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18 You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. 20(For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26At 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 heaven.” 27This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29for indeed our God is a consuming fire.


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18. For—The fact that we are not under the law, but under a higher, and that the last dispensation, the Gospel, with its glorious privileges, is the reason why especially the Hebrew Christians should "look diligently," &c. (Heb 12:15, 16).

are not comeGreek, "have not come near to." Alluding to De 4:11, "Ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire … with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness." "In your coming near unto God, it has not been to," &c.

the mount—The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate omit "the mount." But still, "the mount" must be supplied from Heb 12:22.

that might be touched—palpable and material. Not that any save Moses was allowed to touch it (Ex 19:12, 13). The Hebrews drew near to the material Mount Sinai with material bodies; we, to the spiritual mount in the spirit. The "darkness" was that formed by the clouds hanging round the mount; the "tempest" accompanied the thunder.

19. trumpet—to rouse attention, and herald God's approach (Ex 19:16).

entreated that the word should not be spoken—literally, "that speech should not be added to them"; not that they refused to hear the word of God, but they wished that God should not Himself speak, but employ Moses as His mediating spokesman. "The voice of words" was the Decalogue, spoken by God Himself, a voice issuing forth, without any form being seen: after which "He added no more" (De 5:22).

20. that which was commanded—"the interdict" [Tittmann]. A stern interdictory mandate is meant.

And—rather, "Even if a beast (much more a man) touch," &c.

or thrust through with a dart—omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The full interdict in Ex 19:12, 13 is abbreviated here; the beast alone, being put for "whether man or beast"; the stoning, which applies to the human offender, alone being specified, the beast's punishment, namely, the being thrust through with a dart, being left to be understood.

21. the sight—the vision of God's majesty.

quakeGreek, "I am in trembling"; "fear" affected his mind: "trembling," his body. Moses is not recorded in Exodus to have used these words. But Paul, by inspiration, supplies (compare Ac 20:35; 2Ti 3:8) this detail. We read in De 9:19, Septuagint, of similar words used by Moses after breaking the two tables, through fear of God's anger at the people's sin in making the golden calves. He doubtless similarly "feared" in hearing the ten commandments spoken by the voice of Jehovah.

22. are comeGreek, "have come near unto" (compare De 4:11). Not merely, ye shall come, but, ye have already come.

Mount Sion—antitypical Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem, of which the spiritual invisible Church (of which the first foundation was laid in literal Zion, Joh 12:15; 1Pe 2:6) is now the earnest; and of which the restored literal Jerusalem hereafter shall be the earthly representative, to be succeeded by the everlasting and "new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven" (Re 21:2-27; compare Heb 11:10).

22, 23. to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church—The city of God having been mentioned, the mention of its citizens follows. Believers being like the angels (Job 1:6; 38:7), "sons of God," are so their "equals" (Lu 20:36); and being reconciled through Christ, are adopted into God's great and blessed family. For the full completion of this we pray (Mt 6:10). English Version arrangement is opposed: (1) by "and" always beginning each new member of the whole sentence; (2) "general assembly and Church," form a kind of tautology; (3) "general assembly," or rather, "festal full assembly," "the jubilant full company" (such as were the Olympic games, celebrated with joyous singing, dancing, &c.), applies better to the angels above, ever hymning God's praises, than to the Church, of which a considerable part is now militant on earth. Translate therefore, "to myriads (ten thousands, compare De 33:2; Ps 68:17; Da 7:10; Jude 14; namely), the full festal assembly of angels, and the Church of the first-born." Angels and saints together constitute the ten thousands. Compare "all angels, all nations" Mt 25:31, 32. Messiah is pre-eminently "the First-born," or "First-begotten" (Heb 1:6), and all believers become so by adoption. Compare the type, Nu 3:12, 45, 50; 1Pe 1:18. As the kingly and priestly succession was in the first-born, and as Israel was God's "first-born" (Ex 4:22; compare Ex 13:2), and a "kingdom of priests" to God (Ex 19:6), so believers (Re 1:6).

23. written in heaven—enrolled as citizens there. All those who at the coming of "God the Judge of all" (which clause therefore naturally follows), shall be found "written in heaven," that is, in the Lamb's book of life (Re 21:27). Though still fighting the good fight on earth, still, in respect to your destiny, and present life of faith which substantiates things hoped for, ye are already members of the heavenly citizenship. "We are one citizenship with angels; to which it is said in the psalm, Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God" [Augustine]. I think Alford wrong in restricting "the Church of the first-born written in heaven," to those militant on earth; it is rather, all those who at the Judge's coming shall be found written in heaven (the true patent of heavenly nobility; contrast "written in the earth," Jer 17:13, and Esau's profane sale of his birthright, Heb 12:16); these all, from the beginning to the end of the world, forming one Church to which every believer is already come. The first-born of Israel were "written" in a roll (Nu 3:40).

the spirits of just men made perfect—at the resurrection, when the "Judge" shall appear, and believers' bliss shall be consummated by the union of the glorified body with the spirit; the great hope of the New Testament (Ro 8:20-23; 1Th 4:16). The place of this clause after "the Judge of all," is my objection to Bengel and Alford's explanation, the souls of the just in their separate state perfected. Compare Notes, see on Heb 11:39, 40, to which he refers here, and which I think confirms my view; those heretofore spirits, but now to be perfected by being clothed upon with the body. Still the phrase, "spirits of just men made perfect," not merely "just men made perfect," may favor the reference to the happy spirits in their separate state. The Greek is not "the perfected spirits," but "the spirits of the perfected just." In no other passage are the just said to be perfected before the resurrection, and the completion of the full number of the elect (Re 6:11); I think, therefore, "spirits of the just," may here be used to express the just whose predominant element in their perfected state shall be spirit. So spirit and spirits are used of a man or men in the body, under the influence of the spirit, the opposite of flesh (Joh 3:6). The resurrection bodies of the saints shall be bodies in which the spirit shall altogether preponderate over the animal soul (see on 1Co 15:44).

24. new—not the usual term (kaine) applied to the Christian covenant (Heb 9:15), which would mean new as different from, and superseding the old; but Greek, "nea," "recent," "lately established," having the "freshness of youth," as opposed to age. The mention of Jesus, the Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), and Himself perfected through sufferings and death, in His resurrection and ascension (Heb 2:10; 5:9), is naturally suggested by the mention of "the just made perfect" at their resurrection (compare Heb 7:22). Paul uses "Jesus," dwelling here on Him as the Person realized as our loving friend, not merely in His official character as the Christ.

and to the blood of sprinkling—here enumerated as distinct from "Jesus." Bengel reasonably argues as follows: His blood was entirely "poured out" of His body by the various ways in which it was shed, His bloody sweat, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, and after death the spear, just as the blood was entirely poured out and extravasated from the animal sacrifices of the law. It was incorruptible (1Pe 1:18, 19). No Scripture states it was again put into the Lord's body. At His ascension, as our great High Priest, He entered the heavenly holiest place "BY His own blood" (not after shedding His blood, nor with the blood in His body, but), carrying it separately from his body (compare the type, Heb 9:7, 12, 25; 13:11). Paul does not say, by the efficacy of His blood, but, "by His own proper blood" (Heb 9:12); not MATERIAL blood, but "the blood of Him who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot unto God" (Heb 9:14). So in Heb 10:29, the Son of God and the blood of the covenant wherewith he (the professor) was sanctified, are mentioned separately. Also in Heb 13:12, 20; also compare Heb 10:19, with Heb 10:21. So in the Lord's Supper (1Co 10:16; 11:24-26), the body and blood are separately represented. The blood itself, therefore, continues still in heaven before God, the perpetual ransom price of "the eternal covenant" (Heb 13:20). Once for all Christ sprinkled the blood peculiarly for us at His ascension (Heb 9:12). But it is called "the blood of sprinkling," on account also of its continued use in heaven, and in the consciences of the saints on earth (Heb 9:14; 10:22; Isa 52:15). This sprinkling is analogous to the sprinkled blood of the Passover. Compare Re 5:6, "In the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain." His glorified body does not require meat, nor the circulation of the blood. His blood introduced into heaven took away the dragon's right to accuse. Thus Rome's theory of concomitancy of the blood with the body, the excuse for giving only the bread to the laity, falls to the ground. The mention of "the blood of sprinkling" naturally follows the mention of the "covenant," which could not be consecrated without blood (Heb 9:18, 22).

speaketh better things than that of Abel—namely, than the sprinkling (the best manuscripts read the article masculine, which refers to "sprinkling," not to "blood," which last is neuter) of blood by Abel in his sacrifice spake. This comparison between two things of the same kind (namely, Christ's sacrifice, and Abel's sacrifice) is more natural, than between two things different in kind and in results (namely, Christ's sacrifice, and Abel's own blood [Alford], which was not a sacrifice at all); compare Heb 11:4; Ge 4:4. This accords with the whole tenor of the Epistle, and of this passage in particular (Heb 12:18-22), which is to show the superiority of Christ's sacrifice and the new covenant, to the Old Testament sacrifices (of which Abel's is the first recorded; it, moreover, was testified to by God as acceptable to Him above Cain's), compare Heb 9:1-10:39. The word "better" implies superiority to something that is good: but Abel's own blood was not at all good for the purpose for which Christ's blood was efficacious; nay, it cried for vengeance. So Archbishop Magee, Hammond, and Knatchbull. Bengel takes "the blood of Abel" as put for all the blood shed on earth crying for vengeance, and greatly increasing the other cries raised by sin in the world; counteracted by the blood of Christ calmly speaking in heaven for us, and from heaven to us. I prefer Magee's view. Be this as it may, to deny that Christ's atonement is truly a propitiation, overthrows Christ's priesthood, makes the sacrifices of Moses' law an unmeaning mummery, and represents Cain's sacrifice as good as that of Abel.

