The following reassessment of the traditional view of the Land Promise in Hebrews, namely that it becomes spiritualized and universalized, fits within the wider context of post-supersessionist interpretation of the book as a whole.1 It focuses on the intra-evangelical debate over whether Israel’s Land Promise from the Lord continues into and through the New Testament.2 The purpose of this treatment is to demonstrate that a careful exegetical handling of Hebrews, linked with important New Testament data elsewhere, results in an understanding that the full realization of Israel’s Land Promise in the New Testament is “on hold,” until the end times. This purpose will be accomplished by: 1a) listing three recent “positive developments”; 1b) pointing out that those developments need further clarification; 2) offering such clarification; then, 3) adding relevant findings to the discussion of Hebrews from two fresh angles of a literary/rhetorical nature.

Recent Scholarly “Pushback” Defending an Ongoing Land Promise in Hebrews

In his 2010 volume, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology, Gary Burge3 says of Hebrews, “[W]hat is clear is that the letter is working strenuously to reforge the principal legacies of Judaism and warn Jewish Christians not to return to them.”4 Burge’s discussion of Hebrews makes it crystal clear that, in his view, one of those “principal legacies of Judaism” to be jettisoned is the Land Promise, which is replaced by “a new land, a heavenly land.”5 This helpful summary of his view serves as a starting point, time-wise and content-wise, to play off in regard to three positive developments since 2010 related to Israel’s Land Promise in Hebrews.

Implications of Israel in Hebrews and Looking Beyond a Heavenly Jerusalem

The first noteworthy attempt to counter the perspective on Hebrews championed by Burge was offered by Craig Evans, in his paper “Israel According to the Book of Hebrews and the General Epistles,” presented at “The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel” conference in October 2013.6 Evans begins his treatment of “The Land of Israel in the General Epistles”—including Hebrews—with these words: “In the General Epistles, there are no explicit references to the land of Israel. However, some inferences can be detected.”7

Then, in his section “The Future of Israel in the General Epistles,” Evans summarizes in regard to Hebrews: “The future of Israel lies not with the earthly city of Jerusalem or the land of Israel; it lies in the hands of God, who is preparing a city, a new Jerusalem.”8 While not entirely correct, Evans’s words are a start toward a defense of the Land Promise in Hebrews: recognition of the role of “a new Jerusalem,” versus Burge’s view of “a heavenly land.” Evans thinks that the new Jerusalem will come to earth, but Burge does not.

Heavenly Realities Coming to Earth in Hebrews

At the same conference, Craig Blaising, in a paper entitled “Israel and Hermeneutics,”9 advanced the discussion with this assertion: “Hebrews is not speaking simply of a vertical dualism between earthly and heavenly realities since the writer expects that those heavenly realities are coming here in the future (Heb 2:5; 13:14).”10 The wording “heavenly realities that are coming here in the future,” to the same general effect as Evans’s second statement, goes an important step further.

Connecting the Perspective of Hebrews to the Overall Biblical Metanarrative

In the ground-breaking 2016 volume, The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land,11 Blaising again contributed a chapter on hermeneutical issues containing an important specific discussion on Hebrews.12 In a masterful refutation of the transcendentalizing (i.e., “heavenly land”) view regarding the Land Promise in Hebrews, Blaising draws the following wider conclusions:

[Hebrews’] vertical reference to Christ’s position and ministry in heaven and to the heavenly city need to be understood within a futurist eschatology. . . . Consequently, Abraham’s search for a heavenly city is to be understood as seeking not a heavenly land as opposed to an earthly one, but a city that will come from heaven to the land of promise. . . . While new revelation is given about the Christ, his ministry in heaven and the heavenly Jerusalem, the future expectation of Hebrews is not inconsistent with the story line from the Tanak regarding a kingdom that God would establish on the earth.13

Blaising’s claims follow his withering critique of the position held by Burge—which turns the earthly Land Promise into a promise of a “heavenly land.” This critique exposes the failure of Burge’s view to meet any of the “four criteria for evaluating broad interpretive systems: 1) comprehensiveness: 2) congruency; 3) consistency; and 4) coherence.”14 Yet, a directly relevant question remains: Is Hebrews consistent with “the story line” elsewhere in the New Testament.?15

Three Areas Needing Clarification Related to the Land Promise and Hebrews

Though Evans’s and Blaising’s citations are steps in the right direction, they require further development to anchor the point that there is not just awareness of Israel’s Land Promise in Hebrews, but a continuing hope in its earthly future.

