Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.
And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.
If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.
Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,
even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."
Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter.
He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,
who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,
quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.
Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.
They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--
the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
"Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.
Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;
to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them,
because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned."
The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,
to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens."
The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
for our "God is a consuming fire."
Keep on loving each other as brothers.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.
We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.
I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.
I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
Greet all your leaders and all God's people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
Grace be with you all.