What does Hebrews 11:10 mean?
ESV: For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
NIV: For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
NASB: for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
CSB: For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
NLT: Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.
KJV: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
This verse is key to understanding the perspective of early patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God had promised Abraham his descendants would be a mighty nation, occupying a Promised Land (Genesis 15:5–7). The writer of Hebrews invoked Abraham as an example of true faith and one God honored with blessing. At the same time, this passage noted the same promise was also given to Abraham's son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob. That particular pledge had not been fulfilled in their lifetimes, but they chose to trust God and obey accordingly.
This, according to the writer of Hebrews, is because Abraham—and by extension, his children—looked forward beyond even their own lives. The reference here to "the city that has foundations" might be an echo of the visions seen by prophets of the Old Testament (Ezekiel 40—48; Isaiah 60—66), and given more detail in the book of Revelation (Revelation 21:9–14). The city is the New Jerusalem, a feature of God's eventual conquest over all sin and death (Revelation 21:2–4). Their faith explicitly led them to believe that God's ultimate purpose for them was not earthly, but heavenly. This same perspective is important when reading the other examples of faith given in this passage.
Hebrews 11:4–16 gives examples of figures from the Old Testament who demonstrated faith in God and were blessed as a result. Persons such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah are commended for their trust in God's promises. In particular, this segment of the book of Hebrews focuses on those who heard from God, obeyed, and were blessed. While their actions are important, the common theme of these early references is obedience to God when fulfillment of His promises seems distant. The following passage will explore a similar idea, but in the context of those who demonstrated faith in the face of more immediate hardship.
True, godly faith is defined as trust, relying on God when looking to the future, and obeying even when we don't fully understand all details. The great figures of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, and David, all lived according to this type of faith. Ultimately, that means trusting God's intent to make good on His promises from an eternal perspective. The model of faith presented by those people, in light of the struggles they faced, ought to inspire Christians towards a more confident, purposeful faith.
Up to this point, the book of Hebrews has given extensive evidence proving that Jesus Christ, and the new covenant He brought about, is God's ultimate plan for mankind's salvation. Chapter 10 provided an additional warning about the danger of falling away from this truth. Chapter 11 begins by clarifying the meaning of the word ''faith,'' primarily by listing examples of Old Testament figures who exemplify it. The ultimate application of this knowledge should be a motivation to ''hold fast'' to the gospel, despite hardships. That encouragement is a major theme of chapter 12.
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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