The Ancient Worthies

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: … God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” —Hebrews 11:1,2,39,40

IN THE eleventh chapter of Hebrews we have an account of the deeds of some of the “heroes of faith” who lived in past ages. Faith is the foundation requisite that leads to God. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God in any age. We know that no work is acceptable to God unaccompanied by faith. According to Scripture, between creation and today there are two groups of men and women who have exercised supreme faith in God. Both of these groups are well-pleasing to the Heavenly Father. Both will be highly rewarded for their faith and their faithfulness.

One of these groups existed before Pentecost. They are known as the Ancient Worthies. The other has existed since Pentecost. They are known as the church of God. Christendom is almost entirely ignorant of the division of these two groups. The Ancient Worthies is a “truth” subject; others not in the truth know very little about them. An appreciation of the Ancient Worthies and their reward is peculiar to those who understand the important doctrine of the ransom, the philosophy of the ransom and the application of the merit of the ransom.

Let us consider the Ancient Worthies. These saints of the Old Testament, these holy and consecrated men and women who lived and died before the days of the spiritual seed; these Ancient Worthies whose experiences of faith help us in our faith, in our providences; these men of God, some of whom are referred to in II Peter 1:21 as “holy men of God who spake and wrote as they were moved by the Spirit of God,” are a grand example for us.

The first of the Ancient Worthies was Abel. The last was John the Baptist. Certainly John the Baptist was an Ancient Worthy, for the “Law and the prophets were until John,” the Master said; and in Hebrews we are told that the prophets are included among the Ancient Worthies.—Heb. 11:32

The church is composed of men and women. So also are the Ancient Worthies—Rahab, Sarah, the Shunammite woman, Moses’ mother, are some of the women. Hebrew 11:23 reads, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the King’s commandment.” Thus we know that Moses’ mother and father both were Ancient Worthies. We also know that the prayers of the Ancient Worthies were heard by God. There were many nominal believers then, just as there are many nominal believers now. There were relatively few faithful then, and there are comparatively few faithful today. From Abel to John the Baptist the Ancient worthies were God’s faithful of that period, as the faithful of the Gospel church of Christ have been from Pentecost until their glorification.

We do not know how many Ancient Worthies were faithful in those days. Their number has not been recorded. Hebrews, eleventh chapter, names twenty to thirty persons while alluding to others. But this is only a summary.

Paul says time would fail him to name them all. From Hebrews 11:32-38 we must conclude that the number will be large, certainly large enough to do their assigned work, which will be to administer the New Covenant throughout all the earth as the earthly representatives of the Mediator of the New Covenant. That will be their work and it will be given to no one else. The kingdom work will be vast. Billions of people all over the earth will have to be dealt with. So it seems that the Ancient Worthies will have to be a large class to accomplish their duties.

One of the reasons an understanding of the Ancient Worthies is important is that without a knowledge of God’s dealing with this group one cannot understand the divine plan of the ages in its fullness. Even the reward of the Ancient Worthies is related to an understanding of other doctrines. No wonder the nominal church is confused. The Master said that in his time “no man hath ascended into heaven.” Where, then, were these faithful ones? We are not at a loss. We know where they are, and how God will raise them from the sleep of death and reward them.

Some of the Ancient Worthies were tried more than we have ever been. But the Lord guided them and gave them strength to endure. So this is another lesson for us. He has promised to give strength. His arm is not shortened. His promises are as sure to us now as they were then. Faith is necessary to make our call and election sure. We can hardly speak of faith without referring to these examples of faith. They stimulate our faith. Daniel is but one example. Do we “dare to be a Daniel”? His experience should be a source of our spiritual courage, and we need courage every day.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”—Heb. 12:1-3

The knowledge of God’s dealings with the Ancient Worthies should be a real inspiration to us, even as is the life of Jesus. Their lives describe faith in action. Let us learn from them. May our lives also demonstrate faith in action. Psalm 22:4 reads: “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.” May this assurance be ours today! For remember, the arm of the Lord is not shortened.

There are many pictures in the Bible that show a close and beautiful association and communion between the church and the Ancient Worthies during the Millennial Age. Jacob’s ladder dream is one of these. Genesis 28:10-15 tells of the dream and of the angels ascending and descending. You know the story. You can make the application. It is a beautiful one, isn’t it? The close association of David and Jonathan may also picture this close relationship.

Isaiah 32:1 reads: “A king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” Do not pass over this text quickly. The Christ is the King upon the throne. The Ancient Worthies are “princes in all the earth.” This text emphasizes their close co-operation in the work of the day of judgment.

Again, Psalm 45:16: “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” Here we are taught that the Ancient Worthies will be the children of the Christ. Again this shows a close and beautiful relationship in the work and in the family of God.

There has been discussion among Bible students as to whether the Ancient Worthies will have their faith further tested during the future Millennial Age. Let us look at some scriptures that bear on this point. First, of course, we have Hebrew 11:39,40: “And these all, having obtained [past tense] a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

Also, in Hebrews 12:23 we have a text which we believe refers to the Ancient Worthies as “just men, made perfect.” They were justified to friendship with God, and therefore, may be described as “just men.”

In Acts 24:15 we read of the “resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” The Ancient Worthies are spoken of as just. This separation is also made in John 5:28,29 where we read, “They that have done good unto resurrection of life: and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment,” or trial, testing.

The Ancient Worthies certainly “did good.” We cannot put them in the class who “did evil” and who will come up through judgments, can we? “They that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life,” says Jesus. Surely this includes the Ancient Worthies.