Beyond Implications of Israel and a Heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews

Evans was incorrect in this assertion: “In the General Epistles, there are no explicit references to the land of Israel. However, some inferences can be detected.”16 He somehow overlooks the clear wording “land of promise”17 ([i.e., Promised Land]; Gk gen tes epangelias) in Hebrews 11:9—and quite possibly 11:13, where the Greek tes ges can quite plausibly be rendered “the land.”18 Evans’s second statement is correct, as far as it goes: “The future of Israel lies not with the earthly city of Jerusalem or the land of Israel; it lies in the hands of God, who is preparing a city, a new Jerusalem.”19 If Evans added one word—“immediate”—to his sentence, it would have been correct. The wording would then be: “The immediate future of Israel lies not with the earthly city of Jerusalem or the land of Israel…” (insertion and italics mine). That wording allows for the maintaining of the long-term earthly future of Jerusalem and the Promised Land.

Beyond Heavenly Realities Coming to Earth in Hebrews Asserted Theologically

Craig Blaising is a master innovative theologian,20 but more than broad theological conclusions are needed to present the best case for the continuation of Israel’s earthly Land Promise in Hebrews. It is crucial to handle with great exegetical care the verses in Hebrews Blaising referenced in the following conclusion: “Hebrews is not speaking simply of a vertical dualism between earthly and heavenly realities since the writer expects that those heavenly realities are coming here in the future.”21

In 2:5, it is unlikely at best that the Greek wording ten oikoumenen ten mellousin, best translated as “the world to come,” refers to heavenly existence. The Greek oikoumene never carries that sense in its other 14 uses in the New Testament or the other relevant Greek literature cited in BAGD.22 It thus seems fair to conclude that “the world to come” to which the writer of Hebrews refers in 2:5, will be of an earthly nature.

In 13:14, ten mellousan (lit. “that which is coming”) plays off the wording earlier in the verse: “For we do not have an enduring city here.” Therefore, “that which is coming” speaks of a future “city,” in contrast to a city (i.e., Jerusalem) existing when Hebrews was written that would not endure. This future city is described in 11:10 as “the city that has foundations (Gk themelious), whose architect and builder is God.” In 11:16, the reader is told “[God] has prepared a city for them” (i.e., those like Abraham and Sarah, who died in faith, but did not receive “the things that were promised” [11:13]). In 12:22, this city is called “the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem).”

That wording in 12:22 (“the heavenly Jerusalem”) appears to put 13:14 (i.e., “the coming [city]”) at odds with 2:5 (i.e., “the [earthly] world to come”). That is the case, though, if 12:22 offers the only alternative for understanding the meaning of “the coming [city].” However, if there is a heavenly Jerusalem that will be coming to earth, then any contradiction is removed.

Revelation 21 describes such a city. When John “saw a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1), he continues with these words: “I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…” (21:2). Then, 21:14 says that the New Jerusalem—the city “coming down out of heaven from God”—Who is its “architect and builder” [Heb 11:10])—has “foundations” (Gk plural themelious), the same term describing “the city” in Hebrews 11:10.

Revelation 11 also describes a city, though one that is earthly and exists before the passing away of “the first heaven and the first earth” (Rev 21:1).23 If the Book of Revelation was written ca. 95–96 CE—as is held by the bulk of Revelation scholars24—“the temple of God,” its “altar” (11:1), and “the courtyard outside the temple” (11:2) located in “the holy city” (11:2) do not refer to the Second Temple or Jerusalem25 since the Roman army destroyed them in 70 CE.26

The Land Promise and the Story Line of the New Testament

Blaising correctly states that the perspective of the Epistle to the Hebrews on Israel’s Land Promise lines up with the Hebrew Bible. However, recent debate on the Land Promise has spotlighted what happens within the New Testament. A summary of the major movements of the New Testament metanarrative concerning the Land Promise is thus appropriate.

First, in Matthew 23:38, Yeshua predicts, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . . Your house is left to you desolate,” then informs his disciples about the Second Temple, “Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down” (24:2). Immediately (24:3), the disciples ask two follow-up questions to which Jesus’s response is Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse: 1) “[W]hen will these things (i.e., the coming destruction of the Temple Jesus had just described) happen?” 2) “And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The clear separate nature of these questions implies strongly that the disciples understood that the events described in them would take place at different times in the future . . . and Yeshua says nothing in the following (Olivet) discourse to correct that notion!

