By Steven Chan
1. In Heb 11:39-40 the Bible states: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” When we survey the epistle of Hebrews, we find the following discussion about the promise that awaits the people of faith: –
a. A “rest” that awaits the Christians:
Heb 4:1,8-11: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it…or if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
b. A “better and an enduring possession in heaven”:
Heb 10:34-37: “knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.”
c. A “better, that is heavenly country”.
Heb 11:8-16: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Heb 13:14: “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”
2. In the greater context of the Scriptures, the promise of the hope of an “inheritance reserved in heaven” serves as an anchor for our soul: –
a. 1 Pet 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”
b. Heb 6:17-20: “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus”
c. Heb 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful”
3. So, according to Heb 11:39-40 the people of faith under the Old Covenant have not yet received the promise of the eternal rest, the heavenly home, an inheritance reserved in heaven, because God’s plan of redemption for man envisages the New Covenant mediated through Jesus Christ enacted on better promises (Heb 8:6) as only the blood of Jesus Christ could cleanse man’s sins once for all. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away the sins of the world; only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that (Heb 10:1-18). The promise/hope of our inheritance in heaven will be realized when He comes again (Heb 9:26-28): “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13; John 14:1-6).
The people of faith under the Old Covenant received many promises such as those made to Abraham of the promised land and multiplying his descendants like the sand of the sea (Rom 4). But the main promise of the eternal home reserved in heaven would only happen after the day of judgement when Christ comes a second time.
4. According to Heb 10:1-4, the blood of bulls and goats could never wash away the sins of man. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away the sins of man – of those people of faith who lived under the old covenant as well as those living under the New Covenant. This is stated in Heb 9:14-15:
“how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
5. The sins committed by the people of faith were temporarily atoned (year by year basis) by the offerings of the blood of bulls and goats as commanded by God:
“So the priest shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him” (Lev 4:31)
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”(Heb 10:1-4) But the offering of the blood of Jesus cleansed man’s sins “once for all” – a permanent atonement.
“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb 10:11-14)
Let us therefore be diligent to persevere in faith so that we may receive the promise.