The Jews of Jesus’ day looked for Him to usher in a natural kingdom in a natural land. If Jesus had wanted such a kingdom, He had the opportunity and refused it (see John 6:15). Neither Jesus nor His Apostles concerned themselves with the physical borders of the “Promised Land.” Jesus was very clear that He came to establish a spiritual Kingdom. Paul called this Kingdom the “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal 4:26). All must agree this refers to a spiritual Kingdom, and because so, it must be spiritually inherited. Only those obedient to Jesus’ gospel of death, burial, and resurrection, can become partakers in this spiritual inheritance (see Acts 2:38; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 15:1-4; Gal 1:6-7).
The Promised Land Abraham longed for is found on the other side of man’s wilderness of sin. Synonymously the Bible calls this land “the New Jerusalem” and “the Church” (see John 17:20-23; Rom 8:17; Heb 11:10). Within its spiritual boundaries are those who are growing in the “unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). Paul shows that God calls His people into perfection. “Perfection” does not refer to “flawlessness” that comes through the works of the Law, but rather to “maturity” that comes through the workings of the Spirit of God (see Gal 3:2-3). By the Law, no one could be perfected/matured (see Rom 7:19). So, as long as the Law was the guide to the people, the people remained in immaturity. This left man wandering through his wilderness of flesh, longing for the Promised Land where he could mature into Christlikeness. Through the works of the Law, Israel did not achieve this promise; but through the work of Jesus Christ, the election did obtain this promise by faith, and was in the Church’s possession when Paul wrote the book of Romans.
(5) Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
(6) And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
(7) What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but THE ELECTION HATH OBTAINED IT, and the rest were blinded.
This promise was not some temporary inheritance that was to last only until a coming time when the “true Israel” of the flesh would receive the genuine inheritance. No, this was the actual inheritance, which Paul said was the birthright physical Israel had sought after! Those born into this “above” or “heavenly” Jerusalem are those who are born again in Jesus’ name. This new birth sets them free of fleshly bondage, thus allowing them freedom to mature into the image of Jesus Christ.
The sign of Abraham’s covenant with God was circumcision (see Gen 17:10). Through this procedure, a measure of a man’s flesh and blood was removed. Jesus taught the removal of fleshly man also (see Mat 13:44-46; Luke 10:27). In the New Covenant, this means that not part, but the whole man’s identity must be removed (see Rom 6:6-8; Col 3:1-3; 1 Pet 4:1). This liberation from the old man saves the new man, for no man’s flesh and blood can enter the true Promised Land of God (see 1 Cor 15:50; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 4:22).
In the New Covenant, circumcision is a type and shadow of baptism. Baptism was not a new development in the New Testament (see Col 2:11-13). It was also found and practiced in the various washings of the Old Testament where it is called a “mikvah.”
Here are a few examples of mikvah immersions are found in the Old Testament:
- Leviticus 13:1-32 …….Cleansing of leprosy.
- Numbers 19:18-19 …….Exposure to a dead body.
- Leviticus 15:5-14 …….Exposure to a person with an unclean issue. An example is the woman with the issue of blood (Matt 9:20-22).
- Leviticus 15:19-31 …….Cleansing from state of Niddah (“Set apart”) woman’s monthly cycle. This was seen in 2 Samuel 11:2-4 in the story of David and Bathsheba’s bath-time escapade. It was also used for Fasting or for a Nazarite oath.
- Leviticus 12:2-4 …….Cleansing of a mother after childbirth. This was found in Luke 2:22, when Mary partook in a cleansing after Jesus’ birth.
- Numbers 19:20 …….Ceremonially clean for worship in the Temple.
- Exodus 29:4, Exodus 40:12 …….Installation/Consecration of the Priests.
- Numbers 8:15 …….Levites to the service of God.
- Leviticus 16:24-26 …….Priests on Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement had to before they would enter the Holy of Holies. It required an Immersion and a change of garments five times for that one service. The High Priest was not ritually impure, but there was a change of status with each time he stood before the LORD. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” (Hebrews 10:19)
- Leviticus 16:26 …….Priest with the scapegoat.
- Leviticus 16:28 …….Priest with the ox sin offering.
- Numbers 15:15 …….Immersion of a Proselyte/Jewish Convert. Males had to undergo circumcision and immersion. Females were converted at their Immersion.
- Leviticus 19:8 …….Priests who burned the red heifer for its ashes.
