Sunday, December 01, 2013

THE UNSHAKEABLE KINGDOM - HEBREWS 12:25-28


In this passage, the writer calls for a response to the better covenant in Christ. He wants them to obey and cling to Jesus Christ for salvation.

The last paragraph we studied, verses 18 through 25, again compared the old covenant to the new. This time the writer used a metaphor of mountains. Sinai represented the old covenant. Zion represented the new covenant, which is superior to the old.

The last sentence of that paragraph refers to “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”. By that he means the shed blood of Christ is superior to the blood of Abel, for the blood of Christ brings atonement for sin. Abel’s blood spoke of his obedience, but Christ’s blood spoke of his obedience to obtain our salvation.

So, in verse 25, when the writer says do not refuse him who is speaking, he refers to Jesus Christ, who speaks of salvation through his death on the cross. The writer says see that you do not refuse him. The message of the gospel was preached to them, so they needed to receive it and not reject it. Hearing the gospel is not enough, you must believe in Christ and receive him as lord and savior. John 1:11-12 discusses this. First, John said, “He came to his own and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus came to his people, the Jews, and declared himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the one who could save them from their sins. Although some believed him, the majority did not receive him. They were willing for him to be a good teacher and a healer, but not the Son of God.

But some people did receive him as God’s son and believed on his name. (John 1:12) To those, he gave the right to become children of God. They received eternal life and adoption into God’s family. When Jesus revealed his divinity by changing water into wine, he manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. They believed he was the Son of God. John 3:16 says that the one who believes in the Son of God receives eternal life. But John 3:18 points out that those who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God are condemned.

There are some who claim you can receive Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord, and still be saved. The problem is, you must receive Jesus for who he is, the Son of God who not only saves, but rules over all. If you do not receive him both as savior and lord (master), you do not receive him and are not saved to eternal life.

After giving the warning not to refuse Christ, the writer tells us why. He uses an argument from the lesser to the greater. He points out that those who refused to obey the one who warned them on earth. That person was Moses, who received instructions from God and taught them to Israel. Some, however, disobey or refused him. There were several instances, but certainly the rejection of the command to go into Canaan as met with judgment in the form of defeat, death and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They did not escape.

So, the writer says, if they did not escape when Moses, the man from earth warned them, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven. That person is Christ. He is in heaven, raised from the dead, and seated at the right hand of the Father. He made this same point in Hebrews 10:29, when he wrote: “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God...”

In verse 26, he writes “at that time, his voice shook the earth”. I think he is again referring to God’s word of the covenant law, given to Moses, on Mount Sinai. Exodus 19: 18 says the whole mountain trembled greatly. He shook the earth.

In contrast, verse 26 says he now says he will not only shake the earth but the heavens. He will do this “yet once more”. There will come a time when God shakes the earth and the heavens. This is a reference to Haggai 2:6. This type of statements in the Bible indicate a big, important event and action of God. the writer explains that in verse 27. He said this means there will be a removal of things that are shaken. He says those are the things “that have been made”.

This refers to the present created order that we see, the heavens and the earth. “Heavens” in this case means the sky and space. God will remove the present created order at the end. Peter described it this way:
“the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire,
being kept until the day of judgment
and destruction of the ungodly.” 2 Peter 3:7.
Peter is saying Jesus will return to judge the ungodly and condemn them, then to destroy the present order. He goes on in verse 10 to say the heavens (sky) will pass away and the heavenly bodies (space) will be burned up and dissolved. John saw a vision of this and said “for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away and the sea was no more”. (Revelation 21:1)

The writer of Hebrews tells us one reason for the destruction of these things is so that the things that cannot be shaken (or dissolved) will be the only things that remain. What remains after the destruction of the earth, sky and space is the kingdom that cannot be shaken. I call this the new earth. In Revelation 21:1, John wrote “Then I saw a hew heaven and a new earth...and I say the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven and from God.” It is the place prepared for us which is now in heaven, but will become our residence in the new earth after resurrection. Peter write: “But according to his promise we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. So, the unshakeable kingdom is the new heavens and new earth. Revelation 22 describes it in very Eden like terms. The tree of life is there on either side of the river of the water of life, God is there and we will worship him.

