Hebrews Chapter 12

Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Paul1 used the word wherefore, or therefore, connecting this admonition directly to the last several verses of the previous chapter. Here, Paul speaks of those witnesses that he outlined in the last chapter, which is also known as the Hall of Faith. There, Paul discussed all those saints who had faith and endured hardship for what they could not see. Yet, they persevered but still did not receive the promised Messiah. Let me remind you that the Greek word for witness in this verse is μαρτυρων, martyron (from the root μαρτυς, martys or martus, 3144), from which we get the English martyr. We can easily understand this, for when Christians were killed for their faith, they were witnesses for Christ in their death. In fact, an archaic usage of the word martyr is, simply, a witness. Many were called martyrs even before they were put to death because they were great witnesses for Christ.

The admonition given here is that we have all of these witnesses going before us and they are surrounding us in spirit. They have all died, and none of them saw the promise. Because we have seen the promise, let us act if those witnesses were observing our every move, even though they are not really observing us. That way we will honor their faith and we will be strong in our own faith. Additionally, let us emulate them, by having faith as strong as theirs.

Because of those patient saints of yesteryear, let us not allow any evil to take us off our course as we continue on the narrow path that leads to eternal life. It is so very easy for sin to enter into our lives, and sin is evil and a weight that we carry. Paul likened the idea here unto a footrace, and when a racer runs a race, he has as little weight on him as he can get away with. If we carry a weight on our racecourse, it will drastically slow us down. If you have read Pilgrims Progress, you are aware that the one thing that motivated Christian at the beginning of the story, was the great weight he carried on his back. That weight was sin. If you have not read Pilgrim’s Progress, you should. There is no copyright; it is freely available on the Net.

The footrace we are running is our daily walk with Christ. Our course is life itself, and our goal is the blessed hope, which is the hope of Heaven. We attain that hope by faith in Christ. The prize is a reward from the Lord, saying, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Paul said he had finished his course, fought the good fight, and he was ready to receive a crown of life from his Lord. Each of us will receive that crown of life if we believe in the Only Begotten Son of God. Let us endure patiently as did those saints of the past, knowing that our faith is sure, and that when we finish the race there will also be a crown of righteousness awaiting us (2 Timothy 4:8).

Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The runner has a goal; he is to keep his eye upon that goal. Our goal is Jesus. If we look unto Him, that will keep the weight of sin at bay and we will be able to run without that encumbrance.

Let us keep in mind the context of the footrace. Jesus is the αρχηγον (arkegon, from αρχηγοs, arkegos, 747), rendered ‘author’ in the KJV. It strictly means, “one who goes first on the path”, hence our leader or captain. In this case, He has already run and finished the race and we look to Him for our support. He voluntarily went to the cross in order to save us. Because of His love for us and because of the joy of our salvation, He ignored the shame of the cross, enduring the cross. He now, having finished the race, sits at the right hand of the father.

The Greek states that Jesus is the originator and finisher of the faith. The definite article, τες (tace, from 3588, ό, ho, also η, he, το, to, τε, te, and various inflections, etc.) is in the Greek text. So the sentence more properly reads “…and finisher of the faith…” What does this mean to the student? “The Faith” is the only faith, and that is faith in God; it is The Christian Faith. Faith in God has existed since creation. That means that Jesus is the author and finisher of The Faith from before the foundation of the world to its end and on into eternity. All the saved throughout history, in both the Old and New Testaments are saved through the blood of Christ.

We must compare these first verses in this chapter with 2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” There Paul was talking about the same racecourse we see here. The course is our life. The Judge is Christ. If we finish the course and keep the faith, we will receive as a reward, a crown of righteousness. Let us not confuse this with salvation. Those of us on the course are already saved and already have life eternal. This crown, then, is a reward for our good works in Christ Jesus. Finishing the course, fighting the good fight, and keeping the faith are all good works that Christ performs in us.

