We have been reading about people who suffered much because of their faith. That is, because of their belief and trust in God. But God cares about his people, and he knows about their troubles. So we may ask why God allowed this to happen. God had made promises to his people, and he could have carried out those promises immediately. Clearly, there was an important reason why he did not do it.
There are several good answers that the author of Hebrews could give. He could explain about the nature of faith. It only pleases God when we accept his promises by faith (Hebrews 11:6). And faith must be in something that we cannot yet see (Hebrews 11:1). If Godís people always received his promises immediately, they would not need faith. And that would not please him.
Or, the author could explain about the nature of Godís judgement. Unless God allows people to carry out wicked acts, his judgement against them would seem unfair (Romans 3:4-18). Other peopleís wicked acts are clear evidence that Godís people really do belong to him. When Godís people continue to trust him, they are declaring Godís judgement by their actions (Hebrews 11:7).
Or, the author could explain that God uses our troubles to improve our relationship with him (1 Peter 1:6-7). It is not Godís desire merely to save us from troubles. He is establishing a relationship with his people that will last always (Hebrews 11:16).
The author could explain that there is a proper time for God to carry out his promises (Galatians 4:4; Mark 13:32). That is because God is not just making nice promises without any real purpose. The purpose of all his promises is the same: to establish the rule of his Son, Jesus Christ, on earth. And in order to do that, he must end the power of the evil forces that now control the world. These things must happen at the proper time and in the proper way. So there is a proper time for God to carry out all his promises.
All these explanations seem good to us. But they are not the explanation that the author of Hebrews chooses to give in this passage. So the answer that he gives here must be especially important for us to know.
His answer is that this was for our benefit. Godís people did not receive the things that he had promised immediately in order to benefit us. That is, the people who live between Jesusí death and his return. God wanted his promises to benefit us too, as well as the people who originally received those promises.
Peter gave a similar explanation in 2 Peter 3:9. There, he explains why Christ has not yet returned. His delay gives people an opportunity to turn to God. Until Christ returns, people still have the opportunity for God to save them. But God has given his promise; and Christ will return to rule at the proper time.
It is Godís plan that all his people, together, should become the people of God (Galatians 3:28). He chooses not to separate them but, in a moment, he will change them all completely (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). That is the moment when God will declare them to be his children (Romans 8:18-21). That moment is the beginning of a new age (Hebrews 2:8; Revelation chapters 21 and 22).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.