In Exodus 5, we left off with Pharaoh tormenting the Israelites, and Moses lamenting before God. Here in chapter 6, God is beginning to respond. He affirms to Moses that He shall indeed redeem and give inheritance. In verses 2-3, God even says, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I was not known to them.” I have heard it said, and seen it written, that this verse is often interpreted that the patriarchs didn’t know the name YHWH.
Here is my contention with that: in Genesis, they address God as “YHWH”. Even within Genesis 2, we find LORD God, YHWH Elohim, and this is only in verse 4. So, if from the very start of human history recorded in Scripture, YHWH is being used, then how can we claim that the patriarchs didn’t know this name? To claim Moses wrote these books doesn’t cut it for me. Instead, I would like to suggest something else.
Associated with the names of deity are their power and character. We have something similar today. When you give someone your word, you are putting forth your reputation and everything that people know of you on that promise. We can even think of sayings like, “smeared his name through the mud”. To smear someone’s name is to smear their reputation, their esteem, through the mud. It isn’t about making their “name” ignominious, but but rather the very person and character.
What I want to posit is that this promise to the patriarchs was based utterly upon God’s character. God promised to Adam and Eve a deliverer (Gen 3:15), He promised to Abram a son who would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:4, 7, 18-21), but He didn’t show them the fulfillment of that promise. In fact, when you get to the book of Hebrews, you find the author saying, “having obtained a good testimony through faith, all these did not receive the promise”. The next verse does not say, “But you…” Instead, it says something better is presented to us, that together with us they might be made complete.
Unto the patriarchs, God has promised the inheritance of Canaan, which is seen in the Hebraic mind as being the very place where heaven and earth meet. This is the very place where God dwells – a Garden of Eden restored. But, the patriarchs didn’t receive the inheritance. Moses is being told here that God had given them the promise, but didn’t give them inheritance. Therefore, the patriarchs did not experientially know the power and glory of the name of YHWH like God will reveal to Moses and his generation. It is about God’s name, His honor, His power, and His character. It is about an experiential knowledge of that Name.
To trace this thought forward in the narrative, not just unto Sinai, but beyond Sinai, we find that God’s name is repeated throughout Scripture. For example, you have God revealing Himself through His name quite directly to the Hebrew children. They experience His power and majesty in the wilderness, and eventually in the Land itself. Joshua leads Israel to inheriting the Promise. Yet, we then find later that the psalmist declares, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’.” (Psalm 95:7-11)
Let us think this through. The psalmist is not writing about this “today” in the generation of Joshua, who was promised to inherit that rest, but rather centuries after Joshua. The psalmist is writing this while in the land. Somehow, Israel is in the land, inherited the promise, and yet there is a promised rest that if that generation, paralleled with the generation that was killed in the wilderness, will hear God’s voice, they can enter into that promised rest.
It is then the whole point for the rest of the book of Hebrews to show how it is that we haven’t come to the physical promises, but the eternal, which are not separate from the physical, but are interwoven. It is the physical promise that reflects the eternal and heavenly. We have not come unto Sinai, the physical mountain upon which God came down, but unto Zion, the New Jerusalem, which is the throne of God, revealed to us in explicit detail in Revelation 4. It is not Sinai that the prophets envisioned with theophany, in places such as Isaiah 6 or Ezekiel 1-3, but the heavenly Zion.
And so, we see the “better” inheritance that we have, not exclusively as the Church, but together with “them” who are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the saints eternal, they who are called “Israel” by most theologians. There is an connection, then, that cannot (and certainly should not) be severed. It has always been that the prophets perceive beyond the physical and tangible into the spiritual and equally tangible. That is our inheritance as the saints. And, there is an eternal “today”, that if you are willing to humble yourself, ceasing from your own works (namely, righteousness through our own efforts), we can enter into that rest, which from the beginning has been established for all who by faith will enter.
Yet, we cannot conclude that this is the fulfillment. Remember that God put His name upon the physical inheritance – not the spiritual. There must be a physical that is coupled with the spiritual. It is for this reason that we read various texts in the New Testament about the “inheritance” at the end of the age. Jesus promises that His disciples will rule over all Israel upon twelve thrones (Matthew 19:28-29). Paul speaks about we, as Gentile believers even, who shall receive an inheritance with the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:14). He then further explains what this means in Ephesians 3:1-6, in which he makes the statement that “Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel…”
What is this “body” that is spoken of? It cannot be the Church exclusive, for that would demand a “new” body. The context of Ephesians 3:6 is that this body apparently is already in existence, and hence “same body” instead of “new body”. Don’t quote to me Ephesians 2:14-15, that Christ has made “of the two” “one new man”, and therefore the Church is new and distinct. That isn’t what Paul is saying at all, for only if you skip Ephesians 2:12 can you come to that conclusion. It is because we, even we Gentiles who were aliens and at enmity with God, have been brought near, and made to be partakers of the promise and covenants, being grafted in (to use the language of Romans 11) to the already existent House of Israel. We are not the elite, but the remnant.
Therefore, we know that we have received a spiritual inheritance, even being sealed by the Holy Spirit according to Ephesians 1:13, but that isn’t the fulfillment. It is only the guarantee of the future inheritance at the end of the age, which is not ours exclusively, but unto the whole House of Israel – both the natural and the wild branches. Interestingly to this study, one of the promises to the seven churches in Revelation is that “I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, And I will write on Him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12)
That promise, in the context of what is written to the rest of the seven churches, cannot be understood as the New Heaven and New Earth, but at Jesus’ return. There might be legitimacy to saying that it is fulfilled to the uttermost in the New Heaven and New Earth, but don’t squash the beauty that is presented in that we rule with Christ for 1000 years. When you parallel the statements of Revelation 2-3 and Revelation 20, you find that there are certain things that are doubled.
Notice again Revelation 22:4. Here it is that having the name of God written upon our foreheads is coupled with seeing God face-to-face. There is a revealing of God intimately that cannot take place apart from the judgment that we experience during Tribulation (not judgment as in condemnation, but judgment as being within the nations who are being judged, and within Israel [the people] who are under judgment). Just as Elijah endured the judgment alongside of his fellow Israelites, and just as Joshua and Caleb had to endure forty years before being permitted to enter the land again, so too must we wait for the second coming – after seven years of Tribulation – before we shall see the fulness of our inheritance in Christ.
The blessed hope of Titus 2:13 is not rapture, as I’ve heard so many say. It is the coming of the King, and with Him the Kingdom of God. It is the redemption of Israel, and with them all the nations. It is worldwide peace. It is the obliteration of the kingdom of darkness. It is the inheritance of promise – heaven and earth becoming one. It is the climax of the covenant, the culmination of the ages, unto which we’ve been progressing since “God separated the light from the darkness”. The blessed hope is the longing of every heart, whether we know how to intuit it or not, whether we’re believers or not. It is a Kingdom that is ruled in justice, equity, and righteousness, instead of bureaucracy, greed, and patriotism. To then take that verse out of context completely, simply to hold that we’re not supposed to endure “wrath” (as if that is even what 1 Thess 5:9 means), is to cast down all hope and all eternal weight of glory that might make out suffering and affliction momentary and light.
We’re progressing to a climax. The age is crescendoing. It is our opportunity to work with God or to do our own thing. We can either play church, play Christianity, or we can be the saints in our own generation. The hope that God is giving to Moses in this passage is the very blessed hope that is to give us satisfaction and perseverance unto the end.