The church’s Exodus in Revelation
In the book of Revelation, John alludes to themes from the Old Testament, such as the Exodus, and Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, and the conquest and possession of the land under Joshua, and other events in Israel’s history, which are applied to the church’s spiritual experience.
The trumpet plagues were foreshadowed in the trumpets blown at the capture of Jericho, and the sudden destruction of Babylon described in Revelation 14:8 and 18:21 alludes to the collapse of the walls of Jericho.
In Revelation 12:6, 14 the woman who represents the church flees to the wilderness, alluding to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. The eagle’s wings given to the woman in 12:14 allude to the wings of eagles mentioned in Exodus 19:4: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” Eagles’ wings are also mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:9-12.
The prophecies describing a future Exodus, as in Jeremiah 23:3; 32:37, and Ezekiel 34:13, apply to the spiritual Exodus that Christians experience, as they escape from the corruption that is in the world, [2 Peter 1:4] and are delivered from the power of darkness, and are translated into Christ’s kingdom of light. [Colossians 1:13]
In Revelation, Christ is frequently referred to as the Lamb, alluding to the passover lamb that was killed on the night of the Exodus in Egypt. In Revelation 11:8, where John calls the great city where Christ was crucified Sodom and Egypt, no doubt he alludes to the passover Lamb which was slain in Egypt, a figure representing Christ as our passover. Israel’s exodus to the wilderness followed the sacrifice and eating of the passover lamb, and similarly, the Exodus of the church from the bondage of sin, and from the world, represented in the types and figures of Egypt and Pharaoh, is featured prominently in Revelation, especially in chapter 12.
The role of the Exodus theme in Revelation was discussed in Bobby Grow’s quotation from Richard Bauckham, in Revelation’s Eschatological Exodus, reproduced below. Bauckham wrote:
The second of the three major symbolic themes is that of the eschatological exodus. Since the exodus was the key salvation event in the history of Israel, in which God liberated his people from oppression in Egypt, destroyed their oppressors, made them his own people and led them to theocratic independence in a land of their own, it was naturally the model for prophetic and apocalyptic hopes of another great salvation event in the future. In some Jewish apocalyptic the eschatological intervention of God in which he will finally judge the evil powers and bring definitive salvation to his people was conceived as an eschatological exodus, surpassing the first exodus as eschatology surpasses history. Traces of an interpretation of the saving work of Jesus Christ as bringing about the eschatological exodus can be found in many parts of the New Testament, but it is Revelation that develops the idea most fully.
The central image in this complex is that of Jesus himself as the Passover Lamb (first introduced at 5:6, 9–10). That Revelation’s image of the Lamb refers to the lamb sacrificed at the Passover is clear especially from 5:9-10. There it is said that by his blood the Lamb has ‘ransomed’ a people and made them ‘a kingdom and priests serving our God’. The latter phrase echoes the well-known words of the Sinai covenant (Exod. 19:5-6), by which God made the people he had brought out of Egypt his own people. God’s liberation of his people from Egypt was often referred to as his ransoming them from slavery to be his own people (e.g. Deut. 7:8; 13:5), and the same image could be used of the new exodus of the future (Isa. 35:10; 51:11). When Revelation treats the blood of the Lamb as the price of redemption, this really goes beyond the role which the blood of the Passover Lamb played in the exodus (cf. Exod. 12:12, 23). Moreover, the Passover Lamb played no role in Jewish expectation of a new exodus. But it is likely that in Revelation 5:6, 9 John alludes not only to the Passover lamb, but also to Isaiah 53:7, where the Suffering Servant is portrayed as a sacrificial lamb. He may well have connected this verse with the new exodus language of Deutero-Isaiah and seen the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 as the Passover lamb of the new exodus. In any case, it is the central role which the death of Jesus played in the Christian understanding of redemption which accounts for the centrality of the Lamb to Revelation’s use of the new exodus motif.
In 15:2-4 the Christian martyrs, victorious in heaven, are seen as the people of the new exodus, standing beside a heavenly Red Sea, through which they have passed, and singing a version of the song of praise to God which Moses and the people of Israel sang after their deliverance from Pharoah at the Red Sea (Exod. 15). Moreover, the plagues which are God’s judgment on their enemies in this context (15:1, 5-16:21) are modelled on the plagues of Egypt at the time of the exodus. We have already noticed, in chapter 2 above, that the final judgment of this series is linked to a reminiscence of the Sinai theophany (16:18). Other allusions to the exodus narratives are in 11:6, where the activity of the two witnesses is in part modelled on Moses and the plagues of Egypt, and 11:8, where one of the prophetic names of the great city where the witnesses are martyred is Egypt. Already in 2:14, the false teachers in Pergamum, who are persuading Christians to compromise with paganism, are compared with Balaam, the false prophet who was responsible for the seduction of the Israelites into idolatry, as a result of which they failed to reach the goal of the exodus entry into the promised land.
As with the messianic war, John’s use of the new exodus imagery shows that for him the decisive eschatological event has already occurred: the new Passover Lamb has been slaughtered and he has ransomed a people for God. The goal of the new exodus is still to be attained, when Christ’s people will reign with him as priests on earth (20:4-6; 22:3-5), attaining their theocratic independence in the promised land. But revelation’s new exodus does not consistently follow the sequence of the Old Testament narrative. The imagery is used flexibly — in literal terms, inconsistently — to characterize all three stages of the work of Christ as Revelation portrays it. (Richard Bauckham, The Theology Of The Book Of Revelation, 71-2)
- The river of water from the mouth of the serpent (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
- What is the role of the promised land in the gospel? (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
- A place where the eagles will be gathered together (creationconcept.wordpress.com)