From Egypt to Canaan
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Saved for a Purpose
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 3:1)
A large portion of Old Testament history is taken up with a basic, fundamental type that one must understand in order to properly understand the second and third warnings in the book of Hebrews. This type encompasses the whole of the experiences of the Israelites under Moses, and later under Joshua, and deals with the overall scope of the Christian experience in the antitype — from that past day when the blood of the Paschal Lamb was applied (through faith, by belief) to that future day when Christians will either realize or fail to realize the purpose for their salvation, the goal of their calling.
The type begins in Exodus chapter twelve with the death of the firstborn in Egypt and progresses from that point toward the goal of the Israelites’ calling out of Egypt, to be realized in the land of Canaan — a calling that did not begin to be realized until over forty years later, seen in the book of Joshua.
The Israelites were called out from one land to realize an inheritance as God’s firstborn son in another land. They were called out of Egypt to realize the rights of primogeniture in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The antitype follows the type in exact detail. It must, for the former is an exact word picture of the latter. “Egypt” is a type of the world, and the antitype of the death of the paschal lambs and the application of the blood in Exodus 12:1ff is seen in the death of the Passover Lamb and the application of the blood, by faith.
Death and shed blood form the point of beginning. And those applying the blood (Christians) have been called out from this world to realize an inheritance as God’s firstborn son in another land. They have been called out from this earth to realize the rights of primogeniture, not in an earthly land as in the type, but in a heavenly land.
In the type though, numerous Israelites, “because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19), were overthrown in the wilderness, short of the goal of their calling. They were overthrown short of their earthly calling, as the Christian can be overthrown short of his heavenly calling.
Hebrews chapter three begins by identifying those addressed through referring to their calling:
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling . . . . (Hebrews 3:1a)
The matter that the writer is about to address involves a saved people with a particular calling during the present dispensation (Christians under Christ), and he draws his spiritual lessons from the experiences of another saved people with a particular calling during the previous dispensation (the Israelites under Moses).
That which happened to Israel in the type (in relation to their earthly calling) will also happen to Christians in the antitype (in relation to their heavenly calling). From a biblical perspective, the second and third warnings in the book of Hebrews for Christians can only turn on this thought from the type. And one must give heed to that which God intended in the antitype by reference to the type.
Immediately following an account of the race of the faith in which Christians presently find themselves, ending chapter 9 in 1 Corinthians (vv. 24-27), Paul, continuing in chapter 10, calls attention to the experiences of the Israelites under Moses (10:1ff). After reiterating a number of experiences of the Israelites following the death of the firstborn in Egypt (vv. 1-5), Paul then states in verse six:
Now these things became our examples . . . [lit., “Now these things happened as types for us”].
Also note a similar statement in verse eleven following a reiteration of additional experiences of the Israelites under Moses:
Now all these things happened to them as examples . . . [lit., “Now all these things happened unto them for types”].
The word from the Greek text in both instances (translated “examples” and “ensamples” in the KJV) is tupoi and should be translated “types” in the English text. Our English word “type” is derived from this word (tupos in its singular form), and that is the way in which the word should be understood and translated in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11.
The experiences of the Israelites under Moses form one overall type made up of numerous individual types. God, in His sovereign control of all things, allowed certain things to happen to the Israelites relative to their calling in a past dispensation in order that He could have these things to draw upon to teach Christians deep spiritual truths relative to their calling during the present dispensation.
The opening verses of 1 Corinthians chapter ten form the Lord’s own commentary on the closing verses of the previous chapter. An individual who does not run the race of the faith after the instructed fashion will fail. He will be rejected for the “prize.” As revealed in 1 Corinthians 9:27, he will find himself “disqualified” (KJV: a “castaway”), which is the translation of a Greek word (adokimos), meaning “disapproved,” “rejected.” He, at the judgment seat of Christ will be disapproved, rejected, for the “prize” (v. 24), a “crown,” which will prevent the Christian from ascending the throne with Christ in that coming day (v. 25; cf. Revelation 3:11, 21).
In the verses that immediately follow (1 Corinthians 10:1ff), disapproval of this nature is likened to that which befell an entire generation of Israelites under Moses. God was “not well pleased” with their actions, and “they “were scattered [KJV: “overthrown”] in the wilderness” (v. 5). They, in the words of 1 Corinthians 9:27, were “disqualified” [“disapproved”] and failed to realize the goal of their calling. And the spiritual lessons drawn from that which happened to these Israelites in the type centers on the thought that the same thing will befall Christians who follow a similar course of action in the antitype. They will be “disapproved,” “rejected,” and will fail to realize the goal of their calling.
