“The promised rest, symbolized by the land, was never really enjoyed in the Old Testament, at least not for long. The rest joyfully proclaimed by Joshua became only a temporary blessing later lost. Thus within the history of
in the Old Testament the original occupation of the land became only an
anticipation of a rest still to be enjoyed. As faith was required then, so
Hebrews declares that now faith in Christ is required to enter God’s rest
(Hebrews 4). This rest is not achievable within the territorial boundaries of
any specific land on earth because it is a blessing associated with a heavenly
country and city, a land and a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:3-5).” Our Lord promised the kingdom of heaven to the “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3, cf. Luke 6:20), and the earth to the “meek” (Matt. 5:5). Concerning the recipients of these heavenly blessings, Brueggemann aptly comments:
“The land will be given not to the tough presuming ones, but to the vulnerable ones with no right to expect it. The vibrations begin about the “meek” inheriting the land, not the strident. This is a discernment that
would no doubt have wished to reject. The world believes that stridency
inherits, but in its vulnerability Israel learns that the meek and not the strident
have the future.” Israel
From the New Covenant perspective, it is clear that God has promised His covenant children the earth as an inheritance, and not just a localized piece of land in
. The scope of
the inheritance of God’s covenant people has been expanded, and indeed, has
acquired a universal character. Jesus evidently applies the Abrahamic covenant,
including the land promise, to the Church by expanding the original promise of Palestine to include the
New Earth (Rev. 21:1). Palestine
The apostle Peter writes, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13).” Peter did not exhort the New Testament believers to anticipate a period of residency in
Jerusalem or ;
he urged them to look for “a new earth,” which is part of the redeemed creation
following the Parousia of Christ. Likewise,
Jesus did not limit the land inheritance to only the Jews, but emphasized that
the “meek” shall “inherit the earth,” regardless of nationality or ethnicity.
“Yet many theologians in the present day continue to interpret the promise of
the land in the old covenant in terms of its shadowy, typological dimensions,
rather than recognizing the greater scope of new covenant fulfillments.” Palestine
Elsewhere, Robertson writes:
“[The] land-possession always fitted within the category of shadows, types and prophecies characteristic of the old covenant in its presentation of redemptive truth. Just as the tabernacle was never intended to be a settled item in the plan of redemption, but rather was designed to point to Christ’s tabernacling among his people (cf. John 1:14), and just as the sacrificial system could never atone for sins, but could only foreshadow the offering of the sacrifice of the Son of God (Heb. 9:23-26), so in a similar manner the patriarch Abraham received the promise of the land but never experienced the blessing of full possession. By this non-possession, the patriarch learned to look forward ‘to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (Heb. 11:10). Abraham and his immediate descendants never returned to the fatherland which they had left, because ‘they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one’ (Heb. 11:15-16).”
The earthly city of
Jerusalem is a type which points
towards the anti-type: the new, heavenly
(Rev. 21:2). As we have seen in the previous chapter, the earthly city of Jerusalem – which is a
symbol of Judaism - is in bondage to the law (Gal. 4:21-31). “But
there is another Jerusalem Jerusalem, a that is above, from which the
enthroned Son of God sends forth his Spirit. Apart from this Jerusalem , none of us would have a mother to
bring us into the realm of God’s redemptive working, for she is the mother of
us all (Gal. 4:26).” Jerusalem
Jerusalem is no longer the city of
promise; it has lost all its significance as the Holy City of God, the city of ’s covenant people.
