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Appreciating the clouds

James Pope
Pastor James Pope, executive editor

A cloudy day or a sunny day? What would you rather have? I think most people would choose a sunny day. If that is you, I am hoping that by the end of this column you will appreciate cloudy days a little more or at least find clouds to be somewhat thought-provoking. Let me explain.

Jesus’ ascension into heaven was a significant event in his earthly life and ministry. Keith Wessel’s article demonstrates that (p. 10).

The biblical account of the ascension is familiar, and there is one detail that merits attention. “After [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before [the disciples’] very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). As the disciples looked up at the sky, two angels informed them that Jesus’ visible return to this world on the Last Day would be similar to his ascension. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

If we are wondering about the similarities of those two events, Revelation 1:7 provides one piece of information: “Look, he is coming with the clouds.”

So the Lord ascended into heaven with a cloud, and he will return visibly to this world on the Last Day with clouds. Is that just a meteorological phenomenon, or is there something deeper? There is definitely something deeper.

Think of the Israelites wandering in the Sinai desert following their exodus from Egypt. The Lord guided their movements to break camp or remain in place by means of a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day. In addition, when Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, a cloud descended and stayed at the entrance of the tent (Exodus 33:7-11).

Clearly, the Lord used clouds to indicate his presence among his people; the clouds sent a message: God is here.

Now, go back to Jesus’ ascension. A cloud covered him. That cloud was like a huge, flashing arrow, pointing to Jesus and identifying him as God. Consider what the Bible says about Jesus’ visible return to this world on the Last Day. He will come back with clouds. Those are more virtual arrows, pointing to Jesus and providing identification to the entire human race that Jesus is God, the only Lord and Savior.

So, the ascension of Jesus Christ is another event that assures you that your faith is not placed simply in a man who did remarkable things and shared his wisdom with others. No, your God-given faith connects you to the God-man who left his heavenly throne to rescue you from sin, death, and hell. Jesus’ ascension signaled that he completed his rescue mission perfectly.

Now before Jesus returns visibly on the Last Day, he intercedes for you, showing the Father that his holy life and sacrificial death have canceled your debt of sin (cf. Romans 8:34). In addition, your Savior is preparing for the time when you will meet him face-to-face (cf. John 14:2).

A cloudy day or a sunny day? We can have a preference, but we cannot control the weather. God does. What we can do is appreciate how he cares for his creation. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). And, just maybe, appreciating cloudy days and big, billowy clouds on sunny days a little bit more can lead us to think about Ascension Day and the Last Day.

Author: James Pope
Volume 110, Number 05
Issue: May 2023

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  • James F. Pope

    James Pope brings a variety of experiences to his ministry at Forward in Christ, including serving parishes in Wisconsin and Florida; teaching history, theology, and staff ministry courses at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; serving as the “Light for our path” columnist for FIC from 2014–2019; and answering theological questions submitted to the WELS website from 2014–2021.

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This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series before-you-go

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