A Biblical View of the “Everlasting Possession” Land Promise

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).

I want to mention again that I am greatly indebted to G.K. Beale and his excellent work, A New Testament Biblical Theology. I am leaning heavily on this work throughout this series and most of the scholarship is credited to him.

It has been my thesis in this series that God's promise of land to His people is intimately bound up in His overall purpose – to be glorified throughout the whole earth. For God to accomplish this primary purpose, He has repeatedly decreed that His people would live among his glory in a localized piece of land and then spread out from there, carrying God's glory to the rest of the world as His image bearers. This was God's commission to Adam (start in the Eden and then fill the earth), to Noah (no centralized beginning since it was right after the flood, but still to multiply and fill the earth), and to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (start in Canaan and then be a blessing to all the nations of the earth). In essence, God has given a local land promise with a view towards globalization in order that He would be glorified to the ends of the earth. Therefore, the “everlasting possession” promise of Canaan has been expanded to cover the entire earth.

I haven't spoken to this yet in this series, but this also aligns with the “already and not yet” fulfillment framework. In this case, the “already” part is the local land promise and the “not yet” is the globalization of that promise. Eden was “already” given to Adam with the final purpose of filling the entire earth (the “not yet”). Canaan was “already” given to the patriarchs and to their descendants, the nation of Israel, also with the purpose of filling the entire earth (again, the “not yet”). This will become important later.

Not only is this globalized view of the everlasting land promise supported by the text surrounding God's commission to Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs, but it is also true for the expectations of national Israel evidenced by the Old Testament and Christianity as given in the New Testament. Further, we will see that the fulfillment of the land promise is inaugurated in Jesus Christ and is consummated in the new creation.

Old Testament Evidence for the Expected Globalization of the Land Promise

Several OT prophecies foretell the expansion of the promised land beyond the borders given to Abram in Genesis 15. Here are two such prophecies:

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.

For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.“ Isaiah 54:2-3

Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells his people to expand their possession and their land without limit to borders or boundaries. He foretells that they will spread out over the earth and their offspring will possess the lands of other nations.

“As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth...

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45

In this passage, Daniel tells King Nebuchadnezzar of the king's dream and then interprets it. In that dream, the kingdom of God is the mountain which filled the whole earth. It is the kingdom that will conquer over all other kingdoms and will never be destroyed. This was the Jewish expectation, that the kingdom of God would not be limited to just the borders of Canaan, but it would extend to the ends of the earth.

What is doubly interesting is that this dream was given at the time of the Babylonian exile, a time where Judah had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar who subsequently exiled many of the Jewish leaders and youth out of their promised land and into Babylon. Yet, the dream wasn't about them going back to their promised land; it was about the whole earth.

Both the Isaiah and Daniel passages tell about the coming expanded kingdom of God which will cover the entire world. This was the Jewish expectation. There are other OT prophecies that describe the expected expansion of Israel's land, but I want to discuss just one other one that has additional significance before moving to the NT evidence.

As a song sung in the land of Judah, Isaiah 26:15 says, “But you have increased the nation, O Lord, you have increased the nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land.” This is clearly a reference back to the commission God gave Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs describing the spread of the nation and God's glory. Special attention should be given to the section directly following this text, Isaiah 26:16-19. This section connects the resurrection of God's people into the new creation with the fulfillment of God's commission. The implication here is that this text suggests that the fulfillment of God's ultimate purpose, to be glorified throughout the whole earth, will be consummated at the time, and possibly even through, the resurrection of people.

New Testament Evidence for the Expected Globalization of the Land Promise

As we move to the New Testament evidence, we should first take note that, outside of a historical reference by Stephen and Paul in Acts (Chapter 7 and 13, respectively), the NT doesn't discuss the localized land promise (the land with regard to Canaan). All explicit references to God's commission in the NT is with regard to the final consummated expanded land promise. What is the significance of this? An argument from silence is difficult to maintain, but, with respect to the consistent promises and purpose God continually reveals and reinforces in the OT, the NT silence is deafening. Let's investigate the NT evidence first and then we can draw some conclusions.

