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A chapter by chapter examination of the Book of Hebrews; this book examines the ways in which God has moved towards a better covenant with man. The historical background of the Book of Hebrews as well as contextual discussions add insight and relevance to Hebrews.
Category - Bible Commentaries
The tenth chapter of Hebrews ends with a warning to those whose faith is not genuine. There are many who are persuaded of Christ, but who lack genuine faith. Faith comes by hearing the voice of God (Rom. 10:17), while persuasion is a matter of convincing the carnal mind of the validity of a particular fact or viewpoint. Persuasion often appears identical to faith, but they are distinguished in the end by endurance.
Those who are merely persuaded are like most of the Israelites who came out of Egypt. They had justifying faith, but not Pentecostal faith, for they rejected the voice of God at Sinai (Ex. 20:18-21). And so they lacked endurance. When it came time to enter the Promised Land, their lack of faith manifested for all to see. But if we follow the example of Caleb and Joshua, we may confidently apply Heb. 10:39 to ourselves, saying, “We are not of those who shrink back to perdition, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”
Passover Faith is the single step by which we begin our journey to the Promised Land. It is like a moment in time. Pentecostal Faith is the life of faith in the journey itself. If Passover faith is a point in space, then Pentecostal Faith is the line drawn by many points. It is the line drawn between Egypt and the Promised Land. Those who are faithful in being led by the Spirit, and who endure to the end, will inherit the first resurrection.
These overcomers are those with patience and endurance, both of which describe faith as a line, rather than as a single point. Patience and endurance describe faith that has been tested by time, faith that is proven in the wilderness of real life.
Chapter 11 then gives us examples to true faith among the many Old Testament characters who heard the voice of God, obeyed, and endured to the end. Heb. 11:1 says,
1 Now faith is the assurance [hupostasis, “a setting under” (support); used of title deeds] of things hoped for, the conviction [elenchus, “proof”] of things not seen.
Faith is what gives us title to the inheritance of the Kingdom, which is our hope. Paramount in that inheritance is the glorified body that comes with the manifestation of the sons of God through the feast of Tabernacles. For this reason, Paul says in Romans 8:19-21 that the “hope” of creation is to be set free in the glorious liberty of the sons of God. The sons of God themselves have a “hope” presented in verses 23-25,
23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
And so, when Hebrews 11:1 speaks of faith being the title deed of things hoped for, it is saying that faith itself is the legal proof, the signed document, by which our hope is made sure—the redemption of our body. Without that legal “proof,” our hope is mere wishful thinking. But the word “hope” is not mere wishful thinking, as used in Scripture. It is EXPECTATION. We expect to inherit this glorified body at the time of the manifestation of the sons of God.
If, however, our “faith” proves to be based only upon wishful thinking and upon carnal persuasion instilled in our minds by positive thinking, it will not endure.
We have a clear example of Israel in the wilderness, called in Acts 7:38 “the church in the wilderness,” to show that Passover is insufficient to bring a person into the Promised Land. Just because a believer has accepted Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God for his justification does not mean that he will do any more than leave Egypt. There is a second level of faith called Pentecost, which is required. If a Christian thinks that his justification is all that is required to get him to the Promised Land, he does not really understand the prophetic allegory of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Indeed, how often I have seen Christians who have no vision of anything other than getting people saved (Passover). Others have no vision beyond getting people filled with the Spirit (Pentecost). There is a strange blindness and hardness of heart in many Christians who seem to have lost their way in the wilderness or who are satisfied to live in one of the many oases of revival in the desert.
True faith is manifested in those who can see and hear the message of Sonship and catch the vision of the feast of Tabernacles when they hear it. Not all have heard it, of course, but when they do, something leaps within them. They rejoice in the spirit, whether they yet comprehend it or not in their minds. That, to me, is the true “evidence” of a Tabernacles faith necessary to be an overcomer like Caleb and Joshua. Of this type of enduring faith, Heb. 11:2 says, “For by it the men of old gained approval.”
Whose approval did they receive? Certainly it was not the approval of ordinary men, for many of them endured affliction and persecution to obtain the approval of God. God’s approval is displayed in the fact that Scripture gives them a good report.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds [aionas, “ages”] were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
This is a comment upon creation itself. Two things are mentioned here in regard to creation: Time and Space (i.e., “matter”). This simple statement comprehends all things. God spoke Time into being, and He spoke Matter into being.
Time does not exist at the speed of light. When we look at the light from a star that is said to be a billion light-years away, we say that the light we are seeing began its journey toward earth a billion years ago. But if we were able to ride that beam of light from the moment it left that star, it would take no time at all for it to strike the earth, for it travels at the speed of light. In other words, one might say that the light itself is not bound by time.
So God is said to be “light,” partly because God is not bound by time. For Him all of history occurs in a single moment, a “point” of time, rather than a time-line. All events in history paint a single portrait, with each detail seen by God from beginning to end. A good example of this is found in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, where the king saw a great image with a head of gold, arms of silver, belly of bronze, and legs of iron. He was seeing a single image, but when it played out, it was actually four world empires covering many centuries of time and history.
So also God created the Ages. Each Age has been defined by a different length of time, for an Age is an indefinite period of time; but to God who stands above time, all ages are part of a single point and form a single portrait.
God is not bound by matter either. Space or Distance is nothing to God. From man’s perspective, a star may be billions or trillions of light-years away, but from God’s perspective, He stands in the presence of both that star and mankind on earth. Yet even if we cannot comprehend the deeper matters of science and physics, we are all capable of having faith in God and His ability as God to be above both Time and Space.
Hebrews 11:3 does not say that matter was created out of nothing, but out of things that are not visible to the eye. In fact, Rom. 11:36 says, “for out of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” In other words “all things” came “out of Him” and were therefore made out of God’s very substance. Because of this, God would forever remain incomplete unless all things returned back to Him. It is imperative, then, that history should end with the restoration of all things.
About 300 years before Christ, a Greek philosopher named Epicurus set forth his idea that all matter was made out of particles which he called atomos, or “atoms.” Epicurus defined atoms as being the smallest particle that could not be subdivided. Thus, when modern science discovered atoms, they named these particles according to the term that Epicurus had used many centuries ago. The only problem is that scientists later discovered that atoms were not the smallest particles, for even they could be subdivided by “nuclear fission.”
They discovered that atoms themselves were composed of smaller particles called neutrons, protons, and electrons. Still later, they discovered that there were still smaller particles. This set off a further search to discover what they called “The God Particle,” which was the invisible particle of matter.
Matter is indeed made of things which are not seen. Scientists cannot help but have faith that such a particle exists, even if it is unseen and even if they cannot yet prove its existence. Perhaps they will find it when they find God.
4 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.
In the story of Abel’s offering, we read in Gen. 4:4,
4 And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offerings.
We are not told how God showed His regard for Abel’s offerings. But if we look at the ancient book of Jasher 1:15, we are given another detail:
15 And it was the expiration of a few years, that they brought an approximating offering to the Lord, and Cain brought from the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought from the firstlings of his flock from the fat thereof, and God turned and inclined to Abel and his offering, and a fire came down from the Lord from heaven and consumed it.
