Brother Beebe: - If it be not asking too much, please give your views, through the Signs of the Times, on the figurative import of Jordan, or rather of the children of Israel crossing that river. What I desire to know is whether it was designed to represent death. Your reply will greatly oblige one of the least of all saints, if a saint at all.
REPLY: We do not think the crossing of Jordan by the children of Israel was designed to represent the departure of the children of God from this mortal to their immortal state, or from earth to heaven. When Christians leave these mortal shores they will bid farewell to all sinning, sorrowing, trouble and perplexity, and enter that haven of rest, peace and security, where the wicked shall cease to trouble them, and the weary shall be at rest. But such was not the case with the Hebrews when they passed over Jordan; their conflicts immediately commenced with the Canaanites, who disputed every inch of the ground with them. Nations were to be subdued and driven out before they could enjoy peace and quietude. And indeed, as long as they were to remain in that land they were told that the Canaanites should continue to be within their walls as an annoyance to them.
It is true that poets and commentators have frequently used the figure to represent the death of believers, probably because it was the end of the journey of the redeemed Israelites in the wilderness, and it was spoken of in distinction from Egypt and the wilderness of Mount Sinai, as a place of rest - a land flowing with milk and honey, and an inheritance given them in their father Abraham before any of them were born. But all these considerations cannot justify the application of Jordan to death, and Canaan to heaven so long as we find that Jordan did not terminate the conflicts, nor Canaan realize to them uninterrupted enjoyment. In Canaan, as well as in the wilderness, they were beset with temptations and invaded by enemies, and subjects of frequent and fearful chastisements from the hand of the Lord. This none of us look for in that world of unfading glory where the saints shall be perfectly conformed to the image of their dear Redeemer, and forevermore employed in singing praise to God and the Lamb.
While dissenting from the views of others, it will be expected of us to give our views on the true application of the figure. The Hebrews in all their history we have regarded as a figure of the spiritual people of God. They were created and chosen in Abraham before any of them were brought into manifestation. As his seed, according to the flesh, they were figurative of a seed which was created in Christ, and identified with him in the economy of grace as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a peculiar people, that should be counted to him for a generation. Abraham’s seed were after the flesh, and were the type. Christ’s seed were not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and they were the anti-type. This is no vain speculation, for the inspired apostle Paul has thus applied the figure, “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The condition of the Hebrews in their early history, and in their captivity, and bondage in Egypt may represent the state and condition of God’s chosen people in their fallen state of depravity, in bondage, and sold under sin. The redemption of the Israelites from the house of bondage when the Pascal Lamb was slain for them points clearly to the redemption of the children of God when Christ, our Passover, was slain. The toilsome pilgrimage of Israel in the wilderness where they received the fiery law not only shows that the law and the prophets were until John, or the Savior’s advent, and the people of God were held under the Sinai Covenant until the baptism of John commenced in Jordan, but it also shows that the seed of Christ, whom he hath redeemed with his own blood, are in due time quickened and in their experience have to linger through a tedious and toilsome meandering in the wilderness of the law, and that when they emerge from their legal toils and wanderings in the wilderness, when Christ is revealed to them as their Spiritual Joshua, to lead them through Jordan into the promised possession, they then come to the anti-type of Jordan, which we understand to be the gospel ordinance of christian baptism. This ordinance divides between the wilderness state of God’s people and their gospel church privileges, and the quickened child of grace, experimentally delivered from the curse and bondage of the law, enters the anti-type of Canaan the moment he is baptized, according to the law of Christ. In the gospel church we find the land flowing with milk and honey, and this is our spiritual inheritance secured to us in our Lord Jesus Christ, as the inheritance of Canaan was to Israel in Abraham. But in the gospel dispensation the spiritual Israelites have to encounter the Canaanites who oppose the whole ground with us. Like them, in the type, we are often brought into collision with strong and determined enemies, the world, the flesh, and Satan, doubts, fears, darkness, temptations, and a great fight of afflictions, which look much more like the condition that Israel was in on both sides of Jordan than anything which we are looking for after the dissolution of our mortal bodies. Some of the tribes went over Jordan and assisted in fighting the battles, and then returned and chose their inheritance on the other side: this could not be applied to those who have died and gone to heaven, as none have returned or chosen their inheritance in this life. But there are, no doubt, some who have experienced a work of grace in their hearts who are ready to buckle on their armor and fight valiantly for the truth when it is assailed, who, from some cause, to us unaccountable, have taken their stand on the opposite side of Jordan, or Christian baptism, from that occupied by the church.
Without designing any disrespect for the opinions of brethren who apply the figure differently from what we understand it, we submit what we have written as our view on the subject.
September 15, 1862.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 258 – 260