Article of the Month

January 2009

 Faith’s Gains and Losses

 

There is in the book of Hebrews a famous “Faith Chapter.”  In this chapter, the Apostle catalogues the lives of a series of ancients who, because they led lives of uncompromising faith, were used of the Lord as His plan progressed through each step of its unfolding.  Some of these exemplary men and women received some rewards during their lifetimes; some did not.  But that is not the Apostle’s ultimate point.  His point is that they ALL will receive eventually a “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35) and will by the hand of the Church (the faithful of this Christian age), receive perfection.  (Hebrews 11:40)

 

It is, no doubt, this class of ancients who will constitute the “princes in all the earth” spoken of in Psalm 45:16.  This will be their “better resurrection.”  Jesus, including John the Baptist in this class, shows that, regardless of their greatness of faith, character, and service, these ancients would not be a part of the heavenly resurrection class—all of whom would be selected AFTER Jesus’ death. (Matthew 11:11)

 

In this month’s column, focus will be on Hebrews 11:32-40.

 

 

TWO RESULTS OF FAITH

DURING THIS LIFE

 

When we look at Hebrews 11:33-38, it should be immediately obvious that Paul is telling us that lives lived in faith DO NOT ALL HAVE GOOD RESULTS during this lifetime.  This is an important lesson.  Some have erred in thinking that “If I have faith, all kinds of wonderful things will start happening to me.”  But this is not necessarily so.  Look at Paul’s contrasting listings:

 

ONE GROUP

 

In Hebrews 11:33 and 34 we see a list of faithful ones whose faith brought great victories.  They “subdued kingdoms;” they “stopped the mouths of lions;”  they “quenched the violence of fire;”  they “turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” What accomplishments!  But this list could give us the wrong idea.  So Paul then lists the “failures.”

 

 

THE OTHER GROUP

 

In Hebrews 11:35-38 we see a list of faithful ones whose lives appear to be dismal tragedies.  Look at the horrible experiences these faithful ones had to endure:  They were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, cut in two, and stabbed.  Their lives consisted of wandering around in the wilderness, clothed in animal skins, and sunken in poverty.  This list of faith’s results might make us question the benefits of faith!

 

 

 

A TRANSLATION PROBLEM           

 

Before we draw our conclusions from Paul’s words, we can learn an interesting lesson from a faulty translation in Hebrews 11:35.  The verse begins (in the King James Bible):

“Women received their dead

raised to life again.”

 

On the surface it would be easy to take these words at face value.  After all, Old Testament prophets did, on a couple of occasions, awaken dead children in the presence of their mothers.  [See I Kings 7 and II Kings 4 as examples.]  If this were Paul’s intent, we would have to include this example in the first list we have made—faith’s victories.

 

However, this sentence does belong in the second list—faith’s tragedies and losses.  In the Greek the word ANASTASIS (= resurrection) is used here in Hebrews 11:35.  Thus, the correct reading is:

 

“Women received back their dead

by resurrection.”

 

What is the difference?

 

Resurrection (anastasis) is a very special word in the Bible.  It does not just mean awakening from the dead.  It means A COMPLETE RE-STANDING before God—a re-standing which includes eternal life, not just a temporary resuscitation.  Clearly, those Old Testament children who were restored from death to their mothers DID NOT continue on to live forever.  They died, just like everyone else.  Thus they were NOT resurrected; they were only awakened.

 

This distinction is imperative to maintain the integrity of Scripture.  In Acts 26:23, we have another text obscured by this same translation problem.  The King James fails to show in English the presence of the Greek word anastasis (resurrection).  The King James reads:

 

Jesus…“should be the first that

should rise from the dead…”

 

We know this statement is not true as it stands!  It should read:

 

Jesus…”should be the first

resurrected from the dead…”

 

Now the problem becomes clear.  If Jesus is the FIRST resurrected from the dead, then ALL awakened BEFORE his resurrection WERE NOT RESURRECTED.  They merely were awakened.  Thus the dead of Hebrews 11:35 were NOT given back to their “women,” because the verse specifies that

 

“Women BY RESURRECTION

received their dead back to life.”

 

What does this mean?

 

It means that these faithful women were willing to send forth their husbands, brothers, and sons out in the service of the Lord knowing that, though they died, they would be restored to them IN THE RESURRECTION at the last day.  Thus these women did not have miracles worked for them in awakening their relatives from the dead.  Rather, they had faith TO BELIEVE, and thus RECEIVE IN FAITH, the eventual restoration of their dead.   Their faith lives suffered LOSS, not victory, and they rightfully begin Paul’s list of those who suffered loss regardless of their great faith.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

So many irresponsible and unscriptural messages are being fed to Christians who sincerely want to know what is right.  Preachers are out there teaching that faith will bring riches, health, and happiness.  While it MIGHT, the promise is a lie!  We have seen Paul’s teaching that faith’s rewards are later, not necessarily now.  He elsewhere even goes so far as to say that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”  (II Timothy 3:12)  Let us not fall for the rosy promises of false prophets who are making true profits from their brand of Christianity!

 

So, why should we want to live lives of faith?  If we are sincere children of God, we want more than all else to please Him, and “WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM.”  (Hebrews 11:6)  The presence and exercise of faith in this present age is God’s tool for developing the “seed of Abraham” which is to bless all families (past, present, and future) of the earth.  (Galatians 3:14, 24-26. 29)  As “the faith chapter” ends, it shows that these faithful ancients will not receive their rewards EXCEPT THROUGH US!—except through the faithful members of Christ’s body who will be the instruments of bringing perfection to the human race.  (Hebrews 11:40)  True, the faithful ancients will receive a “better resurrection” than the rest of mankind, but faithful Christians will receive the “first resurrection”—they will REIGN WITH CHRIST and be the “priests” that bring the rest of mankind to God.  (Hebrews 11:35; Revelation 20:6; 5:10)  Is THAT not worth even a lifetime of LOSSES in faith?! 

 

Thy Kingdom Come!