What is the meaning of Matt. 26:64, “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Were those who were crucifying Christ going to see Him when He comes the second time?
When Jesus made this statement, He had been arrested and was being tried. Two false witnesses had just testified against Him, and the high priest was waiting for an answer to the testimony of the witnesses. Momentarily Jesus was silent; we read that Jesus “held his peace.” But the high priest demanded an answer. “Tell us,” he said, “if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
This was Jesus’ opportunity. To remain silent would have been to deny His cause. So Jesus affirmed the high priest’s statement: “You have said so.” But He did not stop there; He wanted them to know what the future held for Him. “Hereafter,” He said, “you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus did not intend us to take His words literally, that His hearers would literally “see” Him when He should come again, but rather to give maximum force to His words and certify to them the meaning of His Messiah-ship. It was as if He had said, “The time is coming when you and I will change places. Then I will be the Judge, and you will be the prisoner at the bar. Now I am at your mercy; but then you and all your kind will be at My mercy. Your authority is but for the moment; Mine shall be forever. I am the Messiah.” He was not saying who would physically see Him return, but reaffirming His final destiny in an effort to impress a proud and unreasoning high priest.
There is another thought in some of the newer translations which may also have been part of Jesus’ statement: that He was stating an event soon to occur though not literally “seen.” “I tell you, you will soon see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, and coming upon the clouds of the sky!” (Goodspeed). Other translations read, “shortly you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of Power,” or “the right hand of the Almighty.” Jesus may well have been thinking of His fast approaching exaltation at the Father’s right hand, literally only a thousand hours away. It was an event that He knew positively lay ahead for Him, and how the thought of it must have brightened the dark hours of the trial and crucifixion! Being seated at His Father’s right hand and the time when He should return “coming on the clouds of heaven” were the next two truly great events in His career certified by the Father. Events which his persecutors were powerless to change whatever they might do to Him.