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THE ELEVENTH OF HEBREWS has been called "God's Westminster Abbey," in which He puts up monuments to the saints of the past. Rather, it is the heavenly amphitheater from which those who have gone before, the so great cloud of witnesses, are viewed as looking upon the race that you and I are running, down in the arena right now!
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us--
Notice first the distinction between "weight" and "sin." How runners strip themselves of every weight possible, wearing the lightest clothing, the lightest shoes!* Many a weight carrier who may eventually get to Heaven, will be passed on the way by those who have laid weights aside.
* Mr. Ridout well says here: "We often hear, alas, the question: What is the harm or the sin in my doing this or that thing; engaging in this business, or indulging in that pleasure? The question is answered just here. Is the thing a weight, or is it a wing? Is it that which speeds you on your course or does it hold you back? ... Weights are not necessarily external: they are first of all in the heart. Duties are never weights. But the moment a thing gets a place in my heart and mind which is not in God's mind for me, it becomes a weight, no matter what it is."
Now as to the sin which doth so easily beset us--some make this the flesh, which is with the believer, although he is not "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit," Who gives him the victory. Others regard the sin which so easily besets as unbelief, that terrible temptation which these Hebrew believers were ever beset with, of letting go heavenly things for an earthly worship. "Easily" is a Greek word often translated plausibly, and meaning literally, "well-standing, around." The sin easily besets us. One well says, "Let us never forget that; nor think for a moment that we can get in a position in which sin will not be natural to the flesh, or where we do not need to be on our guard. Sin is as natural to the flesh as it is for an animal to breathe. And the moment the eye is taken off Christ, you have the certainty of the sin besetting you."
Next we have, And let us run with patience the race that is set before us--This "patience" is illustrated in Abraham in Chapter 6:15: "And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise." God could take each believer up to Heaven as soon as he believes. But then all would be babes, would they not? God sets before each of us a course, a race. It is not carried on in Heaven, but here, where is only the wilderness, with its constant trials of faith, the patient endurance of which is the only way to perfecting. So indeed it was with the Lord Himself, Who was "made perfect through sufferings" (2:10), "learned obedience by the things which He suffered," and thus was "made perfect" (5:8-9).
Lay aside every weight, and the sin ... let us run with patience the race--First we have the preparation for the race, then the running. This running our course is in view, as we have said, of the great examples of faith of the preceding chapter. (How dare you or how dare I count ourselves exempt from this race? Christendom is full of professing Christians who are not running this race, but are weighted down, and have never even considered laying aside cares, riches, pleasures, and "lusts of other things," as our Lord puts it in Mk. 4:19--"weights," all of them. Let us not dare to be like these!) Paul said to the Ephesian elders, "I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course" (Acts 20:24).
And again, "Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air" (1 Cor. 9:24-26).
Later, writing from prison in Rome, he says he has not yet finished his course, but: "I am pressing on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus ... I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12-14).
And finally, just before Nero set his spirit free to go to be with Christ, which is "very far better," he writes, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown" (2 Tim. 4:7,8).
And now comes the great positive attitude in this conflict: Looking steadfastly on Jesus, the Leader and Completer of faith: Who, in view of the joy lying before Him, endured the Cross, having despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God! Our Lord is here made the Archegos, the Author and Captain or Perfecter of faith (not for all of "our faith," as the A.V. and also unfortunately the R. V. render, interpolating the word "our" which is not in the Greek). Jesus is the One Who Himself had perfect faith! Thayer well translates Archegos, "One who takes the lead in anything, and thus affords an example, a predecessor in the matter," adding of Christ, "Who in the pre-eminence of His faith far surpassed the examples commemorated in Chapter 11." Our directions here are, to look objectively at our Lord Jesus, the File-Leader of the column of believers, those who had perfect faith to look at Him just as objectively as we would look at Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, or any of the other great cloud of witnesses.
Mr. Darby's words are illuminative: "When looking at Jesus" (which is here enjoined as the positive engagement of the soul, laying aside being negative) "the new man is active; there is a new object, which unburdens and detaches us from every other by means of a new affection, which has its place in the new nature and in Jesus Himself, to Whom we look, there is a positive power which sets us free." And Grant: "To get on in the road is the way to escape entanglements and the need of a battle. Christ is the goal; and if our eyes are upon Him, we find at once the perfect example and the energy for the way."
Jesus endured the Cross, despising shame, to reach that place of eternal joy at the Father's right hand set before us as an example of faith. Even His enemies confessed, as they saw Him on the Cross, "He trusted on God!" What a wonderful thing, then, to be compassed about with so great a cloud of verse 9:witnesses as we find in Chapter 11! Yea, and to be among those witnesses ourselves, traveling through this wilderness, remembering always to look upon the great Chief Witness, the Archegos--the File-Leader of all who have trusted God--even upon Jesus!
* The Greek verb aphorao translated "looking unto" (Thayer) means, "to turn eyes away from other things, and fix them on something"--in this case, a Person. The meaning here is not to look to Him for help, but to consider Him.
The One leading the column of witnesses was He who in view of the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross--For Jesus knew--had set before Him by the Father, in all its Divine fullness, the reward, and that eternal, that awaited Him risen from the dead and re-entering the glory which He had with the Father. There was no joy in all eternity like that of our Lord's meeting the Father after Calvary--meeting His Father's infinite delight in His Son's absolute obedience--"unto death, yea, the death of the Cross"!
There is no joy like the accomplishment of a noble task: and of the noblest task of all eternity, Christ was to say, "I have finished it."
There is among us on earth no joy like that of rescuing a fellow-creature from ruin. But Christ had the joy set before Him of rescuing and redeeming from endless woe so many that He would "see the travail of His soul and be satisfied"!
There was no joy like that of lavishing His infinite love on those eternally lost and undone without it and Him: for, being God, He is Love: and now it became possible to let love freely out, fully and forever.
There was no joy like unselfish love receiving, without stint or limit, that love for which true love longs: "Only love seeks love, and only love satisfies love."
There was no joy like looking forward, after the ages of sin, to a New Creation, based on His sacrifice, "where righteousness is at home."
There is no earthly delight like that of doing the will of, perfectly pleasing, another to whom our will is properly subjected. How infinitely more with Christ, Who said: "I delight to do Thy will, O My God; Yea, Thy Law is within My heart."
And, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to accomplish His work." "The cup which the Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?"
The joy of being the means of letting out the heart of God toward His creatures was set before Christ! When He bare men's sins and put them away, then the mighty river of grace, pure grace, from the heart of God, Who delighteth in mercy, could pour forth! "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses." "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Or, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the Propitiation for our sins." Or, "We know and have believed the love which God hath in our case."
Finally, there is the joy of the Victor: "I also overcame, and sat down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21). God the Father eternally speaks to Him: "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity" ... "Thou didst resist unto blood, striving against sin." And now, "Judgment has returned unto righteousness, and all the upright in heart rejoice with Thee and with Me forever."
For consider Him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against Himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls: When this we do, our strength to endure is unconsciously recovered, just as it is in lesser measure when we contemplate any of the heroes of faith of the Bible or of history. MacArthur and Wainwright and their brave men, in their heroic stand in the Pacific, roused the patriotism of all lovers of liberty, and strengthened those who were beginning to wax weary ... in their souls. We are not instructed, when being chastened or in time of distress, to cry unto the Lord only--excellent as that is--but to run with patience the race set before us, considering constantly our Lord; to consider Him in His enduring! It is God's plan that we shall keep considering Him, follow His path in "the days of His flesh," study His attitude in every trial--for He had all the trials! Such contemplation will deliver us from fainting in our souls.
Then these believers are told, Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin: Your strife against sin has not entailed the shedding of your blood, as it did that of many of the Old Testament worthies, and of Jesus Himself! To "strive" here is literally, in the Greek, _antagonizing. In fact the two strongest words for conflict occur here in Hebrews 12:4 within five Greek words! Blessed is the man that has made no inner truce with sin! And ye have forgotten the exhortation which reasoneth with you as with sons.
* Striving against sin: "Sin is personified"--Vincent.
"The personification of sin is natural and common: Jas. 1:15; Rom. 6:12 ff. Sin is one, whether it show itself within, in the Christian himself (vs. 1), or without, as here, in his adversaries."--Westcott.
My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, Nor faint when Thou art reproved of Him; For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, And scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.
In these verses the Greek word for son is huios, adult-son, son come-of-age. Five times is this word used in verses 5-8!
(See the author's note on the Greek words tekna and huioi, in Romans Verse by Verse, p. 312-316.) Infants (Gr., tekna) we cannot reason with. Little children in the family may not understand the parents; but as they grow up and become adult-sons, huioi, it is our delight to see them entering into and hearkening to our parental counsels. Here in verse 5 the parental reasoning is called the exhortation, the word that characterizes the Hebrews epistle (13:22). Beautiful expression, the exhortation which reasoneth with you as with adult-sons!
Then we have the two attitudes toward God's dealing with us, which we must guard against: (a) regarding lightly His chastening hand; or (b) fainting: saying, "My trouble is greater than I can bear." (a) Many and many a believer, when God brings chastening, refuses to consider the matter as from God, forgetting that in His hand our breath is, and His are all our ways (Dan. 5:23), forgetting that nothing merely "happens" to us. Are you regarding lightly some chastening of His?
