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Hebrews 11:35-40

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 16, 2018

This Thursday …

Video: Billy Graham trailer

Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve service will run from 6-7pm and will be a blessing for kids and adults alike. Bring the whole family. 

Worship/prayer night

Come and start your year right on Thursday Dec. 27 – we will spend our evening in worship and prayer.


The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers.

The author expects the readers to be well acquainted with Levitical worship and sacrifice.

He will constantly quote the Old Testament in a way that expects that the reader understands what he’s talking about.

We also know that these believers were encountering very strong persecution.

Times were so bad that some were beginning to wonder if they shouldn’t quit following Jesus.

We will see three elements woven throughout this letter to the Hebrews.

1. Both Testaments

Even though the Old Testament has become “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13), the entire book of Hebrews is built upon the clear foundation of the Old Testament.
(Hebrews 8:13 NKJV) In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
You aren’t going to understand Hebrews, or even the New Testament correctly unless you learn the Old Testament.

2. Jesus is superior

He’s superior to angels, Moses, and the Torah.
He’s superior to the Levitical priests and their sacrifices.

3. Don’t quit

The ultimate goal of the book is to encourage those who are struggling with difficult times, and help them to endure.

We’ve seen that their survival is going to require faith.

Definition: Faith is trusting something you don’t see.

Faith is trusting when you don’t understand what’s going on.
We talked about other words for “faith” being “belief”, “trust”, or even “counting on”.

Our author has been showing how the great men and women of the Old Testament survived their difficulties because of their “faith”.

11:35-40 Difficult Races

:35 Women received their dead raised to life again.

raised to lifeanastasis – a raising up, rising (e.g. from a seat); a rising from the dead

:35 Women received their dead

There is more than one story that fits this.

The prophet Elisha (2Ki. 4) used to stay at the house of a Shunammite woman and her family when he passed through town.

One day this woman’s son grew ill and died.

She laid the dead body on the bed that Elisha would sleep on, and then she rode a donkey to find Elisha.  When Elisha found out about the boy, he sent his servant to lay Elisha’s staff on the boy, but the woman wasn’t satisfied until Elisha himself went and prayed over the boy.

Elisha went into the room and prayed, and the child came back to life.

How was this woman’s son raised from the dead?  Through faith.  I think her faith played a big part.

The concept of resurrection from the dead didn’t start with Jesus.


Elijah had pronounced a drought on the land of Israel because of it’s rebellion against God.  The king wasn’t too happy about this, so he put out a “hit” on Elijah, and Elijah began his life as a man on the run.
One of the places Elijah hid was with a widow in Zarephath.
This woman hid Elijah for a few years.
One day this woman’s son died.
God used Elijah to raise the son back from the dead (1Ki. 17:21)

(1 Kings 17:21 NKJV) And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.”

It happened through faith.

But faith doesn’t always result with the bad things being fixed…

:35 …Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.

:35 Others were tortured

torturedτυμπανίζω (“timpani”) – to beat the drum or tambourine; to torture with the “rack”

The tympanum seems to have been a wheel shaped instrument of torture, over which criminals were stretched as though they were skins and then horribly beaten with clubs or thongs
A form of this word is found in the LXX Apocrypha, describing something that took place during the time of the Maccabees.  Antiochus Epiphanes had taken over the Temple and forced the Jews to do things contrary to their Law.
(2 Maccabees 6:18–19 NRSV) —18 Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. 19 But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh,

Eleazar preferred being tortured in the rack than breaking God’s law for the Jews.

His choice, made by faith, led to his death.

acceptingprosdechomai – to receive to one’s self, to admit, to give access to one’s self

deliveranceapolutrosis – a releasing effected by payment of ransom; redemption, deliverance

:35 that they might obtain a better resurrection

obtaintugchano – to hit the mark; of one discharging a javelin or arrow; to reach, attain, obtain, get, become master of

betterkreitton – more useful, more serviceable, more advantageous; more excellent

Eleazar’s faith was in something unseen, heaven.

There will be rewards when we get to heaven.
The issue here is not whether you are saved, it’s about what kind of reward you will receive when you get to heaven.

