The Salvation of the Jews: The Roll Call of the Faithful

jewish_starNow, I had to explain that in order to explain this.

Chapter 11 is a list of the faithful heroes of the First Testament. It begins with Abel and continues to —

(Heb 11:35-38 ESV)  35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated —  38 of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 

These heroes did great things and suffered horribly for the sake of the coming Messiah.

(Heb 11:39-40 ESV) And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. 

Even though these men and women were people of genuine faith, they “did not receive what was promised.” What was promised? Well,

(Heb 4:1 ESV) Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.

(Heb 6:15 ESV) And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.

(Heb 8:6 ESV) 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 

(Heb 9:15 ESV) Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

(Heb 10:36-38 ESV) 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;  38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

Work your way through these “promise” passages, and you find that “promise” refers to God’s covenant with Abraham to bless his descendants, enhanced by the promise of Jer 31:31 —

(Jer 31:31-34 ESV) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 

That is, the “promise” is the new covenant promise of forgiveness by grace through faith. It’s the gospel.

Re-read —

(Heb 11:39-40 ESV) And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised [that is, salvation under the gospel of Jesus Messiah],  40 since God had provided something better for us [the gospel of Jesus Messiah], that apart from us they should not be made perfect [meaning that they were in fact made perfect with us due to their faith].

The point of v. 39 is not to deny that the cross saved the First Testament saints. Rather, they did not get to see Jesus. They believed in a Messiah who’d not yet been revealed or present on earth. They didn’t get to see the promises come true. They did not see the Spirit outpoured or the Kingdom coming with power.

V. 40 is a double negative and understandably hard to follow. Moreover, it’s a paradox. The faithful of the First Testament did not have the gospel in its fullness, and yet they were faithful. Were they saved? Yes, but only with us. Salvation history had to get to the cross, and so the faithful of the First Testament were faithful based on promises not yet made and on a fulfillment centuries, even millennia, in the future. They had weaker promises making their faith all the more remarkable.

The writer is not arguing that one faith community supersedes another; rather, the point is that the promises that moved forward all God’s faithful are fulfilled in these last days through the sacrifice and priestly intercession of the Son. That in which we share they also share, the “something better” that God has provided (foreseen).

Fred B. Craddock, “The Letter to the Hebrews,” in Hebrews-Revelation (vol. 12 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), n.p.

In other words, just as the sacrifice of Christ reaches us at baptism and then reaches backwards in time to cover all our past sins and forward in time to reach all our future sins (“made perfect forever”; “once for all”!) — unless we rebel (Heb 10:26-27) — the same happens in salvation history. Jesus’ sacrifice is “once for all” not just going forward into the Christian era but reaching backwards to Abel.

(Heb 12:1-2 ESV)  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 

And so we should run the course realizing that those who’ve gone before have sacrificed just as much and more based on a salvation they could only anticipate. We live in an age after Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection have all been witnessed and the greatest of the promises not only made but fulfilled. We should accordingly find our faith that much easier — realizing that Abel, Abraham, and the entire host of the faithful are watching us follow them.

And so —

(Heb 12:22-24 ESV)  22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,  23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,  24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 

— while we struggle on earth, the “spirits of the righteous made perfect,” that is, the faithful of the First Testament who receive grace through the cross with us, are in celebration with the angels because of the sacrifice of Jesus once for all.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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16 Responses to The Salvation of the Jews: The Roll Call of the Faithful

  1. What is remarkable to me is not that the First Covenant people were saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, for generally wasn’t a sacrifice made for sins already committed? The amazing thing is that the cross reaches forward to people yet unborn to forgive sins not yet committed, almost like the Catholic sale of indulgences for sins not yet committed at the time of the Protestant Reformation – except that Jesus paid the price, not we or any other sinner. When had God ever commanded sacrifice for sin not yet committed?

  2. rich constant says:

    I on ly have one question if you please seems to me that we’re on the same page although? would you mind readinG Romans 3 again from the NET Bible that you have, specifically looking at 3:26 A
    you gave me a new reading a new translation and I had a hard time with that understanding what I understand as you can see. would you mind revisiting that please?
    I’d also like to get into imputed righteousness. and Our concept of that…

  3. rich constant says:

    To say nothing of of forgiving the sins of killing burning raping and pillaging.

