I have been so grateful to have the opportunity to speak to you in a way that’s not the normal for me through all the years that I’ve been at Grace Church, and that is to take every Sunday sort of as an event on its own and speak to you from a different passage of Scripture, rather than do the normal work going through books. And we’ll get back to that, but at least we have a couple more Sundays to speak from passages that I hope are helpful. I realize that we have a lot of new folks that are coming, lots—tens of thousands of new people listening on livestream and downloading the sermons after they show up on the Grace to You website or the church website or YouTube or wherever it is. So there are people who are hearing. And I always want them to hear clearly the message of the gospel so that there’s never any question about that. And I’ve tried to do that, embedding that in a number of the messages over the last year and a half. And one more time to do that draws me to the twelfth chapter of the book of Hebrews. And I would encourage you to turn to Hebrews chapter 12, Hebrews chapter 12, and I want to read verses 18–29, verses 18–29.
Hebrews 12, verse 18, “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.’ And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”
In Southern California last month there were about 230 earthquakes. You didn’t feel all of them. They can be measured as low as 1.5. Around the world there are almost a million earthquakes a year. The Earth, suspended in space while orbiting around the sun and turning on its axis, is trembling; it is shaking. People who are trying to fix global warming might want to work on shaking.
The earth has been affected by sin. So the grass withers and the flowers fade, and natural disasters occur, and the devastation of the divine curse on this planet and the entire universe is seen in the second law of thermodynamics, which says matter is breaking down; it is degrading; it is disintegrating. Nothing lasts forever, certainly not this earth or this created universe. Everything shakes, everything trembles in the throes of corruption; it is all shaking. And no one can do anything about it. In the future the kingdom of this world will be finally shaken, so as to be shaken out of existence; and nothing will be left, including space. God will Himself shake the earth and the sky.
If you look at verses 26 and 27 you read again, as we read a moment ago, “His voice shook the earth then; now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” This is a promise of final destruction.
His voice shook the earth then, in the past, in history; and we’ll see exactly what the writer of Hebrews has in mind in noting that. But for now what we want to focus on is, “Yet once more.” “Once more”—there’s one more massive shaking; and God will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens, the earth and the heavens.
The statement in verse 26 is taken from the prophet Haggai chapter 2, and verse 6 and 7, “For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I’m going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth’”—or “the desirable things”—“‘of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.” A promise of a shaking of the entire universe and all its inhabitants, and the establishment of God’s glory.
So says the Lord. This is a divine prophecy. To exactly what does this refer, this massive, one, final shaking of earth and heaven, sea and land and nations, so that what will be left will be only what is desirable, and it will be brought in to give honor and glory to the Lord? What event is this?
The prophet Joel helps us, because Joel speaks of that same event, Joel chapter 2, verse 10, “Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. The Lord utters His voice before His army; surely His camp is very great, for strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?”—rhetorical question, assumes an answer of, “No one.” So what we’re talking about is that which is called the Day of the Lord, the final divine judgment. The earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brightness on the Day of the Lord.
The prophet Isaiah also spoke of this, and I want you to see these passages because they’re unmistakably clear. In Isaiah chapter 13 and verse 6, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will fall limp, and every man’s heart will melt. They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labor, they will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame. Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the Lord of hosts in the day of His burning anger.”
Isaiah repeats these kinds of judgments—chapter 2, chapter 24, particularly in chapter 24. It’s instructive to look there for a few moments because I want the Scripture to weigh heavy on your mind. Isaiah 24, “Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants. And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor.” In other words all will feel the judgment equally, no matter what their status.
Verse 3, “The earth will be completely laid waste, completely despoiled, for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.”
Down in verse 19, “The earth is broken asunder, the earth is split through, the earth is shaken violently. The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard and totters like a shack, for its transgression is heavy upon it, and it will fall, never to rise again.” The final shaking of the world.
Isaiah writes in chapter 65 and verse 17, “For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth”—listen to this—“and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” The destruction will be complete of the entire creation, everything in it. And the Lord will create a new heaven and a new earth, and no one will even remember what was before it.
The visions of John in the book of Revelation call us to these same promises. Chapter 6, verse 12, John has a vision of seals being broken, and in the sixth seal “there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split”—space itself—“split apart like a scroll when it’s rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” That was the sixth seal.
In chapter 8 you have trumpet judgments. If you pick it up in chapter 8 at verse 6, “Seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. First sounded, then came hail and fire, mixed with blood; they were thrown to the earth, and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. Second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures in the sea had life, died; third of the ships were destroyed. The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.
“The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.
“And I looked and heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” This destruction has a process. There are steps and stages that take place that are described in those sequential trumpets.
