“FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, AND THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN.” —- HEBREWS 11:1
For anyone who calls themselves a Christian, the concept of “FAITH” is known to be the cornerstone of their religious beliefs. Advocates of every Christian denomination from the Catholic Church to the Jehovah’s Witnesses will all agree on one major point, one must believe on the name of Jesus Christ in order to obtain salvation.
DOES THE BIBLE ENCOURAGE UNQUESTIONED BELIEF?
The purpose of this article is to explore the very meaning of faith in the context of the scriptures. This word is probably used more than any other from the pulpits of the world’s churches. Does the biblical definition of “Faith” agree with the literal definition of the word in our dictionaries? Let us examine this. According to the Webster Dictionary, the definition of “Faith” goes as follows. “Belief without proof, a confidence, or reliance.” Sadly, for all of us, our faith is often ruled by our built in biases and our trust in the views of people we have great confidence in. Whether it be our views on politics, religion, or any other issue, we are in some way controlled by the environment that we have been brought up in.
More often than not, Christian teachers seem to advocate a blind faith in the doctrines that they are advancing. This is not done through bad intentions mind you; it is brought about by a misunderstanding of “Faith” as mentioned in the Bible. To the skeptic there are many things in the Bible that seem pretty outrageous. For example, people living for nine hundred years or more, Noah’s flood, the opening of the Red Sea, in addition to almost all of Jesus’ miracles. In reply to those who question these things, many times a well-intentioned person might say “Some things just have to be taken on faith.” While advice like this might satisfy some, more educated people are likely to get little satisfaction from an answer like this. No reasonable person should be asked to believe something to be true without credible evidence.
“PROVE ALL THINGS” —-1 THESSELONIANS 5:21
As can be seen by the Apostle Paul’s statement, we are NOT to have blind faith in anything. If this be the case why would he tell us to “Prove all things?” This simple instruction says a great deal as to the character of Paul, as well as his confidence that the scriptures are the inspired word of God. For if the early Christian’s were attempting to advance some sort of fraud, they certainly wouldn’t urge people to question them. If one is advancing dishonest teachings, would it not be far more likely that they would say “We have been given all authority from Heaven, you must take our word for it!” Thankfully this is not what the Apostle Paul does. He instead urges all followers of Christ to “PROVE ALL THINGS.”
“THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR” —-HEBREWS 11:1
In the scripture passage at the very top of the page the Apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews gives the Biblical definition of the word faith. In Hebrews the 11th chapter, we are told that there are two separate aspects to Christian faith. The first is probably the easiest for most of us to understand. Paul declares that faith is “The substance of things hoped for.” It is fair to say that all Christian’s have this aspect of faith. For we all hope for the wonderful promises in the Bible. Do not all believers desire eternal life, and the establishment of God’s Kingdom, whether it be in Heaven or on the earth? Surely we all long for the day when “Death is swallowed up forever,” (Isaiah 25:8) and the time when “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (Isaiah 35:5) We all long for the day in which all crying and sorrow passes away forever. (Revelation 21:1)
These “exceeding great and precious promises” as mentioned by the Apostle Peter, are the desire of all who truly love the Lord. There may be a wide variety of opinions as to what these promises really consist of, still, in one way or another, everyone professing faith in Christ clings to the precious promises in the Bible.
“THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN” —-HEBREWS 11:1
Here is where the definition of “Faith” gets more complicated. While we might believe in God through blind faith, Paul tells us that there is verifiable evidence of his existence. Where can we find this evidence? We answer, all through the Holy Bible from Genesis to Revelation! These proofs come in the form of fulfilled prophecies from thousands of years ago. They come from a full understanding of the concept of biblical types and anti-types, as well as chronological events occurring at the precise period of time forecasted in the scriptures. There is even advanced scientific information offered in the Bible that was not known to the scientific community until many centuries after the ancient book was written.
