Do You Have “Faith to the Preserving Alive of the Soul”?
“Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 10:39.
1. Why do Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
TERTULLIAN, who was converted to Christianity toward the end of the second century of our Common Era, once wrote concerning Jesus Christ: “Buried, He was raised from the dead; this is certain because it is impossible.” Judged by human abilities, Christ’s resurrection is just that—“impossible.” Yet, the Holy Scriptures assure us that it is a fact. For instance, they record these words of the Christian apostle Peter concerning “Jesus the Nazarene”: “God resurrected him by loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to continue to be held fast by it.” (Acts 2:22-24) Early disciples of Christ actually saw the resurrected Jesus, some of them even eating, drinking and holding conversations with him. (Matt. 28:5-10, 16-20; Acts 10:40, 41; 1 Cor. 15:3-8) Christians today believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ because it is a matter of record in the inspired Word of God. Furthermore, they discern from the fulfillment of Bible prophecies in current events that Jesus Christ lives and is now ruling in the heavenly kingdom of God.—2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Matthew chapters 24, 25.
2. How important is faith?
2 Faith is required of God’s servants. Jesus Christ said: “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22) The Hebrew prophet Habakkuk quoted Jehovah himself as saying: “But as for the righteous one, by his faithfulness he will keep living.” (Hab. 2:2, 4) We are assured that “he that exercises faith in the Son [of God, Jesus Christ] has everlasting life.” (John 3:36) So, all persons desiring divine favor and eternal life must display true faith.
3. What is faith?
3 Tertullian’s statement about the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been cited as exemplifying the “most extreme form” of faith. But, what is faith? It has been defined as “the state of mind which treats a certain proposition as true, independently of whether its truth is completely demonstrated.” (The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 Ed., Vol. X, p. 723) The apostle Paul, who became a Christian after the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ miraculously appeared to him (Acts 9:1-19), gave this divinely inspired definition of faith: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” By their faith “men of old times had witness borne to them” that they had pleased Jehovah.—Heb. 11:1, 2.
4. What caused Abel to have an “assured expectation” that God’s words about the ‘seed of the woman’ would come true?
4 Scriptural faith is a well-based expectation, not an unfounded hope. Abel, the second son of the first human pair, Adam and Eve, displayed faith. Abel realized that what God had said about death’s resulting from the disobedient eating of fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad” was proving true. (Gen. 2:16, 17) He could discern the inherited death-dealing effects of sin in himself. (Rom. 5:12) He also observed the fulfillment of God’s decree that brought laborious toil to his disobedient father, Adam. Then, too, in keeping with Jehovah’s sentence upon Eve, she was experiencing increased pain during pregnancy. (Gen. 3:16-19) These facts proved God’s truthfulness and gave Abel conviction, the “assured expectation,” that other things God had said would come true, such as the prophetic words that Jehovah directed to the Devil, when God was speaking to the serpent used by that wicked one to bring about human sin: “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.”—Gen. 3:15.
5. (a) How did Abel display his faith in the coming of the Seed of God’s “woman”? (b) In what way did God bear witness respecting Abel’s gifts?
5 Abel displayed his faith in the coming of that Seed of God’s “woman” by offering to Jehovah an animal sacrifice that could substitute pictorially for his own life. His elder brother, faithless Cain, offered only bloodless vegetables. Cain thereafter spilled his brother’s blood as a murderer, but Abel died knowing he had pleased Jehovah, “God bearing witness respecting his gifts” by accepting the sacrifice Abel had offered in faith. (Heb. 11:4; Gen. 4:1-8) Is your faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ comparable to the faith that found expression in Abel’s sacrifice?
6. Explain how faith is “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”
6 Faith is also “the evident demonstration of realities though [these realities are] not beheld.” For instance, the existence of created things—the sun, moon, stars and the earth itself—makes it apparent to Christians that there is a Creator, that such One is real, even though he cannot be seen with human eyes because he is an invisible Spirit. (John 4:24; Rom. 1:20-23) Hence, Christians have evidence that God exists, and by faith they “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.”—Heb. 11:3.
FAITH PRESERVES ALIVE THE SOUL
7. What is the soul, and what can happen to it?
7 Before defining faith, Paul had declared concerning Christians: “Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.” (Heb. 10:39) But what is the soul that can be preserved alive by having faith? You yourself are a living soul. The Scriptures state: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) It is not said here or elsewhere in the Bible that man has an immortal soul capable of continued existence after the death of the body. In fact, Jehovah declared through his prophet Ezekiel: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” (Ezek. 18:4) That excludes no imperfect human, “for there is no man that does not sin,” and “if we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us.”—1 Ki. 8:46; 1 John 1:8.
