“After saying this, he [Yeshua] was taken up before their eyes; and a cloud hid him from their sight. As they were staring into the sky after him, suddenly they saw two men dressed in white standing next to them. The men said, “You Galileans! Why are you standing, staring into space? This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).
Forty days after being resurrected, Yeshua ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives –– hidden in a cloud. If Yeshua is going to return in the same way that he left, then it is important to ‘see and understand’ this cloud with its multifaceted message.
The Greek word for ‘cloud’ is nephele and means a literal ‘cloud.’ According to Vines Expository Dictionary of Greek and Hebrew, the cloud is ‘a definitely-shaped cloud’. Nephele comes from the word nephos with a symbolic meaning of ‘a dense multitude or throng.’ A nephele is a large physical cloud comprised of masses of clouds that covers the heavens.
“For, brothers, I don’t want you to miss the significance of what happened to our fathers. All of them were guided by the pillar of cloud, and they all passed through the sea, and in connection with the cloud and with the sea they all immersed themselves into Moshe” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2).
When the Hebrews left Egypt, they were guided by a nephele pillar giving the nephele a distinct spiritual implication. When they crossed the Red Sea, they were surrounded by the nephele and the water and immersed into Moshe.
The Hebrew word for ‘cloud’ is anan and means ‘cloud mass’. Jeremiah describes the anan, “You have covered yourself with a ‘cloud’ so thick …” (Lamentations 3:44). It is used for the presence of Adonai and His ‘cloud’ sukkah over Israel –– His ‘sign of divine protection.’ The ‘cloud’ served as a barrier to hide the fullness of Adonai’s holiness and glory while giving Israel divine protection from the Egyptians as well as the Red Sea itself.
“Then he [Moshe] ascended Mount Sinai, as the LORD had ordered him to do. The LORD descended in the cloud, stood with him there and pronounced the name of yod-hey-vav-hey” (Exodus 34:4).
When Moshe ascended to the mountain, Adonai descended in the anan. From within the anan, He proclaimed His memorial name: Esher Ehyeh Asher (Exodus 34:4-5). The ‘cloud’ along with His divine presence is the exact representation of the name ‘I am that I am.’
“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5).
Nephele is used for the bright ‘cloud’ on the mountain where Yeshua was glorified in front of Peter, James and John. Appearing with Yeshua were Elijah and Moses. God spoke aloud to the three dicsiples from the ‘cloud’ that ‘enveloped’ them. The Greek word for ‘enveloped’ is episkiazó and means ‘overshadow.’ According to Strong’s Concordance, this word is used in the new testament as “God’s over-shadowing presence – which always brings His plan to pass, His immutable will for physical circumstances.”
Both testaments describe the return of Yeshua to the earth. Both testaments support the witness of the ‘two men dressed in white’ who tell the disciples that Yeshua will return ‘in the cloud.’
“Look! He is coming with the clouds! Every eye will see him, including those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the Land will mourn him” (Zechariah 12:10).
The prophet Zechariah uses the Hebrew anan for the ‘clouds’ on which Yeshua comes, the clouds of the presence of Adonai. Every eye will see him come in the thick ‘cloud’ of his glory, and all the tribes of the Land will mourn.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
First Thessalonians uses nephele for the ‘cloud’ in which Yeshua will catch up his Bride. In the nephele, the living and resurrected saints will be transformed from mortal into immorality.
The Firstfruits ‘Witnesses’
“Also the graves were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life; and after Yeshua rose, they came out of the graves and went into the holy city, where many people saw them” (Matthew 27:52-53).
At the moment of Yeshua’s death when the Temple veil was torn, Matthew gives ‘witness’ to the holy people raised from the dead. These ‘firstfruits’ were called out of their graves to bear ‘witness’ to the reality of the resurrection of the dead. What happened to these resurrected people as there is no further mention of them? They could not die again because “it is appointed for man to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). Peter, James and John had already witnessed the ‘cloud’ of Adonai’s glory around Yeshua, Elijah and Moshe on the mountain. Could it be that Elijah and Moshe appeared as the same ‘cloud’ of witnesses as the holy ones?
Great Cloud of Witnesses
“So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
The word ‘witness’ in Greek is martus (English: martyr) and is used for a ‘witness’ in history and forensics. Torah requires that to convict a person of any offense or sin, there must be two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). Sha’ul admits that when Stephen was being stoned, he stood as a ‘witness’ in full agreement with other ‘witnesses’ (Acts 22:20).
From Vines Expository Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, another meaning of martus is ‘one who does what he has seen or heard.’ Everyone born again into God’s Kingdom is a martry –– witness –– to the Kingdom. We either live as a martyr when we do what Yeshua did and listen to God’s Word or die as a martyr which means ‘to bear witness by their death.’
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for testifying [witnessing] about Yeshua and proclaiming the Word of God” (Revelation 20:4).
This great ‘cloud of witnesses’ that includes Elijah, Moshe, and the holy ones challenges us to repent from sins that keep us from attaining our eternal goal: the glory of Adonai. This great ‘cloud’ of firstfruits gives us hope in a coming resurrection. This ‘great cloud of witnesses’ promises that Yeshua will return with a ‘great cloud of witnesses.’ As ‘witnesses’ of Yeshua, we eagerly wait for that promised day when he returns and we enter the great resurrected ‘cloud of witnesses.’
©2015 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.