Discussions Relating to Universal Reconciliation > Book of Revelation

The better land

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For me, the understanding of "all in all" is this, when I read His word, I become the words, meaning that I am "all in all".

At any given point in time, the time frame of my life, I am a character in the Bible, I also am everything described in the Bible. When I read the word "stone" I ask myself (examine myself) how am I a stone? Am I a stone that the law is written upon? Am I as stone in a foundation? Am I a stone used by another to cause the death another?

Am I a tree? What kind of tree am I? How am I the ground? Am I just ground that others walk on? or am I ground that is a firm foundation of love?

How am I like Paul? How am I like Babylon? How am I like Lucifer? Even understanding the differences in how Lucifer is described is at any point how I could be. Lucifer who was given a new name "Satan" who is also called the devil "the accuser".

If I do not understand that I can be anything described in the Bible at any given point in my life, I walk away from the mirror and forget who I am.

My understanding of "all in all" is not just a description of the lives of others or a description of other things, it is a description of myself at any given point in time. It has become a mirror to me, and God reveals to me who I was when I made a bad choice and who I was when I made a good choice.

This is what I see will happen on the last day of judgment by God the Father, and we will see (understand) who we had become through sin so that we can see (understand) who we are to become through righteousness.

One of the classic works on the study of the land promise in the light of the New Testament was by W. D. Davies (1911-2001), a Welsh Congregational minister and theologian and a professor at Yorkshire United College, Duke University, Princeton University, and Union Theological Seminary in NY.

W. D. Davies. The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine. University of California Press, 1974.

Davies said Jesus has become the focus of the Old Testament promises; he fulfills the land promise in many ways.

A notable example was when Jesus said to Nathanael that he would see angels ascending and descending on himself, identifying himself with Bethel, perhaps implying that He replaces the land, or at least, fulfills the land promise made to Jacob in Genesis 28. Davies wrote: [Ibid. p. 298.]

The point of John 1:51, in part at least, is that it is no longer the place, Bethel, that is important, but the Person of the Son of Man. It is in his Person that "the house of God and the gate of heaven" are now found. Where the Son of Man is the "heaven will be opened" and the angels will ascend and descend to connect that heaven with earth, that is, in 1:51 Jesus is not to be set over against Jacob or the ladder of his dream, but over against the sanctuary at Bethel itself, which had been a link between heaven and earth and the place of God's habitation on earth. This interpretation has the advantage over many others proposed of relying simply on the Biblical text at Gen. 28. Furthermore, it comports well with the idea of the humanity of Christ as the dwelling place of God with men and as the new temple with which we have already dealt, and especially with the concept of the Logos becoming flesh in 1:14.

Davies summarized the way Jesus 'transformed' traditional Jewish ideas about the land: [Ibid. p. 375.]

In the last resort this study drives us to one point: the person of a Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, who proclaimed the acceptable year of the Lord only to die accursed on a cross and so pollute the land, and by that act and its consequences to shatter the geographic dimension of the religion of his fathers. Like everything else, the land also in the New Testament drives us to ponder the mystery of Jesus, the Christ, who by his cross and resurrection broke not only the bonds of death for early Christians but also the bonds of the land.

In his discussion of the land in John's gospel, Davies wrote: [Ibid. p. 331.]

We need not here examine the question how far the concept of "life," as a symbol of salvation, remained inseverable from the land and how far the land became a secondary element, if at all, in the understanding of "life." What is noteworthy is that in the Fourth Gospel the concept of "life" or "eternal life" assumes a significant role. At no point is it connected with the land in any way. Rather it is always centered in Jesus himself, who in this sense, has become "the sphere" or "space" where life is to be found. True, there is one passage, 5:25 ff, when the life of the Age to Come is apparently conceived within the framework of the traditional eschatology of Judaism.

    25 Truly, truly, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those that hear shall live,
    26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself,
    27 And has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man.
    28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
    29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

    Here John doubtless conceives, in verse 29, of resurrection in the land: compare with Dan. 12:2 (LXX). But the main emphasis in the gospel is that expressed in 11:24 ff where the traditional doctrine is quietly laid aside in favour of a new.

    Jesus said to her [Martha], "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection, and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die."

    The point of reference for understanding life in this world, and in the world to come, is Jesus Christ. Any traditional concepts, geographical and other, governing the understanding of "life" are dwarfed by the centrality of Christ.

Davies showed that in the New Testament, a literal interpretation of the land promise has been eclipsed. However, he may have missed some of the great results and implications of his own thesis. For example, his list of scripture references omits anything from Genesis 3, where we find:

Genesis 3:17
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

If the land represents Jesus, wouldn't this be significant?


