The "Unfulfilled" Promise
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us." *underlining added for emphasis
Heb 11:13, 39-40
In a previous chapter, I mentioned that I was at a church where the pastor took these verses from Hebrews chapter 11 and tied them to the premise that God doesn't answer the promise of healing for all. He further emphasized that in this chapter, where so many great examples of faith are recorded, God highlighted examples where people didn't receive what God had promised. The implication was that some people receive God's promise of healing while others don't. This was supposed to be an encouragement that even if we don't understand why God doesn't fulfill His promise to heal, we should still trust His goodness and sovereignty.
I have heard variants of this in other churches, and it sounded like this, "God is mysterious, and we don't always understand what He does," or "God's ways are higher than our ways, and we don't always understand why some prayers aren't answered," etc. Someday I will unpack that in an entire book. For now, let's go back and address the premise that God specifically put verses 13, 39, and 40 in the book of Hebrews to let us know that He doesn't always answer His "promises" for healing.
First, I find it interesting that in this line of reasoning, healing is understood as something "promised" by God. Those who follow this line of reasoning must therefore know that some Scriptures "promise" healing to the believer. I know that this pastor believes that God is honest and can't lie and that He is good and He wants us to have good things. How, then, does he reconcile God not fulfilling His "promise" of healing? How do others who believe like him? The answer? They refer to Scriptures like this to explain why God didn't answer His healing "promise." The underlying rationale is that God is not a liar or evil; we just don't fully understand Scripture. Further, that through more Scripture study, we'd understand that healing is not "promised" to all.
2 Tim 2:15 says, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Act 17:11 (NIV) says, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." As believers, we have an obligation to God to study the Scriptures. We are not relieved of that obligation because the pastor/teacher is a sincere man of God (as this pastor is), a great orator, operates in the gifts of the Spirit, has multiple seminary degrees, etc. The Bible commends the Bereans for examing what Paul taught. And Paul was the writer of most of the New Testament and arguably the greatest apostle of all!
I'm not saying take a critical or judgemental stance against everything a pastor/teacher says. I am saying that it is our responsibility before God to examine the Word that is sown into our hearts. The verses this pastor quoted from Hebrews are the Word of God, Scripture/Bible verses. But was the interpretation that the unfulfilled promise in these verses pertained to healing from God?
In Jhn 14:26 (NKJV), Jesus says, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." Jesus also says, In Jhn 16:13, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…" I share these Scriptures to support my assertion that the Holy Spirit was the one who prompted me to question the pastor's interpretation of the verses from Hebrews. I believe He reminded me of other Scriptures (brought to my "remembrance") that had a different explanation of the "promises" that these great men and women of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 didn't receive.
Almost instantly, the Holy Spirit told me that the promise that these faith greats didn't receive was the promise of the Messiah. After this prompting by the Holy Spirit, I began to study to show myself approved and "not be ashamed" that I hadn't "rightfully divided" the Word/the passages in question. My opinion means nothing. I have no response to what that pastor or anyone else teaches other than the Word of God.
At the Holy Spirit's prompting, I went back like the Bereans and studied the Scriptures to see if what that pastor said was true. I was also motivated because I had never heard this particular argument against healing. The pastor had tied healing to prosperity teachers and false teaching. His strong stance made me more eager to find the Scriptures to disprove what he was saying. Studying to prove him wrong would be an improper motivation all by itself. I had to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and find Scripture and verse to support what I believed.
When I studied the Scriptures to find out what the promises in Heb 11: 13 and 39-40, were related to, I was surprised at what I found. I wasn’t surprised to find some connection to healing. Nothing I found in my study even indirectly implied that the passages in Hebrews related to God’s healing promises. What surprised me was the promises related to so much more than the coming Messiah! The promises the Old Testament saints "saw from afar off" but died not receiving pertained to the coming of the Messiah AND the restoration of Israel, the resurrection and ascension of the Messiah, all enemies placed at the feet of the Messiah, the promise of eternal life, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
I found Scripture after Scripture in just a few moments of searching online, confirming what these unfulfilled promises were. Why, then, did this pastor come up with this interpretation of these verses? As I stated at the beginning of the book, I believe that his experience of having a loved one die was so powerful and overwhelming that it clouded his doctrine. His experience blinded him to the point where he either could not see the truth of Scripture in this area or hindered him to where he could no longer conduct searches of the Scripture to support a premise different from the one in his heart. The force of his personal experience was so powerful that it made him bend this Scripture to an interpretation that is totally unrelated to healing.