Closely related are Yeshua’s words in Luke 21:20, where he adds a description of the “desolation” of the city of Jerusalem in 70 CE (as signaled in the wording “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies”) to the destruction of the Second Temple described in Matthew 23–24. Luke 21:22 and 23 explain that this “desolation” is “days of vengeance (Gk ekdikeseos) to fulfill all the things that are written” and “great distress in the land (i.e., Israel) and wrath against this people” (i.e., the Jewish people). The most likely referent of “days of vengeance to fulfill all this is written” is Lev 26:25: “I will bring a sword (LXX machaira) against you to execute the vengeance (LXX ekdikousan diken) of the covenant.” This verse is found in the curses portion of the Blessings and Curses section (Lev 26) of the Mosaic Law given at Mount Sinai. The “covenant” referred to is the Mosaic Covenant, which God made with Israel initially in Exodus 19 and more formally in Exodus 24. The Mosaic Covenant is conditional (e.g., “If you follow my statutes and faithfully observe my commands, I will give you . . .” (Lev 26:3) and “But if you do not obey me and observe all these commands . . . and break my covenant, then I will do this to you” (26:14, 15–16). However, the Mosaic Covenant is erected upon the foundation of the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant, which guarantees the Land to Israel as a “permanent (aionion, LXX) possession” (Gen 17:8), “forever (eis ton aiona, 13:15 [13:17 LXX]),” even given the future “ins and outs” related to the Land described in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Simply put, Israel’s possession of the Promised Land is conditional, but her promise regarding the Land is not.

Luke 21:24 states that the people of Jerusalem and Judea alive at the time of the decimation of the temple/Jerusalem will “be killed by the sword” (Gk machaira) or “led captive into all the nations.” That tragic destruction apparently led into a period of unstated length: when Jerusalem is “trampled under by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”27

At this point, it is helpful to set the wording of 21:24 and Revelation 11:2 side-by-side:28

Luke 21:24 and Context

Focus on Jerusalem (21:20ff.)

“[T]rampled (Gk pateo) by the Gentiles (Gk ethnon)” (21:24)

Lexical implication that the Jewish people will return to Jerusalem after the fulfillment of “the times of the Gentiles” (21:24)29

It is also worth noting here that pateo (“to trample”) is used three other times in the New Testament (Luke 10:19; Rev 14:20; 19:15), but Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:2 are the only similar uses. That point strengthens the case that Revelation 11:1ff. describes the point of fulfillment of Luke 21:24 with Israel back in the Land when “the times of the Gentiles” conclude.

In light of the above discussion, it is possible to list key events related to the Land Promise in Hebrews or the wider New Testament:

The destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE (Matt 23:38–24:3; Lk 21; 20, 24).

The times of the Gentiles (Lk 21:24).

A heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22).

A temple in Jerusalem (Rev 11:1–2, 8) at the end of the age.

The New Jerusalem in the eternal state, which has “foundations,” coming down out of heaven from God (Heb 11:10, 16; Rev 21:2, 10, 14).

Two Literary/Rhetorical Angles Further Clarifying the Land Promise in Hebrews

From this point forward, the method utilized in tracking the Land Promise in Hebrews will focus on two inverted parallel structures. Such an approach, still panned by some—mostly older—biblical studies scholars, flourishes through the number of new chiastic studies being produced over the last three decades,30 alongside strides in understanding the oral/rhetorical cultures of the Ancient Near East. The reason for such an upsurge relates to minimizing the subjectivity that earlier characterized the publication of numerous alleged chiasms. That has taken place because of: 1) growing awareness of appropriate criteria for recognizing extended chiasmus;31 and 2) continuing discussions on the proper interpretation of chiastic structures.32

Israel’s Land Promise and a Plausible Overall Chiastic Structuring of Hebrews

The Epistle to the Hebrews has generated as many proposed grand (i.e., overarching) chiastic proposals as any part of the New Testament.33 The most influential of these proposals over time has been the work of Catholic scholar A. Vanhoye.34 Suffice it to say, though, that, given ongoing critiques of Vanhoye’s approach and the lack of widespread acceptance of other chiastic proposals,35 no consensus exists on an inverted parallel (i.e., chiastic) understanding of Hebrews.

Into this crowded environment the present writer in 2002 offered an alternate chiastic structure of Hebrews quite similar to the following in a book co-authored with Richard Wells.36 Each pairing in the diagram below will be discussed from two different angles, the latter of which has more significance regarding the Land Promise.

