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 takes us from Egypt, though the Passover, though the Red Sea, and into the wilderness but not into the Jordan.1

Egypt and the Passover (Rom. 1-3). In the first three chapters the guilt of all peoples of the earth is established, and God’s righteousness is revealed for our justification… the blood of Christ as the means by which God can righteously pass over sin.
The Red Sea and the Wilderness. In Rom. 4-8 we get the death and resurrection of Christ for us gone over twice:2
  1. The first cycle is Rom. 4-5 where get the Red Sea on into the Wilderness in the aspect of our perfect standing before God (read Rom. 4:24-25).
  2. The second cycle is Rom. 6-7 where we get the Red Sea into the Wilderness in the aspect of deliverance from sin and Satan.

Romans 5:1-11 and Romans 8 are both Wilderness portions.

1 Corinthians

This epistle mainly addresses a series of failures among the saints in Corinth. As a corrective epistle, the epistle is set in the wilderness. From chapter 1 to chapter 10:14 we have our responsibilities in the assembly as the House of God – man’s responsibility (see 1 Cor. 5:8). Chapter 10:15 to the end address the assembly as a local representation of Christ’s body. This second portion hints at things that have to do with Canaan, believers associated by resurrection with a risen and glorified Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13).

2 Corinthians

While this epistle is an extremely practical book, and parts apply to various stages of the journey, it is set in the wilderness. It is very much centered on Paul, the other Apostles, and apostleship in general. Paul was seeing the breakdown of his physical body that the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ might shine out. 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. Paul explains that the Spirit of the Lord is writing Christ on our hearts – conforming us to His image – through occupation with Christ. This infinite treasure we possess in earthen vessels. However, there are thoughts in 2 Corinthians that have to do with Canaan. We find in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 that we are part of the New Creation. We also have the aspect of the atoning death of Christ as seen in the Jordan, where Christ was made sin for us (II Cor. 5:21).


Galatians is set in the wilderness, primarily the 2nd 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?”

In ch.4-5 we have truths that are connected with the 1st stage of the wilderness path. The adoption of sons is expounded; a tremendous blessing that is a result of the Holy Ghost indwelling us, consequent on 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. However, at this time I think that this is more in the sense of the Red Sea than the Jordan. It is still Christ’s death and resurrection for us, but not positional death, as in Colossians and Ephesians. Christ is our object by faith, and because He is everything (our life) to us, we become dead to the law. Also, this verse brings in an important point that God no longer identified us with our former sinful self, that he sees the sentence carried out on what we were, and that the life we now live is in Christ. However, it is clear that Gal. 6:15 is a forward look to New Creation: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”


In this book 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. It is interesting that in Ephesians we get our condition as “dead in sins” … the same book that gives us the highest Christian privilege also gives us man’s most depraved condition before God quickened us!


This is a wilderness book,34 and its setting is one “running to attain” a prize. It would seem to correspond with the 4th 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) (Phip. 3). 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.” So we see that the experience of the Jordan is right ahead, but we are not in Canaan yet, and what will prevent entry is religious flesh, and worldliness. We are still on the earth but are to live as those whose life is in heaven.


This is a wilderness epistle being primarily corrective, but it takes us 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; we are viewed as “risen with Christ” (Col. 3:1), but still on the earth.5 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, and have put off the body of the sins of the flesh. We get the truth of Gilgal – “circumcision” – in two aspects:

  1. Once-for-all Circumcision“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh …”
  2. Ongoing Circumcision

But it is a wilderness epistle because there are “ifs” and “whens” in Colossians,6 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.

I & 2 Thessalonians

These epistles 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.” So we are brought out of Egypt, into the Wilderness position. A strong emphasis is put on their being a good testimony in this world. They would seem to correspond to tage of the wilderness path; characterized by grace.

I & 2 Timothy

The setting of these epistles is Canaan because the maintenance of Church truth in practice is the primary subject. As Timothy was exhorted to abide at Ephesus and “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (I Tim. 1:3). In 1 Timothy the house is in order, in 2 Timothy the house is in disorder. In 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy the emphasis is on holding fast and keeping Paul’s doctrine. Demas is the example given which corresponds to the two and a half tribes that settles for a portion east of Jordan. He had forsaken Paul. Interestingly, II Tim. 1:1 speaks of the “promise of life” which hints at the full enjoyment of New Creation life.


This epistle is set in the wilderness, and the main subject is administration in the house of God. Think back to 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.”


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 similarly the setting is the wilderness.


This is most definitely a wilderness book.7 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. It is not that a true believer can lose their salvation, but a warning to those who have only made profession… hence the “ifs” and “whens”.8
We have Christ presented as the Apostle of our profession, the one whose voice we are responsible to hear and obey. We have Christ as our great high priest, interceding for us, and 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). We have the value of the blood of Christ (the Passover), and the value of the sacrifice of His body. We also have the fact that we have no more conscience of sins (Red Sea). 


The epistle of James is a wilderness book as well, although it is a peculiar book. The emphasis is on faith, a major requirement for success in the wilderness scene. A profession of faith will not save you, there needs to be reality which is always accompanied by works. James would seem to correspond to the 1st stage of the wilderness path; characterized by grace. 

1 Peter

1 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

2 Peter 1 takes up that which the believer needs to carry him through a scene of apostasy and declension. In this way it is in the wilderness. 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, which would correspond 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, the enjoyment of it, and 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



  1. Darby, J.N. Notes and Comments: Volume 1, p.250
  2. Recall, there are two aspects to the Red Sea… (1) a perfect standing – Romans 4 & 5, and (2) deliverance from the law of sin and death – Romans 6, 7, & beginning of 8.
  3. Darby, J.N. Letters of J.N. Darby: Volume 3, number 24.
  4. Darby, J.N. Brief Thoughts on Philippians. Collected Writings: Volume 17, p.383
  5. Darby, J.N. Readings in Joshua 1. Notes and Jottings, pp.400-423.
  6. Darby, J.N. Notes of Readings on 1 Corinthians. Collected Writings: Volume 27, p. 233
  7. Darby, J.N. Letters : Volume 3, number 24
  8. Darby, J.N. Notes of Readings on 1 Corinthians. Collected Writings: Volume 27, p. 233

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