (God)? That in itself is a problem. Words, if not given (provided) the smallest of children with understanding – the best of meaning; then too much of the scriptures are not what Christendom most often believes – is the whole word of Yahuah.

    Standing or sitting with the Father on (above) Heaven. And will return through one of the doors or windows of (sky) Heaven. [i.e.] from the account of Genesis.

    Yahusha standing at the right hand of Yahuah “in” heaven denotes – under the firmamentum__ when that is not where the father dwells. Though he did & does come in & out – to & from earth back to above the sky or heaven.

    Thus: The use of “coming” in this post – leaves quite a gap re: the meaning of, “already is is”. 1 Cor 14:33 says, God is not the author of confusion but of peace…”.

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