This, by the way, is the only Utopia there will ever be, the only perfect place to dwell. I am a child of the 60s and 70s in the United States. We say the world as corrupt and soul killing. We thought people could come together and create love, harmony and peace. Much of the music of that era was about this. The summer of love in San Francisco was about this. And, although many older people do not know it, Woodstock was about this.

Woodstock was a huge outdoor concert lasting several days in upstate New York on Mr. Yasgur’s farm. The idea was to show that people could come together, listen to music, promote peace, love and harmony, and create this Utopia. Crosby, Stills and Nash sang about it, in a song called “Woodstock” that was written by Joni Mitchell, a folk singer.

The song is full of religious imagery. The song talks about being caught in the devil’s bargain. But the tag line is “we have got to get ourselves back to the garden”. It means back to the Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis 2. But they made the same mistake made by Adam and Even: they tried to create Utopia with human effort and ideas, not by the lordship of God. And so it failed to bring peace to our nation. That is the problem with all Utopian programs. Human nature always corrupts it. The only perfect place that will ever exist is the kingdom of God that exists after resurrection and judgment, the New Earth, the unshakeable kingdom, the New Jerusalem. Then we will truly get back to the Garden. But there we will worship God, Father and Son, and live under his rule. That is what it means by saying the throne of God will be there.

What We Do In The Mean Time
Hebrews 12:28-29

First, we are grateful for receiving this kingdom. Ungrateful Christian should be an oxymoron, a phrase that contradicts itself. Ungrateful Christians profane God’s name. If you are not grateful that God saw you as dead in your sins, deserving death and hell, unable to discern spiritual things, futile in your thinking, a child of wrath, an enemy of God, a rebel, yet sent his Son to suffer and die to atone for your sins and give you fellowship with the Father for all eternity, there is something very wrong with you. If you do not understand the magnitude of grace, you likely do not understand the magnitude of your sin to God.

The story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet while he attended dinner at a Pharisee’s house demonstrates this. Luke 7 has the story. The woman, who was a sinner, came into the room and anointed Jesus’ feet with an alabaster flask of ointment. Then she wept, dripping tears onto his feet, and dried his feet with her hair while kissing his feet. (Luke 7:36-38) This is an act of humility, worship and thanksgiving. She was so grateful Jesus had forgiven her sins that she expressed her thanks with extravagance. The Pharisee did not do any of these things, and in fact was rude, not even offering Jesus water to wash his feet, which was customary. Jesus made the point that one who realizes he or she has been forgiven much will love much. Those who think they are forgiven little, will love little. And this implies no one is forgiven little that is forgiven at all.

Second, we are to offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28). In the Old Testament, God spelled out the manner of worship he acceptable. Anything else resulted in tragedy. In the New Testament, there are not as many rules spelled out concerning worship. But they are there. Any worship must be reverent and full of awe, that is recognizing that God is almighty. He is not your co-pilot, Santa Clause, the big guy, the man upstairs or any such trivial description. He is the creator of all things, the sustainer of life, the giver of salvation, the giver of all blessings, the one who holds the power to raise us from the dead. Any description of him that is less is unacceptable worship.

The New Testament tells us to meet together, to preach the gospel, to sing, to read scripture, observe the ordinances and to pray. What is unacceptable worship? Programs that include things from other religions, that allow you to attend and perform ritual without believing, anything that downplays God’s majesty, anything that makes man equal to God, that denies the truth and reliability of God’s word and so on.

Why must worship be acceptable? Because our God is a consuming fire. He judges and destroys the wicked. This statement is based on Deuteronomy 4:24. Moses warned the Israelites not to make an image in the form of anything, because God is a consuming fire and a jealous God. by jealous, he means God does not tolerate your having an allegiance to anything greater than your allegiance to him. Modern day devotion to career and wealth that exceeds devotion to Christ is no more acceptable than devotion to wooden idols or the worship of gods from pagan countries in the Old Testament times.

Be grateful and worship with reverence and awe. This is pleasing to God.
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