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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Cloud

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CLOUD.—The cloud appears in the Gospels at our Lord’s Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5 || Mark 9:7, Luke 9:34) and (if we may treat the first verses of the Book of Acts as practically part of St. Luke’s Gospel) at His Ascension (Acts 1:9). Twice also it has a place in His own prediction of His coming again (Matthew 24:30 || Mark 13:26 || Luke 21:27, Matthew 26:64 || Mark 14:62).

The most interesting occurrence of this cloud is that in connexion with the Ascension; but it is its appearance above the Mount of Transfiguration that rules the interpretation of its significance. For there a voice comes out of it which is that of the Heavenly Father: it is seen to be the veil of the Divine Presence. Veiling the glory which no mortal might see and live, veiling yet revealing the Presence of God, the cloud has two aspects, of which the greater and more characteristic is not the negative one of veiling, but that positive aspect in which it attests and manifests the Divine Presence. To come under its shadow (a ‘shadow,’ it would seem, of light, since it was νεφέλη φωτεινή) awoke in the disciples the dread felt by Jacob at Bethel. And for the same reason—that this cloud is a ‘gate of heaven,’ at which a man may stand to hear the voice of God. Here, in this bright cloud, the two spheres, earthly and heavenly, open upon each other. The cloud is less a veil than a lifting of the veil. Here the invisible barrier becomes a portal of heaven, through which may come the voice of the Almighty, and entering by which Christ is passed into heaven. It is a ‘cloud of heaven’: with earth and human life upon this side of it, and on the other side (not sky and stars, but) the invisible things of God, the heavenly sphere, the other world.

Thus in our Lord’s Ascension we do not conceive of Him as ‘going up’ farther than would symbolize and declare His departure from this world: ‘He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight’—they saw Him go and they saw what door opened to receive Him. As identifying this cloud with ‘heaven,’ compare Acts 1:9, ‘a cloud received him,’ with Acts 1:11 ‘received up from you into heaven’: with which agrees 2 Peter 1:17-18, ‘there came a voice to him out of the excellent glory … and this voice we (ourselves) heard brought out of heaven.’ The voice out of the cloud was ‘out of heaven’—the disciples in beholding Christ enter the cloud ‘beheld him going into heaven.’

If for us the cloud is as a door which closes, a veil that hides (as God verily is a God that hideth Himself), this is of grace: ‘thou canst not follow me now’ (John 13:36)—‘ye cannot bear it now’ (John 16:12). And the cloud is, for Christ’s disciples, itself an excellent glory, since He is now passed within it (not behind as our earthly sun), filling it with brightness of light. He, our Redeemer and Advocate, the Lord who is our Brother, is now within the cloud that covers Sinai, that leads through the wilderness, that shines above the Mercy-seat; that is to say—in all that by which God draws near to man (in His law as in Sinai, in His providences as in the shepherding of Israel, in religious life and worship as in the Holiest of all), Christ is present, and the love which He has made known, bestowed and sealed. To His disciples the Law is no more a threat and fear, but is written upon the heart for honour and obedience; and God’s providence is trusted—the sheep follow, for they know His voice; and for the deep things of the soul there is a great High priest passed into the heavens, and they that know His name come boldly to the throne of grace.

Literature.—The Comm. in loc., esp. Swete on Mark 9:7; Ruskin, Frondes Agrestes, p. 178; Huntingdon, Christian Believing and Living, p. 168; Westcott, Revelat. of the Risen Lord, p. 180; Milligan, Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord, p. 21 ff.; Paget, Studies in the Christian Character, p. 246 ff.

Arthur W. Wotherspoon.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Cloud'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/c/cloud.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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