The Pilgrim’s Goal

This blog post content is taken from Peace for the Troubled Heart chapter 2 written by Herman Hoeksema.

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For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”—Hebrews 13:14

Christian, press on!

At the end of your way, there is a city to come—the city that has foundations, prepared for you from before the foundations of the world by your God.

It is your goal.

Until it is reached and you have entered through its pearly gates, you may not, you cannot, you must not tarry. Onward you must go; ever onward you must press, never once tarrying or abiding, never fearfully or hesitantly clinging to the things you might meet on your pilgrim’s journey.

Does not the pilgrim dwell in a tent?

He has no city.

In a city one abides, digs foundations, builds firmly to erect a lasting and permanent dwelling place, a continuing home. There are the ties that bind, the treasures one loves, the joys one seeks. There is one’s life. In a tent, however, one tarries but for a night, to rest and recuperate, in order to pull up the stakes at daybreak and press forward and travel onward until the final goal is reached.

The Christian’s life is not like that of the continuing citizen, but like that of the passing stranger, pitching his tent by the wayside to tarry but for a night. Onward, ever onward points the way, now rugged and steep, now for a while on the level and even, but mostly narrow and rough. At sundry stations you may stop long enough to put up your Ebenezers and pray over them, gratefully acknowledging the Lord Jehovah’s help in the past and hopefully imploring his care and guidance and protection all the rest of the way. Sometimes the way may lead you through the midst of a city, fair and beautiful, stealing the love of your heart, tempting you to abide and to bid farewell to the pilgrim’s life.

But you cannot stay, and you must not tarry.

No city here has foundations.

No dwelling place here is continuing.

The goal lies yonder, at the very end of your earthly way, when time is no more and the heavenly light of eternity’s morn beckons you.

The light of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Thither you must press.

On, Christian, on!

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Oh, Zion eternal!

Glorious city of God!

How thou art the chief joy of all who have their garments washed in the blood of the Lamb and who love the light!

Surely, I know that I know but little of the glory and beauty and heavenly joy and eternal pleasures of that city. But even the little I know of the final goal is abundant comfort in the narrow way.

I know that of its heavenly beauty I can but stammer in earthly language, and of its glorious reality I can but conceive in earthly images. But even the partial and earthly image of that eternal city so sets my heart aglow with joy and hope and so fills it with earnest expectation and yearning that for the glory of it, I am gladly willing to sacrifice every earthly joy and pass outside of the gate of every earthly city.

For I do know that it is the city of God,

God is the chief joy of the heavenly Jerusalem. His presence fills the city. His blessed covenant friendship perfected is the very essence of all its bliss and rejoicing. Unlike the earthly Jerusalem, built of wood and stone, it has no temple. If you entered the gates of Jerusalem that once was, and if you would inquire as to the dwelling place of the Most High, and you would be pointed to a building made with hands. If, approaching the temple and entering through its outer gate, you would repeat your query, bystanders would direct your gaze to the sanctuary proper, at the same time warning you that you could not enter there to see the face of God. It was all so imperfect, earthly, and prophetic of things to come. But when you enter the heavenly city through its pearly gates, you need not inquire, for there is no temple there. God himself and the Lamb are the temple of that city, and its preeminent joy and glory is that there the tabernacle of God is with men; he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God.

He fills the city. I know that it is the city of all the saints perfected, the bride, the Lamb’s wife. They walk there in garments white, for they had them washed in the blood of their redeemer, the mighty Lamb of God. There shall be no sin, no corruption, no stain of defilement and pollution left on the robes of its elect inhabitants. Wreaths of victory they wear on their heads, for the battle is ended and won through him who loved them even unto death. I know that there shall be no enemy there to harass and attack and inspire with fear, for the fearful and unbelieving, abominable and murderers, whoremongers, all sorcerers and idolaters and liars, and dogs shall not enter in any wise into that city, but shall have their part with the old serpent in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

I know that there shall be no shadow of death there, no pain or sorrow, no trouble and affliction, no fear or distress, for God shall himself dry the tear-stained faces of his weary pilgrim children and fill their hearts with everlasting joy.

I know that there shall be neither hunger nor thirst, for the inhabitants shall drink of the fountain of eternal life and eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and be abundantly satisfied with the goodness of their God.

His face they shall see

In his light they shall walk.

His name shall be in their foreheads.

They shall have put off all imperfection and all that is of the earth earthy, they shall know as they are known, and forever and ever they shall behold the beauty of the Lord their God.

