HEBREWS 12.22-24

"But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 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, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."

The inspired apostle Paul, who is presumed to have written this epistle, after having discussed very fully the nature and import of the Levitical priesthood, and all its typical bearings, in prefiguring the great High Priest of our profession, and his royal priesthood, having not only compared, but also contrasted the former with the latter, most faithfully admonishes the saints to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, and to render strict obedience to him, and see that we refuse not him that speaketh. "For," says he, "if they escape not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven; whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." He exhorts them to lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset them, and run the race set before them, looking not now to Moses, who, as a servant, was faithful, but unto Christ, the Son of God, who is over his own house, and to lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and to make straight paths for their feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be deified; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." These solemn admonitions are enforced by the consideration of their high and holy calling and the superior dignity of Christ as a Son above that of Moses as a servant. If under Moses, in his inferior capacity, every transgression received a just recompense of reward, and if "he that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God," or refused him that speaketh from heaven? All who transgressed or failed to obey the law administered by Moses were subjected to the pains and penalties of that law, and died without mercy, for there was no mercy in that law. Moses could not judge them by the law of Christ, which is written in the hearts of the children of God under the gospel, but by that law which was written on tables of stone; that law could show no mercy, hence they died without mercy; but in the law written in the heart, God is merciful to the transgressions of his people, and will remember them no more. Still the punishment of which the saints are thought worthy, who transgress the law of the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, is much sorer than that under Moses, inasmuch as Moses could only inflict temporal judgments, and under the law of Christ spiritual judgments, such as leanness, barrenness, and fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall destroy, not the saints, but the adversaries. He visits their iniquities with the rod, and their sins with many stripes, nevertheless his loving-kindness he will not take utterly away.

As an incentive to greater diligence and more profound attention, to deeper reverence and more implicit obedience to the law of Jesus, the apostle says, "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 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 any more," "But," says he, "ye are come unto mount Zion." How striking is the contrast! Mount Sinai, in Arabia, typified by the bondmaid, answering to that Jerusalem which gendereth to bondage, and which is in bondage with her children. Where the voice of God was heard in thunder tones, proclaiming the precepts of the covenant of works, the ministration of death, the display of the awful terror of the Lord, demonstrating the impossibility of approaching unto God by the deeds of the law.

"Not to the terrors of the Lord,
The tempest, fire and smoke;
Not to the thunder of that word
Which God on Sinai spoke."

In that mountain no refuge could be found for either man or beast, but all who approached were stoned, or thrust through with a dart. But Christ, our High Priest, has redeemed us from the terror of that law.

"And we are come to Sion's hill,
The city of our God,
Where milder words declare his will,
And spread his love abroad."

Mount Zion, or Sion, as it is rendered in the New Testament, was literally the city of David, the seat and centre of the government of the commonwealth of Israel, fortified with invincible walls and mighty towers, abounding with every possible comfort and security for its inhabitants and located upon the mountains of Zion, which were refreshed with the dews of Hermon, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore. This city is frequently used, both in the Old and New Testament, to represent the church of God in her gospel organization, strength and beauty. "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early." "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined." "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." The gospel church is Mount Sion, and she is the city of the living God. Ezekiel and John saw this holy city of our Cod in their vision. John says, And he shewed me "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." This holy city is the church, the bride, the Lamb's wife. To the church of the living God, thus presented as Mount Sion, and as the city of the living God, every regenerated follower of Christ, under the gospel has come. This Mount Sion, this city of the living God, is the heavenly Jerusalem. Not that Jerusalem which gendereth to bondage, which was destroyed, but the heavenly Jerusalem, which is above, is free, and which is the mother of all who, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise, and children of the free woman. The city to which the saints are now come is the city of the living God. He is so called, not only because he is alive, and lives of himself, being self-existent and independent, but because he is the source and fountain of all spirituality and vitality to all his saints. It is his city because he is the founder of it, and her name is, "The Lord is there." He is the maker and builder of it, it is not made with hands. It is his because he has formed it, for he says, "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise. And again, he says, "And they shall call them, Thy holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken." The saints have come also to an innumerable company of angels. The term "angels," in this place, we think means the saints in their spiritual existence. Their flesh and blood cannot come into this spiritual communion, for it cannot inherit the kingdom; no man is here known after the flesh; the flesh profiteth nothing; they have no confidence in it, for it lusts against the angel, or spirit, and all its works are in direct opposition to the fruits of the Spirit. Christ says of his little ones (and all his children are little ones), that their angels do always behold the face of my Father, which is in heaven. Their fleshly powers cannot behold the face of God, but their angel, or spirit, that which is born of the Spirit, does behold the face of God, for he that hath seen Jesus hath seen the Father also, not by natural sight, but by that spiritual discernment which is peculiar to the new man. The number of these angels is definite, but no man can number them, hence to us who come to Sion the company of them is innumerable, for it includes the whole family in heaven and in earth. They constitute one general assembly, embracing all that were chosen of God in Christ before the foundation of the world, all who are and were predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, all for whom Jesus died, for whom he arose, and for whom he ever liveth to intercede. This general assembly is the church of the firstborn, which is written or enrolled in heaven. Christ, in his mediatorial headship of his church, in all things must have the pre-eminence. He is the first begotten from the dead, and he is called the firstborn of every creature, and that he should be the firstborn among many brethren. This Mount Sion, this city of the living God, this heavenly Jerusalem, this innumerable company of angels, this general assembly, then, is no more nor less than the church of Jesus Christ, his body and his members, his flesh and his bones, and one with him, even as he is one with the Father. They have come also to God, the judge of all.