Matthew 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

First, the Greek word Jesus uses here for “earth” is γῆ. In some instances, this word can be translated as “land,” however I believe, as do almost all of the translators, that the word here is properly understood as “earth.” Not only is this the most common understanding of the word (168 out of 250 examples in the ESV), but the times the word is translated as “land” are almost always accompanied with a reference to that specific land (re: Matthew 2:6, 2:20, 2:21, 4:15, 10:15, etc.). Therefore, in this verse Jesus makes no reference to an inheritance of any localized promised land, but instead to the globalized earth. This is their inheritance. This is what they hope for – the whole earth.

Second, Matthew 5:5 is likely a direct reference to Psalm 37:11. Throughout Psalm 37 are phrases about inheriting the land, and a couple of these verses are also given an eschatological context because of the use of the word “forever.” Considering the standard commission God gave in the OT where the eschatological part of the promise is expanded to the entire earth, I believe it is appropriate to view this Psalm and, by implication, this verse in Matthew as a reference to the globalized promise.

Third, the pseudo-bookends* of the Beatitudes have the “blessed” inheriting “the kingdom of heaven.” This is consistent with a consummated, new heavens and earth, end times view. If we understand it this way, that all of these promises are for those in Christ on the last day, then this inheritance of the earth would also be the globalized promised land.

(* I call them “pseudo-bookends” because there is debate on which verse contains the last beatitude. Some say that verse 10 is the last one and 11-12 is an extension of 10. Others say that 11-12 is a separate, and therefore the final, beatitude. Regardless, the promise is similar for both 10 and 11-12 – the “kingdom of heaven” and the “reward” in “heaven” - displaying a consistent view of the rewards in the eschaton.)

Romans 4:13

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Romans 4:13

This is an extremely clear and obvious passage for the expected globalization of the land promise.  Instead of using the Greek word γῆ as Matthew did, Paul uses the word κόσμος. Κόσμος, from which we get our word “cosmos,” means the entire earth and sometimes it even includes the heavens. It doesn't refer to a specific piece of land. Paul likely has in mind OT scripture that alludes to the Abrahamic promise as well (e.g. Psalms 2:8, 72:8, Isaiah 26:19, 27:6, 54:2-3).

Hebrews 11:8-16

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:8-16 (emphasis mine)

In Hebrews 11 we see, again, that the ultimate purpose of the land promise was not for the land of Canaan, for they desired “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” The Jews were not satisfied with Canaan and expected the future universalization of the land promise, “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

Revelation 21:1-22:5

I'm not going to list out the whole passage of Revelation 21:1-22:5, but I recommend you pause and read it. Within this text is a description of the final globalization of the land promise. What was revealed to John follows what was expected. The old heaven and earth pass away and there is a new heaven and a new earth. Additionally, there is a new Eden, Jerusalem, that comes down from God. It will be a “dwelling place” for God, a place for his special presence to reside. However, this time there is no temple, but it is God himself and Christ, the second Adam, who are the temple. It was to this that the OT promises pointed and it was in this that the NT writers placed their hope. Here, the land promise is consummated.

Inauguration and Consummation of the Fulfillment of the Land Promise

“On a conceptual level, since the land promises are fulfilled consummately in the new heavens and earth, and since Jesus's resurrection launched an inception of the new creation (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:17), then it is in Jesus as the bridgehead of the new creation that the land promises also begin realization.” A Biblical New Testament Theology, p.760

Hebrews 1:2, in an allusion to Psalms 2:7-8, says that God “appointed [Christ] as the inheritor of all things, through whom He also made the world.” So it was both through Christ and for Christ that the world was made. This time of inheritance is likely the resurrection, where Christ received his new creation body. Romans 1:4 says that Jesus was “declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead.” At the resurrection, when this declaration was made, Christ inherited all things and was seated (and is still seated!) at the right hand of God ruling over his inheritance (Ephesians 1:20-23).

