I believe the Promised Land spoken of in the scriptures really is an actual tangible place on the map but I also think it paints us a spiritual picture. While many church hymns would have you believe the Promised land is a picture of Heaven, I think it represents something else.
God’s plan is for His people to live in Him. In other words, the Promised land is actually a picture of life in the Spirit. The Children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and led through the wilderness by Moses yet they never entered the rest of the Promised Land. I think God’s intention was for them to grow up in their faith on their trek through the desert, yet many did not, therefore most of them died without ever entering. You see this is an example to us. We too have been delivered from slavery to sin, and hopefully we have not only gone through our wilderness experience, but have come through and are now living in the Spirit represented by the Promised land.
You see God promised a land flowing with milk and honey but He also knew only mature people would be able to maintain the land. Once they took up residence, within the Land, the supernatural manna, the water from the rock, the shade by day and fire by night would come to an end. God needed them/us to have His viewpoint on things. In order to live in the Promised Land, we must be more like Moses who knew God’s ways as opposed to Israel who only knew His acts. As you read the story of Israel, while in the desert, their immaturity is made clear by their constant complaining. They fussed because it was too hot, they were hungry and tired and even longed to go back to being slaves in Egypt. This is the mindset of someone who isn’t ready for the responsibilities that come with living in the Spirit. In fact, it is a pretty good description of living in the flesh.
The apostle Paul told us the deeds of the flesh were evident: strife, envy, hatred, factions etc. but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. When it comes right down to it, walking in the Spirit means we have to give up on our own ingenuity and let God be God so He can produce these things through us. Living in the Spirit (Promised land) means we are responsible and co-operate with God; whereas living in the flesh (desert) means we complain and fuss about how God provides and how others aren’t doing their part and so on.
Ultimately, Israel living in the Promised Land was meant to be a witness to the rest of the world not only of God’s faithfulness but also of His ability to make free sons out of slaves. Just as the world looks at addicts and ex-cons (former slaves) and thinks they’ll never amount to anything, God specializes in choosing the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. So walking in the Spirit isn’t just for us to enjoy, it is for others to start to understand who God is and how He provides.