“What is the promise the writer is talking about in Hebrews 11:39?”
“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”
God “promised” the Old Testament saints mentioned here a Savior (Jer. 33:14,15; Acts 13:23) that they didn’t live to receive (Luke 10:24). He also “promised” them eternal life in the kingdom of heaven on earth (James 2:5), a kingdom in which He “promised” to save them from their enemies (Luke 1:71,72), which amounted to a “promise” of rest (Heb. 4:1). He also “promised” the people of Israel the land of Israel (Deut. 19:8; Acts 7:5), from which He promised they would rule “the world” in the millennial kingdom (Rom. 4:13; Rev. 5:10) and then in the new earth (2 Pet. 3:13).
All those Hebrews 11 heroes of faith died “not having received the promises” (11:13) plural. But when verse 39 says they “received not the promise” (singular), we know the specific “promise” must be that of the resurrection (cf. Acts 26:6-8), for the next verse says:
“God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (v. 40).
The Lord was “made perfect” when He rose from the dead (Heb. 5:8,9). And while the “spirits” of those Old Testament saints have already been “made perfect” (Heb. 12:23), their bodies won’t be made perfect and reunited with their perfected spirits until the resurrection. The writer of Hebrews says that it was “better” for him and his fellow New Testament Hebrew saints that the resurrection hadn’t taken place back in Old Testament times without them.
Aren’t you glad the Lord waited to raise the saints of this dispensation until you got saved?
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.