Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jesus and the Land of Israel

Last time, we looked at how the tabernacle and temple are fulfilled in Jesus. We are not expecting or waiting for another temple to be built on earth. Jesus is building his temple, which is the church.

This time, we are looking at the land that was promised to Israel.

The “Promised” Land
God had Abraham move away from his family to a new land:

Gene 12:1 (NKJV) Now Yahweh had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

God promised to give this “promised” land to Abraham’s descendents:

Gene 15:18 (NKJV) On the same day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates--

The land was indwelled by the Canaanites, but God was giving it to Abraham’s descendants:

Gene 17:8 (NKJV) “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

God promised to give this land to Isaac and his descendents:

Gene 26:3 (NKJV) “Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.

The Promised Land is God’s
The reason that God can give the land is because it is his.

Levi 25:23 (NKJV) ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.

Because the land is God’s, it is holy land. The holy land required holiness of the people who dwelled on it. The holy land would vomit out unholy people.

Levi 18:26 (NKJV) ‘You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you
27 ‘(for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled),
28 ‘lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
29 ‘For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

Part of the reason for giving the people God’s law is so that they would be holy and be able to live in the land.

Entering the Promised Land
The promise of the land was secure. God does not lie. However, possession of the land was always conditioned upon faith.

For instance, God was ready to give Israel the land.

Numb 13:1 (NKJV) And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”

Joshua and Caleb urged Israel to trust in God:

Numb 14:7 (NKJV) and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.
8 “If Yahweh delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’
9 “Only do not rebel against Yahweh, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and Yahweh is with us. Do not fear them.”

Unfortunately, the congregation rebelled and did not trust God, and so the entire generation was sentenced to death.

Numb 14:26 (NKJV) And Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me.
28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says Yahweh, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you:
29 ‘The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
30 ‘Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.

Of the generation that was led out of Egypt, only two people actually inherited the promised land. This does not nullify God’s promise. Remember, God’s promises are only inherited by those who are of faith. Abraham’s descendents are spiritual descendents. The heirs of the promise of the land are those who share Abraham’s faith.

God was faithful, but Israel as a whole was unfaithful. The promised land was to be possessed by faith, not grasped by strength.

This was a lesson that Moses’ generation did not learn. After they failed to trust God in entering the land, Israel foolishly attempted to seize the land by their own military might.

Numb 14:39 (NKJV) Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly.
40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which Yahweh has promised, for we have sinned!”
41 And Moses said, “Now why do you transgress the command of Yahweh? For this will not succeed.
42 “Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for Yahweh is not among you.
43 “For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from Yahweh, Yahweh will not be with you.”
44 But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop; nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of Yahweh nor Moses departed from the camp.
45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.
Israel tried to grasp the land by their own strength, but the land was to be grasped by faith. The Promised Land cannot be possessed by military might.

The Fulfillment of the Promised Land
God led the next generation of Israel into the promised land. Although the conquest was not perfect, Joshua summarizes it this way:

Josh 21:43 (NKJV) So Yahweh gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it.
44 Yahweh gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; Yahweh delivered all their enemies into their hand.
45 Not a word failed of any good thing which Yahweh had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

It is interesting to note that at the time that Joshua wrote this, Israel did not possess all of the promised land, nor had they driven out all of the Canaanites.

At the same time, we must note the comprehensiveness of this passage. “All” is mentioned six times, including the summary: “All came to pass.” How do these two facts fit together?

We need to understand that this passage is written from God’s perspective. From God’s perspective, he had given them the land. Any failure to fully possess the land or drive out the inhabitants was Israel’s fault. God was not at fault. He had given them all the land that he promised. If Israel had been faithful, they would have possessed the land perfectly and kept it forever, just as God promised.

The rest of the OT tells the story of how Israel disobeyed and distrusted God and lost the land. If at any time, Israel would have been faithful to the Lord, they would have possessed the land. Yet, time and time again, they were unfaithful.

NT and the Land
In the OT, “land” is one of the central themes, used 1493 times. However, “land” is used 52 times in the NT, most of which are the gospels and none are the epistles. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is that the land promised to Israel has been universalized into the earth.

The Great Commission
Jesus came to reach the lost sheep of Israel. He labored primarily within the historical boundaries of the Promised Land. At his ascension, Jesus was crowned as King, not just King of Israel, but King of the Universe.

Jesus has authority over not just Israel, but all heaven and earth.

Matt 28:18 (NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Because Jesus now has authority over the entire earth, the nations are to be discipled.

The disciples were still looking for the ethnic kingdom of Israel.

Acts 1:6 (NKJV) Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples were correct in that the kingdom started with Israel. The timing was yet unknown, but the kingdom was going to start in Jerusalem, with three thousand Jews converted at Pentecost. The gospel would then proceed to Judea and Samaria, and eventually encompass the whole world.

The Land vs. The Earth
The promise to obedient children has changed from land to earth.

