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Hebrews 12:18-25 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:55 mins 6 secs

Hebrews Lesson 212
September 23, 2010

NKJ Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!

We are in Hebrews 12 and in this section we're dealing with the tale of two mountains, which I began last time. So open your Bibles to Hebrews 12:18.  We'll pick up there as sort of a reminder of where we ended last time. We only got to the first part, the tale of two mountains dealing with Sinai last week, Zion this week.

While you're turning there, you might remember me in prayer over the next couple of days. A friend of mine who we had on our prayer list for the last 6 or 7 months went to be with the Lord about Sunday a week ago. They're having the memorial service on Saturday morning at 11 o'clock. I'm not participating in the service but we need to pray that the gospel would be made clear. I hope it will be. It's a Presbyterian Church. I've read their doctrinal statement. I think the pastor will probably present the gospel from what I've read on the website. Then I'm also going to be running into as I do at these things I think four or five men that I was in ROTC with in college. That's always rather interesting, and I was talking to one today. In fact last time I was thinking that if he showed up, I was going to have to take the time to see if he was saved. When I was talking to him today I asked him if he would be at the service.

He said, "No, he was going with his church on a missions trip down to Mississippi to help, you know, rebuild some houses and whatever was destroyed in Katrina." 

So that's a partial answer. I'm not sure what church he is in or anything so that'll be sort of interesting to follow that. I'll see him at a reunion in about a month. It is always interesting when God keeps bringing people back into our lives that we knew at one point and gives us the opportunity to continue to be a witness to them.

As we come to this section here, this is the last part of this exhortation section that began at 12:1 goes down to 24. Then we have a warning in verse 25. To understand the significance of what is going on in 18 to 24 we have to have some idea of where this is headed. I want to take a moment just to focus our attention on the challenge (the warning) that comes up in 25 through 28. I'm going to read that first. 

After we go through this section where we talk about the fact that "you didn't come to the mountain", which was characterized by fear and terror which was Mt. Sinai, "but you have come to the mountain of God", which is Zion which is characterized as the eternal Jerusalem and the presence of the saints of all the dispensations, there is a warning then related to that that comes in 25 to 28.

NKJ Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks

The "Him who speaks" is the God who spoke at Sinai and the God who again is one that speaks in relation to Mt. Zion. He is the judge mentioned in verse 23 from Mt. Zion. 

NKJ Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth,

That is Mt. Sinai.  

much more shall we not escape

That is those who are related to Mt. Zion.

if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,

NKJ Hebrews 12:26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."

That is a statement of judgment. So God is spoken of as God the judge in verse 23. Then that is developed in those last 4 verses. That is where we're headed. 

Verse 18 begins the contrast. This is a parallel contrast here that's set up where the hearers that he's addressing who are Jewish believers in Christ. They have trusted in Jesus as the Messiah. 

We're told in Acts 4 that many priests came to accept Jesus as the Messiah – believed in Jesus as the Son of God as a result of the message of John and Peter during those first days after Pentecost.  So it's believed that a number of these priests were probably those who had been believers since then and some who had been led to the Lord secondarily by them and yet now they're under persecution and pressure from others. So they want to give up and bail out of their Christianity. 

They're being reminded of the contrast once again between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant; the Old Covenant represented by Mt. Sinai and the New Covenant represented by the heavenly city of God (the heavenly New Jerusalem, Zion the Mountain of God.) 

So initially the statement is that they did not come to the mountain.

NKJ Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,

19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.

The characteristic here is gloom. It is painted in a dark picture with words that indicate something that is very not only somber but also that has a very frightful, fearful kind of context. 

There's a parenthetical explanation then following in verses 20, 21.

NKJ Hebrews 12:20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: "And if so much as a beast touches the mountain it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.

Actually I didn't address that last time. That's not in the best manuscripts; and it's only in the TR. So you'll only find it in the King James or the New King James translation, and it is deleted from the Majority text. So all that you have there is "if so much as a beast touches the mountain it shall be stoned.

NKJ Hebrews 12:21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.

