Home > Ezekiel, Promised land > How the land promise fits in the gospel

How the land promise fits in the gospel

January 26, 2011

In a recent post, The Land as Covenant Backdrop, Part 4, A. Boyd Luter seems to struggle, trying to explain how the land promise, included in the promises to Abraham, is connected with Romans 11:25-27, where Paul wrote:

Romans 11:25-27
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Israel’s possession of the land, in the old covenant, was a type, and was but a “shadow” of spiritual, eternal things promised to the saints, as explained in the New Testament.

Hebrews speaks of Abraham, to whom the land was promised, not having received any of it, but dwelling in tents. Instead of looking for an earthly inheritance, he looked for a “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” [Hebrews 11:10]

Abraham’s literal tent contrasts with a promised “tabernacle,” a spiritual body. In scripture, the inheritance of the saints is described as, and represented by a house, or a mansion, which forms part of a heavenly city. The heavenly inheritance was what Abraham hoped for: “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.” [Hebrews 11:16]

When the Israelites went into exile, and were removed from their land, there was a spiritual meaning attached to it, just as, when Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, and were deprived of access to the tree of life. The removal of Israel from their land represented not possessing the promises, which were spiritual in nature, and not believing the gospel. It was symbolic of unbelief.

The restoration of Israel to the land, as foretold by the prophets, will be forever, and so it represents their spiritual reconciliation to God. Dwelling in the promised land represents much more than possessing an earthly territory in this present life. The migration of Jews to the modern territory of Canaan does not fulfill prophecies about the restoration of Israel to the land.

For example, there is little weeping, when Jews from Russia or elsewhere emigrate to Palestine.  But the prophet Jeremiah said that when Israel is restored to their land, they will “ask the way to Zion,” and come with weeping.

Jeremiah 50:4-5
In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.

Some of the Jews who emigrate to the Jewish state in Palestine hope to emigrate again, to the USA. Many of them were financially assisted, by American dispensationalists and Zionist organizations. Those Jews are probably laughing at the gullibility of misguided Christians, not weeping.

And why must one ask the way to Zion, if it is a literal location on earth? This Zion is not a place on earth, but in heaven. [Hebrews 12:22-23]

Ezekiel said only the righteous will enter the land. Those who transgress against God will be purged out. But this does not seem to happen, when Jews emigrate to Palestine. The prophet Joel said Jerusalem will be holy, and said no strangers would pass through it. [Joel 3:17]

Ezekiel 20:38
And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

Obviously the “land” that Ezekiel’s prophecy refers to could not be the literal territory of Canaan, or Palestine, or the modern Jewish state, but rather, it is spiritual in nature. The promised land of Canaan was a shadow of a more lasting inheritance, and in many prophecies, the promised land is symbolic, and metaphorical.

Geographical changes

Some prophecies describe tremendous geographic changes, such as the elevation of Jerusalem above the surrounding country, rivers flowing from the city that heal the country they flow through, desert areas becoming fertile, mountains being moved out of their positions, valleys being filled up, and mountains and rugged country becoming a plain.

None of this has happened in a literal sense. But these mountains represent revelations of God, and promises to the saints; some things that are prominent in the Old Testament, such as the special status of Jews, are reinterpreted in the New Testament. The names originally applied to the Jews, and their land, including Zion, and Jerusalem, the temple of God, holy nation, peculiar people, etc., are applied to the church.

Valleys being filled, I suggest, represents things that are unknown being revealed. Rough places being made plain represents hard to understand things in scripture being explained.

Area too limited

The area of the promised land in Palestine is far too small for all the things that are said to happen there. For example, the number of the children of Israel is to be like the number of sand grains on the sea shore, and as the number of stars. Either of these represents an incredibly large number, far more than the population that the limited territory of Canaan could support at any time.

Zechariah said all nations will gather against Jerusalem to battle. [Zechariah 14:1] If Jerusalem means the earthly city, the resources of the land are limited, and water is already scarce, so the armies would soon become very hungry and thirsty!

But the Jerusalem of Zechariah’s prophecy is not the earthly city. It is the heavenly Jerusalem that all the nations come against; the saints who are scattered in all nations. It is the “camp of the saints” and “the beloved city” of Revelation 20:8-9, the church.

The 12 tribes no longer exist

The prophets spoke of 12 tribes, and sometimes of individual tribes. Ezekiel described a redistribution of the territory of Canaan among the 12 tribes, that was very different to the original distribution. It seems highly impractical, as it disregards geographical features.

Malachi said that God will “purify the sons of Levi.”  [Malachi 3:3] They would be refined and “purged” like gold and silver. What happened to the individual tribes? They have long ago been assimilated among Gentiles, or intermarried amongst themselves. How are the sons of Levi to be purified? Are the original genes of that tribe to be restored? Of course, Malachi’s prophecy applies to the saints, called “a royal priesthood” in 1 Peter 2:9, not to the literal purging of the tribe of Levi.

Jews have not returned to God

The Jews migrating to Palestine have not returned to God, or fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel 36. This refers to a spiritual change of heart.

Ezekiel 36:26-28
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Dwelling in the promised land involves a change of heart. The promised land is spiritual in nature; it represents living in harmony and fellowship with God.

The land foreshadows rest

In the prophecy of Revelation 12, the church is represented by a woman, who flees to the wilderness, which alludes to the exodus of Israel from Egypt under Moses. Their experience was for our examples, Paul said. [1 Corinthians 10:6, 11]

The saints look forward to entering a promised land, called a “rest,” just as the Israelites in the wilderness did. [Hebrews 4:11] But entry into this rest is by faith. It is foreshadowed by the promised land which the people of Israel inherited.

The land swallows up the serpent’s flood

In Revelation 12:14-15, the serpent spews out a flood, to carry away the woman. It is not a literal flood, but figurative, a flood of misinformation and flawed interpretations. This flood is swallowed up by the earth, or the land. It is the promised land that swallows up the flood, as this promised land represents the truth. Only the truth can swallow up the serpent’s flood.

A heavenly country

In the New Testament that saints look for better land than that of the Old Testament promises. It is called a “heavenly country.” [Hebrews 11:16] This country is the spiritual inheritance of the saints. It represents things that are eternal, and invisible.

Restoration to the land is forever

Jeremiah said that the people of Israel will be brought into their land, and planted there, and will not be plucked up again. [Jeremiah 24:6] But many Jews who have moved to Palestine, leave or emigrate elsewhere. Ezekiel described a restoration that was perpetual.

Ezekiel 37:25
And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.

Here, David stands in place of Christ. The land in these prophecies is figurative, of the spiritual inheritance of the saints, not the territory of the Jewish state in Palestine.

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