I think that chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews is one of my favorite chapters in all the Bible. Now that I have learned–or perhaps I should say, now that I am learning–to read the Bible without bias, I am seeing things that I never saw before. Simply letting the Bible mean what it says is such a refreshing and encouraging enterprise.
Paul starts off by giving us a definition of what faith is. People frequently confuse faith with belief, thinking the two terms are synonymous. Of course we know they are not, because James speaks of demons believing and shuddering. Demons believe, but they do not have faith. Paul then goes on to give us a practical example of the difference between belief and faith. He compares Abel with Cain. There can be no doubt that Cain believed in God. The Bible shows that he actually talked with God, and God with him. Yet he lacked faith. It has been suggested that faith is belief not in the existence of God, but in the character of God. Paul says, “he that approaches God must believe…that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” By faith we “know” that God will do what he says, and we act in accordance with this. Faith then moves us to action, to obedience. (Hebrews 11:6)
Throughout the chapter, Paul gives an extensive list of examples of faith from before his time. In the opening verse of the next chapter he refers to these ones as a great cloud of witnesses surrounding Christians. We have been taught that pre-Christian men of faith are not granted the prize of heavenly life. However, reading this without our bias-colored glasses on, we find a very different picture being presented.
Verse 4 says that by his faith “Abel had witness borne to him that he was righteous”. Verse 7 says that Noah “became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.” If you are an heir, you inherit from a father. Noah would inherit righteousness just like Christians who die faithful. So how could we imagine him being resurrected still imperfect, having to labor for another thousand years, and then being declared righteous only after passing a final test? Based on that, he would not be an heir to anything upon his resurrection, because an heir is guaranteed the inheritance and does not have to work toward it.
Verse 10 speaks of Abraham “awaiting the city having real foundations”. Paul is referring to the New Jerusalem. Abraham couldn’t have known about the New Jerusalem. In fact he wouldn’t have known about the old one either, but he was awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises though he did not know what form they would take. Paul did know however, and so tells us. Anointed Christians are also “awaiting the city having real foundations.” There is no difference in our hope from that of Abraham, except that we have a clearer picture of it than he did.
Verse 16 refers to Abraham and all the aforementioned men and women of faith as “reaching out for a better place…one belonging to heaven”, and it concludes by stating, “he has made a city ready for them.” Again we see the equivalency between the hope of Christians and that of Abraham.
Verse 26 speaks of Moses esteeming “the reproach of the Christ [anointed one] as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” Anointed Christians must also accept the reproach of the Christ if they are to get the payment of the reward. Same reproach; same payment. (Matthew 10:38; Luke 22:28)
In verse 35 Paul speaks of men willing to die faithful so that they might ”attain a better resurrection.” Use of the comparison modifier “better” indicates that there must be at least two resurrections, one better than the other. The Bible speaks of two resurrections in a number of places. Anointed Christians have the better one, and it appears that this is what the faithful men of old were reaching out for.
This verse makes no sense if we consider it in light of our official position. Noah, Abraham, and Moses are resurrected the same as everyone else: imperfect, and required to strive for our thousand years to achieve perfection, only to then pass through a final test to see whether or not they can continue living eternally. How is that a ‘better’ resurrection? Better than what?
Paul concludes the chapter with these verses:
(Hebrews 11:39, 40) And yet all these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the [fulfillment of the] promise, 40 as God foresaw something better for us, in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.
The “something better” that God foresaw for Christians was not a better reward because Paul groups them altogether in the final phrase “that they might not be made perfect apart from us”. The perfection that he refers to is the same perfection that Jesus achieved. (Hebrews 5:8, 9) Anointed Christians will follow their exemplar and through faith will be made complete and given immortality along with their brother, Jesus. The great cloud of witnesses Paul refers to is made perfect together with Christians, not apart from them. Therefore, the “something better” he is referring to must be the aforementioned “fulfillment of the promise”. Faithful servants of old had no idea what form the reward would take or how the promise would be fulfilled. Their faith did not depend on the details, but only that Jehovah would not fail to reward them.
Paul opens the next chapter with these words: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…” How could he compare anointed Christians with these witnesses and suggest that they were surrounding them if he did not consider them to be on a par with those he was writing to? (Hebrews 12:1)
Can a simple, unbiased reading of these verses lead us to any other conclusion other than these faithful men and women of old will receive the same reward anointed Christians receive? But there is more that contradicts our official teaching.