The point here is fear is what is the result of the encounter with God's law. Why? Because man can't keep it. That was the whole point of the law is not to show that this is a way to get to heaven; but that it's impossible to keep all of the Law. That's why you have to have the sacrifices. That's why you have to have the Day of Atonement every year. Man can't keep the Law. There is no way we can acquire the kind of righteousness tsedaqah that God requires in order to go to heaven. 

NKJ Isaiah 64:6 …And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

Then there's a contrast with Mt. Zion defined as the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. 

So 12:18 focuses on that first mountain, the mountain of Sinai where the Mosaic Law was given. Then the next section focuses on the New Jerusalem. Now the New Jerusalem is most fully explained in Revelation 21:9-22:5 which we covered just recently in our study of Revelation. 

Now just in terms of a summary of the section from 12:18 down through 21, there are 5 things that are mentioned there. 

  1. They came to a mountain which could not be touched. God is emphasizing that He is completely distinct, and He dwells, as John says in the first chapter of John, in unapproachable light and that He can't have a relationship with fallen creatures. So a mountain that can't be touched.
  2. They came to a mountain that was burning with fire. The idea usually represented by fire in Scripture is the idea of purity. 
  3. They came to a place of darkness, blackness and tempest. I said that is the Shekinah or the dwelling presence of God, not this brilliant glow that is often represented in art of the glory of God. But this is His presence. It's a dark cloud that descended upon Mt. Sinai.
  4. There's the blast of the trumpet, the shofar.
  5. And then the voice of God where He speaks to Israel audibly. It's an external thing. It's not something they're hearing it in their head. They're not just hearing words. They're not having a group hallucination. They are actually hearing the voice of God. Then afterward they tell Moses that they can't' stand it anymore and to just go up and privately get the Law from God. 

Now at this point we have the contrast and we're going to go forward. But before we go forward into the next section I want to take you to a parallel passage (or a similar passage) in Galatians 4. Hold your place here in Hebrews 13 and turn back to Galatians, Galatians 4. 

Galatians is a wonderful short epistle. It is very easy I think to understand Galatians. There are two parts to it, the first 2 chapters and the last 4 chapters. The first 2 chapters have to do with the true gospel and how a person is justified; the 4 chapters following have to do with how a person is sanctified. 

The key verse in Galatians actually comes across in Galatians 3 when the apostle Paul says:

NKJ Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit,

…in terms of their spiritual rebirth. 

are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

Or complete. Whenever you see the word translated "perfect" in your Bible most often it is from the teleios word group and it means being made complete. 

So Paul says, "You started by the Spirit.  Are you now trying to grow by the flesh?"

And he draws a contrast between the flesh (which is the sin nature or just human ability) to please God apart from the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit. The problem that they faced was that there were these Judiazers that came in behind Paul and Barnabas when they made the first trip to southern Galatia and they went to Iconium and Lystra and Derbe. They were preaching the gospel, preaching the gospel in synagogues, and they had a number of people who trusted in Jesus as the Messiah. 

But then these Jewish antagonists came in behind them who were called Judiazers and they said: "It's great that you get saved by just faith in Jesus, but that's not enough to really experience the fullness of everything God has for you." 

I state it that way because that's usually how you hear this kind of thing expressed today. "You didn't get it all at the cross. You need to have a little fuller gospel. You need to get a little more of the Spirit, a little more of God or something." And so there is something that you didn't get at salvation that you have to work for or earn or get through ritual or mystical experience or some other means."

What the Judiazers were saying is that you can get saved by faith alone in Jesus but you're really not going to experience what God has for you unless you also are circumcised and enter into the Abrahamic covenant with God as a Jew. That's why they were called Judiazers because they're bringing them back basically under the Law as the means for spiritual growth. 

So Paul sort of stops here with this terminology. Notice the key words here are spirit and perfect and flesh. The next time you see those words appear together is in Galatians 5:16 when Paul says that we are not to walk by means of the flesh but by means of the Spirit. 

NKJ Galatians 5:16 …Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill

There is that word again, teleioo – to bring to completion.

the lust of the flesh.