There are other images in chapter 16 of the final, rapid-fire judgments; they’re seen as bowls. Look at chapter 16, verse 3, “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died. Third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.’ And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.’
“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was given it to scorch men with fire. Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.
“And fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they didn’t repent of their deeds.”
This is a period of time called the Great Tribulation, in which all these judgements come rapid fire. First there are the seal judgments, and out of the seventh seal come the seven trumpets, and out of the seven trumpets come the seven bowls; and you can see the destruction of the universe, the created universe, takes place in stages while people are on earth enduring it.
Peter in 2 Peter chapter 3 gives us a picture of the final end. “The day of the Lord”—again, exact words from Joel and Haggai—“the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar.” So finally, after all of these sequential judgments, starting out with a third of the earth being judged and a third of the heavens, and then finally all the earth and all the heavens, and then finally the heavens pass away with a roar, and the elements—the atoms that basically are the structure of creation—will be destroyed with intense heat. There’ll be an uncreation, and the earth and its works will be burned up in an atomic implosion. Out of that, verse 13 says, we will see a “new heaven and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” May I say, you can’t save the planet.
The shaking of the earth, the shaking of the heavens, the shaking of the nations, the shaking of the people at the final day of the Lord is a terrifying reality. And God has spoken openly about this repeatedly. We stand warned. Ezekiel 43:5, “And the Spirit [of the Lord] lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.” So what’s going to happen in Ezekiel’s vision is after the Lord is doing all this judgment on earth, the glory of the Lord is going to come. That speaks of the millennial kingdom. Haggai puts it this way: “I will fill the house of glory.” The desirable things will be left, and they will all be in the house of glory, and all glory will go to the Lord.
This is where the world is going. It’s headed toward total and complete destruction, followed by the establishment of the kingdom of Christ for a thousand years. At the end of that thousand years, the entire universe goes out of existence in an atomic uncreation, and the Lord creates the new earth.
Listen to the words of our Lord in Mark 13:24, “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with power and glory. He will send forth His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.”
After the judgments of the Day of the Lord, Christ comes; He brings together His elect for His millennial kingdom. At the end of the kingdom, the entire creation is destroyed, and in its place a new heaven and a new earth. Forget trying to save the planet; save yourself. This whole universe is going to be shaken out of existence.
And back to our text in Hebrews, we see that this is a “once more” event, “once more”; and that is the comment of verse 27: “This expression, ‘Yet once more’”—one final time—“denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Everything in the created universe shakes and trembles under the Curse. Everything in this universe is affected by the Curse, everything. Though it was created by God, it has been defiled by sin, and all of it is shaking and will have a final, “once more” shaking out of existence. The whole universe is, then, devoted to destruction. Why? “So that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” We’re coming to a time in redemptive history where sin will have run its course, and it will be in complete absence; and only the things which cannot be shaken will remain.
This was an understanding that was actually an important part of Israel’s expression of worship. Listen to Psalm 16. Psalm 16, and we can read from verse 7, “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. And You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” “I will not be shaken.” And even when I die, I will not be abandoned; but I will go through death into the path of eternal life, eternal joy, eternal pleasures.
Psalm 55, verse 22: “Cast your burden on Yahweh, He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 62 says this twice: “Surely my soul in silence waits for God. From Him is my salvation. Surely He is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.” God’s going to shake everything but the righteous, everyone but the righteous.
In Psalm 112 the psalmist says, “Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous. It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; he will maintain his cause in judgment. He will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever. He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is upheld, he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries.” You have no reason to fear. The righteous will never be shaken, never.
Again in the book of Proverbs, in chapter 10, a couple of that I think are instructive. Verse 28: “The hope of the righteous is gladness; the expectation of the wicked perishes. The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the upright, but ruin to the workers of iniquity. The righteous will never be shaken, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.” Only what is eternal, only what is righteous will survive the shaking of the universe, including all who are made righteous, having been declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ.
Listen also to the words of Daniel. Daniel 2:44, “In the days of those kings,” in the future, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” There is coming an unshakable, eternal kingdom, established by the God of heaven, with the Lord Jesus Christ as the reigning King.
Daniel chapter 7, Daniel has this vision: “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days,” who is Yahweh, “and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”
And down in verse 27, “Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions will serve and obey Him.” What a vision.
That’s where human history’s going. You can’t save the planet, you can’t save the environment, because it’s headed for destruction, because everything that is created has been affected by the Curse; it’ll all be destroyed. The only thing that will remain is that which is righteous and holy, set apart unto God; and that will be the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. And He will reign on the earth for a thousand years, after which will come the destruction of the whole universe and the creation of the new earth.
Now go down to verse 28, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken”—this introduces our response—“since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken”—what do we do? “Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” What do we do? We come to God in grateful worship that we don’t belong to the shakable kingdom. We belong to the kingdom which cannot be shaken.
The word translated “service” there is latreuō. The verb essentially means “worship,” and it is frequently translated “worship,” as even back in Hebrews 9:9. “Acceptable” means well pleasing. So what do we do? We come to God in gratitude to offer acceptable worship with reverence and awe, worship that is well pleasing, worship that is righteous, as Hebrews 13:21 translates the same term “pleasing in His sight.”
So we are called to come to God, and to come with seriousness because “our God is a consuming fire.” And if you’re only part of the creation and the kingdom that can be shaken, you will be burned up because God is a fire. You need to come in an acceptable way. So you say, “Well how do I do that? What is an acceptable way? How do I escape the kingdom that will be shaken? How do I find entrance into the kingdom which will never be shaken, which will ride through all the judgments into the new heaven and the new earth and eternal joy?
Well there are two possible answers, just two. Only two possible answers that religion can offer to help you escape, to cause you to be able to escape the kingdom that is shaking now and headed for one more final, total destruction. You have two options, and those options are laid out by the writer of Hebrews in connection with two mountains. It’s really an unforgettable analogy, picture of two mountains.
Go back to verse 18, “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them.” Don’t come to that mountain. What mountain is that? Mount Sinai.
In the decision that you make, choose your mountain. I don’t think you want to come to God at Sinai. I don’t think you want to go to that mountain. That mountain was a mountain of death. Verse 20 says, “Even if a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight that even Moses, the leader, said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” You don’t want to come to that mountain.
Let me help you be reminded of the experience of those who did come to that mountain. Go back to Exodus 19. The children of Israel, in their wandering, came to Sinai—the wilderness of Sinai, named for that mountain—and they camped there at the foot of Sinai. “Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself”’”—leading them, as you remember, out of Egypt and through the wilderness, and finally toward the Promised Land. “Now then,” verse 5, “‘if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel,” God says to Moses.
“So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.” He came back and said, “God, they’re going to do it all.” “Really? They’re going to obey My law.”
Verse 10, “The Lord also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, “Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.”’” You don’t want to go to that mountain. “No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.”
Verse 16 says, “It came about on the third day, when it was morning, there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. And when the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.” You don’t want to go to that mountain. You really don’t want to go to that mountain.
Verse 20, “The Lord came down . . . called Moses . . . . The Lord spoke to Moses,” verse 21, “‘Warn the people, so they don’t break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. Let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, or else the Lord will break out against them.’ Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, “Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.”’ The Lord said, ‘Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; do not let the priests and the people break through to come to the Lord, or He will break forth on them.’ So Moses went down to the people and told them.” What is God saying? He’s saying, “Don’t you dare think that you can keep My law and enter My presence.”
Chapter 20 the Lord gives the Ten Commandments, down through verse 17. Then verse 18, after the Ten Commandments were given, “All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.’ So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.” God said, “This is what I expect of you; don’t you dare come near Me unless you can keep My law perfectly.” You don’t want to go to that mountain, that’s the mountain of works; that’s the mountain of human goodness.
Over in Deuteronomy chapter 4, when the children of Israel finally got to the edge of Canaan, the Lord speaks to them. Moses, still leading them: “Remember the day you stood before the Lord”—verse 10, chapter 4—“your God at Horeb”—Horeb’s another name for Sinai—“when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and they may teach their children.’ You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you’re going over to possess it.
“So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female”—and he goes on to rehearse essentially any kind of idolatry or disobedience.
In chapter 5 and verse 22 Moses again says, “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain,” Mount Sinai, “from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, when the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders, and you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of our Lord God any longer, we will die.’” What’s going on here? Well they knew they couldn’t obey the law of God. Even though the law of God was only given here, the law of God had been written in their hearts. They knew it was impossible.
Psalm 68 says, “The Lord is among them at Sinai, in holiness.” You don’t want to—if you think you’d like to be a part of the unshakable kingdom, you don’t want to go to Sinai; all you’re going to be is terrified; all you’re going to face is the absolute law of God, the absolute holiness of God; all you’re going to face is fire and judgment. And even when God speaks, there’ll be no comfort because He will be speaking out of invisible judgment. You should be frightened, you should be terrified if you come to God on the basis of your ability to obey His holy law. You have no such ability. You and I and all of us are hopeless sinners. Deuteronomy 9:19, “I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the Lord was wrathful against you in order to destroy you.” The Lord is angry with sin and sinners, and He will destroy them all.
There’s no kindness at Sinai. There’s no mercy at Sinai. There’s no grace at Sinai. There’s no forgiveness there. The law is written on stone. That is why Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:7 calls that law at Sinai “the ministry of death”; it kills you, because you can’t keep God’s law. God was present at Sinai in holiness, righteousness, justice, severity, judgment, terrible majesty. No grace, no mercy, no forgiveness. Deuteronomy 4:24 says, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire.” Deuteronomy 33:2 says, “From His right hand went a fiery law” [KJV]. And you see those images.
Go back now to the book of Hebrews. You see those images being repeated by the writer when he says, “Don’t go to that mountain because that’s a mountain that can’t be touched. Even though you could touch it physically, you don’t want to touch a mountain that is blazing fire, darkness, gloom, whirlwind, blast of judgment trumpets, sounds of judgment words, and the promise of death.” You don’t want to go to that mountain.
Can I say something that should be obvious to all of us? Most people in the world are convinced that they can come to God on the basis of being good. You’re going to Sinai. You don’t want to go to that mountain. You don’t want to go to that mountain. That’s what virtually every religion in the world and every false form of Christianity teaches.
Listen to Paul. In Romans 3:19, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed.” Shut your mouth if you’re trying to tell God you’re worthy to come into the unshakable kingdom on terms of your own goodness. “Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” All the law does is expose your sin and the threat of judgment.
Sinai was a desert. God gave His law in a desert, a place of utter solitude. The event was stark. The people had no distractions; there was nothing else to see, there was nothing else to hear. There was only God, and there was only all that came along in the phenomenon around His voice. And there was God, and there was their own conscience, and no place to hide. They were in the open. They were naked, facing Holy God, facing their inability to go near Him. That’s what Sinai was supposed to do—reveal His holiness and your sinfulness and the incompatibility of that. So man, in the face of God’s holy law, has no fig leaf to cover his spiritual nakedness. No sinner will ever survive Sinai.
Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who continues not in all the things written in the book of the law to do them” [KJV]. You’re cursed if you don’t do all the law of God perfectly all the time—and that means we’re all cursed. You don’t want to meet God at Sinai. You don’t want to come by your supposed goodness and works. There’s no forgiveness there; you’ll just be everlastingly alive while being incinerated in hell.
Those in the unshakable kingdom—we didn’t come that way, did we? We didn’t go to Sinai. We didn’t go where there was fire and darkness and gloom and a whirlwind and a trumpet blast of judgment and the assembly of sinners for hell. We went to another mountain. Look at verse 22, “But you have come” —“you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”
You didn’t come—if you’re in the unshakable kingdom you didn’t come to Sinai, you came to Zion. Sinai represents the Old Covenant: law. Zion represents the New Covenant: grace. And particularly, isn’t it marvelous—you actually, verse 23 says, came “to God, the Judge of all.” He accepted you, and you came, verse 24, “to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” You came to God, and you came to Jesus when you came to Zion.
Why Mount Zion? Mount Zion is simply another name for Jerusalem. What happened at Jerusalem? God, from the ancient times, set up a sacrificial system at Jerusalem, a provision by which He could grant forgiveness to those who believed in Him, recognized their sin, and knew they needed His forgiveness. You didn’t want to go to Sinai, you wanted to go to Jerusalem, to that little hill south of the Old City called Zion, that Jebusite stronghold which David conquered and made his royal residence in the seventh year of his reign; and he made it the religious center of Israel by putting the Ark of the Covenant there. Sinai symbolizes God’s dealing with man under the law. Zion symbolizes God’s dealing with man under forgiveness and grace.
Zion, the mountain in Jerusalem, became the dwelling place of God. Jerusalem was His city. Psalm 2, “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast their cords from us!’
“He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’”
Zion is the city of God—another name for Jerusalem. Zion is the place where God set up the sacrificial system that pointed toward the cross. Listen to Psalm 132, “For Yahweh has chosen Zion; He has claimed it for His habitation. ‘This is My resting place forever; here I will inhabit, for I have claimed it.’” Jerusalem and Zion became one.
Psalm 48:2 says, “The joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion . . . the city of the great King. God, in her palaces . . . [God] a stronghold.” Psalm 50, verse 2, “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth.” Psalm 133, from Zion “Yahweh commanded the blessing”—what was the blessing?—“eternal life.” Eternal life is commanded by God from Zion, not Sinai. “You have come”—that’s in a perfect tense—“you have come to Zion,” the mountain of mercy and grace. And the benefits are staggering; look at them.
