Saturday, June 28, 2014

The New Testament church is compared to Israel in the wilderness. Part 1

By Joe Daniels and Terry Cropper.

The seventh chapter of Acts records Stephen’s message to Israel in Jerusalem. In reviewing Israel’s history Stephen made reference to “the Church in the wilderness.” Acts7:38 “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us.

Then in Hebrews 2:12 we find a fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 22:22 concerning God’s Church or Congregation. Note first, Psalm 22:22 I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.

And now, Hebrews 2:12. saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.” The Greek word translated “assembly” is “ekklesia.” God has always had a assembly or Church so the Church is not a New Testament invention of God. “Ekklesia” is from the Greek “kaleo,” “call,” “ek,” “out.” “The Church” means “the called-out.”


The wilderness experience for the Israelites was a period of trial, and testing. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NKJV says, And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

God also knew that the wilderness is an ideal place to test his people and to help them learn faith and endurance. There is hardly a way to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land without passing through the wilderness. We know from Deuteronomy 1:2, that it should have taken only eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea, which was on the border of the Promised Land. Yet, it took the children of Israel forty years to make the journey.

They were stuck in the wilderness because of unbelief and because God had a few things to teach them. In Hebrew, the word for wilderness is midbar. It is surely interesting that the root of midbar has the meaning of “speak” or “word.” God speaks to Israel in the wilderness.

God also humbles and proves Israel in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

The Israelites were guilty on many occasions of tempting God. The children of Israel had just seen the miraculously miracle of God through Moses in Egypt. They were delivered through the sea as they escaped from Pharaoh. While in the wilderness, the children of Israel had some real trouble in the area of worship. Even while Moses was in the mountain receiving the law of the Lord, the people were busy making a golden calf to worship (Deut. 9:7-21).

While God had forth all Israel's battles for them they sill refused to enter the land of Canaan and take the land. (Numbers 14:1-38) They tested God to the point that they were finally sentenced to wander forty years in the wilderness. Numbers 14:30-32 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.

In the New Testament, wilderness in which the church finds herself is not a literal desert. But a time period of trial, and testing also. And her destination is not the literal territory of Canaan. But a “better country,” which indicates that the promised land the saints hope to enter is something other than the literal territory of Palestine. (Hebrews 11:16)

Jesus is true Israel! The church was and is the body of Christ. Likewise we believe that as the church equated to the body of Christ, it was the true Israel of God! (Gal.6:16) They like Jesus their master, had to go thru an Exodus journey where they would be tested and tried!

Just a few points to be made on Jesus and wilderness, testing, and exodus. First we are told in Matt.2:15 that it is the fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. Israel coming out of Egypt was a shadow pointing to Jesus! It was when the young Jesus was actually brought by Mary and Joseph back from their flight into Egypt to escape Herod who sought His life.

Matthew 2:15 (NKJV) “and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Interestingly enough, the first thing Jesus does before starting His ministry is to go into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted by Satan. But unlike Israel who failed their testing, Jesus the true Israel passes the test! (Matt.4:1-11; Mk.1:12; Lk.4:1-13) Likewise we are told that Jesus gave the apostles commandmanents (ἐντειλάμενος) and continued to appear to them by many infallible proofs. He taught them about the kingdom of God for a period of 40 days and nights.

Acts 1:2-3 (NKJV)2 “until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

A quick application here is a link to Moses as a shadow who was on Mount Sinai for 40 days where God gave him Commandments. (Ex.24:18) Here Jesus is giving commandment or instruction to His Apostles for the same exact physical time period.

Let’s look at one more passage that speaks to Jesus preparing for His Exodus in reference to His death.Luke 9:30-31 (NKJV) 30”And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease ( Gr. ἔξοδον this is lit. the word “exodus”) which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

(The Greek words here are: τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ literally means ‘The exodus of Him” Notice Luke’s choice of words here? The word used for “Decease” is not the word for death which isθάνατος which Luke uses just four verses earlier! Lk.9:27) It is our belief that this word is used for a reason. The sacrificial death and offering of His prepared body (Heb.10:5) was not just about a physical death nor was His resurrection about a physical body raising up out of the tomb! That had happened before, yet we are told that Jesus was the first to rise! Lets look at two scriptures that point this out!

Acts 26:23 (NKJV)“that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

1 Corinthians 15:20 (NKJV)“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

So knowing that His resurrection was not the first physically speaking, we know that it was something much greater. Heb. 9:27 is where we read that it is appointed for men to die! (Physical death is certainly in view here.) Man, animals, plants, as well as insects were always destined to die physically! That is not nor was it ever was the problem God sought to remedy! Let’s face it - Adam did not die physically in the day he ate, or touched the tree as God had said! He lived on to be 930 yrs old! So did God lie? Of course not!

Now the true Israel of God which was the body of Christ like Jesus needed to go thru their own Exodus and wilderness journey, and do it without failing! The truth be told, Salvation is of the Jews (Jn.4:22) It went to them first. And like God’s dealing with the Israel that came out of Egypt, He was long suffering towards the Israel of the first century! Lets compare Acts 13:17 -18 with2 Peter 3:9

Acts 13:17-18 (NKJV)“The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. 18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness.”

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the period of testing and trial for Israel was for 40 years coming out of Egypt. Likewise we know that it was about 40 years from the crucifixion which took place about 30 or 31 A.D. till the parousia in A.D. 70! Now the question arises, Did the church really fulfill the type and shadow of that exodus journey thru the wilderness? Yes , it did! Speaking on this matter to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor.10:1-13 the Apostle Paul clearly wrote:1 Cor. 10:11 (NKJV) “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

Now this is something you may not have ever heard before, yet we submit this for your approval! It’s the fact that the church not only survived and was faithful in her wilderness journey, but was actually nourished and strengthened in the wilderness! The Israel of old ate manna and perished, but the church feed on the bread of life! The word of God grew, multiplied, nourished the church, and was completed in the 40 year period! When it went thru the great tribulation period, at the last hour for three and a half years they remained faithful and strengthened!

Rev. 12:5-6 (NKJV)“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. 6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.”

Rev. 12:14 (NKJV)“But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”

Physical Israel was also going thru the same wilderness journey, but was even worse off than those who came out of Egypt 1,600 before. She was filthy, full of abominations and persecuted the saints! (True Israel) Read Rev.17:3-6.

Yet with all this the church is described as not yet having received her promises. Not anyone prior to this time, or at this time, but soon to be a reality! The writer of the book of Hebrews (Who we believe was Paul.) after going through what has become known as “The Great Roll Call Of Faith” states this about all the faithful servants of God:

Hebrews 11:39-40 (NKJV) 39 “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

Paul continues to exhort the Hebrews in the face of trials and persecutions to continue to run the race looking to Jesus as their forerunner and example. Remember 1 Peter 1:9-11 that spoke of “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”? Paul in Heb.12:2-3 states the same exact purpose of Jesus in enduring His suffering so that the church (And remember now – those from the very beginning who had faith in God.) would also attain to resurrection and be partakers in His (Jesus’) holiness and receive the promises!

Hebrews 12:2-11 (NKJV) 2 “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 11b. ... that we may be partakers of His holiness.”

The resurrection is just like the cross! It was for many before it, at the time of it, and many future of it! Its purpose was for the unity of the faith! But there was an order, and no one could receive salvation and enter into heaven till the parousia!

1 Corinthians 15:22-23 (NKJV) “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

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