From Promised Land to Promised Earth

Jesus doesn’t make up the Beatitudes on the spot. Each one has several Old Testament referents, and have long been part of the Word of God. What he does do, however, is inject more weight into them from a New Covenant/Kingdom of God context, which means greater glory and greater promises. This follows with the general direction of the history of the people of God (and consequently the history of the world): marching on toward ever greater things.

The most obvious example is the one directed toward the meek, which alludes directly to Psalm 37:11.

Psalm: “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

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

But notice the key difference. The “land” has now become the “world.” The potential inheritance has grown.

This is consistant with the rest of the New Testament, as we see hints that the entire earth itself is the new promised land.

Paul says that the promise to Abraham, which in the OT was couched in terms of the “land”, was really that he would be the heir of the world. And we, as his children, have the same inheritance. (Rom. 4:13)

Likewise, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:2, that the saints are to judge the world. That is, to perform kingly duties, to discern between good and evil while partaking of Jesus, the Tree of Life. That is to be expected, since Revelation 5:10 says explicitly that God has made us both kings and priests, for the purpose of ruling on the earth, which you would think is so obvious and plain written, that no Christian would deny the fact. But we Christians are experts at discounting obvious parts of the Bible, and when we do, we’re called a “scholar.”

Here’s another one. When Paul quotes the fifth commandment in Ephesians 6:2 as still applicable to children, he calls it the first commandment with a promise: “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” But here, he’s not talking about the old land of Canaan. Why would the Ephesians care about that? Here, as everywhere else in the New Testament, the promise has expanded, and “land” has become “earth.”

It shouldn’t surprise us that God has made some glorious promises for his people. They are so glorious, so gracious, and so world-changing, that its understandable that we find them hard to believe. For some reason, however, we tend to believe that just the opposite is what God has in store for the world.

Which is a just tad ungrateful. It’s like turning down a filet mignon in favor of finding dinner in the dumpster out back, and thinking you’re doing the cook a favor.

Thanksgiving Psalms and Food

Psalm 147:9

He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. (ESV)

Psalm 136:25

he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 111:5

He provides food for those who fear him.

Psalm 104:14-15

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

Psalm 104:27, talking about all of creation:

These all look to you to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

In fact, just go read Psalm 104 in its entirety. I’ll wait until you are finished.


Jesus is probably pulling from the ideas expressed in these (certainly not exhaustive) Psalms, and in turn from Deuteronomy when he says in Matthew 6:26

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

We are the same as the animals because, like them, we are completely dependent on God. But we are not like them, because we are in the image of God, and are more valuable.

So do not worry. Be thankful, for our Father’s mercy endures forever. Be filled with good things.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Blood of Christ and Abel

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Cor. 15:16,17)(ESV)

Why is this so? Why would the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God lose its efficacy if the Resurrection had not happened? The shedding of blood is the shedding of blood, is it not?

And that is the point.

The writer of Hebrews says that the blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24). Blood pollutes the land and guilt rises up to infect the inhabitants (Deut. 21:1-9), and this is intensified when we consider the blood shed from the first murder. Abel’s blood cries out against the earth itself and against God’s image bearers.

Jesus, God’s perfect image bearer, finally answers the crying out for justice with his own blood and drowns out the noise.

And yet we are left with more innocent blood. The levies of Abel’s blood were simply overwhelmed with the pure blood of Christ. And innocent blood cries out. If anything we are more doomed, and our sentence even greater, for we absorb the guilt brought on by the murder of the Son of God. The sons of Adam are all culpable. We have Christ’s blood on our hands.

Without the Resurrection, this is where are left, still in our sins. End of story.

But there is no gnostic “gospel.”  Christ bodily rose from the dead. The sentence was reversed. Death itself was swallowed up. The blood of Christ still remains sprinkled on the earth, but the song it sings is now a different tune.

Thanks to the Resurrection, the blood crying out for condemnation now cries out for mercy and atonement. Thanks be to God for this wonderful gift.

Citizens in Colonies of Heaven

This is a re-post of a previous article with minor edits. I actually still agree with most of what I wrote 4 years ago, which is weird.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20,21

This passage seems short and simple, but is pregnant with underlying meaning and first century cultural undertones. With our twenty-first century eyes, we typically read this as meaning that our true home is in heaven, and that we should always be longing to return to our true home. Christianity is simply the road-map to get us to the correct destination. All other guides lead to Hell.

But Paul was not a westerner living in the United States, nor were his readers. Nor did they live after the Enlightenment, which loves to force every concept into some sort of dualism. So what meaning could the word “citizenship” have in the time period?

What was the most popular and well-known form of citizenship during the first century, of which Paul himself had attained?

In the Gentile world to which Paul directed his preaching, the power of Rome overshadowed all walks of life, especially in Phillipi, so it is not unreasonable to think that the context here is Roman citizenship. Add the fact that Phillipi was a Roman colony founded by Augustus, planted permanently with Roman military veterans, and was referred to as a “miniature Rome,” and the case stacks up that Paul wrote to a Romanized city filled with Roman citizens.

