“The Lasting Efficacy of the Reign and Priesthood of Jesus Christ”
By Richard Allen – July 10, 2023
We’re on the “home-stretch” in our Study of the Book of Hebrews. Just so I’m clear, this was never meant to be a line-by-line exposition, but rather a thematic approach, using the Supremacy of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, and the finality of His Ministry as the Mediator of a New and Better Covenant. Having compared Jesus’ Ministry and Offices to those of all the prophets and priests under the First Covenant, the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that all the Old Testament heroes of the faith, whom these Jewish Christians so revered, WERE ALL LOOKING FORWARD TO JESUS AND HIS MINISTRY! Jesus was the culmination of all God’s promises and prophecies, as well as the hope of all those who came before Him. BY FAITH, they all saw the Promised One, Jesus, afar off. Those faithful men and women who had confessed to be pilgrims and strangers upon the earth, were looking for a “better country” than the narrow strip of land in Palestine called Israel. They longed for a “heavenly country,” whose builder and maker was God (Hebrews 11:16).
In the previous chapters of Hebrews, the writer twice referenced the Jews’ own history, citing their experiences before God at Horeb. In each of these references, the writer explained their “arms-length” relationship to God. Their ancestors had known only the fear and terror of God. So, as a result, they were not interested in having intimacy with this Holy God. Now, the writer of Hebrews reminds them that they WERE NOT ONCE AGAIN entering into another FEARFUL RELATIONSHIP that required Human Mediators and Priests just to approach God. That Old Covenantal System only engendered COWERING FEAR as the worshipper sought to APPROACH A HOLY GOD. So the writer reminds them:
“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear” (Hebrews 12:18-21).
I’m not suggesting we adopt a reckless disregard or flippant attitude toward the God of Heaven. No, I’m saying that because of the perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ we now have a New and Better Covenant in which God may be approached within the veil. This Holy God, who the writer of Hebrews tells us is “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), has now come close to us in the Person of His Son, the only Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5). So the writer to the Hebrews goes on to encourage these wavering Believers, seeking to strengthen their faith and resolve:
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to 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 that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
This portion of Scripture is most blessed because it reveals to us that our standing in Jesus Christ has Already brought us to “Mount Zion, the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22). Hearing language like this should get our immediate attention with the apocalyptic references to “Heavenly Jerusalem” (i.e. Revelation 21:2), the “City of the Living God.” So we are not confused, the writer to the Hebrews adds: “And to the Church of the Firstborn!” Yes, the Heavenly Jerusalem IS THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST! No doubt that in a future state it will be a glorified Church, “having neither spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). It is the CHURCH, and NOT ISRAEL, that is the focus of God’s enduring love and blessing. These Hebrew Believers desperately needed to see that it was not a “National Salvation” for the Jewish People, but to the Church of Jesus Christ, that is, the Called Ones from both the Jews and the Gentiles (Acts 15:14; I Corinthians 10:32). Here’s how the Apostle John describes the Church in Revelation:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
Numerous times throughout Scripture, God promised and foretold of a wonderful city that has Not Yet been attained by the Children of Faith. Here are a few examples:
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High” (Psalm 46:4)
“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).
“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.” (Psalm 48:1-3).
“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:22-26).
While there is a future reality that God’s Children will yet enjoy as God’s dwelling place, the Bride of Christ, that Holy City of God, the writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that we have ALREADY COME TO THIS WONDERFUL CITY BY FAITH! And these passages in Hebrews chapter 12 make it abundantly clear that the Kingdom Jesus called us into by Faith, is NOT Temporary, NOR COULD IT BE SHAKEN OR REMOVED! At the time his Book of Hebrews was written, all the Old Testament worship and its attending physical props were still limping along in an earthly Jerusalem. The Temple Priests must have “sewn the Veil guarding the Holy of Holies back together” (Matthew 27:51), but they were on “borrowed time,” as this worship was part of the “weak and beggarly elements” of the Covenant of Law (Hebrews 8:13). This covenant was fulfilled, and even as the writer to the Hebrews wrote, coming to an end!
God has already shown that the props of Jewish worship were Temporary and able to be “shaken and destroyed.” This is why the writer to the Hebrews reminds his readers of the transitory nature of the First Covenant’s worship. He has reminded them that: 1) The Priests all died and the Sacrifices had to be repeated continually, because they couldn’t “cleanse the consciences of the worshippers.” 2) the Physical Temple had already been torn down and rebuilt once, and was soon to be completely dismantled. Jesus Himself said that “Not one stone would be left standing upon another” (Matthew 24:2). And this would be done to promote new worshippers in Spirit and Truth who would be “living stones, made into a Habitation for God in the Spirit” (1 Peter 2:4-6). 3) The Tables of the Law had been smashed once, (Exodus 32:19), allowing God to now “Write His Law upon the Fleshly Tables of the human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
And now the writer closes his exhortation with a warning and a promise:
“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).
My warning for all those who are tempted to go back to an earthly and fleshly worship by Priests with Ceremonies, Altars and Sacrifices, that they are once again placing themselves under the Law. “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them’ “ (Galatians 3:10). And what is more serious, they are holding on to a “kingdom that can and will be shaken,” but it will be shaken and set aside for the glorious reign of the Lord Jesus, who is bringing in a new city that cannot be shaken, Heavenly Jerusalem.
Receive Christ’s Spiritual kingdom by Faith today, “for our God is a consuming fire.”
Soli Deo Gloria!