APPENDIX: PARALLELS WITH EPISTLES
The epistles correlated with various stages of Israel’s journey.
 

Egypt to Canaan Map with Epistles Placed

 

 
Disclaimer: this parallelism is often something that you can’t nail down precisely, and we find that often sections of an epistle can be applied to different parts of the journey.
 
 

Synopsis of Each Epistle

Romans

Romans takes us from Egypt, though the Passover, though the Red Sea, and into the wilderness but not into the Jordan.1 In the first three chapters, the guilt of all peoples of the earth is established, and God’s righteousness is revealed for our justification. We learn that the blood of Christ as the means by which God can righteously pass over sin. In Rom. 4 – 8 we get the death and resurrection of Christ for us gone over twice. The first cycle is Rom. 4 – 5 where we get the Red Sea to the Wilderness in the aspect of our perfect standing before God (read Rom. 4:24-25). The second cycle is Rom. 6 – 7 where we get the Red Sea to the Wilderness in the aspect of deliverance from sin and Satan. Romans 5:1-11 and Romans 8 are both Wilderness portions. The fact that the progression his gone over twice should not surprise us. Recall, there are two aspects of the Red Sea: (1) a perfect standing, expounded in Romans 4 –  5, and (2) deliverance from the law of sin and death, expounded in Romans 6, 7, and the beginning of ch.8.

1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians mainly addresses a series of failures among the saints in Corinth. As a corrective epistle, it therefore corresponds to the wilderness. From chapter 1 to chapter 10:14 we have our responsibilities in the assembly as the House of God, where man’s responsibility is emphasized (e.g. 1 Cor. 5:8). From chapter 10:15 to the end we have the assembly as a local representation of Christ’s body in view. This second portion hints at things that have to do with Canaan, because it assumes that we are associated with a risen and glorified Christ (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:12-13).

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians is an extremely practical book, and parts apply to various stages of the journey. However, in a general sense the epistle is set in the wilderness. It is very much centered on Paul’s apostleship, and Christian service in general. Paul was seeing the breakdown of his physical body, and how that allowed the light of the glory of God to shine out more fully (ch.4). This led him to explain what happens when the vessel is dissolved, as a result of the wilderness trials. We have a “house” (changed body) in the heavens. We find that our only power is by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, who is also writing Christ on our hearts, conforming us more and more to His image. All of this corresponds to the wilderness. However, there are thoughts in 2 Corinthians that have to do with Canaan. We find in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 that there is a New Creation, and we are in it! We also have the aspect of the atoning death of Christ, where Christ was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), which corresponds to the Jordan.

Galatians

Galatians is set in the wilderness, primarily the second stage of the wilderness path, because it takes up the folly of Christians putting themselves under law (Gal. 3). It corresponds to Mt. Sinai where Israel put themselves under law. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” The adoption of sons is expounded; a tremendous blessing that is a result of the Holy Ghost indwelling us, consequent on the death of Christ, pictured in the crossing the Red Sea. We also have the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, which parallels Israel’s war with Amalek (Gal. 5:16-17). I have wondered if Gal. 2:20 applies to the Jordan. It is more the personal enjoyment of what is elsewhere (Colossians) declared to be positionally true. However, it is clear that Gal. 3:27-29; 6:15 are new creation (Canaan truth).

Ephesians

In Ephesians we have the highest Christian truth. In Ephesians we are over the Jordan, in the land of Canaan, and laying hold of our heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:3), the truth of the Mystery, and the counsels of God concerning His Son. Not only are we risen with Christ (a truth found in Colossians) but we are seated with Him in heavenly places – a higher position than is found anywhere else in the Word of God! Furthermore, we find too that we are in the New Creation; God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10). We encounter opposition from the enemy (Eph. 6), and need to put on the whole armor of God in order to stand against the wiles of the Devil.

Philippians

Philippians is a wilderness book,23 and its setting is of one “running to attain” a prize. It would seem to correspond with the fourth stage of the wilderness path. The primary subject is the unity of the local assembly through imitating the humility of Christ. The believer learns to worship by the Spirit (the Sanctuary) and put no confidence in the flesh (wilderness lessons). The believer’s goal is to “know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” The Jordan is yet ahead, and we are not in Canaan yet. In Philippians we are viewed as still on the earth, but our Pattern, our Life, and our Object is in heaven.

Colossians

Colossians is a wilderness epistle. It is primarily corrective, but it takes positionally through the Jordan to Gilgal. It stops at Gilgal (the far bank of Jordan) and does not take us into Canaan proper. It gives us a look up into the heavenlies where our life is hid. It is a little hard to grasp, because we are viewed as “risen with Christ” (Col. 3:1), but still on the earth.4 We have “redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins [the Passover], and God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son [the Red Sea], and we have a hope laid up in heaven for us; because the inheritance is still ahead of us in Colossians. We get the truth of the Jordan, where we have died with Christ, we are risen with Him (Col. 3:1-4), and have put off the body of the sins of the flesh. We get the truth of Gilgal (“circumcision”) in two aspects: once-for-all circumcision (Col. 2:11), and ongoing circumcision (Col. 3:5). But in general, Colossians is a wilderness epistle because there are “ifs” and “whens” in Colossians,5 which indicate that salvation is seen as at the end of the path. Yet we are told to mind not earthly things, but point them heavenward, where our life is hid.

