By Oren R. Martin
New Testament Studies in Biblical Theology Series
Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2015
208 pp. | $25.00
In preparation for teaching a new elective class at Western Seminary on Biblical Prophecy, one of my students asked if he could read Oren Martin’s new book, Bound for the Promised Land. Intrigued by the title and the topic, I bought the bought the book so I could discuss it with him.
The author, Oren Martin, earned his Ph.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at SBTS and Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. The book is a “substantial revision” of his doctoral dissertation (2013) which he wrote under the guidance of Bruce Ware, Tom Schreiner and Stephen Wellum, professors at SBTS.
I really enjoyed reading this book! The theme is the development of the land promise (Gen. 12:2-3) from Genesis through Revelation. The blurb on the back of the book summarizes well the author’s message. “Oren Martin demonstrates how, within the redemptive-historical framework of God’s unfolding plan, the land promises advances the place of the kingdom that was lost in Eden, and serves as a type throughout Israel’s history, anticipating the even greater land prepared for all of God’s people, that will result for the person and work of Christ–and will be enjoyed in the new creation for eternity.” In essence, the land of Israel is a type of the new creation and the ultimate fulfillment is not geographical Eretz Israel, but the new creation of Revelation 21-22.
There is much that I appreciated about this book. First, it is a canonical study that traces the theme of the land through Scripture with special attention to key texts mentioning the land promise. Second, the book is very well researched. Each and every page has footnotes which document the research and add to the discussion. Third, the 20 page bibliography gives readers a substantial list of resources for further study. Fourth, the logical flow of thought and development of the theme is impeccable. Finally, it is clearly and concisely written so that the reader longs for more rather than wondering when the tome will finish.
The author begins by showing the importance of the land promise in the Bible and in biblical scholarship. Then, beginning with Genesis, he shows that God intends to create a people who will dwell in God’s place under the rule of the King. He cites Goldworthy’s Gospel and Kingdom (2000) as the source for the concept of the kingdom as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.” Following Beale, he argues that Eden marks the beginning of this place or “garden temple” where God dwells with human kind. Using biblical typology, Martin demonstrates the progression of this theme from Eden, to Israel’s entrance into the promised land, to the exile, to the coming of Jesus who inaugurates the ultimate fulfillment of the land promise through His ministry. Following N. T. Wright, Martin argues that Israel is still in exile spiritually.
According to Martin, the ultimate fulfillment of the land promise is the new creation. He states, “Revelation 21-22 interprets the future fulfillment of the prophets, and the entire Old Testament, by collapsing temple, city and land into one paradisal end-time picture portraying the final reality of God’s covenant presence with his people” (p. 154). In the final chapter on “Theological Reflections” Martin interacts with dispensational theology regarding the land respectfully responds to their concerns.
While I am not convinced that the land promise to ethnic Israel has morphed in the New Testament to the new creation, I believe that Oren Martin has presented a case worthy of review, discussion and debate. My concern would be over the idea that the authors of the New Testament reinterpret the land promise as something different than what seems to have been understood by the Old Testament prophets. Much hinges on his use of typology and whether the land is a type to be fulfilled in the new creation or is a promise to be literally fulfilled by redeemed ethnic Israel. Hermeneutics ultimately determines one’s eschatology and that is certainly evident in this study.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and endorse it as an important resource for those interested in a biblical theology of the land. While I don’t embrace his conclusions, Martin has given us much to think about and discuss. I look forward to interacting this summer with the seminary student who introduced me to the book!