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There are at least two points that seem relevant:

I. The similarity in the names: Joshua, or Jehoshua (Hebrew: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎ Yəhōšūaʿ), and Jesus appear identical when we consider that they both reduce to Yehoshua, or simply Yeshua (in many circles). The two both appear to represent the same meaning: "Yahweh is salvation".

II. The Jordan River has traditionally been characterized as the "River of Death". Joshua led the Israelites across this river into the Promised Land of Canaan. Likewise, Jesus now leads his people across their own "river of death", that is, physical death — into the promised land of heaven.

Is this mere coincidence? Or is Joshua symbolic of Christ?

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  • @ Xeno - Christ does lead us onward, but crossing the Jordon is not into heaven , but into a Land crawling with pagans, giants, and idolators...who all need to be conquered! TRADITION, and sentimental hymns are not a safe place to draw doctrine from. The New Testament quite often interprets the Old Testament typology for us. And in this case, Paul revealed that the Wandering in the Wilderness was NOT the Christian way of life. Christians must be "baptized" in the Jordon and circumcised, and then continue on fighting until eventual victory. Jesus leads the way in the true Christian life.
    – ray grant
    Commented Apr 29 at 19:02

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Does Joshua leading the faithful across the Jordan parallel life in Christ?

Answer: Yes.

Indeed, not only do the names "Joshua" and "Jesus" equate to what many refer to simply as "Yeshua," but it thus follows that they represent the same meaning: "Yahweh is salvation" (some may differ a bit on that translation).


I. — Before we get to the Jordan "River of Death" we might reflect on Moses and the Egyptian captivity. That is because Israel was metaphorically a "slave of sin (Egypt)", since the land of Egypt was emblematic of "sin and death". Moses was (eventually) able to bring Israel out of Egypt and subsequently saved them through the Red Sea. This is where the entire nation was "baptized" (1 Cor. 10:2). They had obviously heard the Word of God, and believed it. Their repentance was demonstrated by their abandonment of Egypt (sin) by following Moses (who typified Christ).


II. — The Israelites were then "tested" for 40 years in the wilderness. This, I believe, symbolized the trials we face in our newfound faith. Unfortunately, due to their persistent rebellion against Moses, most of the Jews that emerged from Egypt died in this forsaken wilderness. We too can do precisely the same if we abandon our faith and obedience to God, only to return to "Egypt" through sinful behavior.

Once in this desolate no-man's land, Moses became emblematic of the Law: He was the Law as an agent of God. And, because much of the nation eventually did obey Moses (after many trials and punishments), Israel might be viewed as "the body of Moses" — just as Christians are "the body of Christ." (This prompts another discussion for another day.)


III. — When the time came for Israel to begin preparation for the Promised Land of Canaan, Moses then sinned against the Lord. While his sin might be viewed as rather trivial, that is "striking a rock instead of speaking to it" (Num. 20:11-12), this may be a lesson for us that there are no "trivial sins" before the Almighty.

However, there may be a much greater truth here if we are prepared to look for it. The Law, by itself, could never save anyone. It is the means by which we recognize that we have violated, or transgressed God's commandments (1 Jn. 3:4, when we do). Merely obeying the Law of Moses offered little relief, just as when we obey the speed limit, we never expect to be congratulated for it.

This, I believe, is why Moses (the Law) could never enter the Promised Land. Here, it would take someone like Joshua, Yeshua, to deliver, to fulfill the Promise. That "promise" was the gift of the Promised Land.


IV. — When Joshua, another type of Christ, was chosen by God and Moses to lead the new generation of Israel into Canaan, they first had to cross the Jordan "River of Death." This would be the "baptism" of these new people of God, those who had not yet been circumcised (only those who died in the wilderness had been: Josh. 5:2-7).

As stated in the OP, yes, "the Jordan River has traditionally been characterized as the 'River of Death.'" Indeed, Joshua then led the people through this river as it was overflowing* — an intimidating sight to behold. They did so as they walked across the dried lakebed (as the priest's feet touched the water) just as with Moses and the Red Sea.

We should not miss the parallels here: Jesus, Yeshua, now leads his people across their own "river of death", that is, physical death — into the promised land of heaven.


V. — This is hardly coincidental. We might even extend the symbolism further. The first enemy the Israelites were to conquer, once across the Jordan, was the city of Jericho. Here, we might observe another passage of relevance. As the walls of Jericho fell, the priest were to blow their trumpets and the people were instructed to shout:

Joshua 6:16b: “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city."


VI. — Just as Joshua commanded the Jews to "blow their trumpets" and "shout for the city had been given to them" by the Lord, we too will be given a city: the New Jerusalem of Heaven! Note how this is described in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 21:10-11: "And [the angel carried John] away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed [him] the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God."


The symbolism of Joshua (and Moses) could not be more pronounced.