(Hebrews 12:7, 8) . . .God is dealing with YOU as with sons. For what son is he that a father does not discipline? 8 But if YOU are without the discipline of which all have become partakers, YOU are really illegitimate children, and not sons.
If Jehovah does not discipline us, then we are illegitimate and not sons. The publications often speak about how Jehovah disciplines us. Therefore, we must be his sons. It is true that a loving father will discipline his children. However, a man does not discipline his friends. Yet we are taught that we are not his sons but his friends. There is nothing in the Bible about God disciplining his friends. These two verses of Hebrews make no sense if we continue to hold to the idea that millions of Christians are not gods sons but only his friends.
Another point I thought was interesting was the use of “publicly declared” in verse 13. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not go door-to-door, and yet they made public declaration that “they were strangers and temporary residences in the land”. Perhaps we need to expand our definition of what public declaration entails.
It is both fascinating and dismaying to see how the simply stated teachings from the word of God have been twisted to shore up doctrines of men.
[…] Abraham, David and other faithful men of old will also have heavenly life basing such view on Heb. […]
Well this may be a subject to consider doing research on, for in the Greek the texts I have looked at JW’s Greek interlinear book and others on-line the word King is not used at Rev 3:21, 2:26-27 1Corinthians 4:8-10 or 2tim. 2:12. Yes the word Reign is used and in Rev. 2:26-27 it talks of authority over the nations. Yet also in Rev chapter 20 it talks about ones that would be resurrected to judge ones killed or martyred. So this maybe something to look into further. Even in Rev.5:9-10 it describes the great growd reigning not the 144k.
Some thing to consider eph 4:4 talks of one hope but is this hope a resurrection to earth or heaven or is this hope in fact the reconciliation Paul talks about in Romans, getting back to a one on one relationship with the father?
Also in response to a comment by Meleti, No where in the bible if you read the Greek do Christians become kings, the scriptures do not refer to any Christians ruling as kings with Jesus. Yes the word reign is used but if one looks at Romans 5 there’s another idea altogether about the term reign.
What about Rev. 5:10?
Look at that scripture in the Greek , it does not say kings. Check your Greek interlinear on the Greek side.
That may be so, but the concept of Christians being privileged become the nation of kings and priests originally promised under the Mosaic covenant seems apparent from harmonizing all the scriptures. (Revelation 3:21) To the one that conquers I will grant to sit down with me on my throne, even as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Can one sit on the throne of Christ and not be a part of the kingly arrangement? And whilst it is true that the authority includes reigning over death as per Romans 5, it is also over people… Read more »
I just checked it using bible.cc and their interlinear uses “kings”.
Hi crazyguy, and just to add my two cents, did not Paul submit himself to a death like Christ so as to obtain an earlier resurrection, even “a better resurrection” as expressed in Hebrews? While it is true that “the first resurrection” over which “the second death has no authority” is said to be a resurrection to “reign,” I’m not so sure that the Bible describes anyone as reigning without kingship. (Revelation 20:6; Hebrews 11:35; Philippians 3:10) As for this kingship being presumed, I believe there are those who would do so, so as to reign over us prematurely as… Read more »
I think another scripture that has a bearing on the subject would be Romans 3:25: “God set him forth as an offering for propitiation through faith in his blood. This was in order to exhibit his own righteousness, because he was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past while God was exercising forbearance;” This scripture suggests that Jesus’ sacrifice applies retroactively to persons who lived in the past – before Christ came to earth. And given that Christ’s sacrifice is the basis on which persons are declared righteous for heavenly life . . . Here’s another interesting point: At… Read more »
These are excellent points you make, Jude. I do not wish to be dogmatic in my understanding of this matter. All of us frequenting this site disdain the my-way-or-the-highway approach to doctrinal matters that characterizes not only our but most other religious hierarchies’ approach to scriptural interpretation. I know you feel this way as well. So I do take your point, and a good case can be made for a different hope being extended to Christians. Nevertheless, to argue my point a little further, the “covenant for a kingdom” that Jesus made with his immediate disciples does not necessarily extend… Read more »
