These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them…
You have here, in few words, the "Pilgrim's Progress" from the wilderness of this world to an everlasting "city of habitation." You learn what it is which induces him to commence the journey; in what manner he complies with that inducement; what sustains his hope as he proceeds; and in what state of mind he finishes his course. True faith includes five things:
I. A SIGHT OF DISTANT, PROMISED BLESSINGS. Not that the believer is left destitute of comforts and privileges connected with the present life. Nevertheless, his greatest prize is yet to come: he "sees" it indeed, but he has not yet received it — it is "afar off."
II. A PERSUASION OF THEIR REALITY. God is able to keep His word; and therefore, after all the mockery of an ungodly world, I come to the deliberate conviction that "Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth."
III. AN ACTUAL EMBRACING OF THEM. "Oh yes! " says the worldly man, "to be sure I believe the Bible — I have no doubt that good people will go to heaven!" And perhaps you might not find it easy to convince him that he disbelieves these things: but you have no difficulty in discovering that he takes no interest in them. Here, then, is a faith "persuaded" of the truth, but not "embracing" the truth! Do you ask, then, "How shall I embrace the salvation thus offered?" The answer is plain — "By coming to Christ for it, in the way prescribed — repenting, converting, trusting in Him."
IV. A VISIBLE INFLUENCE ON THE HEART, THE LANGUAGE, AND THE LIFE. Let a man gaze upon the sun till he can without pain examine its splendours; he will find, on recalling his eyes to this lower world, that their power is gone for a season. And such is the effect where faith is in full exercise: one upward glance at "the glory that shall be revealed" is enough to eclipse the most glittering earthly bauble.
V. A STEADFAST RELIANCE ON THEM EVEN IN DEATH. After "seeing," "being persuaded," "embracing," and walking as "pilgrims and strangers," the black river of death still remains to be crossed, before we "receive the promise." But "the righteous hath hope," even then; and they that "walk by faith" will assuredly "die in faith."
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.