Jordan and Canaan Typical
of Death and Heaven

by William Nicholson, 1862

"For you shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God gives you; and you shall possess it, and dwell therein." Deuteronomy 11:31

The design of this chapter is to stimulate the Israelites to obedience and expectancy of entering the promised land.

The journeyings of the children of Israel were typical of the Christian's journey through this desert world, to a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

I. The Anticipated Inheritance. "The land which the Lord your God gives you."

Here they had no continuing city, but wandered from place to place, and their wanderings were frequently circuitous, and beset with enemies and dangers.

Just so it is with Christian pilgrims, who have been called out of the world, from the path of error, darkness, and death to walk in the narrow way that leads to eternal life. Their path, too, is often difficult. Often do they pass through clouds and darkness. Their state is frequently that of bodily and mental suffering, and of severe spiritual conflict. Ephesians 6:12.

No country mentioned in Scripture is connected with such interesting associations as the land of Canaan, verses 10-12.

Just so, no place in God's universe is so glorious as the heavenly Canaan, for it is the residence of Deity himself.

Wherein was Canaan typical of Heaven?

1. Canaan was a land of promise. It was promised as far back as Abraham. Genesis 12:7; 13:10-14, 15.

Just so, Heaven is promised to all true believers as an inheritance, a better country, etc. How many declarations and promises speak of it as "the land which the Lord your God gives you!" "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom!" "The gift of God is eternal life." Heaven is the Christian's home, for which he sighs, and longs, and hopes, and to which, through grace, he is traveling.

What a delightful home! "In my Father's house are many mansions."

"While through this barren wilderness wearily we roam,
How sweet to cast a look above, and think we are going home.
To know that there the trials of our pilgrimage shall cease,
And all the waves of earthly woe be hushed to heavenly peace.
Home! sweet home!
Oh! for that land of rest above our own eternal home!

2. Canaan was a land of abundance. "A land flowing with milk and honey," "the glory of all lands." It possessed abundance of corn, and fruits, and wine. It was a pleasant land; hence the report of the spies, Numbers 13:27, etc.

Just so, in Heaven there will be abundance, "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore!" Psalm 16:11. There will be abundance . . .
of light,
of blissful employment,
of agreeable association,
of spiritual gratification congenial to a heaven-born soul.

Compare this, with the trials of earth from poverty, want, ignorance, etc. "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" Revelation 7:16-17

3. Canaan was a holy land, Zechariah 2:12. It is frequently so called, and represented.

There the holy purposes of God were specially developed;
there his holy worship was established;
there the various economies, the Mosaic and the Christian in particular, were ordained.

Just so, Heaven is called the habitation of God's holiness.

God is perfectly holy;
angels are holy;
the glorified saints are perfect;
the employments are all holy.

The wicked cannot enter there. Sin can never infest there. "The pure in heart see God," and none else can see him. "But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Revelation 21:27. Delightful anticipation to be free from sin!

4. Canaan was a land of rest, Deuteronomy 12:9. So it proved to the Israelites after their fatigues.

Just so, Heaven will be a rest from . . .
all toil,
all trials,
all conflicts,
all persecution,
all pain and sickness, and
all the outworkings of human depravity. "There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest."

5. Canaan was a permanent residence. This was the case with the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan, as compared with their wanderings in the wilderness. But still, though settled for life, they had to leave it at death.

Heaven will be eternally permanent. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name!" Revelation 3:12

6. Canaan was a land freely given. "The land which the Lord your God gives you." What a gift was Canaan, the promised land, with all its beauties, and riches, and glory! What a gift then, is Heaven! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Remember, Heaven is given as the result of Christ's purchase on the cross!

II. The Manner of Possession. "For you shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God gives you; and you shall possess it, and dwell therein."

Christians having a saving interest in Christ through faith in his sacrifice, now possess the Holy Spirit as the pledge of the heavenly inheritance. It is made over to them, and they are expecting to enjoy it. "And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us!" Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:13, 14.

But as the Israelites had to pass over Jordan before they reached the promised land so all believers must go through death to the heavenly inheritance. Christ, our great Forerunner, did so; and all his followers must go the same way.


1. The streams of Jordan rolled between the desert and the land of Canaan.
Just so, does the river of death flow between earth and Heaven.

The Jordan perpetually flowed.
Just so, death is always at work mortality will waste the strongest constitution, and overcome all precautions and preventives.

2. Jordan separated the Israelites from the inhabitants of Canaan.
Just so, death separates the Church militant from the Church triumphant. On this side is a parent on the other side a child, etc. etc. Our brethren have passed the dark river and are now with Christ, which is far better!

One family, we dwell in him,
One Church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of death.

One army of the living God,
To his command we bow;
Part of his host have crossed the flood,
And part are crossing now!

3. Jordan was subject to the command of God. When he gave the word, the waters rose and stood up, Joshua 3:16.

Death too is under his control. Christ "destroyed him who had the power of death," Hebrews 2:14, 15. "But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ!" 1 Corinthians 15:57

4. Through Jordan was a necessary way to the land of promise. So is death, however painful and affecting.

Just so, it is necessary that the river of death should be dark and formidable to render us content with the present state of existence. But fear not, O Christian, Jesus will disperse the black cloud as you enter the river; he will calm and sweeten its turbid and bitter waters, and you shall exclaim, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

5. Jordan was the last river they had to pass.
Just so, death will be the last conflict the last enemy with which the saint will have to struggle.

Observe that when the children of Israel passed over Jordan, the following things were observable:

(1.) They were required to sanctify themselves previous to the passage, Joshua 3:5.
Just so, before death Christ must be made unto the believer "sanctification." 1 Corinthians 1:30.

(2.) The priests were to enter the river first.
Just so, Jesus entered the river before us as our Forerunner. The eye of faith in the dying believer beholds his foot-prints at the bottom!

(3.) The Priests stood firm in the midst of Jordan until all the people passed over, Joshua 3:17.
Just so, Christ stands by his people in their dying moments, and they "feel the bottom of the river, for it is good."

(4.) When they had passed over, they erected memorials of praise, Joshua 4:5, 8, 20.
Just so, when the Christian reaches Heaven he shall utter a song of praise. "We went through fire and through water, but you brought us out into a wealthy place," Psalm 66:12. "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen." Revelation 1:5-6



1. The possession of the heavenly inheritance is certain: "You shall possess it." "Faithful is he who has promised it who also will do it." "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns!" Philippians 1:6

2. Meditate much on Heaven and Christ, as an important means of inducing to preparation for the last conflict.

3. All unrepentant sinners will be overwhelmed in the swellings of Jordan!