John the Baptist said to the Jews, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” [Luke 3:8]
In their interpretations of Isaiah 2:2, the prophecy that the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established at the top of the mountains, above the hills, dispensationalist commentators and expositors are torn between their commitment to their mantra of literalism, and their devotion to the idea that ethnic Jews will dominate other nations in the Millennium. The literal view says the prophecy means that mount Zion and Jerusalem will be literally raised up, by tectonic means. Contrasting with this approach is the interpretation of mountains as nations, which leads to the concept of Jews becoming a kind of master-race.
Tony Garland is the author of a four-part series on Daniel and the Times of the Gentiles at the Bible Prophecy blog [part-1 part-2 part-3 part-4]. In part 1 he discussed the sayings of Jesus about the times of the Gentiles, in Luke 21:24, Matt. 24:15-16, and Mark 13:14. Garland asks why Jesus did not elaborate on what he meant. He suggests the reason is that Jesus expected believers to discover his meaning by studying the revelations previously given in the Old Testament. He wrote:
Where Jesus is teaching concepts which find their origin in the Old Testament, He expects His listeners to be familiar with the basis of His teachings (Mt. 21:24; 22:29; Mark 12:24; Luke 24:27; John 5:39). And so it is with this passage and its parallel passages in Matthew and Mark. In fact, both Matthew and Mark make mention of additional information provided by Jesus in the context of this same teaching which establish part of the Old Testament context for understanding all three passages in the synoptics:
“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Mt. 24:15-16 cf. Mark 13:14)
The better land of Hebrews 11:16 is heavenly, and yet, the saints remain on the earth, which seems to be a paradox. How can people dwelling on the earth be in a better land, if it is located in heaven? Perhaps it is not located in heaven, but has a heavenly character.
Israel’s promised land, described as a land of milk and honey, and the seventh day sabbath, are both types of the rest that Hebrews 3-4 encourages believers to enter. Entering this rest requires belief.
After the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, they endured 40 years wandering in the wilderness. At the end of that period Joshua addressed them, and he spoke of their promised inheritance as rest. “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land.” [Joshua 1:13]
The author of Hebrews contrasts milk and strong meat. The meaning of milk, and strong meat, as symbols representing elementary and advanced kinds of spiritual knowledge, is evident from the context. The milk of God’s word includes the accounts of the lives of men of faith, and the accounts of the history of Israel, the gospel accounts of the ministry of Jesus, and the Acts of the apostles, all the events in the scriptures related in a straightforward manner.
The land promise to Abraham is connected with the promise that he would be the father of a multitude, who will number as the stars of heaven, and the promise of a seed in whom all nations will be blessed, who Paul identified as Christ. [Galatians 3:8, 16]
There are three components to the promise to Abraham: an innumerable number of descendants, land, and a seed, who is Christ. The three components are inseparable. A vast number of descendants specified in the promises to Abraham would require a large area of land, but the land of Canaan was one of the smallest countries. The three part promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are presented in the following tables.
The New Testament describes God’s covenant with the church as an everlasting covenant. The covenant is like an agreement to enter into a marriage, where Christ is the groom, and the church is the bride. This everlasting covenant is mentioned in Hebrews.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Read more…
In Hebrews, the promised land and the sabbath day both represent the rest that is promised to the Christian. This rest is something that has to be believed, and it is something that the saints are encouraged to labour to enter. [Hebrews 3:18-19 & 4:9-11]
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In the verses quoted above, and as the context shows, the rest that the saints may enter is believing the word of God. This is also the symbolic meaning of the promised land. Believing the word of God, corresponds to entry into the land of promise. This is supported in other scriptures too. Read more…
In the following excerpt from his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, John Owen supports his interpretation of the nature of the rest in Hebrews 4, outlined previously in his discussion of verse 1. He claimed the rest in this chapter “is that spiritual rest of God, which believers obtain an entrance into by Jesus Christ, in the faith and worship of the gospel, and is not to be restrained unto their eternal rest in heaven.” He said, “The rest here intended is that whereof the land of Canaan was a type.” Read more…
Puritan theologian John Owen (1616–1683) understood the apostle’s meaning in Hebrews 4:1 to be, ‘There is yet on the part of God a promise left unto believers of entering into his rest.’
In the excerpt below, from his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Owen discusses whether entering God’s rest in Hebrews 4:1 means heaven, and this is followed by a discussion of the nature of the promised rest. [The works of John Owen, Vol IV, edited by William H. Goold. T. & T. Clark. Edinburgh. 1862. p. 215-220.] Read more…
Hebrews 3:6-4:11 is a lengthy exposition of Psalm 95, especially verse 8 of the psalm, which refers to the provocation in the wilderness, and the Israelites’ lack of faith.
Psalm 95 was originally written for people of Israel who were dwelling in the promised land, and yet, it admonishes readers not to “harden their hearts,” as their fathers had done. This suggests that the “rest” mentioned in the last verse of the Psalm, which remained and was still available for them to enter, must be something other than physically dwelling in the land. The Hebrews passage confirms this, as it says “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.” [Hebrews 4:8] What “rest” could that be?