Hints of the better country in Ezekiel 36
The colored text in the following quote from Hebrews 8 is from Jeremiah 31:31-34.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. [Heb. 8:7-13]
These promises, originally made to Israel after the flesh, now apply to Christian believers of both Jewish and Gentile origin, as in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek. Paul wrote:
“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” [Col 3:9-11]
The following passage from Ezekiel is similar to Jeremiah’s prophecy.
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 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. [Ezek. 36:22-28]
The promise of the Spirit is not to Israel after the flesh, but to the Church. The reason for this is that when Jesus ascended to heaven, after his resurrection, mount Zion and Jerusalem became heavenly and spiritual. Isaiah 2:1-2 was fulfilled then. After Pentecost, the prophecies about Jerusalem apply to the heavenly city, not the earthly one. Jesus was “made Christ,” and he was established on the perpetual throne of David as king in Jerusalem, which is what being “made Christ” means. [Acts 2:36] As well, Jews after the flesh who did not believe in him were “destroyed from among the people.” [Acts 3:23] Only Israelites who believed the Gospel remained as the remnant of Israel; the rest, Paul says, “were blinded” and are no longer Israel. Paul wrote:
“Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” [Rom. 9:6-8]
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” [Rom. 11:7]
Perhaps some readers will object to this, and say that Ezekiel must be referring to ethnic Jews, because he says “ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers.” [vs. 28] But the land of Canaan had a spiritual significance from the beginning. It was a type and shadow of a “better country.” Hebrews says that Abraham looked for a heavenly city.
“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.” [Heb. 11:16]
The spiritual nature of the land promise is evident in Ezekiel’s prophecy as well.
“Thus saith the Lord God; Because they say unto you, Thou land devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations: Therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave thy nations any more, saith the Lord God.” [Ezek. 36:13-14]
The physical land of Canaan “devoured up men” because when they died, they were buried in it. But this was going to change; in the “better land,” which represents the inheritance of those who believe in Christ, death is abolished.
And it is quite obvious that the settlement of Palestine by ethnic Jews has not resulted in their conversion to Christ. They have not been “cleansed” and have not received “a new heart,” or God’s holy Spirit, and do not walk in God’s statutes. Therefore the promises of Ezekiel 36:22-28 do not apply to them. Paul said,
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” [Rom. 2:28-29].