Redeemed for a Purpose
Arlen L. Chitwood
The Elders’ Search
So they went up and spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, near the entrance of Hamath.
And they went up through the South and came to Hebron; Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)
Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs.
The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster that the men of Israel cut down there. (Numbers 13:21-24).
The twelve leaders (ruling elders) from the twelve tribes of Israel that Moses sent into the land to “spy out [search, investigate] the land” carried out this part of their mission in exact accord with their charge. They “ascended by the south,” went “up into the mountain,” and for the next forty days traversed the land from one end to the other.
They observed both the land and the inhabitants therein. And this was done with a view to their bringing back a report to the people in the twelve tribes of Israel, to be followed by the people of Israel going into the land, conquering the inhabitants, and realizing the rights of the firstborn in that land, within a theocracy.
These twelve elders from the twelve tribes carried a responsibility upon their shoulders of tremendous magnitude. They had been sent into a particular land to gather information that had to do with the goal of the Israelites’ calling. They, in effect, were the “eyes” of the people; and their report, which was to be delivered to the people in the twelve tribes upon their return, had to do with the things that these people needed to know in order to move into the land, conquer the inhabitants, and realize that to which they had been called.
If the twelve properly carried out their task (which included not only a thorough search of the land but a correct and true report upon their return as well), the people of Israel could be brought into a position where Moses could lead them victoriously into the land. They would be knowledgeable concerning the land and its inhabitants, anticipating the conquest and the theocracy that lay ahead.
If, on the other hand, the twelve failed to properly carry out their task (their search, as well as their report), the inverse of that would be true.
Israel under Moses
The twelve, after they had gone up into the mountain, searched the land “from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob” (v. 21). That is to say, after they had gone up into the mountain, they searched the land from one end to the other. They traversed the whole of the land, observing that it was a good land, a land flowing “with milk and honey” (v. 27).
In the process of traversing the land they observed the inhabitants, comprising different nations. They observed their strengths, the location of each nation, the type cities (walled) in which the people dwelled, etc. (vv. 28, 29).
And beyond that, as instructed by Moses, they obtained and brought back fruit from the land to show the people (vv. 20, 23, 26). Three types of fruit are mentioned — grapes, pomegranates, and figs. And the grapes were so large that it took two men to carry one cluster, transporting it on a staff between them.
Everything in Scripture has spiritual significance. The grapes, pomegranates, and figs that the twelve brought back from the land are often glossed over in this respect.
But they must be looked upon as carrying spiritual significance in relation to the reason for the search by the twelve and their subsequent report to the people.
The Principle of First-Mention in Scriptural interpretation will help at this point. That is, one should go back to see how grapes, pomegranates, and figs are introduced in Scripture, for the first mention of each establishes an unchangeable pattern; and the way each is first used in Scripture will govern the way each is used in Scripture beyond that point.
Note first of all that these three types of fruit are mentioned within a context having to do with a land that the Israelites searched prior to entering, a land that they were to take by conquest by slaying or driving the inhabitants out, and a land in which they were then to dwell in a theocracy.
After their entrance into and conquest of the land they were to realize the rights of the firstborn in that land, which had to do with national kingly and priestly rights (“a kingdom of priests” under God [Exodus 19:5, 6]), along with realizing a double portion of the Father’s goods.
That is to say, after their entrance into and conquest of the land they were to realize the rights of the firstborn in that land, which had to do with national kingly and priestly rights (“a kingdom of priests” under God [Exodus 19:5, 6]), along with realizing a double portion of the Father’s goods
Thus, going back to a first mention of each of the three types of fruit in Scripture, each should somehow relate to things surrounding the theocracy. Then, beyond that, the three together should present some type of complete picture in relation to the theocracy. And this is exactly what can be found.
The first use of “grapes” in Scripture is seen in Genesis, chapter forty. This chapter records the account of the Pharaoh of Egypt becoming enraged with two of his chief servants — his chief butler and his chief baker. And he imprisoned both, in the same place Joseph had previously been imprisoned (vv. 1-4).
