The land promise given to Abraham, and his not possessing the land in his lifetime, is cited in the NT as a proof of the resurrection, the hope of the Christian, and great promise of the gospel. [Acts 7:5; Hebrews 11:13]
The prelude to the land promise, and its foundation, is the history in the early chapters of Genesis, and the story of the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden, where they had access to the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Throughout the Bible, the land promise, the covenant God made with Abraham, has a profound spiritual significance. It is connected with true religion, and reconciliation to God, and with the paradise man enjoyed in Eden.
Isaiah said that God will comfort Zion, and her "waste places," and her wilderness will become like Eden. The "Zion" of the prophecy is not ethnic Jews, and the "wilderness" is not the territory of Palestine, but viewed from a Christian perspective, this prophecy applies to the church, as in Hebrews 12:22-23, Mount Zion is identified with the church.
For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
"Comfort" alludes to the holy Spirit, called the "Comforter" by Jesus in the NT. Isaiah's prophecy implies the saints inhabit a land which is called a "wilderness," but that this territory will flourish, and become like Eden.
The "waste places," and the "wilderness" are not literal desert areas, as the saints are spread amongst all nations. But Paul showed in 1 Cor. 10, that the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness after they came out of Egypt was typical of the Christian life.
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
I suggest the "waste places" are symbolic of the barren and unfruitful interpretations of scripture, that many Christians have followed. Two examples are the theories of preterism and dispensationalism, which are both seriously flawed, as they deny that prophecy applies to the church today.
Ezekiel also described a desolate land becoming "like the garden of Eden."
And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
I suggest that the confusion that abounds about the Bible, and the gospel, is one of the ways this prophecy is fulfilled. The low state of the church, and the fact that Christians are scattered in tens of thousands of sects and denominations, are examples of "desolation." But according to Ezekiel, things will change for the better. To believers, the Bible will become their Garden of Eden, instead of a wilderness. It is the scriptures they will find the tree of life revealed.
The prophet Joel also mentioned the garden of Eden, in his description of the locusts. This was the figure under which he pictured Christianity. The metaphor of a plague of locusts seems to originate in an expression used in the report of the spies who brought back a report on the land of Canaan; they viewed themselves as "grasshoppers" in comparison to the men of the land. [Numbers 13:33] And similarly, Christians in an intermediate state, who dwell in a spiritual wilderness, are represented by locusts. But before them is the prospect of entering a Garden of Eden, a paradise, which is represented also by the promised land. These are figures of the "rest" that is obtained by faith in Christ.
In Revelation 12:6 and 14, the woman representing the church is pictured fleeing to a wilderness. It is not a literal wilderness, as it is a place where she is "fed" and "nourished." It is a metaphor, representing the scriptures.
In both the OT and the NT, there are prophecies that allude to the two trees that were in the Garden of Eden: Zechariah 4:3, and Revelation 11:4. They are identified as olive trees. In John 5:39 and 15:26, the scriptures, and the Spirit of God, are two things that testify of Jesus, and one who testifies is a "witness." This interprets the symbolism of the two trees.
Other scriptures speak of mystical rivers, like the ones described in Genesis, that went forth from Eden. In Ezekiel 47:1-12 and in Joel 3:18 the river flows from the temple. The spring at the base of the temple, called Gihon, which is the name of one of the rivers in Eden.
Isaiah 33:21 said there would be no "galley with oars" or "gallant ship" on the rivers at Jerusalem, indicating these rivers are figurative. They connect the promised land with Eden and man's spiritual reconciliation to God. Zechariah said the waters flowing from Jerusalem are "living waters."
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
The "living water" of prophecy was identified with the holy Spirit by John.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
The last chapter of the Bible describes the spiritual river, called
pure river of water of life," which alludes to the river in the Garden
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
The curse, introduced in the story of the Garden of Eden, is removed.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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