How are Old Testament land promises fulfilled? Dr. John Currid discusses land motifs in the Bible and how they ultimately point believers to the promised land of heaven.
So there’s there’s been a great theological question, and that is how do the land promises given to Abraham and the patriarchs and to Israel—how do they apply to a Christian? How do they apply to us who are New Testament believers after the coming of Christ? I’m going to come at this in a little different way, so just just stick with me.
Land Motifs in the Bible
There’s an interesting motif in the Bible of land being very important to the people of God. I’m doing a commentary on the book of Joshua for Eerdmans and in Joshua chapter three, and throughout the Book of Joshua, we see that land—that very word, eretz, or “land” is used over 70 times in the book. It’s the central idea and theme of the book of Joshua. And what we see in Joshua is God dividing the waters of the Jordan and bringing his people in to is to the promised land on dry land through through the Jordan River. Now, what’s interesting about that? This is a motif that’s found throughout the entire Bible. So if you go back to Genesis chapter one, you’ll see that the whole Earth is covered with water. What does God do? He divides those waters, brings forth dry land, puts his people on there, and gives supplies them with what they need.
That repeats again in Genesis seven and eight, where there’s a flood that covers the entire earth. What does God do? Divides the water, springs forth, dry land for Noah and his family and supplies them all their needs. So we’re seeing kind of a recreation account there with Noah. And we see in Genesis chapter nine, in fact, that Noah gets the same cultural mandate that Adam preached. Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Well, that’s not the last time we see it, because when you go to the book of Exodus—Exodus chapter 14—what do you see? God bringing His people out of the land of death and darkness, which is Egypt. He divides the Red Sea, brings forth the dry land, brings his people out. Where is he taking them? To the promised land, to the new Garden of Eden. And then, of course, we go to the book of Joshua, where after the people wander in the wilderness for 40 years, that he divides the waters, brings forth his people through the dry land into into the promised land.
The Promised Land
On the banks of the stormy Jordan, I look across as a believer, waiting for that heavenly land to come.Now, that whole motif or idea continues even further, and one that it’s not often studied is Second Kings chapter two, which is the whole story of the translation of Elijah into heaven. What we see is Elijah and Elisha come to the city of Bethel and then the God tells them to leave Bethel, go down to Jericho, and from Jericho go to the Jordan River. And Elijah does something striking. He takes his cloak, touches the Jordan River. It divides, and they walk through on dry land to go into Transjordan, the other side of the Jordan River. What happens? The chariots of God come and they take Elijah up into heaven. Now, what’s really interesting about this is that it’s to remind us of Israel’s march to the Promised Land, because Israel came to Transjordan, crossed through the Jordan River, went to Jericho, and then they went up to Bethel. And so Elijah is doing the exact opposite. He’s going back from Bethel to Jericho through the Jordan into Transjordan and then is translated into heaven.
Now, what’s the whole point of that? Well, the whole point is this: Israel went through the waters and the dry land into the temporal earthly land of promise. Elijah goes down through the Jordan River on dry land, into Transjordan, to go to the heavenly land of promise. See, one’s temporal, one’s heavenly. In fact, Peter tells us that what awaits us is an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and will never fade away reserved in heaven for you. That’s the true land—it’s there. So on the banks of the stormy Jordan, I look across as a believer, waiting for that heavenly land to come.