“They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” (Hebrews 11:13)
Hebrews 11 gives us a glance in the Bible’s rearview mirror. The faithful witnesses mentioned in this chapter lived long ago, even before Jesus came. And they had this in common: they all lived by faith in God’s promises. And before they died and were taken to live with the Lord, “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”
“Seeing from a distance” is how we can describe the sights, sounds, and scenes in the book of Revelation. Revelation 11 closes with a scene in which all of heaven rejoices and gives thanks to God because “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah.” It is a powerful picture of God reigning on earth as in heaven. And the promise is that “he will reign for ever and ever.” Hallelujah!
With eyes of faith, we can see this “from a distance.” Close-up in the world around us, though, we often see terrible things such as cancer, COVID-19, poverty, racism, violence, addiction, and death. And there are times when these appalling things make us weep. At such times, faith is the Holy Spirit’s muscle that enables us to see “from a distance.”
Faith also welcomes the future of God’s full kingdom today. Faith has this power because it is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done” — here today — “on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.