The Meaning of the Exodus
It was no accident that Jesus was crucified during Passover (the holiday that celebrated Israel's escape from Egypt). For in the process He created Easter, the flight of a much larger Israel out of a far greater captivity to Babylon. Easter is built on the Jewish feast of Passover. Passover stood for the Hebrew exodus from Egypt to a land of "Promise". Easter relates entirely to the resurrection which is our spiritual flight from this world to the kingdom of God in heaven.
The kingdom of God is the true land of Promise. Journeying there is the true Exodus. The body will die, but we will raised up by God to live forever. Were we not to commemorate Easter, the symbolism of the resurrection would be entirely missing from the religion and Passover would lose its real meaning.
When we think of Passover we normally think only of the Israelites leaving Egypt. Yet, when we examine that event closely, we find that this exodus was composed of three parts, each one of which was a 'passover' in its own right.
First there was the 'passover' of the Israelites by the Angel of Death when he was sent to Egypt by God to kill all first-born in the land whose houses were not marked in the blood of the paschal lamb.
Second, the flight of the Israelites out of Egypt across the Reed Sea is also called 'passover'.
Finally, a third 'passover' occurred when the wandering tribes traversed the desert for forty years, seeking the refuge of a land that God had promised to them.
We will examine these three parts in a moment. First, we need to briefly explain how the flight out of Egypt relates to atonement. The key, of course, is the mark of the blood of the paschal lamb on our bodies. In Christ we understand our anointing in the Lamb in terms of baptism.
Scripture shows that baptism comes to us in three parts. John the baptist told his followers, "I baptise you with water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am...he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Mt.3:11). Our escape out of Babylon, measured in these three baptisms, follows, part for part, the template of the Israelite flight out of Egypt in its three 'passovers'.
The conclusion is obvious. Atonement is a process, not just an instant.
The first 'passover' occurred in Egypt when the Israelites painted the door-stops of their houses with the blood of the paschal lamb. (Exodus 12:1-14). Since the Avenging Angel was sent to kill all of the first-born children in Egypt (all first-born children, not just Egyptian children), the blood of the lamb signaled which houses were to be 'passed over' and the children spared.
This marking of the house with the blood of the Paschal Lamb formed the template in the Law of Moses for baptism in Christ. Like the mark of blood at the time of Moses, baptism keeps away the destruction of the Avenger. "Wait before you do any damage...until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." (Rv.7:3). "...kill and exterminate them all. But do not touch anyone with a cross on his forehead." (Ez.9:6).
While we are touched in water in a physical baptism, the 'mark' which corresponds to the true blood of Christ is spiritual. It is a mark of forgiveness that has cleansed our soul. Therefore, it relates to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The second stage of Israel's 'passover' out of Egypt occurred in the Old Testament when God parted the waters of the Sea of Reeds and the Israelites 'passed over' the seabed out of Egypt. Like the first passover (that of the angel of death), this aspect of the Exodus also formed a template for atonement in Christ. Peter described God's salvation of Noah and his family on an ark at the time of the Flood as a 'type' of the water which saves us at baptism. (1 Peter 3:21). And here again in Egypt, is a rescue based on water. The Israelites passed through the walls of water, walking on dry land to salvation, across the seabed. This, too, is a type of the salvation by water that God has decreed; because it fulfills the template.
The third 'passover' was the forty year journey across Sinai that brought the Israelites to the Promised Land. This was a circuitous route that produced great trials for the Israelites, most of whom were constantly backsliding and continually complaining about the rigors of the journey. It corresponds to the baptism of fire because it constitutes a time of intense trial on a long journey to the kingdom of the Lord. The baptism of fire is the path of Christ's Gospel as we try to live it in our lives.
Through the trials that come to us as we try to follow the commandments of Jesus in our lives we learn to choose God and reject the things of this world that used to be our gods. It is fire because it is hard. Choosing Jesus requires real sacrifices because we have to reject many things our flesh dearly desires. Thus the baptism of fire comes to us in stages and continues in us, lasting our whole life long. For the Israelites coming out of Egypt, this fire was the difficult journey across the desert of Sinai, a journey made much more difficult by their persistant rebellion.
