The Apostle Paul in Hebrews 11 tells of many faithful individuals who lived during Old Testament times. He cites such ones as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and others, who not only displayed much faith in God, but also demonstrated their faith by good works. God particularly took note of these heroes of faith because, as Paul says, they were “persuaded” by God’s promises, and looked forward to a “better country.” They “died in faith” believing that one day these promises, including the eventual blessing of all families of the earth, would come to fruition (Heb. 11:13-16; Gen. 28:14).
Because these faithful ones of old lived prior to Jesus’ first advent and the ensuing Christian Age, they were not offered the hope of a reward in heaven. Indeed, such a hope could not be made available to anyone until the ransom price had been “paid.” This price, the merit of Jesus’ sacrificed perfect human life, was represented symbolically by his shed blood. This was the only means by which one could become justified to sonship with God and have a heavenly hope. (Rom. 4:25; 5:9; 1 John 1:7) Thus, Paul says that although faithful, these worthy ones of old “received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us” (Heb. 11:39,40). The Apostle James spoke of faithful Abraham as a “Friend of God,” but not as a “son” (James 2:23). Jesus, when speaking of John the Baptist, who likewise died prior to Jesus providing of the blood of the ransom, said that the “least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11).
These Ancient Worthies, though not part of the heavenly phase of Christ’s kingdom, will be used as teachers and instructors of mankind in the earthly phase of that kingdom. The psalmist speaks prophetically of them as “princes in all the earth” (Psa. 45:16). The prophet Isaiah says they will be “judges” and “counsellors” of mankind (Isa. 1:26). Speaking of the kingdom, he continues: “Out of Zion [the heavenly phase, Christ and his church] shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [the earthly phase, administered by the Ancient Worthies]” (Isa. 2:3).