Those that are in Christ also experience new creation. In Romans 8:18-23, Paul describes the hope and eager anticipation those in Christ have in their future bodily resurrection. Paul also mentions that the Spirit has already given the first fruits of this resurrection, so that those in Christ can already experience the work of the resurrection and new creation in their sanctification even before the final resurrection (re: Ephesians 1:13-14).

It should be stated that this is not merely a “spiritual” fulfillment of the land promise. This is a literal, physical reality. The resurrection body is physical. The new creation is a reality. There are certainly spiritual aspects to this reality, but the fulfillment of this promise is literal in the new heavens and earth, the new Jerusalem, and the resurrected body which will be achieved on the last day when the old heavens and earth passes away.

G.K. Beale writes, “redeemed people do not go to a geographical place to be redeemed; rather, they flee to Christ and God for their salvific restoration.”

Christ's resurrection was the beginning of the new creation. In the “already and not yet” framework, Christ and his resurrection initiates the “already.” Therefore, with regard to the land promise, the “already” has been fulfilled. Because of Christ, we no longer have to look to Canaan for God's glory. We can now look to Christ and to the future new creation. The old land points to the failure of Israel to expand it's land and fill the whole earth with God's glory. The new creation is what fixes this. It has already started in Christ and will be fulfilled on the last day. The promise of Canaan has been expanded, globalized, and universalized just as expected. The “already” fulfillment of this promise was completed in Jesus Christ and will be consummated on the last day when God's glory will fill the earth. “What Israel never achieved, the church in the resurrected Christ has begun to attain and will consummately possess in the future” (A Biblical New Testament Theology, p.766).

Disclaimer: While I have done my best to base my argument solely on Scripture, there are obvious political implications to this view. I want to be clear that, even though I do not believe the Bible supports a contemporary localized land claim for the nation of Israel, this doesn't mean that I believe we should not give political support to the nation of Israel. On the contrary, there are likely many political and socioeconomic reasons for supporting Israel.


This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).


The Land Promise To The Patriarchs

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).

In the previous post in this series we took a look at Noah and how God's purposes in creation and the land promise associated with those purposes were passed on from Adam to Noah. We also saw that, like Adam, Noah and his descendants failed to fulfill these purposes culminating in the events at Babel. Babel was an anti-Eden. Eden's purpose was to glorify God and to act as a starting point for God's glory and his presence to be spread across the whole earth. Babel's humanly self-declared purpose was just the opposite – to glorify man and to stay within the confines of the city. In judgement, God confused their language and spread them across the whole earth.

We also started to recognize a pattern of judgement. It starts with chaos, and then moves to creation, commission, sin, and exile. We will continue to follow this pattern as we look further into the history of land promises in the Bible.

Let's now turn to the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As expected, we see that Adam's commission and its associated promises are passed along to them. We'll start with a discussion on the similarities between Adam and Noah's commission and the one given to the patriarchs, and then we will discuss the differences between the two commissions.

Commission Similarities

Remember, God's ultimate purpose is to be glorified across the entire earth which involves God's blessing upon his servants so they will be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth, subduing it, and ruling over it (Gen. 1:28). This is God's commission to man, what we call the Cultural Mandate. Within that commission is a land promise to man that he will inherit the whole earth. Here is what God says to the patriarchs:

to Abraham

  • “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
  • “That I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly...I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God to you and your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:2,6-8)
  • I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18)

to Isaac

  • “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 26:3-4)
  • “I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.” (Genesis 26:24)

and to Jacob

  • God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” (Genesis 28:3-4)
  • “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:13-14)
  • “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:11-12)

(List from A New Testament Biblical Theology by G.K. Beale, emphasis both his and mine)

Therefore, God gave the same commission to the patriarchs as he did to Adam and Noah, often using the exact same language. He blessed the patriarchs and called them to multiply and fill, subdue, and rule over the earth. The whole earth was to be their inheritance.

