Summary: What does the “Promised Land” mean? To the ancient Hebrews it meant God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan, now known as Israel. Spiritually speaking, followers of the Lord today typically think of heaven as the promised land. An additional and valid interpretation is walking in God’s blessings while still on this earth. That was certainly true for ancient Israel, who inhabited Canaan, an earthly land. Likewise, while still on earth, believers in the Lord can enjoy His promised-land blessings now while anticipating the yet-future eternal blessings that the redeemed will experience in His presence.
That said, how do we get to enter God’s spiritual promised land in both the heavenly and the earthly sense? We’ll see from the Scriptures that the entering in must be preceded by a coming out. That’s how God gave the land of promise to ancient Israel, and that’s how He gives it to His faithful people today. First a “coming out” and only then a “coming in.” [Credit: Thanks to author Jonathan Cahn for the seed thought for this message in his daily devotional, The Book of Mysteries (Day 59)].
The patriarch Abraham, some 4,000 years ago, was living in his homeland of Ur in the Chaldees. The precise location of Ur is debated, but it was many hundreds of miles east or southeast of the land of Canaan (now Israel). Genesis 11:31-12:5 recounts God’s call to Abraham to “go from your country … to the land that I will show you” (12:1). Abraham and his family eventually arrived in Canaan (12:5). It was the very land God had promised them, as noted in Genesis 24:7, Exodus 3:17, Exodus 13:11, and many other verses.
Abraham became the father of Isaac, who in turn was the father of Jacob. From Jacob came 12 sons, from whom originated the 12 tribes of Israel. Eventually, after 4 centuries of captivity and slavery in Egypt, the tribes of Israel settled in Canaan, the “promised land” God intended them to have. The main point is that for Israel eventually to settle in the land God had promised them, their forefather, the patriarch Abraham, had to come out of his previous land (Ur) in order for his descendants to enter into the land of God’s promise. As we examine the Scriptures further, please keep this principle uppermost in your minds: a coming out of the former way of life precedes the going into the new way of life that God intends for us.
The book of Exodus continues the
Moving now to the New Testament, we see our central principle —
These verses tell us how Jesus called 5 of His original 12 apostles — the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James, and John, plus the tax collector Matthew (also called Levi). To serve Jesus’ plan for their lives, each of them had to leave their present situations and follow him. Notice the men’s reactions:
• Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow me… At once they left their nets and followed him.”
• Jesus likewise called James and John from their boats, and “immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.”
• To Levi (Matthew) the tax collector, the Lord said simply, “Follow me.” And Levi “got up, left everything and followed Him.”
All 5 of these future apostles were willing to come out of their present situations in order to enter into the Lord’s planned service for them. What was some of their “entering in” fruit, which blesses us even to this present day? All 5 became apostles of the Lord. Peter was profoundly used to build the early Church, as recorded in the Book of Acts, and he wrote two of the New Testament epistles. John was one of Jesus’ inner circle disciples (Peter, James, and John), and he wrote 3 epistles, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Revelation. Levi (Matthew) wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Imagine the loss to the Church these past 2,000 years if these men had been unwilling to come out of the “old” in their lives and enter into the “new.”
I should add a clarification here: the “old” that people come out of is not necessarily bad. For example, the 4 fishermen (above) whom Jesus called to leave their boats and nets were certainly in an honorable profession. But they had to leave, to come out of, the old situation in their lives in order to enter into the world-changing call of Jesus Christ in their lives. I experienced this personally (on a much smaller scale, for sure) in my own life. In the early 1970s I was working as a professional FAA air traffic controller. I loved the work and the environment. The pay was good, and the working environment was exciting and fulfilling to me. Then the Lord called me to fulltime Christian ministry. I left that beloved field of aviation and air traffic control and spent the next 31 years in church planting, pastoring, and Bible College teaching. That was a big portion of my earthly “promised land,” and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Leaving the old for the new allowed me to serve the Lord and His people in pastoring and Bible teaching, and also to build this website, which now serves more than 1,000 visitors each day. If I had not followed the Lord’s long-ago call to “come out” of my former life track, I would have missed out on “entering into” service that hopefully has born more fruit of an eternal nature.
