Question: "What does it mean that the worlds were framed by the word of God (Hebrews 11:3)?"
Answer: Faith is the undeniable theme of Hebrews 11. As Christians, we are called to live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Building on his previous teaching about the necessity of faith to endure (Hebrews 10:39), the author begins the chapter by describing the nature and quality of faith (Hebrews 11:1–3). One foundational quality of faith is a firm conviction about invisible, non-tangible realities. For example, one must have faith to believe God created the world out of nothing: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3, NKJV).
Not only did God form the entire world and everything in it from nothing (Romans 4:17), but He did it by merely speaking. He commanded all things into existence, forming and shaping them through His authoritative, creative word. Seventeenth-century Bible translators penned, “The worlds were framed by the word of God” (KJV). In the original language, the term translated as “worlds” speaks of “everything that exists anywhere.” Framed means “created, furnished, equipped, and prepared for a use or purpose.”
Genesis 1 also tells us that out of nothing the worlds were framed by the word of God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty” (verses 1–2, NLT). Then God began commanding, “Let there be light,” and there was light (verse 3). Day after day, for six days, God opened His mouth and outfitted the entire universe for His purposes. He called into existence the land and sky, all living things, humans, animals, plants, the oceans and all the life they contain, the stars, planets, galaxies, and everything to the furthest reaches of creation.
In its original sense, the term worlds represents more than just the physical realm. It also expresses the idea of “ages.” God has ordained different ages throughout history: creation, the days of Noah and the flood, the time of the patriarchs, the wilderness wanderings, the era of judges, kings, and prophets, the church age, the end times, the millennial kingdom, the new heavens and earth, and the consummation of all things in Jesus Christ.
If we have faith that the worlds were framed by the word of God, then we can trust God in everything concerning His Word—that He has a purpose and plan for all things taking place on this earth and in every age, past, present, and future (Isaiah 46:10–11; Ephesians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:9; Ecclesiastes 3:11). “The Lord has made everything for his own purposes,” declares Proverbs 16:4 (NLT). We can know that the Lord’s purposes are good and loving because His Word says He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT).
Faith that acknowledges the worlds were framed by the word of God is the kind of faith that recognizes God’s unlimited power. The God who created everything from nothing is all-powerful. He reveals Himself and His incredible might through His creation: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (Romans 1:20, NLT). Nothing can stop God’s plans, and nothing is impossible or too hard for Him to do (Genesis 18:14; Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:27; Luke 1:37). The same can be said of God’s Word, which never fails to accomplish its purpose (Isaiah 55:11). God’s Word is “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT).
In saying, “The worlds were framed by the word of God,” the writer of Hebrews conveys the essence of true biblical faith: trust in God and obedience to His Word no matter the circumstances or consequences. If God said it, we believe it, even if our eyes can’t see it (Hebrews 11:1). This is how faith operates: “We don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT). We fix our gaze on Jesus, “the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT), and the trustworthy promises in God’s Word (see Psalm 119:16; Isaiah 40:8; Proverbs 30:5; Numbers 23:19) despite what we see with our physical eyes.