Hebrews 11:39-40 Commentary

 

 

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Hebrews 11:39-40 Commentary

Hebrews 11:39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: Kai outoi pantes marturethentes (APPMPN) dia tes pisteos ouk ekomisanto (3PAMI) ten epaggelian,
Amplified: And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, . (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV:  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
NLT
: All of these people we have mentioned received God's approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. (
NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: All these won a glowing testimony to their faith, but they did not then and there receive the fulfilment of the promise.  (
Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: And these all, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not receive the promise. (
Eerdmans
Young's Literal:  and these all, having been testified to through the faith, did not receive the promise,

References

Don Anderson
Albert Barnes
Brian Bill
Jim Bomkamp
John Calvin
Rich Cathers
Adam Clarke
Steven Cole
Thomas Constable
W A Criswell
Ron Daniel

J Ligon Duncan
Easy English
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F W Farrar
Dan Fortner
Scott Grant
Dave Guzik
Matthew Henry
F B Hole
Jamieson, F, B
S Lewis Johnson
William Kelly
Lange's Commentary
John MacArthur
Thomas Manton
J Vernon McGee
F B Meyer
Andrew Murray

Phil Newton
A W Pink
John Piper
A T Robertson
Barry Smith
Speaker's Com
C H Spurgeon
C H Spurgeon
Ray Stedman
Ray Stedman
Today in the Word
Bob Utley
Marvin Vincent
Drew Worthen
Precept Ministries

Hebrews Study Guide
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews:11:30-40
Hebrews 11:1-40
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:6-40 Hebrews 11:30-40 11:32-40 11:35-40
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:32-40 Faith's Reward

Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:40 That Better Thing That God Hath Prepared
Hebrews 11:32-40

Hebrews 11:30-40 The World Was Not Worth It
Hebrews Commentary: How can I get to Heaven?
Hebrews 11 Exhibit Your Faith
Hebrews 11 Commentary

Hebrews 11:32-40, 11:32-40; Hebrews 11:39-40
Hebrews 11:32-40 The Story of Faith
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews Commentary Notes
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:32-40 The Remnant of the Faithful
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:30-40
Hebrews 11:30-40 The Pinnacle of Faith

Hebrews 11 Sermons - by Puritan writer - >1000 page Pdf!
Hebrews - 115 Mp3's Thru the Bible Commentary

Hebrews 11:40
Hebrews 11:39 Some Better Thing for Us -p 473

Hebrews 11:32-40  The Triumph of Faith

Hebrews 11:39-12:2

Hebrews 11 Word Pictures

Letter to Hebrews - 329 page commentary
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11 Exposition
Hebrews 11:13,14 An Inscription for the Mausoleum of the Saints

Hebrews 11:1-40 Faith Made Visible

Hebrews 11:39-40 Something Better for Us
Hebrews 11:39-40 Hebrews 11:29-12:3 11:32-12:3
Hebrews Commentary
Hebrews 11: Word Studies
Hebrews 11:20-22, 11:23-28, 11:29-34, 11:35-40
Hebrews Inductive Study Part 2

AND ALL THESE, HAVING GAINED APPROVAL THROUGH THEIR FAITH: Kai houtoi pantes marturethentes (APPMPN): (He 11:2,13; Luke 10:23,24; 1Peter 1:12)

And all of these - All those mentioned and those unmentioned (as implied by "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me..." He 11:32a) in the "Hebrews Hall of Faith".

Gained approval - Their faith bore witness.

Hughes explains that they were...

well attested by their faith in that their faith, so far from being extinguished, was constant and prevailed in the face of the severest testing and opposition and thus declared the genuineness of their profession (A Commentary On The Epistle To The Hebrews)

Having gained approval (3140) (martureo from mártus = witness, one who has information or knowledge of something & hence can bring to light or confirm something; English ~ martyr) ) means to be a witness, to testify, to give evidence, to give testimony, to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something. To be well reported. It means to provide information about a person or an event concerning which the speaker has direct knowledge. Martureo in some context is used in the sense of making an important and solemn declaration. It can be used in the sense of confirmation or approval and so to affirm n a supportive manner.

