The Cloud and The Sea

Have you ever wondered the meaning of the Cloud and the Sea in the baptism of Israelites or the Purpose of Baptism? What of the subject of being Born of Water and Spirit or Baptism with the Holy Spirit or even Baptism with the Holy Spirit and Fire? I thought of these for many years. It is noteworthy that this subject is a controversial topic in the church. The following is a summary of my understanding of these matters.

"The Crossing of the Red Sea", Nicholas Poussin (1634)

Before we share our findings on this subject let us briefly explain biblical baptism. Baptism means to be immersed INTO ‘Something’. In the Old Testament the ‘Something’ is Moses and in the New Testament the ‘Something’ is Christ. The AGENTS used to achieve this spiritual event were Water, Sea, Cloud, Holy Spirit and Fire. The immersion into the agent signifies burial and the reemergence signifies rebirth (immersion) INTO the ‘Something’ (Moses or Christ). Once this is understood, it becomes clear why the bible states that baptism is done WITH or in water, sea, cloud etc. The term ‘WITH’ suggests that these agents are used to accomplish the goal of baptism, which is to be born or immersed into Moses or Christ. Let us now explain ‘the why’ or reason for the use of water, sea, cloud or Holy Spirit and fire as the agents for baptism.

Why the use of agents for baptism

There are two births, a physical birth and a spiritual birth. Physical birth brings a man into this world while spiritual birth brings a man into a spiritual kingdom (light or darkness). To understand baptism (or rebirth) and the meaning of the cloud and the sea let’s explore what man is made of and how he enters into this physical world. A key point to note is that God’s Principles do not change.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. - Gen 1: 9-10

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. - Gen 2: 7

From above scriptures we can say that man was created from two things: Dust of the ground and the breathe of God. The body was formed from the ground and the spirit from the breathe (Spirit) of God. Notice that the dry ground came out of water. Therefore speaking in bible language Adam was born from Water and Spirit into the physical world.

In other words:
  • The body (dry ground) came out of Water
  • The spirit came out of the Spirit (breathe) of God.
Likewise any new born that enters into this world must come out of water (amniotic fluid) and then breathe air into the lungs. The Greek word for ‘Air’ is ‘Pneuma’ which is the same word as ‘spirit’. This captures what happened during the creation of man. As a child comes into the world each day we are reminded of the creation of man as recorded in the book of genesis. We see again that a newborn’s
  • Body comes out of Water and
  • Receives ‘breathe’ – this does not mean that babies receive their spirit after birth.
We use this in a figure

In addition to the above knowledge, it is equally important to note the sequence of events in creation or birth, which are formation of a body then entry of the spirit (breathe).

Having explored physical birth into this world let’s look at spiritual birth into the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. He rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding this obvious truth. The Kingdom of God is not of this world. Even if a man enters his mother’s womb and comes out one thousand times he would only have entered into this physical world one thousand times. To enter into a spiritual kingdom (of God) you need a new body (that is immortal), the kind that can enter into heaven and you need a new spirit (that has eternal life), the kind that can enter into heaven. Essentially you need to be born (recreated) again. Hence Jesus said that except a man is born of Water and of Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. In order to be born again a man needs to be buried in Water so as to come out with a new BODY and be buried in Spirit so as to come out with a new spirit. Baptism into Christ therefore entails receiving the body of Christ and receiving the spirit of Christ. The body designed for this world came out of this world's WATER likewise the body designed for heaven comes out of the Holy Spirit which is the equivalent of water in the kingdom of God. In the creation of man the body was formed from the dry ground (of this world). In spiritual creation (birth) the body is formed from ‘The Word’ so the dry ground represents ‘The Word”. Just as dry ground came out of water, the Word comes out of the Holy Spirit and becomes flesh (our new body). We’ll discuss this in part 2 of the article.

In view of the above, the baptism of the nation of Israel when they came out of Egypt is the example of New Testament baptism (rebirth) because it follows the pattern of creation of a new man and dealt with a new body (from the sea) and a new spirit (from the cloud).

The cloud and the sea, in the Old Testament are synonymous with Spirit and Water in the New Testament and ALL refer to the Holy Spirit. Someone may ask, What then is baptism with fire? John the Baptist said, “…he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire”. Many have missed the correct interpretation of fire but the answer lies in the Old Testament. When the Israelites left Egypt they were led by a cloud, which we have already said represented the Holy Spirit. Now this cloud was described as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of Fire during the night. The fire is a functional transformation of the cloud in order to provide LIGHT. This simply means that baptism with the Holy Spirit and Fire is the same with baptism with the Holy Spirit. You’ll get a clearer picture in Exodus 40, when the cloud covered the newly built tabernacle – see below.

The symbolism of the cloud and the sea are now explained. Find below additional information to support our discussion.

Evangelical Protestant Baptism by submersion in a river.
They were all baptized INTO MOSES in the CLOUD and in the SEA – 1Cor 10: 2

Moses – Christ
Cloud – Holy Spirit
Sea – Holy Spirit
Dry ground – the Word

SEA is a body of WATERS
CLOUD is made of droplets of WATER that are so light they float in the air

Therefore it is not surprising that both cloud and sea represent the Holy Spirit in the New Testament

BODY was formed from dry ground likewise the Word became flesh.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Israel’s baptism story

God sent a strong east wind and the sea was parted until dry ground appeared. Recall that during creation, in genesis, the waters were gathered and dry ground appeared. It was from the dry ground that the body was formed. Likewise the Israelites were buried in the sea and as they walked on dry ground, a new body was formed figuratively speaking. They were baptized into the body of Moses who was their mediator so he could appear before God on Israel’s behalf.

Cloud represents the Spirit of the Lord. A man cannot be reborn by receiving a new body only but by receiving in addition a new spirit. Just like the spirit of man came from the breathe of God a new spirit was necessary for the rebirth to be complete. When Israel came out of Egypt the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud. When Egypt’s army and Pharaoh pursued them, the pillar of Cloud went behind them separating them from the Egypt’s army. Later, after the tabernacle was built according to the pattern that was shown to Moses, the cloud COVERED and then remained above the tabernacle.

"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels." - Ex 40:34-38

The cloud covered it and it received a new spirit figuratively speaking. From that day onwards the cloud was over the tabernacle - cloud by day and fire was in the cloud by night. The tabernacle represents Moses just like the temple represents Christ.

John must have had the CLOUD and FIRE in mind when he said "...he will baptize you with the HOLY SPIRIT and FIRE" The Holy Spirit and fire is one and the same Holy Spirit. The fire is a functional transformation of the cloud in order to provide light. When our spirit is baptized with the 'holy spirit and fire' we receive a new spirit, which guides us and provides light to the world.

Paul says in 1Cor 12:13:
For we were all baptized by one Spirit INTO ONE BODY--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Notice we are baptized into Christ’s body and we drink of his spirit and literally become part of Christ. Just like we received Adam’s body and drank of his spirit and literally became part of Adam.

The above is a graphic presentation. In practice we know that any one that believes the WORD (gospel) with his heart is saved and can receive the Holy Spirit even without a formal immersion baptism in water. We conclude that baptism into Christ is the same with being born again. This article is written for an audience that knows the scripture. Also scriptural references were generally avoided to make the text readable.

By Dr Ndibe Uzodinma, an internet evangelist who loves spreading the love of Jesus

To be continued...
In part 2 we’ll discuss what happens in practice i.e. when is some baptized with the Holy Spirit. Is one baptized into Christ when they are baptized in water? Is there a difference between baptism into Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit?