Hebrews 11:39-40 (NASB)

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:39-40‬ ‭

What is the “something better” mentioned in verse 40? And how are they made perfect in/with us?

  • Gremosa: a very good question.+1 Faith gives us the conviction that in God’s due time all who love him will “get the fulfillment of the promise.”- Hebrews 11:39, 40 Feb 26 '20 at 21:18
  • May I answer this (very good) question using a different translation? The church I attend is going through Hebrews chapter 11 and there are some insights from earlier verses that might have a bearing on your question. Unfortunately, I have to sign off for tonight and can't respond till Monday, but I don't have the NASB. Is that a problem?
    – Lesley
    Mar 1 '20 at 17:46
  • Hi Lesley! You can definitely use another translation, not a problem at all! Take your time, I am excited to read your thoughts :).
    – Gremosa
    Mar 3 '20 at 2:13
  • @Lesley did you want to share some thoughts?
    – Gremosa
    Mar 8 '20 at 2:28
  • Oh, I'm so sorry I didn't respond sooner. Events have overtaken me and I've been unable to answer any questions this week on Stack Exchange. I will do my best to put something together early this coming week. Thanks for your patience.
    – Lesley
    Mar 8 '20 at 17:20

Over the last three weeks the evangelical church I attend has been going through Hebrews chapter 11. The Edinburgh Preaching Group has sent us three speakers but, alas, yesterday’s sermon did not get as far as Hebrews 11:39-40. However, the preacher did briefly speak about “the something better” promised in verse 40. The Authorised Version puts it this way:

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Question 1: What is the “something better”? The Old Testament saints were still living by faith when they died. Although they did not live to receive the things promised, they were longing for a better country, “knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:34). Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant God would instigate (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and this is the “something better” of Hebrews 11:40.

Hebrews 12:1-2 expands on the theme of perseverance and endurance as believers fix their eyes on Jesus who is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God; “Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24).

The better thing God has provided (Authorised Version) refers to the new covenant realities of the superior Son of God with his superior priesthood. The future culmination of God’s plans for his people results in the eternal perfection of the faithful.

Question 2: How are they made perfect in/with us?‬‬‬‬ Speaking of the Levitical priesthood (in Hebrews 7:11), perfection here does not mean flawless, but means reaching a desired goal.

The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God... By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament [or covenant] (Hebrews 7:19, 22 AV).

The priesthood under the old covenant could not achieve all that God had intended for a covenant relationship with his people. The desired goal was realised in Christ, the mediator of this new covenant and our High Priest, “the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (Hebrews 7:28).

The NASB and the ESV both use the expression “apart from us” whereas the AV says “without us”. Here is the ESV comment on Hebrews 11:40:

The perfection of believers is the goal, accomplished through the work of the perfect Son of God. The Old Testament saints, along with those of this era, will partake together of the same end-times perfection – sinless selves in deathless, resurrection bodies.

I think this may be the most succinct explanation of Hebrews 11:40 anyone is likely to find!

My personal view is that whilst aspiring to perfection, none of us shall attain perfection this side of heaven, but for all believers, both past, present and future, who maintained faith in God's promises, perfection will be realised because of what He has done.

  • 1
    this was so helpful and well-written, thank you! The “something better” is perfection in Christ, which will be realized IN US one day. Thanks for taking the time to share!!
    – Gremosa
    Mar 16 '20 at 1:18

By so much Jesus has also become the surety of a better covenant.

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry inasmuch as He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted upon better promises.

It was necessary therefore for the examples of the things in the heavens to be purified by these, but the heavenly things themselves, by better sacrifices than these.

But as it is, they long after a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Women received their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured to death, not accepting deliverance, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.

Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant...

Heb 7:22; 8:6; 9:23; 11:16, 35; 12:24. And I believe, by the same author:

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our admonition, unto whom the ends of the ages have come.

1 Cor 10:11. The "something better" sounds like the new covenant, the new testament. Which is much better. Superior. Because the law of life is inscribed into our being, namely Christ Himself, the Triune God, comes into us and mingles with us.

Mt 11:11 Truly I say to you, Among those born of women there has not arisen one greater than John the Baptist, yet he who is least in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he.

This "better" and "greater" are not because we New Testament believers are so wonderful, but because He is. And He's come as the reality of all the Old Testament, old covenant, shadows; working Himself into us rather than just giving us laws in letters or ceremonies. Then that's how the Old Testament saints are completed, perfected. Because someone else, the succeeding group, He fulfilled His original, eternal, purpose with; they, the New Testament overcomers (cf Rv2--3) will break through.

The mystery which has been hidden from the ages and from the generations but now has been manifested to His saints; to whom God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, whom we announce, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man full-grown in Christ; for which also I labor, struggling according to His operation which operates in me in power. I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those in Laodicea, even all who have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love and unto all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, unto the full knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. This I say that no one may delude you with persuasive speech. For even though I am absent in the flesh, yet in the spirit I am with you, rejoicing and seeing your order and the solid basis of your faith in Christ. As therefore you have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, having been rooted and being built up in Him, and being established in the faith even as you were taught,

  • 'Comes into us and mingles with us'. Which scripture is prompting you to use this expression, may I ask ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 27 '20 at 6:53
  • He breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him. Become partakers of the divine nature. If indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Yet if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.
    – Walter S
    Feb 27 '20 at 8:50
  • Thank you. So, Christ is 'formed within', as Paul states in Galatians, and this is through faith and through the presence of the Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, by a new birth, a begetting of the Father. And the word 'mingles', precisely ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 27 '20 at 8:54
  • That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. It is Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). Do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are disapproved? (1 Cor 13:5). We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us. (The word "mingling" in the typology in Lev 2:4) When you present an offering of a meal offering baked in the oven, it shall be of fine flour, unleavened cakes mingled with oil or...wafers anointed with oil. Drink one Spirit (1 Cor 12:13)
    – Walter S
    Feb 27 '20 at 9:01
  • 1
    Union of spirit is not 'mingling'. It is a union. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17. You are quoting, in your answers and comments, multiple texts without definition.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 27 '20 at 10:39

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