Martureo is another key word in Hebrews, with 7/81 (almost 10% of the NT uses)

Hebrews 7:8 (note) - In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.

Hebrews 7:17 (note) - For it is attested of Him, "YOU AREA PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK ."

Hebrews 10:15 (note) - And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

Hebrews 11:2 (note) - For by it the men of old gained approval.

Hebrews 11:4 (note) - By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Hebrews 11:5 (note) - By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

Hebrews 11:39 (note) - And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised

THROUGH THEIR FAITH, Now, what was the result for those who were faithful in persecution, deprivation, and death? Beautifully, it was and is the same as for those who experienced great public triumphs in their lives (the Noahs and Moseses and Gideons).

First, they “were all commended for their faith” (v39a). This is the way the chapter began—“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (v1, v2)—and this is how it ends. All the faithful (the known and unknown, the famously triumphant and those who anonymously persevered in suffering) were “commended for their faith.” God forgets no one who loves and serves him! It is his great pleasure to commend faith!

The second result is that “none”—that is, none of the great triumphant members of the Hall of Faith or those who persevered without earthly triumphs—“none of them received what had been promised” (v39b). Although many promises had been given and fulfilled in their lifetimes, they did not receive the great promise—namely, the coming of the Messiah and salvation in Him. Every one of the faithful in Old Testament times died before Jesus appeared. They entered Heaven with the promise unfulfilled.

Why is this? The answer is given in our final verse: “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (v40). No one was “made perfect” under the Old Covenant, because Christ had not yet died. They were saved, but not until Jesus’ work on the cross was complete could salvation be perfect. Their salvation looked ahead to what Christ would do. Ours looks back to what he has done—and ours is "more" perfect now but someday in glory totally perfect. Amen.

Faith (4102)(pistis) is synonymous with trust or belief and is the conviction of the truth of anything, but in Scripture usually speaks of belief  respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it.

It is notable that only the book of Romans surpasses the book of Hebrews (click to study the uses of pistis in Hebrews) in the number of uses of pistis (Romans = 35, Hebrews = 31, out of 243 NT uses) Click for links to all 243 uses of pistis (NAS) which is translated: faith, 238; faithfulness, 3; pledge, 1; proof, 1.

As pistis relates to God, it is the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things well as the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. As faith relates to Christ it represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Stated another way, eternal salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way.

See related studies on the specific phrases (1) "the faith" and (2) the "obedience of faith". See also study on pistos

True faith that saves one's soul includes at least three main elements

(1) firm persuasion or firm conviction,

(2) a surrender to that truth and

(3) a conduct emanating from that surrender. In sum, faith shows itself genuine by a changed life. (Click here for W E Vine's similar definition of faith)

Respected theologian Louis Berkhof defines genuine faith in essentially the same way noting that it includes an intellectual element (notitia), which is

a positive recognition of the truth”; an emotional element (assensus), which includes “a deep conviction of the truth”; and a volitional element (fiducia), which involves “a personal trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, including a surrender … to Christ.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939)

Faith is relying on what God has done rather than on one’s own efforts. In the Old Testament, faith is rarely mentioned. The word trust is used frequently, and verbs like believe and rely are used to express the right attitude to God. The classic example is Abraham, whose faith was reckoned as righteousness (Ge 15:6). At the heart of the Christian message is the story of the cross: Christ’s dying to bring salvation. Faith is an attitude of trust in which a believer receives God’s good gift of salvation (Acts 16:30,31) and lives in that awareness thereafter (Gal 2:20; cf. Heb 11:1).

J. B. Lightfoot discusses the concept of faith in his commentary on Galatians. He notes that in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the definition of the word for faith

"hovers between two meanings: trustfulness, the frame of mind which relies on another; and trustworthiness, the frame of mind which can be relied upon...the senses will at times be so blended together that they can only be separated by some arbitrary distinction. The loss in grammatical precision is often more than compensated by the gain in theological depth...They who have faith in God are steadfast and immovable in the path of duty."

Faith, like grace, is not static. Saving faith is more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey. None of those responses can be classified exclusively as a human work, any more than believing itself is solely a human effort.