On the other hand, Cain brought “inferior fruit” of the ground as his offering, keeping the best for himself. For that reason, Jasher says, God did not accept his offering of the first fruits of the ground.
Some say that God accepted Abel’s offering because it was a blood offering (sacrifice), whereas Cain’s was not. But Cain was a farmer, not a shepherd, and so he was required to bring only the first-fruits of that which he produced. This law of first fruits was formalized in Exodus 22:29. If a man does not have any first born of the sheep, he is not required to buy one from someone else in order to give it to God. But if he farms the land, he is required to bring the best of the first-fruits to God.
In the days of Moses, the people were to put the first-fruits in a basket and bring them to the place where God had placed His name (Deut. 26). Then they were to pray for God’s blessing upon themselves, recorded in Deut. 26:5-11. As they had given the best of the fruits to God, they had the right to ask for God’s blessing.
We often see in Scripture that God accepted offerings by fire. Normally, men lit the fire themselves, but on occasion fire came supernaturally (Lev. 9:24; 1 Kings 18:38) to prove divine acceptance. Perhaps this is how God accepted Abel’s offering.
Abel, then, proved his faith by obedience. Since faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), and the word for “hearing” also means “obeying,” it shows that Abel heard the word of the Lord and obeyed. So God accepted his offering because it was “by faith.”
On the other hand, Cain heard with his ears, but not with his heart. He did not really believe, so he did not obey the law by giving God the best of the first fruits. This proved that Cain did not have faith, or that his “faith” was not true faith. James 2:18 tells us that faith is proven by our works, and this is a good example of this. Without obedience, there is no hearing, and without hearing, there is no genuine faith. Paul says in Rom. 14:23, “whatever is not from faith is sin.”
Abel’s faith was expressed in worship. There is no true worship without faith, and this includes obedience. Faith is not merely a mental persuasion of some truth or to believe in the existence of God. False forms of so-called “faith” will always end up in some form of disobedience.
Jesus also said that we should worship Him in spirit and in truth. There are many who focus upon worshiping “in the Spirit.” Other groups focus more on the search for truth. Unfortunately, each type of group tends to be unbalanced and thus fall short of Jesus’ words. Worshiping God “in Spirit” alone tends to replace truth with “hype” and can easily result in a soul-based worship—that is emotion-based worship. On the other hand, worshiping God “in truth” alone tends to replace the Spirit’s teaching with carnal study of the Word and can easily result in an intellectual form of soul-based worship.
A balanced approach would be to merge the two and to see both Spirit and Truth as equally important. In my opinion, true worship ought to teach people to have faith in the things God says, and to teach people how to be obedient to His voice (Spirit). When we teach the Word, the revelation of the Spirit should harmonize with the Word. It should add personal revelation to that which was given to the prophets who wrote the Scriptures. In this way, the teachings are “in Spirit and in truth” at the same time, and not simply one part set forth at the expense of the other.
5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should 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. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Enoch pleased God because he had faith. Without faith, no man can please God. But once again, let us keep in mind that faith comes by means of hearing/obeying. No man has the right to say that he has heard God unless his hearing has produced the proper response or work of obedience that God has expressed as His will.
Whereas Abel’s faith was expressed in worship, Enoch’s faith was expressed in his walk. He pleased God in his walk. This has to do with continual patience, for a “walk” is not merely a single step, but a series of steps in our journey to the Promised Land.
7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Noah provides us with the example of faith’s witness in preaching ministry. Noah preached for 120 years, but no one believed his witness, except for his own family. Genesis 6:3 says,
3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive [Heb. doon, “rule, judge”] with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek renders this a little differently, saying, “My spirit shall not REMAIN among men forever.” But our focus here is in the time of Noah’s preaching, which I said was 120 years. Many have thought that Gen. 6:3 indicated that man’s life span would be reduced to 120 years (average), but ten generations later, Abraham lived to be 175, Isaac lived to be 180, and Jacob lived to be 147. So it is not likely that this is the meaning of the verse.
Once again, if we turn to the book of Jasher for further details, we read this in Jasher 5:7, 8,
7 Speak ye and proclaim to the sons of men, saying, Thus saith the Lord, return from your evil ways and forsake your works, and the Lord will repent of the evil that he declared to do to you, so that it shall not come to pass. 8 For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I give you a period of one hundred and twenty years; if you will turn to me and forsake your evil ways, then will I also turn away from you the evil which I told you, and it shall not exist, saith the Lord.
In 2 Peter 2:5 we read that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.” This is the testimony in Scripture that we are given of him. This was how Noah’s faith was manifested as an example to us all today. He was an example of faith’s witness in preaching the Word of the Lord. His faith was not dependent upon how many people turned to God as a result of his preaching. His faith had to do with being faithful to speak the truth as he heard it from God. Thus, Noah heard and obeyed.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
There are three elements to Abraham’s faith listed here. He went out, he lived, and He looked.
These are the three basic elements of faith to all of Abraham’s children. These three elements are again expressed in the journey of Israel in the wilderness under Moses, for they went out of Egypt, lived in the wilderness, and looked for the Promised Land. Likewise for all of us, we have gone out of Egypt through Passover’s blood of the Lamb; we are living in tents in the wilderness during our Pentecostal obedience-training; and yet we look for a “city” that is our hope, the redemption of our body in the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.
Those who are satisfied with leaving Egypt (as with Israel), or are satisfied with leaving Ur of the Chaldees (as with Abraham), have only one-third of the faith required to actually inherit the promises. They tend to live their lives without really knowing the goal, other than something in the great beyond which they call “heaven.” This shortage of faith generally produces an attitude where they are unconcerned with learning obedience, or the experience of Pentecost. Usually, they know nothing of the feast of Tabernacles.
Those who settle for Pentecost, without having a concept of the third element of faith, generally do not know the purpose of Pentecost. In other words, they live in the wilderness without having a sense of direction to know how to get to the Promised Land. Pentecostals are supposed to live in tents, rather than build houses (denominations), so that it is easier to move to a new location (level of revelation) when the pillar of cloud moves. But yet we see the Pentecostal Age characterized by a multitude of houses, or denominations, that are monuments to a past revival, rooted in a previous revelation.
When we add to this shortfall the fact that Pentecost is viewed as purely a New Testament feast that supposedly began in Acts 2, the result is that people do not link Pentecost with the writing of the law upon their hearts. And so, the law has been discarded in huge sections of the Church, and this vacuum has been filled with a multitude of traditions of men and “legalism.”
But when the children of Abraham are justified by faith, and then are being led by the Spirit in learning obedience, having a hope of the redemption of the body in the first resurrection as overcomers, such revelation of truth transforms their entire outlook in life. Their faith is made complete, for they have followed the three basic elements (or levels) of faith seen in their father, Abraham. Thus, Abraham is set forth as one of the primary examples of true faith in Hebrews 11.