Introduction (1:1–4)37

A (1:5–2:18) Messiah is superior to the prophets and angels, who serve believing mankind.

B (3:1–6) Messiah is superior to Moses.

C (3:7–4:13) The generation of unbelief in the Wilderness, who did not enter the promised “rest”

D (4:14–7:28) The everlasting Melchizedekian priesthood of Messiah

E (8:1–13) The superiority of the New Covenant, which Messiah mediated (Note the wording in 8:1: “Now the main point of what is being said” [Gk kephalaion de epi tois legomenois])

D’ (9:1–10:25) The once-for-all priestly sacrifice of Messiah

C’ (10:26–12:13) Hebrew Bible examples of, and the ongoing need for, faith/

faithfulness, to receive what was promised

B’ (12:18–29) Messiah is mediator of a covenant superior to that of Moses.

A’ (13:1–17) Followers of Messiah must live faithfully under the New Covenant, as if entertaining angels.

Conclusion (13:18–25)

First, utilizing what John Breck calls “helix” (i.e., spiraling from the outer pairing to the center) interpretation of proposed extended chiasms,38 the cumulative interpretive effect of pairings A through D, then E, will be expounded. The following paragraph offers a brief summary of the overall meaning of Hebrews seen through the grid of the letter’s chiastic shape.

Layers A (1:1–2:18/13:1–25) and B (3:1–6/12; 14–29) clarify that the superiority of Yeshua HaMashiach means that the New Covenant he mediates is also superior. Layer C (3:7 4:13/10:26–12:13) uses a classic negative example (Israel’s Wilderness Generation) and numerous positive examples (Chapter 11) to show that faith/obedience is the way to enter God’s rest and receive that “promise.” Layer D (4:14–7:28/ 9:1–10:25) specifies that the superior priesthood of Melchizedek and Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice mean the Aaronic priesthood and Jewish sacrificial system are no longer needed.39 The E central section (8:1–13) emphasizes to the Jewish audience the huge theological/practical paradigm shift brought about by Jesus’s heavenly priesthood and the internalizing of the Law under the New Covenant.

Second, material related to the Land Promise in A through E now will be explored. While the following passages are not as immediately obvious in tracking the structural big picture of Hebrews, that does not mean they are unimportant when the Land Promise is in view.

The A layer (Heb 1:1–2:18/13:1–25) contains 2:5 (A) and 13:14 (A’), the passages Blaising cites supporting his concept of “heavenly realities . . . coming here in the future.”40

In the B layer (3:1–6/12:14–29), Hebrews 12:22 speaks of “the heavenly Jerusalem,” the immediate/intermediate hope for the readers of Hebrews “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk 21:24) in regard to the wider Land Promise.

In the C layer (3:7–4:13/10:26–12:13), “the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (11:10) looks ahead to the New Jerusalem, the readers’ eternal hope related to the Land Promise.

In the D layer (4:14–7:28/9:1–10:25), the phraseology “as you see the day approaching” (10:25, italics mine) may well refer to “the day” of the destruction of the Second Temple/ Jerusalem in 70 CE—when the “times of the Gentiles” would begin—not the Day of the Lord. In that regard, David Allen summarizes a viewpoint laid out by F.F. Bruce:

The 40 years in the wilderness corresponds to the 40 years from crucifixion to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Numbers 14 may not only be the key to 3:7–4:13, but also to 10:25. . . . If the author is writing after the death of Peter and Paul in the later part of the decade of the sixties, he might have heard that the Roman army is moving toward Jerusalem. Hebrews 10:25 could be a veiled warning to flee before the destruction that Jesus predicted in Luke 21:20–24.41

E (8:1–13) is the likely center-point of Hebrews, due, for no other reason, to this highly unusual wording for the middle of a letter: “Now the main point of what is being said is this” (Heb 8:1). In this passage this key statement about the relationship between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant is noted: “By saying a new covenant, [God] has declared that the first is obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old is about to pass away” (Gk engus aphanismou, better rendered as “near disappearing” than CSB’s translation [8:13]). Again, Bruce thinks these words may refer to Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.42

Thus, each layer of the proposed grand chiastic structure of Hebrews contains something noteworthy related to Israel’s Land Promise from God. But, there is more in Hebrews 11.