Revelation in the book of Hebrews is progressive. The book begins after a two-fold fashion:
1) By calling attention to Christ as the “heir of all things” and to Christians as those who will inherit as “companions” with Him in that coming day (1:2, 9, 14).
2) By quoting seven Old Testament passages that are Messianic in their scope of fulfillment (1:5-13).
The tone of the book is, thus, set at the very beginning. Revelation in this book surrounds the coming inheritance of Christ and His co-heirs, which will be realized during the Messianic Era.
That which lies in and beyond chapter one has to do with the realization of the rights of the firstborn — rights to one day be exercised by God’s firstborn Son (Jesus) and the firstborn sons (Christians) who will inherit as companions with Him. The great burden of Hebrews is, as set forth in Hebrews 2:10, that of “bringing many sons to glory” with God’s firstborn Son, Jesus. And each of the five major warnings is built around this thought.
Inheriting with God’s Son in that coming day is called, “so great salvation” in the first warning (Hebrews 2:3). It is the greatest thing God could ever design for redeemed man, for it has to do with removing man from this earth and positioning him on the throne in a heavenly realm as a “companion” with God’s Son during that day when the Son comes into a realization of His inheritance. The first warning, along with background material in chapter one and supplementary material following the warning (1:1-14; 2:5-18), establishes the goal of the Christians’ calling.
Then the second warning comes into view and moves progressively forward from the first by showing how Christians are to properly conduct and govern their lives during the present pilgrim journey in order to move from the point of their salvation to the goal of their calling — that is, in order to move from Egypt (the point of their salvation in the present world) to Canaan (the goal of their calling in a heavenly land, wherein the rights of the firstborn will be realized). And the warning has to do with the fact that if Christians don’t so govern their lives during the present time, they, in the antitype, as the Israelites in the type, will forfeit the rights of the firstborn. They, as in the type, will be overthrown short of the goal of their calling.
The second warning begins with the word, “Therefore [KJV: “Wherefore”], calling attention to that which has proceeded. Verses nine through eighteen of the previous chapter are particularly in view, but these verses rest upon preceding verses. Thus, when one arrives at chapter three, at the beginning of the second of the five major warnings in the book, the writer starts out by progressively building upon all which has proceeded.
Each of the warnings actually begins after a similar fashion, though different words are used in the Greek text in each instance. Each begins in the English text with “Therefore” or “Wherefore,” calling attention specifically to that which has preceded (2:1; 3:1; 6:1; 10:19; 12:1). Several of these different words appear quite a few times throughout Hebrews, pointing to the writer continually building his remarks upon that which has preceded (e.g., 2:17; 3:7, 10; 4:1, 6, 11, 14, 16; 7:11, 25; 8:3; 9:1, 18, 23; 10:35; 11:12, 16; 12:12, 28; 13:15).
Thus, when studying the book of Hebrews, one must keep several things in mind:
1) There is one central subject, established in the opening chapter.
2) This central subject is developed in the book mainly by reference to the Old Testament Scriptures in a type-antitype arrangement.
3) Revelation surrounding this central subject moves in a progressive fashion throughout the book.
Calling attention to that which has proceeded by beginning his remarks with “Therefore,” the writer of Hebrews then addresses those to whom he is writing first of all as “holy brethren.”
The word “holy” in this passage does not have to do with a quality of life, such as purity, but with being “set apart” for a specific purpose. Places and things, as well as people, were called “holy,” using the same word in the Greek text that appears here, the word hagios (cf. Matthew 4:5; Acts 7:33; Ephesians 3:5; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; 2 Peter 1:18).
The writer of this book was a Jew who had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, becoming a new creation “in Christ” (Psalm 147:19, 20; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 2:1, 3).
Positionally, “in Christ,” there is no such thing as a distinction between Jew and Gentile, for neither exists within the new creation to allow for such a distinction (Galatians 3:26-29); but actually, here in this present life, such a distinction exists and is recognized by Scripture.
Paul, who wrote passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:15, all dealing with the new creation “in Christ,” recognized that “in Christ” he had relinquished his national identity and had become a part of the one new man, in which there is “neither Jew nor Greek [Gentile].” But Paul also recognized that here and now, in the world, an individual from within the one new man is still “a Jew” or “a Gentile.” Paul, following his conversion, referred to himself as “a Hebrew,” “an Israelite,” and “a Jew” (cf. Acts 22:3; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5).
