STUDY Hebrews 12:22-29
(click here for notes)
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
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? 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." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken-that is, created things-so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our "God is a consuming fire." (NIV)
The Church of the Firstborn
The author has just reminded his readers that they "have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire;" he is reminding them that they are no longer under the Old Covenant. They no longer stand accursed before the law and in hope of a Savior. They now have their Savior.
1. Mount Zion was literally a part of the city of Jerusalem. What is Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the city of the living God of which the author speaks in v. 22? (see Hebrews 11:10, 13-16; 13:14; Isaiah 24:23; 2:2-4; 60:14; Philippians 3:20; Revelation 14:1)
2. Compare the circumstances under which the Old Covenant was established (outlined in v. 18-21) with those of the New (v. 22-24).
3. Jesus is called the "firstborn" (see Heb.1:6; Romans 8:29; Col. 1:15-18; Revelation 1:5). In v. 23, however, the word "firstborn" in "church of the firstborn" is plural. Who are the firstborn, and why do they have that name? (see Exodus 4:22; Romans 8:14; 9:26; Hebrews 1:2; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 21:27)
4. What does it mean to have our names "written in heaven"? (see Daniel 12:1; Malachai 3:16; Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27)
We Have Come to God
5. Instead of coming to darkness, gloom, fire, and fear, we "have come to God, the judge of all men." (v. 23) As the judge of all men, what will God do, and what does that mean for us? (see Genesis 18:25; Deuteronomy 32:4, 35; Hebrews 4:13; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15)
6. Who or what are "the spirits of righteous men made perfect"? (see Hebrews 11, esp. verses 4, 7; 12:1)
7. What qualified them, before Christ, to be called "righteous"? (see Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6,7; James 2:23)
8. Verse 23 specifically states that these righteous men of the past were "made perfect". If they were righteous, why did they need to be "made perfect"? How and when did this being made perfect happen? (see Hebrews 11:40; Romans 3:24-26; 4:23-25; Acts 14:16; 17:30)
9. We have come, the author says, to God the judge, to the "spirits of righteous men made perfect," and "to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant." (v.23-24a) Many of us were taught the new covenant was made between God and his followers. How is that previous belief different from the implication of Jesus "mediating" a new covenant? (see Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 9:15; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Galatians 3:19-20)
10. To what symbolic tradition are the author's words "the sprinkled blood" referring, and what do they mean? (see Hebrews 9:19; 10:22; 1 Peter 1:2)
11. What is the "better word" spoken by "the sprinkled blood," and what was the word spoken by the blood of Abel? (see Genesis 4:10-11; Hebrews 11:4; 9:12; 10:199-22; Colossians 1:20; 1 John 1:7)
He Who Speaks
12. "See to it," the author begins to conclude, "that you do not refuse him who speaks." "They", the Israelites, "refused him who warned them on earth." Who warned them on earth? (see Hebrews 8:5; Exodus 19:20-21; 20:1-2; 11:7)
13. Who warns us from heaven? (Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14; 6:19-20; 7:26; 9:24)
14. God's voice shook the earth at Sinai. (Ex. 19:18) When will the final shaking of "not only the earth but also the heavens" take place? (see Haggai 2:6; 2 Peter 3:12-13; Revelation 6:14; 21:1)
15. What will be shaken? (see Isaiah 34:4; 54:10; 1 Corinthians 7:31; Hebrews 1:10-12; 2 Peter 3:10; 1 John 2:17a)
16. What will remain? (see Hebrews 12:28a; 1 John 2:17b; Psalm 15:5; Daniel 2:44)
17. How do we worship God acceptably? (see Micah 6:8; Malachi 2:4-5; John 4:19-24; Romans 12:1)
18. How has "the sprinkled blood" changed your life?
19. Since those things that will be shaken are created things (v.27), what does this fact suggest about humans, their bodies, and their souls?
20. In what areas of your life do you tend to refuse "him who warns us from heaven"?
21. What do you need to surrender to God in order to worship him "acceptably with reverence and awe"?
22. As you have entered the new covenant, what has God taught you that you need to change?
23. Ask God to reveal his love to you deeply. Ask him to show you what you need to surrender to him, and invite his Spirit to shine the light of truth in your heart and in your mind. Ask him to heal your emotions and your spirit, and let his love integrate the wounded parts of your memories and feelings into your new life in Jesus. Let Jesus renew you, and embrace his authority in your life. Praise God for choosing you and for changing you!
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised November 1, 2001.