The Beauty of God’s Kingdom – Part 1Posted: May 19, 2009
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 12. We will start our reading at verse 18 through 29, and will be focusing on verses 28 and 29. ESV – Hebrews 12:18-29 – 18For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20For they could not endure the order that was given, If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned. 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, I tremble with fear. 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. 27This phrase, Yet once more, indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.
It is important that while studying this chapter you don’t look at only a tree, or just the leaves; rather, you need to look at the whole forest. In order to see that whole scope here, I am going to first spend some time in introduction to the verses we read. I believe that it’s necessary to do this so that the points are understood all the more. So, I am going to start by going back to the beginning of the chapter and my aim will be to show the beauty that lies there, from the beginning to the end… the end being what we will be specifically dealing with today.
In the first 17 verses, which we did not read, the writer of the book of Hebrews asks his audience to throw aside everything they are going through – their pain, hardship, and suffering – so that they can know Christ even more.
Verse One – The writer wants his readers to lay aside all their weight; any hook that has gotten a hold of them. In essence he is saying, “If it does not help your progression in Christianity, then get rid of it.”
Verses Two – Four – How does one do this? He looks to Jesus. He focuses as though on a one-lane road, seeing and knowing where Jesus is at all times, not turning any other way, not looking back and forth. The writer of Hebrews relates Christians to being those running a race; we are running towards Christ, who has endured the cross because of the joy He knew that would come from it. It was us whom He went to the cross for, and He alone is the founder and perfector of our faith. Christ went beyond all measure in both trial and temptation, shedding His blood for our sin, and He is now seated at the right hand of God. This is the Jesus we look to.
Verses Five – Thirteen – Here the focus shifts to show that the Lord’s people do suffer. But it also shows that we are to receive our suffering with the knowledge and assurance that the Lord is always at hand. In verses 6 to 8, we see that the Lord chastens His people because He loves His people; and it is through suffering for Him that we can know in our hearts that we are the Lord’s people. Verses 9 and 10 show how people are subject to the correction of earthly fathers, and through that, we both know and learn how to be submissive; thus, there is even so much more reason to be submissive to our heavenly Father who disciplines us. Through verses 11 to 13, the writer makes it clear that there are no excuses when it comes to suffering and living for the Lord. The benefits of suffering for Christ are great. Therefore, we are encouraged to continue throughout, and to enjoy the Christian life at all times, no matter what it consists of.
Verses Fourteen – Seventeen – This portion of the chapter ends with the writer urging Christians to persevere. He shows us the seriousness of sin, and that once one renounces their confidence in God, it is impossible to retrieve what was lost. We see here that the writer does not want Christians to claim Christ and then turn away and expect that they can come back after they had renounced their faith.
This brings us to the second part of the chapter, and the main context (verses 18 through 29) where our two verses are placed. Here the writer gives a bit of biblical history of Israel, using it to relate to the readers. As throughout the whole book, he looks again at the person and work of Jesus Christ, showing us both what was written in the Old Testament and the New Testament about Him. In this, the writer uses the example of Mount Sinai because of the redemption and deliverance which Moses brought to the Lord’s people with the Law. This is shown in comparison with the redemption that Christ gave in the gospel.
It is significant to notice the two “for’s” here, so that we see the importance of what the writer is doing with the whole of the passage. First it says, “For you have not come to what may be touched.” Over the next seven verses he then gives the reason why we are not to be like Esau, which is something he stated in verse 16. The writer is expressing that he doesn’t want to see these new Christians – who had left the Jewish faith – to compromise or leave what they now claim and believe. Next, in verse 25 he states, “For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.” Both of these bring us to the final section where the writer declares, “For our God is a consuming fire” in verse 29. This whole section is used to bring the believer to see that his mediator, his better blood, his new covenant, is found in Christ. It helps us understand and to love that better blood, the new covenant, and most of all, to love Jesus.
Next we see that verse 28 begins with “Therefore.” Why this word? We can see it this way – verse 22: “Therefore those that have come to Mount Zion and the city of the living God;” “Therefore those who come to the angels, therefore those who are enrolled in heaven;” verse 23: “Therefore those whose God is your judge, therefore who righteousness is made perfect, therefore those who have Jesus as their mediator;” verse 24: “who is apart of the new covenant, and therefore to those that are sprinkled with a better blood then that of Abel.” Why the “Therefore?” It is because the writer is now giving the climax of his chapter to those who believe the gospel; ‘you are a believer, therefore,’ “be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.”