Caught Away Together in the Clouds of Sion
The Marriage Feast
by Steve Santini
Of Jesus Christ’s second coming the apostle Paul wrote:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. I Thessalonians 4:16,17
This fifth article in the seven part series, The Anchor of the Soul, focuses on the word clouds. To the Easterner of antiquity there were three types of clouds. There were the clouds of heaven, natural clouds in the lower atmosphere and supernatural clouds in the lower atmosphere. The clouds of heaven were those clouds of cosmic dust surrounding the galactic center.
Natural clouds in the lower atmosphere were the normal clouds that sometimes bring rain or snow. Supernatural clouds were the clouds like the one that traveled from Egypt towards the Promised Land with the children of Israel. The clouds in verse seventeen in the above verses are supernatural clouds in the lower atmosphere.
The definitions of the words air, clouds and caught up from the earlier Greek texts of this verse confirm this. The Greek word for air is aer. It means the air in the lower atmosphere. The Greek word for clouds is nephele. It is used in the apostle Paul’s writings of the type of supernatural cloud over Israel as they traveled from Egypt to The Promised Land. (I Corinthians 10:1-13) The Greek word for caught up is harpazo. It is translated catch up or caught up four times in the New Testament while it is translated catch away, take by force, catch, pluck and pull a total of nine times. The idea of upward movement is not part of the definition but was garnered from traditional theological assumptions. More so, the idea of force or power is integral to the overall definition. Accordingly, the clouds unto which the faithful in Christ Jesus are to be taken are not the clouds of heaven. They are clouds in the lower atmosphere like the supernatural cloud of divine sanctification that was with Israel in the wilderness for forty years.
This overall understanding, without upward movement as if to heaven, is in harmony with other verses on the subject.
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. I Thessalonians 1:10
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Romans 5:9
In both the above verses in the phrase from the wrath or from wrath the Greek preposition from is apo. In the ancient Greek language prepositions had specific meanings with geometric applications. There are several prepositions that include the specific meaning of upward motion. Apo is not one of them. It simply means motion away from the surface of an object or condition.
With the understanding that the clouds to which the faithful in Christ Jesus are to be gathered to be forever with the Lord are like the supernatural clouds of the Old Testament and that there is the wrath of judgment yet to come, the time of Israel in the wilderness is interesting historically in regards to the future Christian hope. The apostle Paul wrote that the things of the Old Testament were written for our learning that we might have hope. (Romans 15:4) During the time that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness under the cloud the rest of the world experienced the, yet to be fully understood, Collapse of the Bronze Age. Entire civilizations vanished as major cities and towns were destroyed by geophysical and astrophysical disruptions. It took centuries for surviving peoples and cultures to rebound. All the while the children of Israel were preserved under the cloud as a land of milk and honey was being prepared for them.
How does all this relate to the area of Sion and Zion and the hope of salvation? In the last year of their wanderings, when children of Israel were encamped on the Plains of Moab just east of Sion, the pillar of the cloud under which they traveled with Moses ceased. Shortly afterwards, a divine cloud filled the tabernacle in Sion where and when Moses commissioned Joshua to take the children of Israel into the Promised Land “flowing with milk and honey”. (Deuteronomy 31:14,15) In Zion when Solomon dedicated the first temple, a brilliant divine cloud appeared filling the temple as the priests placed the Ark of the Covenant under the overspread wings of the two cherubim in the Holy of Holies. (I Kings 8:6-11)
In the New Testament gospels there are two records of a divine cloud appearing in the area of Sion. As Jesus rose from Jordan’s waters in the hands of John the Baptist, according to the oldest surviving text of the second century, there was a divine cloud that appeared in addition to the dove and audible voice saying, “This is my beloved son”. The second and last record of a divine cloud appearing in the area is most telling in regards to the hope of salvation for the saints and faithful. Just after Jesus was transfigured with the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the holy mount, together with Peter, James and John, a divine cloud enveloped Jesus, Peter, James and John from which, likewise, came a voice saying, “This is my beloved son, hear ye him.”
Paul wrote that those of faith would be taken into the clouds to meet the Lord and be forever with him. In two sections his message pointed to Sion as the place of salvation where divine clouds remarkably and uniquely once occurred in scriptural history. (Romans 9:26, Hebrews 12:22) Isaiah prophesied that these divine clouds in the lower atmosphere would appear again in Sion during the Lord’s coming with his saints.
And seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own raiment: only let thy name be called upon us, and take away our reproach. 2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel. 3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy. 4 For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgement, and the spirit of burning. 5 And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defence. 6 And it shall be for a shadow from the heat, and as a shelter and a hiding place from inclemency of weather and from rain. Isaiah 4:1 - 5:1 (Septuagint)
The reality of meeting the Lord to be forever with him in divine clouds in the lower atmosphere in Sion seems apparent. Furthermore, Jesus in several places likened his second coming to a wedding feast. So how are clouds and a wedding feast also connected to being with the Lord forever?
Today, according to an ancient Jewish tradition, marriage ceremonies take place with the bride and groom under a chuppah. A chuppah is a white cloth canopy. In rabbinical tradition the chuppah represents the divine cloud under which the children of Israel lived in the wilderness.(Exodus 13:14) As a representation of the cloud, in earlier times the bride was taken through town to the ceremony under a canopy as the “daughters” of Israel had been once taken towards the “land of milk and honey”.
The ancient customs of the Eastern betrothal and marriage were redemptive figures of salvation’s course Alfred Edersheim once wrote that the marriage ceremony was a time of joy in the Hebrew community because it represented the forgiveness of sin allowing Israel union with the divine.
These customs were not exclusive to Israel. They were applied in the earliest cultures of the East and survive to some degree even today. As such, this covering over a marrying couple indicates that these figures of salvation predate Israel.
According to the apostle Paul, with the exception of a remnant of faithful, Israel, as a bloodline entity, was broken off from the promises of the ancient prophecies.(Romans 11, Acts 28) Moses, by the time of the fortieth year, knew this would come to pass and declared such from Sion to the tribe encamped on the Plains of Moab.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.
Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day. Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?
And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 31:16-19ff
In the first century, Paul wrote of Israel’s lack of faith as an admonition to the church of faith not to forsake the promise of salvation to come at the end of the age.
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, (nephele) and all passed through the sea;
And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud (nephele) and in the sea;
And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world (aion-age) are come. I Corinthians 10:1-11
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them (Israel): but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Hebrews 4:1,2
Paul also wrote of Moses’ Sion witness against Israel. In Romans, Paul wrote that the place where Moses declared that Israel would go whoring after other gods would be the place where those of faith, regardless of bloodline, would be called the children of the living God.
As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Romans 9:25, 26
That place is, of course, in the forthcoming divine clouds of Sion.
The Marriage in Ephesians
The Location Confirmed
The Anchor of the Soul
 The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Stong, J., Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 2001,#109
 ibid. #3507
 ibid. #726
 The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book One, Edersheim, A., Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1972, p. 352-355