Revelation 11:18 is interesting: “And the time of the dead that they should be judged and that thou shouldst give reward unto thy servants the prophets and to the saints and them that fear thy name.” Here the reward for doing good is mentioned.

Then there are Luke 14:14, Matthew 16:27, and others. All these texts would seem to teach that the Ancient Worthies have passed their test; that they were faithful until their death. Certainly they were tried under severe circumstances. That is why we call them the Ancient Worthies, because they are worthy. Of course, they will go through the test at the end of the Millennial Age even though their judgment day is past.

Here is another Ancient Worthy text: Luke 13:28: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” Verse 29: “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.”

The unfaithful nominal house of the Jewish nation of Israel, like the unfaithful leaders of today, will give place to the Ancient Worthies in the Kingdom. But note, the Ancient Worthies will be “in the kingdom of God.” This emphasizes again the close association of the church with the Ancient Worthies. They will be “in” the kingdom; that is, as a part of the administration of the kingdom; as associates rather than as the subjects of the kingdom such as those who come from the east and west and north and south. We also read of these that they sit down in the kingdom of God.

And here is another text, familiar to us all,—Acts 15:16,17. Here we are told of the re-establishing of the house of David as the reigning house. As “princes” in all the earth, the Ancient Worthies are a part of the reigning house. Verse 17 speaks of the “residue of men” who may seek after the Lord.

A question often asked is, “Will the Ancient Worthies need a mediator during the millennial reign?” Of course we know that the Heavenly Father has placed the administration of the kingdom in the hands of the Mediator; that is, in the hands of the Christ, Head and body.

The work of the mediatorial reign will be to bring man into harmony with God,—Jew and Gentile. The Ancient Worthies will be instrumental in this. They will be “in” the kingdom, in its administration. In answer to the question, we say they will not need a Mediator but they will be under the Mediator as earthly representatives, responsible to the Mediator and under the supervision of the Mediator. Even so, none will have direct access to God, even though perfect men, expect through the Mediator, until the kingdom is handed over to God at the very end of the little season following the Millennial Age.

What about Samson? In the last act of his life he destroyed thousands of persons. No, Samson was not perfect, but neither was David, nor any of the others. Neither are we. But God dealt with Samson, and we know he is one of the Ancient Worthies. We know, that is, that “he pleased God.” We know, therefore, he was a “man of faith,” for without faith it is impossible to please God. For many years he was a faithful judge. So from this standpoint we should respect him. He received a good report from God.

Regarding those slain when he died, remember that Samson did not slay them. It was the Lord who gave him strength, and the Lord would not have done so unless it was his will. A realization of this should temper our attitude toward Samson. Read the account in Judges, chapters 13 to 17. Also, remember that the Philistines were engaged in an orgy of idolatry to Dagon at the time of their destruction. Idolatry and making sport of an Ancient Worthy caused God to destroy them.

Think of the role these men will play as visible representatives of the kingdom; as “princes in all the earth.” In the exercise of the power and authority of their office they will assist the Christ in the noble work of elevating the human race. Isaiah 1:25-27 reads, “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.”

Connect verse 26, “Thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city” with Revelation 21:2, “The holy city coming down from God,” and with “the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” because these texts combine to show the two phases of the kingdom. Remember Isaiah 32:1, “Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” Judges, counsellors, administrators, educators, turning many to righteousness; having power to read motives and intents of the heart, closely associated with the Mediator and the result: Psalm 45:17, “Therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.”

Under what covenant do the Ancient Worthies receive life? The New Covenant is the only source of everlasting human life. So we conclude that they receive life under the New Covenant even though they assist in its administration. This conclusion is supported by the text, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children,” which proves that the Ancient Worthies are the children of Christ and the church and, therefore, children of the New Covenant.

Certainly we know of no scripture that gives a heavenly hope to the Ancient Worthies. Hebrews 11:9,10,13-16 reads, “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. … These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”

Abraham looked for a city. That is, he looked forward to that city, the New Jerusalem, the church. For until the church class is complete, Abraham could not have the blessing of the kingdom. Verses 13 to 16 tell us that these worthy ones saw the fulfillment of the promises “afar off”; that is, beyond their lifetime. None of the Ancient Worthies were in harmony with the evil order in which they lived. They were pilgrims and strangers, “of whom the world was not worthy.” But they wanted a country ruled from heaven, and God has provided that country; has promised that kingdom through the heavenly millennial mediatorial reign of Christ and the church: “They without us should not be made perfect.” “Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad.” Jesus said these words. What did he mean? What and when is Christ’s day?

Another interesting correlation of texts is found in I Peter 1:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” or as the margin says, “for us.” And verses 10 to 12, “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” Certainly they did not expect a heavenly reward.

Our Master said concerning John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, and therefore an Ancient Worthy, “The least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.” How long will this text remain true? Our Master gave it no time limit.

I Corinthians 15:37,38: “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” They are not begotten and developed as is the spiritual seed. Psalm 112:5,6: “A good man showeth favor, … he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will not be removed for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.”

The Ancient Worthies, like the rest of perfect humanity, no doubt, will be more than satisfied with their reward. Even after the Millennial Age, yea forever, the earth will need administrators, and this is the reward of these faith heroes, these men of old, these princes in all the earth, according to any promises we can find in the Bible.

Hebrews 12:1: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Let us consider these Ancient Worthies—how they demonstrated their loyalty; how they proved their devotion—so that we also may endure in faith and devotion, and receive our reward, rejoicing in the privilege of having associated with us these princes “in the kingdom of God.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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