8. What prospects as to life are there for Jehovah’s faithful servants now long dead and for those displaying faith today?
8 Yet, Jehovah’s faithful servants now long dead in earth’s dust are living from God’s standpoint. He will resurrect them from the dead, using his Son Jesus Christ to restore them to life as living souls. (John 5:28, 29) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are of their number. (Luke 20:37, 38) By works of faith a person today can be like them. And since events in fulfillment of Bible prophecy show we are living in the “last days” of this system of things, it is now possible to display faith that will preserve your soul alive eternally. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Other past examples of faith in God will aid you to cultivate “faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”
FAITH IN PATRIARCHAL TIMES
9. How was Enoch “transferred so as not to see death”?
9 Like Abel, Enoch, “the seventh man in line from Adam,” manifested faith in Jehovah. Enoch prophesied about God’s execution of judgment upon the ungodly. (Jude 14, 15) How his words must have plagued Enoch’s religious foes! Doubtless they even sought to kill him for proclaiming Jehovah’s judgment. But God “took him” so that Enoch did not experience the pangs of death. (Gen. 5:24) Enoch was thus “transferred so as not to see death,” but first “he had the witness that he had pleased God well.” (Heb. 11:5) How so? The Greek word rendered “transferred” at Hebrews 11:5 means “transfer,” “transport” or “change the place of” and is suggestive of what happened to Paul. He was transferred or caught up to the “third heaven” miraculously, receiving a vision of the future spiritual paradise of the Christian congregation. (2 Cor. 12:1-4) Enoch, who knew nothing about a spiritual paradise, was apparently in a comparable condition of rapture, having a vision of the coming earthly paradise, when God put him to sleep in death, safe from enemy hands. You have not been divinely granted a vision of the restored paradise on earth. But, if you are a Christian, do you believe it will exist? You should.—2 Pet. 3:13; Heb. 11:6.
10. By exercising faith, Noah did what as far as the world of his time was concerned?
10 In faith, Noah “showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” By exercising such faith, by performing righteous and obedient works, Noah condemned the unbelieving world for its wicked works and showed that it deserved destruction. (Heb. 11:7; Gen. 6:13-22) But do you personally display faith like Noah’s? Today, as in Noah’s day before the global flood, the masses of humanity eat, drink, marry and carry on the normal pursuits of life heedless of divine purposes. They take no note of the fact that the promised second presence of the Son of man, Jesus Christ, is a reality. But you do not have to be like them. Instead, be watchful spiritually, displaying faith. Your life depends upon it!—Matt. 24:36-42.
11, 12. Though acquisition of the Promised Land was a grand prospect, what greater thing did Abraham await?
11 Abraham (Abram) also had great faith. His hometown, Ur of the Chaldeans, had much to offer in a material way. But Abraham left Ur and took up residing in tents in the land of Canaan. This he did because he had faith in Jehovah. Abraham heeded God’s command and believed His promise to make him a great nation of blessing to mankind. Jehovah also promised to give to Abraham’s seed or posterity a land. Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob were “the heirs with him of the very same promise.”—Heb. 11:9; Gen. 12:1-9; 15:18-21.
12 Acquisition of that Promised Land was a grand prospect. But in faith Abraham was looking forward to something even greater. “He was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.” This faithful patriarch awaited a heavenly government, under which he would live in the future. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not faithlessly abandon their relationship with Jehovah and return to Ur, which would have resulted in the destruction of their souls. So Jehovah “is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God.” They maintained faith in God to death, and before long they will be resurrected to life here on earth, part of the domain of that “city” or heavenly government, God’s Messianic kingdom. (Heb. 11:10, 13-16, 20, 21) God is not directing you to take up just the kind of nomadic life Abraham, Isaac and Jacob led. Yet, is your faith strong enough to move you to leave material comforts behind, should an assignment in the Christian ministry require that? Is your faith of such quality that the possible loss of material things at the hands of violent persecutors would not cause you to forsake Jehovah?
13. Because of her faith, what happened in Sarah’s case?
13 Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful men of old times had wives who also maintained faith in Jehovah. Consider Abraham’s wife Sarah, for instance. Though she was barren until she was about ninety years old and “past the age limit,” her menstrual cycle having ceased, by faith she “received power to conceive seed, . . . since she esteemed him [God] faithful who had promised.” From Abraham, himself “as good as dead” as far as the reproductive function was concerned, offspring resulted. She gave birth to Isaac, and through him were produced children eventually “just as the stars of heaven for multitude and as the sands that are by the seaside, innumerable.”—Heb. 11:11, 12; Gen. 17:15-17; 18:11; 21:1-7.