  4. rich constant says:

    when reading through Chapter three of Romans, pay attention to verse 4, the faithfulness of God to all his words. then go down to 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, all the way through 31 this becomes a Christian Christological statement. the righteousness of God is manifested through the faithfulness to his word because of Jesus being faithful to the will of God, contextually being witnessed by the Spirit and raised by the Spirit and attested to by the Spirit.
    And not an ontological statement which is based on our faith because of our justification.
    Verse 22 the subjective and objective genitive of the word Faith of Christ. Faith in Christ. is dependent upon perspective based upon the the theological orientation of the Greek grammarian.
    I had to explain to me this way
    Objective genitive, subjective genitive.
    it is either the chair, objective genitive.
    or the chair is your chair, subjective genitive.
    the chair being faith and the objective genitive and the subjective genitive are determined by the context.
    Is the righteousness of God. the forensic righteousness, or the intrinsic righteousness of God.
    forensic righteousness means a specific characteristic.
    intrinsic righteousness means,All of the intrinsic characteristics qualities of God being expressed by this word. in fulfilling the eternal purpose through the faithfulness of Christ, verse 21.
    understanding the curse to Israel under the first law. puts together Verse 19 20 and 21 which demands to me and understanding Romans the first three chapters. the first seven verses of Romans 1 contextually bringing it through these verses the statement kind of like this.
    THE righteousness of God is manifested through the faithfulness of Christ for all those that believe.
    That becomes just too simple.
    Which even makes more profound the difference between the ontological perspective and the Christological perspective.
    the ontological perspective.
    A righteousness of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ.
    Christological perspective.
    THE Righteousness of God has been manifested through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all those that believe.
    It also stops being a redundant statement.

  5. rich constant says:

    “A ny questions” anyone. anyone. anyone.
    gosh, where has Randall been, I know he’d be climbing all over me.
    blessings I’ll let you mull over those JAY

  6. rich constant says:

    As ontological statement in my opinion becomes very demeaning to the glory of God through Jesus Christ and makes the reading of all less than logical which means that the Holy Spirit is less than logical which means that God word is less than logical.
    Or contextual or relevant to the people that he’s talking to.
    and so
    You now see the righteousness of FAITH…
    for I am not ashamed of the gospel It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
    For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith just As it is written my righteous one by faith shall live.

  7. rich constant says:

    lost another post

  8. rich constant says:

    Well another mistake in that last post every time I use the word ontological it should be anthropological. sorry about that been a long time since I got into that , that detailed with that Theological terminology.
    How about correcting that for me J

  9. rich constant says:

    J if you wouldn’t mind would you correct something for me on my last post every time I used the word ontological it’s supposed to be anthropological.
    Been a long time since I had to use theological language and a long time since I’ve discussed this topic

  10. rich constant says:

    J every time I used the word ontological in the post above it should have been anthropological.
    Also from the perspective posted above it brings into clarity Romans 1 16 17

  11. rich constant says:

    Sorry J you can wipe out those other posts if you’d like I thought they were all gone

  12. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jerry asked,

    When had God ever commanded sacrifice for sin not yet committed?

    Never, but he offered a sacrifice for sin not yet committed on the cross. More detail in posts yet to come …

    The amazing thing is that the cross reaches forward to people yet unborn to forgive sins not yet committed, almost like the Catholic sale of indulgences for sins not yet committed at the time of the Protestant Reformation – except that Jesus paid the price, not we or any other sinner.

    Exactly. Once for all salvation reaches forward to sins not yet committed by people not yet born. And yet our sins were forgiven on the cross. Evidently, God is not bound by time anymore than he is bound by space or distance.

  13. rich constant says:

    Jay nice here is exercise for you JAY
    In Romans 3:22 “the faith of Jesus” is used this way Grammarichly can you find the other “five” places that it’s used off the top of your head in the New Testament always in conjunction with the LAW of works.
    bet you its not important enough for you to know.
    it will be or
    My name isn’t
    blessings Jay “I’m sorry” I just hAd to do that!

  14. rich constant says:

    Pretty much in questionable authorship of books by Paul.
    To me this becomes his calling card.
    Faith of Christ.

  15. rich constant says:

    PS you got to do with the Berean Way none of that computer stuff.
    You gotta dig it out and make it all yours
    but then again without the computer stuff I wouldn’t even be talking.
    Boy oh Boy lucky you.
    I know its getting late but I just had 5 shots of expresso at Starbucks.

  16. rich constant says:

    Ps don’t use the NET Bible
    they’re trying to hold to the CONTEXT.
    King James is much easier.
    well I’m going to go home and go to sleep or think about stuff for a while.
    you know that stuff that you’ll probably ask tomorrow.
    Blessings and good night

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