Is it possible that the majority of Christians are misunderstanding Jesus' words about his coming?
Is there evidence that Jesus came in 70AD?
First, we must establish the purpose of his coming. When he was on trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus said: "From henceforth you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mathew 26:64)
They considered this blasphemy, because they recognized he was alluding to Psalm 110 (perhaps also Psalm 2), and also Daniel 7, as the one who would be given rulership:
"I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient Of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there was given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin." (Daniel 7:13,14)
"The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: 'Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.' The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: 'Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.'" (Psalm 110:1,2)
The Mathew account says Jesus was before the chief priests, the high priest Caiaphas, and the entire Jewish Sanhedrin. So the only way they would see Jesus coming on the clouds, was if it happened in their lifetime.
This is similar to Jesus' words in Mathew 23 and 24. Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, and warns that the blood of the prophets and righteous ones would come upon "this generation" to which he was speaking. He then extends this theme in the Olivet Prophecy, in which he foretells the "great tribulation" upon Judea, followed by sun, moon and stars darkening, the sign of the Son of man, and then "they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory". (24:30)
Once again, Jesus confirms that all of this would befall that generation, when he says: "Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur." (24:34)
Clearly then, all of those things, including the "Son of man coming on the clouds", must have happened upon Jerusalem.
Naturally, this raises some important questions: How did Jesus "come"? Is there any evidence of this? And does that mean there is no future so-called "second coming"?
I'll tackle these questions, but first...
What Does It Mean To Come In The Clouds?
First of all, I think the reason it's hard for many Christians to accept that Jesus came in the clouds in the 1st century, is because they expect such a "coming" would result in the immediate overthrow of all the kingdoms of the world.
However, if we look again at the Daniel 7:13,14 account of the "coming" of the son of man, the son is actually coming to the Ancient of Days, not to earth - in other words, he's going from earth to heaven! He is then given "rulership and dignity and kingdom".
And this is Jesus' words to the eleven apostles, after his resurrection: "All authority has been given me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe al the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all of the days until the conclusion of the system of things." (Mathew 28:19,20)
Clearly then, the Daniel 7:13,14 event happened in 33AD, when "all authority... in heaven and on earth" had been granted to the "son of man". This did not, however, result in the crushing of all the kingdoms.
In Ezekiel 30, Jehovah describes the fall of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar. He says: "Howl, you people, 'Alas for the day!' for a day is near. A day of clouds, an appointed time of nations it will prove to be. And a sword will certainly come into Egypt, and severe pains must occur in Ethopia..." (30:4)
We are left in no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar would be the one to fulfill this (30:10), but it is described as "a day of clouds".
In Isaiah 19, the prophet says: "Look! Jehovah is riding on a swift cloud and coming into Egypt. And the valueless gods of Egypt will certainly quiver because of him, and the very heart of Egypt will melt in the midst of it." (19:1)
Clearly God coming on the clouds into a land was not an unusual imagery for the Jews.
In fact, Jehovah has Ezekiel sing a dirge over Pharaoh, which includes these words: "And when you get extinguished I will cover the heavens and darken their stars. As for the sun, with clouds I shall cover it, and the moon itself will not let its light shine. All the luminaries of light in the heavens - I shall darken them on your account, and I will put darkness on your land." (32:7,8)
A similar thing was described in reference to the fall of ancient Babylon. Whether we are meant to take them literally or not, the image of riding on clouds, and sun, moon, stars darkening portended the judgment and fall of cities, rulers and nations.
In What Way Did Jesus Come in 70AD?
So when Jesus said to the chief priests, the high priest and the entire Sanhedrin, that they would see the "Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven", he was basically saying that soon, he would be judging them and their nation!
And that "wicked and adulterous generation", as Jesus described them, did indeed experience judgment, when their holy place was trampled by the Romans from 70AD onwards.
What Was The "Sign" Of The Son Of Man?
But if Jesus came in 70AD, what was the "sign of the Son of man", that Jesus foretold?
