Moses told Israel very clearly that they had been rebellious against the Lord “from the day I knew you” (Deut. 9:24). His statement was made largely in the context of Israel's worship of the golden calf.
We have shown how Israel was “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) and how that Israel church was a prophetic type of the church in the Pentecostal Age, which remained in its own wilderness for forty Jubilees. For this reason, Moses' intercession for Israel prophesied of Christ's intercession for the church.
See what Moses says in Deuteronomy 9:25-29,
25 So I fell down before the Lord the forty days and nights, which I did because the Lord had said He would destroy you. 26 And I prayed to the Lord, and said, “O Lord God, do not destroy Thy people, even Thine inheritance, whom Thou hast redeemed through Thy greatness, whom Thou hast brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. 28 Otherwise the land from which Thou didst bring us may say, ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.’ 29 Yet they are Thy people, even Thine inheritance, whom Thou hast brought out by Thy great power and Thine outstretched arm.”
This was the gist of Moses' intercessory prayer for the church in the wilderness in view of their rebellion against the word and law of God.
Christ Now Intercedes for the Church
What was true about Israel in Moses' day was true also in the church under Pentecost. For this reason the Apostle Paul found it necessary to write many letters of correction to the churches. One cannot read Galatians and Colossians without seeing how many in the church had departed from the truth.
Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15,
15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; you shall listen to him.
This passage is cited by Stephen in Acts 7:37, implying that Jesus Christ is that prophet who was comparable to Moses. Jesus Christ's death on the cross as the Passover Lamb had brought the church out of the house of bondage to sin. His resurrection and presentation to the Father had fulfilled the wave-sheaf offering on the first Sunday after Passover. Seven weeks later, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) had been fulfilled by the coming of the Holy Spirit and the willingness of 120 disciples to go up the Mount (upper room) to hear the voice of God.
Jesus' ascension in the midst of these events compared to Moses' ascension back up the Mount, for both of them interceded for the church in their own way. Paul tells us in Romans 8:34,
34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Jesus interceded for us at the cross (Isaiah 53:12). What need was there for Him to continue with His intercession after His ascension? The answer is found in the parallel story of Israel under Moses. The Passover lambs that the people killed in Egypt also served as types of Christ in His intercessory work on the cross. But just because Israel was redeemed from the house of bondage and brought out of Egypt did not mean that they no longer needed intercession. In fact, they remained rebellious against the law of God from the beginning and were therefore in great need of intercession.
Moses provided that intercession, and his forty-day intercession in the Mount prophesied of Jesus Christ's intercession at the right hand of the Father during the forty Jubilees of church history. Why was this necessary? It was for the same reason that Israel needed intercession. Their hearts remained continuously in rebellion against the law of God, as church history records.
Many have taken comfort in the fact that Christ is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for them. But most do not realize why this has been necessary, because they have never connected this fact to the situation in Moses' day. For this reason, most Christians think that Christ’s intercession is on account of our need for protection against the world. They have not fully understood that Christ intercedes for the church on account of their problem of rebellion against God and for worshiping the golden calf. Neither has the church comprehended how serious it is to despise the law of God and treat it as irrelevant.
The Problem of Church Lawlessness
It is this very lawlessness, this anomia, which Jesus identified as the problem in the day of judgment that was yet to come. He said in Matthew 7:21-23,
21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Jesus used the term anomia, which means “lawlessness.” Likewise, Paul, using the same term anomia, says in Romans 6:19,
19 . . . For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Note the contrast. When we were slaves to sin, our body parts were slaves of lawlessness. But now, as believers who have come out of the house of bondage, we are to present our body parts to God as servants of God for the purpose of righteousness.
John also uses the same term anomia in his basic definition of sin. 1 John 3:4 says,
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
The church in the Pentecostal Age seems to be as clueless as the Israelite church under Moses in regard to the problem of lawlessness. Christians read the story of Israel and shake their heads in amazement that they could remain so consistently rebellious, yet do not understand that they are reading prophecy about the heart condition of the church today.
The Consequences of Lawlessness
Thankfully, Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us, just as Moses did for Israel. Even so, Moses' intercession did not exempt Israel from divine judgment, nor does Jesus' intercession exempt the present church from divine judgment. Luke 12:46-49 tells us that God’s servants will be judged according to the way they treated those under their authority.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:12 that those who have laid Christ as the foundation will find their works judged to see if they are made of “gold, silver, precious stones,” or if they are made of “wood, hay, straw” that can be burned. Verse 15 concludes,
15 If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
It is clear that Paul was speaking of Christian believers, for the end result (after this judgment) is that they “shall be saved.” The fire is the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2), which is the standard of God’s character by which all men are judged. His character is expressed most clearly in the law, by which He measures all of the works of men.