So you have teleioo for completion and then Spirit.

Then he goes on to talk about the battle between the flesh and the Spirit and the importance of walking by the Spirit who then produces the fruit of the Spirit in the Christian life. It's not by law. It's by means of walking by the Spirit. 

But he spins from 3:3 to 5:16 basically developing his argument of why the Law can't produce spiritual maturity. He covers this and talks about justification by faith and that we are justified by faith alone and not by the works of the Law. That's the question he asked in Galatians 3:2.

NKJ Galatians 3:2 …Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Then he develops that. Then he comes down to Galatians 4 starting in verse 21, he's going to draw a contrast between law and grace; and he's going to use sort of an allegorical application from Hagar and Sarah. 

NKJ Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, …

That means the Judiazers, those who were influenced by the Judiazers, those who think that in order to have the full experience, the full blessing from God you have to enter in back under the Law. 

NKJ Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?

NKJ Galatians 4:22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.

NKJ Galatians 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman

That is Ishmael who is the son produced through Hagar. 

 was born according to the flesh,

It was Abraham's attempt to fulfill the promise of God by his own efforts apart from just being relaxed and trusting in God to provide what He had promised through Sarah. 

and he of the freewoman through promise,

God had promised Abraham He would give him a son through Sarah. Abraham and Sarah tried to do it according to the flesh.

NKJ Galatians 4:24 which things are symbolic.

Literally, it's which things are allegorical. So this is the only time where Scripture uses allegory, which is taking a literal event and then taking it to have a representative or symbolic significance. 

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar –

That is, the Mosaic Law gives birth to bondage because you have become a slave to works. You've become a slave to trying to please God recognizing that at any moment you could commit some sin or some act for which you could not have forgiveness and for which you would have to pay eternal punishment.

So being under the Law is related to bondage and slavery; and that is identified as Hagar.

NKJ Galatians 4:25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children --

…talking about the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Jewish establishment in Judea that had rejected the free offer of grace through Jesus Christ. 

NKJ Galatians 4:26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

So here we see two different Jerusalems; an earthly Jerusalem and a heavenly Jerusalem. 

NKJ Galatians 4:26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

NKJ Galatians 4:27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband."

This is where Paul is taking in verse 27 a quote from Isaiah 41 and applying it to the situation that it is God who is the one who produces life in the barren womb just as He produces spiritual life where there is spiritual death. 

NKJ Galatians 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

Church age believers are children of promise because we are trusting in Christ and Christ alone for salvation in contrast to the Judiazers who are trusting in the law for salvation or for sanctification. What we see here is this contrast between the Law, which is Mt. Sinai, and the heavenly Jerusalem, which is going to represent grace because it represents the future destiny of all believers. 

I pointed out when we studied through Revelation 21 down through 22:5 that our destiny isn't in heaven. We sort of muddy the waters when we say when we die we're going to go to heaven. Well that's true because we're face-to-face with the Lord and we'll be in a heavenly destiny for a short period of time for the Judgment Seat of Christ and during the time that the tribulation is going on on the earth. But then we return to the earth and our presence will be on the earth during the Millennial Kingdom ruling and reigning with Christ. Then the New Jerusalem will come down to the earth in eternity. We don't spend eternity in heaven; we spend eternity in the New Jerusalem – Revelation 21.

This is related then in this contrast between Mt Sinai and Jerusalem; Mt Sinai and Mt Zion, the Old Covenant of the Law and the New Covenant. 

Last time I stopped in looking at the New Covenant which is identified in Jeremiah 31:31-34. 

NKJ Jeremiah 31:31 " Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah --

Now this is quoted verbatim in Hebrews 8 so the writer of Hebrews has already reminded his readers that they have seen that the New covenant is called the New covenant because it replaces the Old covenant. That's the only reason he quoted it is to emphasize the fact that if it weren't called the New covenant then maybe the Old covenant would be seen as having more permanence. But because it was called the New covenant and it's said here in verse 32 that "it's not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt." We see that the New covenant was intended on the basis of Old Testament revelation to replace the Old covenant. So the Old covenant was always intended to be temporary; and it's inadequate in terms of providing for salvation or providing for eternal destiny or for sanctification. 

