Conviction and Hope in the Life of a Believer
By Richard Allen – June 12, 2023
Thanks to all of my readers for sticking with me for these past many weeks in our trek through the Book of Hebrews. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the previous 12 Blogs, and are now approaching one of the most powerful chapters in all of Scripture: Hebrews Chapter 11 – “The Hall of Faith.” As I stated in my first Blog “Hebrews Study #1: Listen to My Son,” the writer has pursued One Foundational Truth: “Jesus Christ, His Person and His Priesthood is far superior to all human mediators as He was God and Man, and as such was the only Mediator who could reconcile poor sinners to a Holy God.” The Jewish Christians to whom he wrote were in danger of “going back to Judaism,” and the temporary sacrificial system that was but a shadow of things to come. By doing so, they were also in danger of forsaking the substance and ground of their salvation, Jesus the Messiah! So the question we need to ask at this point is: “Why then does the writer to the Hebrews write a whole chapter that chronicles a litany of Old Testament saints and their faith under Trials? How does this connect with His goal to exalt Christ?
The obvious motive was that the writer of this New Testament Book was trying to encourage Hebrew Christians to continue believing in Jesus Christ – no matter what the cost! Remember, these believers were under trials, and tempted to return to Judaism and its sacrificial system. So, in order to strengthen their hands, the writer sought to accomplish two things: 1.) To ground believers in the finished work of Christ that had been accomplished for them, and 2.) To build their hope for the glorious future that will be received when Christ comes again and brings in a new heaven and a new earth. Another way of saying this would be to encourage these believers to a Saving Faith in what Already is, and strengthen their Faith for what is Not Yet. At the end of Hebrews chapter ten, he gave them this exhortation:
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:35-39).
What an important verse Hebrews 10:36 is. The writer says that they needed endurance (perseverance), so after they had “done the will of God, they might receive what was promised.” Important, because in Hebrews chapter 11 the writer will help us see the Already and Not Yet aspects of true Biblical Faith. We need endurance so we won’t forget the promises that are Already given but also to persevere in faith that we might receive promises Not Yet given.
Here’s how Hebrews chapter 11 starts:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for (Not Yet), and the conviction of things not seen (Already) - Hebrews 11:1.
It’s these two assertions that the writer of Hebrews has been explaining for ten chapters, which these Hebrew Christians Already had: They heard God speak through His Son. They had been given a better testimony than that given by Angels, or even Moses. They now had a High Priest, called after the Order of Melchizedek, seated at the right hand of God the Father because His once for all sacrifice was completed! And the offering that Jesus, their Great High Priest provided for them, had completed the work of atonement and sat down at God’s right hand! They were now under a ‘New Covenant.’ A covenant not like the Old Covenant, which they were incapable of keeping, but rather a Covenant established by the Spirit of God, written on their hearts and not on dead “Tables of Stone!” The writer of Hebrews spent the first ten chapters repeatedly telling his hearers what great and precious promises had Already been given to them.
Hebrews chapter 11, God’s “Progressive Redemptive History,” worked for His people. And it always had some element of the Already and Not Yet in His call, His presence or a manifestation of His mighty hand in deliverance. For each of those great men and women of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, the writer sums up, that they had Already:
“Through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:33 -38).
This list, in addition to the other accomplishments “by faith” chronicled in Hebrews Chapter 11, is impressive. But the writer doesn’t leave us with just what they had done by faith, no, he makes it clear that these Old Testament Believers’ faith was also pointing toward things that were NOT YET for them! They were looking beyond to the very days that the writer’s audience, Hebrew Christians, were now living in the first century. So right after telling us of the exploits “by faith” of the Old Testament Hall of Faith, he adds:
“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
Those faithful men and women of whom we’re told “the world was not worthy,” were all awaiting the promise of Christ’s Advent and His Ministry of Reconciliation through His Atoning Sacrifice on Calvary’s Cross. Let me note that the word “perfect” when translated in Hebrews 11:40, is the Greek word Telos. This word means complete or fullness. So in reality, the writer to the Hebrews was telling his current audience of Jewish Believers, that no matter what the Old Testament saints had accomplished by faith, they were just a step toward the completion, that is the fullness of Christ, his readers were actually experiencing! As Jesus Himself said on one occasion: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and he was glad,” to which the Pharisees became indignant: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:56-57). Even Father Abraham was really looking forward to Christ’s atoning death, and beyond, as Hebrews 11:8-10; 13-16 would later teach:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
These passages make it abundantly clear that Abraham WAS NOT LOOKING FOR A PIECE OF REAL-ESTATE IN PALESTINE! No, like all the faithful in both Testaments, Abraham was awaiting the coming of the Promised Messiah, who would fully complete God’s Salvation by his “once for all sacrifice,” and bring us into His Heavenly Abode! This is important for us to grasp. The Hebrew Christians who were being addressed, like all of us, “they too had an Already and Not Yet, at which to direct their faith!” And all Believers in every age, since Jesus brought in His “Everlasting Covenant” (Hebrews 13:20), Already have a High Priest who has fully and finally atoned for sin, having sat down at the right hand of God the Father on High! This High Priest, Jesus our Lord, lives and reigns to make “Intercession” for the saints each day, not with another bloody offering, but by appearing in the presence of God for us! (Hebrews 7:25). No longer are we “outside the veil,” shielded from God’s presence by an ineffectual earthly priesthood that could never still our consciences and give us peace with God!
Faith looks both forward and backward. In looking backward: “we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God, so what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). We also believe that Jesus our mediator: “After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High” (Hebrews 1:3). But looking forward: “We run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Knowing what we Already have in Christ was a crucial truth for these Jewish Christians, so they wouldn’t forsake the One who alone could save them. But these believers, like all of us, need to run the race, reaching out for the prize that is Not Yet in our full possession. In the words of Winston Churchill, in possibly his most famous speech: “Never give up.” Good advice for believers in every age:
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Soli Deo Gloria!