Category: Moses and Christ

Permeating presence

May 3rd, 2012 — 12:46pm

“Just as the presence of the Holy One among the Israelites was to permeate every aspect of their lives, so now this is how it is to be throughout the creation, as groups of followers live the life of the kingdom in their particular places.” (Craig G. Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today, p. 117)

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Ontologically before, historically after

February 17th, 2012 — 2:42pm

“What is ontologically anterior to cosmos and scripture is a particular person, the incarnate Logos, Jesus of Nazareth, who is historically posterior to the cosmic and scriptural orders of which he is the ontological ground. In this way, both cosmos and scripture are construed eschatologically: they can only be accounted for in terms of one who comes after them, a concrete particular who is, in a manner contingent upon the free choice of their Creator, their telos and skopos, the goal and the point aimed at in their coming-to-be.” (David S. Yeago, “Jesus of Nazareth and Cosmic Redemption: The Relevance of St. Maximus the Confessor,” in Modern Theology 12:2, April 1996, p. 184)

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Christ’s and ours

December 8th, 2011 — 4:46pm

Christ’s self-offering for us is not simply the motive of our own self-offering to the Father; His is the self-offering to the Father in which alone ours is acceptably presented and joyfully received.

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Vanhoozer on Wright

April 24th, 2010 — 12:16pm

Here is an important recent contribution to the ongoing discussions of N. T. Wright’s theological project.

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What is Canaan?

March 3rd, 2010 — 11:22am

A question of tremendous significance for our reading and application of the Bible is what the Old Testament “Promised Land” points forward to in the New Covenant era. Canaan was a piece of land (territory) claimed by the covenant Lord Yahweh in a particular period of redemptive history; what is our “Canaan” in the age of the New Covenant? If we don’t answer this question correctly, it’s going to be very hard to sort out how the stories of Abraham, and of Israel under Moses and Joshua and David, are “examples for us” (1 Cor 10:6). A number of options have been proposed:

1. Some would say that “Canaan” represents “heaven” (the state of the redeemed in the afterlife), or perhaps a bit more precisely, the new heavens and new earth to be established at the return of Christ. I think Gareth Crossly has shown as well as anyone the impossibility of this view, biblically considered:

“Heaven will not be a place of fighting, but of eternal rest and blessedness. In a sense it is legitimate to view Canaan as the end of the trials in the wilderness. But a slightly different perspective provides a more satisfactory application. When viewed in the light of all the battles that are recorded in the book of Joshua then entry into Canaan may be better seen as personal conversion – entering into Christ. The battles which occur in Canaan are then seen as typical of spiritual battles in the Christian life. The conquest of Canaan typifies victory over spiritual enemies (2 Cor. 10:3–5; Eph. 6:12). The partial subjugation of the Canaanites typifies the existence of besetting sins which remain unconquered (Heb. 12:1).” (OT Explained and Applied, pp. 186–87)

2. Crossley’s own view, then, is that Canaan represents the Christian life after conversion. But there are strong objections against this view as well. For one thing, it makes Canaan a “type” of Christ: the Israelites’ entering into Canaan foreshadows the individual New Covenant believer’s entering into Christ. For another thing, it makes Israel a “type” of the individual believer in the New Covenant era. Both of these proposed typologies are  problematic; indeed, I would be hard-pressed to think of any biblical evidence to support either one.

3. Still others regard OT Canaan as pointing forward to . . . well, Canaan. The Dispensationalists think that God’s promises regarding the land of Israel will yet have a total literal fulfillment. The literature dismantling this view is too vast even for a footnote here. Two pieces I have found particularly useful are (1) David Holwerda’s essay, “Jesus and the Land: A Question of Time and Place,” in Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? and (2) O. Palmer Robertson’s essay, “The Israel of God: Its Land,” in The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

4. A fourth view, which happens to be my own, is that OT Canaan represents the entire world; the battles for OT Canaan foreshadow the warfare of Messiah’s kingdom after its inauguration. This is supported explicitly by a few New Testament texts: for example, Romans 4:13 indicates that Canaan was a “shadow” of the world; Hebrews 11:10 indicates that Canaan was a “shadow” of the city of God, or what we call the New Jerusalem.

Some would argue that these texts simply take us back to the first option outlined above: the “world” and the “New Jerusalem” in view are the new world and city of God to be revealed at Christ’s second coming. In an ultimate sense, this is true; but again, the OT scriptures represent a long period in which the battle to possess Canaan was just that – a battle – and this cannot point to possession of the world after Christ’s return, because that age will be one without enemies. We find also in New Covenant scripture clear statements that Christ has already been given authority on earth (e.g., Matt 28:18), that He is already heir of the world (e.g., Heb 1:2), and that His saints have already come to the New Jerusalem (Heb 12:22). We cannot, then, entirely defer Christ’s possession of the world and the arrival of the New Jerusalem until after He returns. Until that time, however, the spread of His kingdom in the earth will be accomplished in the face of militant opposition from His enemies. This fits perfectly with the foreshadowing war-stories of our OT fathers. Here is David Holwerda (commenting on Romans 4:13):

“The promise that the land will be inherited has become the promise that the kingdom of God, which embraces all nations, the entire creation, and even the cosmos itself, will be inherited. In Christ believers already possess all things, and that includes “the world” . . . . Paul’s attention is focused not on the land of Canaan but on the new creation and on the powers that hold this present creation in subjection (Romans 8:17–25).” (Jesus and Israel, p. 104)

On this view, Israel is a “type” of Christ, who has been appointed heir of all things but is waiting until all His enemies are put under His feet; and Israel is also a “type” of the church, which has been raised to sit with Christ above all principalities and powers (Eph 1:20–21; 2:6) but is still wrestling with these principalities and powers until the end of the age (Eph 6:12). It also helps us understand the warning in Hebrews, “While the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” (Heb 4:1). This warning will not be necessary after Christ’s return; but it speaks volumes to those who are still fighting the battles of the kingdom, and who need great encouragement to hold fast to Christ in whom alone our eternal inheritance is secure.

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