People who are willing to accept horrible torture rather than sin against God receive a better reward.

Paul talked about how rewards in heaven will be based on how our lives make it through the fire of judgment.

(1 Corinthians 3:12–15 NKJV) —12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Our Hebrews writer is saying that some folks preferred to build their lives out of spiritual gold rather than cheapen it by building out of things that will burn up in the fire.

Paul talked about the pain we endure with the hope of heaven in sight when he wrote,

(2 Corinthians 4:16–18 NKJV) —16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
It’s the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” that are the rewards worth waiting for.

:36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

mockingsempaigmos (“in” + “play like a child”) – a mocking, scoffing

scourgingsmastix – a whip, scourge

trialpeira – a trial, experience, attempt

:36 mockings … scourgings … chains … imprisonment

“Mockings” speaks of people calling you names, making fun of you.

“Scourgings” refers to being whipped.

“Chains and imprisonment” are simply being thrown into jail.

More than a few of the Old Testament prophets experienced these kinds of things because people didn’t like hearing what they had to say.

Joseph (Gen. 39:20), Micaiah (1Ki. 22:27), and Jeremiah (Jer. 37:15)

Jesus said,

(Matthew 5:11–12 NKJV) —11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

:37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—

:37 They were stoned

stonedlithazo – to overwhelm or pelt with stones; of stoning, a Jewish mode of punishment

Killed by stones being thrown at you, not drugs.

A prophet named Zechariah was stoned to death in the temple in the days of Joash (2Chr. 24:21)

(2 Chronicles 24:21 NKJV) So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord.

:37 they were sawn in two

sawn in twoprizo – to saw, to cut in two with a saw

We think this is the prophet Isaiah.

King Hezekiah was married to the daughter of the prophet Isaiah, a gal named Hephzibah.  They had a baby boy named Manasseh. (2Ki. 21:1, see my notes)
Though Hezekiah was a good king, Manasseh was evil.
(2 Kings 21:16 NKJV) Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another…
Jewish tradition tells us that some of that “innocent blood” that Manasseh shed was his own grandfather, Isaiah.
There are not too many books of the Bible that have as many amazing prophecies than the book of Isaiah.
Manasseh didn’t like the things his grandfather told him.
When Isaiah heard that Manasseh wanted him killed, he fled and hid in the trunk of a cedar tree.
Manasseh had the tree cut down, cutting his grandfather in half.

The Jewish version of Isaiah’s death goes like this:

“Manasseh sought to kill Isaiah, and he fled from him, and fled to a cedar, and the cedar swallowed him up, all but the fringe of his garment; they came and told him (Manasseh), he said unto them, go and saw the cedar,  “and they sawed the cedar”, and blood was seen to come out.”

:37 were tempted

temptedpeirazo – to try, make trial of, test; to solicit to sin, to tempt

It might refer to the difficult times of “testing” they went through, or even “temptations” to sin.

:37 slain with the sword

When Elijah was running from Jezebel, he told God…

(1 Kings 19:10 NKJV) So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

:37 They wandered about in sheepskins…

wandered aboutperierchomai – to go about

The language here describes the prophet Elijah, whose “mantle” was thought to be a sheepskin (see LXX on 1Ki. 19:13)

sheepskinsmelote – a sheepskin; an outer robe or mantle since most mantles were made of skins

The LXX uses this same word to describe Elijah’s “mantle”.
(1 Kings 19:13 NKJV) So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

:37 being destitute, afflicted, tormented

being destitutehustereo – behind; to come late or too tardily; to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end; to be inferior in power, influence and rank; to fail, be wanting; to be in want of, lack

afflictedthlibo – to press (as grapes), press hard upon; metaph. to trouble, afflict, distress

tormentedkakoucheo – to treat ill, oppress, plague

The word “destitute” speaks of not having enough.

The word “afflicted” is about being crushed, like grapes.

The word “tormented” has “evil” built into it, being oppressed with evil.