(b) Nor faint when thou art reproved of Him: We are told by the Spirit through Paul that "God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able" (1 Cor. 10:13); that "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28); that our Lord's "grace is sufficient" (2 Cor. 12:9).
And now look at the word "chasten." Mr. James McConkey emphasized the fact that the word for a child-at-school, or under discipline, the Greek word pais, is here formed into a verb, paideuo, which one may translate, as he does, to "child-train."
* This word in vs. 5, as well as the verb in vss. 5, 7, 8; and 6, 7, 9, 10, indicates a child in relation to parents, from infancy to young manhood. Springing from this word are:
Paideia, meaning education, training and nurture of children (Eph. 6:4); instruction, discipline (2 Tim. 3:16); and here in Hebrews, corrective chastisement: Ch. 12:5, 7, 8, 11.
Paideuo (12:5-13) to give admonition, training, chastening. This verb is frequently used: 2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 2:12; 1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 6:9. See Rev. 3:19: "As many as I love, I reprove and chasten": the very words of Heb. 12:5, and vs. 6: Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.
It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? Alford says, It is "not for punishment, not for any evil purpose. You are beneath the attention and affectionate superintendence of the Father." (So, if a real son!)
But if ye are without chastening, whereof all (sons) have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons of chastening and its place, note here beloved King David's treatment of Adonijah, the son who rose up to kill his father: it is written, "His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?" No chastening, ever!* (1 Kings 1:5-6.) But from another son of David, Solomon, to whom God gave wisdom concerning human life as to no other man, we quote from his Book of Proverbs as follows: and how we beseech parents to read these passages! In these wretched days, when children are not chastened, hear what God says:
"He that spareth his rod hateth his son; But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Prov. 13:24).
"Chasten thy son, seeing there is hope; And set not thy heart on his destruction" (19:18).
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (22:15).
"Withhold not correction from the child; For if thou beat him with the rod, he will not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, And shalt deliver his soul from Sheol" (23:13-14).
"The rod and reproof give wisdom; But a child left to himself causeth shame to his mother" (29:15).
Let no shallow wickedness of a teaching developing in these Sodom days deceive you, O parent! But literally obey--always prayerfully and with love--these Divine directions for bringing up your children, and God will reward you.
* "The meaning of vs. 8 is, If ye are not dealt with as all legitimate children are, it would follow that ye are considered as not belonging to them." (Stuart.)
Calvin says, "the profession of Christ would be false and deceitful if they withdrew themselves from the discipline of the Father, and they would thus become bastards, and be no more children."
And Owen: "Those who have only the name of Christians are called bastards or spurious or illegitimate children, because they are not born of God, being only children of the flesh--not Isaacs, but ishmaels, whatever their profession."
A "bastard" bears the family name--but does not belong! Of all dooms, to bear the name of a child of God, and not be a child, is worst!
Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we give them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of our spirits, and live? We gave them reverence--Note this, ye parents. A child's "reverence" for a parent springs from Proper "chastening." Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?--How unutterably solemn these words! For life, and that eternal, is involved! In God's providence the fathers of our flesh did not have our spirits in their hands. Man is essentially a spirit, living in a body, Possessed of a soul. Here again God is seen as "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Num. 16:22; 27:16). Compare "The spirit returneth unto God Who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7); "And her spirit returned" (Lk. 8:55). And live?--"Living" is dependent on being in subjection unto the Father of our spirits. (Alford well says here, "Your endurance, like Christ's endurance, will not be thrown away. He had joy before Him, you have a life before you.") As Paul said, "God is my witness, Whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son." Compare also John 3:6: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit," without which birth a man cannot even see the kingdom of God. Note that this verse does not teach annihilation--that those who refuse to be subject to the Father of spirits cease to exist. On the contrary, it teaches the regeneration, and the life thereafter, both in this world and that to come, of those who become in subjection to the Father of spirits. We are constantly taught that those are saved who become obedient to the word of truth, the gospel (Acts 6:7; Rom. 15:18).
For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed good to them; but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness: Here temporary parental chastening is contrasted with the loving Divine discipline of verse 6. How long it takes us to learn this! How blessed it would be if at the very beginning of the believer's life he were taught to surrender himself into a loving Father's hands for whatever discipline necessary, looking to the glorious goal-partaking of God's own "holiness." Everyone begotten of God has tasted this holiness, but the full bliss of it lies in the future, when His servants "shall see His face and His name shall be in their foreheads."
All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it Yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness: Let this verse speak for itself! Note the yet afterward--and the other word, exercised thereby. To be exercised thereby is neither to "lightly regard it", nor to "harden" oneself to it not seeing the Father's hand but to enter into its meaning with Surrender and joy.
Wherefore Lift up the hands that hang down, and the palsied knees; and make straight paths for your feet, that that which is lame be not turned out of the way, but rather be healed--These verses contain quotations from the old Testament in the Septuagint Version (as are all O.T. quotations in Hebrews). Verse 12 quotes Isaiah 35:3, "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees." Verse 13 quotes Proverbs 4-26: "Make level the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." (See Conybeare and Howson here.)
The exhortations turn upon the word "wherefore." Hands that hang down have ceased glad service; palsied knees are not joyfully walking! The limping limb (that which is lame) is in danger of being permanently so; whereas God desires to have it healed! These exhortations are that we may not misunderstand the blessed end of God's fatherly chastening and discipline. Mark Paul's experience when, after the great revelation, the catching up to Heaven of 2 Corinthians 12, there was given to him a thorn in the flesh! He went to the Lord three times regarding it, begging its removal. When, behold, his Lord says to him, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My power is made perfect IN weakness"! And now note, and let us all remember, Paul's glorious response: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me! Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong!"
And look at God's saints of old: At David, when God's hand fell upon him regarding the child by Uriah's wife, (2 Sam. 12:1-23), or when Absalom drove him Out (2 Sam. 16:9-14).
Or at job, declared by Jehovah to be the best man on earth, yet everything taken from him! He moaned, protested, but always prayed. And at last Jehovah said to Eliphaz and the three friends:
"My wrath is kindled against thee; for ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant job hath. Now therefore, take unto you seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept" (job 42:7-8).
Or look at such a saint as Frances Ridley Havergal, who never saw a well day, but the fragrance of whose devotion to the Lord has filled the Church! We had just such a woman in Chicago--Mrs. Fred Soukup, now with Christ. Many, many years she lay on her bed, unable even to lift a hand to feed herself! But saints came from all about to hear her words of praise, and see her heavenly face!
This is the experience of all who learn from the heart, the blessed words, "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth"! Oh, let us believe it, and be ready to rejoice in tribulation as it comes. And meditate often on such verses as Paul sets before us, and Peter.
"We also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh steadfastness" (Rom. 5:3).
"Patient in tribulation" (Rom. 12:12).
"I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our affliction" (2 Cor. 7:4).
"Insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice" (1 Pet. 4:13).
"Wherefore I ask that ye may not faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory" (Eph. 3:13).
"Let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator" (1 Pet. 4:19).
"The discipline of the human father is regulated 'according to his pleasure.' Even when his purpose is best, he may fail as to the method; and also his purpose may be selfish. But with God, for His part, purpose and accomplishment are identical; and His aim is the advantage of His children. The spiritual son then may be sure both as to the will and as to the wisdom of his Father."--Westcott, p. 403.
We have in verses 5-13, here in Chapter 12 the clearest teaching of the relationship of children with God the Father that is found in Hebrews.
In these verses we have another solemn exhortation and warning. First, verse 14, Follow after peace with all men: The words Follow after translate a Greek word meaning to pursue, as in a chase or battle. Paul frequently uses the word, as "Follow after love" (1 Cor. 14:1). Peace, in a world like this, and especially peace with all men, will not just come our way. it must be pursued by us. We may well remember that the Greek word is used often to denote persecution, in which the persecuted were followed, hunted, sought out. Let us examine ourselves as to whether we are thus diligently seeking peace with all men.
And the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord. Here is at once an excuse for all "holiness" conventions and camp meetings that ever took place! Remembering that this whole verse is governed by the word "follow" in the sense of "pursue," we find, Follow on after ... the sanctification (hagiasmos)--This word is used ten times in the New Testament, all but once by Paul; the other use, 1 Peter 1:2, "sanctification of the Spirit," even emphasizing and defining its other occurrences.
* Many earnest believers are very poorly instructed as to scriptural "sanctification."
Let us note:
- All those who are in Christ are "sanctified." This is seen from 1 Cor. 1:2, "the Church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus." This cannot refer to their "experience," for we see from Ch. 3:1-3 that they were "babes" and "carnal." But they were no longer in Adam, but in the Second Man, Christ, and 2 Cor. 5:17 was true of them--they were "new creatures."
- Sanctification in Hebrews has this meaning, separated to God. It does not refer to our experience or feelings. "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (10:10). It was brought about through the blood of Christ--Who, "that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without the gate" (13:12). Christ's shed blood is called "the blood of the covenant wherewith one was sanctified." In Ch. 10:29, we see that this separation to God could wholly be abandoned by apostasy--by "counting the blood a 'common thing.'" In Ch. 12:14 we see that this separation to God, accomplished by the blood shed for us, and trusted in, was to be persisted in, not apostatized from.
