In These Last Days: The Message of Hebrews
Jesus, Author and Perfecter of Our Faith
Lesson #11 for March 12, 2022
Hebrews 11 and 12 are probably the most-loved chapters of the book. They describe the Christian life as a race in which we all participate and in which all who stay faithful will receive the reward. They also describe the drama of Redemption as a race in which people of faith from the past persevered, despite sufferings, but have not yet received the reward.
And that’s because the story ends with us, as well, not just them. We are the concluding act. The drama culminates with our entering and running the last part of the race, and with Jesus seated at the goal line at the right hand of God. He provides inspiration as well as the ultimate example of how the race is run. He is the ultimate Witness that the reward is true and that He is the Forerunner who opens the way for us (Heb. 6:19, 20; Heb. 10:19–23).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sabbath afternoon, March 5.§
Hebrews 11:1: To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.?American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Hebrews 11:1). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].†‡
Faith is [just] a word we use to denote a relationship with God as with a Person well known. The better we know Him, the better this relationship may be. [We cannot say will be because we know of the story of Lucifer.]
Faith implies an attitude toward God of love, trust, and deep admiration. It means having enough confidence in Him, based upon the more than adequate evidence revealed, to be willing to believe whatever He says [as soon as we are sure that He is the One who has said it], to accept whatever He offers [as soon as we are sure that He is the One who is offering it], and to do whatever He wishes [as soon as we are sure He is the One who wishes it]?without reservation?for the rest of eternity.
Anyone who has such faith is perfectly safe to save. This is why faith is the only requirement for heaven.
[Faith also means that like Abraham, Job, and Moses, God’s friends, we know God well enough to reverently ask Him, “Why?”]?A. Graham Maxwell, You Can Trust the Bible 81.†‡ [Sections in brackets are added based on frequent statements by Dr. Maxwell in his classes.]‡
Hebrews 10:35-39: 35Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward. 36You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises. 37For, as the scripture says:
“Just a little while longer,
and he who is coming will come;
he will not delay. [This is quoted fromHabakkuk 2:3-4 (in the Septuagint).]
38 My righteous people, however, will believe and live;
but if any of them turns back,
I will not be pleased with him.”
39We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we have faith and are saved.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Revelation 13:10: “Whoever is meant to be captured will surely be captured; whoever is meant to be killed by the sword will surely be killed by the sword. This calls for endurance and faith on the part of God’s people.”?Good News Bible.*† [Five verses later, Satan threatens to kill anyone who does not join his side!]‡
Revelation 14:12: This calls for endurance on the part of God’s people, those who obey God’s commandments and are faithful to Jesus.?Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 10:23: Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.?Good News Bible.*
Hebrews 4:14: Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God.?Good News Bible.*
Habakkuk 1:12-17: 12 LORD, from the very beginning you are God. You are my God, holy and eternal. LORD, my God and protector, you have chosen the Babylonians and made them strong so that they can punish us. 13But how can you stand these treacherous, evil men? Your eyes are too holy to look at evil, and you cannot stand the sight of people doing wrong. So why are you silent while they destroy people who are more righteous than they are?
14 How can you treat people like fish or like a swarm of insects that have no ruler to direct them? 15The Babylonians catch people with hooks, as though they were fish. They drag them off in nets and shout for joy over their catch! 16They even worship their nets and offer sacrifices to them, because their nets provide them with the best of everything.
17 Are they going to use their swords for ever [sic] and keep on destroying nations without mercy??Good News Bible.*†‡
Habakkuk 2:2-4: 2 The LORD gave me this answer: “Write down clearly on clay tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. 3Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 4And this is the message: ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’ ”?Good News Bible.*† [Was there any delay after the days of Habakkuk?]‡
Hebrews 10:37: For, as the scripture says:
“Just a little while longer,
and he who is coming will come;
he will not delay.”?Good News Bible.*†
The long night of gloom is trying; but the morning is deferred in mercy, because if the Master should come, so many would be found unready. God’s unwillingness to have His people perish has been the reason of so long delay.?Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church,* vol. 2, 193.3-194.0 (1868)†; Evangelism* 694.2.†¶
Hebrews 10:38: [Scripture says:] “My righteous people, however, will believe and live;
but if any of them turns back,
I will not be pleased with him.”?Good News Bible.*‡
Romans 1:16-17: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”?Revised Standard Version.*†
Hebrews 11:1-19: 1 To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. 2It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God’s approval.