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  • There is another parallel, God, was working with/in them before their baptism, just as He does us - we have little clue to what comes next - neither did they. +1
    – Steve
    Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 3:32
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Well here’s a different point of view,if the promised land is a type of heaven, then upon dying we immediately start warring like Joshua to rid “heaven” from sexual perversion demons false gods etc. Or maybe the promised land is actually a type of our war here on earth after we cross the Jordan River which is a type of water baptism and the infilling of the Holy Spirit,like Jesus did?

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    Commented Mar 12 at 6:43
  • @ Gerard - Your tongue in cheek proposition packs a large wallop! Certainly there is no place for Christian believers to fight AFTER they die and go to heaven. But there is a lot of conquering Believers in the Kingdom must do here on earth now in this life. (Matthew 28:18) And we have the consolation that Jesus (Joshua) lead us on from one victory after another!----It would have been good for you to expand your answer more.
    – ray grant
    Commented Apr 29 at 19:07
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Is this mere coincidence?

Not at all.

Or is Joshua symbolic of Christ?

More than that, Joshua is a type of Christ.

https://mywindowsill.com/joshua-a-type-of-christ/

This river is symbolic of death. Through the blood of Jesus, we will also cross the Jordan River, where we will reach the Promised Land. When the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant touched the waters of the Jordan, the waters parted. The people passed over the Jordan at the time of year when its water was at its highest. Crossing the River symbolized freedom to the people.

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  • @ user35953 - I fear "mywindowsill" has led you astray. Crossing the River did not symbolize freedom to the people. Freedom is symbolized by the Passover and leaving Egypt. Crossing Jordon symbolizes Baptism into the New Life in Christ where believers fight evil to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, just like Joshua and the Israelites did symbolically. Keep studying the New Testament, it is quite enlightening!
    – ray grant
    Commented Apr 29 at 19:18
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Baptism Baptism is definitely a major part of the process to obtain Salvation according to the Christian religion. (Acts 2:38, Repent and be baptized...; 1 Corinthians 10:2, 12:13) This act was prefigured in the passage through the Red Sea by the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt.

Symbolically, Egypt (Mizraim) represented a land (life) of sin, from which people had to be delivered, so they could come to the Promised Land of godly living.(Genesis 10:6. 1 Chronicles 1:8) Baptism in the Sea was the second step to make this possible [Passover sacrificing was the first step.] Soon the Israelites were at the doorstep of the Promised Land "flowing with milk and honey."

Faithless People But something evil happened: the task of taking the Land seemed impossible because they did not mix the task with a faith in God and His Providence. And so they turned back, and were judged by the LORD their God with a destiny of wandering in the desert until they died off! (Psalm 106:13-33, Numbers 14:21-35, Joshua 5:6, Hebrews 3:1-19 quoting Psalm 95:7-11)

This Wandering is typology of a backslidden life, and not a normal Christian life. Paul made this clear in the New Testament teaching. Be not as the Israelites... (1 Corinthians 10:6-11) He listed several habits of a backslidden life: idolatry, grumbling, testing God, etc. (See also Hebrews 3:16-19. 4:11, They did not enter into rest...)

My Dean of Bible College, long ago, pointed out that the Wandering of the Jews for 40 years, after the Kadesh Barnea incident, was not a typology of the Christian life. It, rather, symbolized the life of a backslidden and doomed people under the Judgment of God. It was a death march!

Christian life typology The typology of the Christian life does not pick up again until the Jordon River crossing with a whole new generation of Israelites. Joshua does indeed resemble Jesus, who gave us all an example of being baptized (by John). (Notice that those who were "baptized in the Red Sea" were all dead by now. So the new young people needed to be "baptized in the Jordon.") In this sense only can the Jordon River be considered a "river of death." It is a dying to the old man of sin, and a forsaking of the carnal life-style of iniquity.

River Crossing The crossing of the Jordon River does not in any way refer to the death of the Christian physically, nor is the Promised Land a reference here to heaven! (Joshua 3:14-17) This is evident by the salient fact that in the Promised land there was a need for fighting and conquest. Obviously there is no "fighting" in heaven. The struggles---and victories---that the Israelites encountered in the Promised Land fully represent the Christian life of the believer. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand! (Ephesians 5) Jesus (Joshua) leads us on to victory after victory! In this sense Joshua may be considered a type of Jesus. (Listen to the many church hymns that proclaim this!)

Principle of living This command of not making any covenant, nor any intermarriage with the pagan Canaanite culture--is repeated in the New Testament: Come out from among them and be ye separate. And Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

Onward Christian soldiers, marching on as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before! (old song verse). There will be a time later in heaven, for resting and rejoicing! But now it is a time for establishing the Kingdom of God throughout the Earth. The Kingdom suffereth violence Jesus warned; but a life of faith in God insures victory after victory, until the Day when Jesus returns in majesty, and sorts out evil from the righteous! (Matthew 13, 1 Corinthians 15)

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