“For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”
As a ground or reason for what the sacred writer had written in the immediately preceding context, do the words of our text appear.
We are told in the preceding verse, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” And if you question as to whom the writer refers as being without the camp, then we are told in verse 12, “Wherefore Jesus also that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” The meaning is, that Christ, in order to save His people, was cast out of the city of Jerusalem as refuse. He was forced to suffer without the gate; by which suffering also He sanctified, saved His people. Now the inspired writer exhorts those who are of Christ and saved by Him to identify themselves by going out to Him, and becoming associated with His suffering.
And the reason why this should be done is stated in the text: “We have here no abiding city, but we seek the coming one!
As we stand at the threshold of another year, it is fitting that we be reminded of this.
Though we enter a new era of time, nothing else has really changed. We are still in the same old world, in which the wise man of God has said: “There is nothing new under the sun.” It is the same old world which cast out the Christ, and which will force those who are called by His Name to bear His reproach.
How fitting therefore to confess what we believe!
Let the Christian pilgrim say:
Here have we no continuing city!
But we seek one to come!
It is, indeed, an heavenly object which the Christian pilgrim seeks!
The heavenly Jerusalem!
Who are we to say what that is? We can only stammer!
Surely not like the earthly Jerusalem is the city of God! Beautiful and attractive as that city was for the saint of the old dispensation, especially the temple hill, the place where God symbolically dwelt in the midst of His people — it was all so imperfect, because it was only typical and earthly. To be sure it spake of better things to come, but it was soon to pass away and did, with all its sacred memories and service. Not so the glorious, heavenly Sion of God!
This heavenly city is most glorious! God is the chief joy of it. His presence fills the city and the temple. His blessed, perfect covenant is the very essence of all its joy and bliss. Its gates are set with pearls and precious stones, and its streets are paved with pure gold. It is built four-square, the perfect cube. It has no need for the light of the sun, for the glory of God and the Lamb enlighten it. It is the antitype of all that which is earthly and passed away, the realization of God’s eternal plan of heavenly perfection. The gates thereof are never shut, and in it there is no night. Into this city shall nothing enter that defileth or maketh a lie. Yea, it will be a new heaven and a new earth wherein righteousness shall dwell.
The home of the perfected saints! And the saints are the Lamb’s bride, the elect church of God. Loved by Him eternally, and chosen by Him from before the foundation of the world. Predestinated they are to be conformed to image of God’s Son. He is their Head and Redeemer. With Him they form one elect body. Their Lord suffered for them without the camp and sanctified them by His blood. Their robes are cleansed of all their guilty stains. They are pure and white, and crowns of victory are on their heads. Their battle is ended. No enemy shall attack them or hurt them anymore. All unbelievers, murderers, whoremongers, adulterers, dogs, shall be excluded from that city. And God is not ashamed to be called their God, and He purposes to dwell with them in His eternal tabernacle.
An abiding city!
That we have here no continuing city, but we seek the coming one, must mean that the one we seek is in contrast eternal. And the contrast is very sharp. Nothing in this present world is permanent. The world and its institutions crumble and fall. Kingdoms come, and kingdoms go. Nations rise to the apex of power, but soon melt away before the destructive power of another that is greater. Cities rise up over night, and disappear like the morning dew. And man that dwells in them is as destructible as the world and its things. He is like the grass which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven. He is like the flower of the field which today blooms, and tomorrow is cut down. He passes away and his place knows him no more. Man and the world with its things in which he dwells constitute the pageantry of life. They all come up on the stage, do their act, and then disappear behind the veil of death.
O how foolish is our depraved nature that entices us to dig deeply and attempt to build a lasting place in this world! How easy it is especially in times of affluence to assume the position of the fool who had prospered materially and who said: Soul, thou hast laid up much goods, take thine ease and be merry! Not realizing that at the end of the day he said this, his very soul was required of him. Or to take the position of Nebuchadnezzar who gloated over his amassed greatness, and said: Is this not great Babylon which I have built? And lo, that very night the city was sacked and completely destroyed! Even Jerusalem, that mighty citadel of David, was left with not one stone standing upon another.
