Hebrews – Chapter Thirteen XXI

by Ed Urzi

“For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

Despite its brevity, Hebrews 13:14 offers a hidden wealth of practical application. With this in mind, today’s message marks the beginning of a four-part miniseries that will examine various aspects of this verse.

We can begin with the prevailing theme of this passage: the people of God are citizens of another realm. Although God’s people live and work within this world, they are citizens of heaven as represented by this reference to “…the city that is still to come” (CEB). This corresponds to what we read earlier in Hebrews 11:10 concerning …the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Thus, “Christians should be characterized by looking forward to the future. We should not be attached to this world, because all that we are and have here is temporary. We should not love our present home so much that we lose sight of God’s future blessing.” (1) However, we should also consider the possibility that there was a far more immediate concern behind this reference to “…no continuing city.”

As mentioned earlier, the ancient Roman army marched upon the city of Jerusalem shortly after the Epistle to the Hebrews was completed. A contingent of 30,000 soldiers took part in that campaign in an effort to eliminate the remaining pockets of resistance to Roman governance. That five-month military operation began in A.D. 69 and continued into A.D. 70 as Roman military units leveled the city of Jerusalem, along with the Temple and every other major building within that area. That offensive also resulted in the estimated loss of one million lives.

It’s likely that the Epistle to the Hebrews had started to enter into circulation around the time when this incursion took place. Those who subsequently read this epistle in the late first and early second centuries were thus reminded of a graphic event within their lifetimes that served to illustrate this idea of “no continuing city“.

Much like our author’s earlier reference to “…those things that are being shaken” in Hebrews 12:27, the destruction of Jerusalem offered a vivid depiction of our author’s premise. In the words of one commentary, “Here is a foreboding of Jerusalem’s imminent destruction. Even if there was no prophetic intent within the author’s statement, God is about to remove the temptation for Jewish Christians to return to the sacrificial ritual of the Jerusalem temple.” (2)

(1) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [Hebrews 13:14] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers

(2) Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 2582.