We have already noticed in the foregoing remarks that God is in the midst of Zion, that she cannot be moved. He has chosen her for his dwelling-place, and in her will he dwell forever, for he has desired it. The God of Zion is the judge of all; his judgment has decided and fixed the destiny of all beings, of all events and of all worlds. Judgment and justice are the habitation of his throne, and from his decision no appeal can be made. But there is a special sense in which all the subjects of his spiritual kingdom who have come to Zion have come to him as their judge. When called and quickened with spiritual life, each subject of his saving power finds himself arrested and arraigned before his judgment-bar, and his sins are set in order before him. The book of the divine law is brought before his court, and all the transgressions of its precepts are plainly pointed out, and all other judgments as to our case are effectually set aside. We are made conscious that whatever has been our own judgment in regard to our standing, our guilt or innocence, our merits or demerits, our ability or inability, or whatever judgments may have been decided for or against us by our fellow-men, are found to be null and void. We come to God as the judge of all; the case is between the individual and God the judge. Before our arrest we had judged of our own case favorably, for we knew not the deep depravity of our own hearts, and we even have thought justice was on our side, but now that we stand before the eternal Judge, we find that we are guilty and ruined, helpless and despairing. Now we change our judgment, and decide that justice is truly against us, and that we cannot be saved without infringement of the justice of God. But neither our first or second judgment can stand, for God is judge himself, and when he by his Spirit has made known his decision in our case, we know that it cannot be reversed. He shows us truly how guilty we are, and how justly we deserve his wrath, but he also shows us that he can be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. Christ is to us revealed as our Savior, our Wisdom, our Righteousness, our Sanctification and Redemption, and we can rely with joy and confidence on this decision, for it, being the decision of God the judge of all, is irrevocable. We come to God, the judge of all, in regard to all things that concern us for time and for eternity. As our judge he establishes our goings, the paths in which we are to tread, leading us in a way that we knew not, and in paths which we had not known. As our judge we learn (slowly perhaps) to commit to him the keeping of our souls, to decide for us what is best, and to withhold from us what he sees would not be for our good or his glory. Our feelings and our judgment we lay aside, and search the volume which contains a record of his decision, with a desire that we may walk in all his judgments and obey all his precepts. If we transgress his law (as we are conscious we do daily) we still have to do with him as our judge, for the Lord will judge his people. If our enemies set upon us to destroy us, we are not to avenge ourselves, for God is the judge of all; vengeance belongs to him, he will repay. If we meet with offenses, or are grieved with the course of our brethren, or have wounded them, we are not competent to judge the case, but he is the judge still. We are to watch closely the judgments which he has recorded in every case, and conform to them. When Israel had no king or judge, we are told that every man did that which was good in his own eyes. But such is not our right now, as citizens of Sion. May all of us who have entered the gates of the holy city, and eaten of the tree of life, ever come boldly, freely, unreservedly to him as the Judge of all, and submit all our concerns to him.

