These all died in faith - That is, those who had been just mentioned - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah. It was true of Abel and Noah also that they died in faith, but they are not included in “this” declaration, for the “promises” were not particularly entrusted to them, and if the word “these” be made to include them it must include Enoch also, who did not die at all. The phrase used here, “these all died in faith,” does not mean that they died in the exercise or possession of religion, but more strictly that they died not having possessed what was the object of their faith. They had been looking for something future, which they did not obtain during their lifetime, and died believing that it would yet be theirs.
Not having received the promises - That is, not having received the “fulfillment” of the promises; or “the promised blessings.” The promises themselves they “had” received; compare Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; Acts 2:39; Galatians 3:14, and Hebrews 11:33, Hebrews 11:39. In all these places the word “promise” is used by metonymy “for the thing promised.”
But having seen them afar off - Having seen that they would be fulfilled in future times; compare John 8:56. It is probable that the apostle here means that they saw “the entire fulfillment” of all that the promises embraced in the future - that is, the bestowment of the land of Canaan, the certainty of a numerous posterity, and of the entrance into the heavenly Canaan - the world of fixed and permanent rest. According to the reasoning of the apostle here the “promises” to which they trusted included all these things.
d And were persuaded of them - Had no doubt of their reality.
And embraced them - This word implies more than our word “embrace” frequently does; that is, “to receive as true.” It means properly “to draw to oneself;” and then to embrace as one does a friend from whom he has been separated. It then means to greet, salute, welcome, and here means a joyful greeting of those promises; or a pressing them to the heart as we do a friend. It was not a cold and formal reception of them, but a warm and hearty welcome. Such is the nature of true faith when it embraces the promises of salvation. No act of pressing a friend to the bosom is ever more warm and cordial.
And confessed that they were strangers - Thus, Abraham said Genesis 23:4, “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you.” That is, he regarded himself as a foreigner; as having no home and no possessions there. It was on this ground that he proposed to buy a burial-place of the sons of Heth.
And pilgrims - This is the word - παρεπίδημος parepidēmos- which is used by Abraham, as rendered by the Septuagint in Genesis 23:4, and which is translated “sojourner” there in the common English version. The word “pilgrim” means properly “a wanderer, a traveler,” and particularly one who leaves his own country to visit a holy place. This sense does not quite suit the meaning here, or in Genesis 23:4. The Hebrew word - תּושׁב towshaab- means properly one who “dwells in a place,” and particularly one who is a “mere” resident without the rights of a citizen. The Greek word means a “by-resident;” one who lives by another; or among a people not his own. This is the idea here. It is not that they confessed themselves to be wanderers; or that they had left their home to visit a holy place, but that they “resided” as mere sojourners in a, country that was not theirs. What might be their ultimate destination, or their purpose, is not implied in the meaning of the word. They were such as reside awhile among another people, but have no permanent home there.
On the earth - The phrase used here - ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς epi tēs gēs- might mean merely on the land of Canaan, but the apostle evidently uses it in a larger sense as denoting the earth in general. There can be no doubt that this accords with the views which the patriarchs had - regarding themselves not only as strangers in the land of Canaan, but feeling that the same thing was true in reference to their whole residence upon the earth - that it was not their permanent home.
These all died in faith - That is, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, continued to believe, to the end of their lives, that God would fulfill this promise; but they neither saw the numerous seed, nor did they get the promised rest in Canaan.
Strangers and pilgrims - Strangers, ξενοι, persons who are out of their own country, who are in a foreign land: pilgrims, παρεπιδημοι, sojourners only for a time; not intending to take up their abode in that place, nor to get naturalized in that country.
How many use these expressions, professing to be strangers and pilgrims here below, and yet the whole of their conduct, spirit, and attachments, show that they are perfectly at home! How little consideration and weight are in many of our professions, whether they relate to earth or heaven!
In the Bible the inheritance of the saved is called a country. There the heavenly Shepherd leads His flock to fountains of living waters. The tree of life yields its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the service of the nations. There are ever-flowing streams, clear as crystal, and beside them waving trees cast their shadows upon the paths prepared for the ransomed of the Lord. There the widespreading plains swell into hills of beauty, and the mountains of God rear their lofty summits. On those peaceful plains, beside those living streams, God's people, so long pilgrims and wanderers, shall find a home.6 AH 542.1
There are homes for the pilgrims of earth. There are robes for the righteous, with crowns of glory and palms of victory. All that has perplexed us in the providences of God will in the world to come be made plain. The things hard to be understood will then find explanation. The mysteries of grace will unfold before us. Where our finite minds discovered only confusion and broken promises, we shall see the most perfect and beautiful harmony. We shall know that infinite love ordered the experiences that seemed most trying. As we realize the tender care of Him who makes all things work together for our good, we shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.... AH 542.2
We are homeward bound. He who loved us so much as to die for us hath builded for us a city. The New Jerusalem is our place of rest. There will be no sadness in the City of God. No wail of sorrow, no dirge of crushed hopes and buried affections, will evermore be heard. Soon the garments of heaviness will be changed for the wedding garment. Soon we shall witness the coronation of our King. Those whose lives have been hidden with Christ, those who on this earth have fought the good fight of faith, will shine forth with the Redeemer's glory in the kingdom of God.7 AH 542.3Read in context »
Before the ransomed throng is the Holy City. Jesus opens wide the pearly gates, and the nations that have kept the truth enter in. There they behold the Paradise of God, the home of Adam in his innocency. Then that voice, richer than any music that ever fell on mortal ear, is heard, saying: “Your conflict is ended.” “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” GC 646.1
Now is fulfilled the Saviour's prayer for His disciples: “I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” “Faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), Christ presents to the Father the purchase of His blood, declaring: “Here am I, and the children whom Thou hast given Me.” “Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept.” Oh, the wonders of redeeming love! the rapture of that hour when the infinite Father, looking upon the ransomed, shall behold His image, sin's discord banished, its blight removed, and the human once more in harmony with the divine! GC 646.2Read in context »
It is recorded of the holy men of old that God was not ashamed to be called their God. The reason assigned is that instead of coveting earthly possessions or seeking happiness in worldly plans or aspirations they placed their all upon the altar of God and made disposition of it to build up His kingdom. They lived only for God's glory and declared plainly that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth, seeking a better country, that is, an heavenly. Their conduct proclaimed their faith. God could entrust to them His truth and could leave the world to receive from them a knowledge of His will. 5T 188.1
But how are the professed people of God today maintaining the honor of His name? How could the world infer that they are a peculiar people? What evidence do they give of citizenship in heaven? Their self-indulgent, ease-loving course falsifies the character of Christ. He could not honor them in any marked manner before the world without endorsing their false representation of His character. 5T 188.2Read in context »
Up to this time all had spoken the same language; now those that could understand one another's speech united in companies; some went one way, and some another. “From thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” Verse 9. 8T 215.1
In our day the Lord desires that His people shall be dispersed throughout the earth. They are not to colonize. Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. When the disciples followed their inclination to remain in large numbers in Jerusalem, persecution was permitted to come upon them, and they were scattered to all parts of the inhabited world. 8T 215.2
For years messages of warning and entreaty have been coming to our people, urging them to go forth into the Master's great harvest field and labor unselfishly for souls. 8T 215.3Read in context »