In the course of this discussion of Abraham in Hebrews 11, the author clearly understands from the types and shadows that the Old Jerusalem was not the “city” that Abraham sought. Old Jerusalem was not the capital of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ has no intention of returning to a physical temple in Jerusalem from which He will rule the earth in the Age to come.
Instead, Abraham sought a city that was not built with hands. This is clearly the New Jerusalem, or the “heavenly Jerusalem” of Heb. 12:22, of which the old city was a mere type and shadow. Abraham owned no land during his entire stay in Canaan, except for a burial plot, which he had purchased (Gen. 23:20). He was a foreigner and a pilgrim his entire life, and during the life of Isaac as well. The author of Hebrews sees this as an important lesson for us not to think of the Old Jerusalem as the center of the Kingdom.
But while this New Jerusalem has a heavenly origin, it is not to say that our inheritance is in heaven itself. We are not going to heaven to live in the New Jerusalem in the sky. Rather, the New Jerusalem is coming to earth (Rev. 21:2), for the tabernacle of God is to be with men (Rev. 21:3) in order to fulfill the name, Emmanuel, “God with us,” or “God among us or amidst us.”
In fact, when the Holy Spirit came to indwell the Church at Pentecost in Acts 2, it was the earnest of our inheritance that would be completed at the feast of Tabernacles. Another way of looking at it is this: Jesus came the first time under the name of Yeshua to fulfill the promise of “Salvation,” which is the meaning of that name. But He comes the second time under the name of Emmanuel to fulfill a second set of prophecies wherein God dwells among us.
Those who set forth two means of salvation—one for Jews, and one for non-Jews—should keep in mind that it was Abraham himself who sought a heavenly city, not a bunch of “gentiles.” Those who say that Jews are saved by keeping the law, and that their inheritance is earthly in an old Jerusalem, simply do not understand the book of Hebrews, nor do they realize that this book was written to Hebrew people. There are not two gospels, nor are there two means of salvation, nor are there two inheritances. There is only one Kingdom of God, and its citizenship has nothing to do with one’s genealogy.
The example of Abraham as a man of true faith is primarily in the fact that he manifested “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5). Abraham obeyed by leaving Ur of the Chaldees. He obeyed by offering up his son, Isaac, upon Mount Moriah. There were countless smaller examples of obedience, but he was willing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, even when he did not know his destination. It is written in Heb. 11:8, “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” However, I will add that he knew WHO it was that was leading Him, and that was sufficient for him to obey.
11 By faith Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; 12 therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
Verse 11 says “she considered Him faithful.” The Greek word translated considered is from hegeomai, “to lead, command, (fig.) to deem or consider.” This shows us the attitude of Sarah toward God, and she is set forth as an example of the attitude of true faith. Her attitude was that God was faithful who had promised her a son, even though she went for many years without seeing any evidence of His faithfulness in that regard.
She had, however, seen the faithfulness of God in countless other matters during her sojourn with Abraham. Having seen the evidence of God’s leading, guidance, and protection for many years, she knew what it meant to hear and obey the voice of God. She was no mere follower of Abraham. As a freewoman, she was part of the decision-making process for the family and not merely Abraham’s servant-wife. By her marriage to Abraham, she was a type of the New Covenant (Gal. 4:22-31) relationship between Christ and the Church. (See my book, Old and New Covenant Marriage.)
Therefore, she had faith within herself and did not need to rely upon Abraham’s faith to be led by the Spirit. And so she accounted God faithful who had promised her a son. In effect, her faith caused her to call what was not as though it were. In this way, her faith matched that of Abraham as testified in Romans 4:17, where Abraham is said to have believed God “who gives life to the dead and calls what is not as though it were.”
This faith was tested for many years, for Abraham was 100, and Sarah was 90 when their son, Isaac, was born. Yet it is because of this faith-response in them that they became the parents of a multitude. A low-level faith might have given them a single son, but on this level of faith, along with their double witness, established a spiritual level of fulfillment that could never have been fulfilled in a mere Passover-level faith or even a Pentecostal-level faith.
In fact, in the types and shadows, we understand that Ishmael and Isaac represented first the Old and New Covenant adherents (“children”), as we read in Galatians 4. But secondly, they also represent Pentecost and Tabernacles, for Ishmael was said to be a “wild-ass man” (pareh awdawm) in the word of the angel to Hagar in Gen. 16:12. The ass is one of the two main symbols of Pentecost in Scripture, as I showed in my book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost. In contrast to Ishmael, we see Isaac, the child of promise. Hagar is promised many natural children through Ishmael; while Sarah is promised many spiritual children through Isaac.
Some argue that Sarah had many physical children, and indeed, many descendants did come through Isaac. But that was not the real promise, any more than it was God’s intention that Adam bring forth many physical children. When Adam was told to “be fruitful and multiply,” it was the intent of God for him to bring forth the Sons of God. Years later, that same portion of the birthright was passed to Isaac, who was then given the same promise of fruitfulness. But the mind of God contemplated something far greater than a mere abundance of physical children.
This, then, is the intent of Hebrews 11 when it sets forth Abraham and Sarah as examples of faith. Sarah specifically is set forth as the example of faith’s attitude toward God, which includes her concept of God’s faithful character. “Therefore,” verse 12 tells us, “there was born of one man” those many children that God had contemplated from the beginning when He first gave command to Adam himself.
13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but [they died only after] having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
This is the proper conclusion to the testimony of Abraham and Sarah. As foreigners in Canaan, they did not even see the first level of fulfillment of the promise when the children of Israel inherited the land of Canaan. Yet they looked beyond even that more immediate fulfillment to an even greater fulfillment through the feast of Tabernacles.
This two-layered fulfillment is not well understood today. The first fulfillment shows Abraham as a foreigner in Canaan, awaiting the day when Israel would inherit the land of Canaan. But those fleshly Israelites failed to fulfill the promises of God, for they were spiritual Ishmaelites, as Galatians 4:25 clearly tells us.
The second and greater fulfillment, however, shows Abraham as a foreigner and pilgrim on the earth itself, awaiting the day when His spiritual children fulfill the promise of the feast of Tabernacles, by which the sons of God are truly manifested in the earth. This promise can come only by the New Jerusalem, and not the old. In fact, if we depend upon the Old Covenant to bring forth this promise, we are placing our trust and faith in a non-existent promise, for Scripture does not give the promise to Ishmael, but to Isaac. In regard to Ishmael and the Old Jerusalem, we are told in Gal. 4:30 to “cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the freewoman.”
There are spiritual Ishmaelites who are descended from Abraham and some who are not. It is not a matter of genealogy, but of a “faith” that is misplaced. Anyone who has “faith” that God will establish the promise of Sonship through Ishmael does not have true faith, for they have not heard what God has said. Faith comes by hearing what God actually said. Anything else is faith in a lie, and such faith will not endure to the end.
