Hebrews 11:39-40 Commentary

 

 

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Hebrews 11:39-40 Commentary
Commentary Updated February 28, 2015

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,

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Hebrews 11:20-22 Dying Faith

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Hebrews 11:20-29  The Faith of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses (1999)

Hebrews 11:30-40  The World was Not Worthy of Them

Hebrews 11:30-40  The World was Not Worthy of Them (1998)

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Hebrews 11:7 Noah and the Obedience of Faith
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Hebrews 11:16 The Christian's Desire

Hebrews 11:17-19 Abraham Offering Up Isaac
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Hebrews 11:30 The Walls of Jericho Thrown Down by Faith

Hebrews 11:31 Rahab Concealing the Spies
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Letter to Hebrews - 329 page commentary
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Hebrews 11:8 The Call of Abraham
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Hebrews 11:33 Obtaining Promises

Hebrews 11:34 God's Cure For Man's Weakness

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Hebrews 11:37 They Were Tempted

Hebrews 11:1-40 Faith Made Visible

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Hebrews 11:20-22 The Faith of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph
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Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:1-40 The Hall of Faith

An Old Testament Record of Faith - Hebrews 11:1-40

What we hope for . . . what we do not see - Hebrews 11:1

Commended - Hebrews 11:2

By faith we understand - Hebrews 11:3

Better sacrifice - Hebrews 11:4

Did not experience death - Hebrews 11:5

Impossible to please God - Hebrews 11:6

Things not yet seen - Hebrews 11:7

By faith Abraham - Hebrews 11:8-10

Past age . . . as good as dead - Hebrews 11:11-12

All these people . . . a city for them - Hebrews 11:13-16

Saw them and welcomed them from a distance - Hebrews 11:13

For a better country - Hebrews 11:16

God tested him . . . he did receive Isaac - Hebrews 11:17-19

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau - Hebrews 11:20

Joseph's sons - Hebrews 11:21

Spoke about the exodus - Hebrews 11:22

By faith . . . Moses - Hebrews 11:23-28

No ordinary child - Hebrews 11:23

Pleasures of sin . . . treasures of Egypt - Hebrews 11:25-26

He left Egypt, not fearing - Hebrews 11:27

Sprinkling of blood - Hebrews 11:28

Passed through the Red Sea - Hebrews 11:29

Walls of Jericho - Hebrews 11:30

A prostitute - Hebrews 11:31

Accomplishments and sufferings of some of the faithful - Hebrews 11:32-38

And what more shall I say? - Hebrews 11:32

Gained what was promised - Hebrews 11:33-34

Women received back their dead - Hebrews 11:35-36

Sawed in two - Hebrews 11:37-38

These were all commended for their faith - Hebrews 11:39

Something better . . . together - Hebrews 11:40

Hebrews 11 Commentary

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Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:1-3 -  Ex Nihilo; We Believe God Did It!  
Hebrews 11:4-6 -  The Faith Of Abel And Enoch  
Hebrews 11:7 -  The Faith Of Noah... Rest In The Ark, Jesus Christ  
Hebrews 11:8-10 -  Abraham's Eyes Of Faith  
Hebrews 11:11-19 -  In Christ, God Is Not Ashamed To Be Called Our God  
Hebrews 11:20-22 -  Persevere To The End, As God Preserves You To The End  
Hebrews 11:23-28 -  The Faith Of Moses  
Hebrews 11:29-34 -  The Faith Of Israel  
Hebrews 11:35-40 - God Has Provided Something Better For Us

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Hebrews 11:1–2  The NIV 365 Day Devotional

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Hebrews 11:1-12:3 Conquering Fears in Marriage

Hebrews 11:1-40 It Takes Faith - God’s Story... For My Life

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Rahab - All the Women of the Bible

