William Branham and the Mystery Cloud

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This tract is the product of a broken heart. A lifetime spent in the Message of William Branham, deeply loving its teachings, and trusting deeply the leaders who preached it. The writer of this article has been a message minister living his life in the Jeffersonville Indiana area. The sorrow with which these things are wrote cannot be overstated.

What Does This Cloud Mean To Message Believers?

A fundamental belief in The Message of William Branham is that Jesus Christ descended from heaven in 1963, and returned to the church in some form. The form in which he returned varies between different sects of his followers, but the fact that he returned in 1963 is a universal belief. That belief is intimately connected to the cloud pictured in this article.

William Branham told his followers that while hunting in Arizona with his companions on February 28, 1963, seven angels appeared to him. They instructed him to return to Jeffersonville, Indiana where he would be given the revelation of the seven seals to preach. He went on to explain to his audiences that those angels then ascended up to form a supernatural cloud in the sky, the same cloud in the picture.

William Branham explained that this cloud was the face of Jesus Christ. He told his followers it was a fulfillment of the first part of 1st Thessalonians 4:16

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:

1 Thessalonians 4:16 (KJV)

William Branham also connected the sermons he subsequently preached on the seven seals to the midnight cry of Matthew 25, a key event that separated the wise from the foolish virgins.

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

Matthew 25:6 (KJV)

William Branham declared that the cloud was the face of Jesus descending from heaven, and pointed it as a fulfillment of these verses.

Watch in the book, before it ever happened, I said that. And that day when that happened, it went up. And then you turn that picture sideways, if you’ve got Look Magazine or Life Magazine, turn sideways. There He is, just perfectly, Hofmann’s Head of Christ, looking right down where I was standing; there It is in the magazine! How many’s ever seen It? Course, you’ve all seen. There, looking right back, proved exactly the revelation was correct.

65-1126 – Works Is Faith Expressed
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

And the seventh angel’s Message, under the same Trumpet, same everything exactly, the same Seal, is to (what?) call the people, the Bride, out of the Pentecostal and world tradition, to the genuine Atonement, the Word, Christ impersonated in His Word here, made flesh among us. Science has proved it, by pictures.

64-0719M – The Feast Of The Trumpets
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

Many of William Branham’s followers believe that the “midnight cry” and the “shout” – were fulfilled in Branham’s ministry as a results of his statements. William Branham said so himself, and he explained that the shout and the message were there same thing.

The first thing comes, when He starts descending from the Heaven, there’s a shout. What is it? Is a Message, to get the people together. A Message comes forth, first. Now, lamp-trimming time, “Rise and trim your lamps.” What watch was that? The seventh, not the sixth. The seventh, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh. Rise and trim your lamps.” And they did. Some of them found they didn’t even have any Oil in their lamp. See? But it’s lamp-trimming time. It’s Malachi 4 time.

65-1204 – The Rapture
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

For the Lord himself (16th verse) shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and…the trump of God:… Three things happens: A voice…A shout, a voice, a trumpet, has to happen before Jesus appears. Now, a shout…Jesus does all three of them when He’s—He’s—He’s—He’s descending. A shout, what is the shout? It’s the Message going forth

65-1204 – The Rapture
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

William Branham’s followers believe that all people who refuse to accept William Branham’s Message (the midnight cry and the shout) are either lost souls or a lower order of Christians who may possibly be saved, but only through martyrdom or death during the tribulation.

The fulfillment of the “shout” and the “midnight cry” in William Branham’s ministry is a foundational belief in the Message. It is based upon the belief that Christ returned, in some form, in 1963.

William Branham declared the supernatural cloud of February 28, 1963 to be the evidence that the shout and the midnight cry were fulfilled.

I saw seven Angels come. Didn’t Life magazine pack it, as the fog of It floated across here, twenty-seven miles high, and thirty miles across? Is not Fred Sothmann, these other, Gene Norman, them, setting back there? Stood right there when them seven Angels appeared right there on the hill. It shook the hills, for miles around, like that. There stood seven Angels. And throwed a sword in your hand, said, “Go home and open these Seven Seals that are given.” And here they are, the true mystery of marriage and divorce, and the serpent’s seed, and all of these things that’s been fussed about. It’s THUS SAITH THE LORD. What is it? The quickening power coming to the Church, making Her ready, this hour that we’re approaching. Quickening power!

65-0410 – The Easter Seal
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

Now, they asked, to know. Science, the one of them in Tucson, wanted to know any significance, but I didn’t tell them. You all knew it, told beforehand. But it wasn’t for them; it was for you. And so there He spoke to me, and said, “The Seven Seals will be opened. The seven mysteries, sevenfold mystery of the Bible, that’s been closed up since the foundation of the world, will be revealed.” And we, yet a humble little group, compared with all the world, we’ve enjoyed these blessings, a hearing those mysteries. Marriage, divorce, serpent’s seed, all these different questions, has been completely revealed to us, not by man, but by God, Himself, that’s opened those seven mysteries; of what the Church was, how It was in Christ at the beginning, and how It  would be revealed in the last day. And now, as this went up, we have the picture outside on the plaque. But, then, I have the picture laying present here, if you notice, as Life magazine had it. But I wonder if my audience, visible here, has ever really looked at the picture, see, see, in the way it should be.