Israel’s Land Promise and a Plausible Chiastic Structuring of Hebrews 11

There have not been as many proposals taking Hebrews 11 as inverted parallelism, given the interest in possible chiastic understandings of the overall structure of the letter. The most significant recent proposal is by Victor Rhee in his article, “Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11.”43 The following chiastic structure by the present writer is generally similar to Rhee’s view, though with less parallel layers.44 Both proposals agree completely, though, that 11:13–16 is the central point of the chapter.

A (11:1–2) “Faith,” “approved”

B (11:3–7) Examples of faith that pleases God and condemned the pre-Flood world
(Gk
kosmos)

C (11:8–10) Abraham’s faith: bringing him to—and keeping him in—
“the Promised Land” (with co-heirs Isaac and
Jacob)

D (11:11–12) The faith of Sarah: having Isaac
with
a husband “as good as dead,” leading to innumerable descendants

E (11:13–16) Dying in faith without receiving the promises, but confessing to be foreigners/temporary residents in the Land

(see Gen 26:2–5); seeking a homeland, a heavenly one, a city prepared by God45

D’ (11:17–22) The faith of Abraham: considering God to be able to raise Isaac from the dead, which faith caused Isaac, Jacob and Joseph to look to God’s future promises

C’ (11:23–31) The faith of Moses, the Israelites and Rahab: from Egypt to the Promised Land (i.e., Jericho mentioned specifically)

B’ (11:32–38) Examples of faith of which the world (Gk kosmos) is not worthy

A’ (11:39–40) “Approved,” “faith”

Allen correctly notes that the A layer (Heb 11:1–2/11:39–40) forms an inclusio (i.e., a “bookends” effect) around Chapter 11.46 That becomes clear with his observation of an abb’a’ mini-chiasm: “faith (a), then “approved” (b) in 11:1, reversed to “approved” (b’), then “faith” (a’) in 11:39.47 There is no reason, though, why such an inclusio cannot also serve as the outer pairing of an extended chiasm.48

The B layer (11:3–7/11:32–38) first speaks of examples of faith before Abraham, the Father of Israel (11:3–7), then in a rapid listing of names of biblical characters and acts of faith (11:32–38). In both, the world (Gk kosmos) is not worthy of the faith that pleases God (11:6).

The C layer (11:8–10/11:23–31) assumes the historical background that, when God made the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 15:13–21), he told Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be resident aliens for 400 years in a land that does not belong to them and will be enslaved and oppressed” (15:13). From that time forward, Abram—as well as Isaac and Jacob—knew that their descendants would not live continuously in the Promised Land of Canaan, but would leave, and then, after 400 years (in Egypt), be restored to the Land (15:13). The author of Hebrews was aware that something similar was about to happen in regard to the Jewish people having to leave the Land (Lk 21:24). Interestingly, the Greek verb in Hebrews 11:9 describing Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob staying in the Land (Gk katoikeo) is the same as God’s command to Isaac in Genesis 26:2 (LXX) to remain in the Land, just before the Abrahamic Covenant—including the Land Promise—was re-confirmed to him (26:3–5). In Hebrews 11:23–31, the people of Israel do (as Genesis 15:13 predicted) indeed get back to the Promised Land, as highlighted in the destruction of Jericho (11:30).49 Thus, it is exceedingly unlikely that Hebrews 11:8–10 means the Patriarchs had no hope for a long-term future for their descendants in the Land, though they themselves would not live to see it.

The D layer (11:11–12/11:17–22) is initially about God allowing Sarah to miraculously conceive Isaac by faith, to fulfill the part of the Abrahamic Covenant that promised Abraham his descendants would multiply greatly. The second part of the pairing backtracks, after 11:13–16, to describe Abraham’s faith in being willing to sacrifice Isaac (11:17–19), and the examples of faith of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, ending with Joseph’s request to his brothers to ensure his bones would be buried in the Promised Land when Israel returned there (Gen 50:24–26; Josh 24:32).

