CANAAN - The Promised Land?
Canaan, in the Old Testament Scriptures, refers to "The Promised Land" - the land promised by God to Abraham's descendants.
The most common spiritual application derived from these accounts is that the Promised Land represents heaven. This is clearly in the minds of many people and it shows up in many Christian songs as well. One such song is "I am bound for the Promised Land" which implies that our life is a journey and our destination goal is heaven. (For information about that song, click here). One of the main fallacies of this idea is that once Joshua and Caleb brought the people into the land, there were battles and people died. This cannot be true of heaven! So, while heaven IS kind of a promised "land", it is not really such a good idea to link heaven with the "land" that was given by God to Abraham's descendants - the one is not a picture of the other.
A second interpretation we have often heard is that Canaan represents the victorious Christian life. The logic goes something like this: Deliverance from Egypt represents salvation; that is followed by a period of time in which there is wandering, learning, growing, etc. Then, at some point, an individual "enters" the "victorious Christian life" (perhaps this "event" ties in with the erroneous doctrine of the second blessing taught by some). In that victorious Christian life, there ARE battles fought - spiritual warfare, if you will. And the walls of the spiritual Jerichos in our lives fall down as we gain the victories.
We believe there may be yet another, and a better, understanding of what the Promised Land of Canaan may represent. We have not heard this taught, but believe it has merit for your consideration. Please consider that "entering Canaan" may in fact represent "salvation" - the beginning of a new life - a life "in Christ", having been born again, as the Scripture puts it. We will try to set forth the key points and then return later to elaborate further.
1. We believe that the deliverance and the redemption of man are entirely the idea and the work of God. God determined that He would redeem fallen man. God devised the method to carry out His plan - it would require the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, Who would be called "Jesus" because He would save His people from their sins". It would require that this Jesus Whom God sent must literally, physically die and furthermore, He must experience separation (death) from His eternal Father in paying the price of that redemption and paying the penalty for our sin. God then carried out that miraculous, supernatural plan and everything happened just as He had foretold it through the prophets of God many years before, so that everything happened "according to the Scriptures". In these respects, God did everything necessary - and He did so for ALL mankind! So then, are ALL men "saved"? The answer from Scripture is clearly NO. Then we MUST ask the obvious question - what makes the difference? If Jesus died for ALL men, but not ALL men are "saved", what 's missing? The answer to that question is: man's personal, individual response to what God did! God did everything, but man must respond appropriately to that which God has done. What is the appropriate response? Belief, faith!
2. In the Exodus account of Israel's deliverance from the bondage and oppression in Egypt, we find the type, or picture, for which that which we have just explained is the fulfillment. Israel was in bondage, in slavery, and was oppressed. God determined to deliver these people, God devised the plan and God carried out the miraculous, supernatural deliverance. From that standpoint, God did it all. But there was something required of the people - belief, faith, trust, obedience. Everything the people needed in order to enter the promised land was taken care of. They were now free from Pharaoh's slavery and free to follow God. God showed them the way. We have the Bible and the witness of true believers to show us the way. They were given the means by which they could enter in. But in the end it all came down to one thing - would they believe God, would they trust God - and they did not! If the promised land represents the victorious Christian life, the assumption was that those that are "wandering" in the desert are nonetheless Christians, but they are just not where they ought to be. We strongly challenge that thinking. What is the ONE thing above all others that characterizes a true believer? We believe the answer is faith/belief/trust. And concerning the generation of Israelites who were delivered from Egypt but did NOT enter the promised land, we are told in Hebrews 3:19 "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." We should read that verse in its context: verses 16-19 "For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." We do not believe that those Israelites who wandered in the wilderness are representative of born-again believers. Joshua and Caleb are the two who represent those who DO enter in - they believed God, they trusted God. They entered in! And those who were with them at Jericho believed as well - else they would not have marched around the city for seven days as they did and they would not have dared to believe that a "shout" would have any part in the defeat of the enemy. That was SO unlike their parents who WOULD not enter into the land - they did not enter in because of their unbelief! Joshua and Caleb DID enter in and they DID have battles to fight as do all believers.