- In 1 Thess. 5:23 we read, "And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly." This refers to the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer, by which the life and walk become separated and devoted to God. It is this passage that "Holiness" people constantly emphasize, and rightly! But we must not be ignorant of that sanctification which is true of all believers, of all "in Christ," that of 1 Cor. 1:2. Nor must we be intolerant of degrees of devotion short of 1 Thess. 5:23. Let us not, also, base our assurance of "holiness" upon some "experience" we have had, but rather upon the fact that all in Christ were sanctified (as said in paragraph No. 2), and have the Holy Spirit, and are asked to yield to Him! to be "filled" by Him!
Howbeit, in 1 Corinthians 1:30, it is used in its fundamental sense, which must be attended to by all who would receive, the gospel as given by God: "Of Him (God) are ye who are in Christ Jesus, Who was made unto us wisdom from God: (which included three things:) righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.
We must remember our Lord's prayer in John 17:19: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth." It is evident that our Lord's
"Sanctifying" Himself could not signify any moral or spiritual change in Himself, but rather a setting Himself apart to the task that was before His mind, even the Procuring of our being separated, handed over, to God, through Christ's sacrifice. God made Christ "to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." In Christ we have been cut off (at the Cross) from the world, and belong in Heaven! He said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Again, let us observe, that "sanctification" or holiness in such texts as Romans 6:19, 22; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7; 1 Timothy 2:15, does not refer to making the believer any more a "new creature" than when he first believed, when he was "sanctified in Christ Jesus." But it does refer to that result of surrender to the operation of the indwelling Spirit by which He takes charge of our conscious faculties. It is written to believers, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." For upon and in connection with this marvelous operation called "sanctification of the Spirit" (2 Thess. 2:13), the Spirit Himself indwells those "created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10). This "sanctification of the Spirit" refers to the whole work of the Holy Spirit in us, in accordance with the fact that we died with Christ, and are now in the Risen Christ (Rom. 6:8-11). it is the "renewing" referred to in such passages in Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10; Titus 3:5. It is accomplished by the Spirit through the Word, Ephesians 5:26: "That He might sanctify it (the Church, vs. 25), having cleansed it by the washing of water with the Word." "Sanctification" in this aspect becomes a Conscious state in the believer, a complete change in our conscious faculties, as is described in Philippians 4:7: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus"; or Colossians 3:17: "Whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
* While on the one hand we must guard against any thought that the flesh is changed, or that our bodies are to be trusted; yet, on the other hand, we must either accept the fact that God takes complete charge of us, or deny these, His plain words, and such testimonies as Paul's: "To me to live is Christ." How sane is his word, also: "For I know nothing against myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but He that judgeth me is the Lord."
The "holiness" people (dear Saints, and none of them modernists!) Make "a clean heart," which as we have seen, is taught in the N.T. (1 Tim. 1:5; Acts 15:8-9), to be "eradication of the sinful principle from the flesh"--which is tragic error.
The "flesh" will be with us till we get our new bodies. Paul could have "walked after the flesh," for the flesh was present with him; but he did not! instead, he says, "Thanks be unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14).
--Sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord: We are made to tremble (as we ought to tremble) many times in this book of Hebrews; and here again. Shall we say that none but those who have followed on unto entire control by the Spirit of God shall see the Lord? No, for although this warning is most solemn, connected as it is with the exhortation to look carefully (vs. 15) concerning some who might come eternally short of salvation, yet it must be connected with those Scriptures which reveal the infinite reach of Divine grace! As for example, the passage about the incestuous man of 1 Corinthians 5; or those of 1 Corinthians 11 who, partaking of the Lord's Supper in carelessness or ignorance, had been chastened unto physical illness and even death (1 Cor. 11:30), that they might not "be condemned with the world"! (vs. 32).
Yet on the other hand, we must not miss the truth that there is that sanctification which all true Saints yearn after, and in their measure "pursue." John in his first epistle says, "Whosoever is begotten of God doth not practice sin, because His (God's) seed abideth in Him; and he cannot practice sin, because he is begotten of God."
Again, in Hebrews 12:14, do not confuse the sanctification with our pursuing it. God does not say that no man shall see the Lord except those who have pursued sanctification (do we not all feel that we have pursued it too feebly?) But He does say that no man without that sanctification shall see the Lord.
looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright. These verses are directed to all the Assembly, but especially to those, as in Chapter 13:17, who "had the rule over them," and "watched in behalf of their souls." These were to watch for four kinds of troublers:
- Lest (there should be) any man that falleth short of the grace of God.
- Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.
- Lest (there should be) any fornicator.
- Lest there be any profane person.
On reading this, our hearts sink within us as we contemplate the churches today, for who is ready to observe these so searching directions of the holy apostle?
- First, then, Lest there be any man among professed believers that really was falling short of or (literally in the Greek) falling back from the grace of God. What sort of person is this, and how does he fall short of the grace of God? Westcott insists, "The construction marks a falling back from that with which some connection exists, implying a moral separation. The present participle describes a continuous state and not a single defection." This agrees with that fatal "falling away" of Chapter 6:6--after "tasting." Is it not also suggested in Paul's plea in 2 Corinthians 6:1: "And working together with God we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain"--through neglect or sloth falling back from it? Chrysostom says, "The image is taken from a company of travelers, one of whom lags behind, and so never reaches the end of the long and laborious journey."
We remember how the rocky-ground hearers of our Lord's parable at first eagerly responded. The seed sprang immediately up, but there was little soil and unbroken rock beneath; and the Lord said, "These have no root, who for awhile believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Lk. 8:13). How solemn is the use of this word "fall" in the book of Hebrews! First, Chapter 3:12, "Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the Living God." Then Chapter 6:6: "tasting," and then "falling away"--impossible to "renew," because "rejected" of God!
Then Chapter 4:11 "Give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience."
Next, Chapter 10:31, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God"!
And now, Chapter 12:15, To fall back from (or fall short of) the grace of God! Compare 1 Timothy 4:1; Galatians 5:4; remember Revelation 2:5!
- Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you--This is a quotation from Moses' terrible warning to some presumptuous hearer of the Law, who, listening to the warnings, "blesses himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I do walk in the stubbornness of my heart" (Deut. 29:18-21). Such a one was called "a root that beareth gall and wormwood." Now such may be in the Assembly undiscovered, until they spring up and trouble--by evil doctrine or practice. For if not dealt with, such will defile the many. (Alas, how frequently has a whole assembly of saints been "defiled" by such a root of bitterness permitted after it springs up, and is plainly evident. Time after time we have ourselves seen it, and Church history is full of such instances. The time the leaders in an Assembly (the _episkopoi, 1 Tim. 3:1) should deal with such an one, is immediately upon his "springing up," that is, manifesting himself. Thus Paul directs the Corinthians: 1 Cor. 5:13.) Is there anyone reading this who knows himself to have been the cause of "bitterness" and trouble among the saints? Let him beware!
- Lest there be any fornicator--In Chapter 13:4 we read, "for fornicators and adulterers God will judge"--that is, in the future; but the leaders of the Assembly, and in fact all in the Assembly of God, are to watch that fornicators are not tolerated. There are also warnings in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 and 6:9 against such toleration; for Corinth was notorious throughout the world for its extreme looseness in this thing. The immoral men of the world in England in the eighteenth century called themselves "Corinthians." Indeed, this sin was so universal in the Greek world as not to be a matter of conscience at all; and the council at Jerusalem of Acts 15 decided to lay upon the Gentiles "no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication."
- Lest there be (in the Christian Assembly) any profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of food sold his own birthright: Note how the example of what is here called a profane person is set forth in Genesis 25: Esau came in from his hunting (for he was a "sporting man," taking life as a thing of enjoyment, with no appreciation of the God with Whom his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham had dealt) faint with hunger. His brother Jacob, we read, was "a perfect man" ("a quiet man" A.R.V.). Not perfect morally, but appreciating what human life means, and giving himself to its tasks. We find him attending to the family needs, boiling pottage of red lentils. Esau, the "man of the field" points to the Pot of red lentils Jacob's industry has prepared, and then to his own red beard, and utters one of the very few "jokes" the Bible records, saying (literally), "Feed that red to this red." Jacob, without yet fully comprehending the vastness of blessing which the Divine Abrahamic covenant conveyed, yet rightly valuing it above all else, meets his elder brother's jesting but selfish demand with a shrewd request of his own: "Sell me first thy birthright." Out blurts from Esau's "profane" mouth: "Behold, I am about to die!" (ridiculous falsehood!) "And what profit shall the birthright do to me?" Jacob, not trusting him, puts him under oath, then feeds him his fill of red lentil pottage. And off he goes, having "despised his birthright" (Gen. 25:34).
