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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 12 - Verse 22
Verse 22. But ye are come unto mount Sion. You who are Christians; all who are under the new dispensation. The design is to contrast the Christian dispensation with the Jewish, and to show that its excellences and soul; advantages were far superior to the religion of their fathers. It had more to win the affections; more to elevate the more to inspire with hope. It had less that was terrific and alarming; it appealed less to the fears and more to the hopes of mankind; but still apostasy from this religion could not be less terrible in its consequences than apostasy from the religion of Moses. In the passage before us, the apostle evidently contrasts Sinai with Mount Zion;and means to say that there was more about the latter that was adapted to win the heart, and to preserve allegiance, than there was about the former. Mount Zion literally denoted the southern hill in Jerusalem, on which a part of the city was built. That part of the city was made by David and his successors the residence of the court, and soon the name Zion was given familiarly to the whole city. Jerusalem was the centre of religion in the land; the place where the temple stood, and where the worship of God was celebrated, and where God dwelt by a visible symbol, and it became the type and emblem of the holy abode where He dwells in heaven. It cannot be literally meant here that they had come to the Mount Sion in Jerusalem, for that was as true of the whole Jewish people as of those whom the apostle addressed; but it must mean that they had come to the Mount Zion of which the holy city was an emblem; to the glorious mount which is revealed as the dwelling-place of God, of angels, of saints. That is, they had "come" to this by the revelations and hopes of the gospel. They were not, indeed, literally in heaven, nor was that glorious city literally on earth; but the dispensation to which they had been brought was that which conducted them directly up to the city of the living God, and to the holy mount where he dwelt above. The view was not confined to an earthly mountain enveloped in smoke and flame, but opened at once on the holy place where God abides. By the phrase, "ye are come," the apostle means that this was the characteristic of the new dispensation, that it conducted them there, and that they were already, in fact, inhabitants of that glorious city. They were citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, (comp. See Barnes "Php 3:20,) and were entitled to its privileges.
God dwelt by a visible symbol in the temple at Jerusalem—and to that his people came under the old dispensation. In a more literal and glorious sense his abode is in heaven, and to that his people have now come.
The heavenly Jerusalem. Heaven is not unfrequently represented as a magnificent city, where God and angels dwell; and the Christian revelation discloses this to Christians as certainly their final home. They should regard themselves already as dwellers in that city, and live and act as if they saw its splendour, and partook of its joy. In regard to this representation of heaven as a city where God dwells, the following places may be consulted: Heb 11:10,14-16; 12:28; 13:14; Ga 4:26; Re 3:12; Re 21:2,10-27.
It is true that Christians have not yet seen that city by the bodily eye, but they look to it with the eye of faith. It is revealed to them; they are permitted by anticipation to contemplate its glories, and to feel that it is to be their eternal home. They are permitted to live and act as if they saw the glorious God whose dwelling is there, and were already surrounded by the angels and the redeemed. The apostle does not represent them as if they were expecting that it would be visibly set up on the earth, but as being now actually dwellers in that city, and bound to live and act as if they were amidst its splendours.
And to an innumerable company of angels. The Greek here is, "to myriads [or ten thousands] of angels in an assembly or joyful convocation." The phrase, "tens of thousands," is often used to denote a great and indefinite number. The word rendered "general assembly," (Heb 12:23)— panhguriv—refers, properly, to "an assembly or convocation of the whole people in order to celebrate any public festival or solemnity, as the public games or sacrifices." Rob. Lex. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and refers here to the angels viewed as assembled around the throne of God, and celebrating his praises. It should be regarded as connected with the word angels, referring to their convocation in heaven, and not to the church of the first-born. This construction is demanded by the Greek. Our common translation renders it as if it were to be united with the church— "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn;" but the Greek will not admit of this construction. The interpretation which unites it with the angels is adopted now by almost all critics, and in almost all the editions of the New Testament. On the convocation of angels, See Barnes "Job 1:6".
The writer intends, doubtless, to contrast that joyful assemblage of the angels in heaven with those who appeared in the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. God is always represented as surrounded by hosts of angels in heaven. See De 33:2; 1 Ki 22:19; Da 7:10; Ps 68:17; comp. See Barnes "Heb 12:1"; see also Re 5:2; Mt 26:53; Lu 2:13.
The meaning is, that under the Christian dispensation Christians, in their feelings and worship, become united to this vast host of holy angelic beings. It is, of course, not meant that they are visible, but they are seen by the eye of faith. The argument here is, that as, in virtue of the Christian revelation, we become associated with those pure and happy spirits, we should not apostatize from such a religion, for we should regard it as honourable and glorious to be identified with them.
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