Hebrews 11:13-16 – “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. If indeed they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had enough time to return. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Those individuals listed out in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews are all said to have had great faith, and that by their faith they accomplished great things. But one thing their faith did not provide was a receiving of the promises of rest in the land that were made to them and their forefathers. However, the text says they discerned them through the eyes of faith and welcomed them, as it were, from a distance, since they did not receive them themselves.
They confessed to being foreigners and “temporary countrymen” alongside the actual residents on the earth. The passage says because of this faith and declaration of not being permanent residents, it was apparent that they were seeking their own country or residence, a heavenly one.
Most commentators conclude that this passage speaks of an eternal residence “in heaven” taking place after this earthly life, and that is not an incorrect assessment. However, this phrasing does not solely necessitate that the residence actually be in the heavens, just that its source is from there. This is similar to the statement of Yeshua when he was being questioned before Pilate.
John 18:36 Yeshua answered, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I wouldn’t be delivered to the Jews. But now my Kingdom is not from here.”
When Yeshua says his Kingdom is not OF this world, he doesn’t just mean to say that it is ethereal and heavenly and can only be experienced after this physical life. But his phrasing means it does not emanate FROM or OUT OF this world; its source of authority and reign is FROM the heavens, hence it is the kingdom of God or of heaven.
What that implies is that this heavenly country or place could also be experienced here while they lived here temporarily. It’s similar to earthly foreigners living in a country different from their own, yet abiding by the cultural practices of their home country in the foreign land.
A life of faith, then, based on the lifestyle of the patriarchs, is one that is lived here but energized from above. It is a life of interacting with this world but understanding it is only on a temporary basis. It is similar to how a temporary worker or substitute teacher might perform necessary tasks in their respective roles, yet they should just not expect to always be doing those things in the same way with the same group of co-workers or working with the same students every day.
This way of living comes with its own challenges, but also with its own freedoms: the ability to have a fresh start on a regular basis; to experience a variety of locations or establishments to work in, along with a variety of co-workers to interact with on a regular basis. While there may not be the permanency of one’s own workspace or classroom, there also is no ongoing maintenance of that space or facility.
Similar to renting an apartment is contrasted with owning a home, a renter has more ability to move on into new ventures or locations, while the homeowner must take the time to sell the home and possessions and is less likely to move around as much.
Regardless of one’s choice of work or residence, the life of faith is one of non-attachment to things. If one has a permanent job and home, they should not become so attached as to think it could never be affected by change. Likewise, if one has more temporary workstyle and living conditions, one should not always expect to simply move on if more permanent opportunities or needs arise. In all situations, believers should maintain a sense of transiency and flexibility in all things.
The key is to live for the King and his Kingdom in this place, and to be prepared to be available for whatever may be needed within that reality while we are living in this one. This is the life of faith.
Matthew 6:19-21, 33 – “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also … But seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.”
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