The heavenly mount Zion, a better country
God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, will be in his kingdom. [Luke 13:28] Paul said that those who have faith in Christ are the children of Abraham. [Galatians 3:7] Do the Gentile saints also inherit the land? If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are to inherit the land of Canaan, and they are also to be in the kingdom of God, would not this imply that those in the kingdom of God also inherit the land?
Dispensationalists deny it. However, there is no Scripture that says that the components of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be separated, and divided, and that while the pomise of a seed, and descendants of Abraham becoming as numerous as the stars are promises that go to the church, the land is to be possessed by ethnic Jews. The scripture says Jesus has inherited all of the promises. [2 Corinthians 1:20] The land is not excluded. But those attempts to assign some of the promises to Jews, others to Christians, may be a fulfillment of Zechariah 14:1, “thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.” The dispensationalists loudly insist that there is no spiritual application of the land promises to the church. Their literal approach to the land promise is comparable to restricting their diet to milk, which requires no chewing. In the literal approach, no mental chewing is involved in the study of prophecy. But Hebrews 5:13 calls such folks “babes.” “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.”
Some of the things that the Old Testament prophets said of the promised land seem fantastic, if their words are applied to the literal land; for example, Isaiah 2:2-3 says Jerusalem will be “established in the tops of the mountains,” and mount Zion will be raised up “above the hills.” In the New Testament, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled; Paul refers to the “Jerusalem which is above.” [Galatians 4:26] Jerusalem has been raised up, to heaven. This must have occurred when Jesus ascended to heaven, where he reigns on the throne of David, in “the city of the great King.” Hebrews 12:22 refers to the “heavenly Jerusalem.” When Jesus called Jerusalem “the city of the great king,” he referred to the heavenly city, not the earthly one, which he declined to defend when it was besieged by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Saying that the prophecies of Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Isaiah that describe remarkable topographic changes in the country surrounding Jerusalem will be fulfilled literally leads to contradictions and absurd conclusions. An example of this is evident when Isaiah’s prophecy about the elevation of Jerusalem is compared with Ezekiel’s prophecy about the river flowing from the temple, in Ezekiel 47. Ezekiel’s prophecy describes a gradual increase in the depth of the water, as the waters of the river flowed eastward. In a distance of about half a mile the change in level was about three feet, which implies that the slope of the land was comparable to the gradient of a football field, or a large parking lot. This low gradient of the land is incompatible with Isaiah’s prophecy that said Jerusalem would be raised up. Any elevation of Jerusalem would mean an increase in the gradient of the adjacent land. It is also inconsistent with the existing topography. The relief in the area of the river which Ezekiel described does not fit his description, as the river became deepest in the place now occupied by the mount of Olives. In the probable location of the crucifixion, was where the waters in the river became so deep, Ezekiel could not walk across it. There is a symbolic message in this, having profound meaning for Christians, when the river is taken to be symbolic of the message of the Gospel that flows from the church to the world. But Ezekiel’s description makes no sense, if the river is interpreted as a literal stream.
Isaiah’s prophecy about mountains being made low, and valleys exalted, the message proclaimed by John the Baptist, seems mysterious, and its meaning is obscure, when the land is taken literally. [Isaiah 40:4] Why would God need a road in the desert? But the prophecy makes sense, if the mountains represent the promises of God. Israel’s land promise was one of the mountains “made low” because of the Gospel; the literal land was relegated to the status of a mere shadow of something “better.” The Levitical system of worship in the temple was “made low” as a result of the ministry of Jesus and his sacrifice which fulfilled those shadows and types. Isaiah said, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” The glory of the Lord is revealed in the Gospel and when the meanings of Bible prophecies are explained and understood. This is what is meant by the rough places being made plain, and the crooked straight. See this post for more.
Zechariah’s prophecy that the land around about Jerusalem will become a plain, in Zechariah 14:10, if taken literally, contradicts the idea that the hills and mountains are “everlasting,” which is found in other Scriptures. And it also contradicts the idea of a great valley through the midst of the mount of Olives. The prophecy says in verse 4 that the mount of Olives will be cleaved and the two halves then move in opposite directions, north and south. The two halves of the mountain, and the valley between, is inconsistent with the area around Jerusalem becoming a plain! The prophecy must therefore have some meaning other than a literal one. See this post.
Ezekiel said that the land will no longer “devour its inhabitants.” The heavenly mount Zion is associated with immortality, and does not devour its inhabitants, i.e., in the grave. The literal land was a type of the heavenly country, which is the “better country” and the spiritual reality that the earthly Canaan foreshadowed. See this post.
David said, when Israel went out of Egypt, the mountains “leaped like rams.” This is certainly a metaphor; mountains that leap are not literal mountains. When lambs and rams leap, they are airborne. Real mountains do not leap. Figurative mountains, rivers, and valleys are all associated with the promised land. But the spiritual realities and promises that the mountains represent may “leap,” as long-hidden truths come to life!
When Jacob blessed Joseph, he said that his blessings extend “unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.” This implies his blessings were spiritual, and eternal. Therefore, in Jacob’s lifetime, the land already had a spiritual significance. The land was to become the subject of revelations of God, and the place where many revelations were to be given to man. Jacob’s not possessing the land in his lifetime was confirmation of his resurrection.