To Preserve Your Souls Alive, Have Faith
1. What is faith, particularly as defined in Hebrews 11:1, 2?
“FAITH”? What is faith? a new Watchtower reader may ask. Let each Watchtower reader look up the definitions of “faith” in the nearest dictionary at hand. Here, though, is the definition of faith given by Hebrews 11:1, 2, as exemplified by men of God in ancient times before our Common Era: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld. For by means of this the men of old times had witness borne to them.” Jehovah God bore witness to them that they pleased him because of their faith that they backed up by works.
2. Why did those men have hope, for example, Abel?
2 Those men had a hope. They hoped for something. Their hope was imparted to them because of what God had said or had promised. For instance, there was Abel, the second son born to Adam and Eve outside the garden of Eden. Abel had a hope. Why? Because of what Jehovah God had said to the serpent of temptation in the garden of Eden in the hearing of Abel’s father and mother. On this, Genesis 3:14, 15 tells us: “Jehovah God proceeded to say to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this thing, . . . I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.’” Abel therefore hoped for the coming of the promised Seed of God’s “woman” and for the crushing of the Tempter’s head by that Seed.
3. What hope did Abraham have, and why?
3 Then, also, there was the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. When he was called to leave his home country and relatives, “Jehovah proceeded to say to Abram: ‘ . . . I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you and I will make your name great; and prove yourself a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and him that calls down evil upon you I shall curse, and all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.’” (Gen. 12:1-3) So this childless Hebrew, Abraham, had the hope of having children and of becoming a great nation and having his name become great. Then he would be a blessing to others so that all earthly families would procure a blessing by means of him.
4. In harmony with what did both Abel and Abraham act, and what did their course of action mean?
4 Abel and Abraham expected to get what they hoped for. So they acted in harmony with their expectation of getting something desirable. That course of action meant faith on their part. Faith has a basis, even as hope has. Hope includes an expectation of getting something and not merely a desire for it. Now faith is not mere expectation; otherwise, faith would be the same as hope or would be at least a part of hope. But God’s Word treats hope and faith as being separate things, although they are related to each other.
5. (a) What definition of faith does Hebrews 11:1 give first? (b) According to the Greek word hypóstasis there used, is faith to be understood as a material substance?
5 Note that the New World Translation of Hebrews 11:1 says, not that faith is mere expectation of things hoped for, but that faith is the “assured” expectation of things hoped for. Of course, the word that the Greek text of Hebrews 11:1 uses is hypóstasis, and, according to the words accompanying it in a sentence, hypóstasis may mean a number of different things, such as (a) foundation; substructure; groundwork; confidence; courage; resolution; steadiness; undertaking; promise; or, (b) substantial nature; substance; actual existence; reality; real nature; essence; the full expression or expansion (of an idea).* Now we know that faith is nothing material; it is not a tangible substance that can be weighed on scales. It is a quality of the heart, for, as Romans 10:10 advises us, “with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness.”
6. What, then, does hypóstasis mean as respects things hoped for?
6 Here, then, hypóstasis as applying to faith would mean something that is a basis for hope but something that is also forceful, moving and exciting to action. Hence, as the New World Translation presents Hebrews 11:1, faith is an expectation that moves one to action because the expectation is well based; the expectation is made sure or is assured. It does not leave one unsteady, uncertain, unsure of himself, irresolute. So hypóstasis is an “assured” expectation.
7, 8. Why was Abel’s expectation of what he hoped for well based?
7 What reason, then, did Abel have to feel an “assured expectation”? Naturally God’s statement to the Tempter in Eden raised Abel’s hopes, but his expectation that God would carry out his promise was assured, well based, certain of realization. How so?
8 Abel saw that what happened to the serpent proved true God’s words: “You are the cursed one out of all the domestic animals and out of all the wild beasts of the field. Upon your belly you will go and dust is what you will eat all the days of your life.” Abel also saw that God’s sentence had been executed without fail upon his parents Adam and Eve: these had been driven out of the garden of Eden and Adam had to labor with sweat and toil to gain a living for his family and Eve was producing sons and daughters for Adam with pain of pregnancy and birth pangs, under the domination of her husband. (Gen. 3:14, 16-19) Abel also saw that his parents were in a dying condition, and he also, as their offspring, expected to die in the course of time. It turned out just as God had said to Abel’s father: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) Abel saw that God was true to what he warned of or promised.