Faith is manifest by not believing in spite of evidence but obeying in spite of consequence. John uses the related verb pisteuo to demonstrate the relationship between genuine faith and obedience writing...

"He who believes (present tense = continuous) in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

Charles Swindoll commenting on faith and obedience in John 3:36 concludes that...

In 3:36 the one who “believes in the Son has eternal life” as a present possession. But the one who “does not obey the Son shall not see life.” To disbelieve Christ is to disobey Him. And logically, to believe in Christ is to obey Him. As I have noted elsewhere, “This verse clearly indicates that belief is not a matter of passive opinion, but decisive and obedient action.” (quoting J. Carl Laney)...Tragically many people are convinced that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, so long as you are sincere. This reminds me of a Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown is returning from a disastrous baseball game. The caption read, “174 to nothing! How could we lose when we were so sincere?” The reality is, Charlie Brown, that it takes more than sincerity to win the game of life. Many people are sincere about their beliefs, but they are sincerely wrong!" (Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. Understanding Christian Theology.: Thomas Nelson Publishers) (This book is recommended if you are looking for a very readable, non-compromising work on "systematic theology". Wayne Grudem's work noted above is comparable.)

Subjectively faith is firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness (though rare). Objectively faith is that which is believed (usually designated as "the faith"), doctrine, the received articles of faith. Click  separate study of "the faith (pistis)"

True faith is not based on empirical evidence but on divine assurance.

Spurgeon wrote that...

Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments.

When missionary John Paton  was translating the Scripture for the South Sea islanders, he was unable to find a word in their vocabulary for the concept of believing, trusting, or having faith. He had no idea how he would convey that to them. One day while he was in his hut translating, a native came running up the stairs into Paton's study and flopped in a chair, exhausted. He said to Paton,

“It’s so good to rest my whole weight in this chair.”

John Paton had his word: Faith is resting your whole weight on God. That word went into the translation of their New Testament and helped bring that civilization of natives to Christ. Believing is putting your whole weight on God. If God said it, then it’s true, and we’re to believe it.

Nothing before, nothing behind,
The steps of faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
The rock beneath -- Whittier

Without “confidence” in God - in his fidelity, his truth, his wisdom, his promises. The essence of faith consists in believing and receiving what God has revealed, and may be defined as that trust in the God of the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ whom He has sent, which receives Him as Lord and Savior and impels to loving obedience and good works (Jn 1:12; Ja 2:14 - 26).

Clearly faith is a key word in Hebrews. Study the 31 uses of pistis in Hebrews in context (click the Scripture links to go to the notes on each verse)...

Hebrews 4:2 - For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

Hebrews 6:1 - Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Hebrews 6:12 -so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 10:22 - let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:38 - BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN

Hebrews 10:39 - But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:3 - By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Hebrews 11:4 - By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Hebrews 11:5 - By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:7 - By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Hebrews 11:8 - By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Hebrews 11:9 - By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;

Hebrews 11:11 - By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

Hebrews 11:13 - All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Hebrews 11:17 - By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;

Hebrews 11:20 - By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.

Hebrews 11:21 - By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

Hebrews 11:22 - By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

Hebrews 11:23 - By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

Hebrews 11:24 - By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,

Hebrews 11:27 - By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

Hebrews 11:28 - By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.

Hebrews 11:29 -By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.

Hebrews 11:30 - By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

Hebrews 11:31 - By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.

Hebrews 11:33 -who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,

Hebrews 11:39 - And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,

Hebrews 12:2 - fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 13:7 - Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

DID NOT RECEIVE WHAT WAS PROMISED:  ouk ekomisanto (3PAMI) ten epaggelian:

Spurgeon...

It lay in the future to them far more than it does to us, for Christ has now come, and we look hack to that glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior, but they had altogether to look forward.

They did not live to see Christ come. They expected Him; but, before the time when (the writer of Hebrews) was writing,— before the actual coming of Christ, they had all passed away: “These all, having obtained s good report through faith, received not the promise:”

Christ did not come in their day; the hour for the fulfillment of the great promise had not then struck.

