Unshakable faith

Paul’s appeal for endurance in his letter to the Hebrews pointed to the ultimate goal of God’s plan of salvation, that believers inherit the kingdom of heaven. Comparing the Israelite’s interaction with God on Mount Sinai with the believer’s entrance into heaven, Paul stated:

But instead, you have come to the mountain of Jerusalem. It is the city of the living God. It is the Jerusalem of heaven with its thousands of angels. You have gathered there with God’s children who were born long ago. They are citizens of heaven. God is there. He will judge all men. The spirits of all those right with God are there. They have been made perfect. Jesus is there. He has made a way for man to go to God. He gave His blood that men might worship God the New Way. The blood of Jesus tells of better things than that which Abel used…On Mount Sinai, God’s voice shook the earth. But now He has promised, saying, “Once more I will shake the earth and the heavens.” (Hebrews 12:22-24, 26 NLV)

The Greek word translated shake in Hebrews 12:26, seio (si’-o) means to rock or vibrate sideways moving to and fro like an earthquake. Seio is used figuratively “to throw into a tremor (of fear or concern)” (G4579). Paul’s mention of God’s promise to shake the earth and the heavens probably had to do with the universal battle that will take place at the end of the great tribulation that results in Satan being cast into the bottomless pit and shut up for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).

Paul went on to say that God’s promise to shake the earth and the heavens signified the establishment of his kingdom on earth. He explained, “When God says, ‘Once more,’ He means He will take away everything of this world that can be shaken so the things that cannot be shaken will be left” (Hebrews 12:27, NLV). The Greek word translated shaken, saleuo (sal-yoo’-o) means to waver or to be insecure about what we believe in (G4531). Paul’s reference to things that cannot be shaken related back to the acts of faith that he mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven. What Paul was getting at had to do with his definition of faith. Paul said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Paul’s understanding of faith was that it causes God’s kingdom to be made visible on earth. Jesus eluded to this in his parable of the sower. In his explanation of the parable, Jesus told his disciples:

And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:10-15, NKJV)

Jesus indicated that God’s word becomes fruitful in our lives when we keep it or translate it into action (G2722). In other words, we have to do what God’s word tells us to in order to reap the benefits of it.

Paul described the results of Abraham’s faith in terms of dwelling in the Promised Land. He said, “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10, NKJV). In Hebrews 13:14, Paul linked all believers to Abraham’s inheritance by stating, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”

The city Paul was referring to was depicted by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. John stated, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God'” (Revelation 21:1-3, NKJV).

The interesting thing about John’s description of the New Jerusalem was that he likened it to a bride adorned for her husband and John said, “the tabernacle of God is with men” (Revelation 21:3). Revelation 19 portrays the union of believers with Jesus as a marriage ceremony and it states specifically in Revelation 19:7-8 that, “‘ the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (NKJV), the phrase “the righteous acts of the saints” means an equitable deed or a demonstration of faith (G1345). According to John, the visible manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth will involve the body (bride i.e. church) of Christ being transformed into a unified physical structure that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:27), coming down from heaven and becoming the eternal dwelling place of God (Revelation 21:3).

Acts of faith

The writer of Hebrews defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This definition suggests that faith is a tangible substance that exists in the physical realm. The Greek word translated faith in Hebrews 11:1, pistis is derived from the word peitho (pi’-tho) which means to convince (G3982). “Faith is of the heart, invisible to men; obedience is of the conduct and may be observed. When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God.” Jesus was able to perceive the faith of a man that was brought to him for healing. It says in Matthew 9:2, “And behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

Chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews lists numerous examples of people whose faith was seen in their actions. It says in Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became the heir of righteousness which is by faith.” The intersection of the seen and unseen worlds through acts of faith may be the reason why believers are encouraged to do what God tells them to. If we only think about what God’s word says, our imaginations are left to run wild and we are unable to distinguish between the real and unreal aspects of what we believe to be true.

It says in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6. NKJV). Everyone that has received something from God did so through an intentional effort. We do not receive things from God that we have no desire for or are unwilling to accept. The writer of Hebrews said that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. The Greek word translated diligently seek, ekzeteo (ek-zay-teh’-o) means to search out and figuratively can refer to craving or demanding something (G1567). What this seems to suggest is that faith is like a magnet that draws us to God. It is a divine force that God uses to accomplish will.

Interjected in the long list of acts of faith that are recorded in Hebrews chapter eleven are references to the fact that all of the Old Testament believers died without receiving the promises of God (Hebrews 11:13, 39). It says in Hebrews 11:40, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” This statement separates those who had faith in Christ before he was born from those who have believed in him since. It seems likely that the better thing that was provided for us is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which helps us to discern God’s will. Faith may be the thing that draws us to God, but the energy or supernatural force that causes us to act comes from the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples that they would “receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

The seam that holds Old and New Testament believers together in their acts of faith is the building up or edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). The Apostle Paul declared about the unity of the Spirit that, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). I believe the writer of Hebrews used examples of Old Testament believers to inspire those who came into God’s family after Jesus’ death and resurrection to show us that our faith is a work in progress and that we have to finish what the Old Testament believers started. He stated “that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40). Jesus talked about his own perfection and stated in his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, “I did the work You gave Me to do.” (John 17:4, NLV).

Lord of all

Jesus’ death and resurrection completed the necessary requirements for him to be appointed judge of all mankind. Paul stated in his letter to the Romans, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9). Another way of stating “the dead and the living” would be the unsaved and the saved. Paul was referring to people that have not accepted Jesus as their savior as well those that have. The reason why Paul made this distinction was so that the Romans would understand that everyone falls under the same criteria of judgment. Jesus as the executor of God’s plan of salvation has been given the authority to determine what the will of God is when it comes to acts of faith. Paul emphasized this point when he declared, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

In addition to the free gift of salvation, there are additional benefits that believers may receive as a result of their acts of faith. Speaking of the foundation he had laid by preaching the gospel, Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Paul basically told the Romans believers to mind their own business when he stated, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10, NKJV).

Unbelievers that think they can escape God’s judgment by denying Jesus’ lordship over their lives might be surprised to find out that they will be held accountable for their acts of unbelief. Paul told the Romans, “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11-12). The Greek word Paul used that is translated confess, exomologeo (ex-om-ol-og-eh’-o) has to do with the public acknowledgment or confession of sins (G1843). When Paul stated that every one shall give an account of himself, he was talking about a verbal assent to the lordship of Jesus Christ, an acknowledgment that he died for everyone’s sins and his substitutionary death on the cross was rejected by unbelievers. In other words, unbelievers will eventually have to admit that they were wrong, lacking in faith by not acknowledging Jesus as their savior.