Not so the eternal, heavenly and abiding city! It shall never pass away. It has not destructive forces in it, nor is there any enemy that is able to bring it to destruction. The city of God shall stand for aye!
God’s city has foundations! And that means by implication that no other city has foundations. Foundations are peculiar only to the city of God. It only stands securely. Its foundations were laid already in His eternal counsel and plan, and that is as sure as God is Himself. And in that same counsel He of His good pleasure purposed that in this city of immoveable foundations the redeemed of all ages should dwell.
An abiding city!
For pilgrim seekers!
And a pilgrim has no abiding place here below. He lives in a tent, a temporary abode. It rests only on the surface of the earth, is collapsible, easily taken down and removed from place to place. He has no aspiration to build a city in this world, for he tarries but for a night. He is traveling, always traveling toward the city which has foundations.
O, to be sure, many are the temptations that attract him. Many are the signs along the way that call out to him to stop and to abide here. The chambers of commerce have learned how to approach the weary pilgrim with many attractive appeals. They call their cities by such names as “brotherly love” and “city of warm friends.” With ensnaring beauty they earnestly attempt to create in the mind of the pilgrim the desire for the things of the world. And always there is in the old nature of the pilgrim the urge to listen to these appeals. Like the Pilgrim of Bunyan’s Progress, they go through a literal Vanity Fair. Indeed, the way of the pilgrim is most difficult. It takes him up rugged heights, and through valleys of suffering, persecution, despair, and even death. It is a way frought with fears, sloughs and quagmires of sin and despondency. Therefore he is often tempted to follow the arrows that point him to a life of ease and carnal satisfaction.
But at heart he is a pilgrim! He is a stranger here as all his fathers were. He is born from above, and the life of the heavenly city courses through his spiritual veins. It is the life of regeneration, the life of the resurrected Lord. Verily, he has become through grace a citizen of the kingdom of heaven! And so he longs and hopes, yearns and presses forward, till he enters the city he seeks.
The pilgrim knows the way!
His way always begins outside the gate!
It is the way his Saviour showed him! It is the way His Saviour walked before him.
Via Dolorosa! The way of sorrows! It leads to the hill of the skull upon which was planted the accursed tree, on which cross He shed His life’s blood for the pilgrim. There He was despised and rejected of men, and accounted as a thing abominable and a reproach. In the fountain of blood which He made, the pilgrim may be washed from all his guilty stains, and from all unrighteousness; and come away with the clean white garments of righteousness, the righteousness of His Redeemer, the passport into the city which has foundations.
O, indeed, the pilgrim knows the way! For the light of the heavenly city has flooded his heart through the regenerating grace of Christ. It is the light of the Spirit of grace which the Lord first received when He entered the city, and which He in turn pours out in the heart of the pilgrim. Moreover, that light He also sheds in His Word, which serves the pilgrim as a ‘lamp to his feet and a light upon his pathway.
But be not mistaken! That way of the pilgrim does not lead him out of the present world. Nowhere is the pilgrim instructed to flee to some lonely island, or into isolation in some desert place. The Lord of the pilgrims prayed: “Father, I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from evil.” This will of Christ they firmly understand. But this they also understand, that though they are in the world, they are not spiritually of it. Unmistakably the way leads through the world, where he will have to bear the reproach of Christ. The pilgrim-servant knows that he is not greater than his Lord. As they hated Him, so he will be hated. It is a certain way, but also one which is very precious. So precious it is that he seeks out his fellow pilgrims, and talks with them of the object of their hope. And together they express: We have here no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
The one who takes this confession on his lips implies plainly that he has no place in the whole world which he will call his own. He explains in no uncertain terms that he is an alien in a foreign land, a stranger with no “inalienable rights.” This confession does not imply that the stranger may own nothing, but when he possesses, he lives as though he possessed nothing. He is not tied to anything that he cannot leave behind at a moment’s notice.
This is a confession of faith! And they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a better country.
And they shall never be brought to shame!