The New Exodus Consummated

Filed in Biblical Studies, Prewrath by on December 9, 2013

The New Exodus Consummated: A Day of Visitation
Charles Cooper

As we have already seen in the two previous visitations of God – namely, the Exodus and the crucifixion – God’s final visitation will also bring both deliverance and destruction. I Peter 2:11-12 declares,

Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul, and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears.

The Greek phrase that is loosely rendered in the Net Bible above as “…when he appears” is literally translated as “in the day of visitation”. This version indicates that the phrase denotes “a time when God intervenes directly in human affairs, either for blessing (Luke 1:68, 78; 7:16; 19:44) or for judgment (Isa. 10:3; Jer. 6:15).”

The eschatological “day of visitation” is the eschatological Day of the Lord. God will again personally visit the earth and consummate the new Exodus. Just as in the Exodus and the inauguration of the new Exodus, He will deliver and destroy. He delivers the unsaved remnant of Israel and the Church, and destroys the wicked. That God’s visitation to earth results in a supernatural deliverance of His people is a major typological pattern around which the Gospels are built—both literarily and theologically. It is, in fact, the essence of the gospel.

The Typological Basis of the Gospels

      The deliverance/destruction motif that lies at the heart of God’s visitation is central to the Gospels. Few would debate the claim that the Exodus proved to be the most significant event in Israel’s history. Moses’ rhetorical question makes the point. He wrote:

[H]as God ever before tried to deliver a nation to himself from the middle of another nation, accompanied by testings, signs, wonders, war, strength, power, and other very terrifying things like the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (Deut 4:34).

In light of this, that the Exodus would play such an important typological role in the New Testament is no surprise. In the following pages, we shall argue that the book of Exodus provides the framework for both the literary and theological basis of the Gospels. Similarly, just as in the remainder of the Old Testament, the rest of the New Testament highlights and offers insight concerning the Gospel—God’s deliverance of His elect.

The Literary Basis of the Gospels

Dr. Meredith G. Kline has argued convincingly that the writers of the biographies[1] of Jesus Christ appear to have patterned their literary works after the book of Exodus.[2] Kline reasons that “the Book of Exodus appears to have the same thematic focus and to exhibit comprehensively the same literary structure as the gospels…the book of Exodus is an Old Testament gospel—the Gospel of Moses.”[3]

Kline defines “a document of the gospel genre” as

            One that has as its literary center of gravity an account of the inauguration of a divine covenant, set within a record of the covenant mediator’s career and of the law of the community promulgated by the mediator.[4]

Kline demonstrates his point by showing that both the book of Exodus and the Gospels are composed of two literary forms: narrative and authoritative words.[5] They have two dominant sections. The first section of each recounts “the life of at least the public career of the covenant mediator.”[6] The second section of each recounts “the inauguration of the covenant.”[7]

Theological Basis of the Gospels

Kline and others not only see structural and thematic correspondences between the Gospels and the book of Exodus, but they also see a Moses-Exodus typology in the Gospels. Kline delineates several avenues of pattern and fulfillment in the Gospels, which are drawn specifically from Exodus. For our particular study, we shall focus on the theological issues of redemption and deliverer-deliverance.