Commission Differences

There are also several differences between God's commission to Adam and that given to the patriarchs. First, the commission to the patriarchs now includes a spiritual aspect where they are called to overcome the influence of evil in humanity. This evil in unregenerate hearts wasn't initially present in creation with Adam and it wasn't specifically addressed with Noah. However, Abraham and his descendants were now to “possess the gate of [their] enemies,” fill the earth and be witnesses on God's behalf to fallen humanity. This is significant because God is now including redemption as part of his plan to spread his glory throughout the earth, using Abraham and his descendants to give testimony to God's glory.

Second, God gives promises along with the commands instead of just commands. Whereas Adam was commanded to carry out the commission, God also commands the patriarchs but he adds promises that the commission would be fulfilled in their eschatological seed. Humanity was no longer able to fulfill the commission on their own, but God, in his infinite wisdom, promised that he would enable humanity to do the very thing they could no longer do.

“...the expectations of the original Adamic commission were still in force, though together now with God's promise that he will enable the Abrahamic seed to carry out the commission.” A New Testament Biblical Theology by G.K. Beale

Third, starting with Isaac, God gives assurance that his presence will be with his people. God repeatedly promises, “I am with you.” This assurance was made to give confidence and encouragement to God's people that he would fulfill the commission through them. We will see further importance of God's presence when we look at the land promises to the nation of Israel in a future post in this series.

Fourth, and most pertinent to this series, God promises Abraham and his seed a specific piece of land with specific borders as an everlasting possession (Genesis 15:18-21). Why would God promise this if God's intent was for them to fill and inherit the whole earth? To answer, do you notice a similarity to this with creation and God's covenant with Adam? Eden had specific borders and was to be the starting point of Adam's commission. In the same way, the land of Canaan was to be the starting point, the launching pad, for God's glory to be spread throughout the earth by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. Canaan was to be another Eden and Abraham and his descendants were to be a corporate Adam.

In fact, we see descriptions of Canaan in the Bible that mirror Eden. Not only is Canaan consistently called “a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey,” using imagery that reminds us of the garden (Exodus 3:8, 3:17, 13:5, 33:3 to name just a few), but it is also directly compared to Eden (see Isaiah 51:3, Ezekiel 36:35). God ordains that the fulfillment of his plan of redemption and the spread of his glory would start in Canaan and then expand to the whole world. As we continue this series, we will see that the Israelites understood this and had an expectation of the universalization of the land promise.

In the next part of this series, we will take a brief break from tracing the path of God's land promise to specifically look at the “eternal possession” clause of the land promise given to Abraham and his offspring. This is an important and highly-charged issue, so I will dedicate an entire post to it, giving it the careful attention it deserves.

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).

Mr. Billingsley Goes To Presbytery

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending and participating in Presbytery for the first time. Going in, I had no intentions of writing about it, but my experience was so encouraging, fulfilling, and refreshing that I feel there are some things worth sharing with you.

  1. There are many godly men serving the church. Most of us probably assume this, but not until you are in the corporate presence of these men do you realize the weight of God's sovereignty in drawing together elders for His church and His supplying them with the wisdom, character, and humility required for such a position. These men believe and rely on God's working through the power of prayer, and, even in disagreement, their generosity and graciousness is evident. Across age, race, geographic, and many other differences, Christ has unified his servants through the truth of His gospel. In these men, God was glorified yesterday.
  2. Our form of church government really works. Many churches of all different types are moving towards some type of rule by elders, however there is more to the Presbyterian system than just being “elder ruled.” It also includes the added steps of Presbytery and General Assembly that give the church its greatest protections. That's not to say there aren't problems and faults (it's still being run by sinful and fallible people), but it is the best and, more importantly, most biblical form of church government that we have. Seeing it in action yesterday was an encouragement that the system God has ordained works.
  3. Presbytery is more than just corporate worship and the docket. At Presbytery, these men get the opportunity to worship together - to sing, to be fed and filled with the gospel, and to take the Lord's Supper. Additionally, they have the privilege of caring for the church through discussion, decisions, and resolutions. While that is the main function of Presbytery, it is also an opportunity for elders to fellowship together, build relationships, forge new ones, and even to challenge and have healthy debate with one another. Presbytery starts the moment you get in the car to travel and fellowship with your Christian brothers and it doesn't end until you arrive back home. It is a fulfilling and refreshing time for those involved.
  4. Presbytery cares deeply for all of its local churches. The men at Presbytery love Jesus Christ and love His church. This was evident to me because of the care, attention, and prayer they devoted to individual churches and ministries. There was also a special emphasis on new church plants and excitement for seeing the local bodies grow and mature. For those of you in the PCA (and other similar denominations), please know that it is not just your Session, but also your Presbytery, where the church is praying and caring for you.
  5. I have a newfound sense of honor, respect, and responsibility for the local Session. Our work in the Session is very important. I've known this and have understood the implications of the decisions we make. However, yesterday gave me a fresher and deeper understanding of the responsibility and accountability that we have as a Session. Our decisions don't just impact our local church, but they affect other churches as well. So, while our primary focus is on the specific flock we have been called to shepherd, we also need to take into consideration how our decisions affect other churches and how we are accountable to a larger body. Our accountability doesn't stop at our local church.