In the central E section (Heb 11:13–16), the initial phrase, “These all died in faith” (11:13a), does not mean all the Old Testament characters mentioned in 11:3–12 for two reasons: 1) Enoch (11:5) did not die;50 and 2) the wording “the things that were promised” makes sense here only in reference to the specific covenantal promises made to Abraham/his descendants. If those promises refer only to Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob (11:8–12)—all of whom knew the Promised Land would not be “possessed” until after their descendants had been enslaved for 400 years (Gen 15:13)— Hebrews 11:13b–16 speaks of them knowing that no land in Canaan would be owned by the Patriarchs beyond Abraham’s burial plot (Gen 23:4–20) and Jacob’s field at Shechem (33:18–19). In the cases of Abraham (LXX 23:4, where he calls himself a parepidemos [“resident alien”], the same word used in Heb 11:13b), Isaac (Gen 26:3, where God tells him to “live in this land as an alien”), and Jacob (47:9, who, to Pharoah, referred to his life as “my pilgrimage”), all remained convinced of/committed to the promise of the Land the Lord had made to Abraham and his descendants until their deaths. None returned permanently (Heb 11:15) to Paddan-Aram,51 where the rest of Abraham’s immediate family lived (i.e., their earthly “homeland” [Gen 11:31–32; 24:1–4]). Instead, in faith, they believed God for the future in the Land that their descendants would possess and for their own heavenly “homeland” (Heb 11:14) in the meantime, where God had a city—the “heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22)—“a better place” (11:16) prepared for them until the end time, when that city comes down to earth (Rev 21:2, 10).

Conclusion: The Full Realization of Israel’s Land Promise
in Relation to Hebrews
is “On Hold,” not Transferred to Heaven!

Without fear of contradiction, a major reason the Epistle to the Hebrews was written was to demonstrate the superiority of Yeshua the Messiah to certain Temple-related customs.52 This prioritization, however, does not mean that these Temple-related customs were unimportant or that other aspects of Jewish identity—such as the Land Promise—can be disregarded. Accordingly, the five areas fleshed out above demonstrate that the Epistle to the Hebrews does not teach that Israel’s Land Promise has been transformed into only the promise of “a heavenly land.” Specifically, the material discussed related to the Land Promise in Hebrews was sufficient to make clear to its original Messianic Jewish readers shortly before the Second Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed that: 1) though they would experience exile from the land, they could still participate in God’s “rest” promised to their forefathers in the Wilderness; as well as 2) in “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22); but also 3) they could look forward to the time when their descendants would again live in an earthly Jerusalem, at the conclusion of the “times of the Gentiles” (Rev 11:1–2, 8), just as Yeshua prophesied (Lk 21:24); as well as 4) in the New Jerusalem, which would come down out of heaven from God (Rev 21:2, 10).

Boyd Luter (Ph.D., Dallas Seminary) is Professor of Biblical Studies and Director of Biblical and Theological Studies at The King’s University in Southlake, TX. He has published articles in New Testament Studies, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Bibliotheca Sacra, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Filologia Neotestamentaria and the Trinity Journal, plus commentaries on Ruth, Songs of Songs, Galatians, Philippians and Revelation.


1 The following is a selective chronological listing of significant relatively recent works defending different views on the supersessionist question: Charles Anderson, “Who are the Heirs of the New Age in the Epistle to the Hebrews?” in Apocalyptic and the New Testament, eds. Joel Marcus and Marion Soards (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989), 255–77; John Fischer, “Covenant, Fulfillment, and Judaism in Hebrews” in The Enduring Paradox: Exploratory Essays in Messianic Judaism (Baltimore: Lederer, 2000), 37–60; Richard Hays, “‘Here We Have No Lasting City’: New Covenantalism in Hebrews,” in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, ed. Richard Bauckham, et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 151–173; Oskar Skarsaune, “Does the Letter to the Hebrews Articulate a Supersessionist Theology? A Response to Richard Hays,” in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, 174–182; Mark Nanos, “New or Renewed Covenantalism? A Response to Richard Hays,” in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, 183–188; and Jesper Svartvik, “Reading the Epistle to the Hebrews Without Presupposing Supersessionism,” in Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships, eds. Philip Cunningham et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 77–91.

2 For a summary of the debate through 2014, see A. Boyd Luter, “The Continuation of Israel’s Land Promise in the New Testament: A Fresh Approach,” Eruditio Ardescens 1/2 (2014): 1–5.

3 Gary Burge, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to Holy Land Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010). Although a number of evangelical authors worldwide make essentially the same arguments as Burge, he is the American evangelical whose view has been most visible and most widely cited recently.

4 Ibid, 97.

5 Ibid, 102. In taking this position, Burge is following the lead of W.D. Davies in his classic The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), in “transcendentalizing” the Land Promise. See Ibid, 97–102 for Burge’s full discussion of Hebrews.

6 Later published as Craig A. Evans, “Israel According to the Book of Hebrews and the General Epistles”, The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God, ed. Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2014), 133–146.

