Warning: this article is less practical like the others and more theological. Let’s get going.
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling.”Hebrews 12:18–21
God commanded the people to not approach Mt Sinai. Why?
I think one of the main reasons was fear. They were terrified of the display of God on the mountain, and rightly so. Again, I believe this is due to the fact that God revealed through Moses was veiled (2 Corinthians 3). They could not see God for who He is as revealed through Jesus.
The love of God revealed through Christ, however, casts out fear (1 John 4:18). That says a lot about fire and brimstone preaching, huh? That’s more like the veiled view of God at Mt Sinai than the face to face relationship with God of Mt Zion.
As long as we are afraid of God, it is impossible to know Him as we ought. “Don’t eat a cookie before dinner, God is watching!” “There’s an eyyyyyyeeee watching yoooou…” and other sayings and songs turn God more into the Big Attendance Taker in the Sky who’s main worry is whether or not you attended that one gospel meeting instead of baseball practice (even though you could probably do more good setting an example to your peers than hearing ANOTHER sermon on instrumental music and baptism).
It makes God into the Ultimate Santa Claus. As a personal note, I was so afraid of Santa Claus when I was little, that he had to leave the presents on the porch.
Anyways, back to it. The writer of Hebrews continues,
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.(Hebrews 12:22–24)
There’s a lot going on here. Let’s list it.
Their approach to Mt Zion meant they had arrived at….
the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem
myriads of angels
general assembly and church of the firstborn
spirits of the righteous made perfect
Well, that’s too much for one article, so let’s pick three: Mt Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the spirits of the righteous made perfect.
First, Mt Zion has a rich theological history connected to themes of the kingdom of God, judgement, resurrection, and much, much more. Here’s some passages from Isaiah. As you read, I don’t expect you to understand everything because I don’t, but notice the common language used throughout:
The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.Isaiah 2:1–4
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. Then in that day The nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.Isaiah 11:6–10
The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”Isaiah 25:6–9
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness. I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying… It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.Isaiah 65:17–25
This theme of the holy mountain, which is identified as Zion in Isaiah 2, is the place where the New Covenant would be established, where a lavish banquet would be prepared, where the nations would flock, where death would be swallowed up, where tears would be wiped away, and around which the new heavens and new earth would be centered. I’ll leave it up to you to find these passages, and more, quoted in the New Testament, but I hope you can see how important this mountain is! When the writer of Hebrews references it and says “you have come to” he was saying that all of these things were on the cusp of being fulfilled!
This brings us to the reference the writer made to the heavenly Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem. Again, notice a few passages:
Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.Galatians 4:25–26
This city, above, would come down at the revelation of Jesus Christ which was at hand (Revelation 1:1). It would take place, as the contact of Galatians 4 reveals, when the “bond woman” would be cast out.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.Revelation 21:2
Notice in Galatians 4 he calls the earthly Jerusalem the “present Jerusalem.” This is why the Hebrews writer wrote, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). The city to come was the heavenly Jerusalem. They had arrived at the mountain. They were ready to receive the city, so they were told, in verse 13 of chapter 13, to go outside the camp.
Now, the arrival of this holy city is anticipated earlier in Hebrews as well:
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.Hebrews 11:16
Their entrance into the city was likened unto a better resurrection, a better resurrection than the physical resurrection several in the Bible had experienced (Hebrews 11:35). Had their desire been an earthly city, as the writer pointed out in verse 16, then a physical resurrection would have done them nicely. Instead, they wanted something better: entrance into a heavenly city. But, the writer said,
And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.Hebrews 11:39–40
When would their perfection take place? Some say in our distant future. Remember, though, what was said…
“You have come to the spirits of the righteous made perfect!”
Which means the first century saints then were arriving at their perfection because “apart from us they would not be made perfect.”
The New Heavens and Earth was at hand. The New Jerusalem was at hand. The perfection of the saints was at hand. The resurrection was at hand. Unlike Old Covenant Israel who had to stay away from Mt Sinai, they were invited onto the mountain because perfect love casts out fear. Jesus made this way for us through the Cross:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.Hebrews 2:14–15
Jesus entered the flesh to conquer the flesh. Now, we are free. Now, we can boldly go into the Holy Place. Now, we have perfection, not because of something we have done but because of something God did.
Stop singing about how you are marching to Zion and start enjoying the banquet set before you. As another song says, “All things are ready, come to the feast.” Which means, according to Isaiah 25 above, that death has been swallowed up in victory.
Welcome to the mountain. Welcome to resurrection.