9. In faith what did Abel do, and with what result?
9 Reasonably, then, Abel founded a faith on known facts proving God’s trueness. He put faith in God’s promise of a Seed of God’s “woman” as being sure of fulfillment. The Tempter had induced death; the Seed of the woman would conquer the Tempter and become responsible for restoring life to men who had inherited death. In faith what did Abel then do? He offered an animal sacrifice to God, shedding the blood of sheep from his flock. Abel did not kill sheep to provide a flesh meal for himself, but he let the life of those sacrificial sheep go as a substitute for his own life, in a picturelike way. His older brother Cain merely made a lifeless offering of agricultural products to God. God rejected Cain’s vegetable offering but approvingly accepted Abel’s sacrifice. God bore witness to Abel of divine approval upon him.—Gen. 4:1-8.
10. As stated in Hebrews 11:4, according to what was it that Abel gained divine approval?
10 Why was this? Because Abel had faith in Jehovah God and sacrificed in harmony with his faith. To give the first illustration of what faith is, Hebrews 11:4 says: “By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain, through which faith he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness respecting his gifts; and through it he, although he died, yet speaks.”
11. How does Abel, though dead, yet speak, and what “blood of sprinkling” speaks in a better way than Abel’s blood?
11 By murder at the hands of his jealous brother Cain, Abel died. (Gen. 4:8-12) Though Abel died four thousand years before Christ, the faith that he had is reported in the Bible and thus he speaks as the first human witness of Jehovah. Abel’s blood did not ransom or redeem anybody, anymore than the blood of his sacrificed sheep did. His blood cried to God for vengeance upon assassin Cain. But the blood of the Seed of God’s “woman,” in whose coming Abel had faith, cries to God for mercy upon Abel and all persons with faith like that of Abel. For this reason Hebrews 12:24 speaks of “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, which speaks in a better way than Abel’s blood.” So by faith Abel approached God and pleased him, and now Abel awaits a reward from God in the new world.—Heb. 11:6.
EVIDENT DEMONSTRATION OF THINGS NOT SEEN
12. What else does Hebrews 11:1 say that faith is, and why is the Greek word élengkhos there used fitting in connection with realities not yet beheld?
12 However, faith is said to be, not only “the assured expectation of things hoped for,” but also “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” For the expression “evident demonstration” Hebrews 11:1 uses the Greek word élengkhos. The above-named Greek-English lexicon defines this word as meaning (a) argument of disproof or refutation; (b) generally, cross-examining, testing, scrutiny, especially for purposes of refutation; (c) catalogue, inventory. The Greek word thus has to do with bringing forth evidence that demonstrates something, particularly something contrary to what appears to be the case. It thus makes evident what has not been discerned before and so refutes what appears to be the case. In this way real things that are not beheld but that have to be studied out are able to appear to our appreciation.
13. How did Christopher Columbus furnish a good example of this?
13 As an illustration, take Christopher Columbus. If, instead of being a Roman Catholic forbidden back there to read the Holy Bible, Columbus was a Jew as claimed by many, he may have read Isaiah 40:22 concerning the roundness of the earth: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers, the One who is stretching out the heavens just as a fine gauze, who spreads them out like a tent in which to dwell.” Also, Job 26:7: “He is stretching out the north over the empty place, hanging the earth upon nothing.” Now Columbus was no astronaut like those of today who have orbited the earth in outer space and have seen with their eyes the sphericalness of the earth. But by three main lines of argument drawn (1) from natural reasons, (2) from theories of geographers, and (3) from the reports and traditions of seagoing men, Columbus reasoned and discerned that our earth must be a sphere. For instance, he could see that the moon was round; that the eclipse of the moon was circular; that, when incoming ships rise up over the distant horizon, the masts of sailing vessels appear first and the hull last. In these ways there was demonstrated to him very evidently a real fact about the earth, though he had not seen it. Acting on this evident demonstration, he sailed due west and discovered the West Indies and South America. His faith triumphed.
14. What kind of faith was that of Columbus, but what sort of faith is that illustrated in Hebrews, chapter 11?
14 However, Columbus’ faith was not a spiritual faith. It was just scientific. By it he served this materialistic world and its god. (2 Cor. 4:4) But chapter eleven of Hebrews gives historical illustrations of men who pleased the God of the new world, Jehovah, by their Scriptural faith. They all had faith in the coming of, not the so-called new world of America, but the new world under the promised Seed of God’s “woman.” Hebrews 11:3 says: “By faith we perceive that the systems of things were put in order by God’s word, so that what is beheld came to be out of things that do not appear.”