7 Ibid, 142.

8 Ibid, 144.

9 Ibid, 151–166, in the edited volume of conference papers cited in footnote 7.

10 Ibid, 157.

11 The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land, ed. Gerald McDermott (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016).

12 Blaising, “Biblical Hermeneutics: How Are We to Interpret the Relation Between the Tanak and the New Testament on This Question?” in The New Christian Zionism, 85–87.

13 Ibid, 86, italics mine.

14 Ibid, 82–83. Blaising here relies heavily upon the work of David Wolfe, Epistemology: The Justification of Belief, Contours of Christian Philosophy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982), 50–55.

15 It may be telling as to how difficult Hebrews is in regard to the Land Promise, that, unlike The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel (see the discussion of Craig Evan’s paper/chapter above), The New Christian Zionism does not include an exegetical chapter that deals directly with Hebrews, though it does have such chapters on Matthew (by Joel Willits), Luke-Acts (by Mark Kinzer), and the Pauline Literature (by David Rudolph).

16 Bock and Glaser, 142.

17 Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture citations are from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017).

18 E.g., Marcus Dods, “The Epistle to the Hebrews,” Expositor’s Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974 repr.), 4:357; William Lane, Hebrews 9-13 Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1991), 357; and David Allen, Hebrews New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2010), 554. Textually, to translate tes ges in Heb 11:13 as “the land” can be supported in two ways: 1) the extent of clear parallel wording between 11:13 and 11:9—where eis gen unquestionably refers to the Promised Land: In 11:13, the wording sequence is: kata pistin (“by faith”)/tas epangelias (“that which is promised”)/ xenoi kai parepidemoi (“foreigners and temporary residents”)/ epi tes ges (“on the land”). In 11:9, the wording sequence is: pistei (“by faith”)/ parokesen (“live as a stranger”)/ eis gen (“in the land”)/ tes epangelias (“the promise”); 2) the echo of Gen 26:3 in Heb 11:9, 13: Heb 11:9 refers to “Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise.” In the LXX reading of Gen 26:3, God tells Isaac to live as a stranger in the land” (Gk paroikes en te ge) and God would confirm the promise He made to Isaac’s father, Abraham.

19 Bock and Glaser, 144.

20 Among other things, Blaising was the initial historical apologist for Progressive Dispensationalism, as well as its “systematizer,” along with Darrell Bock. (See C.A. Blaising and D.L. Bock, Progressive Dispenasationalism [Wheaton: Bridgepoint, 1993]).

21 Blaising, “Israel and Hermeneutics,” The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel, 157.

22 BAGD, s.v. “oikoumene,” 561. The other NT uses of oikoumene refer to “the inhabited earth” or “the world in the sense of its inhabitants.”

23 When will “the holy city” and “temple” seen in Rev 11:1ff. exist? Chapter 11 is within the “interlude” (10:1–11:14) in the trumpets judgments cycle (8:6–11:19). In a futurist understanding, the wording “forty-two months” (11:2) and “1,260 days” (11:3) temporally locate the passage during “the great tribulation” (7:14) before the Second Coming of Messiah (19:11ff.).

24 A. Boyd Luter, “The Land as Covenant Backdrop: A Modest Response to Burge and Waltke,” Criswell Theological Review n.s. 9/1 (Fall 2011): 62–63.

25 Although the “the holy city” in Rev 11:2 is not specifically called “Jerusalem,” the wording “where also [the] Lord was crucified” in 11:8 cinches the identification.

26 The most common recent evangelical dating range for the writing of Hebrews is from the mid-to-late 60s of the first century CE and the clear majority of evangelical Revelation scholars date it in 95–96 CE.

27 Italics mine.

28 A slightly different version of this chart originally appeared in Luter, “Continuation of Israel’s Land Promise in the New Testament,” 8–9.

29 BAGD, 129, states that the Greek achri hou, rendered “until” by CSB in Lk 21:24, is equivalent to achri chronon ho (“until the time when”) in cases like Lk 21:24.

30 Numerous examples of such chiastic studies are either set forth or cited in the volumes in the Word Biblical Commentary series by William Lane, Hebrews 1-8 and Hebrews 9-13, and in the New American Commentary series by David Allen.

31 Among several helpful listings, in the considered opinion of this author, the best set of criteria is still found in Craig Blomberg, “The Structure of 2 Corinthians 1–7,” Criswell Theological Review 4, no. 1 (1989): 1–20.

