The Heavenly Calling

Hebrews 3  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Heb. 3-It is of no small moment to bear in mind that, while the "heavenly calling," as a developed system, depends on the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, the faith of Old Testament believers was far in advance of their calling and circumstances. Thus, the Lord called Abram from his country and kindred and father's house to a land that He would show him; and it was certainly by faith that he obeyed and went out, not knowing whither he went. But Heb. 11:99By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: (Hebrews 11:9) shows us the further action of faith; for when he got to the land he sojourned in it as in a strange country, because a ray of the distant heavenly glory had dawned on his soul. " He looked for a city which hath foundations," etc. Thus he and the other patriarchs died, as they lived, in faith, not in actual possession. Nevertheless, such strangership as this neither amounts to nor implies the "heavenly calling." Doubtless, the " heavenly calling" now produces and enjoins strangership also; but this in no way proves that itself was published and enjoyed of old.
For the " heavenly calling," brought before us in Hebrews, grew out of the position of the Lord as having appeared, and when He had by Himself purged our sins, as having sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hence the earthly tabernacle and the rest in the land, and the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices entirely disappear, for the partakers of the heavenly calling who are addressed in the epistle. This state of things was not true either of the fathers or the children of Israel. Their hope was intimately bound up with the land (no doubt, under the Messiah and a glorified condition, but still their land and people as the medium of blessing for all others); but the " heavenly calling" was not revealed, nor could be till He came whose rejection led to it, and whose redemption and consequent glorification in heaven became its basis. Hence Abram had his earthly altar. Hence he sacrificed, as did his descendants, in due season, of the flock, or the herd, or the appointed clean birds. Then comes the worldly sanctuary and its most instructive furniture and rites, that spoke of better things looming in the future. Nobody that I know disputes that individual saints saw beyond these shadows, dimly perhaps but really, to a coming Savior and a heavenly country. Still the land to which the patriarchs were called was an earthly land, and the entire polity of Israel was that of a nation governed under the eye of a God who displayed Himself on earth in their midst-in contrast with "the heavenly calling," of which not the less it furnished striking types, mutatis mutandis. Accordingly, in Heb. 11, after having traced the precious individual traits of the Spirit in the Old Testament saints, not only from Abraham but from Abel downwards, we are guarded against the error that would merge all in one lump, by the incidental statement of the last verse. (See also chap. 12: 23.) The elders have not received the promise; they are waiting till the resurrection for that. Meanwhile God has provided unforeseen some better thing for us. He has given us not promise only but accomplishment in Christ. He has made us worshippers once purged, having no more conscience of sins. He calls us boldly to enter into the holiest by a new and living way consecrated for us. None of these things could be so predicated of them, and yet these things are but a part of the heavenly calling. Truly, then, has God provided some better thing for us, even if we only look at what is now made known through the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. It is also true that they without us shall not be made perfect. They and we shall enter on our respective portion in resurrection glory at the coming of Christ. Meanwhile we have no earthly calling, nothing but an heavenly one.
So far is it from being true that the early ecclesiastical writers erred by distinguishing too sharply between the dispensations, that their main characteristic is Judaizing the church by denying the real differences. Jerome did this no less than others, even to the confounding of Christ's ministry with Jewish priesthood.