What did God mean by saying we are strangers and pilgrims here on earth?

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The apostle Paul wrote: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country…  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11: 13-14, 16). 

The words “strangers” and “aliens” both mean “foreigners” or ones who belong to a different country. The Bible says that those who are God’s faithful people are residents of another country, which is Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1). God’s people are as strangers just passing through this earth.

And since God’s people are residents of Heaven, they should live in a heavenly manner, not after the world (James 4:4). This is a metaphor that His people should not adopt the ways of earth, but should behave in a way that represents their home country, just as pilgrims do.

Jesus says that we must be “born again” in order to go to heaven (John 3:3-6), and those who are born again are children of their Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:45). When we are born again into God’s family, we become heavenly people and should behave after the heavenly model of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:48-49). 

Paul explains how we as strangers can see the troubles of this life in their true perspective and view them as of only momentary consequence. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Our focus should be fixed upon the glories of eternity (Heb. 12:2). For whatever catches the fixed attention of the mind determines how one will endure life’s troubles – either with hope and faith or despair and doubt.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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