Many there are who have put their faith and confidence in God and yet have ended badly in this life. That does not mean their faith was somewhat less than those who appear to be more victorious. Chapter 11 ends with the assurance that what might appear to the world as great loss will result in great gain. Verses 39-40, speaking of those who suffer in their faith says, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Knowles says, “Faith is trusting God. Faith is believing that God made the world. Faith is Abel giving his best animal for a sacrifice. Faith is Noah building an ark, because he believed judgment was about to fall as a flood. Faith is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, living as wandering strangers in the land God had promised them … And so the list goes on. None of these people saw the fulfillment of God’s plan—but they all lived in the light of it. At the end of his life, the only land Abraham owned was his wife’s grave; and yet he believed God was using him to build a city – a new community to transform the world.”[1]

The author wants to be sure that his readers understand that each of these people of “faith” looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises to them that would come in Jesus Christ. The whole Bible is about Jesus. That’s why his main point in the book of Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus to all things. Long tells us how the “preacher” of Hebrews, “…explains: ‘God provided something better …’ (11:40). The congregation knows, of course, that the Preacher means Jesus. The word ‘better’ connected to Jesus has been a constant refrain: Jesus is ‘better than the angels’ (1:4), and he introduces a ‘better hope’ (7:19) and guarantees a ‘better covenant’ (7:22) with ‘better promises’ (8:6) and sealed with ‘better sacrifices’ (9:23), and all of this allows us to possess an inheritance from God that is ‘better’ (10:34). So it comes as no surprise that these faithful ancestors did not receive the promise until the coming of Jesus. As people of faith, they were leaning forward in hope, searching for no earthly homeland but for the city whose architect and builder is God (11:10), waiting for a ‘better resurrection.’ Their hopes could not be fulfilled; their quest could not be satisfied; their desire for resurrection could not be met until there was a better high priest, ‘a Son who has been made perfect forever’ (7:28).[2] He was not only made perfect, but he makes us perfect as well! Morris concludes, “…it is what Christ has done that opens the way into the very presence of God for them as for us. Only the work of Christ brings those of OT times and those of the new and living way alike into the presence of God.”[3]

[1] Andrew Knowles, The Bible Guide, 1st Augsburg books ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), 667–668.

[2] Thomas G. Long, Hebrews, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997), 126.

[3] Leon Morris, “Hebrews,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 133.