That's why God tells us to study. Scriptures can knowingly and unknowingly be twisted to support just about anything. But we don't have to study Scripture on our own. We have the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the One who leads us into all truth, the One who reminds us of the things that Jesus has said. The Bible says of God the Holy Spirit, that "He bears witness with our spirit." From Strong's definition, that means the Holy Spirit "testifies," He" corroborates evidence."
A witness is someone who saw something. In Jhn 16:13, the Bible says of the Holy Spirit that "he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak." The Holy Spirit only speaks what He has seen and heard from the Father. We can trust the leading of the Spirit because He leads us based on what He has heard from the Father. If you want a greater understanding of what it means to listen to the Holy Spirit and hear the voice of God, please see my books "Lifesaving The Importance of Hearing the Voice of God" and Lifesaving Vol II Hardening Your Heart to the Voice of God."
Everything I said may sound pretty convincing. But we must learn to take the extra step and confirm everything we believe or base our doctrine upon in Scripture. This key spiritual principle is confirmed in 2 Tim 3:16, which says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." I will share the Scriptures I found, and in some cases, I will add a note to show how it supports what I believe these unfulfilled promises were. Again, nothing in these Scriptures points even remotely to God’s healing promises, God’s will to heal, etc.
Luk 24:18-21, 49
"Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, 'Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?' And He said to them, 'What things?' So they said to Him, 'The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel….
Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."
*The Promise of My Father here was the Holy Ghost as we will see in Acts.
*The phrase "we were hoping that it was He that was going to redeem Israel" indicates one of the promises that God had made that still was yet to come
"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.'"
*The prophet Joel saw afar off if you will, the promised pouring out of the Holy Spirit but never received himself. Joel saw the "great and awesome day of the Lord" and other last-days manifestations mentioned in this passage that we have still yet to see.
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: 'I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'”
*Through the power of the Holy Spirit David “foresaw”/saw afar off the promised Savior, saw that he would be resurrected and not left in Hades, that the Savior would not see “corruption” and that one day he (David) would be full of joy in His presence. David did not live to see these promises because the time for their fulfilment had not yet come.
“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’ God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ So it is also stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ ‘Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.”
*In this passage, we see two of the promises that wasn’t fulfilled for the Old Testament saints, the coming of the Messiah, Jesus and the promise that the Messiah would be raised from the dead and not see decay.
"Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.'”
“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.’”
*I shared this Scripture to show that in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son (Gal 4:4). Jesus was promised to the Old Testament saints but the fulfilment of the promise was set for a later time, as witnessed by Simeon.
“Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
*The promise that Abraham would be “heir of the world” included the Gentiles who became righteous through faith in Christ. Because Christ had not yet come, Abraham did not receive the fulfillment of this promise while he was on earth.
“that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
“But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
“that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel…”
Heb 10:35-36 (NIV)
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
2 Pet 3:1-4, 8-10 (NKJV)
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation…
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
*The Old Testament saints were promised, and many saw by the power of the Holy Spirit the day of the Lord Jesus’ return. We too have the same promise and the promise of a “new heaven and a new earth.” These promises have yet to be fulfilled.
I Jhn 2 (NKJV)
“Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.”
We know that God made a promise to restore Israel. We see that Act 1:6-7: “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” This was a promise that the Old Testament saints never saw in their lifetime. I did a brief search for Scriptures where God promised the restoration of Israel, but there was too much to digest and try to incorporate in this chapter. I share the Scriptures below as a potential starting point for further study for those who would desire to do so.
Dan 9:25 (NIV)
“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
Isa 11:12 (NKJV)
“He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, And gather together the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.”
Isa 11:16 (NKJV)
“There will be a highway for the remnant of His people Who will be left from Assyria,
As it was for Israel In the day that he came up from the land of Egypt.”
Isa 12:6 (NKJV)
“Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”
Isa 14:1 (NKJV)
“For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land. The strangers will be joined with them, and they will cling to the house of Jacob.”
Isa 45:17 (NKJV)
“But Israel shall be saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You shall not be ashamed or disgraced Forever and ever.”
Isa 45:25 (NKJV)
“In the LORD all the descendants of Israel Shall be justified, and shall glory.”
Zec 8:13 (NKJV)
“’And it shall come to pass That just as you were a curse among the nations,
O house of Judah and house of Israel, So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, Let your hands be strong.”
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