Heb 12:3-4 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. (4) Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

He, the perfect sinless Son of God, endured much opposition and contradiction from His fellow countrymen. If He did this, then we, too, can endure such opposition. So, do not let the opposition and persecution that is attendant to all Christians get you down. After all, most of us, especially those of us in the West, have not resisted these contradictions and striven against sin to the point that our blood has been spilled. However, He has. Many Christians throughout history right up until this very day have suffered to the point of having their blood spilled. The Bible tells us to be faithful even unto death. Always look to Him, who has run and finished the race, and when the going gets rough, He will keep you going, even in suffering, tribulation, torture, and death.

Heb 12:5-6 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

(Paul quotes Proverbs 3:11). Additionally, do not forget that God chastens us when we are in need of chastening. He uses chastening in various ways, such as instruction, opposition, persecution, tribulation, reaping what we sow, etc. Do not grow faint when He does chasten you. Only good will come of such chastening, if you will allow it. Like James said, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-3) If God loves you, and He does, then He will chasten you when needed. He scourges, that is, He corrects, all those whom He saves. The word, scourge, is μαστιγοι (mastigoi). It is the indicative present active 3rd person singular form of μαστιγοω (mastigoo—pronounced mah-stee gah’-oh), to scourge, to whip, to punish. That means that it when it happens, it occurs in the present, that is, experientially. We experience it as it occurs. God does not literally scourge us, but he uses various avenues to punish or correct us.

Hebrews 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

All good fathers will chasten their children when the children go astray. Only fathers that do not care for, that is, love, their children will not chasten a wayward child, but will ignore him. We are the sons of God and as sons, God, our Father, chastens us.

Heb 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

This may seem a hard teaching. If God never chastens you, then you are not one of His children. Period. Case closed. Finis. Fin. If you sin, and get away with it, then you are not a true child of God; you are illegitimate. When a Christian sins, his conscience hurts. If he does not confess that sin and continues in it, then God will correct him. On the other hand, if God never corrects him, he is not saved; he is no son of God. All true Christians are true children of God. He chastens ALL His children. If you are a Christian, God will chasten you when the need arises.

Hebrews 12:9-10 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

Again, earthly fathers chasten their children. Our own fathers disciplined us and do we not respect them for it? If we respect them, then how much more should we respect our Heavenly Father? They occasionally punished us according to their own understanding. God, who is perfect and all knowing, chastens us perfectly so that we always profit from his chastening. We may not have always profited from our fathers’ chastening, because they were fallible men. But God is not and we always profit from His chastening.

God is the Father of spirits, indicating that God is the creator of men and gives them the spirit of life. Additionally, He gives them eternal life. One could accurately say that God is the Father of all living (similar to the appellation given to Eve). Hence, he is also the Father of those whom he has saved. Though one could say He is the Father of all living, He is truly not the Father of the unsaved. Only the saved are the true children of God. We can discern this truth by looking at similar verses.

Numbers 16:22 And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?

Numbers 27:16 Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.

Job 33:4 The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.

God has given us life. He has breathed the spirit of life into us. See Genesis 2:7, Job 27:3, Acts 17:25; see also Romans 8:16-17.

Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

The time of chastening is not something we enjoy. In fact, it is sometimes painful. But remember that when we have been chastened in the past, we have always emerged from it stronger, more Christ like, and are better because of it. The righteousness produced in us by the chastening, gives us peace (and freedom from worry) in the area in which we were chastened. The chastening is worth the results it produces. In summary, and simply put, God’s chastening is good for us.

Hebrews 12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

One who is discouraged has shaky knees and his hands hang down in weariness. Paul exhorts us to be encouraged and not discouraged by the chastening of God, but to look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. Stand up straight, don’t bend over to the weight of God’s chastening. Do so by becoming and remaining righteous and not repeating the mistakes that caused the chastening in the first place.

