Clouds of Ascension

Forty days after being resurrected from the dead, Yeshua ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives.  He was 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.

“After saying this, he 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). 

The Greek word for ‘cloud’ in Acts 1 is nephele and means a literal cloud.  According to Vines Expository Dictionary of Greek and Hebrew, this cloud is ‘a definitely shaped cloud’.  Nephele comes from the word nephos with a metaphorical meaning of “a dense multitude or throng.”  In this sense, though a nephele takes a physical shape, it is a large cloud made of masses of clouds that covers the heavens.  

Nephele is used as the physical element of the cloud that covered Israel in the Red Sea. It was through the nephele and the sea that the Israelites were immersed into Moses.

“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). 

Nephele is used for ‘the cloud’ on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Peter, James and John were taken by Yeshua to a mountain where he was glorified before them.  Appearing with Yeshua was Elijah and Moses.  God spoke to the disciples from the cloud that surrounded them.  

“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 of ‘the clouds’ in which Yeshua will return.  Even though there will be a massive amount of clouds, every eye will see him and all the tribes of the land of Israel will mourn his return.  It is also the nephele where the living and resurrected dead will meet Yeshua and be translated from mortal into immortality and ‘be with him forever’ as he returns to Israel, Mount Zion, Jerusalem to set up his Millennial Kingdom.  

“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” (Revelation 1:7, Zechariah 12:10). 

“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).

The Hebrew word for ‘cloud’ is anan and means ‘cloud mass’.  It is used to represent the presence of God.  It is a figurative ‘sign of divine protection’ as is seen when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.  The anan of God was their divine protection from the Egyptians as well as the sea itself.    ‘The cloud’  also serves as a barrier hiding the fullness of God’s divine holiness and glory.  It separates sinful man’s approach to God (Lam. 6:4) showing that man’s relationship to God is initiated and sustained by God Himself and not initiated or sustained by man (Vines). 

When Moshe ascended to the mountain with the stones tablets, God descended in a cloud and stood with him.  Within the cloud, He pronounced His memorial name: YHVH (Exodus 34:4-5).  Within the concept of the cloud along with His presence is very name of God, ‘the I AM that I AM’.    

“Moshe cut two stone tablets like the first. Then he got up early in the morning and, with the two stone tablets in his hands, 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).

Ten days before Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), Yeshua ascended in a cloud, taking the divine presence and glory of God with him until his ‘appointed time’ of return.  This cloud covering is the evidence that not only was the Father’s protection was around His Son, but also His holiness, His glory and His divine name validating Yeshua’s divinity and credibility that he is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).   

The Witness of a Martyr

Apart from the cloud being the divine presence of God and Yeshua ascending to the right hand of His Father, there is also another possibility for this ‘throng of clouds’.  It comes from Hebrew 12:1:

“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 ….”

Who or what is that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us like a cloud? The word ‘witness’ in Greek is martus from where the word ‘martyr’ derives. 

Martus is used as a witness for historical and ‘forensic’ accounts, especially  in God’s judicial system where there needs to be a witness of two to establish a matter.

“One witness alone will not be sufficient to convict a person of any offense or sin of any kind; the matter will be established only if there are two or three witnesses testifying against him” (Deuteronomy 19:15).

“Also that when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I was standing there too, in full agreement …” (Acts 22:20).

Martus is also used of God being a witness to our accounts of truth.     

“For God, whom I serve in my spirit by spreading the Good News about his Son, is my witness that I regularly remember you…” (Romans 1:9)

“I call God to witness — he knows what my life is like — that the reason I held back from coming to Corinth was out of consideration for you!” (2 Corinthians 1:23).

Martus means ‘to bear witness to Messiah by their death’.  This is the most common understanding of martyr: one who dies, in a horrible way,  for their faith in Yeshua.   We see this happening around the world today with ISIS murdering Christians in other countries for their faith in Christ.  They are martyred (murdered) because of their martus (witness). 

“Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them received authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for testifying about Yeshua and proclaiming the Word of God …” (Revelation 20:4).

““I know where you are living, there where the Adversary’s throne is. Yet you are holding onto my name. You did not deny trusting me even at the time when my faithful witness Antipas was put to death in your town, there where the Adversary lives” (Revelation 2:13).

More specifically a martus or witness is ‘one who can or does what he has seen or heard or knows’ according to Vines.   In this sense, everyone who is born again into God’s Kingdom is a martry to that Kingdom.  We are all witnesses for God our Father if we are doing what we have seen Yeshua do, listen to what we have heard (and read) in the Word of God on how we are to live, and know His personal salvation and deliverance through experience from a daily walk of faith of dying to ourselves.  When we die to ourselves, we martus ourselves in order to live fully for Yeshua as a witness to his death and resurrection.

Paul teaches this very concept of martrydom to the congregation in Galatia.  This type of witness is the very essence of being immersed after being born again by Spirit and ‘water’ into the Kingdom of God.

“I have been crucified with Messiah and I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). 

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).

In this circumcision done by the Messiah,  you were buried along with him by being immersed; and in union with him, you were also raised up along with him by God’s faithfulness that worked when he raised Yeshua from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12). 

Though we think of martyrs as dying horrible physical deaths, martyrs only become witnesses to Messiah when they first die to their carnal selves in order to live revived spiritual lives that reflect the One who gave them life.

Feast of Firstfruits

“But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Forty days before Feast of Firstfruits, Yeshua rose from the dead.  At that time there were others who had been resurrected.  Matthew 27:52-53 gives the account of these holy ones:  “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.”

What happened to these resurrected people?  There is no mention of them again.  They could not die again because Hebrews 9:27 says ‘it is appointed for man to die once’ – inclusive of Lazarus who had died and was brought back to life.  Again, what happened to these resurrected people?

Ephesians 4:8 (Psalm 68:18),  “When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious– that you, LORD God, might dwell there.”

As the firstfruits (note the plural) of the resurrection, Yeshua went as High Priest to the heavenly Tabernacle and brought with him a firstfruits offering.  Grain was presented in the Temple, but that was only a shadow of the reality.  What was the reality?  A kernel of grain had fallen into the ground as rose from the ground producing many more seeds.  Could it be that the men and women of faith who were held captive in the bosom of Abraham were Yeshua’s ‘firstfruits of the resurrection offering’ to His Father?  

Though we all understand there is a resurrection to come, it will be the harvest resurrection begun by a firstfruits (plural) resurrection.  These righteous ones were the ‘plural’ firstfruits of those raised from the dead along with Yeshua.  They had bodies that were seen by many people suggesting as firstfruits they received their glorified bodies and maybe even their white robes.  The spring harvest with firstfruits  had only begun and it will culminate with the fall harvest and the gleanings.

Could it be that these resurrected firstfruits were those who appeared as a massive cloud and bore martyr in a personal experiential way to the resurrection of the dead by being called out of their graves and taken into an immortal dwelling place with Yeshua?  This is not impossible as Peter, James and John had already witnessed Elijah and Moses in some physical form with Yeshua in his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Because of this  ‘great cloud of witness’  to the resurrection that surrounds us, we are challenged to put aside the sins that keep us from moving forward, that keep us from running the race to our eternal goal.    It is this ‘great nephele of martus’ that gives us hope in the coming resurrection of the dead for not only was Yeshua raised from the dead, but also the firstfruits points to a future harvest.  Like Israel crossing the Red Sea, we are also protected by ‘a cloud’  an anan – the glory, the holiness, and the eternal name of God – YHVH.  Through His Spirit which was poured out two thousand years ago on the Feast of Weeks we are sealed as true martyrs and wait for the day when Yeshua returns with ‘clouds of witness’ and in great glory. 

©2015 Tent Stake Ministries 

Leave a Reply

*