Christian Zionism today has placed its faith in Ishmael, as Paul defines him, for they think that Hagar (the Old Jerusalem) is to inherit the promise, and that the children of the Old Jerusalem (Jews of Judaism) are to bring forth those promises. We, however, who have truly heard what God is saying insofar as the birthright promise is concerned, have the assurance of Scripture that our faith is not misplaced when we believe His word regarding Isaac.
14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
The author here pauses to comment further upon Abraham’s obedience of faith, because it so well illustrates the primary theme of the book of Hebrews itself. The book was written to break their dependence upon the earthly types and to show that the earthly “country” was only a type of the true heavenly “country.” No doubt the author had in mind the soon-coming destruction of Jerusalem and the nation of Judea, prophesied by Jesus. For this reason, the author was preparing the hearts of the Hebrew people for a new kind of worship that did not center around the temple in Jerusalem. The old forms of worship had already been abolished by the better Sacrifice and the better Covenant when Jesus died and rose again.
But now, he says, those who confess to being foreigners and pilgrims on the earth are confessing, in effect, that they seek a country other than the old land of Canaan. When Abraham confessed to being a stranger and pilgrim in the land of Canaan, he showed that he desired “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”
There is no way to misunderstand this except by exceptional blindness. The author makes a clear distinction between the old land of Canaan—which SEEMED to be the inheritance promised to Abraham—and the true and heavenly inheritance, the true Promised Land that is the “better country.” Those who say that Palestine/Canaan is the Jewish inheritance, while the heavenly country is the non-Jewish inheritance, are missing the obvious fact that this book is a Gospel to the Hebrews. It was written expressly to combat that view, which was even more prevalent in the first century than today.
There is only one inheritance, one Promised Land. All of God’s people attain to it by faith in Jesus Christ. The old land of Canaan was not the true inheritance at any time. It was a temporary inheritance, based upon a conditional covenant. The people violated that covenant and thereby abolished it (Heb. 8:9, 13). God has no intention of reviving the Old Covenant in order to give certain Hebrew people an inferior earthly inheritance.
The proof that our inheritance is heavenly and not earthly is given in verse 15, where we are told that if the “country” of the true inheritance were really a piece of real estate upon earth, then they might “have had opportunity to return.” What does this mean? WHO might have been able to return, and to what country?
First, Abraham is the example, but beginning in verse 13 the author begins to speak of a multitude of people who follow Abraham’s example. “They” confessed to being pilgrims on the earth. “They” are seeking a country. “They” might have had opportunity to return, if it had been an earthly, geographical country. “They” desire a better country. Who are these people?
On the secondary level (after Abraham), the author appears to be referencing the lost House of Israel, which had been cast off, divorced, and deported to Assyria from 745-721 B.C. These included, after all, the tribes of Joseph, who were the inheritors of the Birthright (1 Chron. 5:1, 2). Yet when they violated the Old Covenant, God stripped them of that inheritance and sent them into captivity, never to return.
These people, by the way, were not Jews. They were Israelites. The Jews (i.e., Judahites, the House of Judah) were from the southern Kingdom of Judah. For a fuller study of the distinction between Israel and Judah, along with the promises to each, see my two books, Who is a Jew? and Who is an Israelite?
When the book of Hebrews was written, Israel had been “lost sheep” for over seven centuries. God had divorced them (Jer. 3:8) and sent them out of His house. God built a wall against her, so that she would not find the path to return (Hos. 2:6). To take her back into His house would have been unlawful (Deut. 24:1-4).
The only way that those Israelites could return to God’s house would be through the New Covenant brought in by Jesus Christ. Their genealogy was insufficient to bring the promises of God to them. The only people who can be married (or remarried) to Jesus Christ are those who accept Jesus as their Passover Lamb. This is New Covenant faith and has nothing to do with the Old Covenant.
Indeed, many of those lost sheep of the House of Israel have accepted Jesus Christ as their Husband under a New Covenant. Likewise, there have been those of Judah who have done the same throughout history. And with them have been gathered many “others” according to the prophecy of Isaiah 56:8.
The point being made in Hebrews 11 is that all who desire this heavenly inheritance have no “opportunity to return” to that old land (as if it were a proper inheritance). If the old land of Canaan had been the true Promised Land sought by Abraham, then they might have had opportunity to return. But they did not, in spite of what the Christian Zionists may say today. What is happening in the nation called “Israel” today is fulfilling an entirely different set of prophecies that are unknown to most people. A full study of this is to be found in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
Hebrews 11:16 concludes: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” What “city” is that? It is not the Old Jerusalem, but the New (Rev. 21:2). In fact, those who seek to establish the Old Jerusalem are those whose faith is in Hagar, rather than in Sarah (Gal. 4:25). They are of the opinion that Hagar and Ishmael are the true inheritors of the Kingdom. Paul begged to differ, and, in fact, tells us the command of God to “cast out the bondwoman and her son” (Gal. 4:30).
And so, Abraham did not offer up Ishmael, as the Koran teaches, but Isaac. Islam is an Ishmael-based religion. Curiously enough, so is Christian Zionism, though in a different way. The connection is that both religions want the Old Jerusalem as their inheritance. Judaism considers the Old Jerusalem their “mother,” but it is, in fact, Hagar.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 as it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants [sperma, “seed”] shall be called.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.
Here the author establishes that Isaac is the true type of the believers who seek that “city” that is the New Jerusalem, or the heavenly Jerusalem. Those who seek the earthly city called Jerusalem are spiritually of Ishmael, not Isaac, and their faith is misplaced. Judaism and Christian Zionism represent that spirit of Ishmael which has drawn back to perdition (Heb. 10:39), as some in the early Church did by continuing to adhere to the earthly temple, Levitical priesthood, and animal sacrifices in the earthly Jerusalem.
The true “seed” of God is typified by Isaac, the “seed of Abraham.” Abraham had more than one son, but Isaac was the “only-begotten son” of Abraham. That term signifies not genealogy—which Ishmael could claim as well—but rather it signifies a special calling. In this case, Isaac would receive the Birthright, through which the promises of God would flow to all families of the earth.
Jesus was also the “only-begotten son” (John 3:16), because the promises of God could be obtained only through Him (Acts 4:12). In the days of Abraham, the two competitors for the title of “only-begotten son” were Isaac and Ishmael. In Jesus’ day, the two competitors were Jesus and the chief priests of the temple in Jerusalem-Hagar. The conflict was as sharp in Jesus’ day as it was in the days of Isaac and Ishmael. They could not BOTH inherit the Birthright. One of them had to be cast out, or disinherited. Ultimately, Abraham cast out Ishmael, and afterward God cast out the children of Hagar-Jerusalem.
Abraham’s obedience of faith was tested severely in Genesis 22 when God told him to offer up his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice upon Mount Moriah. When he showed himself willing to do that, it indicated that Abraham truly believed in the resurrection of the dead (Heb. 11:19), for he knew that this was the only way that Isaac could be killed and yet receive the Birthright.
So also God was willing to offer up His only-begotten Son on the cross. And Jesus Himself was willing to die, knowing that His Father would raise Him from the dead on the third day (Luke 18:33).
