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The land promise for all nations

June 24, 2011

In a blog post a few years ago about What happens to the Land in the NT?, Chris Tilling offered the following five suggestions:

Is it:

  • Spiritualised? Inheritance in Paul becomes the Spirit, not a strip of land in Canaan. Cf. eternal life language in John
  • Displaced in person of Christ?: On the basis of Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6; Heb. 4:1-11; John 4:20-26, Chris Wright argues that ‘Christ himself, therefore, incorporates and fulfils the significance of the land, as he did also for the law, the covenant, the temple, the king, the priest hood, the prophetic word, Wisdom etc… The effect of this, however, was far from being merely a spiritualizing evaporation of all the great social and economic themes associated with the land in the OT. The reality of Christian koininia in Christ included such practical aspects of inclusio, authority, lifestyle, and socioeconomic responsibility in ways that clearly reflect these same dimensions of Israel’s life in the land’ (New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 1.524). Cf. also WD Davies.
  • Transformed as the eschatological promise of resurrection?: ‘The language of the promised land was understood by many Jews at the time as an eschatological promise of resurrection life beyond the grave (Dan 12:13; Wis 5:5; Shemoneh ‘Esreh 13; Dead Sea Scrolls: 1QS 11:7-8; 1QH 11:10-12). This “promised land” of Israel’s was being inherited by the Christians, says Paul.’ (Cited in Gregory MacDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist)
  • Brueggemann: ‘it is here urged that the land theme is more central than Davies believes and that it has not been so fully spiritualized as he concludes. It is more likely that the land theme can be understood in a dialectical way: in contexts of gnosticism the land theme must be taken in a more physical, historical ways; in contexts of politicizing the land theme must be taken in a more symbolic way’ (The Land, 170).
  • Universalised?: Paul recognised that the Abrahamic covenant had universal implications (cf. its narrative context following Gen. 1-11), and so Paul, especially under the influence of his broadly christologically shaped hermeneutic universalised the land as God’s intention for the world. So, for example, Romans 4:13: ‘For the promise that he [Abraham] would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith’. Compare Eph. 6:2-3 and Deut. 5:16.

Any other suggestions?

The question how the land promise applies to the nations is answered, I think, by Isaiah. He said that the mountain of the Lord’s house would be established in the top of the mountains and all nations will flow unto it. He identified this with Judah and Jerusalem.

Isaiah 2:1-3
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Jerusalem represents the kingdom of God. Jesus called it “the city of the great King.” The nations flowing unto it represent people coming to Christ and obtaining salvation. Jerusalem is part of the promised land, that has been raised up as Isaiah foretold, in The New Testament. To come to Christ, means coming to the heavenly Jerusalem, and mount Sion. [Hebrews 12:22]

Isaiah’s prophecy indicates that Christians inherit the land of promise because Jerusalem has been raised up; now it is a heavenly country. It was raised up when Jesus ascended to heaven. The heavenly mount Zion and Jerusalem are the spiritual things the promised land in the Old Testament represented. Paul said, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” [2 Corinthians 1:20]

Learning the ways of God, and walking in his paths, also allude to what the promised land represents. On Mount Eban and Mount Gerizim Joshua read out words of the law, and the blessings and cursings. [Joshua 8:33-35] The promised land is a symbol of the knowledge of God. Thus, when the nations flow unto the mountain of the Lord, they also inherit Israel’s promised land.

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