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Hebrews 13:13–14

“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

Just as the bodies of the animals sacrificed on the Day of Atonement were burned outside the camp (Lev. 16; Heb. 13:11–12), Jesus suffered and died outside the camp—outside the city of Jerusalem, regarded by first-century Jews as the holiest place on earth. The death of Jesus and its correspondence to the Day of Atonement show that He fulfills that old covenant festival, revealing that there is no going back to the old covenant system (see also Heb. 10:18).

That, in turn, is a call to action, as today’s passage indicates. We are to go to Jesus “outside the camp and [to] bear the reproach he endured” (v. 13). Here the author of Hebrews calls us to identify with Christ no matter the cost. Remember that the original audience consisted of Jewish Christians who were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. They were tempted to abandon Jesus and to go back to the old covenant so that they would be free from suffering and could reestablish all their past ties with family and friends that were severed when they came to believe in Jesus. The Jews who had rejected Christ would have considered the audience of Hebrews unclean for leaving old covenant Judaism behind, much as these same Jews regarded other non-Jews as unclean. Outside the camp, in the old covenant system, was the place of uncleanness, the place of the divine curse (Num. 5:1–4). To go outside the camp was to enter a state of accursedness and uncleanness according to the Jews. Thus, in the eyes of the Jews, Jesus was unclean and cursed, for He died outside the camp and on a tree, an accursed method of death (Deut. 21:22–23). The author of Hebrews is exhorting the original audience not to be afraid that the non-Christian Jews would view them as accursed. They were to go out; that is, they were to embrace Jesus boldly and definitively.

In going outside the camp, the original audience would be leaving everything behind. But they would get something far greater. In fact, they would not be leaving anything behind ultimately, for the Christian’s citizenship belongs not to this world but to the city to come (Heb. 13:14), the eternal city whose designer and maker is God (11:10, 13–16). The author of Hebrews issues a call for believers to go outside the camp and embrace their identity as wanderers who belong to the true kingdom of God. In leaving the old covenant behind, however, believers suffer no lasting loss. Outside the camp, they find the one true God in Christ, as Moses did when He met with God outside the camp of Israel during the wilderness wanderings (Ex. 33:7–11).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Not all Christians come from a Jewish background, so not all of us have to leave the old covenant behind as a Jewish person would have to do. However, all of us are called to be willing to bear the reproach of Jesus. We must not be afraid to identify with Him even if people mock us or hate us. Our citizenship is in heaven with Him; it does not belong to this world.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 69
  • Isaiah 54:4–8
  • Matthew 10:32–33
  • Luke 9:26

The Altar of Christ

Praise to God Through Jesus

Keep Reading Time

From the September 2020 Issue
Sep 2020 Issue