The Old Testament is full of examples of God coming to judge one nation or another. Apocalyptic or metaphorical language is often used to express the presence of God on such occasions. Terms such as God riding on the clouds are used, or the heavens had been rolled up like a scroll and God came down and the mountains melted like wax in a fire. Nevertheless, no one had ever actually seen God literally, physically or bodily, come out of heaven. No one had ever actually seen the heavens literally roll up like a scroll (Isaiah 34:4) or the mountains literally melt like wax in a fire (Isaiah 64:3). Yet, this is how the prophets of old had described God’s judgments against the nations.
Whether we wish to believe the Father came in judgment in the Old Testament or Jesus in his former glory came in judgment as the God of the Old Testament, makes no difference for my point here. If the Father had judged the nations in the Old Testament, then Jesus, coming in the glory of the Father (Matthew 16:27) would be similar to how the Father had come in the past. Simply put, the Father was never seen with the physical eyes when he judged the nations. Therefore, we have no foundation to support an understanding that Jesus would be literally seen when he came in the Father’s glory (Matthew 16:27), and we have no logical Biblical support to say he **must** come physically or bodily in the glory of the Father.
On the other hand, if Jesus in his former glory was the God of the Old Testament, we have absolutely no Biblical support to understand his coming in Matthew 16:27 to be any different than when he came in judgment of the nations in the Old Testament. He wasn’t ‘literally’ seen by anyone. Neither did he come physically or bodily to judge the nations in the past, so why expect him to do so in Matthew 16:27? Notice what Isaiah says:
The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards. And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, says the Lord, the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 19:1-4)
No one saw the Lord riding on a cloud, and neither did the Lord literally, physically, or bodily come into Egypt. Rather he came in the person of Sargon and the Assyrian armies who conquered Egypt and led many away as slaves to Assyria (Isaiah 20:1-4). The Assyrians were the rod of God’s anger (Isaiah 10:5). They had been his instruments to carry out his judgments.
Therefore, when Jesus said that he would come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, to judge every man according to his works (Matthew 16:27), why would this need to be a literal, physical, bodily coming of Christ? I see no reason why we cannot understand Jesus’ words to mean he came in judgment of Jerusalem and the Temple in the person of Titus and his Roman armies in 70 AD (cf. Matthew 26:64). If this isn’t a logical understanding of the text, why isn’t it? And, if Jesus **must** come literally, physically and bodily why must he come that way? Where is the Biblical foundation for that interpretation?