This post represents the gist of a two-part message given during Passover week about how Jesus fulfils the promise of a second exodus of God’s people after what the prophet Daniel refers to as the “times of the Gentiles.” He does so in ways that those who carefully read the Scriptures should recognize that Jesus functions as a type of Moses, as Moses himself predicted in Deuteronomy 18: 15. (In case anyone wonders where this particular interpretation of Deut. 18:15 comes from, Peter (Acts 3:22) and Stephen (Acts 7:37) refer to exactly this verse when they speak about Jesus being sent to the people of Judea.
To set the stage let us review a little bit of what happened immediately before and during the original exodus of Israel from Egypt. I have highlighted some key words that will be significant during Jesus’ later ministry.
In Exodus 10:21-29 God sends the 9th of the 10 plagues on Egypt, a plague of darkness so deep that people do not dare leave their homes for 3 days. This is followed by the plague of the death of the firstborn of all Egyptian people and livestock in Exodus 11.
They are thrust out of Egypt by a very frightened populace that very night or early morning. And proceed to the shore of the Red Sea (or Reed Sea?). Exactly 3 days after they have been freed from Egyptian slavery they emerge from the sea and the Egyptian army is drowned in that sea at daybreak.
They proceed to Mt. Sinai, where God speaks to them, giving them His commandments and statutes. In Exodus 24:3-8 they formally agree to enter a covenant with their God by saying “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” The priests ratify the covenant by sprinkling the “blood of the covenant” (from sacrificial animals) on them in a mass ceremony. Moses then goes up on the mountain to receive the stone tablets that the covenant is written on. (These tablets probably contain everything written in Exodus 20-23.)
After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness due to disobedience they finally are set to enter the Promised Land. Moses knows, however, that they will disobey and eventually be ejected from the land once again. The book of Deuteronomy records Moses’ final sermon to the Israelites before they enter the land. Chapter 28 outlines the basic blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience to the covenant. The section on curses is much longer than the one about blessings.
Deuteronomy 30:1-7 offers bad news and good news for the people of Israel. The bad news: they will disobey and be ejected from the land, suffering under a succession of Gentile kingdoms. The good news: there will be a re-gathering of the people of God promised after the long and arduous captivity.
The “gathering” will be characterized by three things: a gathering from all nations that God has scattered them to; a change (“circumcision”) of heart; and curses being sent upon the peoples who persecuted God’s people.
In time the people of Israel began to disobey God and his covenant, and these prophetic curses began to come to pass. The prophet Jeremiah lived during the final years of the decline of Judah, the last remaining part of Israel. Jeremiah predicted that the Babylonians would destroy the Temple and take Judah into captivity, confirming Moses’ prediction in Deuteronomy. Like Moses, he also predicts in Jeremiah 50:4-9 a second exodus. Interestingly, Jeremiah predicts that the “remnant” will be instructed to “leave “Babylon” before its destruction. He notes in Jeremiah 31:31-34 that this “exodus” will involve a new covenant with God that is “not like” the previous covenant.
Features of this “new covenant” include God putting his law into their hearts (instead of tablets of stone) and forgiveness of their sin, including not remembering it anymore.
Roughly 6 centuries later a Bethlehem-born Galilean prophet named Jesus, a descendant of King David, approaches a small band of fishermen. He recruits them to spread good news about the Kingdom of God in Matt. 3:18-19 with the statement, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
He gathers a group of disciples around a mountain (reminding onlookers of the gathering at Mt. Sinai) to teach them, and a multitude gathers around to listen. In his famous Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5-7:28 Jesus’ outlines a set of principles that look a lot like covenant stipulations, including blessings and curses. Jesus later condensed these principles for his disciples during his last supper with them in John 13:34-35. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
The disciples confirm that they will obey him in John 16:29-30 and Jesus tells his Father that he accepts their agreement in 17:6-8. This is the equivalent of their saying “everything the Lord has said we will do.”