14. What enabled Abraham nearly to offer up Isaac?
14 Abraham was tested so that he “as good as offered up Isaac,” his “only-begotten son,” that is, the only son he ever had by Sarah. (Heb. 11:17, 18) What made it possible for Abraham to do this? Faith in Jehovah. Interestingly, though resurrection of the dead is not mentioned in the Genesis account, Abraham had knowledge of it and faith that Jehovah could resurrect Isaac, the apostle Paul stating: “But he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; and from there he did receive him also in an illustrative way.” (Heb. 11:19) In but a moment the slaughtering knife in Abraham’s hand would have brought an end to Isaac’s life, but an angel’s voice prevented this, so that, in effect, Abraham received his son out of death.—Gen. 22:1-19.
15. In what did Joseph express faith when nearing death?
15 Many years later, in Egypt, Jacob’s son Joseph said to his brothers: “I am dying; but God will without fail turn his attention to you, and he will certainly bring you up out of this land to the land about which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” (Gen. 50:24-26) Joseph had faith that there would be an exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, thus mentioning it when nearing his end. (Heb. 11:22) He had an unquestioning faith in Jehovah till death. Do you have comparable faith in God?
FAITH IN JEHOVAH AS A DELIVERER
16, 17. (a) By faith what decision did Moses make? (b) He looked intently toward the payment of what reward?
16 Moses was the man Jehovah used in 1513 B.C.E. when effecting Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. (Ex. 3:1-10; 12:37, 38) Acting in faith, Moses’ parents had hid him for three months after his birth, finally putting him afloat on the Nile River in an ark of papyrus. This led to his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter, who “brought him up as her own son,” so that he “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” He also became “mighty in his words and deeds.” (Ex. 2:1-10; Acts 7:21, 22; Heb. 11:23) But Egyptian education and the materialism of the royal chambers did not turn Moses into a worshiper of Egypt’s many false gods. No indeed! “By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God [the Israelites] rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.” Why? “Because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ [the privilege of being God’s anointed one] as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt.” (Heb. 11:24-26) As a member of the royal household, Moses might have sought fame in Egypt. But if he had done this, he probably would have been forgotten, like scores of Egyptian pharaohs whose principal claim to notoriety is perhaps their ornate tomb, a mere curiosity recovered from earth’s dust by the spade of the archaeologist. Unlike them, Moses is remembered as a man of faith to whom God gave a marvelous privilege.
17 Moses exercised faith and “looked intently toward the payment of the reward,” eternal human life through resurrection on earth in God’s new order. (Heb. 11:26) In faith, Moses left Egypt and returned years later, there celebrating the first passover with his fellow Israelites and then marching with them out of Egypt. “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land, but on venturing out upon it the Egyptians were swallowed up.” After Moses’ death, faith brought to Israel victory after victory in Canaan, including the conquest of Jericho, where Rahab the harlot was spared because she had received Israelite spies in a peaceable way. (Heb. 11:27-31) Do you have abiding faith in Jehovah and in his power to effect deliverance?
OTHER EXAMPLES OF FAITH
18. Because of their faith, what did Jehovah enable Gideon and Barak to do?
18 Paul admitted that time would fail him if he discussed other examples of faith (Heb. 11:32), such as that of Gideon, who, by Jehovah’s power and with a band of only three hundred men, put the oppressive Midianites to flight and crushed their military power. (Judges chapter 7) And what about Barak, who was encouraged by the prophetess Deborah? In faith, he met Sisera’s far-superior military force, and Jehovah gave Barak the victory, celebrated in the moving song of Deborah and Barak.—Judges chapters 4, 5.
19. What was Samson’s last act of faith?
19 Then, too, there was Samson, mighty foe of the Philistines. Though he finally became their blinded captive, he brought destruction to many of them at the time of his own death, by pulling down the pillars of the house where they had assembled to sacrifice to the false god Dagon. But Samson was no cowering, morbid-minded suicide. He did not cause the collapse of the house in despair, wishing thereby to end a miserable life and thinking he was a complete failure. No. It took faith for him to petition God for sufficient strength to wreak vengeance upon the assembled Philistines, enemies of Jehovah and His people.—Judg. 16:18-30.
20, 21. (a) How was faith displayed by Jephthah and his daughter? (b) Cite other pre-Christian examples of faith.
20 Jephthah, to whom Jehovah granted victory over the oppressive Ammonites, also displayed great faith. For example, he did so when he fulfilled the vow he had made to God, by devoting his daughter to Jehovah’s service as a perpetual virgin. (Judg. 11:29-40) Are you strong in faith like Barak, Deborah, Samson and other pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah? And, like Jephthah and his daughter, are you faithfully fulfilling your vow to serve God?—Ps. 50:14; Eccl. 5:4, 5.
