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“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
- Hebrews 13:14  

When people ask me how this last year has been, one of the comments I often make is how much I have learned to live in the present.  With travel restrictions in place and ongoing shifts in the public health orders, it has been difficult to plan ahead.  

As frustrating as this has been at times, I typically comment that this limitation has also led to a helpful shift in my own discipleship.  I’ve learned to live more attentively in the present moment, to embrace simple joys, to look around and show gratitude for the many blessings I have.  This is good.

There is, however, a precedent in Scripture for always looking ahead when it comes to our future hope—a type of ‘planning’ that never gets thwarted by restrictions or limitations or pandemics.  

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we are always looking ahead to a future home, a future habitation where God will dwell again among His people.  But this time around, it’s not going to be in a garden but in a city.  

Everything in the ancient world was about a city.  Great nations centered around a city.  For Israel, it was all about Jerusalem (or ‘Zion’), the city of God.  For the Roman Empire, it was all about Rome, the city of the ‘gods.’  The Greeks had Athens.  Asia Minor had Ephesus.  The Babylonians had Susa.  The Assyrians had Nineveh.  The Canaanites had Jericho.    

Great cities were the heartbeat of a nation.  They were the life of a nation—where there was culture, entertainment, trade, temples, etc.  Every nation was identified by a great city, if not multiple great cities.

Still today, whenever we travel, the major airports are all located in great cities.  When we think of China, we think of Beijing.  When we think of England, we think of London.  When we think of Egypt, we think of Cairo.  

For us, as followers of a King whose Kingdom is still coming—whose Kingdom is growing all over the world like a mustard seed, whose Kingdom is more about bearing fruit and dying to self than creating an empire—our hope is also in a city.   

But it’s a city that will endure because it is sustained and infused by the glory of God’s presence.  

While we are yet here, waiting for the heavenly city to come down, we know that we do not have a city here that will fulfill our deepest longings.  We’re waiting for the city that is to come.   

In Christ, we know that we are citizens of a different nation, a multi-national nation, a multi-cultural nation, a different kingdom entirely—one that will be on this earth, but is ruled by Jesus himself.

What we see in Revelation is that the city of God comes down to earth.  And in that city, there is justice beyond anything that we have ever seen.  There is no more mourning, or pain, or death.  There is light without darkness.  

We long for that kind of city.  And as we long, we can seek the welfare of the cities where we have been planted while yet planning ahead for a city that will be unlike anything the world has ever known.  

Because it will be governed by a King unlike any other.   

So while we wait, dispersed and waiting for His return, we are sent into the world to proclaim the city of God.  We are tasked with demonstrating that there is something better, something that leads to flourishing, something that we can only see now in part.   

But one day, we will see it in full.  

And what a city it will be.     

 Lord, deepen our longing for your coming.  Inspire us, by your Holy Spirit, to plan for your heavenly Kingdom while we seek the welfare of our earthly cities.  May we never cease to seek your Kingdom first.  Amen.  

Song:  This song always gives me a burst of future hope: