You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; . . . you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
HEBREWS 12:18, 22
As the book of Hebrews draws to a close, the writer makes one final contrast between old things and new things. Here, the contrast is between two different mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Mount Sinai is an actual, physical mountain. Some believe that it is the mountain known today as Jebel Musa (though this cannot be verified and is a matter of significant debate). Wherever Mount Sinai may be located, we know that this is the place where God established His covenant with the people of Israel after He saved them from their slavery in Egypt. Exodus 19-24 narrates this event and describes what the experience was like for the Israelites as they stood at the base of the mountain. For the Israelites, this was both an awe-inspiring and fear-inducing incident. As remarkable as it was that God actually physically settled in their sight on top of this mountain, the event was terrifying because it revealed to them just how unqualified we are as sinful humans to be in the presence of God.
In Hebrews 12, the writer contrasts Mount Sinai and these associations of fear, with Mount Zion. Like Mount Sinai, Mount Zion is also an actual, physical mountain upon which the city of Jerusalem has been built. However, the Mount Zion that the writer has in mind is not this physical mountain and city, instead it is a spiritual mountain and city. Heaven is described in Scripture as a spiritual Jerusalem and this is what the writer intends to convey (Galatians 4:26, Revelation 21:10).
Through this contrast, the writer was pleading one last time that readers should not put their eternal hope in the Mount Sinai experience. As life altering and important as that experience was, it cannot compare to the experience that can be had at the spiritual Mount Zion. At the spiritual Mount Zion, one does not need to tremble in unqualified fear. Jesus has qualified all who believe in Him to stand in God’s presence. This is important not just for the original readers but for us today, as well. Many of us cling to a view that God is a judge to be feared. This is true, in part. If we aren’t qualified to stand in His presence, then we should be afraid. But if we continue to believe, allowing the blood of Jesus to speak on our behalf, then we have no reason to fear. At the spiritual Mount Zion, we are welcomed in and can experience God in all His glory.
THE MOUNTAIN OF FEAR AND THE MOUNTAIN OF JOY
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trum- pet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no fur- ther word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
We often try to impart human attributes on to God since that is the viewpoint we understand. However, God is greater and more perfect than our human understanding can comprehend. Considering this, what is your posture as you enter into God’s presence? When you speak with Him in prayer, how do you humbly worship Him and exalt His name?
Hebrews 12:25 refers to the judgement that we face when we reject God. If we choose to reject Him, then we should be fearful because we aren’t qualified to stand in His presence. But, if we surrender our lives in faith to Christ, we have nothing to fear. How do you know if you are qualified to stand in His presence? What fears about God do you need to surrender?
Eventually this world will crumble, and only God’s Kingdom will last. Those who follow Christ are a part of this unshakeable Kingdom. When we feel unsure about the future, we can find confidence in Hebrews 12:27-29. In your own words describe what God’s Kingdom means to you?