Now, God did not forget this profane despising of Himself and His covenant promises. Esau knew no more of God than did the beasts he hunted! He was godless in the sense that God was not "in all his thought." As the Psalmist says, "Man being in honor abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish" (49:12). So here in Hebrews he is called a profane person. (The Greek word _bebelos translated here profane, has no necessary reference to blasphemy or violent wickedness, but, almost, If one might say so, the opposite. It denotes literally "a threshold that anyone and everyone may trample over." It refers to something in which there is no special consciousness (1 Tim. 1:9; 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16). We must gather that a profane man, then, is one in whom there is no thought of God!) And why do we quote all this? Lest there be any professing Christian or known professor, who becomes like Esau, a profane person, no real godliness about him; no sense of the infinite value of eternal things; for whom the devil has probably already laid the trap to sell out eternity for one mess of meat in this passing, dying world. Unbelievable as it may seem, you know such people! Alas, how many thousands does this describe, for the Hebrew believers in this passage are being exhorted concerning their own company--Lest there be among them a profane person! Alas for the day when, like Esau, such as have despised spiritual privilege will desire to inherit the blessing of eternal bliss and be rejected! For there follows verse 17:
For ye know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for a change of mind in his father (Gen. 27:33, 40), though he sought it (the despised blessing) diligently with tears. This Revised Version change from the King James reading is correct. It is strange that some excellent commentators have translated _metanoia, change of mind, as "repentance," and made it mean a spiritual state which Esau strove to attain and could not. No doubt the will of God, which Isaac clearly knew, was behind his words to Esau: "I have blessed him (Jacob) ... yea, and he shall be blessed ... I have made him thy lord ... Thou shalt serve thy brother" (Gen. 27:33, 37, 40). But Esau was not seeking God, or repentance from sin, but a lost birthright, and the blessing it would have brought.
In this great passage we have before us the marvelous contrast between the position of those under Law and that of those under Grace, set forth in an overwhelming manner. The infinite moral distance between the holy God and sinful man is the foundation. It is not a setting forth of man's inability to carry out the instructions of the Law that is here before us, but the presence of the Lawgiver. God is present, and at the foot of the mountain sinful man is present. And what is the effect on man? Terror! Inability to endure the consciousness that no one--not even a beast--should touch the mountain. Here is guilt unexpiated, and God's presence inescapable! Therefore they cried out to Moses, "Go thou near, and hear all that Jehovah our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that Jehovah our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it" (Deut. 5:27).
* In Romans and Galatians Paul shows that even this promise was vain, if sincere. Yet until the Lord Jesus came and put away sin at Calvary, God suffered Israel to have the Law and the Levitical code, with its sin-offerings on its Day of Atonement, all Prophetical and typical, of course.
Verse 18: For ye are not come--(The word "For," in this place is not specially to be connected with its immediate context, but with the whole preceding part of the epistle.) Contrast Ye are not come, with verse 22, But ye are come. Now follow some eight things which the Holy Spirit of God declares Christians--Christian believers, whether Hebrews as here, or any who get under Judaizing influences--are not come to:
1. For ye are not come unto a mount that might be touched--This at once sets forth the walk of faith which is ours, in contrast to the visible, earthly things the Hebrews had. "We walk by faith, not by appearance" (2 Cor. 5:7, R.V. margin).
* God speaks in vs. 22 of the heavenly Jerusalem to which we have come. We shall find in Rev. 21 that this is a literal city, whose streets of gold will indeed be "touched" by the feet of the risen bodies of the saints. But the description here of Mount Sinai sets forth the fact that God came down to a nation in the flesh--came demanding holiness and righteousness, and He was entirely too near! If He had spoken from Heaven, they would have Promised themselves obedience, and peace thereby--promised in the self-delusion of sinners, certainly, but cherishing their delusion.
But when God came down to a mount at the foot of which they were, unto a mount that might be touched, it was terrible to them. While it might be touched, their touching it would cost them death, (Sinai was a tangible mountain. It could be touched by fingers of flesh. God's commanding is not to be touched by unholy man is another thing altogether.)
Read Ex. 19:11-13. "Jehovah will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the People round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely Put to death; no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, he shall not live."
No wonder we read in vss. 16-18: "And it came to Pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the People out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai, the whole of it, smoked, because Jehovah descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." It is a strange but almost universal tendency of the human heart when seeking to deal with God, to try to find some sacred place. But our Lord said to the Samaritan woman, "The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father" (John 4:21). Let all legalists assemble and hearken to the thunders, and the trumpet "exceeding loud"! If they must have Moses' Law, let them go and stand beneath Sinai. There is no other place from which God declares it.
But let the Seventh-Day people of all sorts (whether or not they mix Adventism with it); the "under-the-law-as-a-rule-of-life" people, proud with Reformed orthodoxy; also those who would abstain from meats forbidden to the Jews; and those who "observe days, and months, and seasons, and years" (of whom Paul was "afraid"); yea, all whose conscience accuses them because of trespasses done, or duties undone: let all these hearken well to this word of verse 18: YE ARE NOT COME! and to that of verse 22, But ye ARE come! Mount Sinai must disappear, O Hebrew believer, for God hath said, Ye are NOT come there! (And God never brought a Gentile believer there!) For hear further:
2. And that burned with fire--There is no approach here, but death only! In Deuteronomy 4:11 we read, "Ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the heart of Heaven." And Moses repeated to Israel in Chapter 5:4-5: "Jehovah spake with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire (I stood between Jehovah and you at that time, to show you the word of Jehovah: for ye were afraid because of the fire, and went not up into the mount)."
Remember that disobedient sinners will one day find the realization of Hebrews 12:29, "Our God is a consuming fire." He had taught Moses at the burning bush that the bush burned with fire and not a leaf withered! Moses saw the great sight: "The bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed" (Ex. 3:2). So is God with His people: it is our God Who is a consuming fire, and yet His name is Love, and He delighteth in mercy!
Then why the scene at Sinai? Let us proceed with the description and then seek to answer.
And unto blackness and darkness--(The third and fourth things Ye are NOT come unto.) Here was no real revelation of God, except of His infinite distance from sinful man. That there should have been "fire to the heart of Heaven," as we quoted above, and yet "thick darkness" as the people looked, seems impossible. But there could not be a truer description of what the Law does spiritually for sinners. There is the awful energy of fire, and yet no revelation of light, but instead, darkness. There is the mountain "quaking"--irresistible power, but no means of approaching or appeasing God. The people showed fear, indeed, of the majesty displayed, but no such self-judgment as was in the publican who "smote his breast, saying, God be Thou merciful (lit., 'propitiated') to me a sinner." Let those mark well who would come the Sinai-route to God, by "good works" that they do, or think they have done: He is a consuming fire, but there is no revelation of Himself: fire, but blackness and darkness. God's name is LOVE, we repeat, but He is also infinitely holy and righteous.
5. And tempest--Again there is the sense of terrible power, but no hint of a way of approach for a Sinner. God's power, but not Himself. "Tempest" is the exhibition of Divine energy in judgment, the very opposite of peace, which we have found in Christ. Even when Elijah "stood upon the mount before Jehovah" (1 Kings 19:11-12): "Behold, Jehovah passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before Jehovah; but Jehovah was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but Jehovah was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but Jehovah was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of gentle stillness" (R.V., margin, Heb.).
These first three manifestations were what Elijah expected God to show. ("Wilt Thou that we bid fire to come down from Heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?" asked James and John. They are not the only ones who have had that desire!)
Now God is ever the same, and you ask, Can blackness, and darkness, and tempest be of Him Who took up little children in His arms, and laid His hand on the leper, and said to the wretched woman, "Neither do I condemn thee"? Yes, the very same! And this was why the Law was given on Sinai: that it might be "the ministration of death," "the ministration of condemnation" (2 Cor. 3:7, 9) which God calls it. Let us not dare to think of it differently. "The Law came in alongside, that the trespass might abound" (Rom. 5:20). Sin was there before, but when the Law was given to Israel, they knew the mind of Jehovah! What was sin, now became trespass--which means, breaking through bounds. See the effect of the Law on the meekest and best servant of God then on earth: Moses said, "All our days are passed away in Thy wrath -.. Thou hast set all our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance" (Ps. 90:9, 8).
Compare that with John 1:17: "The Law was given through Moses; Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ ..." And in that first of John, God the Father is a Bosom (vs. 18), Christ a Lamb (vs. 29), and the Holy Spirit, a Dove (vs, 32). God is not angry with us, but God is God--infinitely loving, or He would not have given His Son; but absolutely holy, for when our sin was placed on this Son, God did not spare Him, but delivered Him up. Friend, it is because of that hatred of God for sin, and His having at the Cross dealt with sin, forsaking His own Son, that we can trust God! If the judgment against sin at the Cross had not been complete, we could but fear that at some time in the future God would bring up our sins again. He never changes: but we are not come unto a mount where His presence in fiery judgment is being exhibited.
* The obstinate perversity of man is not more clearly shown than in his attitudes toward Law and Grace. The Jews gloried in the Law that cursed them, yet turned back to their lusts which the Law forbade. The Gentiles, to whom are given the good things of Grace, instead of Law, habitually turn back to the Law. See their "Standards" and "Creeds". Their "services" sometimes hear the Ten Commandments read several times on a single occasion! Yet they pass by God's Word, that affirms, over and over, that the believer, being not under Law, but Grace, shall be delivered from sin's bondage.
6. And the sound of a trumpet--Here is authority; here is the awakening, awful command of Divine Majesty, from Sinai, covered with blackness and darkness. How different the gentle words of the gospel of Grace! "the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4, margin). A trumpet of awful warning and alarm--we are not come to that.
* "On the third day ... thunders ... lightnings ... a thick cloud ... and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled ... When the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice ..." (Ex. 19:16, 19).
Again, a trumpet called Israel into assembly or into marching order: "And Jehovah spake unto Moses saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver ... and thou shalt use them for the calling of the congregation, and ... they shall blow an alarm for their journeys ... and when ye go to war ... ye shall sound an alarm with the trumpets" (Num. 10:2, 6, 9).
So much for trumpets used by man. In The Revelation you remember the seven trumpets (8:1 ff). We read also of a trumpet in connection with the Rapture of the Church, when: "The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God" (1 Thess. 4:16).