Hebrews 12:13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

According to the Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon, the word, ορθος (orthos, 3717) literally means straight or upright, or erect. Nonetheless, it has a metaphorical use as well. Metaphorically, it can denote right, safe, correct, true, happy, genuine, real, righteous, etc. Of course, the English equivalents, ‘straight’, erect’, or ‘upright’, all have much the same meanings as their Greek counterpart, ορθος.

The Hebrew word for ‘straight’ is ישׁר (yashar, 3474). You will find the phrase, “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” in Isaiah 40:3. Since it is a very similar statement to this one in Hebrews, we will consider it. The Hebrew yashar means right as well as straight. In fact it is used in just that fashion in Psalm 119:128: “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.”

The usage here in this verse is ορθας (orthas), which is the accusative adjective. The accusative is an object of a verb or a preposition, this use of ‘straight’ modifies that object, which here is ‘paths’. Consequently, the adjective is also plural. There is no degree, so it is not ‘straighter’ or ‘straightest’. It is, simply, ‘straight’. What does this tell us? Unfortunately, nothing more than the English translation tells us, i.e., that we are to make our paths straight.

So how do we understand the metaphorical implications of the adjective, ‘straight’? We must compare it with other scripture.

In addition to the scripture mentioned above (Psalm 119:128) , we must also consider Psalm 5:8, “Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.” Let us consider Proverbs 4:25-27, as well, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. {26} Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. {27} Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”

In our first passage, Psalm 119:128, ‘right’ is obviously the correct rendering because all of God’s precepts are right. That is, they are the truth; therefore they are correct and righteous. In the second passage, Psalm 5:8, we see a direct correlation between righteousness and straight paths (way is a synonym of path). In the third and final passage, Proverbs 4:25-27, we see that when following a straight path, our ways are established. If we remain straight, looking neither right nor left, we will avoid evil. If we have no evil, then we are righteous. This verse is taken from the third passage. It is taken from Proverbs 4:26 in the Septuagint (LXX), “Make straight paths for thy feet, and order thy ways aright.

To make one’s path straight is to make it righteous. Our path is the living of our daily lives. To make our lives straight is to live our lives in a righteous manner. Paul tells us how to accomplish this in Philippians 2:14-16a, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: {15} That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; {16a} Holding forth the word of life;”

While opposition, contradiction, and persecutions come upon us, we must still stand up straight and endure it. If we make our paths straight, that is, if we walk uprightly on our path, others will observe us and not become lame, and will not be turned out of the way. Instead, they will become stronger Christians.

Alluding to the footrace, let us not become lame, fall down, and get in the way. In the case of the race, the verse could also be rendered (with the support of the Greek) “make your paths even”, that is, smooth and with few bumps. Therefore, you are less likely to fall. In this case, falling means sinning, or otherwise bringing displeasure to God. Chastening helps us to make smooth paths and teaches us not to fall down, that is, not to sin. In other words, we will not be lamed by a bumpy path, and are healed from the lameness of past mistakes.

Heb 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

According to Webster, one of the definitions of ‘follow’ is to pursue. This conforms to the Greek word, διωκετε (diokete, dee-oh’-keh-teh, from διώκω, dioko, 1377). Διωκετε basically means, “all of you actively pursue” (imperative present active 2nd person plural). Hence, Paul is telling each of us to pursue peace with action and not just to be passively peaceful. There is nothing wrong with being passively peaceful, but we must also actively try to engage in peace with all.

Peace, ειρηνην, (eirenen, (eye-ray’-nain), accusative case of ειρηνη, eirene, (eye-ray’-nay) 1515, the object of the verb phrase “all of you pursue”) has exactly the same meanings as it does in the English. (By the way, our English female name, Irene, comes from this word). What does it mean in this case? It is in the accusative case, that is, it is an object and its intent is to reveal the purpose of an action. Peace can mean freedom from war or mayhem, calmness of the mind, a tranquil spirit, freedom from disturbance, harassment, or persecution, quietness, harmony, concord, etc. Because it is in the accusative case, it reveals the purpose of the pursuit, which is peace. The Apostle entreats us to engage in its pursuit with all men. That implies that we are to seek harmony with all men, when possible. We should not pursue harmony to the extent that we become unequally yoked with unbelievers. We know this from 2 Corinthians 6:14. Since this must be the case, and considering that the Bible commands it, then Paul includes saved men, when he says all men. We are to pursue harmony with our Christian Brethren at all times, and with all men whenever it does not cause unequal yoking with unbelievers.

