All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13).
It seems an odd way to think of ourselves, but living in exile is exactly how Scripture depicts the Lord's redeemed people in this world. It reminds us, first of all, of who we are - "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession..." (1 Peter 2:9). This is, in fact, why Peter goes on to urge believers "as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). We once were strangers to God and entirely at home in this present evil age. Now, having been purchased with the precious blood of Christ, we belong to the Lord and increasingly find ourselves out of place and ill at ease in a world that "does not know God" or "obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:8). True believers are holy people in an unholy place.
It reminds us, secondly, of where we belong. Estranged from the life we knew and the course of sin we previously followed, the world we loved so much is no longer our home. Having given us the Father's Word, Jesus declares in His High Priestly Prayer that "they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14-16). Yet we have never been more at home than we are through faith in Christ when we hear Him assure His church that "just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom..." (Luke 22:29). According to Paul, then, there is nothing left for us to conclude but that "our citizenship is in Heaven" (Philip. 3:20). This is what defines us here and now - who we are and where we belong - and why our lives are no longer about settling in and conforming to our surroundings, but watching and eagerly waiting for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, "who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21). Amen.
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