By Faith, People displayed Spiritual Stamina
35 Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38)
In these next four verses, we will hear of experiences of unnamed individuals who, by faith, endured terrible situations, displaying immense spiritual stamina regardless of the circumstances. First, “women received their dead, raised to life again.” In 2 Kings 4:18-37, we have an example of this very statement, in which the prophet Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite.
But not everything is roses all the time, as “other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection.” There are many scholars who attribute a story in the Maccabees to this verse, in which a mother witnessed the death and torture or her seven sons before being executed herself. As her final son was being told to recant or face the same death as his brothers, the mother stated, “Fear not this tormentor, but, being worthy of thy brethren, take thy death, that I may receive thee again in mercy with thy brethren.” In the end, they were all reunited in heaven.
“Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.” There are many believers, both in the Old Testament and New that experienced this treatment, from Joseph, Jeremiah, to Paul and even our Savior Jesus Christ. “They were stoned,” such as Stephen; “they were sawed in two,” such as Isaiah; “they died by the sword,” such as the many prophets and priests of the time of Elijah; “they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated,” such as Elijah during the time of Jezebel in 1 Kings 18:13.
The author, hearing and recalling the testimonies of these fellow believers, exclaims “the world was not worthy of them.” They lived in discomfort, “wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” And there are many other stories documented in our history books of Christians who suffered and died for the name of Christ, refusing to recant. Not only that, but there are believers today in our world who are experiencing extreme forms of persecution, are in hiding, are meeting in secret places for worship and fellowship, and are in prison.
What has enabled the past believers and the present believers today in those circumstances is their faith in God. Regardless of what they would be facing, all of it would be nothing in comparison to the glory and freedom in the presence of God in heaven forever. May we be inspired to follow their example, to live our lives with the same enduring faith, that despite the challenges and persecution we face, we will be found faithful to the end as they have. May we also lift up our brothers and sisters around the world who are experiencing such circumstances, that they will endure, and that through their testimony, lives would be changed through Christ.
Isaac De Guzman