“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13
When the miracle of regeneration occurs and a life is bound in union to Jesus, they become a citizen of an age not yet dawned and a kingdom not yet come (Philippians 3:21). Our King has ascended to the right hand of the Father in the heights of the heavens and we are exiles on this earth until He returns (1 Peter 1:17). Jesus does not remove His people from the world that hated Him and crucified Him, but tells us to remain and live as sojourning heralds of the good news amidst the rebellious nations (John 17:13-19).
We are called to embrace this foreign, transcendent identity and set our hope entirely on the glorious Day when Jesus comes to the earth (1 Pet 1:13). A rich reward awaits those who love His appearing rather than this present world – those who have “maranatha!” as the throbbing cry at the center of their life (2 Timothy 4:8-10, 1 Corinthians 16:22). The consequence of this upheaval of hope is to be a radical unconformity of our lives (Romans 12:2). The way we relate to the world around us is to be as wayfarers who have no inheritance here. Food, relationships, experiences, and possessions all become means rather than ends – mediums of declaring the preciousness of Jesus and the glory of His kingdom of righteousness in the age to come.
Yet most of us feel far too at home in this evil age (Galatians 1:4). We attempt to masquerade as those who belong in order to soften the harsh resistance of a world hostile to God and His sovereign claims. Rather than storing up imperishable treasure for the age to come we fumble about like the nations, groping desperately to build castles of sand that can house fleeting trinkets and gadgets destined for decay.
The missionary, however, must be of a different stock. The longer they straddle cultures, the more they belong to none. They will never truly assimilate into the soil of their labor, and yet they reach a threshold where they can never live as they once did in their nation of origin. This process is devastating and disenfranchising unless a deeper truth has taken hold of them. As they leave behind the shores of their homeland, they are not taking on the citizenship of another nation but rather declaring to all that they will have no home on the earth until their King returns. Until the kingdoms of the world become His once and for all, they will live amongst the nations as pilgrims and strangers.