That leaves out ecumenism, the interfaith movement, and one world religionism. We should not pursue harmony or unity with unbelievers, or with godlessness, for, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? {15} And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? {16} And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” We must not be yoked with any organization that does not believe fully in Christ. Many ecumenical organizations like the World Council of Churches and the Baptist World Alliance, associate with all sorts of religions to include pagans, Wiccans, Shamanists, Buddhists, Shintoists, Hindus, Muslims, Voodooists, and so on. We must not seek unity with, or become members of such organizations.

I am elated to say that the Southern Baptists have finally (in February 2004) severed relations with the Baptist World Alliance. Thank God, they have come out from among them.

We are also to pursue holiness. The word, ‘holiness’ is also in the accusative case, being another object of the verb phrase, “all of you pursue”. We are to actively pursue holiness as well as peace and harmony. What is holiness? Holiness is separation from the world and dedication to God and all that is Godly. We are separated to the service of God. We are His servants. In order to enter into the presence of the God, we must have attained complete holiness. How can we do that? Is there some lifestyle we maintain, some great deed we do, or some mission we accomplish?

It is of interest that the Roman Catholic Church says that salvation comes to us by “by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance according to the condition of the respective subject laden with sin“. (The Catholic Encyclopedia Online Edition, Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight). The Council of Trent decided this, which council took place from December 13, 1545, to December 4, 1563. So, according to the Roman Catholic Church, salvation is based upon works. There are three ways to be saved, according to the Roman Catholic Church. One way to be saved is for a rich (well disposed) sinner to give a goodly amount of money to the church. Another way is to be baptized a Roman Catholic. Most are christened (baptized by sprinkling) at birth. This act supposedly saves the child. In other words, salvation is received through the work of christening accomplished by the parish priest. This completely leaves out the atoning work of Christ at Calvary. Finally, another way to be saved is to do penance. Pennance is doing something like working for the poor, repeating a rosary or rosaries (Our Father, Hail Mary, etc., or a combination of rosaries), saying a prayer, repeating scripture, or some other type of work. The Bible teaches us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The only way we may attain holiness is through Christ. He credits us with His righteousness, and through His leadership, we grow spiritually. But the holiness we have when we stand before the Righteous Judge, is that imputed to us through Christ. There is no great work or “perfect act of charity” we can do to be saved and become holy. It is not anything we do ourselves, but what Christ did for us that provides our holiness. Consequently, we must pursue Christ in order to grow spiritually. We must believe in Christ in order to become holy.

Heb 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

There are two separate thoughts here separated by a semicolon. Let us take thought one first. We are to look with diligence in the church to discover any who lack the grace of God. The phrase, “fail of the grace of God” means to lack such grace. The Greek word, υστερων, husteron, from υστερεω, hustereo, 5302, means to lack, to be in need of, or to be in want. What does it indicate to lack the grace of God. Does it mean that we are lacking in social graces, or good manners? No. One that lacks the grace of God lacks one thing and one thing only. That is salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.” It is our job as Christians, as brethren, as members of the Body of Christ, to make sure that none who are in the midst of our congregations that are not saved. This verse does not say, nor does it imply, that those who lack God’s grace were saved and somehow fell from grace. These folks have become a part of our congregations in some way, but are not saved. That may have been by (false) profession of faith, movement to our church from another church, having grown up as a child in our church, or it may be just a regular visitor to our church. In other words, someone who is regularly associated with our church but is not saved. We are to look over our congregations and make sure all are saved by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul gives us some reasons why.

