Why Land Is More than Real Estate

Theology of Land

It’s important for Christians to have a theology of the land because it’s a very important theme in the Bible. The challenge we have in our modern western world is that the concept of land has been reduced to a commodity that we call real estate—it’s something that can be bought or sold. But land is traditionally a place of heritage; it’s a place of identity. So it’s not surprising that in a world where we see land as a commodity, we fail to have a robust theology of the land.

Not Home Yet

Ian K. Smith

Understanding God’s plan to renew the earth connects what Christians learn on Sunday mornings with the rest of the week—shaping their mission as they discover purpose in all their daily work here on earth.

But we as Christians believe in a physical resurrection. And if we believe in a physical resurrection, then land is integral to our existence. We often talk about how the Bible redeems people without thinking about where those people will live. We know that human beings need a physical world in which to live. What about our resurrected, physical bodies? Within this understanding of God’s ownership of the entire earth, we are introduced to the whole idea of a holy land.

A Blessing for All the Earth

This concept begins in Eden and we see that it is God’s presence in the land that sanctifies it. And as the Bible proceeds, we learned that there is a new Eden which is seen in the nation of Israel who are a chosen people living in a chosen land. But that’s not an end in itself but it’s that through this holy land that all the earth might be blessed. And this finds its fulfillment through the resurrection of Jesus. Through the resurrection of Jesus, this leads to God blessing the entire earth. And we see that after the resurrection of Jesus, God sends the Holy Spirit, who fills not just Israel, but the whole earth with his glory.

God has not given up on this world, so we should remember the original mandate that was given to our forebearer Adam.

And so in many ways, the theology of the New Testament is moving from a holy land to a holy earth and God’s presence is with us on the earth. So in developing a theology of the land, we need to be very careful not to worship the land. That’s idolatry, and it’s very prevalent in the twenty-first-century world. But equally true, we need to remember the fact that God values the land and so creation care is important for Christians.

God has not given up on this world, so we should remember the original mandate that was given to our forebearer Adam: to care for this world and to be God’s vice-regent within this world. We see this mandate is fulfilled in the final Adam, Jesus, and so we too should have a robust theology of the land.

Ian K. Smith is the author of Not Home Yet: How the Renewal of the Earth Fits into God’s Plan for the World.

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