In his article "The Promise Of The Land To Israel," John F. Walvoord wrote:
The New Testament comments on this expectation of Abraham in Hebrews 11:8, 9 where it is written: "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." So far, all must agree that a literal land is in view. Amillenarians are quick to point out, however, that verse 10 goes on to say: "For he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Also, in Hebrews 11:16 it adds: "But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city."
Do these allusions to a heavenly city nullify the idea of a literal land? A careful study of this passage will demonstrate that the subject is Abraham's faith. His faith first of all was in regard to the land, and his faith was indicated by his obedience and his sojourning in the land in tents. The same faith which he manifested in God's promise concerning the land is also manifested in Abraham's faith concerning the heavenly city. The land represented God's promise in relation to time, more specifically, the future kingdom of Christ on earth, while the heavenly city has to do with eternity, the New Jerusalem and the new earth. In the case of both, Abraham never possessed in life the fulfillment of the promises and like others he died in faith before the promises were fulfilled. The fact that Abraham believed both the temporal promises of God and the eternal promises of God does not lead to the conclusion that the earthly promise and the heavenly promise are one and the same. It is rather that they require the same attitude of faith. The major emphasis of Scripture, however, is on Abraham's belief in the temporal promises of God and to this the Scriptures constantly refer. The allusions to the eternal state and Abraham's expectation and faith are in fact rare, while the promises relating to possession of the land are one of the major themes of the Old Testament.
Does it make sense? In the resurrection, when Abraham is made immortal in the kingdom of God, as Jesus said, what would he need land for? To raise cattle? To grow grapes for making wine? Why would Abraham hope for a earthly country, and a heavenly one too?
There is nothing said in Genesis about a heavenly country, but the number of his seed was to be as the number of the stars. And Abraham believed God.
And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Why does Hebrews say Abraham sought a heavenly country? Perhaps, because Christ is in heaven!
In the NT, Christ is the place where the angels of God ascend and descend. [John 1:51]
Perhaps the reason the author of Hebrews said Abraham looked for a heavenly country, is because the land of promise is symbolic of life in Christ, and men reconciled God, as in the Garden of Eden. The saints are "in Christ," and Christ's spirit is in them. Their citizenship is in heaven. [Phil. 3:20] He is the "temple" of the holy city. [Rev. 21:22]
Christopher J. H. Wright wrote:
In one sense the land is almost completely absent from the New Testament. The physical territory of Palestine is nowhere referred to with any theological significance in the New Testament. The land as a holy place has ceased to have relevance. The vocabulary of blessing, holiness, promise, gift, inheritance and so on is never used of the territory inhabited by the Jewish people anywhere in the New Testament as it is so frequently in the Old. This is partly because the Christian churches rapidly spread beyond its borders to other lands throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. But much more importantly it is because the holiness of the land, and indeed all its other attributes in the Old Testament thinking, was transferred to Christ himself. The spiritual presence of the living Christ sanctifies any place where believers are present. This transference of the holiness of the land to Christ is well presented by W.D. Davies, who points out how Christianity reacted to all the concrete details of Judaism, including the land, 'in terms of Christ, to whom all places and all space, like all things else, are subordinated. In sum, for the holiness of place, Christianity has fundamentally... substituted the holiness of the Person: it has Christified holy space.' The promise of Jesus to be present wherever his people meet, effectively universalizes the Old Testament promise of God's presence among his people in their land, for now the people of Jesus are everywhere.
From: Old Testament ethics for the people of God by Christopher J. H. Wright [InterVarsity Press, 2004]. See chapter 6, The land and Christian ethics (pp. 182-211) p. 187.
Patrick Fairbairn said in 1852, that even a return of the Jews to Palestine would not help the literalists prove the superiority of a literalist approach to prophecy. He wrote: "Nay, the literal restoration of Israel to the holy land is to be no singular boon for them; the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Elamites, and others, not excepting even Sodom and the cities of the plain, are also to return from their captivity and resume their original position round Israel, (Jer. xlviii. 47, xlix, Ez. xvi.)"
of Scripture: Volume 1 by Patrick Fairbairn Daniels
Even if the Jews returned to Palestine, the literalists still lack a literal Sodom, and Edom, and the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Elamites, the Amalekites, etc.
John F. Walvoord's article "The King Of The
the fact that towns in Palestine had no walls (he wrote this before the
separation barrier) fulfilled Ezekiel 38:11,
of Gog and Magog coming against "a
unwalled villages," and "dwelling without walls,
having neither bars nor gates." Walvoord wrote:
Another important aspect of the prophecy is found in
where it states that the people of Israel will be dwelling "securely,
all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates."
It was customary in ancient times, whenever a city prospered, to build
a wall around it. One can go to ancient lands and see the ruins of
walls around most important cities. They would, at least, have a
fortress with a wall around it to which they could retire if the houses
themselves were scattered and a wall about the houses was
impracticable. In other words, it was customary to build walls about
cities. In our modern day, this custom has been discontinued for the
obvious reason that a wall is no protection against modern warfare.
If one goes to Israel today, though one can see many
being built and marvelous developments taking place, one will not find
a single new city with a wall built around it. They are cities without
walls. How did Ezekiel know that at a future time the war situation
would be such that cities would be built without walls? Of course, the
answer is a simple one. He was guided by the inspiration of God, and it
was not a matter of his own wisdom. But in this scene he is describing
a modern situation, something that could not and would not be true back
in the days of old, before Christ. This detail is very important
because un-walled villages point to Israel's situation today.
In the decade since Walvoord wrote the above, construction began on the 700 km long Israel-West Bank Separation Barrier consisting of concrete walls up to 8 m high in the towns and villages, with sniper towers similar to a prison, and barbed wire fences with roads and trenches in other areas. Construction of the wall has thwarted the interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy proposed by Walvoord, and other dispensationalists. This of course is a great embarrassment for them.
No less an embarrassment is the inconsistency involved in saying that the prophecies speak of a literal Israel, but a symbolic Edom, or Amalek, etc. It seems that prophecy was written in such a way that those who take it literally reach absurd conclusions.
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