A journey that should have only taken a few weeks took forty years because of their stubborn disobedience. During that time, discouraged by the hardships they faced many began to crave their prior lives. Turning back to Egypt, they cut themselves off from God's plan for them. By the power of faith, we have the protection of God's grace, like a wall that encircles us completely, to keep us safe from harm throughout our journey so that what happened to the Israelites will not happen to us.
God's personal presence was with the Israelites as they departed Egypt. It guarded them as well. The Book of Exodus describes this heavenly presence as a 'pillar of cloud' (Ex.13:21-22; 14:19-20). In the salvation Christ brought, that cloud enters into each one of us personally as the Holy Spirit, the living water that flows from heaven. God's grace protects us just as it did the Israelites escaping from the might of Pharaoh's army. It enables us to stumble and not be destroyed as long as we get up and continue once again in the path of Christ. In his passover sequence, then, Moses has defined the atonement template on which God has constructed the three baptisms of Jesus Christ which complete our true salvation.
Our physical body is the house of our soul, and for this reason it corresponds to the house each Israelite lived in while in Egypt. The Hebrew tribes left their Egyptian houses forever that night in Egypt when they marked them with the blood of the lamb and followed Moses. And, by baptism, Paul taught, we die to our flesh (the house of our soul) the moment we are baptised. "You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised, we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory, we too might live a new life. If in Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must also realize that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin." (Rom.6:1-11).
The water touches us with his death so that we can share his payment of the penalty of the Law in our place. The avenging angel that God sent into Egypt was under orders to spare those who had painted the doorstops of their houses with the blood of the lamb.
The prophecy of Ezekiel has shown that the plague that killed all the 'first-born' in Egypt corresponds to an even greater plague destined to occur during the days of the new Covenant this time to the whole world: "God spoke to the man in white and told him, 'Go all through the city and mark a cross on the foreheads of all who deplore and disapprove of the filth practiced in it', and then I heard him say to the others, 'Follow the man in white through the city, and strike. Show neither pity nor mercy...kill them all. But do not touch anyone with a cross on his forehead." (Ez. 9).
Just as in Egypt, the plague that strikes the unbaptised is death. The death of the first-born in Egypt was preparing the world to understand the death of the first-born creation that Jesus came to warn us about. The first-born creation is the population of flesh that which inhabits the earth.
The second-born (or re-born) creation are those reborn into the Spirit who have chosen by God to be resurrected by Christ into the kingdom of God i.e, into the new creation.
The first and second deaths relate to this. For instance, it is the death of the first-born creation that ends the world. The death of the first-born is the death of the flesh. We can rise out of that. The second death, however, is spiritual death and it is permanent. It comes to anyone who refuses to follow Christ.
For those chosen by Christ to enter the kingdom of God there is no second death. Their spirit is eternal and lives forever. Everyone born into this world is a part of the first-born creation, i.e., the flesh-born creation. Death comes to the first-born at an age average of about 70 years, and that is the meaning of the Bible's prophecy of the 70-year exile out of which each of us is being rescued.
The kingdom of heaven that Jesus is calling us to follow Him to is the second creation (a spiritual creation) and to enter it we must be born-again a second time into a body that won't die off in 70 years. That is why our flesh dies in baptism and is replaced by the Holy Spirit, so that we can shed our worldly body and be clothed in the garment of the kingdom of heaven -- an eternal body that cannot ever die.
Baptism by water starts the atonement process, but by itself, is not enough for eternal life. We can see this in the prophecy of the 'Exodus' template. Even though they all marked their houses with the blood of the pascal lamb, not every Israelite who left Egypt survived to enter the Promised Land. "Even though they ate from the rock that was Christ and even though they drank from the rock that was Christ, their corpses littered the desert because they failed to please God." (1 Cor.10:8).
Paul's words show that there is more to salvation than baptism. The blood of the lamb did not insure that the Israelites in Egypt would get to the 'Promised Land'; only that they would be safe from the last great plague that was coming against Egypt. Baptism by water allowed God had to protect them with His grace.
But, like those Israelites who failed to reach the Promised Land after they left Egypt, baptism of water alone does not insure that we will reach our destination if we do not change our ways and live a life of integrity.
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