Study Notes

Hebrews 12:18-29


The author of Hebrews has told us to be others-centered - strengthening those who are spiritually losing their grip and getting weak in the knees - and mindful of our own selves - making sure that we're walking a straight path, pursuing peace with all people, and not allowing bitterness into our hearts.

He warned us to make sure that we didn't end up like Esau - a guy who let his flesh dictate his actions, a man who let bitterness ruin him. He did not take the spiritual path, the godly way. And so he ended up immoral and godless.

This takes us to verse 18...

12:18-21 Not To Mount Sinai

In the book of Exodus, when the children of Israel had passed through the Red Sea, God led them to the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses went up the mountain to meet with God, and the Lord told him to tell the Israelites to prepare themselves, for He was going to appear at the top of the mountain and speak to them. He was going to appear in a thick cloud, with smoke and fire, earthquakes, and trumpet blasts.

To prepare themselves, the Israelites had to be consecrated for three days. They were not even allowed to touch the mountain, or they would die.

When God did appear and speak, it was with all of the fearful appearance with which He had warned them. The people freaked out. Trembling with fear, they told Moses,

Exod. 20:19 ..."Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die."

What had God told them? He'd recited to them the Ten Commandments - His standard of perfection in a nutshell.

This was the beginning of Israel under the Law: trembling and afraid, held to a perfect standard, under the threat of death.

Once this Law was shown to be impossible and hopeless for man, God sent His Son Jesus to preach the gospel of repentance and relationship instead of rules and regulations. The age of grace had begun. The requirements of the Law had been fulfilled in Jesus and then imparted to us. The righteousness that the Law required was complete through faith in Jesus Christ.

But the readers of this letter were burning out on faith in Christ and were in danger of going back under the Law. The author is trying to tell them, "Look, guys, why would you want to go back to that terrifying place when you don't have to? You've already reached a better mountain!"

12:22-24 You Have Come To Mount Zion

The better mountain was Mount Zion. Mount Zion is the mountain which sits atop Jerusalem, where the temple stood. But it is more than a mountain - it is a physical representation of God's spiritual habitation. The Bible tells us that the Lord dwells in Zion (Ps. 9:11, Isa. 8:18, etc.). The Lord said,

Joel 3:17 ...I am the LORD your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain...

Jerusalem is the same way. It is a city, yet it is also a physical representation of God's spiritual habitation. The psalmist wrote,

Ps. 135:21 Blessed be the LORD from Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Zion and Jerusalem speak of living with God in peaceful fellowship, so the writer of Hebrews is comparing the two experiences. After all, where would you rather be? Scared to death of a frightening God demanding perfection of you? Or blessed in the house of God that you entered by grace?

Better Than The Blood Of Abel

Notice too, in the description of all that we have come to by grace, we are told that we have come to the sprinkled blood of Jesus, which is compared to the blood of Abel.

Remember that after Cain killed his brother Abel, God told him,

Gen. 4:10-11 ..."What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.

The blood of Abel was speaking, crying out to God. The blood of Jesus also speaks - but compare the speech, because Jesus' blood speaks better than Abel's.

You see, the blood of Abel was like the Law, crying out for justice, for revenge, and judgment. Conversely, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1John 1:7), brings us near to God (Eph. 2:13), cleanses our consciences (Heb. 9:14), sanctifies us (Heb. 13:12), redeems us (1Pet. 1:18-19), and releases us from our sins (Rev. 1:5).

12:25 No Escape For Refusing

We, then, have a choice. And that choice is really not whether to return to the Law or live under grace. It is really to either obey Christ or refuse Him. Jesus said very plainly,

Matt. 12:30 "He who is not with Me is against Me...

And if you are found by God to be against His Son Jesus, shouldn't you be even more afraid than those who were shaking and quaking at the foot of Mount Sinai? Remember, Jesus said,

John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

There is no escape from the wrath of God, so don't refuse His Son.

12:26-27 Not Shaken

God is going to shake the heavens and the earth. Jesus said,

Luke 21:33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

They're going to be wiped out, removed and replaced by a new heavens and a new earth. Where is your kingdom today? Is it based in this world that's going to be shaken? Or is it based on the Word of God, which will never pass away?

If we're trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation, we're not going to be shaken. We will remain and abide with Him forever.

12:28-29 Show Gratitude

Since we have been so radically blessed by the grace of God, how should we respond? At first glance, it would seem that four things are listed here: Gratitude, service, reverence and awe.

However, if you take a closer look, our response is to be simply gratitude,

Hebr. 12:28 which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe

It is by gratitude that we will serve and be in awe of God.

You see, religious systems insist on service, and put a fear of God's judgment upon you if you don't measure up. But Biblical Christianity is about relationship, not requirement. And if our response to God is simply gratitude - being grateful and thankful for His gift of grace to us, then we will naturally be in awe of God and desire to serve Him.

Col. 2:6-7 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him, having been firmly rooted {and now} being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, {and} overflowing with gratitude.

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