"And to the spirits of just men made perfect." By just men, we understand those who are freely justified through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, for no other men are just in the sight of God, the judge of all. Their spirits we understand to be what we have treated on as their angels; their spiritual life and immortality; that which is born of the Spirit; and in this there is a unity. There is one body and one spirit, even as they are all called in one hope of their calling. But while here in the flesh, even the spirit of the child of God is not perfected. It has not attained to the consummation of its perfection, or the fullness of its glory. Not yet so happy, so free from oppression, conflict and trials as it shall hereafter be. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he [who is our life] shall appear, we shall be like him," and that will be perfection truly. Here we see but in part, we know but in part, but when that which is but in part shall be done away, we shall see as we are seen, and know even as we are known. The spirits of the saints who have finished their course on earth are now perfected. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the spirits of the prophets and apostles, are perfected, but they have not left Sion, for the Mount Sion to which we are come abideth forever. This kingdom shall break in pieces all other kingdoms, and it shall stand forever; it is an everlasting kingdom, and a dominion that hath no end, and all who are brought from the east and from the west, the north and the south, shall sit down in the kingdom with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The mortality of our earthly bodies cannot interrupt the communion of the spirits of the just.

"The saints on earth, and all the dead,
But one communion make;
All join in Christ, their living Head,
And of his grace partake."

"And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant." We have not come to Moses, the servant, but to Jesus, the Son, to Jesus the Savior, the mediator of the new covenant, the mediator between God and men. The new covenant is contrasted with the old covenant, which was a ministration of death, but the new is a covenant of life and peace. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should not place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old." (Heb. 8:7-13) As Aaron and his sons in their priestly office ministered as mediators at the altars, under the old covenant, with the blood of calves and other victims, which were offered continually in mediation for Israel, so Jesus, the High Priest of our profession, is the Mediator of the New Testament, or covenant. In the new covenant the spiritual Hebrew, or Israelite, draws near unto God by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. It is therefore through Jesus Christ as our Mediator that we enter into the holiest of all, that we come unto God by him, and from the least to the greatest all know God, which knowledge is eternal life. "Now," says the apostle, "of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." (Heb. 8:1,2) The apostle in thus summing up, compares and contrasts the two covenants, and the mediators of them, respectively, and shows in verse six that Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry than that of Aaron, under the first testament, and that "by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." The old covenant was established on conditional terms; Life and temporal blessings were promised if they obeyed its provisions, but death and temporal judgments if they transgressed; but the new covenant is a better covenant, and established upon better promises, unconditional promises, promises which are confirmed by two immutable things, by the oath of him who can swear by no greater, by the immutability of his counsel. "And for this cause he [Jesus] is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." (Heb. 9:15) "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. Not yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entered into the holy place every year with the blood of others But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin unto salvation."

"And to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." The blood of sprinkling to which the new covenant saints are come, is the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed for the remission of their sins, and the sprinkling of that blood signifies its application to those for whom it was shed. As Peter applies it, to the "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Answering to the application of the blood of the passover lamb, in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, which blood was applied to the door-posts of the dwellings of those who were to eat the passover, and were saved from the angel of wrath, and redeemed from the house of bondage. "Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." (Heb. 9:18-23) The purification of the children of the new covenant is effected by the sprinkling of his blood, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot unto God, and who has obtained eternal redemption for them. His blood speaketh better things than did the blood of Abel. The voice of Abel's blood called from the ground for retribution upon Cain, but the voice of Jesus' blood speaks peace, deliverance, salvation. "Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." (Col. 1:20) The language of Jesus' blood sprinkled upon his redeemed people is that of peace, it bids the messenger of divine wrath pass over those on whom it is sprinkled; no wrath can enter there, no condemnation, no guilt can there be found, for his blood cleanseth them from all guilt. It speaks in soothing accents to the despairing sinner, and bids him lift up his head and rejoice in Christ his Savior; it speaks deliverance to the captives, of opening the prison to them that are bound. His blood proclaims a complete and full salvation to all for whom it is shed, and of an inheritance of immortal glory beyond the grave.

We have briefly noticed the most prominent points embraced in the text; on each there is room for much enlargement, but the very manifest design of the apostle was, by all these considerations, to urge and admonish the saints to see that they refuse not him that speaketh. Higher, nobler, loftier considerations than any presented in the law of a carnal commandment, or enforced by the merciless rod of Moses, appeal to the hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, to lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset them, and to run with patience the race which is set before them, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N.Y.
March 15, 1862.

Republished: The Remnant
Volume 3, No. 2 – March – April, 1989