(Mt. 24:30) Are the clouds symbolic for God’s judgment (as Preterists claim), or are they literal (as Futurists claim)? Also does the citation of Daniel 7:13 support Preterism?

CLAIM: Jesus says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory” (Mt. 24:30). Futurists claim that Jesus will return literally on the clouds. However, Preterists claim that we shouldn’t press the words too literally. In the OT, clouds are often a symbol for God’s judgment—not a literal appearing (Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1).

RESPONSE: While it is true that clouds are often a symbol for God’s judgment, this is always a judgment against the enemies of Israel, rather than Israel herself. Futurist Thomas Ice writes,

The Lord is always pictured as riding the clouds in judgment in defense of Israel, against her enemies, but never is He pictured as riding against His own people Israel, as preterists insist with their AD 70 fulfillment. When Babylon, for instance, is used by God as His instrument of calamity against Israel, the cloud motif is never used. The clouds of judgment appear to have begun in the Exodus when the Lord delivered and lead Israel through the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. This would reinforce the idea that the Lord rides in judgment in defense of Israel, against her enemies, but never is He pictured as riding against His own people Israel. The Lord shows up throughout the Bible in the form of His Shechinah glory, and the Second Coming is no exception.[1]

Preterists hold that Zechariah 12 is about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. However, look at the text. But Zechariah 12:9 states, “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” But Preterists claim the exact opposite. They hold that this is about the destruction of Jerusalem itself.

Regarding Jesus’ citation of Daniel 7:13, Preterists hold that Jesus appears in heaven—not Earth—in Daniel 7. Thus a spiritual or heavenly appearing is in view, rather than a visible or earthly one. However, Futurist Stanley Toussaint writes,

In Daniel 7:13 the New American Standard Bible says the Son of Man “came up to the Ancient of Days” to receive authority to rule. However, the Aramaic verb does not suggest direction; it simply means “to arrive” or “to reach.” This verb is used eight times in the Old Testament and only in Daniel. In 4:20 it refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness “reaching” to the sky, and in 6:24 the verb is used of Daniel’s detractors not “reaching” the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them. In 7:13 the Son of Man “approached” (NIV) the Ancient of Days, God the Father, who bestowed authority on Jesus Christ.”[2]

It is agreed that clouds are associated with judgment. This is why it is an image employed for the Second Coming, and his protection of Israel at the end of human history.


[1] Ice, Thomas, and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation, past or Future?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999. 106.

[2] Stanley Toussaint “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse” Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (October–December 2004): 478.