The Land Promise As Parable
I was reading something in the Epistle of Barnabas today that struck me as particularly interesting. It is the best parallel that I’ve seen to the basic thought behind Hebrews 4:1-13. In that passage the author is basically saying that the Sabbath rest the people of God were looking for in the times of Joshua has actually been fulfilled now in Christ. So it is an allegorization of sorts, a redefining of earlier promises in light of the new revelation of Christ.
You get a similar thing in Ep Barn 6:10
"What, therefore, does ‘into the good land, a land flowing with milk and honey’ mean? Blessed is our Lord, brothers, who endowed us with wisdom and understanding of his secrets. For the prophet speaks a parable concerning the Lord; who can understand it, except one who is wise and discerning and loves the Lord?"
He then starts linking this promise with the promise of the New Covenant, specifically quoting Ezek 11:19 about the removal of the stony heart. Then he says, in vv. 16-17:
"...Therefore we are the ones whom he brought into the good land. So why, then, does he mnetion the ‘milk and honey’? Because the infant is first nourished with honey, and then with mulk. So in a similar manner we too, being nourished by faith in the promise and by the word, will live and rule over the earth."
The author sees the promise of this in the present, though also as something to be fully realized in the future, when "we ourselves have been made perfect, and so become heirs of the Lord’s covenant." (v. 19).
The author of Hebrew’s focus is different, focusing on this as an exhortation to not apostotize: if you continue in disobedience, you will not enter God’s Sabbath rest, Christ. Here the focus isn’t on apostasy, but on Christology and fulfillment of OT prophecy. But the underlying thought seems very similar. I guess this is particularly significant since the land promise is very rarely talked about specifically in the NT. If it were common, then I don’t think this would have caught my eye the way it did. It is nice to find parallels.