Hebrews 11:39
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(39) Having obtained a good report.—Now that the history is concluded the word of Hebrews 11:2 is resumed. That in such a faith as was described in Hebrews 11:1 “the elders” received their witness from God, the records themselves have shown; yet “these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise,” i.e., the promised blessing. There are three passages of the Epistle which must be kept together—Hebrews 6:15, “And so, having patiently waited, he (Abraham) obtained the promise;” Hebrews 10:36, “Ye have need of endurance, that having done the will of God ye may receive the promise;” and the present versa. To the saints of the Old Testament the promised blessing was future; they obtained it, but not within the limits of this present life. To us the promised blessing is present, revealed to us in its true nature, obtained for us once for all; for we know that eternal redemption has been won through Christ’s entering for us once for all into the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:12), and to us the “perfection” has come, in that through Him we “draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:19). That (1) the full personal appropriation of the gift is for every one of us still future, and (2) the full revelation belongs to another state of being, is true, but not inconsistent with what has been said.

Hebrews 11:39. These all, having obtained a good report Μαρτυρηθεντες, being witnessed unto, as persons who did or suffered great things by faith. The expression does not imply that all the Israelitish judges, captains, and other worthies mentioned in this chapter, as well as the ancients, were truly righteous persons, justified by their faith, and made heirs of eternal salvation; for the apostle’s design in this part of his epistle being to show, by examples from the Jewish Scriptures, the influence which faith in the divine revelations and promises hath to excite men to perform those difficult and dangerous enterprises which he assigns to them in particular, the witness which was borne to some of them means only the praise which was given to them in Scripture on account of the faith which they showed in performing these particular great actions. Received not the promise — The great promised blessings, namely, Christ the promised seed, come in the flesh, as the accomplishment of all the types and shadows, whether of the Mosaic or the patriarchal dispensation. They received the promise that the Messiah should come, as is said of Abraham, (Hebrews 11:17,) but did not receive the accomplishment of it. This the apostle positively asserts; but that the Christians in his days had received it, as is signified Hebrews 11:40. “It is therefore not only untrue and unsafe,” as Dr. Owen observes, “but contrary to the fundamental principles of our religion, the faith of Christians in all ages, and the design of the apostle in this whole epistle, to interpret this promise, as some do, of any thing but the coming of Christ in the flesh, of his accomplishment of the work of our redemption, with the unspeakable privileges and advantages that the church hath received thereby. That this promise was made to the elders from the beginning of the world, that it was not actually accomplished to them, being necessarily confined to one season, called the fulness of time, and that herein lies the great difference of the two states of the church, that under the Old Testament and that under the New, with the prerogative of the latter above the former, are such weighty sacred truths, that without an acknowledgment of them no important doctrine, either of the Old Testament or of the New, can be rightly understood. This then was the state of believers under the Old Testament; they had the promise of the exhibition of Christ, the Son of God, in the flesh, for the redemption of the church; this promise they received, saw afar off, as to its actual accomplishment, were persuaded of the truth of it, and embraced it, Hebrews 11:13. The actual accomplishment of it they desired, longed for, and looked after, (Luke 10:24,) inquiring diligently into the grace of God contained therein, 1 Peter 1:11-13. Hereby they enjoyed the benefits of it, even as we do; yet they received not its actual accomplishment in the coming of Christ, the reason of which the apostle gives in the next verse.11:39,40 The world considers that the righteous are not worthy to live in the world, and God declares the world is not worthy of them. Though the righteous and the worldlings widely differ in their judgment, they agree in this, it is not fit that good men should have their rest in this world. Therefore God receives them out of it. The apostle tells the Hebrews, that God had provided some better things for them, therefore they might be sure that he expected as good things from them. As our advantages, with the better things God has provided for us, are so much beyond theirs, so should our obedience of faith, patience of hope, and labour of love, be greater. And unless we get true faith as these believers had, they will rise up to condemn us at the last day. Let us then pray continually for the increase of our faith, that we may follow these bright examples, and be, with them, at length made perfect in holiness and happiness, and shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father for evermore.And these all, having obtained a good report through faith - They were all commended and approved on account of their confidence in God; see the notes on Hebrews 11:2.

Received not the promise - That is, did not receive the fulfillment of the promise; or did not receive all that was promised. They all still looked forward to some future blessings; notes, Hebrews 11:13.

39. having obtained a good report—Greek, "being borne witness of." Though they were so, yet "they received not the promise," that is, the final completion of "salvation" promised at Christ's coming again (Heb 9:28); "the eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15). Abraham did obtain the very thing promised (Heb 6:15) in part, namely, blessedness in soul after death, by virtue of faith in Christ about to come. The full blessedness of body and soul shall not be till the full number of the elect shall be accomplished, and all together, no one preceding the other, shall enter on the full glory and bliss. Moreover, in another point of view, "It is probable that some accumulation of blessedness was added to holy souls, when Christ came and fulfilled all things even as at His burial many rose from the dead, who doubtless ascended to heaven with Him" [Flacius in Bengel]. (Compare Note, see on [2592]Eph 4:8). The perfecting of believers in title, and in respect to conscience, took place once for all, at the death of Christ, by virtue of His being made by death perfect as Saviour. Their perfecting in soul at, and ever after Christ's death, took place, and takes place at their death. But the universal and final perfecting will not take place till Christ's coming. The apostle returns in this verse to the proposition laid down in the second verse, which he had been proving by all these examples, and with it shuts up the history of them.

And these all; all these elders, mentioned from Hebrews 11:2 to this verse.

Having obtained a good report through faith: marturhyentev, strictly, is having been martyred, or made martyrs; specially witnessing to the death for Christ, have a testimony given them, by way of eminency, by God himself in his Scripture record, that through faith they pleased him in their glorious achievements and sufferings, and were God’s faithful witnesses to the world, glorifying him in it; though reproached and ruined by the world, yet they were too good to live in it, and were fit to live with him in heaven, as Hebrews 11:2,5,16,35.

Received not the promise; yet these worthies, as Abraham and his believing seed, did not possess the land of Canaan, though they had the promise of it in their time, Hebrews 11:13; others did obtain the grace and good things promised for their time, Hebrews 11:33, but none of these had fulfilled to them in their day the manifestation of the Messiah in the flesh; though they saw his day and coming by faith, and did rejoice in it, yet none saw him so come as Simeon did, Luke 2:26,29; though, as to the eternal benefits by Christ, they did as actually receive them, as those since his perfecting the work of redemption have received them, even eternal blessedness and glory by him, Acts 15:11. And these all having obtained a good report through faith,.... This may either be limited to the sufferers in the preceding verses, who were martyred, or suffered martyrdom for the faith, as the words may be rendered; and who are called martyrs or witnesses, in Hebrews 12:1 and so the Ethiopic version renders the clause, "and all these were witnesses concerning the faith": or it may be extended to all the instances of faith throughout the chapter; and so the apostle reasserts what he had said, Hebrews 11:2, having proved it by a variety of examples; See Gill on Hebrews 11:2.

received not the promise; not that they did not receive the promise of the land of Canaan, for so did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, &c. nor that they did not receive the promise of deliverance and victory, for so did Joshua, the Judges, and others; or that they did not receive the promise of eternal life, for that they all did; but the promise of the Messiah, that is, the Messiah promised: for they had the promise, but not the thing; who is called "the Promise", emphatically, because he is the first and grand promise; and because in him all the promises centre, and are yea, and amen: him the Old Testament saints received not; they, greatly desired to see him in the flesh; they saw him by faith; they believed in him, and rejoiced in the expectation of his coming; but he was not exhibited to them incarnate. Now since these saints so strongly believed, and so cheerfully suffered before Christ came; the apostle's argument is, that much more should the saints now, since Christ is come, and the promises received, go on believing in him, and readily suffering for his sake; see Hebrews 12:1.

{16} And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received {y} not the promise:

(16) An amplification taken from the circumstance of the time: their faith is so much the more to be marvelled at, by how much the promises of things to come were more dark, yet at length were indeed exhibited to us, so that their faith and ours is as one, as is also their consecration and ours.

(y) But saw Christ afar off.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 11:39-40. General remark in closing.

Καὶ οὗτοι πάντες] And these all. Refers back to the totality of the persons named, from Hebrews 11:4 (not merely, as Schlichting, Hammond, and Storr suppose, to those mentioned from ἄλλοι δέ, Hebrews 11:35).

μαρτυρηθέντες διὰ τῆς πίστεως] although by virtue of their faith they received a (glorious) testimony (in Scripture).

οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν] did not bear away the promise (wrongly Ebrard: the aorist stands “pro plusquamperf.”), i.e. attained not, so long as they lived, to the possession of that which was promised, namely, the Messianic blessedness.Hebrews 11:39. καὶ οὗτοι πάντες, “And these all,” that is, those who have been named in this chapter, “although they had witness borne to them through their faith,” as has been recorded (Hebrews 11:2-38), “did not receive the promise,” that is, as already said in Hebrews 11:13, they only foresaw that it would be fulfilled and died in that faith. But this failure to obtain the fulfilment of the promise was not due to any slackness on the part of God nor to any defect in their faith; there was a good reason for it, and that reason was that “God had in view some better thing for us, that without us they should not be perfected”. The κρεῖττόν τι is that which this Epistle has made it its business to expound, the perfecting (τελειωθῶσιν) of God’s people by full communion with Him mediated by the perfect revelation (Hebrews 1:1) of the Son and His perfect covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13), and His better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23). And the perfecting of the people of God under the O.T. is said to have been impossible, not as might have been expected “apart from the Son,” but χωρὶς ἡμῶν, because the writer has in view the history of the Church, the relation of the people of God in former times to the same people in Messianic times.39. having obtained a good report through faith] “Having been borne witness to through their faith,” i.e. though they had this testimony borne to them, they did not see the fulfilment of the promises.

received not the promise] See Hebrews 11:17; Hebrews 11:33, Hebrews 6:15, Hebrews 9:15. They did not enjoy the fruition of the one great promise.Hebrews 11:39. Καὶ οὗτοι πάντες, and all these) A pathetic Symperasma (Summary. See Append.)—μαρτυρηθέντες, having obtained a good report) Hebrews 11:2, note.—τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν, the promise) i.e. the promise of the heavenly inheritance, ch. Hebrews 10:36, note. Flacius says: “It is probable, that some degree, so to speak, or accumulation of blessedness was added to holy souls, when Christ came and fulfilled all things; even as at His burial the evangelists testify that many rose from the dead, who beyond all doubt ascended into heaven with Him.” Even Christ Himself was altogether made perfect in the death of Christ, ch. Hebrews 2:10; and the living and the dead have obtained this perfection, ch. Hebrews 10:14, and the perfecting of individual believers takes place at their death, ch. Hebrews 12:23; but the universal and final perfecting of believers will take place at the coming of the Lord, of which the passage here speaks.Vers, 39, 40. - And these all, having obtained a good report (literally, having been witnessed of, as in ver. 2) through faith, received not the promise: God having provided (or, foreseen) some better thing for (literally, concerning) us, that they without us should not be made perfect. There is no contradiction between the assertion here made, that none of the saints of old "received the promise (ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν) "and its being said of Abraham (Hebrews 6:15) that he did "obtain the promise (ἐπέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγελίας)." For though in both passages "the promise," i.e. the great Messianic promise (not "premises," as in ver. 33, supra), is spoken of - or at any rate, in the case of Abraham, ultimately referred to - yet the verbs used are different and have different meanings, He "obtained" or attained to it, in the sense of having it confirmed and assured to him and his seed (see note on Hebrews 6:15); but he did not actually get it so as to reduce it to possession and enter into the enjoyment of it. The realization of all that is meant by the word here used is, indeed, even to Christian believers, still future (for cf. Hebrews 10:36, ἵνα κομίσησθε τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν). Nay, it is future also in its fullness, even to the saints at rest; for in the passage just quoted it is plainly intimated that the entire fulfillment will not be till "he that shall come" comes; i.e. till the second advent. The redeemed whose probation on earth is over are indeed, in one sense, said to be already "perfected" (cf. Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 12:23); but still the "perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul" is nowhere in the New Testament contemplated till "the end." In the mean time, even the saints under the heavenly altar still cry, "Lord, how long?" and the Spirit and the bride say, "Come, Lord Jesus." The full idea, then, of ver. 40 may be that, according to the eternal Divine purpose, the promise of redemption should not be fully realized till the number of the elect shall be accomplished, and all the redeemed of all ages since the world began shall be gathered together through Christ in one, and God shall be all in all.



Having obtained a good report (μαρτυρηθέντες)

Rend. "having had witness born to them." See on Hebrews 11:2.

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