The book of Jasher tells us that Isaac himself was 37 years old when his father brought him to Moriah to be the sacrifice. Abraham was 137 years old at the time. Isaac was much stronger than his aged father. So it is plain that when Isaac learned of his father’s intent, he put forth no resistance, but became a willing sacrifice. In this, too, he was a type of Christ, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.
In this matter of blessing Jacob and Esau, the faith of Isaac was manifested in his ability to overcome the will of his flesh. Isaac truly wanted to bless Esau, for Esau was his favorite son (Gen. 25:28). And yet the prophetic word that he had received before the birth of the twins was that “the older shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23).
Isaac tried hard to fight this prophecy, but ultimately, when it came to the moment of truth, he blessed Jacob with the Dominion Mandate and put Esau under his authority (Gen. 27:29). The fact that this blessing was done “by faith” indicates to some that Isaac was not really fooled by Jacob’s masquerade. Yet when Esau identifies himself in verse 32 as the real Esau, Isaac’s reaction does not seem to reflect that he knew of Jacob’s deception. Gen. 27:33 says,
33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? [Isaac probably paused here as he recalled the prophecy in Gen. 25:23. Then he said:] Yes, and he shall be blessed.”
It is this final statement confirming his blessing upon Jacob that manifested his faith. He would not have had to stand by his blessing under such conditions. Any contract or agreement made by fraudulent means is null and void. Such is true even under the laws of men. The original blessing upon Jacob was not made by faith; it was the confirmation of that blessing which was truly “by faith,” for he was obedient to the voice of God that had been spoken many years earlier.
It was also by faith that Isaac blessed Esau and foretold of things to come. Perhaps the most important prophetic word given to Esau on that day was in verse 40,
40 And by your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless [Heb. rood, “to trample, to rule, have dominion”], that you shall break his yoke from your neck.
Isaac’s prophecy took into account Jacob’s deceptive means in obtaining the Dominion Mandate. Because of this, Isaac knew that Jacob would have to give it back and allow God to work it out in a lawful manner. As I showed in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright, the descendants of Esau (called Edom and Idumea), were ultimately conquered by the Judeans under John Hyrcanus in 126 B.C. They were forcibly converted to Judaism at that time, and, as Josephus tells us, “they were hereafter no other than Jews” (Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, ix, 1).
For this reason, the prophetic promise to Esau-Edom could only be fulfilled through people known as Jews, for from the time of Edom’s conversion, Edom-Idumea ceased to be a nation apart from the Jews. The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1903 edition, under the heading of “Edom,” reads,
“They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation . . . From this time the Idumeans ceased to be a separate people.”
The Jewish nation itself was destroyed in 70-73 A.D., and the Jewish dispersion was confirmed at the second revolt of Bar-Cochba from 132-135 A.D. These wars fulfilled the laws of tribulation and captivity found in Lev. 26 and Deut. 28. The only way that the law would permit their return was if they would “confess their iniquity” and acknowledge their “hostility” to Yahweh (that is, Yeshua, Jesus Christ). See Leviticus 26:40-42.
And so for 1900 years those Judeans (“Jews”) were unable to return to Palestine. But then they found a way to return, because of the prophecy of Isaac. They could return as Edomites and receive the Dominion Mandate as a bonus. This came to a climax in 1948 when the Israeli state declared its independence as a new nation.
And so, whereas Jacob had pretended to be Esau in order to receive the Dominion Mandate, Esau pretended to be Jacob in order to get it back. In both cases, they took advantage of the “blindness” of Isaac. Thus, the new state called itself “Israel,” taking the name that the angel had given to Jacob. In so doing, the same people who had usurped the Scepter of Judah from Jesus at His first appearance (Matt. 21:38) have now usurped the Birthright of Joseph, whose sons were given the name Israel (Gen. 48:16).
This is a brief summary of teaching that I have set forth in more detail in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright. This should be sufficient to give an appreciation for the simple statement in Hebrews 11:20 telling us that Isaac blessed Esau “regarding things to come.” While no details are given in Hebrews 11, this blessing “by faith” has greatly affected modern history in the past century. Isaac’s confirmation of Jacob’s blessing, along with the blessing upon Esau, set into motion great tribulation forces that are now coming to a world climax.
21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
Jacob, too, blessed the sons of Joseph “by faith.” That is, Jacob had heard the voice of God and knew the divine will in this matter. He blessed all of his sons in Genesis 49, but the sons of Joseph were the ones who inherited the Birthright. With this blessing, they were given the Birthright name—Israel. Gen. 48:15 and 16 says,
15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
The Birthright consisted of two main features: the Dominion Mandate and the Fruitfulness Mandate, established in Gen. 1:26 and 28. Jacob split these, giving Judah the Scepter and Joseph the rest of the Birthright (i.e., the Fruitfulness Mandate). And so of Joseph it is said in Gen. 49:22, “Joseph is a fruitful bough” (Heb. ben, “a son”). The Fruitfulness Mandate has to do with the calling to bring forth the sons of God in the image of Christ.
The Birthright of Joseph is confirmed in 1 Chron. 5:1, 2, where we read,
1 Now the sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel (for he was the first-born, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his Birthright was given to the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright; 2 Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph.)
And so, the simple statement in Hebrews 11:21 regarding Jacob’s blessing of Joseph “by faith” has huge ramifications in biblical history and in the History of the Kingdom of God. It has everything to do with the concept of the Sons of God and the manner in which this will be fulfilled in us. It can only come through “Joseph,” who is the holder of the Birthright.
This is why Jesus must come twice. He came the first time of the tribe of Judah in order to lay claim to the Scepter that had been given to Judah (Gen. 49:10). But in His second appearance, He must come of Ephraim in order to inherit the Birthright. This was the tribe of Joshua, who led Israel into the Kingdom. In Rev. 19:13 it is said that when He comes, “He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood.” This, too, identifies Him with Joseph, the only man in Scripture whose robe was dipped in blood (Gen. 37:31).
Though the book of Hebrews says little about Jacob’s blessing, the fact that Jacob blessed his grandsons “by faith” gave great weight to this act. Though it would take thousands of years to manifest the sons of God, this blessing will surely come to pass.
22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.
This is a reference to Genesis 50:25, 26, which says,
25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years, and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Joseph knew the promise of God to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob. He knew that God intended to give them the land of Canaan (however temporary). And so he made them swear to take his bones to Canaan when they left Egypt. This was an act of faith, for he prophesied of their exodus from Egypt at a time when conditions were at their best for them in Egypt.
The Israelites fulfilled their vow to Joseph, as we read in Exodus 13:19,
19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God shall surely take care of you; and you shall carry my bones from here with you.”
Joseph’s bones were in the care of his descendants of the tribe of Ephraim, which was led by Joshua, the Ephraimite. So we read in Joshua 24:32,
32 Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.