It is essential for all members and associates of our churches be saved. Paul is using a metaphor here to explain why. It is the metaphor of a garden. A pristine garden has no weeds. All the plants there purposely placed there to add to the order and beauty of the garden. Yet, all it would take is for a nearby thistle or a dandelion (both weeds) to drop its miniscule seeds into the garden. Once the weed seeds germinate, the weeds spring up and put down roots. Not only does this worsen the appearance of the garden, but it may also cause some of the purposeful plants in the garden to wither.

An unsaved member or associate of a church can bring about its downfall. That unsaved member may become a troublemaker because of his lack of belief. A good example of this is the governing board of a church treating a pastor as a hireling. If the pastor doesn’t tow the party line of the governing board, when the board is being unbiblical, he may be fired. Another example may be the member that is always a naysayer, especially when it comes to doing the will of God. That one person can cause much strife and bitterness among the brethren. Not only may such a person cause bitterness, but he may completely destroy the credibility of all the members of the church, defiling them, thus destroying their ability to witness to a lost and dying world. We should be exceedingly careful to make sure no one like that moves among us. We should not tolerate an individual like that.

That brings to church discipline. Many churches will allow such a person to be among them because he gives large donations to the church, or because removing him would cause some to be offended and to leave the church. In most cases, those who would be offended and leave are not saved anyway. So there is not big loss. Christians, we must stop allowing such people to remain among us. We must begin to remove them from our churches. The object of a church is not to get members so we can have money, big buildings, family life centers, large congregations, celebrity pastors, etc. The reasons for church are worship (including prayer, singing, praise, Bible study, preaching, etc.), fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism. As a pastor of mine used to say, we are to “exalt the Savior, equip the saints, and evangelize the sinner,” which is a sentiment of many local churches.

Hebrews 12:16-17 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (17) For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

This is another reason to be diligent for those in our midst who lack the grace of God. Obviously the literal meaning of a fornicator is one that has marital relations outside of marriage. We should allow no fornicators to remain in fellowship with us. This includes homosexuality and pornography. We must not tolerate a fornicator among us.

There is another connotation of the word, ‘fornicator’. One who practices idolatry is a fornicator against God to Whom he is espoused. Idolatry can take all sorts of avenues. Some can worship money, some the pastor, some the church building and grounds. Some worship television, politics, golf, fishing, etc. Any one of these can cause problems in the church. A true Christian will not be a literal fornicator nor will he be an idolater. If he is, then his conscience will get to him. If this happens, a true Christian will stop the sinful activity, repent, and turn from his sinful way.

Profane in this context simply means secular or worldly. Hence, in this passage a profane person is a worldly person. One who is profane is not interested in the things of God, but in there things of the world. Everything that person does has the motive behind it of worldliness. Basically, the profane person is one who is only interested in Number One, himself. Every thing he does, even in church, is in his own interest. Esau is an excellent example. He was the number one son of a very rich, powerful, and Godly man. His was the birthright. He stood to inherit all of his father’s goods and power. He would be the patriarch of the Family of Abraham and Isaac. Yet he gave that all away just to satisfy a worldly craving. That craving was to get some of what belonged to another. In this case, it was a stew. Jacob made the stew, Esau was covetous of it, and he gave his birthright for a meal of Jacob’s stew. Because of his covetousness, because of his profanity, he lost his blessing and had no way of recouping it. A worldly person is not saved. He has no blessing. Without trusting in Christ as Savior, the profane person has no way to repent and not way to receive his blessing.

Hebrews 12:18-21 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, (19) And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (20) (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: (21) And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

This is Mount Horeb or Sinai; see Exodus 19:10-13. God told Moses to have the people prepare and come to the foot of Sinai. But they were not to touch the mountain. He spoke to Moses and the sound of His voice was like a trumpet and like thunder. The glory of God upon that mount was like lightning and burning fire. It seemed as though Sinai was engulfed in darkness and a storm. The people were terrified and “moved afar off.” Moses was afraid and trembled. The church does not come to such a place.