See also 1 Cor. 15:52, where that trumpet is again connected with the resurrection of the just.
7. And the voice of words--Remember verse 26 of our chapter, "Whose voice then shook the earth"! (Now you may say, Such a display of glorious majesty and Power would certainly bring about in the very hearts of those who heard, godliness. Friend, you are utterly astray! The Law written on tables is said to be "a ministration of condemnation and death" (2 Cor. 3:7, 9). God says the Law was given that the trespass thereof (_paraptoma, the breaking through its commands) might abound (Rom. 5:20). What are you going to believe: your own "reason" or God's repeated statements? Christendom has what it calls "the Christian religion," but remember that God gave one religion, Judaism--which has passed away; and that "Christian," as we said, is a Gentile, ignorant name for believers, a name of Contempt (Acts 11:26), like the name "Jesus-men," as the Oriental called believers. God may and does say that believers are not under Law, having died unto the Law principle: and are now "annulled" (_katergeo) from that principle (Rom. 7:6). God may devote an epistle of burning, loving remonstrance against any Gentiles even looking toward Sinai, warning, "Ye are annulled from Christ, ye who would be justified by the Law" (Gal. 5:4): and again, "The Law is not of Grace." God may, and does, in Heb. 7:18, say, There is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness; (for the Law made nothing Perfect)"; and may follow with the setting forth of a better hope, even Christ and His work, "through which (Christ) we draw nigh unto God." What will men do? They will mix Law and Grace! Every so-called "great" denomination holds fast to Moses.)
There are those today who would seek for visions and voices to arouse their faith. Dear friend, we are not come to that, but rather, "These things" are "written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:13). Our Lord said, "The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life" (John 6:63). Yet you want to go to Sinai. Are you prepared to hear the voice that shook the earth? Do you prefer that to the sweet tidings of a finished work of Christ on the Cross? God has chosen to give us the gospel by written words, I beg you, learn to rest in these, asking no sign.
See the effect upon those at Sinai who heard the voice of words: it was, which voice they that heard entreated that no word more should be spoken unto them. If only those who trust in their law-keeping could go where the Law was given, and hear that voice, they would do as Israel did--at that time--flee as far from Sinai as they could, and beg for a mediator.
For they could not endure that which was enjoined, If even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned--At last man was made conscious of the immeasurable distance, the awful gap, that sin had made between himself and God. It made the place untenable: If even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned: Here was a mount that "might be touched," but it was death to touch it, death to approach that mount. Man and the creation over which he has been placed, and which had been "subjected to vanity" in man's fall, are shown lost, undone, hopeless, in the presence of the Holy One demanding a righteousness and a holiness which the fallen creature can never produce. Here is shown the bridgeless moral distance between man and God.
Just now, for your comfort and relief, behold Jesus, taking up the children into His arms and laying His hands upon them and blessing them. That is not Law: we repeat, "The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." And yonder comes a leper: the Law sternly said, "Stand off and cry, Unclean, unclean." But Jesus, when the leper, bowing at His feet, pleads, "If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean," moved with compassion, stretches forth His hand and touches him, and saith unto him, "I will, be thou made clean."
"Yes," you say, "It is well to heal a leper, but why touch him?"
Grace, I reply; grace unmixed with Law or human religion has touched him! Let us bow and give thanks to God!
And so fearful was the appearance, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: In order to lead us into that fear of Jehovah which is the beginning of Wisdom (Prov. 1:7), God must reveal His holiness: "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, Whose name is holy" (Isa. 57:15). Therefore Jehovah, Who had spoken out of the bush to Moses, Who had "caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses" (Isa. 63:12) in the miracles of Egypt, and afterwards; and with Whom Moses was (as we would Say) acquainted, now comes down upon Sinai with so fearful an appearance as to cause Moses to say, I exceedingly fear and quake.
O my friends, if we do not learn a lesson here, where then shall we learn it? How shall we ever again put our faith in works? HOW shall we ever again go back to Sinai?
Fear and quake? That is just what the twentieth century does not do. It will not hear preachers that speak of this God. Not because they have "fled for refuge to the hope set before them" in judgment that fell on Christ are they free from fearing and quaking but because they are sin-hardened, sin-blinded, and know not God, Whom they will shortly meet.
Oh, that day, that day! when the Law-trusters of every stripe and degree shall stand in the presence of this same unchangeable, holy God! "Our God is (not was) a consuming fire"! Happy those who know His grace! Moses had indeed seen Him in the burning bush, where fire was, yet life was. No green leaf was withered. That same fire in tongues of flame sat upon the heads of those in the upper room at Pentecost while they were filled with joy unutterable. And why? Let us see unto what these Hebrew believers in the Lord Jesus had come, instead of unto Sinai.
But on the contrary ye are come--In these words there is truly awful import. These Hebrews addressed had heard the gospel concerning Jesus the Son of God and had accepted or professed to accept that gospel. Now their whole position was changed. Into new spheres of blessing, new relationships and responsibilities they had never known, they were come! Before hearing and believing they had indeed known that to their nation God had spoken by Moses at Sinai, and by the prophets; whereas the Gentiles knew nothing of the true God, being, as Paul said to Peter, mere "sinners of the Gentiles." Now, however, all was changed. The meaning of the stupendous fact of the Cross, the "consummation of the ages" (9:26), God had shown them--which changed everything for the one learning it. The Temple left by Christ "desolate," Judaism as God's way gone--but Heaven opened! Oh, that all believers might hear these solemn words, Ye are come! Redeemed ones, justified, reconciled, dead and risen with Christ; raised of Him to "heavenly places," "citizens of Heaven," they were to walk in the consciousness of all these new relationships. They now belonged in Heaven!
* Let us remember that while we are members of the Body of Christ, even as were these Hebrew believers: "partakers of a heavenly calling"; nevertheless the great fundamental attitude and acts of the life of faith are the same in every age. This makes the O.T. a mine of gold. What believer has not been thrilled with encouragement and renewal of heart when reading of those great O.T. men and women of faith in Heb. 11?
And so here we have the great contrast between those at the foot of Sinai and Hebrew believers today! We, if wise and willing, will here learn much. Not following the folly of so many readers of this passage, we shall not say, "Oh, that belongs to the Jews!" My friend, those whom the Spirit is addressing here are on their way to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the Living God! To what city are you journeying?
Therefore, when God says to these Hebrew believers, Ye are come--He is describing facts into which they by simple faith have entered. Hence it follows, in verses 22-24 that these believers are told the things to which they are come:
- To Mount Zion.
- To the city of the Living God the heavenly Jerusalem.
- To myriads of angels, the general (heavenly) gathering.
- To the Assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in Heaven (the Church of God).
- To God the judge of all.
- To the spirits of just men made perfect.
- To Jesus, Mediator of a new covenant.
- To the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than Abel.
* Note carefully that it is absolutely necessary in the understanding of vss. 22-24 to adhere to the Greek text. After opening up the subject with the words, But on the contrary (Gr., alla) ye are come to Mount Zion, God's Word opens each following particular with the word "and" (Gr., kai). This careful arrangement connects heavenly Jerusalem with city of the Living God. Not, "and (kai) to myriads of angels, the universal assembling." Only note that it is in apposition with myriads of angels--such a "gathering" as appears in Rev. 5:8, 11, or Rev. 19:4, 6; it should read, therefore, and (kai) to innumerable hosts of angels--the general (heavenly) assembly."
Literally the Greek of verses 22-24 reads But on the contrary ye are come to Mount Zion and (kai) to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and (kai) to myriads of angels--panegyric and (kai) to the assembly of firstborn ones enrolled in Heaven and (kai) to God judge of all and (kai) to spirits of righteous ones perfected and (kai) to Mediator of New Covenant, Jesus and (kai) to blood of sprinkling speaking better than (the blood of) Abel.
No one has any right to use the words, the "general assembly" with "the Church" (Ekklesia); for God connects it with the "myriads of angels," just preceding the word, "the Church."
1. A believing Hebrew has come, in God's sight, to Mount Zion. If God's purposes of forgiveness for national Israel, for all connected with the promises by natural birth (Hebrew believers), if God's future blessing is connected with Mount Zion, what more natural, indeed, necessary, than that these Hebrews, who had heard the gospel and believed, should be told, Ye are come to Mount Zion? Certainly they are immediately instructed about heavenly things, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church of the Firstborn on high, as we shall see. But God's purposes of grace upon Israel are connected with Mount Zion.
Three mountains an Israelite would remember: first, Mount Sinai, of which we have spoken: God's majesty, power, holiness and righteousness, and yet requiring righteousness from Israel, with what results we know!
second, Mount Moriah, which God pointed out to Abraham upon which to offer up Isaac his son, wonderful type of a Redeemer! (Gen. 22:2). And after Israel's utter failure in the land-- the breakdown of the priesthood under Eli and the King in Saul--yea, and the pride of His chosen King David in numbering the people, bringing judgment upon seventy thousand of Israel, and sackcloth and ashes upon the King, Moriah again is pointed out as the place where sacrifice turned away wrath (1 Chron. 22:1), and which became the site of the temple of Jerusalem (2 Chron. 3:1). There were offered the typical sacrifices, for there the Shekinah glory dwelt till Ezekiel saw it return to Heaven (Ezek. 8-11). And yet after seventy years the restoration temple was built, by God's direction, under Zerubbabel--relatively insignificant--yet acknowledged, and greatly enlarged (after the flesh) by Herod. But types are not actual blessings.
