SEPTEMBER 11, 2006

Another 9/11 Reflection
by Pastor George Van Alstine

On the morning of September 11, a friend sent me an e-mail in which he said that the fifth anniversary of the Twin Towers disaster affected him much more than he expected, and he was quite depressed over it. My mind flashed back to those two great buildings collapsing in a heap and the world’s greatest metropolis in chaos. A verse from the Bible came to my mind, and I e-mailed it back to him:
“Here we have no continuing city; but we are looking for the city that is to come.â€? (Hebrews 13:14)

With this caution, the author of Hebrews reminds persecuted believers that they should not expect comfort and security in this life, where even the most impressive structures made by human civilizations can come crashing down. Rather, we are to be reassured by the promise of life in the ultimate City:
“You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven . . . .â€? (Hebrews 12:22-23)

I didn’t include all of this in the e-mail response to my friend, just 13:14: “Here we have no continuing city . . . .â€? He didn’t seem encouraged by this, responding instead that maybe life on earth was not worth living.

It was then it occurred to me that the reference in Hebrews 13 to a “continuing cityâ€? grows out of a statement in the previous chapter. Abraham’s faith response to God’s call is described in this way:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents . . . . For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.â€? (Hebrews 11:8-10)

Abraham’s ultimate call was to that eternal City of God, just as ours is. But he was also “calledâ€? (see the word in verse 8 ) to a temporary nomadic life, “as in a foreign land, living in tents.â€?

This is true of us as well! Our destiny is to be secure in the City God has built. But in the meantime, we are called to live in tents, as in a foreign land. We ought not to be too surprised when our strongest buildings crumble, for that will be the fate of all earth’s non-continuing cities. Only the “city that has foundationsâ€? (Hebrews 11:10) will stand eternally.

But until the day God throws open the gates for us, let us recognize that we are called, for now, to be part of a struggling, eroding earthly civilization. Let us also remind ourselves that here we should see ourselves as living in tents, as in a foreign land.