Israel and the Land Promises– Shadow or Reality?
I ask the reader to ask a series of simple, but important questions:
1 Which is better, shadow or reality?
2. Which is enduring, shadow or reality/
3. Does the shadow point to the body, or, does the body point to the shadow?
4. It is better to dwell ‘in Christ” or, in a physical land?
We have shown that the Bible unequivocally says that Israel and her practices, Israel and her places, were types and shadows of the “better things to come.” This is incredibly important and yet, as we have seen, is either totally ignored or denied by the Dispensational and Premillennial world.
When our Dispensational friends keep pointing to the land promises as the substantive and eternal element of God’s promises, they are overlooking the book of Hebrews that powerfully teaches that the land was never the full focus, the “real” focus of God’s promises, even to Abraham.
Abraham and Israel’s Land Promises
Notice what the author of Hebrews says of Abraham’s attitude toward the land:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
So, even though Abraham was given the land of Palestine for an inheritance, that was not the focus of his eschatological hope! He looked to something better, something heavenly, something spiritual. And this raises and issue about whether Abraham ever received the land promises.
Dispensationalists insist that Israel never possessed the land. Gurley wrote: “At no time in Jewish history has Israel ever occupied all this land (see Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24), and so, the nation of Israel will receive this promise in the future.” (Ken Gurley in, Upholding Our Future Hope, (HazelWood, MO, World Aflame Press, 2005)198+. The editor of this book, Jorge Medina, contacted me asking if I would do a review, which I did. He also asked if I would be willing to engage in formal debate. I responded affirmatively, but, Mr. Medina then denied expressing interest in a debate). But that is patently false. See my book, Israel 1948: Countdown to No Where, for a wealth of Biblical proof that Israel did possess the land, all of it, and, even more than what was promised!
But, fascinatingly enough, Dominionists play lots of word games with the land promises. In my debate with Joel McDurmon, July 2012, McDurmon argued that since Abraham never personally received the land that therefore, he must be resurrected, physically, and dwell in the land. I took note of the fact that Abraham most assuredly did possess the land, indeed, he inherited the world (cf. Romans 4:10-13) through his Seed– Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 28:18f). McDurmon’s unfortunately willingness to think “Hebraically” prevented him from accepting the fact that from the very beginning, the land promise was that Abraham would receive the land through his descendants. Read Deuteronomy 34:1-4:
“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there”
Do you catch the power of that text? God told Moses that He had promised to give the land to Abraham, and He said that , “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.” So, from the very beginning, the land promise to Abraham was that he would receive that land through his descendants! Abraham was not– even from the beginning – promised that he would personally possess the land! And, this is proven by a quick look at how the inspired writer of Ezekiel viewed the Abrahamic land promise:
“Abraham was only one, and he inherited the land. But we are many; the land has been given to us as a possession” (Ezekiel 33:24). So, there you have the inspired testimony about whether Abraham ever inherited the land. He did so through his descendants, just as Deuteronomy said.
Thus, when Scripture says that he never possessed the land personally, this is not an affirmation of the failure of the promise, or that he was to be raised from biological death to possess the physical earth. It is just the way that God always intended to fulfill the promise – to Abraham’s descendants. And he did that.
Abraham and Israel’s Land Promises – Looking Beyond Dirt!
And for our purposes, let me remind the reader that the Israel’s land promises were a mere type of the better land, the heavenly country (father land) that Abraham actually looked to, realizing that the physical land was not the determinative, final goal of his faith. I think Walker expresses the thought of Hebrews 11 very well. Commenting on the Worthies of Hebrews 11 and the land promises, he says: “They ‘saw through’ the promise of the Land, looking beyond it to a deeper, spiritual reality. The promise concerning the Land, whilst real and valid on its own terms, pointed typologically to something greater. Any subsequent focus on the Land would then be misplaced; for the faith commended by the author was one which looked beyond such things.” (P. W. L. Walker, Jesus and the Holy City, (Grand Rapids, Eerdman, 1996)212).
So, as we continue our discussion of Replacement Theology, keep in mind that Israel’s land promises were typological. It was never – ever – intended to be the reality, the body, of God’s promises. The implications of this are incredible, needless to say for it forces us to reconsider the NT teaching and the NT interpretation of the Old Covenant promises of Israel dwelling “in the land” under Messiah. Take a quick look for instance at Jesus’ famous words: “I am the true vine” in John 15.
Burge takes note of Jesus’ words. He cites Psalms 80:7-13 where the Psalmist posited Israel as the Vine transplanted from Egypt to Canaan where they become God’s vineyard (see some other relevant texts such as . Jeremiah 2; Jeremiah 5:10 12:11f; Isaiah 27:2-6; Isaiah 61) . He then offers this: “The crux for John 15 is that Jesus is changing the place of the rootedness for Israel. The commonplace prophetic metaphor (the land as a vineyard, the people as vines) now undergoes a dramatic shift. God’s vineyard, the land of Israel, now has only one vine: Jesus. The people of Israel cannot claim to be planted as vines in the land; they cannot be rooted in the vineyard unless they are grafted into Jesus. Other vines are not true. Branches that attempt living in the land, the vineyard which refuses to be attached to Jesus will be cast out (15:6)… the only means of attachment to the land is through the one vine, Jesus Christ.” Thus, Vineyard and Land go hand in hand in Jewish thought. (Gary Burge, Jesus and the Land, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic,2010)53.
So, whereas Israel dwelt ‘in the land”, that promised dwelling place typified the greater dwelling place (cf. Hebrews 4, where Israel, dwelling in the land under Joshua, and under David, was promised the greater dwelling place / rest of God) and that is “in Christ.”
This is the most wonderful kind of replacement theology! The promises that God made concerning Israel’s land promises were fulfilled, both physically and spiritually!
More to come!