Vol. 7, No. 1
~ Page 5 ~
Early this morning as we were meditating on the story of Israel going into the land of Canaan, the songs, "On Jordan's Stormy Banks," "To Canaan Land I'm On My Way," and "I Am Bound For the Promised Land" came into mind. For more than 70 years we have sung those songs and assumed that the Bible indicated that Canaan was a type of heaven. We have taught, as Burton Coffman says in his commentary, "Moses was one of the great O.T. types of the Son of God, and his leadership of Israel in the wilderness is typical of Jesus' leadership of Christians in the wilderness of their probation (in the church during this present dispensation), but great as Moses was, he could not lead the people over the Jordan (typical of death) into Canaan (typical of heaven). Only Christ could do that. Therefore, it was necessary that Moses die before Israel entered Canaan." Every commentary of which we are aware takes a similar position with regard to Canaan as a type of heaven.
The thing that occurred to me this morning is not addressed in any of the dozen or more of commentaries we have checked. It was, "If Canaan is a type of heaven, how do the cities of refuge fit into it? How does the fact that they had enemies, battles and hardships fit into it?" We believe we have found the proper solution to those problems. Stated briefly, it is: Canaan is not a type of heaven, but a type of the promised blessings that God's people have when delivered from the bondage of sin. It is "The Promised Land," but many of us fail to enter into it, for we lack the faith to take those promises. We thought we might say, "A type of the church," but when a person is delivered from the bondage of sin, he is immediately in the church. However, although we are promised that God has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3), not all of us partake of those blessings. Although he is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20), most of us do not take those blessings by faith, for we fail to "put on the whole armor or God" (Ephesians 6:11) or to "fight the good fight of faith" and "lay hold of eternal life" (1Timothy 6:12). We will not have to do all of that in heaven, but in the Promised Land in which we now are, all these precious promises are ours, but there are still battles to fight and places of refuge to which we flee when we are in need.
Note some of the names of these cities of refuge that will not be necessary in heaven, but are in our Promised Land. Kadesh means "sanctuary" or "righteousness." Christ is made unto us righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). Shechem means, "shoulder." We cannot but think of the picture of the Good Shepherd who searches for the lost sheep and when he finds it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing (Luke 15:5). Hebron means "fellowship." Remember the precious promise that "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses (continues to cleanse) us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). We will not need that in the Celestial City, but now we can go out of that city of refuge if we choose. Bezer means "fortress." Christ is our Fortress. "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing" is an idea found several times in the Psalms, and in 1 Corinthians 10:13 where we are promised that no temptation has taken us but that we can bear it. Ramoth means "exaltation." We can be exalted as "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Golan means, "joy." Jesus said in John 15:11, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
Now, let us look at the meaning of the names of the enemies that dwelt in the land of Canaan, but will not be in heaven. We checked these in Thayer's definitions, and found some of the following things. The word Hittites: "OT: 2850 Chittiy (khit-tee'); patronymically from OT: 2845; a Chittite, or descendant of Cheth." Note the word from which it comes, "OT: 2845 Cheth (khayth); from OT: 2865; terror; Cheth, an aboriginal Canaanite." We may face fear and terror in our effort to walk with God. We are promised deliverance from them if we put on the whole armor of God and walk in faith and love. That is the promise in the land we are in now, but not in the heavenly home. Remember that "perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18).
The Girgashites were representative of the type of people who kept the herd of swine (Gadarenes) and wanted Jesus to depart out of their coasts. We may be tempted to put selfish interests before the desire of fellowship with Christ. We found the following in Thayer's: "OT:1622 Girgashiy (ghir-gaw-shee'); from an unused name [of uncertain derivation]; a Girgashite, one of the native tribes of Canaan." From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: "It has been supposed that the name survived in that of 'the Gergesenes,' the King James Version (the Revised Version (British and American) 'the Gadarenes'), of Matt 8:28, on the East side of the Sea of Galilee; Josephus (Ant, I, vi, 2), however, states that nothing was known about it."
The Amorites are according to Thayer: "OT:567 'Emoriy (em-o-ree'); probably a patronymic from an unused name derived from OT:559 in the sense of publicity, i.e. prominence; thus, a mountaineer; an Emorite, one of the Canaanitish tribes." Does this not suggest that there are those in connection with the Lord's church who seek prominence, like Diotrophes (3 John 9) and are enemies with whom we must contend, but who will not be present in the heavenly city, which is pre-figured by the church?
With regard to the Canaanite, we find the following in Thayer: "OT:3667 Kena`an (ken-ah'-an); from OT:3665; humiliated; Kenaan, a son a Ham; also the country inhabited by him: KJV - Canaan, merchant, traffick. OT:3665 kana` (kaw-nah'); a primitive root; properly, to bend the knee; hence, to humiliate, vanquish: KJV - bring down (low), into subjection, under, humble (self), subdue." Are there not enemies who seek to bring us into subjection and make merchandise of the gospel?
Those who are interested may check the other names, such as Perrizites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and will find that they suggest such things as those who live in an open country, with no secure boundaries, similar to those around us who are teaching that we have no laws or borders, but merely "love letters" to suggest how we should live, or those who, like the Jebusites, meaning "trodden", who "tread underfoot the Son of God" (Hebrews 10:29).
God's promise to them was that he would drive out from before them those enemies (Exodus 23:28), but it was conditioned upon their willingness to accept His will and walk in obedient faith. Surely, the same thing is true with us, but our point in this article is that the concept of Canaan as a type of the promises made to us in this dispensation fits far better than Canaan as a type of heaven, which we have thought for more than 70 years. If someone can find a real difficulty with this concept, we would be happy to hear about it. If those who find such a difficulty will explain how the cities of refuge and the hardships and battles with enemies will be in heaven, we will be even more grateful.
It is probable that we can still sing those songs, for we are still bound for the Promised Land in two respects. First, if Canaan is a type of the promises made to us in the present land, as we are confident it is, we still have not taken all those promises that God has for us and may think of ourselves as pressing on "to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Since "I count not myself to have apprehended," to Canaan's land I'm on my way. Second, it is still true that we should be "bound for heaven," for we certainly have the promise of heaven if we do not "fail to enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19). If one reads Hebrews 4:1-3 thoughtfully, we think our conclusions will be strengthened, for they failed to enter into the rest that was promised them in the Promise Land because of unbelief, and we need to "fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest," we should come short of it. Surely when Jesus said, "I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28), he was not primarily talking of heaven, although if we take his promises here, we will have that promise there.