The expression, “holy brethren,” in the light of passages such as Matthew 25:40 and Acts 2:37 could easily have been used by the writer of Hebrews as a reference to Israelites. They constitute a “set apart” people, set apart by God for a particular purpose; and they would have been the writer’s brethren according to the flesh. However, the writer didn’t stop with this expression. He further identified them with words that could not refer to Israelites, but to Christians alone.
The book of Hebrews was written to a group of individuals who were neither Jews nor Jewish Christians. It couldn’t have been written to Jews, for the next words that the writer used nullifies that thought; and it couldn’t have been written to Jewish Christians, for no such group of individuals exists. There are Jews and there are Christians, but there is no such thing in Scripture as individuals who constitute a mixture of the two.
Using the expression “Jewish Christians” is, in effect, saying that within the new creation in Christ some things have been brought over from the old creation in Jacob — a denial that all things become new “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Viewing matters after this fashion not only results in a non-biblical outlook upon the “one new man” but also in a building up of that “middle wall of partition” which has been “broken down” (Ephesians 2:14, 15).
The book of Hebrews was written to one group of individuals and to one group alone. It was written to Christians, the only group of individuals in existence today who can be identified in connection with a calling from this present world into the heavens.
Partakers of the Heavenly Calling
In Old Testament history, Israel was made the repository for both heavenly and earthly promises and blessings. Abraham was called out from Ur of the Chaldees to be the one through whom these promises and blessings would be realized. Within the initial promise to Abraham, given in Ur, God had said, “. . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b). These blessings were to be realized, not through the person of Abraham alone, but through his seed; and the benefactors of these blessings were to be all of the Gentile nations (Genesis 22:18).
The nations of the earth were to be blessed through the seed of Abraham, and these blessings were to emanate from both heavenly and earthly spheres (Genesis 14:19; 22:17). That is, the descendants of Abraham — through Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s twelve sons — were to ultimately reside in both heavenly and earthly places; and the Gentile nations of the earth were to be blessed through Abraham’s descendants as his descendants resided in these two places.
Genesis 14:18, 19 provides the first mention of heavenly blessings associated with Abraham and his seed, though such was in view within God’s original promise to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, as recorded in Genesis 12:1-3. And this first mention of heavenly promises and blessings appears in a Messianic type.
Melchizedek, one of two central figures forming the Messianic type (Abraham being the other) is also presented in Scripture for the first time in this passage. The type surrounds that day when Christ will come forth in the antitype of Melchizedek, as the great King-Priest in Jerusalem, with bread and wine (cf. Matthew 26:29), and bless Abraham and his descendants — both heavenly and earthly.
Thus, more than one first-mention principle is established in Genesis 14:18, 19, and that which is established in this passage remains constant throughout Scripture. Heavenly and earthly blessings, which God has for mankind, reside only in Abraham and his seed (something that never changes in Scripture), and these blessings will be realized during that coming day when Christ, the greater Son of Abraham and David, exercises the Melchizedek priesthood.
(Even preceding the Messianic Era, any blessing realized by the Gentile nations comes to pass only because of God’s dealings with these nations through Israel. This must be recognized as the way matters currently exist, for there can be no blessings apart from Abraham and his seed beyond that point God called Abraham out from Ur of the Chaldees 4,000 years ago.
And there is also a negative side to the matter — blessings withheld and curses bestowed. For the past 4,000 years, in the realm of blessings and curses, God has dealt with the nations of the earth [and also individuals] on one basis alone, given in Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.”)
Even though Israel was made the repository for both heavenly and earthly promises and blessings, there came a day in history when the Jewish people forfeited the heavenly promises and blessings given to the nation through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel though remained the repository for the promises and blessings associated with her earthly calling, allowing no change to occur in Israel’s relationship to the Gentile nations of the earth, in accord with Genesis 12:3.
This forfeiture of heavenly promises and blessings occurred when Christ was on earth the first time. He offered to Israel the “kingdom of the heavens,” and the nation spurned the offer. Not only did the Israelites reject the proffered kingdom, but they also rejected and crucified the One who made the offer.
Immediately prior to the crucifixion of Israel’s Messiah, the kingdom was taken from Israel, in view of that which once belonged to this nation alone being given to an entirely separate and distinct nation, one “bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:33-43). Once this had been done — once the kingdom of the heavens had been taken from Israel — the Jewish people could no longer be the instrument through which blessings would flow from heavenly places during Messiah’s reign. Their earthly status in this respect remained unchanged, but their heavenly status in this same respect was gone forever.
The “nation” destined to bring forth fruit relative to heavenly promises and blessings and eventually occupy heavenly places with Christ could not, under any circumstances, be one of the Gentile nations, for God had laid a principle down in His original call to Abraham. Blessings were to flow through Abraham and his seed alone. And in this respect, apart from the manner in which God had chosen to bring the matter to pass, there could be no blessings.