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How to Please God - Streams in the Desert for Kids
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Hebrews 11:6 - Leap of Faith - Joe Stowell
Hebrews 11:6 Faith - My Utmost For His Highest - Oswald Chambers
Hebrews 11:8 - The Way Of Abraham In Faith - Oswald Chambers
Hebrews 11:8 - Will You Go Out Without Knowing? - Oswald Chambers
Hebrews 11:8 - Fear Of The Unknown - Joe Stowell
Hebrews 11:13 - Fatal Flaws - Joe Stowell
Hebrews 11:13 - Evening Devotional  - C H Spurgeon
Hebrews 11:16 - Don’t Look Back - Joe Stowell
Hebrews 11:16 - Don’t Get Stuck - Joe Stowell
Hebrews 11:17-19 Trusting in Spite of Circumstances - Theodore Epp
Hebrews 11:17-28 Seeing the invisible

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.

Henry Morris on all...gained approval -  This summarizes “the good report” obtained by the “elders” of our faith (Hebrews 11:2). (Defender's Study Bible)

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 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. 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.

For more discussion on the meaning of faith see commentary on Hebrews 11:1-2.

Faith is believing that God will keep His promises, despite circumstances that seem to be to the contrary! 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 for W E Vine's definition of faith) Click for Dr Grudem's online outline of Conversion and/or Listen to the Mp3 of Conversion) which addresses the question "What is saving faith?" in an easy to understand manner.

Wuest - Expositor’s has a good note on these Heb 11:39-40: “ ‘And these all,’ that is, those who have been named in this chapter, ‘although they had witness borne to them through their faith,’ as has been recorded (vv. 2–38), ‘did not receive the promise,’ that is, as already said in verse 13, they only foresaw that it would be fulfilled and died in that faith. But this failure to obtain the fulfilment of the promise was not due to any slackness on the part of God nor to any defect in their faith; there was a good reason for it, and that reason was that ‘God had in view some better thing for us, that without us they should not be perfected.’ The ‘better thing’ is that which this Epistle has made it its business to expound, the perfecting of God’s people by full communion with Him mediated by the perfect revelation (Heb 1:1) of the Son and His perfect covenant (Heb 8:7–13), and His better sacrifice (Heb 9:23). And the perfecting of the people of God under the Old Testament is said to have been impossible, not as might have been expected ‘apart from the Son,’ but ‘without us,’ because the writer has in view the history of the Church, the relation of the people of God in former times to the same people in Messianic times.” Alford adds: “The Advent and work of Christ has changed the estate of the Old Testament fathers and saints into greater and perfect bliss; an inference which is forced on us by many other places in Scripture. So that their perfection was dependent on our perfection: their and our perfection was all brought in at the same time, when Christ ‘by one offering perfected forever those who are sanctified.’ So that the result with regard to them is, that their spirits, from the time when Christ descended into Hades and ascended up into heaven, enjoy heavenly blessedness, and are waiting with all who have followed their glorified High Priest within the veil, for the resurrection of their bodies, the Regeneration, the renovation of all things.” (Hebrews Commentary )

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

Did not receive - "Not" is absolute - they absolutely did not receive what was promised!

Receive  (2865)(komizo from komeo = tend, take care of) means to bring bear or carry (used this way only in Lk 7:37) and in the middle voice (as here in Hebrews 11:39) to receive back (in sense of requital, recompense or reward) or to get what is promised (as in 1Peter 5:4 [note], Hebrews 10:36 [note]) or to get back something that is one's own or is owed to one (as in Mt 25:27)

Promised (1860)(epaggelia/epangelia) in the Bible refer primarily to God's pronouncements that provide assurance of what He intends to do.

