(A word study from the Book of Hebrews)
This concludes the third and final part of this series.
13 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.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: why God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city.
This is in reference to the third heaven and earth at the end of Revelations. The city is the new Jerusalem.
- Better Resurrection
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
There are two resurrections mentioned in Acts 24
15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
The resurrection of the just is better than the resurrection of the unjust.
Also, in John 5 there is a further explanation of the resurrections.
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
The resurrection of the just is the resurrection of life and the resurrection of the unjust is the resurrection of the damned.
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
The return of Christ for his saints is the better thing for us. We will receive new bodies, know him as we are known, and forever be with the Lord.
- Speaks better things
18 For you are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor to blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them anymore:
20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
22 But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel.
Abel was the victim of the first murder by the hand of his brother Cain. This was the first shedding of human blood. Cain slew his brother as a sacrifice to exact the price for his misplaced envy. Abel’s death speaks of the broken inheritance that we received from Adam due to his high treason act in Genesis 3.
The blood of sprinkling – Christ’s death — whereby Jesus shed his own blood speaks better things because it reconciles men back to God that believe.
25 See that you refuse not him that speaks. For if they escaped not who refused him[Jesus] that spoke on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaks from heaven:
26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
This present earth (the second heaven and earth) will be replaced by the third heaven and earth.
27 And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Why we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
29 For our God is a consuming fire.
The Book of Hebrews is a legal defense for why being a being a follower of Jesus Christ is better than the Mosaic Law. Romans 8 summarizes the contrast.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
- Better Things for You
The next occurrence concerns God having better things for us. In Hebrews 6 [The Message Bible]
9-12 I’m sure that won’t happen to you, friends. I have better things in mind for you—salvation things! God doesn’t miss anything. He knows perfectly well all the love you’ve shown him by helping needy Christians, and that you keep at it. And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them.
God has better things in mind for us – salvation things! What are salvation things? The next verse highlights how God saw their expression of their love by helping needy Christians, and to not stop. He then tells them to continue loving with the same intensity in light of Christ’s return until they finish. Don’t dawdle, but stay the course so that you receive everything that is promised.
These verses are about the rewards that we shall receive when Christ returns. The better things are the rewards that we will receive at the judgment seat. Keep showing your love to your neighbor until you die or until the return of Christ. The rewards are eternal, but there is a richness of life when we extend love while we remain on the earth.
- Better Plan for Us
Hebrews 11 [The Message Bible] is the Believer’s Hall of Fame. God closes this chapter with the following verses.
39-40 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
These pillars of faith demonstrated sublime examples, but none of them received what was promised. Instead of a select few having the holy spirit on them in the Old Testament and the Gospels, we are blessed with life after the day of Pentecost, when all that are saved have holy spirit in us. This is the better plan that was not available until the day of Pentecost.
Paul develops a strong case in Hebrews for why it’s better to be a Christian than to remain a Jew. The dominant theme in these 12 occurrences is about salvation (Christ in you), the hope (the second coming of Christ), and rewards (the rewards that Christ will bestow at the judgement seat). Christ was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, but he is front and center after the day of Pentecost. Praise God that he blessed us to live in this privileged time!