True faith has the courage to count on salvation. These faithful saints had to live in hope. They knew very little about the nature or the time or the means of God’s salvation. But they knew it was coming, and this was the basis of their trust. They had abiding confidence that one day God would do the necessary thing to redeem them and reward them. What happened to them before that time was not consequential. They did not receive what was promised but they had gained approval through their faith. Their faith was not in some immediate fulfillment, but in the ultimate fulfillment of the promises. Here is where faith is most tested and where it most matters.

The ultimate promise was of a redeemer, the Messiah, and of His covenant that would bring righteousness before God. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-11). All these, from Enoch through the prophets, had that courageous faith which counts, without reservation, on final salvation.

Many of them never received the land. Sometimes they had earthly victory; sometimes they did not. Sometimes their faith saved them from death; sometimes it brought them death. No matter. They knew that God had provided something better.

Steven Cole - Faith's Reward (Pastor Cole's sermons are highly recommended - See Sermons by Book)

The last two verses of the chapter show us that…

3. God will bless all who trust Him with eternal rewards (He 11:39, 40).

“All these” refers to both groups. They all gained approval (or “a testimony”) through their faith, yet none received “the promise” (literal translation). Abraham received the promise of Isaac (He 11:17). Others “obtained promises” by faith (He 11:33). But none received the promise, which refers to Christ. They saw Him from afar in types and shadows, but we see Him clearly revealed in the New Testament. Most of them were under the old covenant, but God “provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” That something better is the new covenant in Christ’s blood. The old covenant with its sacrifices could not make the worshipers perfect (He 10:1). But the new covenant has sanctified us “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (He 10:10). The Old Testament saints were saved, but their salvation was not complete until the cross. Ours is complete because Jesus is the perfect sacrifice.

The author’s point is that if the Old Testament saints were faithful through all of these trials, even though they didn’t receive the promise of Christ in the flesh, how much more should we be faithful, since we have Christ! John Calvin (Calvin's Commentaries [Baker], p. 308) put it, “A small spark of light led them to heaven; when the sun of righteousness shines over us, with what pretence can we excuse ourselves if we still cleave to the earth?”

Any yet, although we have the promise of Christ, we do not yet have the full experience of the glory that is to be revealed with Him in heaven. And so we must, like the Old Testament saints, live by faith in God’s promise as we await the final consummation when Jesus returns. We must endure whatever trials come, even persecution, by fixing our eyes on Jesus (He 12:1, 2, 3).

Conclusion

Let me sum up this section with four applications. I cannot expand on these, but I encourage you to think about how they apply more extensively to your life:

(1) Faith is ready to sacrifice present comfort for future reward with Christ.
Faith recognizes that this life is very short in comparison with eternity. With Paul, faith recognizes that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2Co 4:17). In Paul’s case, this “light affliction” included beatings, imprisonments, being stoned, shipwrecked, and often being in danger of death (2Co 11:23, 24, 25, 26, 27)! When you experience “light affliction,” do you grumble or do you joyfully trust God?

(2) Faith lives with a God-ward focus, not with a focus on people or things. The saints mentioned in our text could endure mockings, scourgings, imprisonments, and death because their focus was on God, not on other people or things. They were looking to eternity, not to this vapor of life here. Calvin put it this way, “we ought to live only so as to live to God: as soon as we are not permitted to live to God, we ought willingly and not reluctantly to meet death” (ibid., p. 306).

(3) Faith trusts and obeys God, leaving the results to His sovereignty. Some trust and obey God and He grants spectacular results. Others trust and obey the same mighty God and He enables them to endure horrific trials in His strength. The difference is not in the people or in their faith, but in God’s sovereign purpose in each situation. We know the same God that these Old Testament saints knew, and we have even more, in that we know Christ personally. So we should trust Him as they did, whether He chooses to put us to death, as He did with the apostle James, or to deliver us from death for a while, as He did with Peter.

(4) Faithfulness to Jesus Christ counts more than anything else, even than life itself. As Martin Luther put it (“A Mighty Fortress”),

Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.