While in prison, both the chief butler and the chief baker had dreams, and they were sad because there was no one to interpret their dreams. Joseph, finding them in this state and the reason for their sadness being made known, offered to interpret their dreams by God making the matter known to him (vv. 5-8).
The chief butler then revealed his dream to Joseph. He had dreamed about seeing a three-branched vine with ripe grapes and, at the same time, holding Pharaoh’s cup in his hand. Then, in his dream, he took the grapes, pressed them into the cup, and gave the cup to Pharaoh (vv. 9-11).
Joseph then interpreted the dream. The “three branches” on the vine represented three days; and “within three days” the chief butler was to be restored to his position and “deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand.” Within three days he was to be restored to his previously held position as the chief cupbearer in Pharaoh’s presence (vv. 12, 13).
The chief baker, seeing that the interpretation was good, then made his dream known to Joseph as well. He had dreamed about three white baskets that rested upon his head. In the uppermost basket were all types of “baked goods for Pharaoh”; but, rather than being allowed to deliver that which was in the basket to Pharaoh, the birds came and ate it (vv. 16, 17).
Joseph’s interpretation of this dream though, rather than being good news, was bad news. The “three baskets” represented three days, depicting events that would occur “within three days” (as that which was represented by the three branches in the chief butler’s dream). However, in the chief baker’s case, the interpretation of the remainder of the dream pertained, not to restoration, but to rejection. Pharaoh, rather than restoring his chief baker, would command that he be hanged on a tree; and the birds of the air would be allowed to eat his flesh (vv. 18, 19).
And matters came to pass exactly as Joseph had stated. On “the third day” Pharaoh removed both his chief butler and chief baker from prison. He then “restored the chief butler to his butlership again,” allowing the chief butler to deliver “the cup” into his hand; but “he hanged the chief baker,” allowing the birds to eat his flesh (seen in Joseph’s interpretation but not repeated in the subsequent text (vv. 20-22).
Both dreams had to do with things which would occur after two days, on the third day. Both dreams had to do with man either being restored or not being restored within the scope of the time set forth by the three days.
This can only point to one thing within the framework of the direction toward which all things from Genesis, chapter thirty-seven to Genesis, chapter forty-five move (resting on the framework previously established in the opening two chapters of Genesis). It can only point to man — created to rule the earth — either being restored or not being restored to his rightful place after two days, on the third day (after 2,000 years, in the third 1,000-year period). A segment of mankind will be restored at this time, but another segment will not be restored (the rejected among the saved will have to wait 1,000 years to be restored [and none of the unsaved will ever be restored]).
(Note that Joseph typifies Christ throughout Genesis 37-45. In chapter forty, Joseph told both men of their destiny relative to the third day; and at the judgment seat, Christ will tell all Christians of their destiny relative to the third day.
As well, on a national basis, the matter would relate to Christ and Israel, with the Gentile nations in view. Israel will be restored on the third day, but the nations will have to wait until the end of the third day, the end of the Millennium to realize the reason for man’s creation in the beginning [cf. Revelation 12:1ff; 22:2].)
And that’s what the first use of “grapes” in Scripture has to do with. It is Messianic in its scope of fulfillment. It has to do with man either being restored or not being restored to his rightful place, the place for which he was created in the beginning.
(Note that after two days, on the third day [rather than after six days, on the seventh day] is, contextually, the proper terminology that one would expect in Genesis, chapter forty. Events previously occurring in Joseph's life in chapter thirty-seven depict events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion, and events about to occur in Joseph's life in chapter forty-five depict events surrounding Christ’s exaltation. There is a two-day, a 2,000-year period, lying between these two events, with Christ [along with a great host of those whom He has redeemed] being exalted on the third day [cf. Genesis 45:26; Hebrews 2:10].
In this respect, events in chapter forty look back to events in chapter thirty-seven and forward to events in chapter forty-five. Thus, as in Hosea 6:2 relative to Israel — “After two days will he revive us [dating from the crucifixion (5:15)]: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” — this chapter in Genesis has to do with “time” beginning with the crucifixion and ending with the Messianic Era.)