So the New covenant is that contract that God initiates with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. The sacrifice for the New covenant is the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. The New covenant doesn't begin. It's not instigated or inaugurated (those are the terms that are used – very important to understand that distinction) until Jesus returns. It's at that point that the New covenant goes into effect. 

Now we're going to get a lot of this a lot of study on this as we go through Acts because one of the first big issues we run into in the study of Acts is in Acts 2 when Peter quotes from Joel 2 and says, "This is what the prophet Joel spoke of," when he's talking about their speaking in languages on the day of Pentecost. He identifies that with what Joel said Joel 2, Joel 2:28-32. That is in relation to the coming of the day of the Lord and the establishment of the kingdom in the future. That's when the New covenant goes into effect. 

There's a lot of discussion on this because people want to say, "Oh, see the New covenant went into effect on the day of Pentecost, but not completely; it is partially here." 

So the term theologians use is "It's already here, but not yet." It's a dualism. It's dialectic. It's partially here; but it's not fully here. I always wondered about that and there's a lot of confusion and a lot of fuzziness in the way people talk about this. 

They'll try to say: "Well, the New covenant is here partially because we see that there's knowledge of the Holy Spirit and there's the forgiveness of sin. So that part's here. But the rest of it's not." That just doesn't do justice to how the passages read. So we'll get into that as we get into the study.

Paul says, "We're ministers of the New covenant because that's where we're headed just as we are headed for the New Jerusalem the Zion City of God. But we're not there yet. But look at how this is mentioned when we get into 12:22.

NKJ Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion…

Are they there yet? No, they're not. It is a perfect tense verb, which indicates completed action, because once they trusted Christ as Savior their eternal destiny is so secure that it can be spoken of as having become a completed action even though they're not actually there yet. So the very fact that he uses a perfect tense verb here supports the whole doctrine of eternal security – that because they were already saved or justified by putting their faith alone in Christ alone; then their eternal destiny is secured. It's not going to change. It is certain. 

NKJ Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…

That is all one phrase that refers to the same thing. This is the same city that Abraham was seeking and looking forward to in Hebrews 11:10. 

NKJ Hebrews 11:10 …waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

This is the first indication here that Mt. Zion (and this city of the living God) is not the earthly Jerusalem. This is the future Jerusalem. This is the heavenly Mt. Zion. 

There's another place to go to here to show that Mt. Zion here does not refer to the earthly Mt. Zion but to the heavenly Mt. Zion. 

Now some of you may be wondering where in the world Mt. Zion is. Well when you go to Israel and you are there at the Temple Mount, that is not Mt. Zion. It is believed that the Temple is built on Mt. Moriah, which is where Abraham was to have sacrificed Isaac. If you are facing the Temple from the south, then there is a little bit of a higher ridge line up to your left that would be to the west of the Temple Mount, and that is Mt. Zion. Mt Zion is the location where the Jebusites had a fortress where David took it back in the early days. It's also right there at Mt. Zion you enter into the old city there.  That's the Mt. Zion gate. If you are going in that gate those of you who have been there that's where they had all the bullet holes. It's just all shot up because that's where there was a tremendous amount of fighting during the Israeli War for Independence in 1948 as various Jewish outfits were trying to penetrate into the Old City which was under the control of the Arab forces; and they were trying to rescue about 2000 Jews that were basically isolated (had been isolated) and starving. They were trying to get in there to deliver them. They never fully succeeded in regaining control of the Old City at that time. It wasn't taken until 1967. That is the literal earthly Mt. Zion.

Let's turn into the Old Testament to Psalm 50 where we see one of several examples in the Old Testament where Mt. Zion is not just applied to the earthly Mt. Zion, but is also applied to the heavenly abode of God. Psalm 50 is a psalm of Asaph.

NKJ Psalm 50:1 A Psalm of Asaph. The Mighty One, God the LORD, Has spoken and called the earth From the rising of the sun to its going down.

