In my last article, I looked at what I believe is a healthy and Biblical understanding of the temple of God. My main thesis was that, in the new covenant, God is not so much interested in currently seeing another temple built of brick and stone. Rather, God’s Son incarnate was the great temple which housed the glory of God (John 2:19-22). And not only that, but God is now ultimately dedicated to the temple of His people being constructed as a beautiful masterpiece in which He could dwell by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5).
No doubt the topic of the temple brings much debate with it. Yet, there is one that might cause even more debate – Who does the land of Israel belong to? This question is usually answered in one of two ways: 1) Jews or 2) Palestinians. And you might find someone every once in a while claiming it should be for both.
In Genesis 15:7, the LORD promised ‘this land’ to Abram [his name later changed to Abraham] as part of the covenant ceremony. And only a few verses later, He promises it ‘to your offspring’ (Genesis 15:18). Obviously, the land referred to in the passage is the land of Canaan. And because God promised it to Abraham and his descendants, it thus became known as the promised land.
In actuality, God had already promised the land of Canaan to Abraham before the actual covenant ceremony:
The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)
The promise of the land would be initially fulfilled 400 years later as the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River and began to conquer the land of Canaan, as described in the book of Joshua. And it would be David who would fully expand and establish the borders of the people of Israel, this being described in the first half of 2 Samuel.
As I acknowledged in my last article, many things in the Old Testament foreshadow a greater fulfillment to come in Christ and the new covenant. Or, as I also stated, it is the type that awaits the anti-type. Thus, as I recapped earlier, the temple in the Old Testament pointed to the greater temple of Christ and His body. Consequently, in regards to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, I am convinced that it also pointed to and foreshadowed something greater to come in the new covenant.
So, what is that greater land now promised to the descendants of Abraham? I believe is the whole earth! The true descendants of Abraham, those Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Christ, are now promised the earth, as Jesus announced in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
More than likely, Jesus was referring back to Psalm 37:11, which said:
But the meek shall inherit the land.
Interestingly enough, Jesus took something from the context of the Old Testament that spoke about ‘the land’ and expanded the definition to ‘the earth’. The Greek word used in Matthew 5:5 is gē, which is usually translated as ‘earth’ (e.g., see Matthew 5:13; 5:18; Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:10; etc). And, considering Jesus’ statement, I believe it is God’s desire to give His Bride the whole earth. It is the poor in spirit that gain the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3); it is those who truly mourn over their sin that are comforted (Matthew 5:4); and it is the meek that receive the gift of the earth (Matthew 5:5); and, in Jesus’ discourse known as the Beatitudes, the blessings continue for those who are truly God’s (see Matthew 5:6-11).
To continue to see this great expansion in the promise of land for the people of God, we can consider John’s words near the end of his great vision:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:1-3)
Here we see the Bride, the people of God, inheriting a new heaven and new earth. And interestingly enough, the Greek word John used for ‘earth’ in Revelation 21:1 is also gē, as found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Just as God has always wanted a temple in which to dwell, God has also always wanted a land to give His people. And as we saw the greater temple of God being that of His Son and the body of Christ, I also believe God’s ultimate heart in the new covenant is not to grant His people a plot of land in the middle-east, but rather give them the greater gift of the whole earth. In the end, the land of Israel/Palestine pointed to the greater promised land of the new earth.
Many will point out that, in Genesis 17:8, God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham as an ‘everlasting covenant’. Thus, the land still belongs to the Jews. But, consider this: God also spoke to Abraham that circumcision was to be an ‘everlasting covenant’ for his descendants (see Genesis 17:13). But we have come to see through the New Testament that circumcision is really about being circumcised in heart (see Romans 2:28-29). It’s not that God has changed His mind about circumcision being part of an everlasting covenant. However, that everlasting covenant is now fulfilled in a much greater way through circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God!
Thus, I believe the same stands true in regards to God’s everlasting covenant about the land promised to Abraham. This is not a political or national question. This still remains a Biblical question. God is maintaining His faithfulness to His covenant. Yet, the promise is to be fulfilled in a far greater way than Abraham could have imagined. It was beyond all that he could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). The new covenant in Christ was ‘enacted on better promises’ (Hebrews 8:6). And one of those better promises is that God is now going to give His Bride a new heaven and new earth. Thus, God has kept His word to both Abraham and us! And, with Jesus, we cry, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’