Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Hebrews 12:18 - 12:24

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Hebrews 12:18 - 12:24

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

The covenant of fear contrasted with that of grace:

v. 18. For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

v. 19. and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them anymore;

v. 20. (for they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart;

v. 21. and so terrible was the sight that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake;)

v. 22. but ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

v. 23. to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

v. 24. and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

Here is another reason for the entire appeal and warning as contained in this chapter, namely, the fact that grace is the compelling motive in the Christian's life, and not fear: For you have not approached to the mountain that can be touched and burns with fire, to darkness and gloom and hurricane, and to the sound of a trumpet and to a voice sounding in words, which they that heard earnestly begged that further speech might not be added to them. The reference is evidently to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, Exo_19:1-25; Deu_4:1-49. That was a solemn, a fearful occasion, for the mountain itself was burning with fire, Deu_4:11, and yet the rest of the country in the neighborhood was covered with a misty gloom, with a heavy darkness, while a storm-wind having the proportions of a hurricane made every heart quake, Deu_4:11; Deu_5:22. To this fearsome scene was added the sound of a trumpet, in itself calculated to make even a stout heart shrink under such conditions, Exo_19:16-19; Exo_20:18, and then the voice of words which were spoken from the top of the mountain, Exo_20:1-26; Deu_5:4-22. No wonder that the children of Israel were filled with such terror that they earnestly entreated and begged Moses to arrange in some way that this fearful voice might not sound for them any more, Exo_20:18-19; Deu_5:23-27. The very enumeration of the various phenomena gives some idea of the terrifying character of the spectacle.

How great the terror of the people was, is indicated in the following verses: For they could not bear that which had been ordered, If even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, Exo_19:12-13. It was a day when all hearts quaked with a fear that could not be quieted, since all nature seemed in an uproar, and the Lord Himself appeared to be their threatening enemy. So inexpressibly great was the glory and majesty of God on Mount Sinai that Moses, upon returning from the presence of God with the two tables of the Law, and finding that the people had so far forgotten themselves as to become guilty of the basest idolatry, was terrified by the very thought of God's possible revenge upon them, and cried out: I am extremely afraid and tremble, Deu_9:9; Deu_9:15-19. That is a picture which properly characterizes the Law with its terrible threats and curses of damnation.

Fortunate are the Christians that they are no longer under the Law, the very giving of which struck abject terror into the hearts of a whole nation: But you have drawn near 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 registered in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the perfected righteous, and to the Mediator of a new covenant, Jesus, and to the blood of sprinkling, whose message is more excellent than Abel's. The contrast between the old and the new covenant is brought out by every expression. For the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, is not an earthly, visible mountain, but a fellowship of saints, whose excellence can be but feebly indicated by attributes of human speech. Because David, the forefather of Christ, lived on Mount Zion and in the city of Jerusalem, and because the salvation of the Messiah was to take its beginning from this neighborhood, therefore the congregation and communion of saints, where God lives with His salvation in Christ, is commonly called Mount Zion, the city of God, in the prophecies, Psa_9:11; Psa_76:2; Psa_110:2; Isa_2:2-3; Mic_4:1-2. The ideal Zion is the place where God manifests His presence, the fullness of His grace in Christ. It is the heavenly Jerusalem, since it is not earthly and made with hands, and yet will be the final abode of all believers, Gal_4:26. God has His home, the throne of His mercy, in the midst of His Church, Rev_14:1; Rev_21:2; 1Co_3:16; 2Co_6:16. Into this communion the believers have entered. They are thus united with many thousands of angels in a fellowship of bliss, heaven and earth being united through the coming of Christ, Col_1:20; Eph_1:10. We belong, by faith, to the great festival assembly, to the congregation of God's first-born children, those that have been converted to faith in the foremost First-born, the eternal Son of God. We have come to God, the Judge of all men, and are able to stand before Him in trusting confidence by virtue of the justifying faith which has been kindled in our hearts through the Gospel. We are even one great congregation with the spirits of the saints that have reached the final perfection, the last goal, the bliss of heaven, Luk_23:43; 2Co_5:8; Php_1:23. All this, however, is possible because we have come to the great Mediator of the New Testament, to Jesus, who restored mankind to the original relation of children to the heavenly Father, through His own holy, innocent blood, with which we have been sprinkled in faith. The blood of Abel may indeed act as a witness and as such have value for this life, Heb_11:4. But the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all sins, and therefore pleads before God with a voice so loud and persuasive that it secures perfect righteousness for us. Thus the inspired writer brings home to us the fact that we have come to the pleasant, merciful, saving Gospel. What a glorious privilege!