32 Especially in regard to the two chiastic structures handled in this paper, the most helpful source of interpretive insight is John Breck, The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in the Scriptures and Beyond (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994).

33 See the excellent compact recent discussion of the structure of Hebrews in Allen, Hebrews, 87–93.

34 Most accessibly in his Structure and Message of the Epistle to the Hebrews Subsidia Biblica 12 (Rome: Biblical Institute, 1989).

35 See Allen, 87–90, for a helpful concise discussion.

36 C. Richard Wells and A. Boyd Luter, Inspired Preaching: A Survey of Preaching Found in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 141–143. Some wording in the sectional titles was improved, but the only textual change was moving Heb 10:19–25 from the beginning of C’ to the end of D’ (see the diagram of the chiastic structure of Hebrews above).

37 Still among the best studies of this key section is David Alan Black, “Hebrews 1:1–4: A Study in Discourse Analysis,” Westminster Theological Journal 49 (1987): 175–94.

38 Breck, 50, describes it this way: “The most appropriate image for this phenomenon is that of a “conical helix,” in which movement begins from a broad base, then spirals upward toward the point that represents the conceptual center.”

39 Simply put, the understanding of the relationship between D (Heb 4:14–7:28) and D’ (9:1–10:25), with E’ (8:1–13), expressed here is that the parts of the Law that were, at the time of the writing of Hebrews, “near disappearing” for the Jews were the Aaronic priesthood and the sacrificial Law.

40 Blaising, 157.

41 Allen, 519n69, Citing F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. Ed. NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 258–259. This citation should not be taken to mean that Bruce agrees with this position, only that he states it.

42 Bruce, 195–196.

43 V. Rhee, “Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11,” Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (July-Sept 1998): 327–345. See also Rhee’s later volume, Faith in Hebrews: Analysis within the Context of Christology, Eschatology and Ethics (New York: Peter Lang, 2001).

44 Rhee has A through ‘G’ pairings, with an ‘H’ midpoint (“Hebrews 11,” 329–344.)

45 John Bligh (“The Structure of Hebrews,” Heythrop Journal 5 [1964]: 176) is a rare example of a scholar who, over 50 years ago, identified Heb 11:13–16 as the center of an extended chiastic structure.

46 Allen, 539.

47 Ibid.

48 That is precisely the case in A. Boyd Luter and Nicholas Dodson, “Hidden in Plain View: An Overlooked Chiasm in Matthew 16:13–18:20,” Filologia Neotestamentaria, Vol. XXVIII (2016): 3–17.

49 The abrupt change in style between Heb 11:31 and 11:32 may emphasize the significance of Israel’s return to the Promised Land in 11:30–31. Perhaps the mention of Rahab, a Gentile example of faith (11:31), is a “glance ahead” to the New Covenant era, when Messianic Jews and Gentiles are equally parts of the people of God, though the church does not replace Israel or receive her promises. But, the Gk wording epileipsei… ho chronos in 11:32 may refer to hurrying timewise prior to an event. It is difficult to judge, since epileipo (“to leave behind” [BAGD, 295]) is a hapax legomenon (i.e., used only here in the NT). Still, the phrase plausibly can be rendered “the time… will be left behind.”

50 Harold Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress, ١٩٨٩), ٣٢٩, also shares the opinion that Heb 11:13–16 is only speaking of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob.

51 Jacob, of course, did go to Paddan-Aram in fleeing from Esau, staying 20 years (Gen 31:38). As Jacob was about to first leave the Promised Land, though, he received a vision at Bethel in which the Land is promised to him and his descendants (29:13). The same thing happened (i.e., God repeating the Land Promise)—also at Bethel—soon after Jacob and his family returned to Canaan (35:12).

52 There is, in fact, very little focus on non-Temple related Jewish ritual, such as circumcision, or holy days beyond Yom Kippur, or dietary laws or other such topics.

Revelation 11:2 and Context

Focus on “the holy city” (11:2), which is “where [the] Lord was crucified (11:8) = Jerusalem

“[T]he nations (Gk ethnesin) will trample (Gk (21:24) pateo) the holy city”

Old Testament imagery related to the two witnesses (11:3–7) implies their Jewishness, and the stark contrast with “representatives of the peoples, tribes, languages and nations” (11:9) implies that the eschatological Jerusalem (11:2, 8) is indeed a Jewish city.