Unto this Moriah temple our Lord Jesus came, and every type and sacrifice spoke of Him; yet He, as we shall see in Chapter 13, "suffered without the gate."
Third, Mount Zion, connected in Scripture with actual blessing upon Israel. It was the other hill, the higher in Jerusalem (Moriah being the lower), where David finally overthrew the Jebusites (2 Sam. 5:6-9): "David took the stronghold of Zion; the same is the city of David ... And David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the city of David." Mount Zion stands in Scripture for grace, the opposite of Sinai, which was Law, and judgment for disobedience. We all know that in the future, when the Lord Jesus returns, "He will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen" (Acts 15:16). That will be the millennial temple, and that mountain will be "exalted above all the hills" (Isa. 2:2-3). See the last nine chapters of Ezekiel for the description of that beautiful temple. Mount Zion, therefore, to Hebrew believers, represents final pardon and blessing for the Remnant--those "that are escaped" (Isa. 10:20). Inasmuch, therefore, as pardoning grace was to be given to the nation from Mount Zion under the new covenant, it was most fitting that these Hebrew believers should be told that they were "already come unto Mount Zion." The great spiritual realities of mercy and pardon, theirs already, would belong to the nation in the future. Meanwhile, the calling of the Hebrews of our epistle was heavenly.
It would not do for a Gentile to say that he had come unto Mount Zion, for he had never been of the nation to which Mount Zion was to be the place of great blessing. If a believer, his calling, with that of all true believers, was immeasurably higher than that of the earthly nation, Israel. Mount Zion, then, is the chosen scene and source of future saving blessing for Israel. But as Paul Says, "The Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother" (Gal. 4:26). Their hearts and thoughts are set upon that city, being upon Christ, as Paul directs: "Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth" (Col. 3:2).
* In Ps. 78:68-70 we find that God "Chose the tribe of Judah, The Mount Zion which he loved!"
See also Ps. 132:13-14: "For Jehovah hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My resting-place forever: Here will I dwell; for I have desired it."
such words from God should overwhelm us! yet, speaking with reverence and humility we may say, God made man "in His image, after His likeness," and at the right hand of God in glory there is a MAN, concerning whom God has said: "yet I have set My King Upon My holy hill of Zion" (Ps. 2:6).
If God has set His affection upon a certain place in His earthly creation, Mount Zion, shall we who love our homes wonder?
We can but refer here to the 144,000 of Rev. 14: "And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father, written on their foreheads." That is the place of Israelitish blessing (Rev. 7:4). They are seen there in millennial victory and song. What a place to be standing, "on the Mount Zion" that God has loved and chosen of all places on earth!
2. Unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem--This city is described in Revelation 21:9-27; 22:1-5. it is a literal city of which the description is given (dimensions, materials, walls, gates), together with the fact that there is "no temple therein" (Rev. 21:22).
* Read the author's book, The Revelation (pp. 348-9)), or any work that does not "spiritualize" these heavenly things, but takes them in their reality thus honoring God, instead of man's ingenuity. Abraham looked for a city, and he will see one. God "hath prepared for them a city" (Heb. 11:16).
In the expression--Ye are come unto--we find the sphere of relationships entered, whether by Israel at Sinai, or by the Hebrew believers on the Lord Jesus. Wherefore we understand that in applying the expression, for example, to the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, we are to remember of course that our bodies are not Yet redeemed, and we are on earth. Yet read in Ephesians 2:5 ff, that we were "Made alive together with Christ, and raised up with Him, and made to sit with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus." The facts about us, therefore, are that we who are in Christ are "not of the world, even as He is not of the world"; that we have "a heavenly calling" (See Heb. 3:1): even as Paul declares:
God "made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Col. 1:12-13).
3. And to innumerable hosts of angels--the general (heavenly) gathering--*
* See Greek of Rev. 5:11: "I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads (myriades, myriadon), and thousands of thousands" (chiliades chiliadon). Note the other heavenly beings here; also include the six-winged seraphim of Isa. 6, and the four-winged cherubim of Ezek. 1:6, 26, who support the throne (which is above them), and the four six-winged living beings of Rev. 4 and 19; "In the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures ... the voice of a great multitude ... of many waters ... of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth"--(Rev. 4:6; 19:6).
Remember also, the "principalities and powers in the heavenlies" of Eph. 3:10, primarily indicate servants of God.
The word panegyris includes the "myriads of angels," and all heavenly beings. As Alford happily puts it, "A complete, multitudinous, above all, jubilant, festal and blissful assembly!"
It is unto this heavenly host that the Hebrew believers (and, of course, all believers, for all now partake of this heavenly calling) are come. Since we are exhorted to "come boldly to the throne of grace" above, where the Son of God Himself is our Great High Priest, it is no marvel that we are come to those thus naturally belonging to Heaven! But it is well and blessed that we are reminded of this. (Note, however, that "our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" by the Spirit. Though we are come to this heavenly panegyris, we are not to seek fellowship with these heavenly beings, or become "worshipers of angels" (Col. 2:18). Indeed, to be in Christ, one with Him, is a higher calling than angels have!)
4. to the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in Heaven.
The Church (better translation, Assembly): This is the Greek word _Ekklesia, used over 100 times for the Church of God. (Literally it is "called-out-assembly.")
The firstborn (ones)--The Apostle James, speaking of those who hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, says, "of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures" (1:18). Not for the seraphim (Isa. 6) nor the cherubim (Ezek. 1 to 11), nor the four living ones (Rev. 4 and 5), nor the myriads of angels, was the blood of the Son of God shed; nor have these been "created in Christ Jesus," "members of His Body."
Because they were "born from above" (see John 3:3, 7; and verse 31, "from above," of Christ; Jas. 1:17; 3:15, 17), our Lord said of His disciples, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Believers, therefore, since our Lord ascended, since Pentecost, when the gospel was first announced, have been the first beings to enter the new creation. ("Those who compose it (the Assembly of firstborn ones enrolled in Heaven) are here characterized: (1) in relation to Him Who was carefully shown us in Chapter 1 to be the Firstborn ... (2) in relation, by Grace, to our proper and destined sphere of glory, Heaven, and not earth, where Israel as such look for their blessedness and triumph under Messiah's reign."--Wm. Kelly.) Christ Himself having been raised from among the dead, is named "The Head of the Body, the church (Ekklesia): Who is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead ones" (Col. 1:17-19).
* The word "Firstborn" is in Rom. 8:29 a title: "The Firstborn among many brethren"; in Col. 1:15, Christ is called "The Firstborn of all Creation," in view of the fact that all things were created "through Him and unto Him" (Col. 1:16). But in Col. 1:18-19, where He is seen as "The Head of the Body, the Church," we read the wonderful words "Who is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence," because in Him "was pleased to dwell the whole fullness of God" (R.V., margin).
Jehovah said by Moses to Pharaoh, "Thus said Jehovah, Israel is My son, My firstborn" (Ex. 4:22). Israel is the firstborn of earth--as if there had been no other nation, and should be no other. The Church is enrolled in Heaven as "firstborn" there, "the first-fruits of God's creatures" in this new creation, sharing Christ's risen life (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; 4:24; Col. 3:10).
Enrolled in Heaven--When the disciples came back to Jesus rejoicing that the demons were subject to them, He said, "In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven" (Lk. 10:20). God is acting now wholly according to Himself, which the Cross set Him free to do; and He can place these redeemed, blood-bought creatures as the "Firstborn--those through whom He reveals Himself fully, as He could not by mere creation. There is no limit, therefore, to the favor in which God in sovereignty, in uncaused grace, places redeemed man. Could any other creature than man say as said Paul, "To me to live is Christ"? It is not a question of our deserts or attainments or service. It is a question of where God in His sovereign Will placed us! "That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in (showing) kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7). The last thing we wretched humans desire and learn is to be the recipients of unearned, undeserved, unattained, bloodbought Divine favor, through the sovereign will of God: objects merely of grace!
5. And to God the judge of all--What a place for sinners! But what an eternal place of blessing for believers! They have heard and believed the gospel, telling how Christ drank the cup to the full, that God, the Righteous Judge, in unspeakable love to sinners, had given to Him, His only begotten Son! How He forsook Him instead of us, the sinners, and how Christ finished the work of our redemption and brought us to God, "through His own blood."
God is in Heaven, and is judge of all. But the Lord Jesus said concerning believers, "He that believeth on Him is not judged" (John 3:18); and,
"He that heareth My word, and believeth Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life" (John 5:24).
So that these solemn words, God the judge of all, do not mean that God is judging you, believer! That judgment is past! So that you need not fear this judge of all--among the eight things unto which "Ye are come." Unless we think carefully here, we would expect God to be named as Father, for we have just seen the word "firstborn." But the words are even more wonderful than that. It is God as God Whom we meet in this Epistle to the Hebrews. Consistent with this are the words, God, judge of all (for there is no article in the Greek). The name of Him Who certainly is judge of all His creatures is not placed before us here as One actively judging, but in His Person only. Again, note that these Hebrew believers had been brought to Him Whose voice at Sinai, in giving the Ten Commandments of the Law covenant, had shaken the earth; which covenant their nation had broken. But Another had borne the judgment of it all, and here they are come, unafraid, to God the Judge of all!
