What does Hebrews 11:36 mean?
ESV: Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
NIV: Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
NASB: and others experienced mocking and flogging, and further, chains and imprisonment.
CSB: Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.
NLT: Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons.
KJV: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
The book of Hebrews is really a letter, written to encourage persecuted Christians. Over the last few verses, the writer has listed dramatic examples of godly faith. This faith really means "trust," and the lives of people such as Abel, Noah, and Sarah exemplified that trust (Hebrews 11:4–12). At the same time, we see examples of faith in God despite hardship in the examples of men like Abraham (Hebrews 11:17–19). Scripture is full of stories about men and women who lived out a true faith in God, and achieved great things as a result (Hebrews 11:32). This included victories up to and including the resurrection of those who were dead (Hebrews 11:33–35)! At the same time, those who achieved success often did so in the face of great personal hardship.
The prior verse began to list the kinds of persecution faced by those who were faithful to God. The purpose of listing these atrocities is a combination of encouragement and conviction. Encouragement comes from knowing that, even when the world is against those who are faithful, God is going to obtain victory in the end. Conviction comes from knowing that these earlier believers experienced truly horrific circumstances, but were able to "hold fast" to their faith (Hebrews 3:6; 10:23; Philippians 4:12–13). This ought to encourage us to maintain a forward-looking, trusting faith, even during hardships.
Hebrews 11:32—12:2 is one of Scripture's most stirring and inspirational passages. The theme of earlier verses was Old Testament heroes who exemplified faith, defined as a forward-looking trust in God. The emphasis of these examples moved from general faith, to faith in the face of hard choices, to faith resulting in victory. Here, the writer includes all of these, in a rapid-fire list of people who demonstrated the power of true, godly faith. As a letter delivered to persecuted Jewish Christians, these examples are meant to be encouraging and inspiring, as well as convicting. God waited to deliver the ultimate fulfillment of His promises so that we—those who are alive now—would have an opportunity to be saved. Given that privilege, Christians ought to strive to endure, and to hold fast, living out that same godly faith.
True, godly faith is defined as trust, relying on God when looking to the future, and obeying even when we don't fully understand all details. The great figures of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, and David, all lived according to this type of faith. Ultimately, that means trusting God's intent to make good on His promises from an eternal perspective. The model of faith presented by those people, in light of the struggles they faced, ought to inspire Christians towards a more confident, purposeful faith.
Up to this point, the book of Hebrews has given extensive evidence proving that Jesus Christ, and the new covenant He brought about, is God's ultimate plan for mankind's salvation. Chapter 10 provided an additional warning about the danger of falling away from this truth. Chapter 11 begins by clarifying the meaning of the word ''faith,'' primarily by listing examples of Old Testament figures who exemplify it. The ultimate application of this knowledge should be a motivation to ''hold fast'' to the gospel, despite hardships. That encouragement is a major theme of chapter 12.
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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