Heb 12:22-24 But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (23) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

A contrast is shown here between the church (i.e. assembly or congregation) of the Old Covenant and the church of the New. The old was assembled with fear, terror, and trembling at the foot of Mount Sinai. The new is assembled at Mount Zion, the city of God. The old assembly was a literal assembly of all of God’s people (the Israelites in the wilderness) at the foot of Sinai. The new is spiritually assembled at the true Zion, which is Heaven, the place where God dwells. We cannot actually be in Heaven as flesh mortals, so we are there in spirit.

Because of our belief in Christ, we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. Mount Zion is the spiritual mount, that is, it is heaven. We are come near heaven because of our faith in Christ. The old assembly was not allowed to touch Sinai, neither they nor their animals. Not only may we touch Zion, but we will eventually enter it.

The general assembly mentioned here is a great and joyous assembly because they are gathered together in the Presence of God. The Greek word, πανηγυρει, (panegurei, dative case of πανηγυρις, paneguris, joyful assembly, 3831). The dative case can make the assembly apply to either angels or the church. The King James definitely applies it to the church. The majority text variant seems to attach the assembly to the angels by use of a comma and placing the word ‘πανηγυρει’ in verse 22 (και μυριασιν ανγγελων, πανηγυρει). Other texts, including the TR, א, and B, place the word in verse 23. I am not sure that it matters. Either way, be it an assembly of angels in heaven or of the church on earth, we Christians are still a part it by virtue of our belief in Christ. Though we are not physically present, our names are written in heaven allowing us to be there in spirit. As Christians, we are all a part of the heavenly assembly gathered at the throne of God, even now. We are a part of that assembly just as the angels are a part of it. Once we believe in Christ, we will not perish, but have eternal life. We have eternal life now. Therefore, we are now, at this present moment, a part of that assembly in heaven, though only in spirit.

There are two ways to look at the phrase, “church of the firstborn”. One is that Jesus Christ is the Firstborn (Luke 2:7, Romans 8:28, Colossians 1:15 & 18), and that we are of His church, hence we are the called out assembly of the Firstborn, Who is Christ. Another is to look at the Passover for our understanding. At Passover, the families who smeared the shed blood of the paschal lamb on their doorposts were safe from the destroying angel. The firstborn of each of those families were saved from death by that blood. Since Christ is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), and His shed blood saves us, then each of us is one of those firstborn who were spared death by the blood of the Paschal Lamb, which, in the case of the New Covenant, is Jesus Christ.

Heaven is where all those who have received Spiritual birth, that is, have been born again and from above, will ultimately assemble. These are the saved, the saints, all of whom are the firstfruits and the firstborn. These are born again believers. We are born of the Spirit and from above. We qualify as firstborn sons (and daughters) of God because we all receive the inheritance God provides for each of us. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life in Heaven. God is the Creator and thereby the supreme Judge of all. God poured out His judgment for our sins on His only Begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. God judged Him in our place, justifying us in His sight. We are made perfect by the blood of Christ.

Not only have we come to the heavenly Zion, and to the joyous assembly in heaven, but we have also come to Jesus. He shed His blood for us, died, and arose three days later. He now sits at the right hand of the father in Heaven making intercession for his saints. The new covenant, which Jesus reconciles, is the covenant of the blood He shed at Calvary. Righteous Abel’s blood cried out from the ground causing Cain to be cursed (Genesis 4:9-10), but Christ’s blood is life-giving, shed for us and able to atone for our sins. Though Abel was righteous, Jesus speaks better things that Abel.

Heb 12:25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

It is Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, Who now speaks. It was Moses, God speaking through him, that spoke on earth. The ones who disobeyed and turned away from Moses did not escape the wilderness. All but a few of them died before entering into the Promised Land. Since God’s mediator, Moses, spoke to them from the earth, and they that refused to listen to him did not escape, it is much more important that we do not reject the One speaking from Heaven. Jesus died for our sins and whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life. There will be woe unto those who refuse to believe. They will not escape but will be cast into the lake of fire.