Throughout the Old Testament the Jewish people looked for a promised deliverer which they referred to as the “Messiah.” This deliverer was going to be sent by God to rescue their nation from the wrath of their enemies. In addition to this, Messiah was to set up the long promised Kingdom of God upon the earth. Time after time in scripture the Jewish people are said to come into periods of favor and, later, periods of disfavor in the eyes of God. When they were in favor, the nation greatly prospered as they did under the glorious reign of King Solomon. Sadly, this people would fall into activity that was displeasing to God. These included paying homage to pagan gods and an overall failure to obey the laws that God ordered them to observe. As a result of this, the people were sent into various captivities.
While the Israelites longed for the arrival of the promised deliverer, Old Testament prophecy foretold that when the Messiah came, they would not only reject him but also kill him! Daniel 9:26 tells us that the Messiah would be “cut off but not for himself.” Zech 11:12 proclaims that he would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Isaiah 53:8-9, 11 says that he would be “righteous” and free from “deceit,” “violence,” or any other crime worthy of death. According to the New Testament gospels, Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Isaiah 53:12 says that he would be “Numbered with the transgressors.”
In addition to the foretold rejection of the Messiah by his own people, the scriptures predicted that he would be a “light to lighten the Gentiles, (Isaiah 49:6) and in Jeremiah 16:19 that the Gentiles would come to him “from the ends of the earth.” Malachi 1:11 proclaims that his name “shall be great among the Gentiles.” Jesus’ crucifixion was predicted in careful detail in Psalm 22 even describing the scientific details of what happens to a human body during crucifixion! (Psalm 22:14-18) Keep in mind that the book of Psalms was written hundreds of years before crucifixion was ever used as a method of execution!
Many other prophecies have been fulfilled pertaining to the nation of Israel. Jeremiah the 16th chapter appears to be a prediction regarding the Jewish persecution at the hands of Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany. Verse four tells us that “They shall die gruesome deaths, they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth.” In addition to the predicted persecutions of the Jews, their ultimate deliverance is also foretold in scripture. We are told that the nation of Israel would ultimately be restored to never again be uprooted. Zechariah 14:16; Amos 9:13; Daniel 12:1 and many more!
TYPES AND ANTI – TYPES
There are numerous precious truths in the scriptures that serve to strengthen our faith when we obtain a proper understanding of them. Among these is the concept of types and anti-types.
The book of Hebrews describes in detail the various meanings of the animal sacrifices offered by the Jewish people in the Old Testament, as well as the greater meaning of these acts of faith. The “type” being the original act and the “anti-type” being the later more significant fulfillment of the event. One of the greatest examples of types and anti-types is the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. Abraham here is clearly a type of Jehovah, the God of the universe. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is a type of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her giving birth miraculously to Isaac years past her child bearing time is a picture of Mary giving birth to Jesus, the world’s Messiah, through the miraculous virgin birth. Isaac, Abraham’s only child conceived by Sarah, is clearly representing Christ in his role as God’s only begotten Son.
Abraham’s offering of his beloved son on the alter is a picture of our God’s love for all mankind. In this test of Abraham’s faith, God ordered him to take his beloved son to an altar, bind him, kill him, and make him a burnt offering as a sacrifice. At first this seems like a barbaric concept that a God, who claims to be a God of love, would ask someone to do something so terrible. There is no doubt that this would be the case had Abraham been permitted to carry out this deed. We are told in Genesis 22:12 that an angel of the Lord prevented Abraham from killing Isaac at the very last minute.
In a sense, the test placed upon Abraham’s faith was a way for God to know that his creation was capable of loving him as much as he loves us. Verse 16 reads “By myself I have sworn says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your ONLY SON, (17) in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. (18) IN YOUR SEED ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED BECAUSE YOU HAVE OBEYED MY VOICE.”
Clearly the more significant meaning here is the later reality of Jehovah offering up his ONLY begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the “One sacrifice for sins forever” (Hebrews 3:12-14) Isaac was the type and Jesus was the anti-type.
