Abraham and Sarah, as well as the others mentioned earlier in Hebrews chapter 11, did not see God’s promises fulfilled in their lifetimes. They did see the miraculous birth of their son Isaac but the ultimate promise of descendants as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach or the stars in the sky was something they would not witness in their lifetime. Further, none of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob – would receive the promise of possession of the Promised Land. Yet, they had an understanding of them to some extent and by faith held on to their reality. Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

God’s promises to believers today in Jesus won’t be realized in this life either. The prosperity theology that pervades US Television flies in the face of Biblical theology. The author of Hebrews as well as the rest of the Bible affirms the fact that we live in a fallen world during which time we do not have a permanent home and the promises from God are yet future in another realm. Don’t expect wealth, happiness, contentment, peace, joy, kindness, goodness or any of the fruits of the spirit to become full grown in our lives or in the lives of those around us as long as we’re in our flesh. All the things in this world are temporary anyway! 2 Corinthians 4:18 confirms this thought, “…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

This seems to affirm that the saints in the Old Testament held firmly to the reality of an afterlife in which all of God’s promises would be fulfilled. Steadman says, “Such inner fulfillment is the gift of faith to those who today are willing to look beyond death to God’s day of perfect fulfillment. We cannot demand instant answers from God for all our earthly problems, but we can welcome them from a distance. We must not lose faith that God will satisfy every promise.”[1] Another commentary says, “Christians join the patriarchs in this feeling of anticipation. This world is not our home. We are looking for ‘the city that is to come’ (13:14), ‘the kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (12:28). In their early days of faith the readers had held their possessions of this world very lightly (10:32–34).”[2] We should too! We find our only recourse today is to keep our eyes on Jesus. The author of Hebrews will conclude with that thought in Hebrews 12:2. It says, “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

[1] Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), Heb 11:8.

[2] James Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse, Hebrews, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), Heb 11:13.