Hebrews 12:18–29 (NKJV)
In the latter part of this chapter which speaks about faith, the writer compares Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion. He speaks of Mt. Sinai in ominous terms, and about Mt. Zion in terms of grace and peace. This comparison further demonstrates the difference between the covenant of law and the covenant of grace.
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. 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.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)Hebrews 12:18-24
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 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, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
Paul, or whoever wrote the book of Hebrews, speaks of Mt. Sinai at the time that God descended and met Moses there. This image is ominous and awesome. The mountain burned with fire, and was covered with blackness and darkness and the stormy look of tempest. There were sounds of trumpets and a frightening voice. Those at the base longed to stay far away and not be frightened by the sounds and sights. If any man or beast touched the mountain (other than Moses), they were to be killed by stoning or being shot by an arrow. Moses was even afraid of the vision of the mountain, but God called Him to go up and meet with Him there. This image of Mt. Sinai instilled fear and awe. This awe-inspiring image was fearful and full of horror for the Israelites. This was the place of the giving of the law. This is where Moses came down from the peak and his face glowed from being in the presence of the Lord. This is where the tablets were hewn by the finger of God Himself! This was a place fraught with danger and judgment to those who disobeyed.
The comparison vision, however, of Mt. Zion, was a different image. At Mt. Zion one found the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, filled with an innumerable host of angels, the assembly of the saints, the church of the firstborn (Jesus), those registered in heaven. God the Judge of all men is there, but there are also the spirits of just men that have been made perfect by the blood of Jesus. Jesus the Mediator is also there, applying the new covenant, sprinkling His blood on all that seek Him in faith, providing a much superior offering than that of Abel. Everything is better on Mt. Zion than it was on Mt. Sinai.
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 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.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.Hebrews 12:25-29
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
Do not refuse the Lord as He speaks. This is a stern warning against ignoring the Lord’s instructions. Do not ignore the call to repentance. Do not ignore the call to holy living. Do not fall into apostate living. The Israelites did not survive ignoring the priests, nor did anyone live if they ignored the words of Jesus Christ while He walked on earth. How much more important is it to heed the words of the Lord who lives in heaven! His voice shook the earth. He promised to shake everything that is shakeable. Only that which is unshakeable, that is, the heavenly sanctuary and city of God, Mt. Zion of the heavenlies, will stand when the eternal shaking occurs. The hope is found in verse twenty-eight, as it states that the kingdom we will receive or that we are receiving is unshakeable! With that assurance, live in grace and serve God acceptably. Be reverent and show godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire.
In light of the great mountain in the heavens, and the city and temple in the heavens, and the heavenly covenant, the believer should always strive for the heavenly reward and live acceptably before God. The kingdom we receive is worthy of trust and will stand for all time. It is the kingdom of God, and it is worthy of our trust at all times.