There are many of these examples in the scriptures. Moses, in leading the Jewish people out of Egypt and eventually their entry into the Promised Land, is an illustration of Jesus leading the entire world into the greater Promised Land, the Kingdom of God. (Isaiah 25th and 35th, chapters) Pharaoh’s army being destroyed in the Red Sea is a grand illustration of Satan and his followers being destroyed at the end of the 1,000 year day of judgment mentioned in Revelation 20:7-10. Following Satan’s destruction the world will be led into the greater Promised Land, the “New heaven, and the new earth” promised in Revelation 21:1. Adam the first man to be created is a type of Christ. He is referred to by the Apostle Paul as “the first Adam.” Christ Jesus is called the “second Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45. The first Adam was created perfect and remained perfect without sin until his fall as mentioned in Genesis. Jesus was sent to earth by his heavenly Father as a perfect man. Unlike Adam, Jesus overcame the various temptations of Satan and gave his life as a ransom for ALL mankind. (1 Timothy 2:4-6) We are told in 1st Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ, ALL shall be made alive.”
The various ceremonies mentioned in the old testament of scripture relating to the Tabernacle in the wilderness are wonderful illustrations of future greater meanings. One of the more obvious examples was the lifting up of the serpent upon a pole, which represented Christ being lifted up on the cross as a propitiation for the sins of the world. (John 3:14)
Other examples of types and anti-types include Jerusalem picturing the heavenly city. The “Day of Atonement” picturing the gospel age and the call to God’s “little flock” and their chance to partake in the “exceeding great and precious promises” mentioned in 2nd Peter 1-4. Fleshly Israel is a type of spiritual Israel which began at Jesus’ first advent. The literal nation of Babylon represented the later spiritual Babylon (confusion) and the “falling away” from the true doctrines of scripture as mentioned by Paul in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4
These types and anti-types are a wonderful part of the “Evidence of things not seen” in Paul’s definition of “Faith.”
ARCHEOLOGY PROVES THE BIBLE’S ACCURACY
THE REMAINS OF SODOM AND GEMORRAH
For many centuries critics of the Bible have attempted to discredit it by claiming many of the people and places mentioned in the ancient book probably never existed. Time after time however, discoveries by archeologists in biblical regions have proven these critics wrong!
Abraham in the book of Genesis is said to have existed in the city of Ur. Higher critics claimed for years that this biblical place was fictional. That was until archeologist Leonard Wooley (1880-1960) discovered Ur as the result of a dig in southern Iraq in 1922. Ur appears to have been a thriving city dating back to around 2,500 BC.
On numerous occasions in the Old Testament the Israelites were scolded by God for becoming involved with the gods of other nations. Archeological finds in the 20th century confirmed the very existence of these pagan objects of worship. Stone tablets, statues, figurines, and other items confirm the fact that the Canaanites indeed, worshiped the likes of Baal, Asherot, Elat, Asherah, and many other “gods.” Once again the discovery of these items confirms the historical accuracy of the Bible.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ was condemned to death by the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Skeptics of the Bible claimed that there was simply no historical proof that Pilate governed in the region. That was until an ancient inscription mentioning him was found that confirmed his presence at a Temple dedication ceremony at Caesarea, where he was present in the “honour of the Emperor Tiberius.”
The town of Capernaum appears to be a place where Jesus and his followers spent quite a bit of time. Capernaum is mentioned thirteen times in the New Testament. The ruins of Capernaum were discovered through archeological digs in the 1900’s. The ruins of an early Christian church dating back to the 4th or 5th century was found in Capernaum, which was claimed to be built near the site of the Apostle Peter’s house! This and other finds in this area confirm that Capernaum was a popular gathering place for Jesus and his closest followers and later became a revered place for worship in the eyes of Christians in the centuries following Jesus’ death.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
No discovery excited historians more than the Dead Sea Scrolls which were found in the late 1940’s. Numerous ancient scrolls written by Jewish scholars were found in caves in an area known as Qumran. While some of the scrolls dealt with less important matters, it was the discovery of old testament books that turned the world of biblical archeology upside down! Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls there was little outside confirmation that the Bible was written in its complete form until some three hundred years after the death of Christ. Prophecies quoted by Jesus and his Apostles pertaining to the Messiah, his life and death, found in these ancient scrolls, offered even more evidence that the Bible is to be taken serious as a historical document and to the Christian one more bit of evidence confirming their faith that this book is indeed the word of the living God.
While not all of the places in the Bible have been discovered by archeology, numerous have been found. Included among these are the ruins of the Walls of Jericho, the Tower of Babel, Solomon’s pools, the Herodian castle, Sodom and Gemorrah, and many more. It is fair to say that not one discovery related to the events of the Bible has ever served to discredit the ancient book. Every single time that the Bible has been tested by actual physical evidence from the time of these events it has passed with flying colors!
SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE AGREE ON MANY POINTS!
“IT IS HE THAT SITS ABOVE
THE CIRCLE OF THE EARTH”
READ MORE ABOUT “SCIENCE AND CREATION” HERE*
Were you aware of the fact that the writers of the Old Testament understood that the world was round more than two thousand years before anyone else? For centuries it was believed that the earth was flat. Early explorers feared sailing their ships off the face of the earth if they traveled too far out to sea! Given this, open your Bible to the book of Isaiah 40:22. It is here that we are told that God sits above the “Circle of the earth!”
For many centuries after Christ’s earthly ministry people held to primitive explanations as to how the earth kept from falling through space! Greek mythology believed that the earth rested upon the back of the pagan god Atlas. Other cultures believed that our planet sat upon the back of a giant turtle! What does the Bible have to say about this? Job 26:7 correctly contends that the earth hangs upon nothing!
Since the late 1800’s and the emergence of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution there has been a great loss of confidence in the Bible as anything more than a book of fiction. While Bible scholars and evolutionists disagree on some issues, it is astounding as to how much advocates on both sides actually agree! How did Moses, the writer of the Book of Genesis, know the actual order for the development of life if God had not been guiding him? Does not the Bible and evolution agree as to the order of creation? Is it not the claim of both sides that the lower forms of life came first and that human beings arrived upon the scene last? Does not the Bible and modern science agree as to the chemical make-up of the human body (Genesis 2:7)? Biblical writers and men of science, such as the late Dr. Richard Leakey, agree as to the location of the cradle of civilization. According to science, the first humans dwelt in the area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. So does Genesis 2:14!
Most astronomers believe that our universe was started by the “big bang” theory. This is described by a sudden explosion that provided all of the necessary elements for the development of our universe. Would this not agree with the first verse of the Bible “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth?” (Genesis 1:1)
Many of the Bible’s greatest defenders have, through good intentions, looked foolish by trying to dispute the findings of science when there is no real need to do so. It is absurd to believe that God created everything in six literal twenty four hour days. This idea comes from a misunderstanding of the word used for “day” in Genesis. The word day as used in Genesis comes from the Hebrew word YOWM, #3117 in the Strong’s Concordance. While this word is used in scripture to describe a twenty four hour day, it is used in other places to describe an epoch, or longer period of time. For example “Noah’s day,” “The day of the Lord,” etc. It is our belief that the days of creation were periods of time or epochs. These creation days can be anywhere from thousands of years long to millions of years. Our only dispute with science is the length of time that MAN has been on the earth. Biblical believers have secular history on their side due to the fact that there no credible written history that dates beyond the time frame mentioned in the Bible. Consider this, if human beings lived on the earth for millions of years, why did it take them so long to start recording their history?
“WE WALK BY FAITH NOT BY SIGHT” —-2ND CORINTHIANS 5:7
When it comes to the subject of faith, no scripture is sighted more than 2nd Cor 5:7. Once again a misunderstanding as to the full meaning of the word “Faith” as described by the Apostle Paul has led many to conclude that Christians are to believe the supernatural aspects of the Bible without questioning them. Why did the Apostles and early Christians have such an unwavering faith? The answer is obvious; they were present and no doubt witnessed the miraculous deeds of Jesus and his followers. In addition to this they were anointed by the Holy Spirit to have a thorough understanding of Old Testament prophecy in regards to the Messiah.
Jesus time after time showed them that he was the promised deliverer. Not only by the miracles that he performed, but by the wisdom of his words. There was simply no reason for his followers to doubt him. They had been given the full package when it came to faith. For they not only had the “Substance of things hoped for” they also possessed the “Evidence of things not seen.”
In spite of seeing the awesome miracles that Jesus was able to perform, his closest brethren confessed through the scriptures to having had less than perfect faith. One of the best examples is the account of Jesus and his Apostles encountering a fierce storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). In the midst of large waves tossing them wildly over the water, they were terrified. To their bewilderment Jesus remained in a deep sleep at the back of the boat! They woke their master with the question “Do you not care that we are perishing?” With this our Lord cried out “Peace be still.” Immediately the wind ceased and the waters stilled. Jesus appeared to be somewhat astounded following this event as he asked of his followers “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
Another example of one lacking in the area of faith is the account of the Apostle Thomas and his refusal to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Thomas was not with the other Apostles when they saw the Lord after his resurrection. When he was told that they had been with the Lord, he refused to believe. “Unless I see his hands, the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 21:25) Eight days later Jesus appeared to Thomas and the others, and he got his opportunity to explore the Lord’s wounds.
One should keep in mind that Thomas had witnessed many of the miracles that Jesus performed over the three years of his ministry. He was likely there when Lazarus was raised from the dead, crippled people were made to walk, and blind men’s eyes were opened. In spite of this, he couldn’t bring himself to believe that his master had come back from the dead. Our Lord admonished Thomas for insisting that he had to see Jesus in his crucified body in order to believe. Jesus replied “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”
Our Lord is no doubt talking about those who did not see him after his resurrection and those who would in the future believe in him after he departed from the world. These were not going to see him or witness the kinds of miracles that his followers did during his time on the earth. Yet these would become overcomers based on faith alone.
“STUDY TO SHOW YOURSELF APPROVED” —-2ND TIMOTHY 2:15
How does one obtain the complete package of faith? This being both the “Substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen?” We are told in scripture that obtaining greater faith is a lifelong journey. This comes according to the Apostle Paul by deep study of the scriptures and by “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15) Through the guidance of God’s holy spirit his people can obtain a proper understanding of the Heavenly Father’s great plan for mankind. Christians are not expected to simply believe the promises in the Bible just because we are told they are so. God desires and expects us to use our minds to the best of our ability in order to comprehend the great love that he shows us. We are to “PROVE ALL THINGS.”
“AS LITTLE CHILDREN” —-MATTHEW 18:3
We know from the gospel accounts of Jesus’ time on earth that he took great joy from small children. Our Lord was drawn to the purity of heart still possessed by them. Small children tend to believe at face value that all is good. The faith of a child is strong because they have yet to become acquainted with the evil ways of the world. One can only imagine the scene of these children bringing joy to the Lord’s heart as he visited with them.
Jesus desired that all of his followers be of the same heart condition as the “little children.” He wanted our faith in God be as strong as that of the children. This of course does not mean that we should never question what we are told. For it is easy to convince an unsuspecting child of just about anything. For example, millions of children are taught that there is a Santa Claus that brings toys to them every Christmas. As they grow older and more educated they realize that Santa Claus is a fictional character.
Unlike a child’s belief in Santa Claus, our faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ has to be nurtured as we grow older. That said, there is only one real way to hold onto our faith and make it as strong as a child’s. We must study to show ourselves approved and we must always be able to give a reason for our hope. Our God is a God of reason. He does not expect us to believe in him based solely on wishful thinking.
“WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM.”
Faith is essential in our effort to please our creator. This complete package of faith is obtained through study, possessing the proper heart condition, and our desire to serve the Lord. Turn your Bible to the book of Hebrews 11:6. According to the Apostle Paul, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
It is essential that the new creature in Christ obtain spiritual food on a daily basis. If we do not regularly feed the new creature with study and service, our new spiritual bodies will surely starve to death.
*With the exception of the booklet “Science and Creation”, the Restitution Bible Students are in no way affiliated with the organizations whose articles we have linked to on this page. We do however, thank them for the many proofs provided confirming the accuracy of the Bible.