15. In what way do materialistic men of this world show they have no faith, but why do we have faith?
15 Materialistic men of this world claim it is impossible for them to believe there is a God who always existed and who created the universe out of nothing. So they cannot believe that the things they behold by means of telescopes and electronic microscopes “came to be out of things that do not appear,” that is to say, were created out of nothing. But we, as Bible students, because of our practical faith, cannot see how the “systems of things,” or “what is beheld” by our naked eyes, created themselves out of nothing and came into existence in any other way than by an intelligent, all-powerful God of inexhaustible energy and wisdom. We are not blind. We can see the “evident demonstration” that Almighty God Jehovah is and always has been, so that “by faith we perceive that the systems of things were put in order by God’s word.”—Rom. 1:20-23.
16 Our faith is not an ignorant readiness to believe something on weak or insufficient evidence. Our faith is intelligent and is based on God’s infallible written Word. By faith we look for God to create a new system of things with an “inhabited earth” under his glorified Son Jesus Christ, “through whom he made the systems of things.” (Heb. 2:5-9; 1:2) Just as 2 Peter 3:13 says, “there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” Among those ancient men who Hebrews, chapter eleven, says awaited the coming of that new system of things in which righteousness is to dwell was the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. Regarding him, Hebrews 11:8-10 tells us:
17 “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, although not knowing where he was going. By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.”
18. What did Abraham leave, where did he stay and with whom, and why is Esau not mentioned with him?
18 According to Genesis 11:31 and Acts 7:2-5, Abraham, whose name was at first Abram, left the city of Ur in the land of the Chaldeans, that is to say, in the land of Shinar where the tower of Babel had been built about two hundred years previously. The “land of the promise” to which Jehovah God led him proved to be the “land of Canaan.” (Gen. 12:1-9) Here sons and grandsons were born to him, including Isaac and Jacob. Hebrews 11:9 says that Abraham dwelt in tents with his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, with Jacob for fifteen years. Jacob had a twin brother named Esau, but we notice that it does not say that Abraham tented with Isaac and Jacob and Esau or with Isaac and Esau who was the older twin. Esau the firstborn was left out of this chapter eleven of Hebrews with its brief account of the exploits of the men of faith evidently because Esau was not a man of faith. The facts show that he was not.
19, 20. (a) Whom did Esau marry and where did he go? (b) How did the descendants of Esau (or Edom) show they had no faith like their great-grandfather Abraham?
19 Instead of marrying within the Jehovah-fearing family relationship of his grandfather Abraham, Esau made his own arrangements for marriage at forty years of age and took as wives two pagan girls, two Hittites in the land of Canaan. (Gen. 26:34) Many years later, however, his twin brother Jacob was sent by their father Isaac northward to Syria to take a wife from Abraham’s family relationship. (Gen. 28:1-8) During Jacob’s absence his twin brother Esau left their father Isaac and took up residence in the “land of Seir, the field of Edom.”—Gen. 28:8, 9; 32:3; 33:16.
20 After Jacob’s return to their father Isaac, Esau definitely took up settlement in the land of Seir, including the “mountainous region of Seir.” (Gen. 36:1-9) God had already told Jacob (or Israel) that kings were to come out of his loins; but before this ever occurred, the descendants of Esau (or Edom) set up kings over themselves and built cities as permanent dwelling places. Hence we read: “Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the sons of Israel. And Bela son of Beor proceeded to reign in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah.” Other royal cities were Avith and Pau. (Gen. 36:31-39; 35:9-11) Esau wanted no part in suffering the fulfillment of God’s word concerning Abraham’s seed: “Your seed will become an alien resident in a land not theirs, and they will have to serve them, and these will certainly afflict them for four hundred years.” (Gen. 15:13) Esau’s descendants did not look for any future city from God. They left tents to dwell in cities.
