In the land promises made to Abraham, there is a strong connection with the gospel, and the promise that in his seed, all nations will be blessed. Paul showed that the "seed" refers to Christ. [Galatians 3:16]
Paul also said, the chief benefit of being Jewish, was not that they possessed a land, but that they received the oracles of God. [Romans 3:2]
Jesus said, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" [Mark 8:36]
Alexander the Great conquered much of what was then the civilized world, but died when he was only 33 years old.
What benefit is there, then, in possessing the land that was promised to Israel? It was there that Jesus conducted his ministry. Its history is recorded in the OT. Many of the prophecies were written there, and others are written about it. But was the land in those promises literal? Or does the land stand as a figure representing the eternal "rest" that the saints inherit? To those who overcome, Jesus promised that they will inherit "all things."
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Maybe this includes other places in the universe. The land would
be only a very small part of it.
In the prophecies, there are references to mountains, and hills, and valleys, and rivers, and cities. In prophecy, a mountain seems to represent a revelation, or a promise, or a covenant. The Olivet Discourse of Jesus, for example, is likely represented by the mount of Olives, in the prophecy of Zechariah 14. And Paul refers to Sinai as symbolic of the Mosaic legislation, in Galatians 4:24-25. The Sermon on the Mount is pictured by the mountain where it was given, which is unnamed, but is included among the "mountains of Israel."
This explains the symbolic meaning of mountains in prophecy. The kingdom of God is represented by the mountain that grows to fill the earth, since it is a revelation, and a promise, and a prophecy. And the "mountain of the Lord's house" in Isaiah 2:2 is established in the highest place, since it is administered from heaven, where Jesus is seated in the Father's throne.
Hills can be viewed as representing the less prominent revelations, that are included in scripture, as well as the insights that every Christian receives.
Rivers such as the "rivers of living waters" flowing from Jerusalem in Zechariah's prophecy are explained by Jesus [John 7:38]; he spoke of "living waters" as symbolic of the spirit of God.
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 "Jerusalem" in Zechariah's prophecy must represent the heavenly one, as the spirit is given to the church. Summer and winter are also symbolic; the "summer" is the period before the "harvest" of the saints; the "winter" is the time that follows. Jesus said:
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
It is best to be ready for the great gathering of the elect that he refers to in the preceding verse.
The seas, in Zechariah's prophecy, were boundaries of the promised land, and in prophecy, the sea may represent the nations, and peoples of the world. [Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:15]
In view of the explanations for "mountains," and "hills" and "rivers" and "seas" offered above, what can be discovered about the meaning of valleys in prophecy? Perhaps, just as a "mountain" in prophecy pictures a prominent revelation, and because valleys are areas from where the earth has been eroded away, and removed, valleys may represent missing parts of the story of God's work in the earth. They could be symbolic of things unknown. There are obviously many things missing in the revelations contained in scripture; for example, the prophecies are given, in most cases, without interpretations. That is the missing part. Prophecies of the OT are often explained as fulfilled in the NT, when additional details are provided.
John the Baptist used the prophecy of Isaiah 40:4, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain" when announcing the ministry of Jesus.
It was Jesus who "filled valleys," by revealing missing information about the plan of God. Many prophecies are fulfilled by his ministry, and by the revelations in the NT.
Mountains that were "made low" in the ministry of Jesus and in the course of the founding of the New Testament church include the old Mosaic administration, the literal temple, and the unique status of ethnic Jews. Now, those who were in Christ were "the circumcision" which was no longer in the letter and in the flesh, but in the spirit. [Romans 2:29, Philippians 3:3]
Possession of the land is a great metaphor; while the land in the OT
literal, there is a spiritual meaning to the land promises; the
of the land has to do with the church's role as "the pillar and ground
the truth." [1 Timothy
How is faith connected with land? It was because he did not receive the land, that Abraham understood he would be raised from the dead. He believed and hoped that he would be raised again. This is the same hope we have, and it has to do with the fact that Abraham did not receive or possess the promised land in his lifetime.
Abraham purchased the piece of land where he buried his wife, [Genesis 23:1-20] and where he was buried, and where later, the remains of Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob his wife Leah were buried. [Genesis 49:29-32] The bones of Joseph were carried out from Egypt, to be buried in the promised land, at Shechem. [Joshua 24:32] So for them, the promised land was a burial place. They died, still hoping to receive the promises given to them.
The promised land is a type of a spiritual land. It represents the promises of God; it is upon those promises that the heavenly Jerusalem is built. Abraham sought not just an earthly inheritance, but a heavenly one, and immortality.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
Jerusalem was built upon mountains, and surrounded by mountains. [Psalm 125:2] Likewise, the heavenly Jerusalem is built upon invisible, metaphorical mountains, which are the promises of God in the scriptures. Our hope is to be included in the holy city, that comes down from heaven, and so our inheritance is built on the promises of God that are given to us. These are represented by the "mountains" and hills of Israel, in several prophecies.
Ezekiel said the "mountains of Israel," previously "taken up in the lips of talkers," and "an infamy of the people" [Ezekiel 36:3] are to "shoot forth branches," and "yield fruit to my people of Israel." [vs. 8] They are to "increase and bring fruit." [vs. 11] "I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen." [vs. 30]
I suggest, this prophecy is not referring to the hills of Palestine becoming fertile, but the prophecies of the scripture being understood, and becoming fruitful, and coming to pass! The words of God are represented by the hills and mountains of Israel, in Ezekiel's prophecy.
The saying of Jesus, "it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem," [Luke 13:33] is also true of the promised land. No prophet perished outside the promised land, as Jerusalem is located in the promised land. Jerusalem and the land are both metaphorical. Jerusalem refers to the holy city of the saints of all ages, and the promised land represents the promises made to them.
As the earthly Jerusalem is built on the mountains of Israel, those in the heavenly Jerusalem build upon the promises of God, and the word of God. The foundation of the holy city is the hope of the gospel, that in Abraham's seed, all nations will be blessed.
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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