The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: C

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Cloud, clouds in the New Testament

Out of 25 occurrences of "nephele", all but three plainly mean the Cloud of the Shekinah Glory. The student should work his way through the entire list. Acts 1:9 and 1Th 4:17 are specially instructive.

But there are three of the twenty-five which do not so readily conform to this general usage:

In 2Pe 2:17, false teachers are referred to as "clouds carried with a tempest". Jud 1:12 (ref to the above) calls them "clouds without water". In each of these instances the Shekinah Glory idea is not out of sight. Here were men claiming divine authority for their message (as Ezekiel with his Eze 1), but in fact they were not borne along by the Holy Spirit (2Pe 1:19) but by a tempest, sweeping them away to their own destruction. Differently, Jude's "clouds without water" implies that these men brought no true Holy Spirit blessing.

But what is to be said about the words of Jesus?: "When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is." Besides the simple literal meaning, a commonplace experience in the Holy Land, Jesus may have meant allusion to the Holy of Holies at the western end of the sanctuary enclosure (cp Psa 103:12) -- the Shekinah Glory of God appearing there would be the certain herald of heavenly blessing: "a shower".

It is important to observe that the "so great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1), referring to the multitude of the faithful in Heb 11, uses a different word: "nephos". Thus, it is not permissible to use this passage to interpret 1Th 4:17.

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