It wasn’t supposed to be like this

This last section is about those who had faith, but didn’t have the “happy ending” (unless you count heaven).  Their Red Sea didn’t part. Their kingdoms weren’t conquered. Their dead weren’t raised.
In January, the Ladies are going to start a book on this idea titled “It’s not supposed to be this way”.
Yet we’ll see in vs. 39 that these too “obtained a good testimony”.

Trouble and pain don’t make you a loser when you have faith in God.

I’m concerned about people who come to church looking for “Silver bullet Christianity”
They think church is just the ultimate “self-help” book.
There are churches that make it sound as if your faith should fix every problem the way you want it to – as if you have control over every difficult thing that comes into your life.  They will quote verses like…

(Philippians 4:13 NKJV) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Caleb pointed out last week that the context of this verse is about learning to keep going even when you are struggling financially.

(Matthew 6:33 NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

The context of this passage is about food and clothing, not big houses and fancy cars.

I have known a few folks thru the years who have been devastated by this kind of teaching.

Years ago at another church, a gal I knew had severe cerebral palsy.  She was confined to a wheelchair.  She had many well-meaning people take her to miracle/healing services where she would be prayed for.  That’s not a bad thing.

What’s bad was when she wasn’t healed, she was told it was either because of sin in her life, or because she lacked faith.

We believe that God heals today.  We pray for the sick.

Some are quickly and miraculously healed.

Others endure long painful treatments.

Others die.

Some are looking for the perfect way to fix their marriage … or … fix their spouse.
The Bible has lots of important things to say about our marriages, but there’s no guarantee things will get better if only one of you is working on it.
While there’s no promise that your marriage is going to get better, there is a promise that YOU will get better…sometimes while the circumstance never changes.
I’m concerned for those of you with chronic diseases.
Do you ask for prayer? Always
What if prayer doesn’t work?

It’s okay to ask…

Is there sin in my life? 

Sometimes sin is a very real issue.

Do I have faith?

Sometimes faith is the issue.

Do you stop praying if it doesn’t work?  Not at all.

We need to be willing to draw near to God regardless of the outcome.

That’s the biggest issue of all.

Is it wrong to go to the doctor?

Not at all.

I worry about some Christians who have this sense that going to a doctor shows a lack of faith.

Jesus told the lepers to show themselves to the priests – where they would receive a pronouncement of having been healed … or not.

God uses doctors.  God uses medicine.  Nothing wrong here, nothing to see.

Here’s a piece of news some of you may not want to hear.

What if God wants to use your pain to help you grow?

I know people who would reject this premise outright.  Yet Paul the apostle didn’t seem to think so.

God did not heal Timothy’s stomach issues.

God did not eliminate Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”.


Pain isn’t failure

Years ago one of my favorite Bible teachers went through several difficult tragedies.
Jon Courson lost his first wife to cancer, and he was left to raise several young children on his own.
When his daughter was sixteen, she was driving her VW bug down an icy road, lost control, slid into a tree, and died.
In his great grief, Jon talked with Pastor Chuck.  Chuck said to him words something like this, “Well now we get to find out what kind of man of God you’ve become.”

Does that sound insensitive?  It may have been painful, but it was loaded with truth.

Sometimes the pain we go through reveals just how deep or shallow our faith really is.

God works through our suffering.
C.S. Lewis once wrote,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.”

Paul writes about how he once had a magnificent experience of catching a glimpse of heaven.  In order to keep Paul humble, God allowed something difficult to happen.

(2 Corinthians 12:7–10 NKJV) —7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul didn’t “rebuke” his infirmities or difficulties, he took pleasure in them.

Paul saw that the difficulties that made him weak made him depend more on Christ, and that was a good thing.

Being destitute, afflicted, tormented are all words that could describe the apostle Paul.  Would you call him a “failure”? This is a taste of what Paul faced at the end of his life:
Video:  Paul the Apostle – Men do not die for things they doubt

According to some of the “faith” teachers, Paul would be considered a failure.

I think not.

Sometimes things don’t work the way you want them to, and it’s not because you failed to do something right.
It may be that God is trying to do a deeper work in you, a work that can only come from you being wounded, weak, or hurt.