Just as the patriarchs desired a better, heavenly city (Heb. 11:16), the Church
looks forward to an eschatological, heavenly God . “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is
the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26).” Therefore, according to the New Testament
record, “the historical disobedience of Jewish Israel has shattered the
salvific significance of historical Jerusalem .” Jerusalem
The promises associated with the city of
are still in force today, but the New Testament explains to us that these
promises can no longer be associated with this earthly city. God has now built
a heavenly city; He has redeemed unto Himself a people who shall inherit this
New Jerusalem by faith via the New Covenant administration. Holwerda
“An underlying premise of New Testament teaching is that the promises that once were attached to the earthly Jerusalem are now attached to the heavenly and New Jerusalem. Believers in Christ have been born in
is “our mother.” . . . The New Testament affirms that believers from every
tribe and nation are citizens of Jerusalem
and heirs of its promised salvation. Jerusalem
has become a universal city and, as such, a symbol of the new earth. The
fulfillment of the promise of land is under way, and the meek will inherit the earth.” Jerusalem
The Psalmist proclaimed that “the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. . . . The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever (Ps. 37:11, 29).” Consistent with the Reformed understanding of the Abrahamic land promise, our Lord Jesus applies Psalm 37 to the New Testament Church in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is not spiritualizing away
covenant promise when He applies it to the Church. He is expanding the covenant
to include Gentiles, and widening Israel ’s territorial promise to
encompass the whole of redeemed earth. Israel
The Apostle Paul, likewise, comprehended the land promise to be universal in scope: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:13; emphasis added).” God’s covenant with Abraham, in the light of the New Covenant, has no geographical boundaries.
Jesus and the apostle Paul undoubtedly interpreted the Abrahamic land promise to be universal and cosmological in extent and dimensionality. This inheritance was not to be granted based upon race or nationality, but “through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13) in the Messiah. In the light of New Testament revelation, we understand that Abraham’s children (Gal. 3:6-7) will not only inherit the land in
but the entire cosmos (Rev. 21:1-2). Palestine
The land in
served as a type of the true inheritance of the elect, which is “a better country,
that is, an heavenly (Heb. 11:16).” This land of promise is not limited in its
scope, but includes the renewed Heaven and Earth. This is also the Promised Land which the patriarchs
had looked forward to, which is embraced by faith in the promised Messiah. Palestine
The promises of God to Abraham thus find their glorious fulfillment in the New Testament Church:
“The New Testament has neither forgotten nor rejected the promise of the land. Earthly
has been transcended, but the present location of the city in heaven is viewed
within the continuing history of redemption, which will culminate on the
renewed earth. The heavenly Jerusalem
will descend as the new Jerusalem, but not until its citizens have been
gathered from among the nations of the world. Judging from this perspective of
fulfillment, one may conclude that the original Jerusalem land
of Canaan and the city of were only an
anticipatory fulfillment of God’s promise. As such they function in Scripture
as a sign of the future universal city on the renewed earth, the place where
righteousness dwells.” Jerusalem
Hence, from the New Covenant perspective, the land promise has acquired a universal scope. The meek shall inherit not only the New Earth, but will also be made citizens of the new, heavenly
We have seen in the previous blog posts that the primary premise of dispensational hermeneutics is the assumption that a consistent, literal reading of Scripture will provide us with its intended, authorial meaning. But this principle of hermeneutics is apparently inadequate. The assumption that a literal understanding of Old Testament prophecy is the correct understanding undermines and ignores how New Testament writers interpreted similar passages of the Old Testament.
From a New Covenant perspective, the exegete should employ the principles of interpretation laid out in the New Testament by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Old Testament prophecies cannot be completely understood apart from New Testament revelation. Furthermore, the exegete should not interpret all Old Testament prophecies with a crass, wooden literalism. A more serious blunder would be to impose the erroneous, literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecies upon New Testament Scripture. With progressive revelation, Old Testament typological and shadowy forms become lucid and clear in the New Testament.