It begins speaking of Him as the omnipotent one, the all-powerful one. God is the generic term El. Then He's identified by His individual name YHWH indicated in your Bible probably by small caps. Whenever you see God or Lord in small caps that indicates it's a translation of the Hebrew word Yahweh which is the personal name of God taken from the verb hajah, the Hebrew verb hajah, meaning to be. 

God said to Moses when Moses said, "Explain to Me your name so that I can tell people who sent me," God said, "I AM that I AM," indicating that He is the eternally existing one, the self existing one. He had no beginning and no end. 

So the psalm begins: NKJ Psalm 50:1 A Psalm of Asaph. The Mighty One, God the LORD, Has spoken

Again emphasizing that God is the one who speaks. He speaks and everything comes into existence. He also speaks in judgment, which is a theme of this psalm. 

and called the earth From the rising of the sun to its going down.

NKJ Psalm 50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth.

This is out of heaven, which is God's abode. Zion here speaks of the heavenly throne room of God, speaking of God as the judge.

NKJ Psalm 50:3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;

He's coming from somewhere. He's not coming from Jerusalem. This is written in Jerusalem speaking of God coming from His heavenly abode, which is referred to as Zion. 

A fire shall devour before Him,

So this is referring to God's coming in the future in judgment and devouring fire indicating His judgment on mankind. 

And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.

NKJ Psalm 50:4 He shall call to the heavens from above, And to the earth, that He may judge His people:

That is Israel.

What He cries out is given in verses 5 and 6.

NKJ Psalm 50:5 "Gather My saints together to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."

That would be a reference to the Mosaic covenant. He's calling to Israel.

NKJ Psalm 50:6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge. Selah

So here we see the emphasis of righteousness related to the character of God because righteousness is the basis of His judgment. When does judgment take place? This is related to the judgment that will take place I believe at the end of the Tribulation period where the angels go forth and will gather to Israel all of the surviving Jews upon the earth, the elect and the non-elect; and then they're going to be separated. 

NKJ Psalm 50:7 "Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God!

 8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices Or your burnt offerings, Which are continually before Me.

 9 I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds.

 10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills.

11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.

He says here that He is not going to judge them on the basis of their sacrifices but on the basis of their relationship to Him. That is seen when you get down to about verse 22.

NKJ Psalm 50:22 "Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:

They have forgotten God. So the issue is as we've seen many times in the Old Testament is that God does not want their sacrifices. He wants their trust.  He wants them to be obedient to Him. Disobedience would refer to those who forgot Him, indicated as the wicked earlier back in verse 16. 

So here we see turning back to Hebrews that Mt. Zion represents the heavenly abode of God and where God dwells. 

NKJ Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, …

…which is identified then as the heavenly Jerusalem. We have seen in Galatians 4:23-24 a reference to the heavenly Jerusalem. Revelation 21 talks about the New Jerusalem descending on the earth, and that is what this is describing. 

We are going to see another dimension here or reference to the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem. Now we studied that when we were in Revelation 21, but we get a little bit different viewpoint here. This has to be a reference to something that is yet future.

The first inhabitants of the New Jerusalem that are mentioned here are the innumerable company of angels. This "innumerable assembly" some may say are of angels. These are the holy or elect angels. There's a little bit of a translation issue here that doesn't always even always come through in the English.  But I think they've tried to include that in the meaning of the word "company." It is this word paneguris, which comes over into the English, and it indicates a festive gathering or it can indicate an assembly. 

So we have this assembly of angels. The word translated innumerable is the same word that we have over in Revelation 4-5 when you have myriads upon myriads of angels. They are an innumerable number. You can't number them. However it is a finite number but it is beyond the scope of man's ability to comprehend. So the first inhabitants of the New Jerusalem are going to be angels. 

Now we saw in our study of Revelation 21 that there are angels who are stationed at the 12 gates around the New Jerusalem. They are present in the New Jerusalem. We have the first group here that's the innumerable company or group or assembly of angels.

The Greek text is a little difficult and the scholars are split as to whether that word that is translated "company" is applied to this clause or the next clause. I think it probably goes to this particular clause and that we are talking here about this assembly of angels that are also spoken of in various places in the Old Testament as gathering together in an assembly.