So what did this citizenship mean? In the rich diversity of the Empire, with it’s sprawling colonies, certainly it did not mean that a Roman citizen longed to return once and for all to the mother city, Rome, and that the ultimate goal of their lives, was to reach that glorious place. A proposal like that sounds silly.

What it did mean, however, was that a citizen could call on the power of Caesar to intervene, as Paul did when he was on trial. It also meant that if there were ever any problems in a colony, or that Caesar’s authority was questioned, that he (or a representative) would come down from Rome (usually at the head of a legion or two) to reestablish Roman rule and authority. Likewise, Roman citizens were to exude Roman values, to essentially carry Rome wherever they went. Leaven for the land.

Here we have a more plausible meaning for the passage. Jesus, the true lord and king of the world, coming to complete the work the church has undertaken since his resurrection, and finally, once and for all, reestablishing the authority of the Father over all of creation. But in the process, the creation itself will be renewed into a “new heavens and new earth”, of which the Spirit was a down payment.

After all, simply “going to heaven when you die”, seeking to escape the good creation of the one true God, would really be no different than the Platonic view of the world, which most pagans held anyway. There’s nothing inherently controversial about that view. But the message that Jesus is Messiah, the lord of all the earth, and to him every knee should bow, including that of Caesar, would turn a few heads, I imagine.

So why do we want to escape an earth that Jesus has in subjection, and will renew (along with our bodies) when he comes again?

The early Christians were not persecuted because they wanted to escape their bodies and leave the world. Who cares if they did that? Good riddance, some would say. They were persecuted because they were odd, peculiar, and stood in direct defiance to Caesar’s authority, claiming another king.

In the same way, our loyalty should not be to any governments of man, nor their agendas of power and death. We tolerate them, and respect their God-given authority, but only as the parodies and shadows they are of the true King. They need to be reminded that they eventually have to report to upper management.

Begin telling people that your allegiance is to another King. That you have a citizenship that trumps your obligations as a citizen of any government on earth. That you reject their claim that there is no authority above them.

You are a citizen of heaven. Act like one.

Thrones of David and Living Stones

Jesus sits on the throne of David, as the King of kings. But we modern Christians forget that there is more than one throne.

David writes in Psalm 122:

Jerusalem— built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David. (Psalm 122:3-5)(ESV)

Who sits on these other thrones?

Who is the Greatest?

In the gospel of Luke, in the context of the last supper, the disciples begin arguing over who will be regarded as the greatest. Who is going to be chief viceroy in the Messiah’s new kingdom?

Jesus responds by talking about the rulers of the Gentiles, and how the disciples should not be like them. He concludes with:

And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29,30)

Matthew records a similar exchange in chapter 19, but including the word “twelve” before “thrones”, giving greater significance to the apostles. This flows into Revelation 21:14, where the apostles are seen as the foundations of the New Jerusalem, the capital city of the new heavens and new earth. Thrones.  Foundations. Living stones, with one cornerstone: Christ.

What’s remarkable is what Jesus does not say during these exchanges. He does not rebuke them saying that his kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. He does not roll his eyes and say “You are thinking too much like first century Jews. The kingdom is purely in the heavenly realm, and is about personal salvation. There aren’t really any rulers in the sense you are thinking about. Read more Plato.”

What does he say? He tells them to be better rulers than the Gentile rulers. To be the greatest ruler in the new kingdom, one would need to be a servant instead. Put another way, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”

But there are more living stones than just the apostles. (1 Pet. 2:5)

More than Just Twelve Thrones

This promise of authority in the new kingdom is not just for the Twelve. 1 Corinthians is packed full of similar language.

Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. (1 Cor. 3:21-23)

Paul rebukes the Corinthians for taking fellow believers to pagan courts. Why does he say this practice is wrong?

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? (1 Cor. 6:2-4)(ESV)

Since Christ has been resurrected and enthroned, things have changed, and the old order has been turned upside down. The church should be acting as if this is true, instead of pretending it isn’t. When the Corinthians brought a fellow brother before a pagan judge, they were pretending that Christ was still in the grave, and that he wasn’t really King of kings and Lord of lords. Because if they really believed that Christ is King, they would know that they should be able to handle such trivial matters themselves.


Because they will help judge the world, and with it, those very same pagan judges.

By going to pagan judges to settle church or “kingdom” matters, they were acting like the Israelites of old, reversing the conquest of the land. Or plundering the temple to pay off foreign kings.

Fellow Heirs

I have explained elsewhere that the promise of Abraham was really for the inheritance of the world, and that through Christ, as the new Israel, we are the recipients of the same promise. The twelve tribes of Israel have now been expanded to include all of the nations of the earth, and the promised land expanded to mean the entire world.

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5)

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:17)

“…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

You have a throne and crown waiting for you.  You are a fellow heir of the King of kings. You are part of his body.  What he possesses, you possess. You have a throne of David waiting for you.

And are you going to be timid? Are you going to act as if you are never going to wear your crown? Are you going to despise your inheritance?