There shall be no night there.

All the weary night shall be past, changed into eternal day.

There shall be perfect peace.

Glorious city of God!

Chief joy of all God’s children!

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Press forward, Christian, you must!

For here we have no continuing city.

Not only because here there is nothing that abides, though this is also true.

Nothing is permanent in this world. There is no city here that can boast of lasting fame, for the world is a child of time, and chance and change are ever busy. We are like the grass that flourishes in the morning and withers before the sun goes down. We are like the delicate flower of the field that blooms but for a moment and soon dies and is past, even so that its place knows it no more. The life of generation after generation is like a passing show, a pageant, always coming, always moving,—always disappearing behind the veil of death. As we are, so are all things. Nothing is stable; all things move. A stream is life, and all things drift along with it. For the world passes away and the lust thereof, and there is in all that world nothing to which our soul can cling.

In this sense it is true for all men: we have no continuing city here. All things loudly preach: Prepare your house, for you will die.

The man of the world, the inhabitant of proud Babylon, may dig deeply, lay his foundations firmly, and raise his dwelling place in the midst of this world proud and beautiful. He may close his eyes to the reality of fleeting things and say to his soul, “My house shall stand for aye.”

But he is a fool.

Yet a little while and the world shall be no more. Every home, every city, and every proud structure built upon the foundation of this world shall perish with the world.

For the Christian this is not all.

He has no continuing city here in the sense that wherever he looks and in whichever direction he may turn his seeking gaze, nowhere in the world does he find a place that his soul can be satisfied, and where he would build his permanent home. He is a pilgrim not only because all things pass away, but also because of the state and condition of his own heart and soul.

He is a stranger here, for he was born from above.

By nature he is from below and an inhabitant of this world, seeking the things below. But he has received new life through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. His new life is from above, not from below. His new life is the life of the city that has foundations, whose builder and artificer is God. His new life stands antithetically against the old, for the old was of darkness, while the new is of the light; the old was of his father the devil, while the new is of God through Christ; the old loved what was evil, while the new loves that which is good and pleasing to God; the old life was of the earth earthy, while the new life is of the Lord from heaven.

He has become a citizen of the new city, and he walks here with the life of that city in his breast. Therefore he can find no continuing city here, no place where he would care to build and to abide forever.

He longs and hopes and yearns and presses forward, until through the gate he will enter into the city.

Christian, here you have no continuing city.

Press forward you must.

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Seek that city!

Seek it you must, but not as one who gropes in darkness and knows not the way, neither is certain whether he will ever enter.

The way is certain.

You need not doubt as to the direction.

It always starts outside the gate.

There is erected outside of the gate and on a little hill a cross, an accursed tree. On the tree there is the Man of Sorrows. The world would not have him. Jerusalem loved him not. As a thing abominable and a reproach, he was cast out to suffer without the camp. Nor will the world ever let him in again. The sign of the cross remains the symbol of his relation to the world and of the attitude of Jerusalem, whose spiritual name is Sodom and Gomorrah. But on that accursed tree this Man of Sorrows shed his life blood, that you might have properly washed garments to enter the city of eternal light and joy.

Over that hill, by that cross, and outside the gate leads the way.

One cannot miss it.

Go out of the gate, therefore.

Have your garments washed in his blood.

And bear his reproach. This you cannot escape on the way to the eternal city. Washed by him, you are one with him, and being one with him you will share his reproach. For the servant is not greater than his master. If they have hated him, they will also hate you. The way, then, is unmistakably certain.

But seek the city. Know that it is more precious than all the pleasures and treasures of the world. Set your heart on it. Long for it. Hope for it. Strive for it. Fight for it. Suffer for it. Bear the cross and the reproach of him who suffered outside of the gate for it. Press on and on, until you enter through its gates and have the victory forever.

It is coming.

It is not yet. Its glory is not yet revealed, for we are saved in hope, and hope that is seen is not hope.

But it is certain in its coming. God prepared it for you in his eternal and immutable counsel. It cannot fail. The end of the pilgrim’s journey that starts outside the gate, and on which you are called to bear the reproach of the sufferer of Golgotha, is the beautiful city of God.

It is about to come.

Yet a little patience and a little suffering, yet a little struggle and a little battle, and the end of your journey will be reached.

A very light affliction, quickly passing—and then eternal joy.

Seek that city!

Press on!


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