Jacob had purchased this piece of ground in Gen. 33:19 and had built an altar there called El-elohe-Israel, “God—the God of Israel.” Joseph was buried there, perhaps testifying to the fact that the sons of Joseph had been given the name Israel.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Moses’ parents were Amram and Jochebed (or Jochebel). Amram was the son of Kohath, son of Levi (Num. 26:58). Jochebed was actually the daughter of Levi (Num. 26:59), and so she was Amram’s aunt.
At any rate, in the story of Moses’ birth, Exodus 2 says nothing directly about the faith of Amram and Jochebed, nor is there any specific record of a word from the Lord which they believed and acted upon “by faith.” Jasher 68, however, tells us that their daughter Miriam prophesied, and that the parents acted upon this prophecy by faith. Jasher 68:1-5 reads,
1 And it was at that time the Spirit of God was upon Miriam the daughter of Amram the sister of Aaron, and she went forth and prophesied about the house, saying, “Behold, a son will be born unto us from my father and mother this time, and he will save Israel from the hands of Egypt.”
Jasher also says that Miriam was only four years old when Moses was born, so she must have been just three when she prophesied this. (This is not terribly unusual, for I myself have seen children that age prophesy quite naturally and innocently. Keep in mind also that Ex. 15:20 tells us that Miriam was a prophetess.)
Jasher tells us that because Pharaoh had ordered all the male children born in Israel to be killed, Amram had separated from his wife for three years in order to avoid having children. Miriam herself was so named because the Egyptians had made their lives “bitter” because of this oppressive decree. Miriam means “bitterness.”
2 And when Amram heard the words of his daughter, he went and took his wife back to the house, after he had driven her away at the time when Pharaoh ordered every male child of the house of Jacob to be thrown into the water. 3 So Amram took Jochebed his wife, three years after he had driven her away, and he came to her and she conceived.
Perhaps the author of Hebrews was acquainted with this story in Jasher and knew that Moses’ parents had responded “by faith” to the prophetic word coming from Miriam. They understood that they were to bring forth a son who would deliver Israel.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
Moses, at the age of three months, was put into an ark made of reeds and placed in the Nile, for his parents could no longer hide him from the Egyptian police. The ark floated past Pharaoh’s daughter, named Bathia, who was bathing at that time in the Nile. She then adopted him as her own son and hired Moses’ mother to nurse him for her!
When Moses was grown, he discovered that he was a Hebrew, and by faith he chose to identify with them rather than continue as the prince of Egypt. But the time of Israel’s deliverance had not yet come, for God had determined that they should remain in Egypt until 400 years after the birth of the “seed” of Abraham—that is, Isaac (Gen. 15:13).
Likewise, Egypt had been granted a period of 414 years (“cursed time”) from the birth of Ishmael to bring forth the promised seed (as explained in Secrets of Time). The 414 years expired at the same time as the 400 years from the birth of Isaac, since Ishmael was born 14 years before Isaac’s birth.
Finally, as we read in Galatians 3:17, there was a 430-year time between God’s promise to Abraham and the covenant with Moses. This time ended in the same year as Israel’s exodus from Egypt as well. If you do the math, you will see that the promise to Abraham came when he was 70 years old; Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86; and Isaac was born when Abraham was 100. Hence, we have the three time periods each with different starting points in the life of Abraham, but all ending in the same year when Moses led Israel out of Egypt.
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured [kartereo, “to be strong, steadfast”], as seeing Him who is unseen.
Moses had been away from Egypt for 40 years, as God tested him in the wilderness before entrusting him with the task of leading Israel out of Egypt. God then appeared before him in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2) and told him to return to Egypt and lead Israel out of the house of bondage. Moses obeyed “by faith . . . not fearing the wrath of the king.”
Moses was strong and steadfast in his faith. His faith had endurance, because it was not based upon mental persuasion or positive thinking, but upon the sure word of God. He saw “Him who is unseen” at the burning bush.
28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn might not touch them.
Here we have a direct statement linking Passover to faith, which, of course, was a type of the death of the true Lamb of God, which took place while the people were killing the lambs for Passover in 33 A.D. In Exodus 12 God gave instructions to Moses about that first Passover, and “by faith” Moses was obedient.
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
In Exodus 14:16 God told Moses to “lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it.” Moses heard and obeyed, manifesting his faith (Ex. 14:21). The Egyptians, however, attempted to duplicate the crossing, but they were not motivated by faith. Hence, they drowned in the sea.
Even as Passover depicts our justification by faith, so also the Red Sea depicts our water baptism, as Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 10:1, 2. Baptism, then, is as much an act of faith as is Passover. These were two distinctly separate events in Israel’s history, even as justification and baptism are two distinct events. However, they are linked together in a progressive manner in the type as well as the New Testament antitype—justification and water baptism.
To this we might also add that this same type was pictured again in the tabernacle of Moses, where the bronze altar of sacrifice was followed by the laver of water where the priests baptized themselves. The altar and the laver were both situated in the outer court, and are therefore linked together, but each had its own distinct function.
These two things portray for us the link between faith and works. Paul shows their distinction (Rom. 4:1-5), while James shows how they are linked (James 2:17-26). Both are correct at the same time, and there is no need to create two distinct means of salvation, one for Hebrews and one for non-Hebrew people. The types and shadows give us New Testament understanding of these things.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days.
The walls of Jericho did not have faith. This is speaking of Joshua, who led the men of Israel encircling the walls of the city for seven days during the feast of unleavened bread, beginning at Passover. Josephus tells us,
“Now while the Israelites did this, and the Canaanites did not attack them, but kept themselves quiet within their own walls, Joshua resolved to besiege them; so on the first day of the feast [of the passover] the priests carried the ark round about, with some part of the armed men to be a guard to it. These priests went forward, blowing with their seven trumpets . . .” (Antiquities of the Jews, V, v).
Joshua had spoken with “the captain of the Lord’s host,” an angel sent to him with instructions on how to conquer Jericho (Joshua 6:2-5). Joshua heard and obeyed “by faith,” and the result was that the walls crumbled on the seventh day, the last day of the feast of unleavened bread.
31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
Rahab is one of the two women mentioned among the men of faith in Hebrews 11. We are not told how Rahab came to have faith, but in Joshua 2:9 she told the two spies that she knew that God had given the city into the hands of Israel. According to Josephus, these spies had stopped at the inn to eat supper, and someone had reported them to the king as being suspicious (Antiquities of the Jews, V, ii). When Rahab heard what was happening and discovered that her guests were Israelites, she hid them on the roof under the sheaves of flax. When the danger was past, she told the spies in verse 10,
10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.
Rahab put a red rope outside of her window on the wall of Jericho (Joshua 2:18, 21), so that the Israelites would be able to identify her house and protect her and her family in the battle.
Jericho was excavated by German archeologists from 1907-1909, who found piles of mud bricks on a lower level of the city dating back to about 1400 B.C. But it was not until Kathleen Kenyon re-excavated the site from 1952-1959 that they realized that they had discovered the walls of Jericho destroyed in the days of Joshua (Joshua 6:20). The destroyed city had been burned to the ground, of course, and in Kenyon’s excavation report she wrote about a huge residue of burnt material over which the next city of Jericho was built.