The first mention of “pomegranates” in Scripture is in connection with Aaron’s high priestly garments. Pomegranates were to be embroidered in different places on the garments (Exodus 28:33, 34; 39:24-26). And the next mention following this is in Numbers 13:23, where the twelve sent into the land to search the land brought back pomegranates.
Pomegranates, in relation to Christ, could only refer to two things, which are intimately and inseparably related: His present high priestly ministry after the order of Aaron, and His future ministry as the great King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Christ is presently ministering in the heavenly sanctuary on behalf of those whom He has redeemed, with a view to that which lies out ahead, on the third day. Christ is presently ministering after this fashion, on the basis of His own blood on the mercy seat, on behalf of the kingdom of priests that He is about to bring forth (cf. Ephesians 5:25-32; 1 John 1:6-2:2; Revelation 5:10). And this ministry will continue for two days, for 2,000 years. It will continue for the entire duration of the search for the bride (Genesis 24:1ff).
Then, on the third day, the third 1,000-year period, Christ is going to come forth from the sanctuary and be revealed as the great King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek. And, at that time, those for whom He performed a cleansing — those who allowed Him to cleanse them (cf. John 13:8-10) — during the preceding two days (during His high priestly ministry after the order of Aaron), will reign as co-heirs with Him in the kingdom.
Thus, both ministries — present and future — are intimately and inseparably related. Christ’s present ministry in the heavenly sanctuary anticipates His future ministry after He departs the sanctuary. Apart from His present ministry, there can be no future bride to reign as co-heir with Him, for the bride is to be presented clean, “without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26, 27). And His future ministry as King-Priest, in this respect, will complete His present ministry as High Priest.
The first use of “figs” in Scripture would really be by inference. In Genesis, chapter three, at the time of the fall, Adam and Eve lost the covering of glory that had previously covered their bodies (cf. Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 104:1, 2); and, when they saw that they were naked, they tried to replace this covering with fig-leaf aprons (Genesis 3:7).
Something similar can be seen in the gospel accounts at the end of Christ’s earthly ministry. On His way from Bethany to Jerusalem several days before His crucifixion, He saw “a fig tree”; and coming to the fig tree He found nothing on the tree but leaves. And finding nothing but leaves, He then said, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again [lit., ‘for an age’]” (Matthew 21:18, 19).
The “fig tree,” without fruit, represented fruitless Israel. Christ had sought fruit for three years, and had found none (Luke 13:6-9). There was nothing but leaves. Thus, the tree was to be “cut down,” with a view to the Church being called into existence to bring forth fruit in relation to the kingdom of the heavens, in the stead of Israel (Matthew 21:43).
And, though Israel would be restored at a future time, Israel could never again be placed in a fruit-bearing position in relation to the heavenly sphere of the kingdom (Matthew 12:31, 32). The nation, through a failure to bring forth fruit in this realm, had forfeited this right forever, for the “age” in view in Matthew 21:18, 19 is the Messianic Era, an age that would never be repeated.
Israel, when restored, can only bring forth fruit in relation to the earthly sphere of the kingdom, which Israel will do in the Messianic Era.
Thus, in Genesis, fig leaves only, apart from the figs themselves (fruit), depicted man’s condition following the fall. He was in a fallen state, in no position to bring forth fruit relative to the reason surrounding his creation.
Then, in the gospel accounts, Israel, though in a position to bring forth fruit surrounding the reason for the nation’s existence (as God’s firstborn son, in possession of the Passover lamb), didn’t bring forth fruit.
And Christ used a fig tree with leaves only to represent not only Israel’s condition at that time (fruitless) but to also show, through the cursing of the tree, what was about to befall Israel (relative to fruit bearing pertaining to the proffered kingdom).
But the day is coming when God will bring about a change, and man will then be very fruitful surrounding the reason for his existence — the Church from a heavenly realm, and Israel from an earthly realm. Israel was called into existence for this purpose; and the Church, likewise, was called into existence for this purpose. And man’s redemption — whether Jew or Gentile — looks ahead to this purpose being realized. It looks ahead to the third day; and events of that day will concern themselves with fruit-bearing, not with leaves.
(Note that there is a principle that has to do with individuals either being or not being fruitful during the present time and these same individuals either being or not being allowed to participate in fruit-bearing during the coming age.)
