But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.Hebrews 11:35-40
I am not going to repeat what I wrote in the Nugget I recommended you read in Gem 2152, but I would strongly suggest that you read it again before you read this Gem. If you have not read it yet I would suggest you do so. God’s Ultimate Paradox. In that Nugget I included a table comparing:-
|NAMES AND DEEDS (HEBREWS 11:4-31)||NAMES ONLY (HEBREWS 11:32-35)||THE UNNAMED (HEBREWS 11:35-40)|
What we have come to now are The Unnamed Heroes of Faith. But you can’t miss the fact that these heroes of faith are very different. These heroes are The Others. These heroes are the others of another kind, the heteroi. If you want to fully understand the significance of allos and heteros I would suggest you read Gem 1423 where I discussed the difference between the two Greek terms. It must be clear to you that the ones included in this list constitute a very different list of people. Heteroi is the nominative plural of heteros, the term given to the group of people who make up a very different list of heroes and heroines – The Others.
When I wrote the Nugget for A Puzzling Paradox # 30 I had not yet done what I have done in this series of Gems. I had assumed that the list of the six names in Hebrews 11:32 was only related to the six names the author has given. I hadn’t realised at that point that the author had intended this to be an open ended list. I had also not seen that the stories of the Six had one thing in common, the frailty of the heroes of faith. What surprises me now is that the author of Hebrews appears to use the one list to lead into the last list where he does not name anyone, but he could have. Many have conjectured as to who these people are over the years. The list is in effect a list of the various tortures and means by which such people were put to death for their faith. This is actually a list of martyrs for the faith without naming them.
- Others were tortured
- Others were jeered at and their backs were cut open with whips
- Others were chained in prisons
- Others died by stoning
- Others were sawed in half
- Others were killed with the sword
- Others went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
The writer of Hebrews clearly tells us that “all these people earned a good reputation because of their faith”. (Hebrews 11:39)
Far from being “an embarrassment to the faith” as I drew attention to in A Puzzling Paradox Nugget #30, these people are an inspiration to us all. Do you realise what the author is doing here? He has highlighted this very different list of very faithful people by not naming them. Furthermore, by not naming them he has left the door open for the Hebrew Christians living in the author’s time in Rome to think of and remember those who had lost their lives because of their faith in Jesus Christ, their Messiah from among their community.
Do you remember the words we examined earlier in the letter to the Hebrews?
Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!Hebrews 10:32-35
Do you see now the connectedness of this passage to what the author is encouraging the Hebrew Christians who are soon to face the full wrath of Nero’s coming persecution to the faith of those who have lost their lives before those still living? This was all very real to these Jewish Christians who were facing a fresh wave of persecution and likely martyrdom. So the author of Hebrews has encouraged them in the letter to remember those who were faithful just a few short years before. By not naming these precious saints who “refused to turn from God in order to be set free” the author has kept the door open for them to remember not only the members of their own community who had lost their lives, but also the saints of old who did the same thing.
In the last Gem I suggested you make a list of the people you know who you know to be heroes of faith. I don’t know whether you did that or not. But I would suggest now you think about any that you know who have given their lives for their faith. If you made a list after reading Gem 2155, you could now add to your list those who suffered persecution but didn’t turn their back on Christ. Believe me, those people are major examples of faith to us, just as they were in the times when the Jewish Christians in Rome were being encouraged to hang on to their faith. For you it might have to be the saints from history who encourage you. I am well aware that there are few people here in New Zealand who know people personally who have lost their lives because of their faith. But I know many in Indonesia who know people personally who lost their lives or suffered persecution for their faith and didn’t recant. Those kinds of people are an inspiration to us all.
Personally, I hold on to my memory of sitting behind Dominggus Kenjam and looking at the scars on the back of his neck from the machete blow which was meant to kill him, as he told his testimony of standing firm in the face of death. Those times of listening to Dominggus’ testimony are precious to me. It is like what I saw is ever before me in my thoughts at the times I ponder these things. Reg Ackland was right when he said it was better to show me what faith is by real life examples rather than giving me a definition. Knowing people who have not given up their faith when tempted to by threats of death and persecution is a major real life example to follow in their footsteps if ever I face such circumstances.
I could say much more about this passage and other such examples but I think I don’t need to say anymore. I will ask the LORD whether I should write more about the remaining verses or whether I have done enough and we can move on to Chapter 12. If you read the full Nugget I have referred to you can understand more clearly the significance of these verses in the context in which the author has set them. It is clear that we (the allos) together with these kind of saints (the heteroi) together make up the perfection of what God shows us is the true nature of faith. I will leave it there for the moment and allow the LORD and my readers’ comments or questions to guide me from this point on. Whether I add more or simply move on to Hebrews Chapter 12.
I could give you a definition of faith or I can give you examples of faith to show you what it means. The best way to help you understand what faith is, is to demonstrate the faith principle from my own life and mentor you as you begin to take faith steps in your own life.Reg Ackland
Without Expectation Of God’s Promises, Faith Has Nothing To Act On.Robb Thompson
Anything that God has asked you to do in your life you are equipped to do it. So stop saying, “This is too much for me. I just can’t handle this.”Joyce Meyer
May your faith be unshakeable and your will unbreakable.Tristan Bishop