Pilgrims in this World

By J. L. Leifeste

Ours is often a world of fast and convenient travel to many places. People can use a number of ways to travel. Some ways may be slower than other ways. People may walk. They may ride upon animals or use vehicles such as carts, wagons, automobiles, trains, boats, ships, or airplanes. All of these things involve getting from one physical destination to another. However, we are both physical and spiritual beings. Therefore, we can view this life on earth as a pilgrimage of a spiritual nature. And we must realize that God shows us how to make this journey.

The exodus of the Israelites through the wasteland

We can find important parallels between our journey through this life and the history of the Israelites as they traveled from bondage in Egypt to a wonderful land of freedom. From the book of Exodus in the Bible, we learn that the Israelites left slavery in Egypt due to God’s power. See Ex. 6:2-8 and 7:4-5. Moses, as God’s messenger, conveyed God’s words to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:22-23; 5:1). God’s miraculous works established the authority of those words (Ex. 7:8-12:32). And those works caused the Egyptians to let the Israelites go (Ex. 12:31-36). In these ways, God freed the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

After this, the Israelites traveled as pilgrims without a country. They proceeded to the country that God had promised (Ex. 6:2-4; 13:5; Heb. 11:8-10). Yet, they would spend some time in making the journey. God led the Israelites (Ex. 13:18, 21-22; Nu. 9:23), and Moses continued to be His messenger. By a miracle, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (Ex. 14:9-31). During their journey, God miraculously provided them with those things that they needed for physical existence — food, water, and clothing (Ex. 12:35-36; 15:23-25; 16:13, 35; 17:1-7; Deut. 29:2-5). Through Moses, God gave His word, His commandments and promises, to His people (Ex. 18:20; 24:7, 12; Lev. 26:46; Num. 10:29; 36:13; Deut. 1:5-11; 26:18). They were told how they must worship God during that time. We find many of these laws in the Biblical book of Leviticus. They also built a tabernacle according to God’s directions in connection with that worship (Exodus chapters 25-27; Acts 7:44). And throughout their journey, they learned the importance of obedience to God (Ex. 16:14-30; Lev. 10:1-3; Num. 2:34; 11:1-3; chapters 13-14; 15:32-36; 16:31-35, 41-50; 20:7-13; 21:4-9; Deut. 8:5; 27:10; chapter 32).

The exodus of Christians through the wasteland of this world

Just as God freed the Israelites from Egypt, we need freedom from sin. People are either in bondage to sin, or they are the servants of righteousness (Prov. 5:22; Jn. 8:34; Rom. 6:16). Since all responsible adults have sinned, all need freedom from that bondage (Matt. 16:26; Rom. 3:9-10, 23). Being in bondage to sin means spiritual death (Prov. 11:19; Rom. 5:12). The only way to receive freedom from the slavery of sin is through Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12). We must obey the gospel of Christ found in the New Testament (2 Thess. 1:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:17; Acts 2:38; 22:16). In this way, we gain spiritual freedom from sin, and God grants us spiritual life (Rom. 5:21; 6:17-18, 23; 2 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24).

Also, there is a similarity between the Israelites of the exodus needing God’s guidance and care, and our need for both through this world. We need His guidance and attention during our pilgrimage. Just as the Israelites followed God, we are given guidance through the words of Christ. Jesus was similar to Moses by conveying God’s word (Acts 3:22). Yet, Christ gives us the new covenant (New Testament). The old covenant given through Moses was only for Israel, until Christ came (Gal. 3:23-25). The New Testament is God’s inspired message to all people today (Rom. 1:16). It guides us in the way God wants us to live. See Matt. 24:35; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 4:32; Jn. 6:63; 8:45-47; 12:48-50; Rom. 8:2, 14; 1 Jn. 5:12. The Israelites of the exodus received things needed for survival. From God, the Christian who seeks His kingdom first receives all he or she needs physically (Matt. 6:33) and spiritually (Eph. 1:3), and is clothed in righteousness (Rom. 13:14; Col. 3:12-14; 1 Tim. 2:9-10; Eph. 6:14; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Also, we are told how to worship God in the manner that He commands (Jn. 4:24; Matt. 26:26-28; Eph. 5:18-20). And we learn to obey God throughout this life (Matt. 7:21; Jn. 14:23-24; Rom. 5:3-4; Gal. 5:16-25; Jas. 1:12).

A future in the Promised Land

The Israelites who remained faithful arrived in the promised land of Canaan (Deut. 32:48-49; 33:28-29; Joshua 1:1-9). In time, the city of Jerusalem became the center of their nation (Joshua 18:28; 1 Sam. 17:54; 2 Sam. 5:5-10). There they built a temple. As a place of stone, wood, and precious metal, it was a more permanent type of structure than the tabernacle of the exodus. However, it was still only a physical edifice and was susceptible to destruction, rebuilding, and destruction (1 Kings 5:13; 6:14; 2 Kings 25:8-9; 2 Chron. 36:19; Ezra 6:8,14; Acts 7:45-47).

Christians are members of the church of Christ, which is also referred to as His body (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:24). As part of His church, a Christian stands as both a physical and spiritual type of temple to God (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Eph. 2:20-22). Also notice Jn. 4:20-24. A person’s body is physical and susceptible to destruction. But spiritually, the faithful Christian faces a permanent situation (1 Cor. 15:50-58; 2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:20-21). God is true, so His promises are not changed (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 33:4; 146:6; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). God promised a wonderful, physical land to the Israelites. He fulfilled His promise. Similarly, God has made a promise to Christians. This promise is of a spiritual nature. Christians possess the hope of an everlasting life in a wondrous, spiritual land of heaven (Heb. 11:16). By obediently traveling through this life, we look forward to eternity with God in the spiritual Jerusalem (Heb. 3:6; 12:22-24; 13:14; Rev. 21:1-4). It will be the truly permanent place of worshipping God.

Life is a journey. We are pilgrims who should be making our exodus from the bondage of sin (1 Pet. 2:11). We need the guidance and sustenance that only comes from God through Jesus Christ. We should travel with steps of obedient faith (Heb. 3:15-19; 2 Pet. 2:19-21; 3:17-18). And our hearts should hold onto the joyous expectation of arriving at the promised eternity of heaven (1 Pet. 1:4; Jn. 14:1-4).

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:1-12).