Endurance is a characteristic of God’s end-time people, without which they will not be able to receive the promises (Rev. 13:10; 14:12). In order to endure, however, believers need to “hold fast” their faith (Heb. 10:23; 4:14). Paul has shown that the desert generation was not able to receive the promise because they lacked faith (Heb. 3:19). Hebrews portrays believers as also being at the threshold of the fulfillment of the promises (Heb. 9:28; 10:25, 36–38) and needing to exercise faith if they want to receive those promises (Heb. 10:39).

Paul introduces his exposition on faith with a quotation from Habakkuk 2:2–4. Habakkuk had asked God why He tolerated the treacherous people who oppressed the righteous (Hab. 1:12–17). The prophet and his people were suffering; thus, they wanted God to act. God answered, however, that there was an appointed time for the fulfillment of His promise, and they needed to wait (Hab. 2:2–4). Habakkuk and his people lived, like us, between the time of the promise and the time of its fulfillment. God’s message continues in Hebrews, “He who is coming will come and will not delay” (Heb. 10:37, NIV; see also Hab. 2:3).

The message refers to Jesus. He is the Righteous One, the embodiment of faith who pleases God and provides life (Heb. 10:5–10).

Why, then, would He “delay”? He won’t. He has already come to die for us (Heb. 9:15–26), and He will surely come again at the appointed time (Heb. 9:27, 28; 10:25).

God’s message then continues: “My righteous one shall live by faith” (Heb. 10:38, ESV). Paul states the same in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. Romans 1:16, 17 is especially enlightening because it explains that the righteousness of God is “revealed from faith to faith.” What Paul means is that God’s faithfulness to His promises comes first, and His faithfulness produces, as its result, our faith and/or faithfulness. Thus, because God remains faithful to His promises (2 Tim. 2:13), the righteous, in response to God’s faithfulness, will remain faithful as well.

Hebrews defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1, NIV). Then it provides a list of faithful people from the history of Israel who exemplify what faith is, and it shows how they manifested that faith by their deeds.

Abraham is probably the most important character in this chapter. Abraham’s last act of faith is especially instructive regarding the true nature of faith.

Hebrews notes that God’s instruction to Abraham that he offer Isaac as a sacrifice seemed to imply a contradiction on God’s part (Heb. 11:17, 18). Isaac was not the only son of Abraham. Ishmael was the firstborn of Abraham, but God had told Abraham that it was all right for him to accept Sarah’s request and cast out Ishmael and his mother because God would take care of them, and also because Abraham’s offspring would be named through Isaac (Gen. 21:12, 13). In the next chapter, however, God asks Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God’s instruction in Genesis 22 seemed to flatly contradict God’s promises in Genesis 12–21.

Hebrews concludes that Abraham amazingly solved the conundrum by arriving at the conclusion that God would resurrect Isaac after he had offered him. This is amazing because no one had yet been resurrected. It seems, however, that Abraham’s previous experience with God led him to that conclusion. Hebrews 11:12 notes that Isaac was conceived by the power of God from one who was “as good as dead.” Paul also notes that, despite Abraham’s being “as good as dead” and Sarah barren, Abraham believed “in hope . . . against hope, that he should become the father of many nations” because he believed that God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17–20, ESV). Thus, Abraham must have assumed that if God in some sense had already given life to Isaac out of the dead, He could do it again. In God’s leading in the past, Abraham saw an intimation of what He could do in the future.