21 Esau the firstborn of Isaac had despised his birthright and sold it to his younger twin brother Jacob. He did not have faith. He did not appreciate sacred things like the Abrahamic promise from God. (Gen. 25:29-34) For this reason Hebrews 12:15-17 holds up materialistic Esau as a warning example, saying: “Carefully watching that no one may be deprived [like Esau] of the undeserved kindness of God; that no poisonous root may spring up and cause trouble and that many may not be defiled by it; that there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as first-born. For you know that afterward also when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for, although he earnestly sought a change of mind with tears, he found no place for it.” Hebrews 11:9 is therefore correct in excluding Esau and saying that Abraham “resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise.” Jacob left Syria after having raised a big family there. He returned to his father Isaac and lived in close touch with him till Isaac died. Even after that Jacob built no city.—Gen. 31:17, 18; 35:27-29.
22. For how many years did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live in the land of promise, and why?
22 For a stretch of 215 years (from 1943 to 1728 B.C.) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob continued tenting in the “land of the promise” as in a foreign land, as alien residents. Why did they do that? It was because they looked for God to found and build a permanent city for them, a heavenly government under which they would live. “For,” says Hebrews 11:10 concerning Abraham, “he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.”
23. How long did each one tent as in a foreign land and for tenting there so long did they realize God’s promise to them?
23 Personally Abraham tented 100 years as an alien in the land of Canaan. Isaac tented there 180 years, and Jacob tented 110 years until he was called down to Egypt by his son Joseph, the prime minister of Egypt. Abraham had lived in the then highly civilized city of Ur of the Chaldeans with all its comforts and settled life. He did not have to keep on living as a nomad in a foreign land, moving about from place to place and living under tents. Why did Jacob leave the city of Haran in Syria and return to that life with his father Isaac in the pagan land of Canaan? Why did not Abraham, Isaac and Jacob look at life materialistically and think of all the comforts and opportunities of the cultured city of Ur of the Chaldeans and give up the rough life of tenters in a foreign land and go back to that earthly city? No matter how long they tented in the land of Canaan, they did not realize God’s promise to give them that land. Why, O why did they observe God’s call to Abraham and at last die, each one in a foreign land? Hebrews 11:13-16 tells us why:
24. What does Hebrews 11:13-16 say was the reason that they did not leave Canaan and go back to Ur?
24 “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. For those who say such things give evidence that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. And yet, if they had indeed kept remembering that place from which they had gone forth, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven. Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them.”
25. (a) What would it have meant if they had gone back to Ur? (b) What really is the “city” for which they were reaching out, and how now will they be brought into touch with it?
25 What if they had gone back and become a part again of the Chaldean city of Ur? They would have forfeited Jehovah’s promises to them. It would have meant abandoning relationship with him, and this would have meant the destruction of their souls. Their faith kept them away from Ur and obedient to Jehovah’s call and guidance of them. They looked forward, not backward. They reached out for a place better than the earthly city of Ur. They looked for a city belonging to heaven, a heavenly government, God’s kingdom by means of the Messianic Seed of His “woman.” What is Ur of the Chaldeans today? Just a mass of ruins dug up by archaeologists not long ago. But what about God’s kingdom, the heavenly city made ready for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? It is in power in the heavens since A.D. 1914. Shortly, after it destroys this old worldly system of things and takes absolute control of the whole earth, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be resurrected from the dead and live under that heavenly government, because God is not ashamed of them.—Luke 20:37, 38.
OF WHAT SORT ARE WE?
26. In comparison with the foregoing ancient men, what questions do we ask ourselves, and why do we desire Hebrews 10:38, 39 to answer for us?
26 What sort of persons are we today? If we are Christian witnesses of Jehovah, are we persons like profane Esau (Edom)? God forbid! Then are we persons like those Hebrew witnesses of Jehovah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who never turned back? If we are, then, after we have come this far since when we first believed, no matter how far back that may be, we will not now turn back to this old world of materialism and false religion. Let it be for us also that Hebrews 10:38, 39 speaks when it affirms: “‘My righteous one will live by reason of faith,’ and, ‘if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”
27. In what, therefore, is our interest, and what would our shrinking back mean for us?
27 Our interest is in that God’s soul should have pleasure in us. We desire to have a righteous standing with him and to prove worthy of living by reason of our faith. Faith does not allow for us to shrink back. Shrinking of a person is understood to be an instinctive recoil at something that is painful or unpleasant, so as to avoid it. Shrinking is due to fear. In Hebrews 10:38, 39 the word for shrinking back is used by ancient Greek writers for fearing, and for withdrawing or hiding oneself through fear.* For us to shrink back would lead to destruction of our soul forever.—Matt. 10:28.