To repeat, “the old” in our lives is not necessarily bad, but often it is bad! Israel had to come out of horrible enslavement in Egypt in order to enter into their promised land, Canaan (now Israel). Levi (Matthew), the tax collector, had to come out of what in his day was often a dishonest, despised job (see Matthew 9:9-11; 11:19; 21:32). As a result, he became one of Jesus’ 12 apostles and wrote one of the Gospels, from which Gospel I’ve quoted the verses in the previous sentence.
In the balance of this message we’ll focus on that scenario, which we all face — that is, coming out of evil, sin, bondage, and the like in order to come into the rich blessings of God, into your “promised land.”
Every born again Christian has this “come out … enter in” experience. Jesus told Saul (later called Paul) that He was calling him to preach the Gospel and to “turn [people] from darkness to light.” As the apostle Paul later wrote in Colossians, this salvation experience is literally a change of kingdoms — God through Christ has rescued us, has delivered us, from the dominion (the domain, the kingdom) of darkness, that is, from Satan’s kingdom (Luke 11:18). That’s our “come out” experience. By sincere repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21), we are saved/born again and are delivered and rescued from Satan’s clutches and his kingdom of darkness.
Now delivered from our former spiritual “father the devil” (John 8:44), we are “brought into” the kingdom of God, called here by Paul the “kingdom of the Son He loves.” Once held in bondage by our unforgiven sins, by turning in faith and repentance to Christ we’ve come out of that and have entered into salvation in Christ and sonship or daughterhood (2 Corinthians 6:18) in the very family of God. The promised-land blessings begin right here in our now-saved, earthly walk with the Lord.
The angel announced to Joseph that his intended wife Mary, a virgin, would conceive by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Savior Jesus Christ. And — this is important! — Jesus would save His people
Yes, there is a promised land of God’s rich blessings offered to us here, and eventually in heaven. But part of the Gospel that brings us into those blessings is the command to “come out,” to “leave your life of sin.” This command of the Lord is repeated elsewhere by Him, and also by the apostle Paul:
• In John 5:1-14, Jesus healed a lame man. Finding the man later at the temple, Jesus said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (vs. 14).
• Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “Get some sense and quit your sinning. For to your shame I say it; some of you are not even Christians at all and have never really known God” (1 Corinthians 15:34, The Living Bible).
If followers of Christ are to enter into a full measure of God’s gracious blessings, we need to do some seriously dedicated “coming out” from all forms of evil and wickedness. We cannot ignore the words of Jesus and Paul in the Bible: “stop sinning … leave your life of sin … quit your sinning,” or the words of the angel to Joseph, that Jesus would “save His people FROM their sins.”
This is a good verse to close our “come out … enter in” Bible study. The apostle contrasts the believer’s “former way of life” with being “made new” through Christ’s salvation and the new birth. Every one of us must come to God through the only way, which is through Jesus Christ. We need to “come out” of our former life of unrepented sin. We need to be “made new” through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We need to “put off” the sins, the evil thoughts and words and deeds of our old self. That’s an ongoing “coming out” that faces each of us — that is, aiming for a 100% victory, with God’s gracious help, in conquering the wickedness we previously walked in.
Having made that “come out” commitment to the Lord, we then “enter into” a life of walking with Him and serving Him daily. We put on the new self and begin to manifest in our transformed character the godly fruits of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, patience, goodness, and more (Galatians 5:22-23). Walking daily with the Lord in faith, devotion, and obedience, we experience the ongoing blessing of being transformed by the Holy Spirit so that we are more and more “like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 5:24). We’ve come out of the spiritual bondage and slavery of “Egypt” and have entered into the promised-land blessings of walking with God as a child of God on this earth, being transformed more and more into His image, and destined for a glorious eternity in His presence.
Don’t fall short of a full possession of God’s promised land to you. Come out of the old … leave your life of sin … receive God’s full saving grace in Jesus Christ … walk obediently with Him daily all the days of your life on earth … experience His rich blessings in the here-and-now … then after death enter into the ultimate final blessings of eternity in His indescribably glorious presence.
Come out now, so that you may enter in, both now and for all eternity!
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.