Our reflection on the elements of fulfillment in biblical prophecy would not be complete without bringing into proper focus the role land promises form in the biblical narrative. The land, earth, or world, are terms used to designate the dwelling place of God’s people. Again one is faced with the indisputable fact that the Bible deals with two worlds, earths, or lands – depending on which Israel is being examined.
Abraham’s temporal seed was given a land promise, that was fulfilled in their possession of Canaan. Some deny that temporal Israel inherited all the land promised them in order to have a complete fulfillment of this promise at some future time. But the Scriptural narrative affirms that they received it all (Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14). Possession of the “larger land of Canaan” is sometimes questioned, but David recovered “his border at the river Euphrates” (2 Samuel 8:31); and Solomon reigned over all from the land of the Philistines, unto the border of Egypt (1 Kings 4:21); so evidently if David recovered it and Solomon reigned over it, Israel possessed it.
The controversy, of course, centers in the land promises given during and after Babylonian captivity, which assumes an eternal possession of the land. But the problem has been in our failure to realize what land, or world, is under consideration in such passages. Remember, there are two Israels involved in God’s plan, so the question is, To which Israel were these land promises given? Can one insist on giving spiritual Israel a physical land, or must one make the land correspond to the nature of the Israel that is to receive it?
For example, the tabernacle promise in Amos 9:11-12 was confirmed in Acts 15:13-19 as having its fulfillment spiritually under the gospel. Why isn’t the same true of the land promises? It is the writer’s belief that it is, for in the same chapter of Amos, chapter 9:15, it is also stated, “I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God.”
The land to be received would be just as spiritual as the tabernacle, the city, the throne, the temple, or the people involved in it. Canaan was a type of this land to come, just as David was a type of Christ, or old Jerusalem was typical of the New Jerusalem.
The residence of God’s people today is in the new earth promised, which is just as spiritual as everything that belongs in it. Of this earth and this inheritance, Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:5:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
In connection with the prophecy of Amos 9:15, Christ said:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
The clause, “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” is a fulfillment of Amos 9:15. Christians are the true seed of Abraham, and they are planted in Christ Jesus. They have citizenship in a kingdom that cannot be moved. Concerning this spiritual seed Paul said:
“For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13).
What world was promised to Abraham and his seed? Not the one through the law (Canaan), but the one through the gospel (Hebrews 12:28; Ephesians 3:21). Our next blog series will develop these ‘two worlds’ more fully.
This series has sought to show the essential difference between the two states of the law and reality. The law was a system of temporal types, shadows or patterns of things to come. Reality is the spiritual state of those things as typified under the law. Under truth, there is a complete and full restitution of all things spoken by the prophets of God, and witnessed by the law (Acts 3:21). Beyond this one cannot go, nor from this can there be a return or departure. All saints stand complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10), and are made free in the truth (John 8:32; Galatians 5:1).
Abraham had two sons, and the difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between the old and the new economies. The spiritual principle of interpretation receives its support in Isaac, just as the literal or reality principle inheres within Ishmael, and cannot be applied to Isaac. “We are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”
Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll examine the nature of Land as depicted in biblical prophecy.