Friday, March 24, 2006

Building a Theology of the Land: Wrap-up and Take Away

One of the advantages to the Theology of the Land I have described is the way in which it might help us interpret and apply Scripture. One final verse to explore in this regard for hermeneutical fruit more is Ephesians 6:1-4. Here we find an appeal to Scripture and the promise of Land: "...that it may go well with them in the Land." I think this phrase is here intentionally, and not just as a description of the importance of obeying/honoring one's parents. The emphasis is on obedience, not on inheritance in the first place. But I think it likely that the writer and readers saw some value in this promise for themselves. The responsibility of children in OT and NT, just as with parents, husbands/wives, and slaves/masters, is to live out the good works to which they were called (Eph 2:10) and thus participate in the blessings which God has for his people. In the OT, this would have been life in the Land with the people of God under the reign of God and his Law; in the NT, what is this blessing?

I have suggested in previous segments of this discussion that the promise of Land is universalized and thrown into the future. Note that Ephesians 5:5 and 6:8 sets the whole discussion of walking in the Spirit in light of God's judgment, and the present-yet-future "inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God." Based on previous passages explored, Land expectation (if present) for the audience would probably be for participation in the New Heavens and New Earth, another “Land of Promise”: or rather, that to which the Promise of Land always pointed, so that Paul can typologically apply the Promise of Land from Exodus 20 to his present mixed-Gentile congregation in Ephesus, showing the “ultimate intent” of the Land Promise, just as he did with Abraham in Romans 4:13 (I submit that this falls in well with Hays’s analysis of Paul’s use of the Law in “Three Dramatic Roles: The Law in Romans 3-4,” Conversion of the Imagination.)

Whether Paul penned this or not is beside the point: if early Christians saw the promise of the Land applying to themselves universally, then th. But the inheritance is not merely Palestine--how could it be, after all, in a letter that stresses emphatically the unified nature of the people of God, Jew and Gentile together? Were the Gentile and Jewish Ephesian believers to travel to Judea, Samaria, or Galilee and "stake their claim"? Surely not: the inheritance here again is cosmic and largely future (as 4:7-11 and the various mentions of "inheritance," particularly 5:5, seem to hint).

Finally, I should note that this is not to deny that there is a present aspect to this as well. For instance, in this present age we can probably expect to receive the benefits of obedient respect of our parents in whatever land God has placed us. This alone should forestall any idea that we can ignore this 'present earth' in light of the coming New Creation. This should also suggest that there are present benefits for the people of God in the appropriation of the Promise of Land. I’ll explore this in one final post.

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