Thus, the grapes, pomegranates, and figs brought back by the twelve had to do with different facets of the reason that the nation had been called out of Egypt. They were the fruits of the land for the people to visibly see (all pointing to some aspect of Israel’s calling); and they, in turn, would represent the type of fruitfulness Israel was to exhibit in the land, within the theocracy.
The grapes, pomegranates, and figs were the only things that the twelve brought back for the people to visibly see. The remainder could be seen only through the eyes of the twelve — accepting their word, given in their report. Consequently, a true report following the search became of utmost importance.
Christians under Christ
As everything that happened in the lives of the Israelites under Moses beyond the death of the firstborn in Egypt had to do, after some fashion, with the people of Israel ultimately realizing a calling in a land set before them, so is it with Christians under Christ. Following their appropriation of the blood of the Passover Lamb — by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ — everything that happens in their lives has to do, after some fashion, with their ultimately realizing a calling in a land set before them.
Everything is the same in a type-antitype structure. As the Israelites under Moses were called from one land to realize an inheritance in another (an earthly land), so have Christians under Christ been called from one land to realize an inheritance in another (a heavenly land). And, as there were opposing inhabitants dwelling in the land to which the Israelites had been called (Gentile nations), so are there opposing inhabitants dwelling in the land to which Christians have been called (Satan and his angels). And, as there was to be a warfare prior to the Israelites realizing their calling, so is there to be warfare prior to Christians realizing their calling.
Moses singled out elders from among the people — one from each of the twelve tribes — and sent them into the land with a view to a warfare and conquest of the land. They were commissioned to find out everything they could about the land and its inhabitants; and, once they had gathered this information, they were to return and report the things they had learned to the people comprising the twelve tribes so these people would be knowledgeable concerning these things during the time of the warfare and conquest.
And Christ has done exactly the same thing in Christendom. He has called elders (pastor-teachers) and sent them into the land prior to the warfare and conquest of the land. They have been commissioned to find out everything they can about the land and its inhabitants; and, once they have gathered this information, they are to go to the Christians placed under their ministry and report the things they have learned so these Christians will be knowledgeable concerning these things during the time of the warfare and conquest.
This can be seen in the type in the camp of Israel, and it can be seen in the antitype during the early years of the Church. But, except in rare instances, it cannot be seen in Christendom today (though Christ is still calling and commissioning elders in the Church to accomplish this purpose), and matters will continue after this fashion in Christendom for the remainder of the current dispensation (though Christ will continue to call and commission elders in the Church to accomplish this purpose).
During the early years of the Church, attention was focused on an inheritance in a heavenly land to which Christians had been called. This was the central message proclaimed throughout Christendom during that time. But today attention in Christendom — all Christendom, so-called fundamental and liberal circles alike — is centered elsewhere; and the true message concerning a heavenly inheritance awaiting Christians is seldom, if ever, heard.
So what brought about the change from the way things were to the way things presently exist? Scripture reveals exactly what happened.
1. The Way Things Were
The Bible is a book dealing with redemption. But the biblical scope of redemption doesn’t stop with man passing “from death to life” (John 5:24). Rather, it goes on to also include “that they may lay hold on eternal life [literal translation: ‘that which is really life’]” (1 Timothy 6:19b). The former has to do with the gospel of the grace of God, and the latter has to do with the gospel of the glory of Christ. And Scripture as a whole concerns itself far more with the latter than with the former, for Scripture has been written to the saved, not to the unsaved (1 Corinthians 2:9-14).
Scripture begins this way (the framework set forth in the six and seven days in Genesis chapters one and two [refer to the author’s book, The Study of Scripture, chapters 2-4]), necessitating that Scripture remain this way (which it does). It is man who has turned the matter around and has not only placed the emphasis at a point where Scripture does not place it but has also either minimized or completely done away with teachings surrounding the point where Scripture does place the emphasis.
Note, for example, Paul’s dealings with the church in Ephesus. He spent three years teaching them. But what did he teach them? That is what is revealed in Acts 20:17-38 when Paul called the elders of this Church together for the last time he would be with them.