So they come together; they sing for joy; they praise God; they worship God, as we see in Revelation 5:10-11. Also another example of this, the angels singing praise to God would be in Daniel 7:10 – this joyful assembly that is praising God. That is the first inhabitant of the New Jerusalem. 

We come to verse 23, and we have the second group. 

NKJ Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Sometimes this is translated assembly here; but it's ekklesia. It is the Church of the Firstborn. Now that term firstborn is an important term to understand. It is applied to Israel back in Exodus 4. But in the New Testament especially in Hebrews 1, the phrase firstborn is a term that relates to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the firstborn. He is the firstborn in Hebrews 1:6 because of His preeminence among men in His humanity. So firstborn does not always indicate first in terms of order, but it can indicate preeminence in terms of position. This word is used and applied to Christ in passages such as Colossian 1:15, 1:8 and Hebrews 1:6. These refer to Jesus in terms of His preeminent position by virtue of His being the God-Man and having died on the cross for our sins. 

This first phrase "the general assembly and the church of the firstborn" is a phrase that applies to the same group. Not only are angels present in the new heavens and new earth, but we also have church age believers who are going to be present in the new heavens and new earth under this category. 

This is their presence. Let me go back to previous verse. 

NKJ Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion…

That's a physical location and within that location you have the angels you have the church age believers and you also have God who is the judge of all. 

Now we saw in Revelation 21 that God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit will take up residence on the earth during the new heavens and new earth. The text in Revelation 21:3 says that there's no need for a temple in the new heavens and new earth. There is no need for a temple because God is taking up His abode with us, and the land. 

So here we have a reference to God as the judge of all who is present in the new Jerusalem. 

We have the angels (number one), we have church age saints (resurrected, rewarded saints) in the new Jerusalem, and we have the presence of God in the new Jerusalem. Then the next category says:

to the spirits of just men made perfect,

That again is the word teleios, the idea of already being made complete. This is a description of Old Testament saints and tribulation saints as well. The church age believers are in the category General Assembly of the church of the firstborn. Then the believers from the Old Testament and the Tribulation period are just men made perfect.

Now how do men become just? They become just only by receiving the imputation of righteousness. Genesis 15:7, the Scripture says that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him or imputed to him as righteousness. This is repeated again several places in the New Testament and is a foundation for understanding that righteousness or justice is ours only by virtue of it being given to us is a gift by faith, not by works. Old Testament saints and Tribulation saints are indicated here because they are not members of the church—that's only during this dispensation—they are indicated as just men made perfect. They have now entered into phase 3 glorification and are present in the heavenly Jerusalem. 

Genesis 15:6 is the basis understanding justification by faith alone. 

Then we have the presence of Jesus, Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. So we have God the judge being God the Father and now of Jesus the Mediator of the New covenant. He is the Mediator the New covenant by virtue of His sacrifice on the cross where He paid the penalty for sin. That sacrifice is a foundation for the New covenant. It is His death, which is indicated by the word blood. 

Now when we see this phrase, the blood of Christ, the shed blood of Christ or, we are saved by the blood, is a metaphor in Scripture where blood represents something. Shed blood represents a violent death, and so blood represents death of some kind. When we read "to the blood of sprinkling," it really speaks of a death that has occurred. It is not Jesus physical death that saves us from sin. It is His spiritual depth. His spiritual death occurred when He separated judicially from God the Father. Scripture tells us that He who knew no sin was made sin for us in 2 Corinthians 5. 

NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus does not become sinful. He is not corrupted by sin. He does not become personally sinful. He receives the imputation of our sin so that He can bear the punishment for us as our substitute but He remains personally impeccable. He never sins; He just bears the penalty. It is a legal transaction where God assigns to Him our sin. 