65-0418M – It Is The Rising Of The Sun
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

To sum it all up: For decades, message believers have pointed to the cloud as the supernatural event that proved the Lord had descended from heaven. It is believed to literally be the face of Christ from heaven. Some groups, like the group I was in, believe that after descending, Christ manifested himself through the ministry of William Branham. Other groups believe what is called the “parusia” doctrine, that Christ’s presence returned to earth and has remained since 1963.

Some groups go so far as to say William Branham became God incarnate in 1963. William Branham made many statements that led some to that conclusion, like the following.

The Elijah of this day is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is to come according to Matthew the seventeen-…Luke 17:30, is, the Son of man is to reveal Himself among His people. Not a man, God! But it’ll come through a prophet.

Branham, William. 1965, Nov 27. Trying To Do God a Service Without It Being God’s Will.

What I Was Taught

The church I attended in Jeffersonville followed William Branham’s lead on interpreting the meaning of the cloud and events of 1963. Here are some excerpts from their sermons:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. When did this happen? Has it happened? Will it happen? The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. Bro. Branham taught us the shout is the message. Bro. Jackson taught us the same thing, the shout is the message, the same as the cry of Matthew 25:6. There is something to that. I just told you about Revelation 6:1, a thunder, then verse 6, a voice. The voice is the same thing as the shout. We are not deviating from that. There was enough explanation in what Bro. Jackson taught without me needing to further explain it. There is enough indication to tell you that something happened in 1963. The mystery cloud: that was not just angels. We have the picture here. This was a cloud. It was dynamic enough to put it in Life Magazine. Life Magazine said it was impossible for water vapor to exist as high as this cloud was. It was twenty six miles high and thirty miles across. What does it look like? That is what I am referring to: The Lord himself will descend from heaven. This is in angelic form. He is still sitting on the throne. If that be the case, (I don’t doubt it is the case), this was more than a random cloud. It happened because this opened up something. When it opened, there was a thunder, there was a voice. In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, the days are still going on. This endtime has experienced something in 1963. Bro. Branham didn’t know what these seals were at this time in 1963. What does it say? For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. That part has happened. I am not trying to speak mysteries where you can’t understand it. I want you to understand where in time we are and what God has done.

James Allen – The Contender: Revelation 10: Part 1, Preached September 4-11, 2016

The midnight cry by Bro. Branham and the shout are one and the selfsame thing. When you read of the shout, it is how Paul used it to start the illustration of how this will all break down. First the shout. He didn’t tell you there would be an interval of time after it. When I look back, I remember when I sat there in 1963, as these things happened.

– Raymond Jackson, The Foolish Virgins, Part 1 

So I’ve said all of this to emphasize the cry, the shout and the voice of the 7th Church age messenger is all one and the self same thing because you cannot have three different things going on at three different times.

Raymond Jackson, The Catching Away, Part 3 1992-10-18am

Now if we look at it right, we cannot have a cry, a shout and a voice of a 7th angel before we know what these things pertain to.

Raymond Jackson, The Catching Away, Part 3 – 1992-10-18am

That to me proves in 1963, God has now caused a shout.

Raymond Jackson, The Catching Away, Part 2, 1992-10-11pm

When we come to the year of 1963, God dealt with this man. The time has come. He wants this people on Earth who somehow or other that are being drawn out by his message to be dealt with in a prophetic way. So he deals with a man like he did in Arizona and brings him back here.

Raymond Jackson, Have You Heard The Shout?, 1993-6-29

And as I look back through the years now, it is more vivid than ever. This is the only thing, this side of heaven that could have fulfilled that which Paul says here in 1st Thessalonians four: for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. Now keep in mind that don’t mean that everybody is going to see the Lord up there hanging in space. But when he said the Lord himself shall descend, we’ve got to realize it’s how the spirit of God moved and projected something to Earth to begin to deal with a people that are destined to fulfill all these scriptures at the endtime. We can say this is when the shout has been declared.

Raymond Jackson, The Catching Away, Part 2 – 1992-10-11pm

We can say then in the year of 1963, this man’s message has been prepared, has been sounded, and God has put a punch line in it…

Raymond Jackson, Have You Heard The Shout, 1993-6-29

There is some sequences of things I want to relate as we look at the year of 1963, what it was. And I will emphasize again the year of 1963 in the month of the last part of March and April when God used Brother Branham to break forth the revelation of six seals.

This is why it points back to when that voice really had something to cry about, when his voice began to be sounded. This is why I have to say brothers and sisters, in 1963 when brother Branham stood there and in the spirit as God had spoke to him out west to go back for this purpose. That’s when God took all the messages that he has dealt with in time up to that hour. And God has put a revelation of the breaking of them seals within this. This is what gave that voice, that shout, that cry, the magnitude that’s been heralding backwards and forth around this Earth for the last 30 years. How many understands my explanation?

