STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Because the Jews came yearly to Jerusalem to celebrate God’s appointed feasts, many assumed that Jerusalem would be God’s “continuing city,” that this is how things would always be. For them, the true God’s religion was perpetually bound up in the feasts, the fasts, and the sacrifices. To follow after any other way was blasphemy.
The Hebrew Christians then faced considerable pressure to revert back to the temple worship of God’s “continuing city” of holy Jerusalem. Therefore, the inspired writer encourages them, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”
It is in the sinner’s very nature to seek a continuing city here, to make one’s heaven here on earth. Some seek a continuing city here by filling up the lusts of the flesh, thinking there’s nothing after this life anyway. Others seek a continuing city here by hoping to set up a utopia where everyone lives in perpetual peace with one another.
Confused Christians can also at times seek a continuing city here. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter wanted to set up tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Just moments before Jesus’ ascension, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) Many who are confused by the book of Revelation think that Jesus will set up a thousand-year reign here on earth. And how often our sinful flesh tempts us to seek a continuing city of comfortable Christianity; that is, to compromise a “little truth” from God’s Word if it means casting off the pain of our crosses.
But Jesus did not come down and die for all of mankind’s sins in order that He might set up a continuing city here on this sin-cursed world of death, pain, and suffering. Why would He? What kind of heaven could there really be on this earth? Instead, Jesus told His disciples, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) And so, the continuing city is there where Christ has ascended, not here. This truth, then, affects how Christians will act while here.
The Jews were obligated to approach God with the blood of sacrifice and the ministration of their high priest, but because of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice, we no longer bring bloody animal sacrifices. Instead, Jesus brings His holy, precious blood before God on our behalf, and we now stand justified by faith. Since we have been freed from the curses and obligations of the Old Covenant, that means we have different sacrifices to bring. Now, we offer sacrifices of praise by word and deed.
We boldly confess our Savior’s name in the face of reproach or persecution. Since we have no continuing city here, we don’t need to live as the world does, desperately clinging to the things of this world; rather, we can gladly share our things with others.
Yes, knowing that we have no continuing city here, our eyes of faith are directed to that brilliant, shining city on the hill that will continue on forever where our Savior has gone on before us. May God grant us grace to reach it safely by His Son.
Chad Seybt is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming.