STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3)
Have you ever traveled by plane on a rainy day when a low ceiling of dark clouds made your flight a forbidding prospect? Yet once on your way, after a brief climb through the clouds, you emerged into a world of dazzling sunlight and clear blue skies.
Having that experience for the first time is a revelation; from the ground it is hard to imagine the different world that exists not far away, above those dark clouds!
Still harder for the human mind to imagine is the unseen world that exists above the one in which we live. Here below we see a world filled with conflict, violence, and misery; one characterized by uncertainty, danger, and fear. But the Scriptures reveal another world where all is peace, with God reigning and with His holy angels carrying out His Word. It is a world that offers peace and freedom from the uncertainty and fear of this world, for there dwells God Who has reconciled our fallen world to Himself by the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ.
But to us the world above remains invisible, not accessible to us by means of our
And for this reason the people of this world keep telling us that God and heaven do not exist and that we are fools for thinking otherwise. Either that or they give a distorted view of God and heaven. How are we to know the true God and receive the blessings that He offers?
Our text tells us that faith is the window by which we see clearly into the unseen world above. By faith we know that there really is a God Who loves us and looks upon us as His own children for the sake of His Son. He really does hear our prayers when we cry to Him for relief from the suffering that we experience in this fallen world.
By faith we have confidence about the things that we hope for from the unseen God. We hope for Jesus to come again as He has promised. We hope to see this evil world brought to an end and in its place the “new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13) We hope to enter that new world and live with our Savior and all our fellow believers in perfect joy and peace forever.
Our text strengthens in us that faith by reminding us to avoid the mis-reading of the faith as being “faith in us.” They had faith, and by it they had “a good testimony.” That is, they had God’s approval. Abraham believed God, and His faith was accounted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). As men and women of faith they lived with the confidence that when they died and left this world they were headed for eternal life. They “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 earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)
By faith we know the true and living God Who created the universe in six days by the power of His Word. We know that by the power of that same Word we have been remade into a new creation. “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
By faith we now know the things hoped for and the things not seen. And we look forward to the day when Jesus comes again. Then there will no longer be a need for faith and hope; then we will experience what we now hope for and we will behold with our eyes what we now know by faith.
John Klatt is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Loveland, Colorado.