Now that's very important to understand terms in terms of the parallel. Jesus in terms of His character never becomes a sinner. He never becomes unrighteous. In the same way that when we are justified and His righteousness is credited to us, we don't become experientially righteous, do we? We are still experientially sinners and sinful and fallen. We still have a sin nature, and we are still corrupt. But legally we have been assigned His righteousness so that it is His righteousness that's the basis for God's judgment of us that He declares us to be just, not because of our character but because of Christ's righteousness. So if we flip that around when Christ is on the cross His character never changes; He remains impeccable or sinless. It is just that He is legally credited with our sin so that He then pays the penalty for that. That occurred in those three hours between twelve noon and 3 pm when darkness came over Golgotha and over the city of Jerusalem so that men could not see Him suffering bearing the penalty for sin on the cross. It is the only time He screamed out when He was on the cross.

NKJ Mark 15:34 …My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

It is during that time that He bore the penalty for sin. But He doesn't die physically. When it is over and the payment has been made, then Jesus died physically. That's not to say His physical death wasn't significant or didn't play a role; it does, but not in our salvation. It is not His physical death that pays the penalty for sin. 

NKJ Hebrews 12:24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

That is he uses the word "sprinkling" here to connect what happens on the cross back to the sacrifices of the Old Testament where when the lamb was killed when his throat is cut and the blood from the lamb was sprinkled (or "splattered", which is probably a better translation) upon the altar indicating that there is a payment for sin. It is the death of Christ on the cross that speaks "better things than that of Abel." 

Now it is interesting.  He doesn't go back to Moses, does he? He doesn't go back to the sacrifices in the Mosaic Law. Now we might think that's what he would do because he's contrasting Sinai with Zion. So why doesn't he go back to Moses? Why doesn't he go back to the Levitical offerings? Why doesn't he go back to all of those sacrifices or the Day of Atonement sacrifice that are within the Mosaic Law? Why does he go all the way back to Abel? The reason he goes all the back to Abel is that's the first mention of a sacrifice in the Old Testament and by going back to the very first one he is including the entire sacrificial system that predated and anticipated the sacrifice of on the cross. It would have been wrong if he had just gone to the Mosaic sacrifices because that could have been distinguished from the non-Mosaic sacrifices that preceded it. So by going all the way back to Abel, what the writer is saying is that the death of Christ on the cross is superior to any animal sacrifice leading up to the cross. It is at the cross that sins are truly and actually paid for. 

The bottom line is that Sinai represents law; it represents slavery; it represents something that is impossible for man to achieve. In contrast now, we have salvation and free grace; we have an eternal destiny that is secure. It is ours not on the basis of an animal sacrifice, but on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Then he is going to make the application as we go into the next section, which we'll get to next time. He then applies it. He says, "So in light of all of this:

NKJ Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.

Don't become negative towards God. Don't turn your back on God. When God commands, then we need to listen.

NKJ Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape …

And they didn't. Remember the Exodus generation was grumbling and complaining in the wilderness. Because of that and because of their disobedience, because of the fact that when they got to Kadesh Barnea and they did not trust God to give them the victory in Canaan when they went in that when the 12 spies came back and only two of them said, "Yes, we can do what God said because God's going to fulfill His promise." 

The other ten said, "No, we can't because there are giants in the land, there are too many of them and they have fortified cities."

The right people said, "No, we can't trust God." So because of that they went into the sin unto death. They did not escape the judgment of God.

So verse 26, we're reminded that God is going to bring ultimate judgment upon the earth. This is the focal point of 26 down through verse 28.

Then in verse 13 we're going to go into the concluding exhortation, which begins with a series of commands. It is just a list of spiritual and moral imperatives that are to characterize the Christian life. So we will come back next time and focus on the last part of Hebrews 12.

Any questions? Jeff

Jeff : "In imputations it seems like you're saying two imputations one judgment and one sin." 

No. The imputation is that our sins are imputed to Christ, then they are judged by God; He is judged by God. So the judgment is not an imputation; the judgment is on the imputation. 

Jeff: "Are you saying that the imputation was judged in our place but He had to receive us sins to be judged?"

Right, right. The judgment is the condemnation or the legal penalty. The imputation is what Jesus received from us so that then God legally credits to Him so then God can legally judge them. 

Let's close in prayer.