They also discovered that the wall on the north side of the city remained intact, indicating that this was the location of Rahab’s house.
Thus, Rahab came to believe that God had given Canaan into the hands of Israel, and her faith saved her entire family (Joshua 6:25). Ultimately, she married Salmon (Matt. 1:5), the great-grandfather of King David, and became part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ Himself.
There is disagreement as to whether Rahab was a harlot or an innkeeper. In those days innkeepers were of low reputation, for they were part brothel as well as inns. Scripture calls her a harlot; Josephus sees her only as an innkeeper (Antiquities of the Jews, V, i). Regardless, God is not overly concerned with anyone’s past life, but only with the new way of life that He gives after they have repented “by faith.”
This is good news for the great harlot of Revelation 17, for the story of Rahab in Jericho is a type of the great harlot of Babylon. Her “flesh” will be eaten by the ten-horned beast (Rev. 17:16), even as Jezebel’s flesh was eaten by the dogs (2 Kings 9:36). Both represent the harlot-church system. The Hebrew word for “dog” is keleb, or Caleb, one of the two overcomers in the days of Moses. Dogs can signify either a negative or positive meaning. In the case of Caleb, his name signifies faithfulness, for dogs are “man’s best friend” and have a reputation for being faithful. Hence, this has much to do with the theme of these people acting “by faith.”
The Old Testament story of Jezebel is a type and shadow picturing a more merciful New Testament application, whereby the overcomers strip “the flesh” (carnal mind) from the harlot-church in that she, like Rahab, might be saved in the destruction of Jericho-Babylon.
32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel, and the prophets 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.
Gideon’s name means “a feller” (of trees), that is, a wood-cutter. Trees were symbolic of men and warriors in particular (Deut. 20:19). An angel appeared to Gideon and commissioned him to deliver Israel from the captivity of Midian (Judges 6:14). Gideon “heard” the word and obeyed by faith.
Gideon, then, was one of the men “who by faith conquered kingdoms” (vs. 33).
Barak was another of the judges (deliverers) in Israel. Barak delivered Israel from the Canaanite captivity in Judges 4-5. His faith was manifested in that he responded when Deborah, the prophetess, gave him the word of the Lord in Judges 4:6 and 7,
6 Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, “Behold, the Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded, Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun, 7 And I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.”
Barak was obedient on the condition that she would go with him. Because of that condition, God gave Sisera himself into the hands of a woman (vs. 9), though Barak defeated Sisera’s army. Barak’s obedience proved his faith.
Samson represents a more complex case of faith, because he was also disobedient. As a Nazarite from birth, he was not to touch a dead body, or drink wine or grape juice, or cut his hair. It appears that he did all three of these things, but it was not until he violated the third and last Nazarite vow (cutting his hair) that his great strength left him.
Samson seemed to thrive on the borderline between obedience and disobedience. He wanted to marry a Philistine woman, he attended drinking parties with Philistines, and he ate honey out of the carcass of a dead lion (“unclean”). His life style finally caught up with him when his Philistine fiancé induced him to tell her the secret of his strength. It was in his hair that had never been cut—that is, in his Nazarite vow.
Hair represents “consecration” in the law of Nazarites (Num. 6:7), where we read, “the consecration of his God is upon his head.” Once he lost his consecration (that is, his sanctification, or separation unto God), he lost his strength. The Philistines overpowered him, put out his eyes, and set to him to work grinding wheat as an animal walking around in circles.
Yet in the end, Samson knew that he was still God’s slave. He remembered the law in Exodus 21:26, saying,
26 And if a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye.
So Samson appealed to God in Judges 16:28 for the sake of his two eyes, and God heard his plea. His strength returned, and he used it to push over the pillars holding up the temple of Dagon. All the worshippers of Dagon died along with Samson in the collapse of the building.
Samson’s faith is beyond question. But God had ordained that he should be a type of the Church, as I showed in my book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost. Even so, today we see the Church living among the “Philistines” and adopting the ways of the world. The Church has desired to “marry” a Philistine woman in that the Church desires to adapt to the moral practices of the carnally-minded world.
The Church as a whole has lost its consecration and is no longer separated unto God, and yet when it goes out to “fight the Philistines,” it does not realize that its strength has been lost. This is like Samson’s example in Judges 16:20,
20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”
The world has blinded the Church today, as the example of Samson shows us. The Church has become a slave to the Philistine carnal mind, as the Old Testament type has prophesied in this story. And yet, the Church is still God’s servant (or slave), and it will yet be given a final moment of glory in the destruction of Dagon’s temple. The tragedy is that the Church will not inherit life in the first resurrection, but will have to wait until the general resurrection. This, I believe, is the meaning of Samson’s death as a prophetic type. Samson did not lose his salvation, but he did lose the “better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35) that is reserved for those who overcome.
Samson’s faith was not strongly manifested by obedience during most of his life. It was, at best, a compromised obedience. But in the end, it was his faith that brought about the greatest event of his life. Ultimately, he turned to the law of blinded servants in the book of Exodus, and this repentance for his previous lawless attitude (anomia) prophesies of a similar heart change in the Church today.
Jephthah was one of the biblical judges who delivered Israel from the captivity of the Ammonites on the East side of the Jordan River. His story is told in Judges 11 and 12. His story is as unusual as that of Samson. The account begins in Judges 11:1-3,
1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, ‘You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers, and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out after him.
There are many “harlot” stories in the Bible. Most of them have happy endings, such as we find in the case of Rahab. Israel itself was a harlot, as portrayed in the book of Hosea, whose harlot wife represented the House of Israel. Yet the story in Hosea portrays God redeeming the harlot wife in the end. Jephthah, however, represents the overcomers who are considered “illegitimate” by their well-born brethren in the Church.
Though Jephthah had been driven away by his legalistic brothers, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah” (Judges 11:29), and he became Israel’s deliverer (Judges 11:32). Once again, it is a lesson in faith. God shows Himself to value faith more than birth privileges, even in the Old Testament.
In fact, Jephthah had issued a call to the other tribes to help him deliver Israel from Ammon, but they had refused the call. After the battle, the Ephraimites took issue with Jephthah for not allowing them to help fight the battle (12:1). It seems that they had no faith to help with the deliverance of Israel, but they wanted the glory afterward. Their hearts are manifested in their threat upon Jephthah, saying in 12:1, “We will burn your house down on you.”
They represent a type of the legalistic Church, not unlike Jephthah’s brothers, and the threat itself prophesies of their doctrine of fear and intimidation, which today is manifested as the threat of hell-fire and eternal damnation. In the story of Samson, that doctrine is seen to be part of the Philistine mind-set (Judges 14:15).
So the Ephraimites felt insulted and fought against Jephthah (12:4). God judged the Ephraimites that day, and 42,000 of them fell in battle (12:6). Much could be written concerning this story, but the bottom line is that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. He heard and obeyed the word of the Lord “by faith.”