In relation to redemption, Kline writes,

The terminology of redemption emerges in the narrative of Moses’ mission in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 6:6; 15:13). It is the nature of the exodus as a deliverance from slavery that is in the foreground when it is characterized as redemption. God heard the cry of the Israelites by reason of their foreign taskmasters; he remembered his covenant with the patriarchs (Exodus 2:24; 3:6-10); and he redeemed his people—he acquired them for himself again. Luke draws upon this exodus-redemption imagery in his gospel. He uses the language of redemption in his accounts of Jesus’ nativity and youth (Luke 1:68; 2:38). Thus, right from the beginning of this gospel, Luke puts the career of the Lord in an exodus setting. He indicates that Zacharias, father of John the Forerunner, echoing the words of God at the call of Moses (Exodus 3:6-8; cf. 2:24), prophetically interpreted the salvation to be accomplished by Jesus as a second exodus deliverance from the land of oppression in fulfillment of God’s covenant with the patriarchs (Luke 1:68-74; ct. Exodus 3:8; 5:23; 12:27; 18:4, 8ff). Elsewhere in Luke’s gospel the hope of the remnant of Israel, which was fastening itself upon Jesus for its realization, is summed up in the word “redemption” (Luke 2:38; 24:21). Also, a saying of Jesus is recorded in which he calls the final eschatological deliverance a redemption (Luke 21:28). It is in the Gospel of Luke [also] that the Nazareth episode is related, in which Jesus portrays his mission as the fulfillment of the Jubilee symbol (as channeled through the messianic prophecy of Isa 61:1ff), the symbol of the ultimate redemption from slavery (Luke 4:18ff).[8]

Kline also indicates that the New Testament authors draw “upon the Exodus record of the career of Moses for their portrayal of Jesus as mediator of the new covenant.[9] Particularly, Jesus is the new ruler and deliverer. Kline concludes by saying, “The gospels reveal Jesus engaged in a ministry of deliverance that recalls at several significant points the activity of Moses in delivering Israel. Like Moses, Jesus rescued from hostile, threatening forces.”[10] We are therefore, not surprised to find in the writings of the apostle Paul a continuation of this central motif in his description of the eschatological deliverance of the righteous by the Deliverer—Jesus Christ. The Rapture is a pattern fulfillment of the ultimate visit of God—a spectacular deliverance of the righteous that automatically dooms the wicked by the Divine Warrior  Subjects that make up the essence of this pattern include: (1) the Divine Warrior visits His people; (2) the deliverance of the dead and alive people of God occurs; (3) the destruction of the hostile nation that persecuted God’s people takes place; (4) God dwells among His new people group.

Components of the Gospel

The Divine Warrior

God’s unique work in delivering the children of Israel from Egypt earned Him the designation “The Divine Warrior.” The divine warrior motif is one of the most important images of God presented in the Old Testament. Patrick D. Miller, Jr.[11] writes, “One can go only so far in describing the history of Israel, or its religion, or the theology of the Old Testament without encountering the wars of Yahweh.”[12] A reference in the Old Testament book of Numbers mentions the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num 21:14). This particular document is not extant, but supports the conclusion that a rather large body of literature once existed that detailed God’s might acts of war. God is explicitly declared the warrior God of Israel. Interestingly, the first explicit reference to this characteristic of God occurs in the book of Exodus—the Gospel of Moses. Exodus 15:3 states, “The Lord is a man of war.”[13] Concerning this verse, Leonard J. Greenspoon writes, “At no point is the concept of God as Divine Warrior stated more succinctly or unambiguously than in the ancient song preserved in Exodus 15.”[14]

Psalm 24, which extols the Lord as the King of Glory, concludes, “Who is this majestic king? The Lord who leads armies! He is the majestic king! (The Net Bible)”[15]

That Moses and the children of Israel broke out in song immediately following their spectacular deliverance from Egypt is understandable. Freedom excites. That this new song is punctuated with references to God’s great military might is also understandable. No God had ever delivered an enslaved people out of the midst of the most powerful nation on the earth at the time. Again, Moses makes this very point when he wrote:

 [H]as God ever before tried to deliver a nation to himself from the middle of another nation, accompanied by testings, signs, wonders, war, strength, power, and other very terrifying things like the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (The Net Bible, Deut 4:34).

That the Jews came to understand their God as a warrior is not hard to understand. Dr. Theodore Hiebert states that the “notion of war as a religious event in which God fought as a participant was not unique to Israel, but common throughout the ancient Near East.”[16] Scripture explicitly declares that the Divine Warrior of Israel took on the gods of Egypt to gain the freedom of the children of Israel (cf. Num. 33:3-4). Scripture makes no small matter of the fact that the freedom of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt was solely the work of God.

