“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13:12–14, AV)
“Oh, you’re one of them!” Throughout history, there have been some who are part of the in-crowd and those who are not. These have come about because of race, economic status, physical appearance, intellectual abilities, physical abilities, education, etc. I have seen this in many circles, even in which colleges you attended.
Often in school, there were cliques established based upon whether you were in the college prep group or the vocational group. There were the bad guys versus the good guys. In school, these lines of division would often become quite difficult especially when others would look down upon you because you were not considered cool. You could be excluded from fellowship because of it. You were kept outside of the club.
The author of Hebrews is writing to a Hebrew community that has been experiencing some degree of suffering because of their profession of Jesus as their Messiah. The rest of the Jews considered this group as outsiders. They were excluded from the fellowship with their fellow Jews because of this. Thus, the author here encourages them to properly accept their suffering because those who have believed are separate from their former ways.
He uses the suffering of Jesus in the crucifixion as an illustration. It was the practice to conduct public executions outside of the city. The Jews stoned Stephen to death outside the city (Acts 7:58). The Romans crucified Jesus at Golgotha, which was likely not far from Herod’s palace outside the city. The point the author made is that as Jesus suffered outside the city, so are they suffering outside their former Jewish community. They are considered outsiders because they are outsiders. Yet, in this case this is a good thing.
The author goes on to encourage them by stating that here on this earth they did not have a lasting city. It was a temporal one. What they were seeking was something much better. It was not a temporal city but an eternal one to come. He was referring to the heavenly city where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. That was their destiny and they needed to take their eyes off the former place in Judaism and focus on the eternal dwelling place in glory.
Often today, true believers are considered odd people because they heed the truth of God’s word. They live differently, pursuing God’s righteousness. This puts them at odds with the world and those who love it. Persecution in some form will come to those who truly try to live a godly life (2 Tim 3:12). We must remember that Jesus has set us apart from sin unto righteousness and thus we endeavor to come out from among them and be separate. We can be encouraged because of the promise of a heavenly city in which we will someday reside. It is an infinitely glorious city that shall never pass away.