Heb 12:26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. (27) And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Again, Moses spoke from earth in the last verse, but it was God Whose voice shook the earth when He came down to Mount Sinai to speak to Moses (Exodus 19:18). Though the King James says, in (Haggai 2:6), “Yet once,” Paul shows us that the correct understanding is “yet once again.” One definition of the English word ‘yet’ is “continuously up to or as late as the present or some specified time: as previously” (The Unabridged Dictionary, Merriam Webster 2003, USA). In other words, the word ‘yet’ can mean ‘as previously’, or, ‘again’. It is the same in the Hebrew. The word עוד, (‘od, 5750), can connote still, yet, again, besides, etc. consequently, the Hebrew states what Paul said, that God will shake the earth again. The Hebrew supports this, as does the King James Version. More importantly, the inspired scripture of the New Testament tells us that the passage in Haggai means that God shook the earth before and He will shake it again at a future date. Next time, thought, not only will the earth be shaken, but the heavens will be shaken as well. The word, ουρανον (ouranon, accusative of ουρανος, ouranos, heaven or sky, 3772) is speaking of the physical heaven we can see, that is the sky. Isaiah said, in 34:4: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.” Peter echoed this in: 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” There is a time coming when God will once again shake the earth; He will shake the heavens as well. As we have seen, that means that God will destroy this world and a new one will replace it. That new heavens and new earth will be eternal and that is where we will reside in eternity. Therefore, we must heed His voice if we wish to escape those calamities.

There is something else that will be shaken: our works. Our works will be shaken, that is, judged by God. Those works that cannot provide salvation will not pass the test. There is only one work able to provide salvation and that is the work that Christ accomplished at Calvary. Those who have Christ have no condemnation, for He has already paid the penalty for our sin. Those without Christ have not listened to His voice or His word that says “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Those who have not hearkened to His voice or His word are condemned already.

When shaken, the works of men and women without Christ will be shaken away. They will be lost. Those folks without Jesus Christ as their Savior will also be shaken away; they will be cast into the lake of fire. But those who have Jesus Christ as their Savior will remain, for the work that Christ accomplished at Calvary cannot be shaken.

(Heb 12:28) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

God’s kingdom, unlike the earth, cannot be shaken. We who have Christ as Savior have received that kingdom. We must hold fast that grace that has provided us with the Kingdom that cannot be moved. Because God was gracious to us, we must acknowledge that grace by serving God in an acceptable manner. We must revere God in all that we do. Paul took this entire passage to explain how we can “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”

(Heb 12:29) For our God is a consuming fire.

This is a quote of Deuteronomy 4:24. The context of this verse in Deuteronomy is God telling the Israelites that they must obey His covenant or suffer His wrath. He goes on to list the things that would happen to them if they rebelled. God also told them of the blessings they would have if they did not forsake Him. He told them how He would go before them and drive out their enemies.

The point that Paul is making is that God is a jealous God. Additionally, He is holy, just, and all-powerful. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Another attribute of God is immutability. Malachi 3:6, “For I am the LORD, I change not”. Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” If He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, then he is still a consuming fire and He will still destroy those that do not obey Him. Those in disobedience to Him will perish. He has stated so. If He does not change, then His statement still holds true. He has not changed and His statement is still true. If you are in disobedience to Him, that is, if you do not have Christ as your Savior, you will (not may) be cast into the lake of fire. How do you obey Him and live? Hearken unto these His words:

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. {17} For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. {18} He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Obey God: believe on His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and you will live.

  1. The reason I use “Paul” instead of “the writer of Hebrews” is explained in the preface to Chapter 1. If you disagree that Paul is the writer, please continue to read for I have no argument with you. As a scholar once said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, love” (attributed to Augustine).
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