Raymond Jackson, 1992-8-2am (#1393) Have You Heard The Shout

Undeniably and uncontroversially, the supernatural events of 1963 form the basis on which we believed the shout and the midnight cry had occurred. They are inseparable. If the supernatural events of 1963 are untrue, the very foundation of the message is untrue. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misleading you and trying to rewrite the history of what was taught for decades.

The story William Branham told about this cloud and what happened that day in Arizona is a critical element of the Message’s endtime teachings. It was our basis for saying “the Lord descended from heaven”. It was the basis for saying there was a shout.

Message preachers must explain how the Lord descended from heaven with a shout. Almost all message ministers point to what happened in 1963 as the evidence of the shout, as I have demonstrated in this article. This is critical to the message. Because, if the Lord did not descend from heaven, then there was no shout. Without the shout, there is no Message. Because the message is the shout, according to William Branham’s own words.

The Facts About The Cloud

Just as the sun was setting on February 28, 1963, a large unusual ring shaped cloud appeared in the sky over the southwestern United States centered near Flagstaff Arizona. The unusual nature of the cloud led to it being reported in multiple publications and researched by Professor James McDonald of the Arizona State University Institute of Atmospheric Physics. Message believers often share with people the original papers published by James McDonald when he first began studying the cloud, but they never share the final results of his investigation into the cloud. Here is a report issued by McDonald as he began to uncover the cloud’s true origin.

Weatherwise magazine, June 1963, page 99
Weatherwise magazine, June 1963, page 148

At the time of publishing this article in June, Prof. James McDonald suspected the possibility that the cloud had been produced by a rocket launch, but lacked sufficient evidence. He soon after found the evidence he was looking for. His final conclusion about what created the cloud is explained in the following letter.

Letter from Prof. McDonald’s co-researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics

Where did this mystery cloud come from? On February 28, 1963, a thrust assisted Thor rocket was launched from pad 75-3-5 at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California carrying a Keyhole 4 military surveillance satellite. The rocket started to veer off course and was intentionally destroyed at an altitude of 44 kilometers (144,000 feet) at 1:52pm. This rocket explosion caused the cloud that was photographed in Life Magazine and which William Branham said was produced by angels. The rocket creating the explosion was a classified spy satellite, but the military provided the following records in later years.

This next letter is from Chief Historian of the United States Airforce. The last names are blanked out to protect identities because certain Message followers harassed James McDonald for years because he said the cloud was not supernatural. For that reason, the names of these people were partially obscured so they would not likewise be harassed by the same people.

Letter from the chief of the Office of History of the United States Airforce, page 1
Letter from the chief of the Office of History of the United States Airforce, page 2

The United States Airforce also made public the following document, which was declassified in 1995.

Declassified rocket launch record from February 28, 1963

Prof. McDonald also reached out directly to the engineers involved in the launch of the rocket on February 28, 1963, and received a personal confirmation from them that their rocket had produced the cloud. An engineer involved in the rocket launch confirmed he recognized the cloud was created by the rocket the same day it appeared. This information is shared by the engineer in the following letter.

Letter from a launch engineer.

Prof. McDonald’s widow also confirmed by letter that her husband had concluded the cloud had been created by a rocket.

In his 1987 book The Healer Prophet, Douglas Weaver shared with his readers the fact that the cloud had been made by an exploded Thor Rocket. His book was widely shared among leading ministers of the message.

In 1991, former message follower John Kennah published a series of articles reporting the cloud had been made by an exploded Thor Rocket. He was the first to publish the letters included in this article. Those articles received a lot of attention from message leaders in the United States.

In those years, many message ministers became fully aware that the cloud was not supernatural. However, this information was not shared with average message believers and was hidden and covered up. After discovering the true origin of the cloud, several leading message ministers, like Raymond Jackson, never mentioned the cloud again. Yet they never told their followers what they had found.


Message believers have been taught for decades that “The Lord himself descended with a shout” in 1963 in the Arizona desert. They were taught the events of 1963 began a process that will culminate in the rapture and the resurrection. They have been taught that the cloud was the proof of the Lord descending from heaven. They have also been taught the cloud is divine vindication of the ministry of William Branham.

However, there is overwhelming evidence that the cloud was manmade, and not supernatural. There is overwhelming evidence the cloud was not created by angels, but was rather created by an exploded rocket.

The cloud was not Jesus Christ descending from heaven in 1963. If the Lord never descended from Heaven, then there was no shout.

Why did William Branham tell us the cloud was made by angels when we know with total certainty it was made by an exploded rocket?

Why did William Branham tell us the cloud was the face of Jesus, when it was actually a rocket debris cloud?

Many message believers have been deceived into building their faith on something that never happened. The author of this article was one such person. What great sorrow and pain it was to discover we had been betrayed by the men we had trusted so earnestly to tell us the truth.

Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

Matthew 24:24-26

But that is exactly what the Message asks us to believe. We are asked to believe Jesus descended over the desert in 1963, and we need to join the Message to receive the secret revelation that Christ sent to William Branham.