Paul, referring to that which he had previously taught them, began with “the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24). But he didn’t remain there. He then referred to his prior proclamation of “the kingdom of God” (v. 25). And both of these together constituted “all the counsel of God” (v. 27).
God purchased the Church (with the use of “Church” viewed in a complete sense, as in Matthew 16:18) “with His own blood,” and the elders in Ephesus were exhorted by Paul to “feed” those in the Church over which they had been placed (v. 28).
(There are manuscript variances in Acts 20:28 relative to whether Theos [God], Kurios [Lord], or both words together [both Theos and Kurios] should appear in the text — i.e., God’s blood, the Lord’s blood [referring to Christ], or the blood of both the Father and His Son.
There is manuscript evidence for each of the three renderings, though most grammarians and translators, who study these things, usually see more evidence for the use of Theos [God] alone, with the translation as it appears in the KJV [also in the NKJV, NASB and NIV]. In the final analysis though it would really be immaterial which of the three manuscript variances was followed, for the Son is God manifested in the flesh.
The time that the paschal lambs were being slain throughout the camp of Israel on the 14th day of the first month of the year in 33 A.D., “in the evening [lit., ‘between the evenings,’ understood to be between 3 and 6 P.M. (Ex. 12:6)] was the time when the Paschal Lamb was slain. This was the time when God died. This was the time when God purchased the Church with His own blood.)
And the elders, called to feed Christians in the Church, which had been purchased by the very blood of God, would, of necessity, have to move beyond teachings surrounding the simple gospel of the grace of God. Contextually, in this passage, it would have to involve things surrounding “the kingdom of God.”
And, in conjunction with that, contextually, it would involve commending them to God and to His Word — that which could build them up in “the faith” so they might one day realize the inheritance to which they had been called (v. 32).
Paul, in Acts 20:17ff exhibited exactly the same qualities that Peter exhibited in his second epistle. Paul had previously spent three years teaching the Christians at Ephesus, and that which he taught them centered on the Word of the Kingdom. Then, when he called the elders of this church together for his last time with them, he still called their attention to teachings surrounding the Word of the Kingdom, though these were things that he had spent three previous years teaching them. This is how important he considered this overall teaching to be.
And Peter, writing his second epistle and calling attention to this same message, stated that he was going to always keep these things before the Christians to whom he wrote, though they had previously been taught these things and were established in these truths. As long as he remained alive he was going to stir them up by calling these things to their attention (2 Peter 1:12-18; 3:1, 2; cf. 1:1-11).
Many Christians in the Church today would look upon anyone proclaiming the message surrounding Christ’s return after this fashion as “fanatical,” or as someone who has “gone to seed on Christ’s return.” But that’s not the way Scripture presents the matter at all.
This was the central message Paul (et al.) proclaimed, and this was the way that the Holy Spirit moved him to structure his epistles (et al. also; e.g., Hebrews-Jude have been structured this same way). Accordingly, this was a message not only constantly proclaimed but well known and understood throughout Christendom during Paul’s day (Colossians 1:5, 6, 23-28).
Note, for example, the book of Ephesians: As elsewhere throughout the Word of God, there are references in the epistle to the gospel of the grace of God (e.g., 2:8, 9), but almost the entire epistle concerns itself with things surrounding the gospel of the glory of Christ. The epistle concerns itself, in the main, with that which is stated in Ephesians 2:10, giving the purpose for man’s salvation (vv. 8, 9).
This is what the inheritance in chapter one has to do with; this is what the mystery revealed to Paul in chapter three has to do with; and the epistle ends with details concerning the present warfare against those in the land of our inheritance and how we are to array ourselves for the battle at hand. And between these points, in other parts of the epistle, one will find the same central teaching.
And, in this respect, it’s interesting that the church in Ephesus appears first among the seven churches in Revelation, chapters two and three. The church in Ephesus sets forth an example of the way that the Church existed at the beginning of the dispensation (knowledgeable about the present spiritual warfare, the Christians’ future inheritance, etc.).
But then things began to happen, as seen even in the church in Ephesus, which left its “first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Then the Church appears at the end of the dispensation in a completely different setting, a condition resulting from the Church initially leaving its “first love,” seen in the seventh and last of the churches in Revelation chapters two and three, the church in Laodicea — described as “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-21).