Trust God in whatever difficult situations you face. One day soon you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful slave…. Enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 24:21)

Discussion Questions

Where is the balance between accepting our shortcomings and yet striving by faith to overcome them?

Why is faith not opposed to preparation, planning, and hard work? How can we know whether the power is from God or from our planning and effort?

Why is it wrong to judge whether we have God’s blessing by the visible results? How can we know if we have His blessing?

What are some reasons that God does not always deliver those who trust in Him? (
Faith's Reward (Pastor Cole's sermons are highly recommended - See Sermons by Book))

 

Hebrews 11:40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: tou theou peri emon kreitton ti problepsamenou, (AMPMSG) ina me choris emon teleiothosin. (3PAPS)
Amplified: Because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV:  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
NLT
:  For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can't receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race. (
NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: God had something better planned for our day, and it was not his plan that they should reach perfection without us. (
Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest:  God having provided some better thing for us, in order that they without us should not be brought to completeness. (
Eerdmans
Young's Literal: God for us something better having provided, that apart from us they might not be made perfect.

BECAUSE GOD HAD PROVIDED SOMETHING BETTER FOR US: tou theou peri hemon kreitton ti problepsamenou: (He 7:19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 12:24)

The something better for us - This denotes the reality we as NT believers have found in Christ, which the men and women of faith in the OT would attain only after their earthly life ended. We are already recipients of the blessings of the new covenant in His blood (See Covenant: Why the New is Better). They would not fully know these blessings until the resurrection of Christ, the firstfruits Who at apparently at the time between His death on the Cross and His resurrection set free a host of captives of OT saints from Abraham's bosom so that they are now present with Him in heaven, awaiting the establishment of His kingdom for His 1000 year reign at the beginning of which they will receive their resurrected bodies (as best I can tell...not much Scripture on this so be careful not to be too dogmatic).

How great is our advantage! Right now, we live in the so much better New Covenant. We now have a high priest who has offered a perfect sacrifice for our sins once and for all. Our Savior/Priest sits at the right hand of the Father and prays for us. We have a better hope!

The hope of being made perfect includes the hope of physical resurrection, as many Scriptures declare. In the future “first resurrection” (see the concept of The Two Resurrections - "First" and "Second" - on a timeline) believers of both old and new covenants will participate and in this way together with us they will be made perfect.

Calvin caught the thrust of this chapter:

“If those on whom the great light of grace had not yet shone showed such surpassing constancy in bearing their ills, what effect ought the full glory of the gospel to have on us? A tiny spark of light led them to heaven, but now that the Sun of righteousness shines on us what excuse shall we offer if we still cling to the earth?”

Our motivation and inspiration is fuller than theirs, for we have Jesus himself to sustain us. It is to that powerful support that the author now turns his reader’s attention.

Vine explains this passage as follows...

firstly, the Hebrew believers whom the writer was addressing, whilst they had to walk by faith as Old Testament believers had, yet had greater privileges than they. God had reserved some better thing for the times of the rejected Messiah. Heavenly things have become the possession of believers now through their union with Christ and access into the Holiest by His blood. Our citizenship is in heaven. That was not the case with saints of old. But, secondly, whilst none are yet “made perfect,” they and we are to be glorified together in resurrection power and conformity to Christ’s body of glory, and thus we shall all be perfected, as the Lord prayed in John 17:23. Christ has Himself been made perfect in this day (Heb. 5:9 and He 7:28. r.v., “perfected for evermore”).

SO THAT APART FROM US THEY SHOULD NOT BE MADE PERFECT: hina me choris hemon teleiothosin (Teleioo: 3PAPS): (He 9:8,  9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15; 10:11, 12, 13, 14; Ro 3:25, 26) (He 5:9; 12:23; Revelation 6:11)

Apart from us - And so in some way, the writer says that his believing readers and himself (and by implication we who live some 2000 years later) are part of the completion of this chapter on the "Hall of Faith".

They - Who are "they"? All of the great heroes of Hebrews 11. This is amazing statement regarding amazing grace that we should be accounted in their number as we exercise faith!

Spurgeon comments that...