25. refuse not—through unbelief.

him that speaketh—God in Christ. As the blood of sprinkling is represented as speaking to God for us, Heb 12:24; so here God is represented as speaking to us (Heb 1:1, 2). His word now is the prelude of the last "shaking" of all things (Heb 12:27). The same word which is heard in the Gospel from heaven, will shake heaven and earth (Heb 12:26).

who refused himGreek, "refusing as they did." Their seemingly submissive entreaty that the word should not be spoken to them by God any more (Heb 12:19), covered over refractory hearts, as their subsequent deeds showed (Heb 3:16).

that spakerevealing with oracular warnings His divine will: so the Greek.

if we turn awayGreek, "we who turn away." The word implies greater refractoriness than "refused," or "declined."

him that speaketh from heaven—God, by His Son in the Gospel, speaking from His heavenly throne. Hence, in Christ's preaching frequent mention is made of "the kingdom of the heavens" (Greek, Mt 3:2). In the giving of the law God spake on earth (namely, Mount Sinai) by angels (Heb 2:2; compare Heb 1:2). In Ex 20:22, when God says, "I talked with you from heaven," this passage in Hebrews shows that not the highest heavens, but the visible heavens, the clouds and darkness, are meant, out of which God by angels proclaimed the law on Sinai.

26. then shook—when He gave the law on Sinai.

now—under the Gospel.

promised—The announcement of His coming to break up the present order of things, is to the ungodly a terror, to the godly a promise, the fulfilment of which they look for with joyful hope.

Yet once more—Compare Notes, see on Hag 2:6; Hag 2:21, 22, both of which passages are condensed into one here. The shaking began at the first coming of Messiah; it will be completed at His second coming, prodigies in the world of nature accompanying the overthrow of all kingdoms that oppose Messiah. The Hebrew is literally, "it is yet one little," that is, a single brief space till the series of movements begins ending in the advent of Messiah. Not merely the earth, as at the establishment of the Sinaitic covenant, but heaven also is to be shaken. The two advents of Messiah are regarded as one, the complete shaking belonging to the second advent, of which the presage was given in the shakings at the first advent: the convulsions connected with the overthrow of Jerusalem shadowing forth those about to be at the overthrow of all the God-opposed kingdoms by the coming Messiah.

27. this word, Yet once more—So Paul, by the Spirit, sanctions the Septuagint rendering of Hag 2:6, giving an additional feature to the prophecy in the Hebrew, as rendered in English Version, not merely that it shall be in a little while, but that it is to be "once more" as the final act. The stress of his argument is on the "ONCE." Once for all; once and for ever. "In saying 'once more,' the Spirit implies that something has already passed, and something else shall be which is to remain, and is no more to be changed to something else; for the once is exclusive, that is, not many times" [Estius].

those things that are shaken—the heaven and the earth. As the shaking is to be total, so shall the removal be, making way for the better things that are unremovable. Compare the Jewish economy (the type of the whole present order of things) giving way to the new and abiding covenant: the forerunner of the everlasting state of bliss.

as of things … made—namely, of this present visible creation: compare 2Co 5:1; Heb 9:11, "made with hands … of this creation," that is, things so made at creation that they would not remain of themselves, but be removed. The new abiding heaven and earth are also made by God, but they are of a higher nature than the material creation, being made to partake of the divine nature of Him who is not made: so in this relation, as one with the uncreated God, they are regarded as not of the same class as the things made. The things made in the former sense do not remain; the things of the new heaven and earth, like the uncreated God, "shall REMAIN before God" (Isa 66:22). The Spirit, the seed of the new and heavenly being, not only of the believer's soul, but also of the future body, is an uncreated and immortal principle.

28. receiving—as we do, in prospect and sure hope, also in the possession of the Spirit the first-fruits. This is our privilege as Christians.

let us have grace—"let us have thankfulness" [Alford after Chrysostom]. But (1) this translation is according to classical Greek, not Paul's phraseology for "to be thankful." (2) "To God" would have been in that case added. (3) "Whereby we may serve God," suits the English Version "grace" (that is Gospel grace, the work of the Spirit, producing faith exhibited in serving God), but does not suit "thankfulness."

acceptablyGreek, "well-pleasingly."

reverence and godly fear—The oldest manuscripts read, "reverent caution and fear." Reverent caution (same Greek as in Heb 5:7; see on Heb 5:7) lest we should offend God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Fear lest we should bring destruction on ourselves.

29. Greek, "For even": "for also"; introducing an additional solemn incentive to diligence. Quoted from De 4:24.

our God—in whom we hope, is also to be feared. He is love (1Jo 4:8, 16); yet there is another side of His character; God has wrath against sin (Heb 10:27, 31).