1 & 2 Thessalonians

The first and second epistles to the Thessalonians primarily take up (1) practical sanctification and (2) the second coming of Christ as the true hope of the Christian. Thus they are set in the wilderness. Paul speaks of how they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” It is pictured by israel being brought out of Egypt, into the Wilderness position. A strong emphasis is put on being a good testimony in this world. They would seem to correspond to the first stage of the wilderness path; characterized by grace.

1 & 2 Timothy

The setting of the first and second epistles is Canaan, because the maintenance of Church truth in practice is the primary subject. Timothy was exhorted to abide at Ephesus and “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). These epistles have to do with order in the house of God. In 1 Timothy we have the order of the house, in 2 Timothy we have the conduct for individuals when the house is in disorder. In 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy the emphasis is on holding fast and keeping Paul’s doctrine. It might be pictured by the end of the wilderness path, where there was a tremendous temptation to settle down without crossing the Jordan river. Demas, who had forsaken Paul, is the example given which corresponds to the two and a half tribes that settled for a portion east of Jordan.

Titus

Titus is set in the wilderness, and the main subject is administration in the house of God. We have pictures of this in Jethro’s recommendation for Moses to set up a foundation of oversight among God’s people in the wilderness. However, there are lines of truth in Titus that stretch back to a remembrance of Egypt, through the Passover, Red Sea, and on into the wilderness, presenting the hope of the Lord’s coming. A nice example of this is Titus 3:3-7, which takes us from Egypt, through the Red Sea, and into the wilderness where we are “justified by his grace” and “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Philemon

In Philemon, the subject is the Christian graces needed among Paul’s fellow laborers in the gospel. Philemon is very closely connected with Colossians, and like Colossians, the setting is the wilderness.

Hebrews

Hebrews is most definitely a wilderness book.6 In Hebrews we are seen as strangers on earth with a heavenly calling. The natural ties of Judaism (natural religion) are being broken. The veil now rent, we have access by faith into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. We have in Hebrews the danger of apostasy, of falling in the wilderness because of unbelief;  hence the conditional statements (the “ifs” and “whens”).7 We have Christ presented as the Apostle of our profession, the One whose voice we are responsible to hear and obey. In ch.5-8 we have Christ as our great High Priest, interceding for us, and the necessity of the throne of grace. We have Christ as Priest in the character of Aaron (making atonement for sins) and after the order of Melchizedek (dispensing blessing). In ch.9-10 have the value of the blood of Christ, and the value of the sacrifice of His body (the Passover). We also have the fact that we have no more conscience of sins (Red Sea).

James

The epistle of James is a wilderness book.. The emphasis is on faith, which is a major requirement for success in the wilderness scene. It is shown that a mere profession of faith will not save; there needs to be reality which is always accompanied by works. James corresponds to the 1st stage of the wilderness path; characterized by grace. 

1 Peter

The first epistle of Peter is a wilderness book, and it corresponds to the book of Numbers. In 1 Peter the highest position we occupy is that of a redeemed people in the wilderness, with an incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven (still future), but meanwhile preserved by the power of God. There is the government of God in the wilderness (2nd stage), and the need to walk as strangers and pilgrims, and avoid the lusts of the flesh (1 Peter 2:11-12).

2 Peter & Jude

Second Peter is also a wilderness epistle, and takes up that which the believer needs to carry him through a scene of apostasy and declension. The second and third chapters, as well as the Epistle of Jude, take up the government of God over the world, the ruin of Christendom, and the danger of apostasy. All of this corresponds to the 2nd stage of the wilderness path. 

1, 2 & 3 John

John’s ministry is set in the wilderness. In all of John’s epistles the theme is eternal life; whether it be the enjoyment of it, or the display of it in the lives of Christians. The first epistle is largely corrective of the Gnostic doctrines that were intruding in the early Church.
 

Summarizing Chart

 

Footnotes

  1. Darby, J.N. Notes and Comments: Volume 1, p.250
  2. Darby, J.N. Letters of J.N. Darby: Volume 3, number 24.
  3. Darby, J.N. Brief Thoughts on Philippians. Collected Writings: Volume 17, p.383
  4. Darby, J.N. Readings in Joshua 1. Notes and Jottings, pp.400-423.
  5. Darby, J.N. Notes of Readings on 1 Corinthians. Collected Writings: Volume 27, p. 233
  6. Darby, J.N. Letters : Volume 3, number 24
  7. Darby, J.N. Notes of Readings on 1 Corinthians. Collected Writings: Volume 27, p. 233

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