All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13–16).
A couple of years ago, as we and our children were discussing the evening’s Bible story – Jesus with the woman at the well – we talked about nationalities, for Jesus as a Jewish man talking with a Samaritan woman would have broken social conventions. We discussed national allegiances, for our children have two: British and American. To which my son said that he felt more British than American – to my chagrin but not to my surprise.
The kids – and now I – have dual citizenship, but as Christians we all have dual or triple or more citizenship, with our most important passport aligning us to the heavenly country. We hold our earthly citizenship lightly, knowing that our lives here are an itty bitty dot compared with the length of eternity.
These verses from Hebrews underline how the ancients were living in view of heaven. The passage forms an interlude, when the writer pauses in his great list of the heroes who lived by faith to emphasize their eternal perspective. As with the psalm we read last week that spoke of being a foreigner and stranger, the heroes listed in Hebrews also knew that their heavenly passport was the important one.
Are we living in the light of eternity? One way I like to get heaven into my imagination, so to speak, is to chew over the last chapters of Revelation. The imagery soaks into my heart and mind, and for a few minutes at least the cares of this world lessen.
For reflection: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you get neither” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).