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This Way to the Egress

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, for in this we groan earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).”

In 1841 P.T. Barnum purchased a museum in downtown Manhattan that housed many exhibits and mysterious displays. The attraction became quite popular drawing as many as 15,000 visitors per day. For 25 cents one could wander about all day, and too many did just that. People stayed so long that no more guests could be admitted. So the master showman touted a new exhibit and posted signs all around directing patrons, “This Way to the Egress.” Tantalized, visitors were eager to see this new wonder, passing through the door to find themselves on the street outside. The word “egress,” of course, means exit and those who did not understand were unprepared.

Before his own egress from this world, Peter sought to leave a reminder to Christians to remain faithful and pursue their eternal inheritance (2 Peter 1:3-9). “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me, Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease (vv.13-15).” Peter refers to his impending death as simply folding up his tent and going home. The Apostle uses a very interesting word, “exodus,” for death which is translated “decease, or departure.” He intentionally evokes the Israelites journey from Egypt through the wilderness en route to the Promised Land in alluding to his imminent death.

Having escaped Egypt those Hebrews dwelt in tabernacles, temporary dwellings, like their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Hebrews 11:9). Day by day they encamped in these temporal homes  until God brought them into Canaan to live permanently in beautiful cities they did not build themselves, in houses filled with good things prepared for them to inherit (Deuteronomy 6:10-11, Joshua 24:13).

But before entering those homes, many feared, grumbled, and doubted the promises God made to them. In their unbelief they were prohibited entry into those homes prepared for them in the Promised Land and they perished where they camped (Deuteronomy 1:34-39). Only those who trusted God broke camp on that exodus and entered those houses made ready for them to live in.

A tabernacle is an apt description of our soul’s housing in our earthly bodies. Our bodies are not built to last forever, just for our sojourn through this wilderness land on our trek to our permanent homes prepared for us (John 14:3). Peter viewed his death as an exodus. In his mind, he wasn’t really dying, merely striking camp, and departing. Jesus affirmed that those who believed in Him would never die, but would exit this world and pass from death to life (John 5:24, 11:26). For believers, death is but departure. For the unbelieving however, leaving this world is but only their first departure. At the Judgement the Lord will command that they depart from His presence forever (Matthew 7:23).

Peter strongly desired that his readers be comforted and encouraged to “make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:10-11).”

The patriarchs dwelt in tents looking forward to forever entering the heavenly city God built for them to inhabit (Hebrews 11:9-10, 14-16). Our Lord is preparing a place His faithful followers (John 14:2-3) so that we should not fear our egress but rather look forward to folding our tents and moving into our forever home. Our egress, our exodus (Hebrews 9:27), is merely a departure from this land of temporary trials and testing and into that far better heavenly city forevermore.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).”

Billy Alexander is a member of the church of Christ in Jersey Village in Houston, TX. He and his wife Gwen both work at Hewlett-Packard where they met and have worked more than 25 years each. Billy enjoys teaching Bible several times each week at Jersey Village and Memorial church of Christ. Since 2008, his weekly article "Equipping the Saints" as run in the Jersey Village bulletin.

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