3 It is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by God’s word, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.
4 It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain’s. Through his faith he won God’s approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. By means of his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 It was faith that kept Enoch from dying. Instead, he was taken up to God, and nobody could find him, because God had taken him up. The scripture says that before Enoch was taken up, he had pleased God. 6No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him.
7 It was faith that made Noah hear God’s warnings about things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a boat in which he and his family were saved. As a result, the world was condemned, and Noah received from God the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going. 9By faith he lived as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. 10For Abraham was waiting for the city which God has designed and built, the city with permanent foundations.
11 It was faith that made Abraham able to become a father, even though he was too old and Sarah herself could not have children. He trusted God to keep his promise. 12Though Abraham was practically dead, from this one man came as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, as many as the numberless grains of sand on the seashore.
13 It was in faith that all these persons died. They did not receive the things God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them, and admitted openly that they were foreigners and refugees on earth. 14Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for a country of their own. 15They did not keep thinking about the country they had left; if they had, they would have had the chance to return. 16Instead, it was a better country they longed for, the heavenly country. And so God is not ashamed for them to call him their God, because he has prepared a city for them. [That city is for us as well!]
17 It was faith that made Abraham offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice when God put Abraham to the test. Abraham was the one to whom God had made the promise, yet he was ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice. 18God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that you will have the descendants I promised.” 19Abraham reckoned that God was able to raise Isaac from death?and, so to speak, Abraham did receive Isaac back from death.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Hebrews 11:30-31: 30 It was faith that made the walls of Jericho fall down after the Israelites had marched round them for seven days. 31It was faith that kept the prostitute Rahab from being killed with those who disobeyed God, for she gave the Israelite spies a friendly welcome.?Good News Bible.*†
Rahab is probably the most unexpected character whom we find in Hebrews 11. Rahab is one of two women mentioned by name. She is the tenth in the list, the first being forefathers and patriarchs of Israel, and each one is regarded as being righteous. When we come to her, we find that she not only is a woman but also a Gentile prostitute. [And she ended up being one of the ancestors of Jesus!]
The most surprising thing is that she also is the thematic center and climax of the chapter. The list is organized in a unique way. Each entry begins with the repetitive use of the phrase “by faith.” The basic pattern is “By faith, So-and-so did such and such” or “By faith, such and such happened to So-and-so.” This repetitive pattern increases the expectation in the reader to hear the climactic assertion that “by faith, Joshua led the people into the promised land.”
But that’s not what the text says. Instead, Joshua is passed over, and the [Gentile] prostitute takes his place. After the mention of Rahab, the repetitive pattern ends abruptly with “and what more shall I say?” (Heb. 11:32, NKJV). Then, Paul hurriedly lists some names and events that he does not explain in detail.
Rahab’s deed of faith was that she heard, believed, and obeyed, even though she did not see. She did not see the plagues of Egypt or the deliverance in the Red Sea or the water flow from the rock or the bread descend from heaven, yet, she believed [more than the Israelites who saw all those miracles]. She was a good exemplar for the audience of Hebrews, who did not hear Jesus preach or see Him do a miracle, and for us, as well, who did not see any of these things either.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Wednesday, March 9.†‡§
Rahab was a harlot who lived on the wall of Jericho. She hid the two Israelite spies sent to check out the defenses of that city. Because of her kindness to them, and her declaration of belief in God, the spies promised that the lives of Rahab and her family would be spared when the attack came on Jericho.—Ellen G. White, Daughters of God* 35.3.
Hebrews 11:35-38: 35Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life.
Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword. They went round clothed in skins of sheep or goats?poor, persecuted, and ill-treated. 38The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground.?Good News Bible.*
Hebrews 11:32: Should I go on? There isn’t enough time for me to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.?Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 12:1-3: As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses round us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right-hand side of God’s throne.