I think without doubt there are two seperate ressurections of the dead the earlier or first resurrection. And a second general ressurection phillipians 3 v11 to 14. Revelation 20 v 4 to 6. It seems it was this ressurection paul was trying to attain to. Matthew 22. V 1 to 14 shows that the invitation to it was first offered to the jews but then expanded to include anyone. V 9. However many were invited but few are chosen. I think both pauls and jesus words show that. Its god who chooses who recieves the prize of the earlier ressurection.… Read more »
Hi Jude, Although you are in two minds, in many ways I think you’ve furthered the point. I can’t remember which post I raised the thought on now, but like you it had occurred to me also that a covenant was made for fleshly Israel to become a Kingdom of priests. It makes no sense to me that those there present would not be eligible to be part of the seed since they were the ones who unanimously answered “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do”. This was in response to the agreement that “YOU yourselves will… Read more »
Matthew 22 v 29 to 33. May have a bearing on this. Jesus said that in the ressuerction people are not given in marraige but are as angels in heaven. He then went on to say about the ressurection of abraham. Also matthew 8 v 11 and 12 is interesting as well. Many will come and recline at the table. With abraham isaac and jacob in the kingdom of the heavens. Is it really god jesus and 144000. Not sure about matthew 11 v 11 to 13 though. John the baptist should be there. Kev
Your mixed feelings are shared by many I’m sure, meleti. I’ve always admired the book of Hebrews, not just because it is the essential link between the ancients and we relative newborns. It is the essential link that draws all humanity into the Abrahamic covenant, lifting us into to all the timeless promises of God. I don’t know why scholars dispute Paul’s writing it because his character flows throughout as he so beautifully pulls the entire Bible together as with a spiritual drawstring. There is no human dimension to it, no room to build religion around it. It is a… Read more »
Well done Meleti. Very well presented. A friend who is a fader has been saying the same thing to me for ages. I’m having difficulty faulting your observations. Your logic is impeachable. Even after such a long time knowing the WT is wrong about most things, this idea of pre-Christians going to heaven does take getting used to, but nonetheless you are right. Before posting this comment I re-read Hebrews and it appears the Society is wrong yet again. They say bad people who die are acquitted of their sins and the ‘slate is wiped clean’. Therefore as you correctly… Read more »
Well done meleti this is the sort of thing we want and its dead right what you said when we look at these verses with ano unbiased viewpoint we find a different picture being presented. Ive been all over pauls letters for years and have noticed that. Agree again with your observations. Its refreshing for me to hear others that can see the same things i see. Personally ive gone past trying to prove the watchower wrong. I just want to have upbuilding conversations with my brothers about one of the great loves of my life gods word the bible.… Read more »
Kev C I have been trying to figure out why I feel differently about the WTS lately and what you said is exactly right. They have no hold on me and I don’t look up to them anymore. While I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, the are of no consequence in my spiritual growth. I would still respect a scriptural point that the publications highlight but in reality there is so much spin that it is hard to read things without a sense of irritation. Remember those times when we used to encounter religious leaders on the territory… Read more »
Great comments Chris! I am at the same point that you are. I don’t intend to be confrontational , divisive or disruptive by any means. However, I have lived in the shadows for many years within the organization. Attending the meetings for many years while disagreeing with many of the things that are being taught that are being passed off as truth. As the years go by I am becoming more vocal , if I am directly asked , about the discrepancies and unscriptural teachings. In the past when I was asked questions on studies or in private conversations among… Read more »
To be fair, I cannot rule out the possibility that some, or even many, Christians will end up living on earth. It does not appear to be necessary for all anointed and faithful Christians to end up ruling in heaven for the Scriptures to be fulfilled. I may be wrong on that, but it does seem to make some Scriptures understandable. For example, Luke’s account of the faithful and discreet slave that involves four distinct outcomes. It can also be argued that the promise to serve as kings and priests does not indicate a location. Therefore, some could serve on… Read more »
You are right. The possibility of some or many Christians ruling in the heavens And on the earth cannot be ruled out. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. The point I was attempting to make is that I believe the scriptures does support two hopes. Everlasting life in the Heavens and everlasting life on the other. Who’s going, how many, and for how long I cannot say witha certainty. I’m ok not knowing. Wherever Jehovah sees fit for me to be Ill be happy. I’m not ok with men deciding who are, how many, and for how… Read more »
We’re on the same page. 🙂