2. That Which Happened
So, what happened? A woman placed leaven in the three measures of meal. That’s what happened. And Christ stated that the leaven would do its damaging work, “until the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33).
This depicts a work by Satan very early in the dispensation. The approximate time when this was done can be known by observing that even during the first few decades of the existence of the Church things were beginning to go awry. The church in Ephesus had left its “first love” (Revelation 2:4), and false prophets (Christian teachers, elders, proclaiming a message contrary to the Word of the Kingdom — apostates) were beginning to appear in the churches (2 Peter, Jude).
This all occurred within the first forty years of the Church’s existence, and the leaven took the Church down over the next several centuries until the message surrounding the Word of the Kingdom had all but disappeared. By the fourth century A.D., during the days of Constantine the Great and Theodosius I, the Church had so completely lost its true focus that the unthinkable eventually happened — the Church merged with the State.
In the year 380 A.D., Theodosius I issued an edict that made Christianity the exclusive state religion; and by the year 395 A.D., Christianity had become recognized as the official and only religion of the Roman Empire — something that could not have occurred apart from almost three centuries of the working of the leaven from within.
The Church, called to inherit in another land (a heavenly), had settled down in the land (an earthly) from which it had been called; the Church, called to rule and reign in a future kingdom (under Christ), had merged with the powers in the present kingdom (under Satan).
A 1,000-year period of darkness then engulfed the Church, awaiting the Reformation under Martin Luther, along with succeeding events.
(For additional information on the preceding refer to the author’s book, Mysteries of the Kingdom, Chapters 5 & 6, “Parable of the Mustard Seed” and “Parable of the Leaven”).
The Reformation itself had nothing to do with a restoration of truths surrounding the gospel of the glory of Christ. The reformers were concerned centrally with the simple gospel of the grace of God. It was only in later years that men began to look beyond the simple message of salvation by grace through faith — beyond that which is set forth in Genesis 1:2-5 to that which is set forth in Genesis 1:6-2:3.
But even then there was no restoration of these truths. There was only a bringing of them to light again, with one Christian here and one Christian there understanding and receiving the truth of the matter. The leaven had centered its attack at this point, it had done its damaging work, and the only thing which remained was for the leaven to complete its work.
And this is why, when the Son of Man returns for His Church, He will not find “the faith” being proclaimed by elders in the churches of the land. The whole will have been leavened. Those in the churches will be talking about everything but the central message of Scripture. And the dispensation will end with the Church — the complete Church — in the condition depicted by the church in Laodicea.
3. The Way Things Are
We’re in the final days of a dispensation in which the leaven has been working for almost two millennia. The Church at the end of the dispensation is to be completely permeated by the leaven, and this has particular reference to the message surrounding the Word of the Kingdom. This is the message Christ will not find being proclaimed in the churches at the time of His return.
And, if a person wants to see exactly where we are in relation to that day through the working of the leaven alone, all he has to do is go into practically any church of the land and listen to the message being proclaimed from the pulpit. He will listen in vain for any mention of that which is not only the central message Scripture directs to the saved but also the central message proclaimed and understood throughout Christendom during the early years of the Church — namely that Christians have been purchased by the blood of God for a purpose, to be realized during the Messianic Era, then during the ages beyond.
Will conditions in Christendom improve? Can matters be turned around?
What does Scripture say? Scripture is not only the sole Word on the subject but the final Word as well.
Scripture states that “the whole” will be leavened; and Scripture further states that, as a result, the Son of Man is not going to find “the faith” on the earth at the time of His return (Matthew 13:33; Luke 18:8).
So don’t look for an end-time revival. It’s not coming! Scripture foretells total apostasy within the Church instead (the complete Church standing completely away from “the faith”). Thus, matters can only get worse.
But all is not lost. The promise, “To him that overcomes . . . .,” is just as true today as it was at any period in Church history. And though the leavening process is being completed in the Church as a whole, the call remains open to individuals within the Church (Revelation 3:20, 21); and it will continue to remain open until the end of the dispensation.