Gary M. Burge, a professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, is the author of two books that are relevant to the discussion of the significance of the land promise.

Gary M. Burge. The Bible and the Land. Zondervan, 2009.

On pp. 21-22 Burge wrote:

The land is the cultural stage-setting of the Bible. Biblical stories assume we know something about altars, sheepfolds, cistern water, and the significance if the wind blows west out of the desert. To project European or American notions of farming (seed distribution) or fishing (cast and trammel nets) or travel (at night or day) onto the Bible is to immediately distance oneself from what the Bible may have intended to say.

All literature is born within a cultural landscape. It will pick up themes and images from within that landscape, use them generously, and build a framework from which stories can be told. This is no less true for the Bible. The land and its culture, not merely the history that happened there, are an indispensable part of the biblical story.

I certainly agree with the concept expressed here. God has chosen to reveal himself through the people of Israel, and by his promises to Abraham, where he was promised the land of Canaan. So in the language of the Hebrews, and in the context of the history of Israel, Jesus came and ministered on earth; Paul said, the main benefit in being a Jew was not that they were promised the land of Canaan, but that they received the oracles of God. "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." [Rom. 3:1-3]

Through the oracles of God, and Jesus Christ, we have the hope of eternal life. So of course possessing the word of God is of far more value than possessing a rather small tract of land in Palestine.

Burge was also the author of the following:

Gary M. Burge. Whose land? whose promise?: what Christians are not being told about Israel and the Palestinians. Pilgrim Press, 2003.

On this book, reviewer E. Johnson wrote:

This is a book that you will either love or hate depending on your view of Dispensationalism v. Covenant Theology. Here, Burge--a professor at Wheaton College--shows why Zionism is not biblical, as he utilizes history and the Bible to show his point. The Tim LaHayes of the world will wrench their hands in disgust and say that Burge is missing clear evidence in the Bible regarding the place for the Jews in the end times. Yet many of these hyper-Dispensationalists need to not take their peripheral view of eschatology so seriously. Yes, end times are important, and yes, I think compassion on the Jews is needed. But as Burge points out, what about human rights for everyone? I just finished reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah, and boy, they sure were tough on "God's people" for their sins. I think it is important to show how a person's heritage should not matter since all people are created equal in God's sight, as Paul mentioned in Galatians that there is neither male nor female and neither Jew nor Greek. To classify an entire people as above the moral law and allow their government to persecute another people in the name of biblical presuppositions is immoral and should be condemned. And Burge explains this side very well.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, and to his Father's throne, the territory of Palestine lost its significance; this was pictured by Isaiah's prophecy that "every mountain will be made low," which was taken up by John the Baptist. The "mountains" in the prophecy are God's promises. The promise of literal land to ethnic Jews, descendants of Abraham in the flesh, was "made low." The earthly Jerusalem was no longer the "apple of his eye." [Zech. 2:8] That privilege belonged to the heavenly Jerusalem, the saints.


Another author who has contributed to the discussion of the land promise and its significance for Christians in the present age is O. Palmer Robertson, an American Christian theologian and biblical scholar, and the author of The Christ of the Covenants. He was a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary, Knox Theological Seminary and principal at the African Bible Colleges of Malawi and Uganda.

O. Palmer Robertson. The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. P & R Publishing. 2000.

On p. 13 he wrote:

The possession of the land under the old covenant was not an end in itself, but fit instead among the shadows, types, and prophecies that were 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 was 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 Son of God (Heb. 9:23-26), so in a similar manner Abraham received the promise of the land but never experienced the blessing of its full possession. In this way, the patriarch learned to look forward to "the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10).

Robertson warns, "By claiming the old covenant forms of the promise of the land, the Jews of today may be forfeiting its greater new covenant fulfillment." [p. 20.]

Bob Hayton wrote in a review:

The book shows how the essence of the land promise was spiritual fellowship with God. This is enjoyed by the church today (Matt. 5:5, Rom. 4:13, Eph. 6:3). It argues that the worship and lifestyle of Israel is radically altered with Christ's provision of a better covenant (Heb. 7). It goes on to examine how Scripture defines the people of Israel, and it details how Gentile believers in the church are Abraham's children and heirs, true Jews, yes, even the Israel of God (Gal. 3:26-29, 6:16; Rom. 2:28-29, 4:11-12; Eph. 2:14, 19).

Robertson also wrote: O. Palmer Robertson. Understanding the Land of the Bible: A Biblical-Theological Guide. P & R Publishing, 1996.


Another resource:

Walter Brueggemann. The Land. Augsburg Books, 2002.

Brueggemann is Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, and on the Amazon.com site he is said to be "the world's leading interpreter of the Old Testament."

See a review here.



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