21 David, with faith in Jehovah, vanquished the Philistine giant Goliath and went on to become a valiant warrior-king fighting in the interests of Jehovah’s people. Due to his faith, he was a man agreeable to God’s heart. (1 Sam. 17:4, 45-51; Acts 13:22) Samuel served Jehovah from childhood, never abandoning his faith in God. (1 Sam. 1:19-28; 7:15-17) Of course, there were other prophets who displayed great faith in Jehovah. Referring to various deeds of faith, Paul spoke of those “who through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict, effected righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, stayed the force of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from a weak state were made powerful, became valiant in war, routed the armies of foreigners.”—Heb. 11:33, 34.
22. (a) Some pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah having sought to attain a “better resurrection,” how will it be a “better resurrection”? (b) But how is it that they are not “made perfect” apart from anointed Christians?
22 Faithful Elijah and Elisha were empowered by Jehovah to restore to life the dead sons of two women (1 Ki. 17:17-24; 2 Ki. 4:17-37), and Paul spoke of women who received their dead by resurrection. “But,” he continued, “other men were tortured because they would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35) It is a “better resurrection” than those effected by God through Elijah and Elisha. Why? Because those revivified individuals had to die once more, whereas faithful pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah will be resurrected on earth in God’s promised new order and never need to die again. These witnesses, Paul subsequently showed, “although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise, as God foresaw something better for us [anointed followers of Christ], in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Heb. 11:39, 40) The resurrection of the anointed Christians, who number 144,000, is to spirit life in heaven and it began to occur in 1918 C.E., after the establishment of the heavenly Kingdom in 1914. (Rev. 12:1-5; 14:1, 4; 20:4-6; 1 Cor. 15:50-55) Such Christians are “made perfect” in the heavens prior to the earthly resurrection of faithful pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah.
23. What are some of the other examples of faith given by Paul?
23 Recalling other examples of faith these witnesses had furnished, Paul wrote: “Yes, others received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by bonds and prisons. They were stoned, they were tried, they were sawn asunder [Isaiah, according to uncertain Jewish tradition, having suffered that death by King Manasseh’s order], they died by slaughter with the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in want, in tribulation, under ill-treatment; . . . They wandered about in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth.” Contemplating their many acts of faith, doubtless you will agree with Paul, who said: “And the world was not worthy of them.”—Heb. 11:36-38.
24, 25. (a) Did early Christians display faith? (b) Does comparable faith in Jehovah still exist?
24 It is faith-strengthening to consider the faithfulness of this ‘great cloud’ of pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah. (Heb. 12:1) But early Christians displayed similar faith, as shown in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Also concerning early Christians, it has been stated: “Sometimes they were tortured and thrown to hungry wild beasts in the arena to amuse the populace. But persecution served only to strengthen their faith and to bring many converts to their cause.”—From the Old World to the New, by Eugene A. Colligan and Maxwell F. Littwin, 1932, pages 90, 91.
25 But such faith in Jehovah God still exists. Jehovah’s witnesses fearlessly display it. (Matt. 10:28) Concerning female Witnesses in Ravensbruck Nazi concentration camp, Miss Genevieve de Gaulle, niece of Charles de Gaulle of France, stated: “All of them showed very great courage and their attitude commanded eventually even the respect of the S.S. They could have been immediately freed if they had renounced their faith. But, on the contrary, they did not cease resistance, even succeeding in introducing books and tracts into the camp, which writings caused several among them to be hanged.” Eugen Kogan wrote in his book The Theory and Practice of Hell: “One cannot escape the impression that, psychologically speaking, the SS was never quite equal to the challenge offered them by Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (Page 43) And Professor Ebenstein of Princeton University stated: “The sufferings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps were even worse than those meted out to Jews, pacifists or Communists. Small as the sect is, each member seems to be a fortress which can be destroyed but never taken.”—The Nazi State.
26. In what will Christian faith result?
26 If you have and maintain similar faith in God, it will bring you everlasting life. The apostle Peter wrote about Christians receiving “the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:9) But you may ask, “What can I do to have a sustaining, healthy faith?” Be assured that with Jehovah’s aid much can be done.
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Is your faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice comparable to the faith that found expression in Abel’s sacrifice?
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In faith Noah built an ark to save his household. Though many today are faithless, do you show faith like Noah’s?
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Abraham showed faith by leaving material comforts behind and living in tents in Canaan
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Do you have faith in Jehovah as a deliverer? Moses did and he experienced deliverance at the Red Sea