All this isn't to say that there aren't tensions, disagreements, or outright conflicts – as I said before, we are sinners, after all – but my observations speak to the bigger picture and purpose of Presbytery that was clearly evident to me yesterday. To you who are local members of a PCA church, be encouraged, strengthened in confidence and assurance, that God is caring for you, not just through your local church, but also on a much larger scale.


The Land Promise To Noah

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).

In the previous post in this series we took a look at Creation, the Cultural Mandate, and the land promise contained within. God blessed Adam, charging him with multiplying and filling the earth, subduing it, and having dominion over it and all of creation. Therefore, the land promise to Adam was that he would be an heir of the whole world. That was his inheritance. We also saw that there was a spiritual aspect to this promise. Adam was the high priest of Eden and the purpose of his calling was to fill the earth with God's glory. The promise was inaugurated as spiritual but would be fulfilled in the physical. However, we saw that Adam failed in his calling. When Adam sinned he could no longer effectively complete the Cultural Mandate. That left us with some questions. Did God then withdraw the land promises? Does the mandate even exist anymore? Let's continue with history to see what happened, looking next to Noah.


In God's interaction with Noah, we find out that the Cultural Mandate does indeed still exist. The flood story is a story of un-creation and re-creation - a restart, or “reboot”, if you will (Reed Dunn briefly describes it here). Once the flood waters recede, God makes a covenant with Noah, reiterating to Noah the same desire he expressed to Adam and using some of the exact same language.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth....And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.” (Gen. 9:1,7)

In this sense, Noah is another Adam. Like Adam, Noah was commanded to be fruitful and multiply throughout the whole earth. God was confirming that Noah and his descendants' inheritance would be all of the earth. What is interesting here is that even though the perfect and final physical fulfillment of expanding Eden's borders, and God's presence, to every square inch of the whole earth was not possible for Noah, God still gave Noah the spiritual promises and direction of the Cultural Mandate. Unlike pre-fall Adam, Noah and his family were now sinful, so how could this be accomplished? If Noah couldn't ultimately fulfill it, then why would God still call him to do it? There are likely several reasons, but I think the primary one is faith that glorifies God. God called Noah to have faith in him, that one day God would not only provide a way to fulfill this commission, but that God would actually accomplish it as well. Through God's sovereign purposes, Noah would reflect God and be an actor in the process of God's redemptive and restorative plan. God used Noah as his means to work toward his end and Noah responded to God's call by faith (Hebrews 11:7). In other words, even though Noah couldn't be in the actual presence of God, Noah could still reflect and propagate God's glory, but he could only do so because of the faith that God gave him. It was because of faith in God and his promises that Noah could continue in the fulfillment of God's commission.