3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up.?Good News Bible.*
[In the Garden of Gethsemane] With the issues of the conflict before Him, Christ’s soul was filled with dread of separation from God. Satan told Him that if He became the surety for a sinful world, the separation would be eternal. He would be identified with Satan’s kingdom, and would nevermore be one with God.?Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 686.5.†‡
[As Jesus was dying,] Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.?Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 753.2.†‡
Romans 14:23b: And anything that is not based on faith is sin.?Good News Bible.*†
First, He is the only one who has finished the race in its fullest sense. The others talked about in the previous chapter have not yet reached their goal (Heb. 11:39, 40). Jesus, however, has entered God’s rest in heaven and is seated at the Father’s right hand. We, together with these others, will reign with Jesus in heaven (Rev. 20:4).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 10.†§
Hebrews 11:39-40: 39 What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect.?Good News Bible.*†
Second, it was actually Jesus’ perfect life that has made it possible for these others to run their race (Heb. 10:5-14). If Jesus had not come, the race of everyone else would have been futile.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 10.†§
Hebrews 10:5-14: 5 For this reason, when Christ was about to come into the world, he said to God:
“You do not want sacrifices and offerings,
but you have prepared a body for me.
6 You are not pleased with animals burnt whole on the altar
or with sacrifices to take away sins.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am,
to do your will, O God,
just as it is written of me in the book of the Law.’ ”
8First he said, “You neither want nor are you pleased with sacrifices and offerings or with animals burnt on the altar and the sacrifices to take away sins.” He said this even though all these sacrifices are offered according to the Law. 9Then he said, “Here I am, O God, to do your will.” So God does away with all the old sacrifices and puts the sacrifice of Christ in their place. 10Because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do, we are all purified from sin by the offering that he made of his own body once and for all. [If the blood of those animals did not work, why does the blood of Jesus work? It is the meaning of the death that matters! It brings healing.]
11 Every Jewish priest performs his services every day and offers the same sacrifices many times; but these sacrifices can never take away sins. 12Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective for ever, [sic] and then he sat down at the right-hand side of God. 13There he now waits until God puts his enemies as a footstool under his feet. 14With one sacrifice, then, he has made perfect for ever [sic] those who are purified from sin.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Finally, Jesus is the reason we have faith. As one with God, He expressed the faithfulness of God toward us. God never gave up in His efforts to save us, and that is why we will reach the reward in the end if we don’t give up. Jesus ran with patience and remained faithful, even when we were faithless (2 Tim. 2:13). Our faith is only a response to His faithfulness.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 10.†§
By faith you became Christ’s, and by faith you are to grow up in Him?by giving and taking. You are to give all,?your heart, your will, your service,?give yourself to Him to obey all His requirements; and you must take all,—Christ, the fullness of all blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness, your everlasting helper,?to give you power to obey.—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ* 69.2-70.0.§
God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith.
It is impossible for finite minds fully to comprehend the character or the works of the Infinite One. To the keenest intellect, the most highly educated mind, that holy Being must ever remain clothed in mystery. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?”Job 11:7, 8.—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ* 105.2-3.†
Joshua 2:8-11: 8 Before the spies settled down for the night, Rahab went up on the roof 9and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given you this land. Everyone in the country is terrified of you. 10We have heard how the LORD dried up the Red Sea in front of you when you were leaving Egypt. We have also heard how you killed Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan. 11We were afraid as soon as we heard about it; we have all lost our courage because of you. The LORD your God is God in heaven above and here on earth.”?Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 12:16: Let no one become immoral or unspiritual like Esau, who for a single meal sold his rights as the elder son.?Good News Bible.*
In the span of its history, our church has survived several crises. During the twentieth century, we faced controversies over the issues of inspiration, the role of Ellen G. White, the nature of Christ, the Godhead, the remnant church, Creation versus evolution, et cetera. The twenty-first century seems to have brought these issues back and more.?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 148.
© 2022, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. †Bold type is added. ‡Text in brackets is added. §Italic type is in the source. ¶Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. [email protected]
Last Modified: February 27, 2022
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