They are waiting up yonder for us; the choirs of heaven cannot be completed without you -and me. Heaven’s full complement, the perfect number of the divine family of love, can never be made up till we who have believed go up yonder to join all those who have had like precious faith. By God’s grace, we shall all be there that they with us may be made perfect.

There is a something for us, whose lot is cast in these latter days, to bring, which shall complete the circle and choir of the Church of Christ, for they without us could not be made perfect. The Lord grant us grace to be ready for our share in that glorious consummation, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

The new dispensation is necessary to complete the old, the New Testament is the complement of the Old Testament, and New Testament saints join hands with Old Testament elders. Let us all be worthy of our high pedigree; and may God grant that, if the saints of these latter days are to perfect the history of the Church of Christ, the end may not be less heroic than the beginning was! A true poem should gather force as it grows, and its waves of thought should roll in with greater power as it nears its climax; so should the mighty poem of faith’s glorious history increase in depth and power as it gets nearer to its grand consummation, that God may be glorified yet more and more, through all his believing children. So may it be! Amen.

Is it not wonderful that we, who bring up the rear of the army of faith, are necessary to its completeness? It cannot be perfect without us. Ay, heaven itself will not be complete without us who are on the road to it. There would be empty seats in the holy orchestra, gaps in the sacred circle; so we who believe must all come there to make them perfect. God help us to hasten on our road, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

Made perfect (5048) (teleioo related to teleios from telos = an end, a purpose, an aim, a goal, consummate soundness, idea of being whole) means to accomplish or bring to an end or to the intended goal (telos). It means to be complete, mature, fully developed, full grown, brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness or in good working order. It does not mean simply to terminate something but to carry it out to the full finish which is picked up in the translation "perfected". Teleioo signifies the attainment of consummate soundness and includes the idea of being made whole. Interestingly the Gnostics used teleios of one fully initiated into their mysteries and that may have been why Paul used teleios in this epistle.

In Hebrews 12:2 (see note) Jesus is designated as "the author and perfecter of faith" where perfecter is teleiotes, the Completer, the One Who reached the goal so as to win the prize so to speak.

Wuest has this note on the NT word group (telos, teleioo, teleios, teleiosis, teleiotes)...

Teleios the adjective, and teleioo the verb. The adjective is used in the papyri, of heirs being of age, of women who have attained maturity, of full-grown cocks, of acacia trees in good condition, of a complete lampstand, of something in good working order or condition. To summarize; the meaning of the adjective includes the ideas of full-growth, maturity, workability, soundness, and completeness. The verb refers to the act of bringing the person or thing to any one of the aforementioned conditions. When applied to a Christian, the word refers to one that is spiritually mature, complete, well-rounded in his Christian character.

Richards commenting on the word group (telos, teleioo, teleios, teleiosis, teleiotes) writes that

These words emphasize wholeness and completeness. In the biological sense they mean "mature," or "full grown": the person, animal, or plant achieved the potential inherent in its nature. The perfect is the thing or person that is complete, in which nothing that belongs to its essence has been left out. It is perfect because every potential it possesses has been realized. (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)

Telioo is used 19 times of 24 total NT uses in Hebrews, often in the sense of to make perfect or fully cleanse from sin in contrast to ceremonial (Levitical) cleansing. The writer is emphasizing the importance of perfection... (which should cause any Jew who is contemplating the worth of Christ and the New Covenant to realize his utter hopelessness to every attain perfection under the Old Covenant).

Hebrews 2:10 (note) For it was fitting for Him, for Whom are all things, and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings (What sufferings? Certainly one would consider His temptation by Satan in the barren wilderness [see Mt 4:1-11, Lu 4:1ff, Mk 1:12, 13] and Gethsemane [Mt 26:36,44, Lu 22:39,44][in agony He was praying very fervently]). (Comment: This does not imply any moral imperfection in the Lord Jesus, but speaks of the consummation of the human experience of suffering the death of the Cross, through which He must pass if He is to become the Author or Captain of our salvation.)