:38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

:38 They wandered in deserts and mountains,

wanderedplanao – to cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way; to go astray, wander, roam about

The prophet Elijah wandered in deserts, lived in mountains, and hid in a cave. (1Ki. 19:9)

(1 Kings 19:9 NKJV) —9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

:38 of whom the world was not worthy

worthyaxios – weighing, having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much; befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing

(Hebrews 11:38 NLT) They were too good for this world…

Sometimes we make the mistake of trying too hard to fit into the world.

God wants us to be better than the world.
He wants us to be more comfortable in heaven than we are in the world.

:39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,

:39 all these, having obtained a good testimony

having obtained a good testimony martureo – to be a witness, to bear witness; to utter honorable testimony, give a good report

Here it’s a passive voice, meaning they had a good testimony given about them.

It’s the word used in:

(Hebrews 11:2 NKJV) For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

All these people throughout the entire chapter got an “A” on their report card, even those who were persecuted and died a martyr’s death (just like the readers are going through)

How did they get an “A” on their report card?  Because of their faith.

:39 did not receive the promise

receivedkomizo – to care for, take care of; to receive

promiseepaggelia – announcement; promise

Whether their lives turned out happy or difficult, none of these people received the ultimate promise.

They didn’t see Jesus.
They didn’t see His kingdom.

:40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

:40 God having provided something better for us

having provided problepo (“before” + “to see”) – to foresee; to provide

Long ago God had seen something better for us.

betterκρείττων – more useful, more serviceable; more excellent

The word is used 16x in the NT, 12 of them in Hebrews.
This has been one of the major theme words of the book of Hebrews.
Remember the point that Jesus is “superior”?
He’s “better”.
He’s better than the angels (1:4)
He has a better hope (7:19)
He has a better covenant (7:22; 8:6)
He has better promises (8:6)
He has a better sacrifice (9:23)

What’s that better thing God has provided for us? It’s Jesus.

But wait … there’s more…

:41 they should not be made perfect apart from us

be made perfectτελειόω – to make perfect, complete

Aorist passive subjunctive


Finish the race others started

The writer of Hebrews is painting a picture we’ll see a little more clearly when we hit chapter 12 – the picture of the relay race.
The Old Testament saints started that race.
In a relay race, the starters don’t win if the ones further along don’t win.
Part of their hope was in the coming Messiah, but that is just one of the points along the way towards the finish.
The end of that race is when Jesus comes back the second time, the dead are raised, and His kingdom is established on earth.
So here are the Old Testament saints sitting in the stands of heaven, binoculars in hand, watching the grand race being run on the earth.
Their hopes and faith are being played out by those of us in the race today.
They took that baton of faith since the creation of the world and continued to pass it on from one generation to the next.
The baton was passed on to the Jewish readers of Hebrews.
It’s been passed on to us as well.
Parents, you are passing a baton of sorts to your children.  You want your kids to do well in the race of life, so you pass things along to them…
Video:  Holderness Family - Algebra

Parents, we have something even greater to pass on to our kids than Algebra.  We pass on our faith.

All of us are in the great relay race.
I think of those who have passed a “baton” to me.

Emory Campbell and Chuck Smith were two pastors who greatly impacted my life.

Emory taught be about caring for people.  Chuck taught me about teaching the Word.

They have both passed away and are watching in the grandstands of heaven.

I want to be a part of completing their race.

I want to be sure that I’ve passed the baton well.

I will soon be passing a baton to Caleb.

Let me say a little word about those of you who might be tempted to “groan” whenever I remind you that Caleb will be the next Senior Pastor.

Some of you have dropped little comments to me like, “But nobody is as good a teacher as you are…”

And though you are absolutely correct (cough, cough), you are missing the bigger picture.

This race must continue.

I think Caleb is a much better teacher at his age than I was at his age.

I would challenge you to make it your prayer, “Lord speak to me today”, no matter who teaches.

You’re going to find God answering that prayer.

Lastly, don’t think Caleb is the only one grabbing the baton.

So are you.

You are a part of God’s work on this earth.  You are carrying the baton of faith towards the finish line.

In a sense, my “race” is completed by you.