And those Semitic nations descending from Abraham through Ishmael, the sons of Keturah, or Esau (looked upon in Scripture as “Gentile” nations) could, under no circumstances, be part of the matter. According to Scripture the lineage is restricted to the descendants of Abraham through, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s twelve sons (cf. Genesis 13:15, 16; 15:5; 21:12; 26:3, 4; 28:12-15).
The nation of Israel had relinquished her right to be the channel through which heavenly promises and blessings would flow out to the Gentile nations; and no Gentile nation on earth could qualify for this right, for not a single one could claim a relationship to Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (including those nations descending from Abraham through Ishmael, the sons of Keturah, or Esau). Thus, only one thing could be done: A new nation, separate and distinct from both Israel and the Gentile nations, but one which was of Abraham’s seed from the correct lineage (through Isaac and Jacob), had to be called into existence.
And this is exactly what God did. He called the one new man “in Christ” into existence — anticipated in Matthew 16:18 — to be the recipient of that which Israel had rejected. Christ is Abraham’s Seed, through Jacob’s son, Judah (Galatians 3:16; Revelation 5:5); and Christians, by their positional standing “in Christ,” are also “Abraham’s seed,” through the proper lineage. And because of this positional standing “in Christ,” Christians can be “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26, 29; cf. vv. 16, 18).
Christians constitute an entirely new “nation” (1 Peter 2:9, 10), identified as “Abraham’s seed.” They are the ones presently afforded the opportunity to bring forth fruit for that portion of the kingdom offered to and taken from Israel. They are the ones now in a position to inherit with Christ in heavenly places, which is why Galatians 3:29 identifies Christians as “heirs according to the promise.”
Consequently, when a person reads, “partakers of the heavenly calling,” in Hebrews 3:1, only one group of individuals on the face of the earth could possibly be in view.
Following Christ’s pronouncement in Matthew 21:43, Christians alone find themselves in a position to bring forth fruit in relation to the kingdom of the heavens, with the prospect of one day realizing the rights of the firstborn as co-heirs with Christ in heavenly places.
(The word “partakers” in Hebrews 3:1 is the same word in the Greek text [metochoi] previously translated “companions [KJV: ‘fellows’]” in Hebrews 1:9. It is also the same word later translated “partakers” in Hebrews 3:14. All three references refer to the same thing — to that day when Christ’s “companions,” His “co-heirs” will occupy their proper position on the throne with Him in heavenly places [cf. Ephesians 1:3, 10, 11, 17-21; 2:6, 7; 3:9-11].
Thus, those singled out in Hebrews 3:1 are “companions” of the heavenly calling, or, in the light of Ephesians 3:6, they are “fellow heirs” of the heavenly calling.)
Consider … Jesus
Christ’s “companions,” “fellow heirs,” who will one day occupy positions with Him on His throne in a heavenly realm, are exhorted to consider God’s appointed “heir of all things” in a two-fold manner:
1) As Apostle.
2) As High Priest.
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 3:1)
The word “consider” is the translation of a Greek word that means to fix one’s eyes or mind upon, to pay close attention to. And Christians, after this fashion, are to fix their eyes, their thoughts, upon Jesus, with particularly attention given to two facets of His person and work — His past work as “Apostle” and His present work as “High Priest.”
In the first warning, the same individuals were exhorted to keep their attention fixed upon the things that they had heard — things surrounding Christ and His companions during that coming day when the rights of the firstborn will be realized. And now, beginning the second warning, they, at the same time, are exhorted to also center their attention upon things concerning Christ that precede but make possible those things mentioned back in chapter one.
The word translated “profession” in Hebrews 3:1 [KJV] could be better translated “confession.” Christ is “Apostle and High Priest of our confession [not ‘…of our profession’].”
“Profession [‘confession’]” is the translation of homologia in the Greek text, which means “to say the same thing [as another].” This is the same word used in its verb form in 1 John 1:9, translated “confess.” Confession of sins, according to the word used in this verse, is saying or acknowledging the same thing that God says about sins (saying or acknowledging that they are wrong and have no place in one’s life). It is to agree with God concerning sin.
The same thought is in view in Hebrews 3:1 through the use of this word. The thought is that of Christians agreeing with God concerning the record that He has given of His Son in His Word. We are to acknowledge that which God has stated in His Word relative to Jesus as “Apostle and High Priest.”