In his analysis of Christian Zionism and Dispensationalism, Sizer accurately perceives that the fundamental error of dispensational hermeneutics is its failure to interpret Old Covenant shadows with the light of New Covenant reality. Sizer elucidates:
“Christian Zionism [and Dispensationalism] errs most profoundly because it fails to appreciate the relationship between the Old and New Covenants and the ways in which the latter completes, fulfils and annuls the former. It is fundamental that Christians read the Scriptures with Christian eyes, and that they interpret the Old Covenant in the light of the New Covenant, not the other way round. . . . Under the Old Covenant, revelation from God came often in shadow, image, form and prophecy. In the New Covenant that revelation finds its consummation in reality, substance and fulfillment. The question is not whether the promises of the covenant are to be understood literally or spiritually as Dispensationalists like to stress. It is instead a question of whether they should be understood in terms of Old Covenant shadow or in terms of New Covenant reality. This is the most basic hermeneutical assumption which Christian Zionists consistently fail to acknowledge.”
Rejecting the Dispensationalist’s tendencies of regression to Old Testament types and shadows, Reformed theologians anticipate an inheritance well beyond the
. In the light of New Covenant reality, the
Reformers look forward to a kingdom far more glorious than any Jewish monarchy
in the land
of Palestine . Contrary to the Judaistic
expectation of a reestablished throne of David on earth, the New Testament sees
the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant with Christ ruling on the throne of
David at the right hand of the Father. It is with confidence that Christians
can declare that, “we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of
the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb. 8:1b).” land of Palestine
For a Christian today, the subject of Israelology extends beyond its theological ramifications. A correct perspective of
and its land promise have far greater implications than some might want to
Christian Zionists and those who support their theology of Israel Israel (i.e. Israelology) are inadvertently
directing Jewish eyes to look away from the heavenly realities, and down
towards the physical piece of land in .
Instead of guiding the Israelites to look at the far greater fulfillment of Old
Covenant promises in Christ Jesus and His Church, it is sad that some
well-meaning Christians are in fact misdirecting the Jewish people back to Old
Testament shadowy forms and figures. Surely, Reformed theologians must reject
such a retrogressive interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Palestine
Robertson observes that,
“In the process of redemptive history, a dramatic movement has taken place. The arena of redemption has shifted from type to reality, from shadow to substance. The land which once was the specific place of God’s redemptive work served well in the realm of old covenant forms as a picture of paradise lost and promised. But in the realm of new covenant fulfillments, the land has expanded to encompass the whole world. In this age of fulfillment, a retrogression to the limited forms of the old covenant must be neither expected nor promoted. Reality must not give way to shadow. By claiming the old covenant form of the promise of the land, the Jews of today may be forfeiting its greater new covenant fulfillment. Rather than playing the role of Jacob as heir apparent to the redemptive promises made to Abraham their father, they could be assuming the role of Esau by selling their birthright for a fleshly pot of porridge (Gen. 25:29-34; cf. Heb. 12:16).”
Therefore, if the Jews are to continue with their insistence of a literal fulfillment of the Abrahamic land promise, the tragedy for national Israel today will be the forfeiture of the blessings of the New Covenant for a piece of temporal, earthly inheritance.
 David Holwerda, Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1995), 105.
 W. Brueggemann, The Land (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 39, quoted in Holwerda, Jesus and Israel, 89, n. 7.
 O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 2000), 27.
 O. Palmer Robertson, “A New-Covenant Perspective On the Land,” in The
Land of Promise
( : Apollos, 2000), 125-126. Leicester, England
 Ibid., 138.
 Holwerda, Jesus and
 Ibid., 110.
 Ibid., 111-112.
 Current amillennial thinking has emphasized the earthy nature of the consummative phase of the Kingdom. For example, see Anthony A. Hoekema’s book Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (
MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1979).
 Sizer explains that “Christian Zionism is born out of the conviction that God has a continuing special relationship with, and covenantal purpose for, the Jewish people, apart from the church, and that the Jewish people have a divine right to possess the
This is based on a literal and futurist interpretation of the Bible and the
conviction that Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jewish people are being
fulfilled in the contemporary State of Israel.” See Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?
(Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 20. land of Palestine
 Sizer, An Alternative Theology of the Holy Land, emphasis mine.
 For the profound political implications of Christian Zionism, see Sizer, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon, 206-253.
 Robertson, The
of God, Yesterday, Today and
Tomorrow, 30-31. Israel