Even to Moses, though on Sinai "fearing and quaking" (Ex. 33:11), "Jehovah spoke face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." And God testified to Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12:8, "With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Jehovah shall he behold." And this before Christ had come; before sin was put away by the blood of the Cross; before the Lord had been raised from the dead and hailed as Priest forever; before He had entered into the Holies above through His own blood and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, there "to appear before the face of God for us"!
You may say, I can enter into such a verse as 1 John 3:1: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are."
But is not this God, Who in the new birth has become your Father indeed, yet in very truth judge of all? It is told of Emperor William I of Germany, that as he sat at the head of a great table surrounded by his lords and counselors, his little son, a mere child, got into the room, and, running to his father, pulled down his head to speak something into his ear. The father put his arms around him lovingly, and hearkened. Then, patting him gently, sent him quietly out, and turned again to the affairs of state.
O saints of God, what a company is this to which ye are come! Innumerable hosts of angels, the general assembly of heavenly beings; the Church of the Firstborn enrolled in Heaven! And behold, we are come to God, judge of all--not, as we have said, judging us, but judge of all is His eternal place. Let us meditate upon it, with faith indeed, but with applied hearts, for such is the company into which we have come! That God, judge of all, should be one of this company, puts us in the very dust of humble gladness, brings rest beyond measure! If He Who is judge of all saith to us poor sinners who know that our judgment was finished at Calvary--if He saith, Ye are come to the judge of all, there is peace without end, rest!
Nevertheless, although God's saints, those who are born again, know God as their Father, and have the sweet witness of that fact by the Holy Spirit in their hearts, saying, Abba, Father; yet Hebrews sets forth God as God, "not in His relationships." When the blood of Christ is spoken of, it is with reference to the approach to the holy God, rather than as redeeming us. For example, Jesus is spoken of in the next verse (12:24), but not as "our Saviour," or "our Redeemer," but as Mediator of a new covenant, and His blood not as procuring our forgiveness, but as the blood of sprinkling. It is most conducive to true godliness to remember that we are come, as pardoned and cleansed, to God the Judge of all.
* The extent to which the fact reaches, that our judgment was borne by Another at the Cross, is magnified in our minds when we reflect that God will, by-and-by, commit judgment, both of men and of angels, to His Church saints! "Know ye not that the saints Shall judge the world? ... Know Ye not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:2, 3). "And I Saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them" (Rev. 20:4). God does not cease here as the judge of all. But that He should commit to redeemed creatures the position and qualification of judge of other creatures, shows how complete was Christ's work for us: not only "no condemnation," but made judges!
6. And to the spirits of just men made perfect--In Chapter 11:39, reading of the Old Testament saints, we found that these saints had as yet "received not the promise," that is, the full realization of what God had revealed they were going to have; and the explanation there is, "that apart from us they should not be made perfect."
But now, Christ having died and been raised and glorified, it is freely said that we are come to ... the spirits of just men made perfect. The future program for each of these saints has not yet been realized (for example, Dan. 12:13), yet as to their spirits they have been "made perfect" by the sacrifice of Christ. They were "just men," justified by faith while still on earth, as was Abraham. It should move us unto a profound unworldliness and holy reverence to remember that God's word is that we are come ... to the spirits of just men made perfect. What a revelation! But remember that this does not mean that we are to endeavor to communicate with these spirits of just men made perfect, any more than with angels, as we noted. It refers to our heavenly position: we belong among them, and not to this world!
(I have often wondered in what state Moses and Elijah were when they "appeared in glory" with our Lord on the Transfiguration Mount. We know they had not their bodies, for Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection. But they appeared "in glory," and when the bright cloud came, disappeared, going back into Heaven, evidently. If this could be written of them before our Lord's death and glorification, what God now means by their being "made perfect" we must humbly and reverently leave to Him.)
As to what companies of saints are already in Heaven: first, there are the Old Testament saints, called the spirits of just men made perfect, as we have seen. Second, those of the Church of God who have "departed to be with Christ," which is "far better." (Respecting the Church, the Assembly of the firstborn enrolled on high, whatever their place as members of Christ (unspeakable marvel!) they have not yet been glorified with us who are still on earth. They are fulfilling Heb. 9:28, for they with us await His coming. Who "Shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, Unto salvation." "Apart from sin" does not mean that they are not now in Heaven, delivered from sin: they certainly are. But as we have noticed elsewhere it means that His second coming, for which we wait, will be apart from all question of sin. "Salvation" here in Hebrews 9:28 is the consummation of that wonderful work, in the redemption of our bodies. He will in that day "present the Church to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Eph. 5:27)
Evidently made perfect does not include that glorification for which all the saints are waiting, sharing Christ's manifested glory at His second coming (1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:19; Col. 3:4; Heb. 11:40); but rectifying in the sense of completing any deficiency of development. Delivered from all presence and effects of sin, in the full value of Christ's atoning work, they are in the presence of God, the judge of all, up yonder, resting and waiting there for Christ's manifestation when they shall "see Him as He is," and "be like Him," be glorified!
We are of course not to hold communication with these spirits of just men made perfect; or have any consciousness of them; but only that we are come into the same sphere and stage as they! Such is the measureless power of the blood of Christ! Are they--these spirits--now fit to be in Heaven? So are we. Are they made perfect? So are we, in this epistle, while exhorted to go on unto full growth, told that we are come, already, to these made perfect.
7. And to Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant--Sweet name, Jesus! as over against "Judge!" Now what new covenant is here meant? Matthew Henry well says: "Christ is the Mediator of this new covenant; He is the middle Person that goes between both parties, God and man, to bring them together in this covenant ... to offer up our prayers to God, and to bring down the favors of God to us; to Plead with God for us, and to plead with us for God; and at length to bring God and His people together in Heaven, and to be a Mediator and fruition between them forever; they beholding and enjoying God in Christ, and God beholding and blessing them in Christ." These Hebrew believers had "come" to Jesus, not in the sense necessarily that they had heard Him personally, as did the disciples, and received Him. They are "come" here refers, as in all this remarkable series, to that spiritual sphere with its relationships into which, by faith in the gospel of Christ they had entered. Further, they had found in Jesus a Mediator of a new covenant--not referring, of course, to the new covenant of Chapter 8:8, which will be brought in "after those days" (that is, this present dispensation), and will be made "with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" as we saw, at Christ's second coming. This new covenant with Israel, we repeat, lies yet in the future, in the Millennium. Nevertheless, in Chapter 8:6 we saw that Christ "obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which had been enacted upon better promises." Do you ask, Of what covenant is our Lord the Mediator? We rejoice to say, Of the new covenant of which He speaks in Luke 22:19, 20--and in Hebrews 13:20 (see below). After the last Passover Feast, closing Jewish matters, He brings in the Lord's Supper, which belongs to believers now, whether Hebrew or Gentile. "And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is My body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me. And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood, even that which is poured out for you."
Now we turn to Hebrews 13:20, 21, the great Christian benediction of this whole epistle: "Now the God of peace, Who brought again from the dead, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good work to do His will."
As we have said in connection with this passage, it is necessary to view the blood of this "eternal covenant" between "the God of peace" and "our Lord Jesus," as the source, cause and means of all blessing to us sinners, Jew or Gentile. We know that Israel and Judah will be blessed as such in the future; but they are not yet so blessed. And when the new arrangements with them shall be entered into (as we see in Ch. 8), it will be on the ground of "the blood of an eternal covenant," the one we are speaking of here, in Luke 22:20, and in Hebrews 13:20-21.
In our present verse, then (Chapter 12:24), Jesus is spoken of as Mediator of a new covenant. His blood having been shed as the means and fulfillment of this eternal agreement between the God of peace and our Lord Jesus, He naturally and necessarily becomes the Mediator of this covenant, of which the cup at the Lord's Supper is a constant reminder.
For there is one God, one Mediator also between God and man, Himself man, Christ Jesus. Thayer well remarks, "A mediator does not belong to one party, but to two or more." "Christ is God's," 1 Corinthians 3:23 says; but in Chapter 1:2 of that same epistle, the saints are told that the Lord Jesus Christ is "ours"! It is not only of blessing but of necessity that we remember that God has given His beloved Son not only for us, but to us! This draws us immediately close to God. We are Christ's and Christ is God's. God has His Mediator, and is satisfied; we have our Mediator! To be the Mediator of this new, eternal covenant, our blessed Lord receives all whom the Father has given Him (John 17:12), "keeps" them, perfects them, and presents them before God (Jude 24; 2 Cor. 4:11; Eph, 5:2; Col. 1:22; Heb. 12:2). You will ask, What, then, is our part? To hear the good news--yea, to hearken, and believe (as we shall see in vs. 25)!
8. And to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better (things) than Abel: We have come now to the most solemn thing of all. We remember that in Exodus 24, in connection with the legal covenant, Moses "sprinkled both the book itself and all the people" with the blood of that covenant (Hebrews 9:19-20). "The tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry" were also sprinkled (Heb. 9:21), and thus set apart to God. (We recall that the sprinkling of the blood upon the people, in connection with the Law covenant, brought to the front the liability to death upon any who disobeyed. God, however, acted in great mercy and patience.)
The ordinance also of the sprinkling with "the water for impurity," made from the ashes of the red heifer and "living water" (Num. 19:1-9, 13, 17-19), comes to mind. The blood of this heifer had been shed, and the heifer was to be burned, and the ashes with "living water" made it an application of sacrificial death readily available to anyone defiled!