Such judgment is reserved for the Great White Throne. But there is also an immediate judgment that has already been imposed upon the church. Under Moses the kingdom was postponed for another 38 years to give their children time to grow up with parents. God would not let those parents see the Kingdom. Hence, the wilderness experience for the church was extended to forty years for Israel and forty Jubilees for the New Testament church.
In both cases the time period ends with believers not receiving the promises. In other words, they are not given “life” in the Kingdom Age. Under Moses, the whole generation of men who left Egypt died in the wilderness during those forty years. Under Christ, the time was extended to forty Jubilees (40 x 49 years), and many generations have lived and died during that time.
In our time, I believe that Christians of the final generation will see the establishment of the Kingdom, but they will not be given immortal life at the time of the First Resurrection. In other words, they will live out their normal lives, but only the overcomers will receive immortality and rule with Christ during that Age.
Have the Promises Failed?
Moses’ intercession did not remove all the consequences of Israel’s lawlessness, but it ensured that their children would enter the Promised Land, led by the overcomers, Caleb and Joshua. In the same manner, Christ’s intercession ensures that its final generation will enter the Promised Land—again, under the leadership of the overcomers.
Though it has appeared as if the promises of God failed, we see that those promises have only been delayed. In Deut. 9:28, quoted earlier, Moses reminded Israel that if God had brought permanent judgment upon Israel, the nations would have thought that the God of Israel was incapable of fulfilling His promise to them. They would say, “Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land. . .”
This question had come up in Numbers 14:16 after the people had believed the evil report of the ten spies. During Moses’ intercession, when he raised the specter of “what will the nations say?” God responded with an oath, sworn by Himself and His own life, saying in verse 21,
21 But indeed, AS I LIVE, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.
Thus, even though divine judgment was unavoidable, that judgment only served to delay the promises of God. So it is with all of the judgments of the divine law. Those judgments, in the end, are corrective in nature. They are therefore temporary and not perpetual, though the extent of judgment if often indefinite. Israel’s time in the wilderness was to be forty years, but many other judgments are indefinite. In other words, the precise time involved is not specified.
Hence, the Hebrew word that is usually translated “everlasting” or “forever” is olam, which means an indefinite period of time. Gesenius Lexicon says that its root word means “to conceal, hide, be hidden, be concealed, be secret.” In other words, the time frame is unknown and thus indefinite, but usually a finite period of time.
The New Testament word equivalent to olam is the Greek word aionian. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, beginning about 280 B.C., the rabbis settled upon the word aionian as the nearest equivalent expressing the meaning of olam. The root of this word is aion, or eon, which properly means “an age.” Ages are an indefinite period of time, for they can refer to anything from a few minutes to thousands of years. The main point to remember, however, is that the Greek words were chosen, not because they were precise matches for the Hebrew concepts, but because they were near equivalents. In the end, the Greek terms were meant to express Hebrew concepts. So we must use the definition of olam whenever we come to the New Testament Greek term aionian.
Therefore, even though God brought judgment upon Israel, and most of the Israelites died in the wilderness without receiving the promises, this does not say that those Israelites will be lost for eternity. Instead, God vows that the whole earth will be filled with His glory. In other words, His salvation will be seen not only in Israel but throughout the whole world.
So Moses appealed to God, “Remember Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deut. 9:27). In other words, remember the Abrahamic covenant, by which Abraham was to be a blessing to all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). The promises of God extended far beyond Israel. The initial promise was that God would use the seed of Abraham to bless the entire earth. Acts 3:26 defines that blessing: “by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
Therefore, when God blesses the whole earth through Abraham, that blessing involves much divine judgment, which is designed to turn people from their wicked ways.
The blessing is NOT to save people while they are practicing lawlessness, but it is to bring about repentance so that they can indeed be saved. This is the main purpose of the Great White Throne judgment and its “lake of fire.” The fire is the judgment of the law that is specified in Deuteronomy and in the rest of Scripture. All men will repent at that time, for Paul says in Phil. 2:9 and 10 that every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
This confession will not exempt men from divine judgment, of course, but it will ensure that in the end all men will be saved. At the end of the age of judgment, all of creation will be reconciled to Him, all things will be put under the feet of Christ, and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:27, 28). That is the promise of Abraham, and if it were not for the intercession of Moses first and later of Christ, this promise would be in danger of failure.