The story of David is lengthy, and we have many details about how he heard and obeyed the voice of God “by faith.” Though he sinned, and most of his rule was troubled by the divine judgment for that sin, God used it all for good in the long term.
As a small example of David’s faith, we may look at 2 Sam. 5:22-25,
22 Now the Philistines came up once again and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. 23 And when David inquired of the Lord, He said, “You shall not go directly up; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. 24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the Lord will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.” 25 Then David did so, just as the Lord had commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.
The secret of David’s success was that he inquired of the Lord before acting. He did not necessarily do what made sense to the carnal mind. Though he is often called a brilliant tactician, the secret of his success was not his brilliant carnal mind, but the counsel that he received from God. In obeying that counsel, he went “by faith.”
In Acts 3:24 we read,
24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.
It is almost as if Samuel is singled out as the first of the prophets. Heb. 11:32 words this in similar fashion: “Samuel and the prophets.” Though there were prophets prior to Samuel, the prophetic office was made distinct from the priesthood in the days of Samuel. This was because the high priest (Eli) did not correct his corrupt sons, Hophni and Phinehas, one of which was in line to be the next high priest. So a nameless “man of God” told Eli that he would lose an “arm” (1 Sam. 2:31), that is, part of his authority as high priest.
Up to that time, the high priest was also the head prophet in Israel. But God raised up Samuel to begin a line of prophets that were distinct from the high priesthood. The office of prophet was separated and put under the direct authority of God Himself. So the prophetic office, as distinct from the priesthood, really began with Samuel.
Samuel, of course, was a man of faith, for he heard the voice of God and was faithful to convey the word to the people. Sometimes the word went against his own will or preference, such as in the case of the people demanding a king. This demand greatly displeased Samuel (1 Sam. 8:6), but God told him to give them their desire.
Even so, Samuel told the people what the result would be, if they wanted to be in submission to men, rather than to God directly. This is a prophecy and a warning about the spirit of denominationalism and about the people’s natural desire to submit to men. God told Samuel that this desire manifested man’s rejection of God as King. God gave Israel King Saul, who became one of the primary types of the Church leadership during the Age of Pentecost. It prophesied of the desire of Christian people to want or need men’s leadership, because of their inability to hear God’s voice and to follow Him directly.
Samuel’s ministry was characterized by his rocky relationship with Saul, and we see in this situation the pattern emerging of the Church’s relationship with the prophets. If the Church lacks the ability to hear God’s voice directly, or to accept it when they hear it, how will they hear it by the mouth of a prophet? Yet Samuel walked “by faith,” according to the word that he heard from God.
This generalization covers all the prophets after Samuel, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all of the so-called “minor prophets” to Malachi. We may also include all the unknown and unnamed prophets during that time and all the way to the present day, who remained true to their calling.
Throughout history the priesthood resented the independence of the prophetic office and sought to bring it back under the authority (control) of the priesthood (clergy). Some of the prophets were stoned by the priesthood as “false prophets.” Other prophets merely succumbed to the pressure and to the prospect of respectability and acceptance by submitting to the priesthood.
The prophetic office was created because of a disobedient priesthood (Eli and sons). But no priesthood really considers itself to be disobedient, and so it seldom understands why God separated the prophetic office from that of the priesthood. And because they do not comprehend the significance of the story of Eli and how God raised up Samuel, Christian leadership tends to put pressure upon prophets to submit to its authority.
Such submission to men is no problem until a contradiction occurs in the determining the will of God for the Church. Suppose a Church leader feels that they should build a bigger and better church facility in order to attract more people. Suppose that this desire is based upon the carnal mind, rather than the voice of God. Suppose that the leadership refuses to hear God in this matter, so God speaks His will to the prophet. The prophet then stands up and reveals the will of God in this matter.
What then? In most cases, the Church leadership may tell the prophet that his word is “out of order.” The prophet is told to repent of speaking this “false prophecy,” and the prophet is then faced with the dilemma of submitting to men or remaining true to God. If he remains true to God, he is excommunicated or “stoned” from the pulpit for insubordination. If he submits to men, he becomes a Church Prophet, and from then on, the prophet is able to hear God’s voice only when it is compatible with the Church leadership.
In Old Testament times, we read of “the prophets of Baal” (1 Kings 18:19), who were submitted to false gods. We also read of prophets who were in submission to King Ahab (1 Kings 22:22, 23). In 2 Kings 3:13, Elisha expressed some disdain when King Jehoshaphat wanted to inquire of him about the word of the Lord. He responded, “Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.” The king’s father and mother had their own prophets who were in submission to them and who prophesied things that they wanted to hear.
Then there were the Lord’s prophets. These were the prophets who remained true to the word of the Lord and did not repent of the word that the Lord gave them to speak, even when faced with threats or danger from priests or kings.
A good example of this is found in Jeremiah 38. The word of the Lord through Jeremiah said that the nation was to be judged for its rebellion against God and His law. God had given the nation into the hands of the king of Babylon. Jeremiah was then cast into prison for sedition (Jer. 38:4-6), yet he refused to recant the word of the Lord. These prophets are the “men of faith” that Hebrews 11 referenced, for faith comes by hearing and obeying that word from God.
The biblical number 19 refers to “faith and hearing,” as I explained in my book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers One to Forty. So it is no coincidence that the Faith Chapter of Hebrews 11 lists nineteen men and women (including “the prophets”) —
33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions [Daniel 6:22], 34 quenched the power of fire [Daniel 3:23-27], escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection [1 Kings 17:21-23], and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.
These men and women of faith endured to the end in order to receive “a better resurrection.” They were not content with the general resurrection of the dead at the Great White Throne judgment. Their desire was to obtain “the first resurrection” in Rev. 20:4-6, which includes those who will reign with Christ during the thousand years prior to the general resurrection.
36 and others experienced mockings [2 Kings 2:23] and scourgings [Acts 5:40], yes, also chains and imprisonment [Jer. 38:6]. 37 They were stoned [Acts 7:59], they were sawn in two [Isaiah], they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground [1 Kings 18:13].
In order to be an overcomer, one must have something to overcome. Being a simple believer is usually quite easy, for it takes only a moment in time. But enduring to the end is more difficult, for God uses the vessels of dishonor to train the vessels of honor and provide them with difficulties to overcome.
39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
There are two main elements to the verses above. First, the Old Testament saints did not receive that which was promised because they lived in a time when the promise was yet afar off. The old land of Canaan was not the promise, as we read in the account about Abraham, who sought a heavenly country. Israel later obtained an inheritance in the land of Canaan, partly in the days of Joshua and more fully in the time of David and Solomon. But even so, they did not really “receive what was promised,” for this was only a type and shadow of a greater inheritance yet to come.
This “better” promise, the greater inheritance, had to await the ratification of the New Covenant at the Cross. It is clear now that the Old Testament saints could not inherit this better promise apart from the saints of the New Testament era. And since this New Testament era has been with us for the past 2,000 years, it is equally plain that this is to be a corporate fulfillment. In other words, no one may be given the “better” inheritance of the perfected, glorified body until we receive it together at the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.