The unnamed heroes of Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 is described as the Hall of Fame of faith. The writer lists all the great heroes of the Old Testament who did great things because of their faith. There is a recurring refrain "By faith, X did Y": "By faith, Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain", "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice," "By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned," etc.

At the end of the chapter, the writer says he doesn't have time to tell about all the heroes. He lists a few more names, and then describes the life of people he doesn't name. "Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground." (verses 35-38).

This seems like a different kind of faith than what Abraham and Moses had. We don't see great miracles here. Was something wrong with their faith? The writer starts to leave us wondering when he says "These all were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised."

So you can have faith, not receive what was promised, and that's good? That's what the writer is saying. He ends with this: "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." Their faith was good and commendable because it was looking forward to the really great thing that still hasn't come yet, which I think is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness.

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