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Hebrews 11:39

ESV And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
NIV These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,
NASB And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
CSB All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised,
NLT All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.
KJV And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
NKJV And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,

What does Hebrews 11:39 mean?

Verses 39 and 40 provide a stunning climax to the writer's overall point, a conclusion made complete over the first two verses of the next chapter. Early chapters of this letter explained in great detail why we ought to have the greatest possible confidence in the new covenant, through Jesus Christ. Given that confidence, we should look back on the example of those in the Old Testament who exhibited faith. This "faith"—godly faith—is defined as trust. It means relying on God, despite doubts and fears, because of what He has already done (Hebrews 11:1–3). Heroes of the faith succeeded specifically because they had that kind of trust in God (Hebrews 11:32), and their feats were legendary (Hebrews 11:33–35). At the same time, these faithful ones often suffered persecution and hardship for their faith (Hebrews 11:35–38), but they remained faithful.

These hardships are listed both to encourage Christians to "hold fast" during persecution (Hebrews 3:6; 10:23), as well as to keep their own sufferings in perspective.

Earlier in this chapter, the writer pointed out that those who exhibit truly godly faith are looking to the future—the ultimate future. The hope of a believer in God is ultimately in His promise to "work together for good" all things (Romans 8:28) from an eternal perspective (Hebrews 11:10–16). For this reason, it's not uncommon to see that some of these Old Testament heroes died without seeing an earthly fulfillment of God's promises (Hebrews 11:13).

And yet, even now, these faithful ones have not yet obtained the ultimate reward, which is to see God's final victory over sin and death (Hebrews 11:10). The reason for this delay is given in the next verse. The humbling, awesome truth is that God has granted us, those who are alive and hearing the gospel today, an even clearer presentation of the truth, so that we'll be able to believe and join in that ultimate reward.
What is the Gospel?
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