Leaving ‘Egypt’


By J. Parnell McCarter



The book of Revelation suggests that the history of the New Testament church in the period from the Apostolic era to the Second Advent will parallel the history of the Old Testament church in the period from the Exodus from Egypt to the First Advent.  (For evidence of this proposition I would refer readers to my books The Kingdom Come and Let My People Go.)  The earthly Jerusalem in the Apostolic era was the counterpart of Egypt for the Old Testament people of God.  Accordingly, the Apostle John in the book of Revelation refers in Revelation 11:8 to the earthly Jerusalem of his day (i.e., where the “Lord was crucified”) as “Egypt”.  Jerusalem was the early ‘capital’ of the Christian church (see Acts 1-2), but it was also the epicenter of Christian persecution, spearheaded by the Judaists.  Jerusalem was the place Christ was crucified, various of the Apostles were imprisoned (including at various times Peter, John, and Paul), and Stephen and the Apostle James were martyred.  Jerusalem was the base for sending Christian persecutors far and wide, even as Saul was sent to Damascus.  The intense persecution in Jerusalem led to Christian poverty there, which is evidently why the Apostle Paul took up a collection from the Grecians for the church at Jerusalem.  So it is easy to see the parallels between ancient Egypt in the time of Moses and earthly Jerusalem in the Apostolic era.


When John wrote the book of Revelation, the Apostolic church was still in its ‘Egypt’.   The destruction of ‘two witnesses’ in earthly Jerusalem was yet a future event when John wrote his Apocalypse (Revelation 11:8), so we can infer that earthly Jerusalem was well intact when John wrote.  From John’s vantage point at the time of writing the book of Revelation, he wrote: “the holy city shall they tread under foot” (Revelation 11:2).  ‘Holy city’ in this passage has a dual reference to earthly Jerusalem as well as to the Christian church (the type and its anti-type), and the prophecy itself has dual fulfillment.  In the sense that ‘the holy city’ refers to earthly Jerusalem, it is apparent then that when John wrote, the prophecy of Luke 21:24 (“…Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles…”) had not yet been fulfilled.  Hence the future tense shall  in the statement “the holy city shall they tread under foot” (Revelation 11:2).


But when Jude wrote his book, the Christian church had evidently already made the ‘exodus’ from its ‘Egypt’.  The exhortations of Jude are from the vantage point of a church which had left its ‘Egypt’, but was just at the beginning of its ‘wilderness’ wanderings, with all its attendant dangers.   Thus we read in Jude 1:4-5: “…there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.  I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.”  Jude is warning the Christians of his day not to repeat the same error made by so many in the wilderness generation, who “forty years long was I grieved with [this] generation, and said, It [is] a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways” (Psalm 95:10).   Jude calls to mind the two historical examples John had employed in Revelation 11:8: Egypt and Sodom.  So Jude writes in Jude 1:7: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”


We should keep in mind that Biblical evidence suggests Jude was the last book written in the Bible.  At the time Jude wrote it, the Apostles had all passed away (Jude 17-18), and the body of Christian doctrine (and hence scripture) was coming to a close (Jude 3).  When Jude wrote the book, the Apostles were no longer speaking (or writing), because they had all passed away.  That is the implication of Jude 17-18.   The Greek reads, '… the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they (as a body) said ...'  “The Apostles” refers to John as well as all of the other Apostles.  There is no reason to believe that Jude limited this to just some Apostles.  He did not say 'some Apostles', or add a delimiting clause.  Also, we find the theme in the writings of John as well as Peter and Paul.  We should not imagine only
Paul and Peter knew about sensual mockers of the last days.  John also heard  Jesus' teaching of Mt 24, etc.   The closure and sufficiency of scripture (and the faith which it teaches) is indicated in Jude 3 and Jude 17-18.  **The faith** has been once for all delivered, and **the Apostolic** witness has concluded.  (So much for the Apostolic succession of the Papacy!)


So Jude addresses a people of God which had left their ‘Egypt’ and were just embarking on an extended wilderness journey.  Jude warned the people of the new dangers they would confront.  The past victory did not mean they could rest on their spiritual laurels.  They must watch and persevere.  The abomination of desolation in 70 AD began a wilderness period that would last 1260 “days” (i.e., years) [Rev 11:3, 12:14], and would not be consummated until 1290 “days” (i.e., years) later [Daniel 12:11], with the inception of the Protestant Reformation.


There is an important lesson in this for us today.  We too have not yet entered the rest of the new heaven and new earth.  Although we may look back at great spiritual victories, we must recognize our road ahead will still be difficult.  We must persevere in the faith, and not be seduced by false doctrines.  We may have left ‘Egypt’, but we have not yet reached our ‘Promised Land’.