Unfortunately, Noah was still a sinner and we see that Noah's faith did not carry on to all his descendants, leading to another great failure of man. In Genesis 11, people came together to build a tower at Babel declaring a two-fold intent: to make a name for themselves and to keep from being dispersed over the earth (Gen. 11:4). Both of these purposes are in direct contradiction to the commission given to Noah. First, in desiring to make a name for themselves, they became idolaters just like Adam. Their desire was for their own glory and not God's. Second, instead of filling the whole earth as God desired, they rebelled and wanted to stay together. Some commentators believe that the people of Babel didn't want to be spread over the earth out of a fear for their physical safety. At that time, there was great safety in grouping together and living within large city walls, outside of which there is chaos, danger, and death. Whether this is the case or not, the people of Babel clearly did not have faith in God or desire to obey his commands. Because of this, God forced them to spread over the earth, confusing their language so they could not gather back together against his will.

God promised Noah and his descendants the whole earth, but instead the self-centered people of Babel desired only a small portion of the earth that they could safely hole up in and call their very own. They limited themselves by building a city (likely with large city walls), declaring borders around the land, and confining themselves to those borders. They had no desire to fulfill God's commission and spread God's glory.

Pattern of Judgment

We can start to see a pattern emerging. In Beale's A New Testament Biblical Theology, he identifies this pattern as “(1) cosmic chaos followed by (2) new creation, (3) commission of kingship for divine glory, (4) sinful fall, and (5) exile.”

Adam fits the pattern:

  1. the chaos of earth and water,
  2. creation,
  3. God gives Adam the Cultural Mandate,
  4. Adam sins, and
  5. judgment and Adam's exile from Eden.

And for Noah:

  1. the chaos of earth and water in the flood,
  2. another creation,
  3. God's covenant with Noah reiterating Adam's commission,
  4. the sin of Noah and his descendants, and
  5. judgment and exile throughout the earth at Babel.

The land promise is tied up in this pattern as well. The land promise is given in the commission of kingship for divine glory, but then sin occurs and an exile from the land is required. We will continue to follow this pattern through the next few series posts covering the passing on of God's commission in creation to the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and to the nation of Israel. We will see plenty of similarities to Adam and Noah's calling, but we will also investigate some differences.

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).


The Land Promise In Creation

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).

What does the Bible say about promises of land? Does God promise land to anyone? Are there specific promises to the nation of Israel? What do the promises of land really mean? In this series we're going to take a wide angle view of the subject through the lens of biblical theology, starting at the beginning with the land promise in Creation.

In creation, God created the heavens and the earth, and on the earth God set aside a small portion of land for Eden. God gave it specific borders and a specific purpose. In a very real sense, Eden was not just a garden but was also a temple, a "holy of holies" if you will, for the whole earth because this is where God would locate his presence and commune with his creation. Then, God created Adam to reside in the garden and take care of it. With respect to the temple theme, Adam was the high priest living within Eden and having perfect communion with God. But God's desire wasn't for Adam to be inactive. God gave Adam the "Cultural Mandate" (Genesis 1:26-28). God blessed Adam and gave him the job of filling the earth, subduing it, and having dominion over it.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Gen. 1:28)

This was God's promise of land to Adam in creation; the whole earth was his inheritance. The important thing to note here is that God didn't intend for Adam to fulfill this directive by leaving Eden. Instead, he wanted Adam to expand the borders of Eden, to spread Eden, to take Eden to the rest of the world. Therefore, Adam was not to leave his land, but, as the divine image-bearer, to grow his land and fill the earth with God's glory, the glory that was already present in Eden.

So, what happened? Simply put, Adam failed in his mission. Adam did not rule well, failing to have dominion over the satanic snake and allowing it to rule and subdue him instead. Adam became an idolater, shifting his allegiance from God to himself (and the serpent) by deciding that he wanted to follow his own will and not the will of his creator. In doing so, he no longer reflected the image of God; he reflected the image of the serpent. In this, Adam disobeyed and had to be removed from the garden and the very presence of God. This effectively eliminated any chance for Adam to fulfill the cultural mandate because he was no longer able to be in Eden to expand it. In fact, the very object that Adam was supposed to subdue, the earth, ended up becoming his curse. He would toil upon the earth in work and pain, returning to the earth as dust at the end of his life (Gen. 3:17-19). Adam's ultimate punishment, death itself, showed that he would not conquer the land but the land would conquer him.