During that meal Matthew records in 26:28 that Jesus tells his disciples that the wine they were drinking together represents his “blood of the new covenant” which was to be shed for them to deal with sin.
For 3 hours before Jesus’ death on the cross the entire land is covered in darkness according to Luke 23:44-49. Immediately following this darkness is the death of the firstborn of God. Here we have a plague of darkness followed by the death of the firstborn – reminders of the Exodus that had also occurred during the original Passover/Exodus events more than a millennium before.
Jesus dies during the time that the Passover lambs are being sacrificed for that evening’s ceremonial meal. John 19:33 records that Jesus’ blood was shed, just as Jesus had predicted. His blood replaces the blood of the lamb that had been placed on the doorposts and jambs to protect the Israelites from the “destroyer” of the firstborn. It becomes Jesus’ blood of the new covenant that is shed for the remission of sin for all who believe in him.
Jesus rises the third day at dawn, at precisely the time the waters of the Red Sea covered the Egyptian army so many centuries before, completely assuring their freedom from bondage. Jesus’ resurrection eventually assures the disciples of freedom from sin and freedom from the fear of death through the promise of resurrection.
A few days after his resurrection Jesus is at a meal with his disciples. In John 20:19-23 he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Spirit.” He then tells them that he has given them the power to forgive sin or withhold forgiveness of sin. This is powerful stuff! Yet the gospel message is about precisely that: God accepting repentance and forgiving sin so that human beings and God can finally work together in harmony as one. The disciples are being commissioned to reach out to others and offer them forgiveness in God’s name and entrance into his redeemed community.
Jesus’ disciples decide to try to go back to their old lifestyle and re-enter the fishing trade. John 21:1-25 records how Jesus confronts them with this question, “Have you caught any fish yet?” They hadn’t, even though they were experienced fishermen and had been at it all night. Jesus tells them to drop the nets from the opposite sides of their boats, and they soon fill to almost the breaking point.
By the time they come to shore Jesus already has a fish and bread dinner ready for them. (He managed to get fish without a boat or a net!) He then resets Peter’s attitude to ministry by telling him three times that he must demonstrate his love for Jesus by feeding Jesus’ sheep. Now they are willing to go back to work, but need extra help to get the job of being “fishers of men” done.
Jesus provides that help by sending his Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts 2. Acts 2:42-47 demonstrates the new covenant in action. “Fish” are now being caught. People are loving one another as Jesus loved them. Jesus’ word is being taught throughout the area.
Where & when is the gathering? As an example, in Exodus 12:37 Israelites gathered in Ramses before journeying to Succoth. In his ministry Jesus had commissioned his disciples to become “fishers of men.” People are obviously being gathered into discipleship of Jesus in the book of Acts. How and when does the gathering predicted in Deuteronomy 30 happen?
The gathering happens over time but culminates in resurrection at the appointed time, according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:20-26. “Those who are Christ’s” are gathered “at his coming.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 Paul reveals that this gathering of both the living and the dead in Christ happens in the air at Jesus’ return. It is a literal “lifting up” of the people of God out of the grave into new life.
In other words, being called into fellowship with Jesus and his church is the beginning of the gathering from all the nations. We begin our journey, not by leaving the physical territory, but rather by leaving the system of this world by following Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
What we are called to leave behind is symbolically referred to in Rev 18:1-5 as “Babylon the Great,” the great human civilization that opposes God’s will. We make a choice instead to dwell in the City of God, among God’s other saints who comprise a completely different civilization. Notice that curses do eventually come upon the city that opposes God and persecutes God’s faithful people.
Jesus’ call to all of us is “Come out of her my people.”
We leave behind the sin.
We leave behind the pride.
We leave behind the greed.
We leave behind the selfishness.
We leave behind everything that hurts others and wrecks our lives.
Instead we do as Jesus taught his disciples. We love each other as Jesus loved us. We become “fishers of men.” In Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Or in Jesus’ own words on the mountain, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”