Exod 20:12 (NKJV) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Deut 5:16 (NKJV) ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Ephe 6:2 (NKJV) “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:
3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

This shows that the promised land has now become the promised earth. Furthermore, Gentiles now get in on the promises through Christ.

Abraham’s Understanding
Abraham understood that he was going to inherit the world:

Roma 4:13 (NKJV) For the promise that he would be the heir of the world {cosmos} was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

God promised Abraham a land, but Abraham understood this to also embrace the entire world.

Abraham and the City
Abraham did not put his hope in the land of Israel, but in the city of God.

Hebr 11:8 (NKJV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

“The city” is what Abraham was waiting for. Indeed, all the OT saints desired a heavenly country, or a city.

Hebr 11:13 (NKJV) 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.
14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
16 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.

Hebr 11:39 (NKJV) And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

“The city” is better than the land of Canaan. It is superior.

The Heavenly Jerusalem
What is this city that the book of Hebrews speaks of?

Hebr 12:22 (NKJV) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Notice this says, “you have come.” This is past tense. We have already come to Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem. So, what is this heavenly Jerusalem?

The author of Hebrews is speaking of the church. The church is “Mount Zion,” “the city of the living God,” and “the heavenly Jerusalem.”

John uses similar language to describe his vision:

Reve 21:9 (NKJV) Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

The church is the bride of Christ, the Lamb’s wife. The church is called “the great city” and “the holy Jerusalem.” Notice also that the church is descending out of heaven from God. As the church grows, she continues to descend from heaven to earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is coming to earth.

Heaven and Earth
The relationship between heaven and earth is one of the keys to understanding the eschatological significance of Jesus and the land of Israel.

The Separation of Heaven and Earth
During the creation week, God blessed all the days of creation except for the second day (Genesis 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 31). God never said, “It was good” about the second day. Why is this? What happened on the second day?

Gene 1:6 (NKJV) Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

On the second day, God separated the heavens from the earth. Why did he not bless this? Because this separation was temporary. God never intended the separation of heaven and earth to be permanent.

He created man to unite heaven and earth, or to bring heaven down to earth. Adam failed in the Garden. Israel failed in the Promised Land. Jesus Christ is now fulfilling this task through the church.

Uniting Heaven and Earth
Paul describes how heaven and earth are going to be united.

Ephe 1:10 (NKJV) that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together {unite, sum up} in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him.

Jesus rules not just over Israel, but over the whole world, and not just over the whole world, but also over the whole universe, and not just over the whole universe, but Jesus is the One who is going to unite the physical universe with heaven, and he will rule over this one realm as its king.

The Lord’s Prayer
In the Lord’s prayer, we learn more about the relationship between heaven and earth.

Matt 6:9 (NKJV) “In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

We learn two things immediately:
1. God dwells in heaven.
2. God’s will is done in heaven.

We learn two more things after a little thought:
3. If God’s will is done in heaven, then God’s name must be hallowed in heaven.
4. If God’s will is done in heaven, then God’s kingdom must be in heaven. Matthew prefers to refer to God’s kingdom as “the kingdom of heaven.”

These four truths are basically synonymous. Where God dwells, his name is going to be hallowed, his kingdom exists, and his will is done. Or, where his will is done, his kingdom exists, his name is hallowed, and he must dwell there.

Notice how Jesus tells us to pray. We don’t have to pray for God to dwell on earth, because his temple is already spread over the earth. Jesus already does dwell through his Spirit in the church throughout the world. However, we are to pray for the other three requests.

2. God’s name to be hallowed on earth.
3. God’s kingdom to come to earth.
4. God’s will to be done on earth.

This is the task of the church. As we preach the gospel through the indwelling Spirit of God, God’s kingdom comes to earth, a little bit at a time. God’s name becomes regarded as holy, a little bit at a time. God’s will is done on earth, a little bit at a time.

This is the coming of the kingdom. The kingdom of God gradually descends from heaven to earth. As heaven and earth become one, the kingdom of Christ encompasses the whole earth.

The was prophesied in the OT.

Psal 72:8 (NKJV) He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.

We have seen a pattern with respect to Jesus, Israel, and the Church.

· The descendents of Abraham are narrowed to Jesus Christ, and then expanded to include both Jews and Gentiles, the church.

· The temple of God narrowed to Jesus Christ, and has now been expanded to include the church throughout the world.

· The land has now been expanded to include the whole earth because Jesus rules not just over Israel, but over heaven and earth.

Next time, we will look at Jesus and the Law of Israel.


Jim said...

Dear Eric,

Just like you to know I really appreciate and enjoy your posts on "Dispensationalism". They benefit me greatly in understanding the real big picture in Scripture. If you ever are considering to put them in book form, I would like to strongly encourage you in this, and please let me know as I certainly will purchase a copy.
May God Bless you and yours richly!
I will be checking in regularly.

Eric Adams said...

Thanks, Jim. I'm actually in the process of editing these essays, along with the audio presentations, and I'm hoping to release them together in the next few weeks. Not a "real" book, but just a Kinko's spiral bound with the mp3's on a CD.