First, it is the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Another way to say that is when you came to Zion, when you came to God in the way that He provided—through sacrifice, and ultimately through the sacrifice of Christ which occurred in Jerusalem—when you came that way, you came to the heavenly Jerusalem. In other words you came to heaven. When you came to Zion, God gave you heaven. God gave you heaven.
Back in chapter 11, this was the city Abraham was looking for. Verse 10, “He was looking for a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” All the saints of the past were looking for that same eternal city. We’re not there yet; the journey isn’t complete. But we belong there.
Chapter 13 and verse 14, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we’re seeking the city which is to come.” What’s that? The heavenly Jerusalem. Are we guaranteed that? Yes; we have an inheritance already laid up for us there, right? A city, as opposed to a wilderness. A city is a place of peace, a place of rest, a place of safety. And there is none of that at Sinai.
Come to Zion; come to grace. And not only do you come to heaven—not only do you come to heaven, but verse 22 says you come “to myriads of angels.” And there were, by the way, according to Deuteronomy 33:2, a lot of angels at the giving of the law. These are the worshiping angels that we read about in Revelation earlier this morning. So you come to heaven, and you come to innumerable holy angels. And then you come “to the general assembly”—that literally means a festal gathering. You come to the celebration of the “church of the firstborn”; the firstborn is Christ, the premier of all who have risen.
So you come to heaven. You come to the angels. You come to the celebration of the church that is the bride of Christ, “who are enrolled in heaven”—amazing. “Who are enrolled in heaven.” How did they get enrolled in heaven? Listen to what Peter says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to obtain an inheritance imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” Why is that reserved for us? Because we are, verse 1 and 2, “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God.” You were enrolled in heaven in eternity past. Your name is in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. You were predestined, Ephesians 1 says. Your names are written down. Your name is on the roll of heaven.
So in coming to Zion, you come to Christ and the New Covenant. You come to grace. You come to peace and safety in the eternal heaven. You come to fellowship and worship with the church. You come to be a part of the bride of Christ, the firstborn. You come to take your place and receive your inheritance as one chosen before the foundation of the world.
And then, how wonderful is this? You come “to God, the Judge of all”—the one who was so fierce at Sinai, so terrifying, even to Moses. You come to the Judge of all, and He receives you; He welcomes you. You can approach Him. You are reconciled. At Sinai you come near, you die. At Zion you come near, you live. At Sinai you come near, you’re rejected. At Zion you come near, you’re received.
And then you also come “to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” That well could refer to Old Testament saints, whose spirits are there with the Lord. So you’re coming to the church, you’re coming to the saints of the Old Testament in His perfect presence. You’re coming to heaven, you’re coming to fellowship with the angels. Join the glorified church to receive your inheritance, and you come to God.
And you come, sixthly, “to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” You come to Jesus. We’re already in relationship with Him, aren’t we? We’re one with Him, and He with us. Through Him we can come to God.
And lastly, so important, you come “to the sprinkled blood.” It “speaks better than the blood of Abel.” What does that mean? Abel gave a blood sacrifice back in Genesis, right? And it was right; it was what he should have done, and God honored it. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice, much greater—much, much, much greater. Abel was forgiven by God because he faithfully offered the sacrifice of blood—but it was only for Abel. Christ shed His blood for all who would ever believe through all of human history.
So verse 25 is very important. “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those who didn’t escape when they refused him who warned them on earth”—that’s at Sinai; anybody who broke God’s law, anybody, will not escape when the creation is shaken. “If they didn’t escape” even judgment that came in their disobedience to the law subsequent to Sinai, “much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.” You’ve had a heavenly warning from God, from the incarnate Christ, from the writers of the New Testament. They didn’t escape the terrors of God at Sinai. You know the story of Israel. You know the horrific judgments that followed their disobedience. You will never escape if you reject the One who is calling you from heaven.
I want to close with this very powerful text, chapter 10, verse 26, “But if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
You don’t want to go to Sinai. You don’t want to come by works. You want to go to Zion, and you want to seek grace and forgiveness through Christ; and from that comes heaven and all its glories.
Our Father, we thank You for Your Word—for its clarity and its power. It drives deep into our hearts, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Thank You for giving us such a clear warning. This creation is to be shaken one final time. It is trembling at all times, headed for the final shaking—physically, socially, politically, materially, economically. It’s all going to be incinerated, so that the unshakable kingdom will remain forever—the kingdom of righteousness.
Thank You for opening the door to that kingdom and warning us to escape the kingdom that will be shaken, and to come to the throne of grace for mercy and grace through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cry out to You to be gracious to sinners, even here this day; and may they run to Zion, embrace the Christ who died and rose there, put their trust in Him for entrance into that kingdom, which will never be shaken.
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