A Better Country: Our Homeland
by Paul Enns
As Americans we proudly sing, “My country ’tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty…” We are proud to be Americans; our country has a great history as a place of refuge and freedom for those who have been persecuted for their faith. Yet most Americans do not have their origin in America. Some 15 percent of Americans have a German background, while about 11 percent have an Irish background. Others have ancestors who came from other European countries. Those are the countries that reflect the background of most Americans (though increasingly immigrants come from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and India).
My wife and I made numerous trips to Europe. But on our first trip, after we had spent some time in Germany mingling and interacting with the people, I suddenly turned to Helen and said, “Now I know why I am the way I am.” I was in the country of my origin, and I felt comfortable interacting socially with the people. I understood their characteristics and mannerisms, and they unquestionably understood mine.
That familiarity reflects a basic meaning of heaven. One of the rich, colorful words describing heaven is the word patrida. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that people like Abraham and Sarah were aliens on this earth. Their sojourn on earth ended in a foreign land. Their hearts were elsewhere. They were “seeking a country [patrida] of their own” (Heb. 11:14). They “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16).
These concise comments and this singular word patrida open a new vista of understanding about heaven. The word has a familiar meaning. It means “fatherland, homeland, home town, one’s own part of the country.” The word is related to pater, meaning “father.” Hence, patrida has a family meaning. This is where one’s family lives. It reflects the family’s culture, language, habits. It is home. Does that excite you? It should. It is a reminder that we will be with family in our familiar, family home for all eternity. We will be with family in heaven. We will be home!
That is heaven! It is our true home. That is where we will be reunited with our believing loved ones and ancestors. We will be totally comfortable in those surroundings, enjoying the fellowship, the interaction, the discussions…
What We Long For
What are you looking for and longing for? In America, people sometimes long for the wrong things—and what they really want (although they don’t know it) and what they really need will remain elusive to them. Many think they need another car, a vacation home, the newest items in technology. They think the latest fashions in the shopping centers will satisfy their longings. They won’t.
The longing that God has placed in our hearts is for heaven, a better place, a better country. But more specifically, it is a country of our ancestry. It is our fatherland. It is where we will meet believing ancestors and converse and excitedly fellowship with them. We will enjoy becoming connected with our people, who do things in a familiar way, who speak a familiar language. It is a people with whom we will be totally comfortable.
Are you looking for the better country? Are you looking for your fatherland, your homeland, your home town? That is heaven! That is the deep longing in your heart—and only heaven—our family home—will satisfy that longing.
Excerpt from Heaven Revealed, with permission from Moody Publishers.