heavenly countryBut now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. – Hebrews 11:16

These faithful that we have been studying, looking at their lives, their faith and the fruit it bore, we have seen them step out and go where they were called in obedience. We see that they did not look back, but always pressed on moving forward in their faith. They knew God could be and should be trusted and so they did not hesitate, doubt, or fear. They followed God.

As they applied their faith and obeyed, even in moving to a new land and waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled they were faithful to death. How is it that they were able to truly take God at His Word to the point where they went to a strange land, at times not even knowing where God was calling them, without looking back or longing for the way things used to be? The answer to that question is heaven.

Yes, even while traveling to a new earthly location they still had in mind that God made promises that transcended this world. For all that this Promised Land was to be, for all that God told them about His plans for the land and the people, they saw the Land for what it was. Too many see the Promised Land as the end of the journey. After the Exodus and the conquest, the arrival at the Promised Land is the end of the story – promises fulfilled. But Abraham and these others saw past the earthly land. They knew that the land was just a type, just a picture, a foreshadowing of what was to come.

They by faith longed for a better, a heavenly country. They knew that everything on this earth is passing away. The beauty that proclaims the glory of God, the grandeur, the majesty of the created world – it all points to something better. Something heavenly. A country not marred by sin or the curse.

Imagine this world with no sin or curse. Talk about Paradise. The sad truth is that because of our sin in Adam the world itself is cursed and groans waiting for salvation. This fallen world will be replaced by a better, heavenly country.

Longing for Heaven

 It says here that they “desire” this heavenly country. The term means to try and grab something just out of reach. Heaven is just beyond our reach isn’t it? We cannot reach it or grab it or obtain it on our own. But we can desire it! The Spirit puts within our hearts that desire for the promise of a better place.

 Heaven should be so ingrained in our thinking, so good, so glorious, that we really do have a hard time admitting that many people will never make it to heaven. How many false religions exist that promise heaven without Christ? And yet, without Jesus there is no heaven. Without Him there is no way to the Father. Without Him there is no better country.

 These longed for heaven. They yearned and hungered for it. For a place free of sin and death, sorrow and suffering. It was an all-consuming craving for something better.

 Do we long for heaven? Do we desire to reach out and grab this better place, this heavenly country, this place untouched by sin? Jesus promised us everlasting life in heaven if we repent and trust Him. If we believe the gospel and obey it, because of His sinless life and substitutionary death, heaven can be ours as part of our inheritance in Him.

 So often in the Bible desire is seen negatively as lust, a craving for self-fulfillment. Here though, this desire for heaven is a good and God honoring desire. He wants to us to want heaven. David stated in the Psalms his longing for being in God’s presence. “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Paul stated in Philippians that he was hard pressed in desiring at once to go be with the Lord and yet also desiring to stay and minister to the church. His desire for heaven, for God’s presence, was strong, for he said it was a “far better” desire (Philippians 1:23).

 Do we long for heaven? Have we laid up your treasures there so that our heart is set on being in God’s presence? Are we driven to hope for heaven, a better country, to dwell in the “house of the Lord?”

(tomorrow: A Heavenly Country)