God’s extraction of the children of Israel from Egypt and his deposit of them in the land of promise remained the high point of Israel’s history. It is understandable that God’s role in the greatest event in Israel’s history has military overtones. After all, God fought and won the freedom of his people in the most spectacular way possible.

The first song recorded in Scripture is an attempt to recite in detail the great deliverance God had wrought for the children of Israel. Ronald B. Allen writes,

The first Psalm of the Bible is a Psalm of Moses and it is not in the Book of Psalms at all. It has pride of place in the Book of Exodus, following immediately on the conclusion of the greatest event in the course of Hebrew Scripture, God’s redemption of his people, Israel, from the land of Egypt.[17]

Immediately after the spectacular event of crossing the Red Sea and having Pharaoh and his army destroyed, Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord:

I will sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously, the horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea. Yah is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

This is my God and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name. The chariots of Pharaoh and his army he has thrown into the sea, and his chosen officers were drowned in the Sea of Reeds. The depths have covered over them, they went down to the bottom like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power, your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. And in the greatness of your majesty you have overthrown those who rise up against you. You sent forth your wrath; it consumed them like stubble… (Italics added) Ex 15:2b-5; The Net Bible).

In the eyes of the children of Israel, God’s offensive capabilities certainly justify the title, “Divine Warrior.”

The miraculous deliverance God wrought in Egypt made clear that God alone takes credit for victory. A careful evaluation of the wars recorded in Scripture demonstrates that those wars fought at God’s direction are characteristically similar: (1) Israel’s physical involvement may or may not be required for victory; (2) precautions were taken to ensure that victory could only be ascribed to God; and, (3) Israel’s primary armament was faith.

The Divine Warrior imagery evidenced in Exodus appears throughout the rest of the Old Testament. Harold W. Ballard, Jr. argues that “Imagery used of God becomes Divine Warrior imagery when it describes, ‘(Yahweh) taking energetic action in warlike conflict…’”[18] “Man of War”, Cloud (chariot) Rider, and Mighty Hero are images that define the Warrior God of the Old Testament.

We are able to identify God’s involvement in warlike conflicts by the militaristic language that an author uses. It may involve both natural and supernatural weaponry. In his supernatural arsenal, God fights with a heavenly (angelic) army; with his meteorological weaponry, he uses storm, rain, stones of hail, clouds, stars, lightning and thunder; and pestilence. In his natural arsenal, God fights with bow, arrow, sword, spear, shield, staff, battle-axe, armor, and sling. His enemies, often depicted as surreal creatures, include the sea, rivers, the deep, the dragon, sea monster, Leviathan and Behemoth.

The Deliverance of the Living and the Dead

The second major component of the Exodus typology concerns the deliverance of the living and the dead. The pattern for this notion is evident in the Exodus.

God states the purpose of His “coming down.” It is “to deliver them [the children of Israel] from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a land that is both good and large, to a land flowing with milk and honey…(The Net Bible, Exodus 3:8).” To deliver them “expresses the purpose of God’s coming down. The verb itself is used for delivering or rescuing in the general sense, and snatching out of danger for the specific.”[19] The level of suffering and sorrow that the children of Israel were experiencing in Egypt makes the specific usage appropriate.

The land to which God is bringing the Children of Israel has the designation “good and large.” The point is “that the land to which they are going is both good (in terms of quality) and large (in terms of size).”[20] The land has an additional description: “flowing with milk and honey.” God uses hyperbole to indicate that the land is an abundant place. The life of the people in their new land will be diametrically opposed to their experience in Egypt.

In association with God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt is a rather strange, but significant, fulfillment of a promise kept. At his death, “Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He said, “‘God will surely come to you. Then you must carry my bones up from this place (The Net Bible, Genesis 50:24-25).’” Exodus 13:19 reminds us “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” when the children left Egypt. Interestingly, in the recording of the acts of faith of Old Testament heroes, the book of Hebrews writes concerning Joseph, “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the sons of Israel and gave instructions about his burial[21] (The Net Bible, Heb 11:22).”

With nearly one-fourth of the book of Genesis committed to the story of Joseph, the writer of Hebrews focused on the final act of Joseph’s life on earth. The promise to carry his “bones” back to the land of his birth serves as a powerful symbol. Faith in God’s promise to deliver us extends to the grave.

Destruction of the Wicked

The third component of the Exodus pattern concerns the destruction of the wicked persecutors of God’s elect. It is obviously clear that God had many options available to Him in delivering the children of Israel. God’s decision to remove his people after ten plagues is purposeful. Exodus 9:16 states, “But for this purpose I have caused you to stand: to show you my strength, and that my name may be declared in all the earth.” In other words, God sovereignly raised up Pharaoh. The purpose of God in allowing Pharaoh to sit on the throne of Egypt was to show him His power over the universe. The second half of that verse states that another of God’s purposes was the declaration of His name in all the earth. The news of God’s victory would spread throughout the earth, resulting in the universal proclamation of His name.

It is clear that God does not merely want submission from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Moses states after the seventh plague, “I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God (Exodus 9:30).” Scripture also indicates that God’s purpose in delivering His children out of Egypt included Moses’ children as well. Exodus 10:1-2 states:

The Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, in order to display these signs of mine before him, so that you may tell your son and your grandson how I made fools of the Egyptians, and about my signs that I displayed among them, and in order that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Therefore, God continued to harden Pharaoh’s heart “[in order] that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt (Exodus 11:9-10).”

God Dwells among His Rescued People

A great benefit of God’s gracious and spectacular visit and rescue of the children of Israel out of Egypt was that His presence remained with his people. God instructed Moses, “Let them make for me a sanctuary, that I may live in their midst (Exodus 25:8).” It is of great interest to us that the New Testaments raps these concepts in the event called, “the rapture,” which we shall look at next.

 


[1] The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

[2] I am thankful to Dr. Meredith G. Kline’s article, “The Old Testament Origins of the Gospel Genre,” WTJ 38 (Fall 75) pp. 2-28, for much of the material that follows in this section.

[3] Kline, “The Old Testament Origins of the Gospel Genre,” p. 6.

[4] Ibid., p. 9.

[5] Ibid., p.6.

[6] Ibid., p. 7.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Kline, “The Old Testament Origins,” pp. 12-13.

[9] Ibid. p. 15.

[10] Ibid. p. 16.

[11] P.D. Miller, Jr. is a student of F.M. Cross who has studied and written widely on the divine warrior motif in the Old Testament.

[12] P.D. Miller, Jr., The Divine Warrior in Early Israel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975) 1.

[13] Ad loc the Net Bible states, “The expression man of war indicates that Yahweh is one who understands how to fight and defeat the enemy. The word “war” modifies “man” to reveal that Yahweh is a warrior.”

[14] L.J. Greenspoon, “The Origin of the Idea of Resurrection,” in Traditions in Transformation (eds. Baruch Halpern and Jon D. Levenson; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1981) 262.

[15] “The Lord who leads armies”, is traditionally translated “The Lord of hosts.” The Net Bible indicates that this translation is “a title which here pictures the Lord as a mighty warrior-king who leads armies into battle.”

[16] Theodore Hiebert, “Divine Warrior,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 6 Ed. David Noel Freedman, (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 877.

[17] R.B. Allen, “Worship in the Psalms: Exodus 15 and the Praise of God,” RAR 9:2 (Spring 2000) 105.

[18] H.W. Ballard, Jr., The Divine Warrior Motif in the Psalms, (North Richland Hills, Texas: Bibal Press,) 35.

[19] Ad Loc, the Net Bible.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Literally, the Greek says, “about his bones.”

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