Dr. Reluctant, R. L. Reymond, and the land promise
Dr. Reluctant reviewed “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith” by Robert L. Reymond, and here I discuss some comments in that post about the land promise. Dr. Reluctant describes himself as a “reluctant dispensationalist.” He wrote:
Though he highlights the importance of the Abrahamic Covenant (p. 513), Reymond, as all covenant theologians, identifies it with an already existent covenant of grace (pp. 517-518). To do this he must assert that, “the land promises were never primary and central to the covenant intention, and a literal and complete fulfillment of these promises under Old Testament conditions was never envisioned by God.” (p. 513 n.19). That is quite a thing to say! It involves two crucial negations and one interesting affirmation. First, it denies that the land was ever “primary and central” to the covenant. The land issue is thus relegated to a place of minor importance. Secondly, that God never intended His promises about the land to be taken at face value, but that the conditions of the covenant changed from the way they were worded in the OT.
Reymond’s views on the land promises are given his article, Who Really Owns the “Holy Land”? In it he says, “all of God”s land promises to Israel in the Old Testament are to be viewed in terms of shadow, type, and prophecy, in contrast to the reality, substance, and fulfillment of which the New Testament speaks. … it is we Christians, as members of Christ’s Messianic kingdom, who are the real heirs to the land promises of Holy Scripture, but only in their fulfilled paradisical character.”
Paul said all the events that happened to the Israelites were for our learning, and our admonition. [1 Corinthians 10:1-11] Their wilderness experience corresponds to the believers’ sojourn in the world, and their quest for the promised inheritance, and not yet having received it. The woman fleeing to the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, and where she is fed, in Revelation 12:6 and 14 pictures the church’s experience in the spiritual wilderness of the world.
Israel possessing and dwelling in the land of promise, the land of Canaan, was a type and a shadow of true worship, and the knowledge of the Gospel, while the lands of other nations are associated with worshipping other gods, having no hope, alienation from the covenants of promise, unbelief, and idolatry. Israel’s possession of the land, the monarchy, and their loss of land, their exile in Assyria and Babylon, and their dispersal among the nations all provide various types, and figures, for the church’s admonition and instruction. Their ultimate return to the land foretold by the prophets is fulfilled by the return of the saints to the “faith once delivered.” Christians who are scattered among tens of thousands of denominations and sects come together in a spiritual manner, as they recover the truths of the Gospel, and turn from darkness to light, abandoning superstition, and flawed interpretations. The prophets describe the last exodus as a return to Zion with weeping. The saints come to mount Zion from all nations. This exodus is to be a far greater event than the first exodus, and it has been going on for centuries. The Reformation was part of it.
Dr. Reluctant wrote:
That [i] “the land promises were never primary and central to the covenant intention…”
That “[ii] a literal and complete fulfillment of these promises under Old Testament conditions was never envisioned by God.” (p.513 n.19).
Although these statements run together, they involve assumptions on the part of the author that need to be assessed. The first assertion should be incredible to anyone who reads passages like Genesis 15:1-21; 17:7-8; Deuteronomy 30:1-10; or Jeremiah 30. The Covenant promises pertaining to Israel and the land are explicit (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:7, 18-21; 17:7-8; 18), and sealed by an unconditional covenant, entered into by God alone (Gen. 15:12-21). This covenant was of such a nature that no part of it could ever be altered or revoked. It is called “everlasting” in Genesis 17:7, 13, 19; 1 Chronicles 16:17, 18; and, Psalm 105:10, just as the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 23:5; Isa. 55:3; Ezek. 37:25), and New Covenant (Isa. 61:8; Jer. 32:40; 50:5; Heb. 13:20) are also called everlasting. As Paul reminds his Gentile readers, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Rom. 11:29). David’s throne is never referred to as if it were not a physical throne upon which the Messiah would reign over a physical kingdom (e.g. Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 23:5-6; Amos 9:11; Lk. 1:30-33; Matt. 19:28; Acts 2:30). Revelation 3:21 implies that the throne of God in heaven is not the same as the throne of Christ. Christ shall rule the nations from this throne with “a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15; cf. Gen. 49:10-12; Psa. 2:9). To say that the land promises are of only secondary importance after reading these passages appears to display a determined resistance to words used by the Holy Spirit.
“David’s throne is never referred to as if it were not a physical throne upon which the Messiah would reign over a physical kingdom (e.g. Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 23:5-6; Amos 9:11; Lk. 1:30-33; Matt. 19:28; Acts 2:30).”
This is a rather odd sentence construction, with two negatives. But let’s see if the scriptures cited support the assertion.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Dispensationalism of the classical kind denies that the government is upon Christ’s shoulder, and denies that he reigns upon the throne of David, and that he has ordered it, and established it, for whole age of the church–what blindness!
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Judah and Israel are names that apply to the church. But because dispensationalists deny this, they are blinded to the fact that Christ has been reigning in the lives of the saints for the whole age of the church.
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:
By quoting this prophecy in Acts 15, James identified the church with the tabernacle of David, which throttles dispensationalism!
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
The house of Jacob refers to the twelve tribes of Israel, a label applied to the church in several places in the New Testament; e.g. in Revelation 7:4. But this is denied by dispensationalism.
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The apostles, and all the faithful saints reign with Christ during their earthly lives, as Paul said that “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” [Ephesians 2:5-6] What else could this mean, but reigning with Christ? The twelve disciples of the Lord had the responsibility of guiding the early church, for which they were trained by Jesus.
Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
The following verses complete the thought that Luke was expressing: “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” The implication of the above is that Jesus has been raised up to sit on David’s throne, which is his reign in the heavenly Jerusalem, the “city of the great King.”
And, why omit Christ’s reference to David in Revelation?
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
Jesus clearly claims to possess the key of David. How did he come to possess this key? And if a literal, earthly throne is meant in all the scriptures that speak of David’s throne, wouldn’t the key be a literal one too? What is this mysterious key good for?
Jesus reigns on the throne of David, and reigns over his saints. The key, of course, is a spiritual one; it means he possesses the power to open and close the minds of those in the heavenly Jerusalem; he closes the minds of some, and open the minds of others, to understand spiritual truths. His power to close minds is evident in the present day church; the minds of many dispensationalists remain closed to the truth that Christ has been reigning in the heavenly Jerusalem. But the minds of some have been opened to allow them to see that in fact Jesus does reign on the throne of David; Progressive Dispensationalism acknowledges this. But the minds of others are shut; they are like the unbelieving Jews, blinded. And they are blinded in much the same way as those Jews are blinded. Only by the power of Christ and by his grace can their minds be opened, to see and understand the truth.
“To say that the land promises are of only secondary importance after reading these passages appears to display a determined resistance to words used by the Holy Spirit.”
Who is to judge? Perhaps, acknowledging that Christ is the one who has the key of David, and that it is “he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” would be a more discrete, and wise approach.
Although the rite of circumcision was established forever in Genesis, it was set aside by the apostles as unnecessary for Gentile believers. But its spiritual significance was retained. Which was its primary purpose, the attitude of repentance that circumcision represents, or the physical removal of the flesh?
The killing and eating of lambs at Passover was not the primary and central purpose of the Passover, but to foreshadow the death of Christ on the cross, which also occurred at Passover.
And similarly, the land promise has a spiritual significance, which is not often understood; the land of Canaan was one of the shadows and types of the Old Covenant. Perhaps Dr. Reymond did not fully understand and appreciate the symbolism of the land; but generally, the shadow and type is something less than the spiritual reality it represents, just as the literal lambs which were killed and eaten at the Passover were less than Jesus, who is the Lamb of God.