1) Apostle of Our Confession
The word “Apostle” signifies one who has been sent on a special or particular mission. Christ was God’s Apostle, sent to this earth on a particular mission almost 2,000 years ago (John 3:34; 12:49; 17:4, 8, 18). He was sent to the Jewish people, who, through birth, were His brethren according to the flesh, to offer to them the kingdom of the heavens. And He was also sent to the Jewish people to die as the Passover Lamb for the sins of the world (the Passover lamb was given to Israel, and only Israel could slay this lamb; thus, only Israel could slay Christ, the Passover Lamb).
Consequently, when considering Christ as God’s Apostle and His work during the time He occupied this office, a rather wide scope of ministry at His first coming could conceivably be in view. Contextually though, this would not be the case. Verses leading into Hebrews 3:1 (cf. 1:3; 2:9, 10, 14) center on that part of His past work having to do with His sufferings and death on Calvary.
Within the scope of the overall type during the days of Moses and Joshua, this corresponds to that which occurred in Egypt the night of the Passover, recorded in Exodus chapter twelve. The Lamb has died, but the blood must be applied. The application of the blood, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, is the point of beginning.
Apart from this, fallen man, “dead in trespasses and sins,” would forever remain alienated from God’s purpose for bringing him into existence. Apart from this point of beginning, wherein man passes “from death to life,” there could be no new creation “in Christ,” “companions” of the heavenly calling.
Redemption through Christ’s finished work is the foundation upon which everything in the book of Hebrews rests, though this is not the central message of the book. Hebrews deals mainly, not with redemption itself — not with Christ’s work as “Apostle” — but with that which redemption makes possible, the purpose for redemption.
This revealed purpose for redemption provides the central reason why the author, within one portion of Hebrews, where redemption is in view, is careful to state that Christ “took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham [KJV]” (2:16).
Contextually, redemption in this passage (and other related passages in Hebrews) is with a view to bringing man (after he has been redeemed and is no longer alienated from God) into a realization of promises and blessings that can be possessed only by Abraham and his seed, remaining in line with the central teaching of this book.
Christians, with their thoughts fixed upon those things surrounding the “heir of all things” and His “companions” in that coming day when they ascend the throne together (3:1; cf. 1:2ff), are to fix their attention upon Christ in a past sense as well. They are to ever keep in mind His finished work on Calvary, which makes everything possible. But they are to view this finished work after the same fashion Christ viewed it.
While undergoing the sufferings surrounding Calvary, Christ had His eyes fixed on “the joy that was set before Him [the day when He and those for whom He was paying redemption’s price would inherit all things together] . . . .” (Hebrews 21:2). And Christians, by looking back at Christ’s finished work as Apostle, are to ever keep their eyes fixed upon that which lies out ahead as well, that which His finished work makes possible.
2) High Priest of Our Confession
As “Apostle,” Christ died for our sins, providing redemption; and as “High Priest,” He ever lives to make intercession for us. Christ is performing a work today, as in the past; but His work during the present time has nothing to do with redemption. It has to do strictly with a work on behalf of those whom He has already redeemed.
He, as the Old Testament priests who performed a work in the earthly tabernacle on behalf of the Israelites, is presently performing a work in the heavenly tabernacle (after which the earthly was patterned) on behalf of Christians. The former ministry was performed on behalf of a redeemed people called out of Egypt to inherit an earthly land, and the latter ministry is being performed for a redeemed people called out from this earth to inherit a heavenly land.
Priests occupy a representative position between God and man, representing God to man and man to God. Representation of this nature during Moses’ day centered on a sacrificial system in connection with the earthly tabernacle, and during the present time it centers on Christ’s sacrifice in connection with the heavenly tabernacle. Blood from animals was placed on the mercy seat of the earthly tabernacle, but the blood of Christ has been placed on the mercy seat of the heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 9:1ff).
In the antitype of Aaron, Christ effects a present cleansing for a redeemed people from the defilement brought about by sin, on the basis of blood. Christ’s present ministry is performed strictly on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat in heaven, it has to do with the kingdom of priests (the many sons) He is about to bring forth, and it looks out ahead to the coming age.
Christ is performing His present ministry for those whom He has redeemed in order that He might ultimately present the Church to Himself, “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Only through this present cleansing can Christians have a part with Him (as “companions”) in that coming day (John 13:8; Ephesians 5:27).
Fixing our attention upon “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” is fixing our attention upon:
1) The One who performed a work in the past to effect our salvation.
2) The One who performs a work during the present to bring about the purpose for our salvation.
One is inseparably linked to the other when both are looked upon in their correct perspectives, for both center on and have to do with the same thing, the coming Messianic Era.