In spite of all these, the Children of Israel knew that these mikvahs were not the one true mikvah that was to come. They knew that the cleansing they needed could only come through their promised Messiah. The following helps show the Old Testament’s view on baptism:
Baptism: To RECEIVE THE SPIRIT OF GOD, or to BE PERMITTED TO STAND IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD (His Shekinah), man must undergo Baptism (Tan., Me?ora’, 6, ed. Buber, p. 46), wherefore IN THE MESSIANIC TIME GOD WILL HIMSELF POUR WATER OF PURIFICATION UPON ISRAEL in accordance with Ezek. xxxvi. 25 (Tan., Me?ora’, 9-17, 18, ed. Buber, pp. 43, 53). – Jewish Encyclopedia.com, by Kaufmann Kohler and Samuel Krauss
This source joins Ezekiel 36’s reference to a Messianic cleansing together with the condition of a man’s readiness to “stand in the presence of God.” Such “standing” refers to a status like unto the High Priest’s on Yom Kippur when standing before God’s presence in the Most Holy Place (see Lev 16:24-26). The Church is promised an exalted status through Jesus’ New Covenant. This promise allows all men the opportunity to “know the Lord,” and because of such standing, become a “holy priesthood” unto Him (see Jer 31:34; Heb 8:11; 1 Pet 2:5, 1 Pet 2:9). Ezekiel indicates the same thing when he spoke of Jesus’ New Covenant putting a new heart and new Spirit within man.
(25) Then will I SPRINKLE CLEAN WATER UPON YOU, AND YE SHALL BE CLEAN: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
(26) A NEW HEART also will I give you, and A NEW SPIRIT will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
(27) And I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
This next scripture confirms Ezekiel’s words are a prophetic reference to the then coming Messiah, Jesus.
(13) O LORD, THE HOPE OF ISRAEL, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, THE FOUNTAIN OF LIVING WATERS.
Here, Jeremiah calls Jesus the “hope of Israel.” The word “HOPE” is the Hebrew word “MIKVAH.” (Strong’s H4723) By using this, Jeremiah is literally saying that Jesus will be the “BAPTISM” of Israel!
The DAY of the Messiah was to be a time of cleansing from sins and disobedience.
(1) In that day there shall be A FOUNTAIN OPENED to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem FOR SIN AND FOR UNCLEANNESS.
This verse is speaking New Covenant language for it agrees with the scriptural description of Jesus’ purpose.
(21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: FOR HE SHALL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.
(38) He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, OUT OF HIS BELLY SHALL FLOW RIVERS OF LIVING WATER.
This cleansing began at the cross when blood and water poured from the wound in Jesus’ side (see John 19:34). “Belly” is also acceptably translated “heart” (see Strong’s G2836). This shows Jesus’ blood flows from His heart to cleanse man of his sin, and at the same time, this same cleansing brings with it a new heart whereby man can receive the life-giving flow of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born of the WATER and of the SPIRIT to see and enter the Kingdom of God (see John 3:3, John 3:5). This is exactly the same message the prophets of the Old Testament taught. Jesus was trying to show Nicodemus that this promise was soon to be fulfilled through Him. No wonder one of the two men claiming the body of Jesus from off the cross was Nicodemus! He knew who was to be his hope and cleansing!
We are called to put on Christ for salvation. Ezekiel talked about God replacing our STONY HEART that breaks the Word of God, with a HEART OF FLESH that keeps the Word of God (see Eze 36:26-27; Heb 8:8-10). This heart transplant is to change our Adam-like nature into a Christ-like nature. This enables us to be more focused toward God and His Will, which thereby matures us to overcome the temptations of this world. The gift of God’s Spirit was first poured out on all flesh on the day of Pentecost. This day is set aside to celebrate the giving of God’s Law on Sinai. On the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, God took His commandments from off cold stone and wrote them onto new hearts. This was the New Covenant promise of a new Spirit and the engrafted Word for all men.
Jesus is the “True Israel” (see Rom 9:6-8), as well as the “True Circumcision (see Phi 3:3), the “True Seed of Abraham” (see Gal 3:7, Gal 3:29), and the “True Jew” (see Rom 2:28). The true message of Jesus Christ was His whole gospel to His whole world…i.e. Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile! God promised Abraham that men of all races would be given the opportunity to receive this inheritance. Paul relates this truth in Galatians 3:29 when he says, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Also see Mark 16:15; Luke 26:46-49; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:6, Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). Hebrews 11:16 shows that Abraham looked not for a Canaan that was a physical land, but one that was spiritual: “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Also see Mat 25:34; John 8:56-58; Acts 3:18-26, Acts 13:26; Rom 4:1-25, Rom 9:1-33; Gal 3:6-29, Gal 4:22-31; Heb 11:8-16). Jesus is a child of God’s true inheritance and He is their hope (see Rom 8:15-17; Gal 3:14, Gal 3:26-29; Eph 3:3-6; Col 1:26-27)! Born Again men and women do not have to wait to enter into this Promised Land, because, through Jesus Christ, it is available for them right now!
Copyright © 2004 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.