There is a curious difference between modern and ancient views of the Christian life. Today we emphasize the New Birth; the ancients emphasized being faithful to the end. We moderns talk of wholeness and purposeful living; they spoke of the glories of the eternal kingdom.

This is not to say the early saints ignored initial conversion, nor does it mean that we today have forgotten about the eternal kingdom. But the emphasis in our attention has shifted from the completing of the Christian life to the beginning of it.

The heroes in modern evangelicalism are contemporary Christians: the famous pastors, authors, evangelists, Bible teachers—or born-again athletes and politicians who are in the limelight with stirring testimonies of dramatic conversions. But in days gone by, it was those who had finished the course, those who—living still, to be sure—had gone on to glory, who were counted as heroes of the faith. The classical biblical passage describing how the early church viewed its heroes is Hebrews 12:1–2. Note the sense of the presence of both these mortals and their immortal Savior:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (all Scripture references quoted are from the NASB).

Also, recall that in Hebrews 11, no contemporary believers are singled out for accolades. Everyone in that august assembly had completed the earthly pilgrimage in faithful holiness and had been enrolled ...

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