Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 11

The power of faith against death

Hebrews 11:35

We have been studying great examples of faith (active belief and trust in God). And certainly, the events in 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:17-37 are great examples of faith. It is hard to imagine a more wonderful event than a dead person who becomes alive again. Such an event can only happen by the power of God.

The author of Hebrews has told us about many wonderful things that happened because of faith. But the second part of Hebrews 11:35 may cause us a surprise, or even a shock. Even as faith has caused dead people to become alive, so many people have died because of faith. We do not expect to read that!

In English, we sometimes speak about people who ‘died for their faith’. We mean that people died as martyrs, in other words, because of their religion. But in the Bible, ‘faith’ does not mean ‘religion’. ‘Faith’ means ‘active belief and trust in God’. So these people, to whom the Book of Hebrews refers, did not die merely because of an argument about religion. They died because they had faith. In other words, because they were actively trusting and believing God.

Faith was the reason why their enemies opposed them. Their enemies hated them because they trusted God. But faith also gave them the strength that they needed during their troubles. They had the opportunity to escape, but they chose to stand firm. They did not need to escape, because they trusted God. Perhaps they did not even want to escape, because they wanted the opportunity to give honour to God (Acts 21:10-13).

For them, and for all who die with faith, there is ‘a better resurrection’. ‘Resurrection’ means life after death. That is what happened in the first part of this verse. Women received back their dead sons, alive. After those events, the sons just lived normal lives. Their lives included, of course, pain, troubles and in the end, death.

But 'the better resurrection' is very much better than that. Jesus promised that God's people would receive life without end (John 3:16; John 6:40). Revelation 21:4 promises life without pain, tears, or death.

So those people who died because of their faith had no reason for despair. They were trusting God’s promises, and that gave them hope. And God did not disappoint them. They did not receive a resurrection to a life that would end a few years afterwards. God took them to heaven. There they have life that can never end. It is a much better life than the life that they knew in this world.

This is an important message wherever Christians suffer because of their faith. And so it was an especially important message for the first Christians. They suffered many evil things because of the cruel actions of their enemies (Acts 8:1; Hebrews 10:32-34). But they continued to believe God and to trust him. They continued to have faith.

The result of their faith was that God rescued some of them (Hebrews 13:23; Acts 12:1-17). But others died (Acts 7:55-60; Acts 12:2; Revelation 2:13). They did not have less faith than the people whom God rescued. Perhaps they had even more faith. They had faith to stand firm when cruel enemies attacked them (Hebrews 10:32-36). We need to trust God completely in such situations.

Next part: Faith when we suffer (Hebrews 11:36)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.