Josephus recorded several signs given to the Jews even before the "great tribulation" broke out. However, there is one event that took place after the great tribulation, but before the capture and fall of Jerusalem, which might qualify.
Josephus gives this strange passage in his description of the final seige by Titus:
"Now the stones [[from the siege engines]] that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud in their own country language, 'THE SON COMETH:' so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm. But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blackening the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow." (Wars 5.6.4)
Jesus had described himself as "the stone that the builders rejected". After telling them about the removal of the kingdom from the chief priests and scribes, he went on to say that "as for anyone upon whom it [the stone] falls, it will pulverize him." (Mathew 22:42-44)
So it's intriguing that these Roman stones, seemed to illustrate Jesus himself. When they discerned its coming while it was white, the Jews escaped. When they didn't discern it (after the Romans blackened it), the Jews were pulverized.
But what's most remarkable is that the watchman, when they saw a stone being released, cried out "THE SON COMETH"!
Even though the watchman may have been saying this mockingly, I think the Son really was coming, and this was their sign.
When they discerned the stone, they escaped. When they didn't discern it, they were pulverized - a very physical lesson in how they related to the Son of man.
It is shortly after this that the Temple and Jerusalem were captured, which represented the "coming" of the Son of man against that city, just as Jehovah was "riding on a swift cloud and coming into Egypt" in Isaiah 19.
Is There Any Other Evidence Of The Sign Of The Son Of Man In 70AD?
As some of you may know, I believe that Revelation 6-12 describes the fall of Jerusalem.
Revelation 10 matches up closely with the events after the great tribulation of 66-70AD, but before the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.
In this chapter, we see a remarkable description, which tallies up well with the "sign of the Son of man!"
In it, we see "another strong angel descending from heaven, arrayed with a cloud." This angel has an opened scroll in his hand (in contrast to the sealed scroll of Revelation 5).
The fall of Jerusalem in 70AD marked the "days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled" (Luke 21:22; compare Rev 10:7)
Thus, the angel of Revelation 10 corresponds with the "sign of the Son of man", and the fulfillment of the sealed scroll, that had now had its seven seals opened. The fall of Jerusalem in Revelation 11 would mark the end of the Jewish age, and the fulfillment of "the sacred secret of God according to the good news which he declared to his own slaves the prophets" which was "brought to a finish".
This "sacred secret" was the "good news" that Jehovah would also call a people for his own name out of the nations. (Colossians 1:26,27)
While this began in 33AD at Pentecost, it was only in 66AD that Jehovah spared a "remnant" from the impending destruction (when the Jewish Christians fled Jerusalem), and Satan launched his war against Christians using the entire power of the State (as symbolized by Rev 12 and 13).
So if we are willing to recognize that Rev 6 - 12 is primarily concerning the fall of Jerusalem, then Rev 10 corresponds well with the "sign of the Son of man", and it also times well with the "stone" incident mentioned by Josephus, and the pause just before the final capture of Jerusalem.
Does That Mean There's No Future "Second Coming"?
Well, we have already seen how Jehovah has "come" against cities, nations and rulers many times in the past.
In Daniel 7:13 we have "with the clouds of heaven someone like a son of man... coming". However, here he is going up to the Ancient of Days.
Clearly then, the common idea of "coming" is a bit simplistic. I think in 70AD, Jesus did indeed come in the clouds of heaven, but specifically against Jerusalem and the Jewish leaders.
That is why all the tribes of the land would see him (Mathew 24:30; compare with Luke 21:23, where the word "earth" is translated "land", because it is the same word in Greek), and "those who pierced him" (Rev 1:7).
It was the Jewish leaders who handed Jesus over to Pilate. It was they who pierced him. It was they whom Jesus said would see him "coming on the clouds of heaven". It is them, and the tribes of Israel, who would mourn and beat themselves in grief, when in 70AD, Jesus' words came true, and they went into captivity.
However, the "unveiling" of the Word in Revelation 19 is in my opinion a different event, but this time one in which he finishes off what was started in 33AD.
This "unveiling" is, as far as I can tell, yet future. It is the evening meal.