28, 29. (a) Where is the danger in shrinking back, and how may it start? (b) What does Hebrews 5:11 to 6:3 say to those doing that?
28 The shrinking back may be like a small contraction, producing a wrinkle. In this very fact there lies danger for us, because we hardly notice our start toward eternal destruction of our soul. The shrinking back or withdrawing may be in the form of refusing to make progress because self-exertion is required. It is as in the case of a child that does not want to grow up and shoulder responsibilities but wants to remain a carefree child with others obliged to take the responsibility for it. For instance, why did the writer to the Hebrews have to go to such lengths in explaining things that were more advanced, more involved than such Bible doctrines as repentance from sin, faith toward God, baptisms, laying of the hands on chosen ones, resurrection, everlasting judgment by God? It was because those Hebrew Christians wanted to stay spiritual babies able to feed only on doctrinal milk, so dull in hearing that they did not understand what was said or taught. So Hebrews 5:11 to 6:3 tells them:
29 “We have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong. For this reason, now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, the teaching on baptisms and the laying on of the hands, the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment. And this we will do, if God indeed permits.”
30. How is God indeed permitting us to do so, and consequently what should spiritual babes do?
30 God is indeed permitting us, to the extent that he lets us live on and does not destroy this world. Since God mercifully permits it, will we “press on to maturity”? Will we take advantage of the further time to grow up spiritually and become able to teach others not just the “primary doctrine about the Christ” or the “foundation” beliefs but also the things “hard to be explained”? In view of the length of time that we have known the truth, are we ashamed that we do not know or understand more than doctrinal “milk” of the Bible or that by now we do not have our “perceptive powers trained” to enable us to be teachers of others, not only in the congregation, but in the homes of interested people not yet belonging to the congregation? If we honestly feel such shame at not yet being grown up spiritually, then by all means, as long as God indeed permits it, let us do something about it, something positive. To do so means our living.
31, 32. (a) What will positive action on the part of spiritual babes mean? (b) Warning us of such a bad custom what does Hebrews 10:23-27 tell us?
31 Taking positive action will certainly not be by further retarding our spiritual progress, or by directly drawing back, shrinking back because something difficult is ahead of us requiring constancy in effort and action. Positive action will mean more than just pushing on with our personal Bible study privately. It will also require attending meetings for study with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, taking consideration of them. If we unnecessarily miss meetings with the modern Christian witnesses of Jehovah, it will be the start of our shrinking back. Persisted in, it will finally become a custom with us. Hebrews 10:23-27 tells us not to do that. It tells us the reason for not doing that. It says:
32 “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near. For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.”
33. If we willfully miss meetings, what are we doing as regards Hebrews 2:1, and how can we prevent our drifting away?
33 When we willfully miss meetings where incitement to love and good works is given, what are we doing? Are we doing what Hebrews 2:1 tells us to do, namely, paying more than the usual attention, or are we paying less than the usual attention to the things heard from God’s Son? Certainly less, not more, even if we do a lot of home Bible study by ourselves. To prevent our drifting away toward destruction, we need to pay attention to God’s Son because of his superior importance.
34. To have our faith perfected, to whom must we look and why therefore could not the ancient Hebrews have their faith perfected?
34 If we desire to have our faith perfected to the preserving of our souls alive forever, we really do have to pay due attention to God’s Son Jesus. We have to look to him as the “Perfecter of our faith.” Prior to his coming nineteen centuries ago, the ancient Hebrews had faith in Messiah’s coming and looked forward to it. But their faith respecting him was very lacking in many regards because of their not understanding the then unfulfilled prophecies about him. Even the angels of heaven were inquisitive as to how the prophecies would actually be worked out regarding the Messiah or the Christ. (1 Pet. 1:10-12) Hence their faith was not yet perfected.
35, 36. With whose coming did faith really arrive, and how was that so?
35 However, when Jesus Christ came, preached, died and was resurrected to heavenly life and returned to God his Father and sat down at God’s right in the heavens, the prophecies about him that were hitherto not understood were fulfilled in detail. Then the faith concerning the Messiah or Christ became filled in with historic facts. Thus with the Christ faith really arrived, that is, corrected belief about him and his relationship with God. Therefore to the Hebrews once under Moses’ law but now Christians, Galatians 3:23-25 says:
36 “Before the faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being delivered up together into custody, looking to the faith that was destined to be revealed. Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor [the Mosaic law].”