Again, in Leviticus 8, we find Aaron and his sons, when they are consecrated, sprinkled with the blood, and thus set apart to the priesthood. It is striking also that in Leviticus 14:7 when the leper was cleansed, he was sprinkled with the blood, indicating his entire freedom from defilement, before God. Compare Hebrews 9:13, 14, 19; 10:22, and 11:28, where Moses "By faith kept the passover, and the sprinkling of the blood," when God said (Ex. 12:13), "When I see the blood I will pass over you." It protected them from the judgment of death which was falling upon all Egypt.
But as we examine the other passages named above, we find the "sprinkling" to be connected with cleansing--and that of the conscience--as in Hebrews 9:14: "the blood of Christ" cleansing the conscience "from dead works to serve the Living God." This refers to the individual's receiving and understanding, by his cleansed conscience, the power and effect of the shed blood, rather than to God's apprehension of it. In Hebrews 9:22, both God's side and the effect upon us are seen in, "all are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission."
The blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than Abel, then, points not only to the shedding of Christ's blood, but to the personal application of it to an individual's heart; so that peace, which Christ "made through the blood of His Cross," is spoken unto the heart of believing souls. No amount of prayer, no resolve of consecration, will relieve a burdened conscience, which keeps accusing the heart. The conscience keeps saying "Oh my sin!" (and won't say anything else!) The Holy Spirit says, "It was borne by Christ, and His blood put it away on the Cross." Then conscience is robbed of its power to affect the heart. This blood of sprinkling is not an experience, but is a view of what happened at the Cross, and what was done for us there. We read in Genesis 4:10-11 God's words to Cain:
"What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the ground! And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened its mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand!"
Thus the blood of Abel called for judgment. But the blood of sprinkling--that is, the application by faith of the shed blood of Christ--speaks of judgment past forever, and of eternal peace with God Himself! No wonder, then, that the next verse reads as it does:
Him that speaketh, as we learn at the beginning of this great book of Hebrews (1:1-2), is GOD. The eight marvelous contrasts with the Mount Sinai revelation have just been set before us in verses 22-24 ending with, The blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than Abel. The overwhelming possibility of refusing such a God meets us first of all with the warning, See that ye refuse not. Mark, it is God the judge of all (vs. 23) Who is speaking. Beside Him is Jesus the Mediator (vs. 25. Before Him, and us, The blood of sprinkling: Limitless, uncaused, Divine love--unutterable sacrifice! It is thus the Voice cometh!
Friend, see to this! How personal, how definite, how distinct, this word, -sect" All about You, People are "seeing to" this and that: occupied therewith; most, seeing to business; many, to Pleasure; many, to bodily health. But how many are seeing to this one great call to the creature, from His Creator?
See that ye refuse not! Oh, that awful word, "refuse"! Can it be that the God to Whom "the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance" can mean that one of these infinitesimal bits of dust can refuse HIM? It means just that. Oh, that our hearts, our very beings, might be overwhelmed with a sense of values! These creatures of dust are rushing forward to meet Him, the infinite, almighty One, Who speaks here! See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh"
* The reader's attention is solemnly called to Deut. 29:18-21, where there was no outward denial of Jehovah's testimony, but an inner heart-excusal. The Greek word for "refuse" used as we see in verse 25, and in verse 19 (literally "excused themselves, asking that the word be not addressed to them any more,") primarily means to excuse oneself. See it in Lk. 14:18, translated, "began to make excuse."
O friend, I shout at you, See that ye refuse not! I cry unto you! You have a will. This is the most solemn, awful thing about the bits of dust you and I are: we have wills, we can refuse (for the brief life) the Almighty!
Now mark what follows: For if they escaped not when they refused Him that warned them on earth, that is, at Mount Sinai and onward in Israel's history. For however terrible were the warnings of the Law (Heb. 2:2; 10:28; Deut. 17:2-7; Num. 15:32-36) and its accompaniments, they concerned a God, not revealed fully, but hidden behind the tabernacle veil.
It was one thing for Jehovah to descend to Mount Sinai and speak to an earthly nation, Israel, about morality on earth--the Ten Commandments: His voice then shook the earth (Ex. 19:17-188). But it was quite another thing when in His infinite love God sent His Son to he born of a humble human virgin; and to walk the path of loving care and tenderness for men, and submission to the Father's will at every step; having "no place to lay His head": traveling on to Gethsemane and the Cross; to "bear our sins in His body on the Tree."
Thus God spake from Heaven, opening out His whole heart and holy being to sinful man!
In view of God's revealing thus from Heaven in His own Son His righteousness and love at Calvary the uttermost is uttered regarding coming judgment: Now He hath promised, saying, yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the Heaven!
Then comes the Divine interpretation: And this, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken way remain: Three great facts are to be noted here.
First, The earth and the Heaven are to be utterly done away! Such words as Revelation 20:11 cannot be avoided: there are many Scriptures corresponding:
"I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat upon it, from Whose face the earth and the Heaven fled away! and there was found no place for them!"
As our Lord often said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away! But MY words shall not pass away!" To teach, as do many, that these words refer merely to a "change" in the present creation, is to take a stand beside the modernists, who do not believe the words of God! Sin began in Heaven with the anointed one of the cherubim (Ezek. 28:11-18; job 15:15; 25:5); and all things of the present creation have been defiled. The New Creation is founded upon the redemption of Christ! This only is eternal! ("The scope of creation has been the establishing of the kingdom of redemption that it, the transitory and baseless, may pass away when its work is fulfilled, and give place to that which shall never pass away. This view is strongly taken by Delitzsch, after Crotius Bengel, Tholuck, and others.--Alford. This view is Scriptural. See Isa. 65:17; 34:4; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1.) There are two spheres of eternal duration of God's creatures: The Saved: "New heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness shall be at home" (2 Pet. 3:13). The Lost: "The eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels ... eternal punishment" (Mat. 25:41, 46; "eternal fire," Jude 7). Of course, there will be no annihilation of lost beings: their destiny is plainly affirmed again and again (Rev. 20:10).
* Three realities (none of which modern "theology" grasps) are then before us here.
- The blotting out of the present creation.
- The fact that those saved are new creatures in the Risen Christ: of whom it is already said, "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit"; and to whom will shortly be given bodies "like unto the body of His glory."
- The existence and eternal duration of a literal hell of literal fire into which go not only Satan and his angels, but also (Rev. 20:15) "any not found written in the Book of Life."
Second: The reason: their end is accomplished! It is as of things that have been made that these words are spoken. These shall be shaken and done away. There was object in their creation: that object was fulfilled, and they are gone! They were of the first, the "former" creation: not of the second, which is wholly based on Christ's redeeming work!
Third: That those things which are not shaken may remain: God's uttered Word will abide forever; every one who has in heart received and believed that word will remain forever! You cannot say of one who has by God's direct miracle been "created in Christ" that he is one of the things that have been made.
Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service wellpleasing to God with reverence and awe: How blessed, being "new creatures in Christ," to be part of that kingdom that cannot be shaken. Believers belong to that New Creation which is so marvelously set forth in the last two chapters of The Revelation! Knowing and believing this fills saints with that blessed grace (or thankfulness) whereby, with godly fear [R.V., margin] and awe, we are able to offer service well-pleasing to God.
And now for the last verse: For our God is a consuming fire. The comparison here is to Sinai. See Exodus 19:17-18; Deuteronomy 4:11: God changes not. This last verse of Hebrews 12 is literally true: it terrifies not His saints, but ministers to godly fear. But it should terrify His enemies, or any careless-hearted ones reading the words. What will you do with it? Will You relegate the book of Hebrews to the days of Moses, when the whole voice of this epistle contrasts it with those old days? These Hebrew believers were told they were "NOT come unto a mount that burned with fire," and yet the solemn warning with which this chapter closes declares that now our God is a consuming fire. Of course, this announcement is drawn forth by the possibility of some refusing to hear, turning away from Him that warned from Heaven. But what about His words concerning those who come up in judgment before a holy God, having chosen to retain their sins, with iniquity unpardoned? O modernist, O trifler, remember there is no preacher who spake so much, proportionately, of the doom of the damned, as did our blessed, loving Lord Himself! He announces that He, the Judge, will say to you:
"Depart from Me, Ye cursed into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mat. 25:41).
And again, "Neither doth the Father judge any man, but He hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent Him ... And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is a Son of man" (John 5:22-23, 27).
This marks Christ as the Sitter on The Great White Throne of Revelation 20, "from Whose face the earth and the Heaven flee away." (See author's Revelation, pp. 327-334.)
Through simple faith only we reconcile Hebrews 12:29 with "God is Love," and "God so loved the world." Let no one yield to the delusion that "God out of Christ is a consuming fire"! Mr. Darby well says, "This expression, Our God is a consuming fire, they say, is spoken of God out of Christ. We know nothing of God out of Christ! We may be out of Christ ourselves, and then indeed as a consuming fire the presence of God would be destructive to us. But, as known to those who are in Christ, He is a GOD intolerant of evil, of all that is inconsistent with Himself."
Let us hold fast by faith to the blessed words that begin this last verse, Our God! And let Him open it to us! There will be a day when the infinite holiness of God will become an indescribably blessed delight and joy, as His saints look forward to the ages to come!
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Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13