This is the beginning of the primary story of history. Adam was given the cultural mandate but he sinned and failed to fulfill it. Does this mean that the cultural mandate no longer exists? Did God repeal it and withdraw the land promises contained within it? Well, just to give you a hint, this would be a very short series if the answer was yes. But God, in his infinite wisdom and grace, has set about restoring humanity and ordaining the events in history that would ultimately fulfill his original mandate. The remaining posts in this series will trace this story of redemption and restoration.

Bibliographical Note: I'm currently reading the fantastic A New Testament Biblical Theology by G.K. Beale and will be leaning heavily on it throughout this series.

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).

What’s In A Name?

Rose from the Garden of Gethsemane in JerusalemConsidering the difficulty I've had in coming up with a name for this blog, one might think that I should stop before I get started. But this is not the first time I have had this problem. Every now and then in my business we have to come up with a name for a new store or website. The pragmatic engineering side of me says that, if we are going to sell widgets, then we should name the store Widgets and the website Simple, right? Yes, it's a little too simple, which would make me a marketing firm's worst client.

If the issue is creativity, then I plead guilty. Luckily (I mean, by divine providence), God gave me a spouse with ultra-creativity so that our girls would not be named #1, #2, and #3. We had several years to think about names; we drew from family names; and we relied on my wife to put on the finishing touches. Voila! They were named. However, beyond the fact that our girls' names have some sort of family connection, there was no meaning to them. We just liked them. Sure, everyone looks up the meaning of a name, but most of the time Westerners pick a name they like, then afterwards go look up the meaning in a baby name book to make sure it doesn't mean "harbinger of doom." (By the way, have you ever seen a negative meaning to a name? That wouldn't sell many books now, would it?) Westerners almost never really come up with a meaning and then craft the name from it. If we honestly did that, then our first child's name would mean "beautiful one," the second "selfish one," and the third "destructive one" as the reality of our human condition sank in.

However, opposite to the naming of our progeny, I already know the essence of this blog. It's subject, it's topics, it's core have not been elusive. This blog will be a reflection of my reading, thinking, and, ultimately, learning. I am fascinated with apologetics, especially those subjects surrounding the reliability of the new testament documents and the historical truth of Christ's resurrection. Being an engineer, I am also intrigued with science. Studying the world that God has created continues to amaze me. How God's power, brilliance, and creativity are all on display. I enjoy theology in both who God is and how he deals with his covenant people and the rest of the world. The tension between biblical and systematic is a wonderful challenge to me. Finally, what wraps all of these subjects together is my commitment to in-depth study of God's Word. This is the source of my desire to write and the table from which I am fed.

How can I fit each of these subjects into one name? Is it even possible? “Seeking Truth, Seeking God” was one of the first ideas. It is general enough to fit just about everything in, however it has one major problem: it's way too corny. Second was “Believing In The Resurrection.” Again, that covers a lot of topics and is central to my thinking and living. I liked this one, and still do, but it's not very titleific (new word!). It's too long and doesn't really roll off the tongue. After a few other ideas, I've finally landed on “Grafted In.”

"Grafted In" may not perfectly encompass every topic I enjoy writing about, however it does describe the background from which I write. I have been grafted in to God's covenant people. I have been adopted into his family, an heir of his promises and a recipient of his love. This covers the person of God, the story of God, my place in God, my motivation to show reasons for God, and my desire to know more about God. It's a historical story. It's a true story.

Juliet's view is that a name is arbitrary and meaningless. She loved Romeo regardless of his last name, for a name does not make up the essence of an object – that is left up to the object alone. As true as that may ring, unfortunately it didn't work out that way for her. The names of Montague and Capulet carried too much weight and that weight eventually crushed the lovers. I hope I have reached a middle ground between Juliet's view and the reality of the world. I hope “Grafted In” would be a name that initially draws people in and piques their interest, but the content, the core itself, would be the thing that continues to bring them back. Hopefully it won't get crushed in the process!

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