Promise is a key word (See importance of observing and querying "key words") in Hebrews 11, the great chapter on great faith and this association (faith and promise) is not surprising, for the way to lay hold of the blessed promises of God is only by faith! (Promise is used 5x - Heb 11:9, Heb 11:13, Heb 11:17, Heb 11:33, Heb 11:39)

Webster's 1828 Dictionary definition of promise -  In a general sense, a declaration, written or verbal made by one person to another, which binds the person who makes it, either in honor, conscience or law, to do or forbear a certain act specified; a declaration which gives to the person to whom it is made, a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of the act. The promise of a visit to my neighbor, gives him a right to expect it, and I am bound in honor and civility to perform the promise. Of such a promise human laws have no cognizance; but the fulfillment of it is one of the minor moralities, which civility kindness and Strict integrity require to be observed. A binding declaration of something to be done or given for another’s benefit. A promise (especially to the Heroes of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11) is  that which affords expectation of future distinction! In Scripture, the promise of God is the declaration or assurance which God has given in His word of bestowing blessings on His people. Such assurance resting on the perfect justice, power, benevolence and immutable veracity of God, cannot fail of performance. (Read and be encouraged by 1Kings 8:56, Joshua 21:45, Joshua 23:15, Lk 21:33 - including His promises! Praise the Lord! Amen)

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” (1Pet. 1:10-11-note). 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-note). 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-note). But the new covenant has sanctified us “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (He 10:10-note). 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 (Mal 4:2-note), 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 12:1-3-note).

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? (Index to Pastor Steven Cole's sermons by Bible book - Highly Recommended - They read much like a verse by verse commentary)

 

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.
NET:
 For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us.
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)

Because - Always pause to prayerfully ponder this strategic term of explanation.

God has provided (NIV = "planned"; RSV = "foreseen") (4265)(problepo from pró = before + blépo = see) means literally to see before, to look out beforehand, to foresee, to plan and then to furnish in advance ("preaarangement") or to provide (implying the need is seen in advance). In the NT problepo is found only in the middle voice (problépomai) and only in this passage (Heb11:40).The Amplified rendering picks up the sense of problepo - "Because God had us in mind." (NLT = "Had something better in mind.") This verb speaks of God's omniscience, omnipotence, providence and sovereignty.

The only other use of problepo is in Ps 37:13, David writing that "The Lord laughs at him; For He sees (Lxx = problepo ~ "foresees") his day is coming (NET Note - from context - Ps 37:15, 17, 19-20 "his day" refers to the time when God will destroy evildoers)." In other words, the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He "plans or forsees" what their future holds - while the future holds great blessings for the godly, there will be great wrath and punishment for all who oppose God (cp Jn 5:28-29, Rev 20:11-15)

This refers to God's providential foreknowledge. In context, the point is that God was able to make such provisions as described here because He saw all history from beginning to end even before creation.

Provide in Webster's 1828 English dictionary is from Latin provideo (pro = before + video = to thus = to see before) means to To procure beforehand; to get, collect or make ready for future use; to prepare. (2) To furnish; to supply (with).

Better (2909)(kreitton/kreisson) is a comparative of kratus (strong) and the comparative degree of agathos which means “good”. Better refers to having good qualities in a greater degree than another. Something more advantageous, more acceptable, more effective, more commendable, more attractive, more safe.

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-note and He 7:28-note. r.v., “perfected for evermore”).

Ray Stedman -  They (OT saints described in Heb 11) looked for more than their own personal satisfaction, but still longed to see God’s purposes fulfilled on earth. The something better for us denotes the reality we have found already in Christ, which the men and women of faith in the Old Testament would attain only after their earthly life ended. We are already recipients of the blessings of the new covenant. They would not fully know them till the resurrection. The New Jerusalem, come down from heaven to earth, in which God will dwell among us and by which all the supernal vision of the prophets will be fulfilled, blends the two peoples of God together. The hope of being made perfect includes the hope of physical resurrection, as many Scriptures declare. In that “first resurrection” (Rev 20:6–7) believers of both old and new covenants will join. This is the way that together with us would they be made perfect. This is the mystery of God’s will which Paul describes in Ephesians 1:9–10 “to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”....Calvin caught the thrust of this chapter and said, “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. (Hebrews Commentary Part II)

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)

So that - Be alert to this important term of purpose or result.

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 (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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Last Updated February 21, 2015

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