Time and space in the land of promise
Jesus said, heaven is God’s throne, and earth is his footstool. The normal units of time, such as day, month, year, are all earth-bound. God dwells in heaven, the entire universe. But God does not order his work, and reckon time, by the earth’s period of rotation, or by the monthly orbit of the moon, or by the earth’s orbit around the sun.
Who would keep time, by things happening on his footstool? It would make no sense at all! Therefore, the days and months and years that describe God’s works in scripture are necessarily figurative, and spiritual. They are not literal. The periods of time that apply to the heavenly Jerusalem are of that kind. Isaiah said,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In the prophecies of scripture, the units of the times applied to the heavenly city are not natural days, or natural months, or natural years. These include the 1,335 days and the 1,290 days of Daniel 12:11-12, and the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 and 12:6, and the 42 months of 11:2 and 13:5. None of these numbers represent natural days or months or years. They allude to the time, times and a half of Daniel 7:25 and 12:7, and they imply years of 360 days, which are not natural. Three and a half real years of 12 lunar months would be about 1,240 days. If an extra month was included, it would be about 1,270 days. If they were solar years, it would be about 1,278 days. None of these are close to 1,260 days, or to the other numbers, which indicates that they represent unreal periods, and are symbolic.
These numbers all apply to either the duration of the church age, or the remaining part of it. The remaining time of the church is a diminishing period, and it is represented by a diminishing series of numbers:
Time, times and a half _____________________________________________________ | | | 1,335 days | |_____________________________________________________| | | | 1,290 days | |___________________________________________________| | | | 1,260 days | |________________________________________________| | | | 3.5 days | |____________|
The 1,335 days, 1,290 days, 1,260 days, and 3.5 days all fit the pattern of a time, times and a half. The 1,335 days and 1,290 days each consist of two kinds of years, with 12 or 13 months, where months are 30 days. In each, one year differs from the rest. The three days and a half suggest the remaining time is very brief; that is the nature of time; it tends to run out.
Similarly, the spacial dimensions that apply to the heavenly city that are given in Revelation 21 are not natural; for a natural wall, three numbers are needed to specify its dimensions: length, width, and height. Only one dimension is mentioned for the wall of the holy city: 144 cubits. And John tells us these were cubits “of the angel,” or in other words, an “angelic” cubit. [Revelation 21:17]
Since both the times, and spacial dimensions that apply to the eternal inheritance of the saints are figurative and spiritual, would not this also apply to the land? The promise to Abraham was a promise of land, and of progeny, and of blessing.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Stephen noted that Abraham had not received any of the land he was promised; “not so much as to set his foot on.”
And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
The land promise was fulfilled in a literal way to Abraham’s descendants, when the Israelites possessed the land in the days of Joshua.
And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.
There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
The promise to Abraham himself, however, awaits the resurrection for its fulfillment.
The promised land, in the New Testament, is not the earthly Canaan:
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
Here, the promise of the earthly territory of Canaan, or Palestine, has been transformed. Now the promised inheritance is located in heaven, or has some kind of heavenly character.
In the New Testament Abraham’s promised inheritance is expanded and includes the whole world. Paul said:
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” [Matthew 5:5] He quoted one of the Psalms: “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” [Psalm 37:11]
Jesus said Abraham will be included in the kingdom, while Jews who reject him will be excluded.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
In Genesis Abraham was to become the father of many nations; in the New Testament he is called the father of the faithful: “…Abraham; who is the father of us all…” [Romans 4:16]
Paul said all those who are of faith are Abraham’s children. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” [Galatians 3:7]