37. What, therefore, was Jesus as regards our faith and so what really began with him?
37 Because of this fact Jesus is really the Leader, the Pioneer, the Chief Agent of our faith. As such, he undertook to do God’s will and to bring Messianic prophecies to fulfillment and thus to clarify for us our faith in those Bible prophecies. Correct faith or belief began with Jesus Christ—nineteen centuries ago.
38. How has he, since back there, been perfecting the faith of his followers?
38 Down till the festival day of Pentecost, fifty days after his resurrection, in the year 33, when he poured down holy spirit from God’s right hand in heaven upon his Hebrew disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus worked toward perfecting their faith in him. When, in the year 36, he poured down holy spirit upon the first non-Hebrew uncircumcised believers, he brought still more to perfection their faith respecting him. (Heb. 2:4) As far as he dealt from heaven with his disciples on earth down till the apostle John wrote his Gospel and letters and the Revelation or Apocalypse to John, Jesus was bringing their faith to perfection, sufficiently for them to be saved. Now by what he has been doing during the past ninety years or so, to fulfill prophecy toward his disciples on earth, he has been perfecting our faith to meet the needs of our time, for our eternal salvation.
39. What, then, is the vital thing for us to do, and in harmony with that what does Hebrews 12:1-4 tell us to do?
39 The vital thing for us to do, then, is not to shrink back or even to look back. The soul-preserving thing for us to do is to look forward and race! “So, then,” Hebrews 12:1-4 tells us, “because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls. In carrying on your contest against that sin [of lack of faith] you have never yet resisted as far as blood.” No, you have not yet shed your lifeblood as a faithful witness of Jehovah.
40. What ancient Hebrew among those pre-Christian witnesses should we remember, and why?
40 Remember, among that “great cloud” of pre-Christian witnesses who because of their faith pleased God, the faithful patriarch Abraham. He did not settle down in any city or build a city as a permanent dwelling place in this old system of things. He looked forward to the city having foundations of permanence, the city then to be built and created by God. Hence he kept living here and there in tents, identified with no earthly city.—Heb. 11:9, 10, 15, 16.
41. What about Jesus in this respect and what are we resolved to do according to Hebrews 13:12-15?
41 Neither did God’s Son make any city his permanent city, not even the then earthly Jerusalem with its temple and altar. As we look to him, let our own resolution of what we are going to do be found stated in Hebrews 13:12-15: “Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us, then, go forth to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach he bore, for we do not have here a city that continues, but we are earnestly seeking the one to come. Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”
42. Because of our approaching what should we do that all the more so now?
42 All the more so let us do that now. That “city to come,” that “city that continues,” is at hand! It is God’s kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem, established in the year 1914 at the end of the Gentile Times. More true of us today, therefore, are the words written nineteen centuries ago: “You have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, in general assembly, and the congregation of the first-born who have been enrolled in the heavens, and God the Judge of all, and . . . Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, which speaks in a better way than Abel’s blood.” (Heb. 12:22-24) This heavenly kingdom to which we have approached is a “kingdom that cannot be shaken.” It will remain all through this “time of the end” of this world, when Jehovah God is shaking heaven and earth in order to remove this old faithless order of things.—Heb. 12:26-28.
43. How can we now pay more than the usual attention to God’s Son as respects Matthew 24:14?
43 In fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy, the good news of this established kingdom is being preached in all the inhabited earth as a witness to all the nations before these are rocked to pieces and removed forever. (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) To that prophecy spoken by God’s Son let us pay more than the usual attention by taking as full a direct part in it as we possibly can. Do so in faith. Preach!
44. What quality is this specially the time for us to have, and with what lasting good result?
44 Of all times this is the time to have faith, to mature our faith by increasing our knowledge and understanding, and to prove our faith by teaching it to others. Our faith undergoing perfection will never let us draw back to eternal disaster, the destruction of our souls. Our faith in perfection will lead to God’s preserving of our souls alive forever. Where? In the new order of things, with its “new heavens” and with its “inhabited earth to come” subjected, not to mere angels, but to God’s Son of sons, Jesus Christ, the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith.
According to A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell and Scott, in a new edition revised and augmented, in two volumes. 1948 reprinting.
See page 644b of A Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament, by John Parkhurst, M.A., London Edition of 1845.