"He Has Prepared a City for Them" (Hebrews 11:8–16): Escapist Eschatology or Ecological Expedience?

In Heb 11:8-16, the author commends Abraham for his faith, citing the example of Abraham’s setting out from his home country to an unknown land in obedience to the command of God. The author notes that Abraham settled for a time in the land that had been given him in the promise of God, but that he did so as a stranger and alien upon the earth (v. 9). The focus of the author is not on Abraham or his posterity receiving the promised land, but is rather on an eschatological interpretation of the promised homeland that is aimed at exhorting the readers of the letter-sermon to keep their eyes fixed on the eternal reward of perseverance. Thus the example of Abraham is but one of many in ch. 11 that urges the readers to look beyond their present circumstances to the eschatological promise of eternal life. Frequently, however, this passage among others is used to justify an escapist eschatology that minimizes attention on the present order and its afflictions in favor of a rather singular focus on the world to come. If indeed believers are strangers and foreigners upon the earth, living as those just passing through, with eyes fixed on the eternal city God has prepared for them, then believers may be justified to pay little attention to a homeland not their own. This paper will attempt to put the passage into proper perspective by placing its teaching into the larger context of what the NT (Hebrews included) has to say about the place of creation in God’s redemptive scheme. The conclusion will affirm the integrity of Heb 11:8-16 within its own rhetorical context while maintaining the larger biblical picture of the believer’s responsibility to care for creation in light of its eschatological redemption.