Hebrews 5:9 (note) And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

Hebrews 7:19 (note) (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Comment: This means to carry through completely, to make complete, to finish, bring to an end. The old covenant could bring nothing to conclusion. The Mosaic economy could reveal sin but it could never remove sin, and so it had to be removed. It gave no security. It gave no peace. A man never had a clean conscience.)

Hebrews 7:28 (note) For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

Hebrews 9:9 (note) which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience,

Hebrews 10:1 (note) For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. (Contrast with Jesus in Hebrews 5:9 above.  The idea in Hebrews 10:1 is that the ceremonial law could not actually save the believer. Its work was always short of completeness.)

Hebrews 10:14 (note) For by one offering He has perfected  for all time those who are sanctified. (Comment: Wuest writes "Here, the completeness of the state of salvation of the believer is in view. Everything essential to the salvation of the individual is included in the gift of salvation which the sinner receives by faith in Messiah’s sacrifice. The words “for ever” here are to be construed with “perfected.” It is a permanent state of completeness in salvation to which reference is made. The words “them that are sanctified” are descriptive of the believer. He is one set apart for God) (ibid)

Hebrews 11:40 (note) because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 12:23 (note) (But you have come...) 23 to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,

In sum the fundamental idea of telioo is the bringing of a person or thing to the goal fixed by God.

It is interesting and doubtless no mere coincidence that in the Septuagint (LXX) teleioo is translated numerous times as consecrated or consecration, especially speaking of consecration of the priests (cf Jesus our "great High Priest") (Ex 29:9, 29, 33, 35 Lv 4:5; 8:33; 16:32; 21:10; Nu 3:3). The LXX translators gave the verb teleioo a special sense of consecration to priestly service and this official concept stands behind the writer's use in this passage in Hebrews 5:9 (note). It signifies that Jesus has been fully equipped to come before God in priestly action.

God has provided this something better for us, that is for those under the New Covenant, which is why apart from us they should not be made perfect. That is, not until our time, the time of Christianity, could their salvation be completed, made perfect. Until Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was accomplished, no salvation was complete, no matter how great the faith a believer may have had. Their salvation was based on what Christ would do; ours is based on what Christ has done. Their faith looked forward to promise; ours looks back to historical fact.

Yet, though their salvation was not completed in their lifetimes, these were not second-rate believers. They were believers of the highest order. They courageously struggled, suffered, and counted on salvation. They believed all of God’s Word that they had, which is what counts with Him. How much less faith do we often have, in spite of our much greater light. “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

This is survival truth! We must not succumb to the delusion that gentle rain and sunshine will continue to fall on the church in America as the culture sinks further into neo-paganism.

Constable notes that...

 Their perfection refers to their entering into their final rest (inheritance) and rests, as ours does, on the sacrificial death of Christ (cf. He 9:15).

F B Meyer...

THIS chapter proves that the saints of all ages are essentially one. There is a link which unites them; a thrill which passes from hand to hand around the circle. One theme for many voices; one attitude for many faces; one inspiration for many hearts. The saints that lived before the Advent and those that have lived since are one in their faith in the living God, making the unseen visible, the distant near, and seeing the eternal through the transient and ephemeral.

And now heaven waits. Its joys are not complete; its rapture not full. The blessed are blessed; but there is yet a margin between what they are and what they will be--between what they enjoy, and what they may enjoy. The choir is not full, and the anthem cannot be fully rendered till our voices blend in it. There is a pause, a halt, an expectancy, an incompleteness, till we come. Your dear ones want you to be there. They have not gone far into the heart of God's bliss, but are lingering near the gate till you have joined them.

From Switzerland your friends write you to say it is perfectly beautiful, but "it will be better when you join us; we are reserving the best excursions till you arrive; we are incomplete without you; make haste." It is thus that the blessed await us. The spirit of Heaven is well represented by the courtesy of the old prophet, who would not sit down to meat with Jesse and his sons, till David, the youngest, had come thither also. And when the whole family is gathered, there will be a perfecting indeed, from which no element shall be wanting.

Oh rapture of eternal joy! We stretch out our hands in yearning desire, and doing so touch other hands reached toward ours! (F. B. Meyer. Our Daily Homily)

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