Hebrews 12:25-29

“Be very attentive to God’s voice. For if the Israelites could not escape when they refused to listen to He who warned them on earth, how little chance of escape is there for those who ignore God’s warnings from heaven? The voice of Jehovah once shook the earth, but now once more He has promised to shake not only the earth, but even heaven itself. This expression, ‘yet once more’ signifies the impermanence of everything which can be shaken in the universe, for only those things which cannot be dislodged will remain. Since we are gaining an unshakable kingdom, let us be thankful and continue to serve God acceptably with godly reverence and awe; for our God is an all-consuming fire.”
  (paraphrased)

The writer delivers his fifth and final warning like a thunderbolt. It is the pragmatic application of what he stated in the previous passage. In his final contrast between Judaism and Christianity, he exhorts his readers to serve God wholeheartedly (v. 28). 

v. 25
“See” (blepete) means “see to it.” It is the same Greek word earlier translated “take heed” when they are warned against departing from the living God (Heb. 3:12). “Refusing” (paraitesesthe) to listen to God is to shun, depreciate, decline, or avoid His commands. The people refused to hear God’s words, not because the volume was overpowering, but because they chose not to obey what He said (12:19). The Biblical record of their wilderness wandering depicts a consistent attitude of rebelliousness (3:7-11).

While the contrast in the previous passage was between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, the differentiation here is between the way God spoke in the past and the way He is speaking today. The one “who spoke on earth” cannot refer to Moses, for the next verse tells us this voice “shook the earth” (12:26). It is Jehovah’s voice that is graphically described (vv. 18-21).

The writer has already told his readers that escape from punishment after rejecting Christ is impossible (2:2-3). As stated in the opening verses of the epistle, the Lord has spoken through His Son from heaven (1:1-2). It was a serious affront to God to ignore Him when He spoke at Sinai. But how much more serious is the offense when the communications of His Son are ignored? The rejection of the greater message will result in greater punishment. If the disobedient Israelites failed to enter God’s rest, how much more severe will be the punishment for those who ignore the Gospel message? The Lord continues to speak from heaven through His Holy Spirit, the One who guides us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

v. 26
The concept of God’s power being manifested to shake the earth is common in the Old Testament. This verse is a quote from Haggai 2:6, when the prophet addressed Zerubbabel at the dedication of the second temple (c 500 B.C.). He comforts the people who regret this temple is so inferior to the first. God assures them of His intention to make Jerusalem the focus of worship for the entire world. But the scope of this prophecy cannot be restricted to that era, for the writer of the book of Hebrews regards the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God as futuristic. The prophecies of Revelation affirm this to be true, for the Apocalypse marks the end of the present world order. In that day, the heavens dissipate to make way for the new heaven and earth (Rev. 20:11 & 21:1). 

At Sinai, the shaking and trembling of the earth was localized and temporary (Ex. 19:18). But the Lord one day will “shake” (seiso) not only the earth but heaven also. Seiso means “to agitate or cause to tremble.” It is from this term we derive the word “seismograph,” an instrument used to record the severity of earthquakes. David records how “Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God” (Ps. 68:8). But Sinai’s shaking was only a prelude to the global upheaval to come at the close of the Tribulation. A universal earthquake occurs as Jesus feet touch and split the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4). The Second Coming of Christ will shake the earth dramatically (Isa. 2:19-21).

v. 27
While the temple was still standing, many Jews believed Judaism would endure forever. However, the sacrifice of God’s Son shook the foundations of Judaism. Emblematically, an earthquake occurs as Jesus dies (Mt. 27:51). Jewish ceremonialism was but an impermanent framework, enduring only until the permanent structure of Christianity was established. The glory of the tabernacle and the temple existed for only a few hundred years. Christianity has thrived for two millennia and is destined to continue throughout the eons of eternity.

The phrase “yet once more” should lead the readers to understand that the shaking prophesied by Haggai is the final one. To “signify” something is to “make it manifest or evident.” However, this “shaking” is both figurative and literal. The mighty kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, Rome, and Babylonia have be decimated. The writer seeks to emphasize the impermanence of everything man has established and the permanence of what the Lord has established. The earth in the apocalyptic era will suffer massive upheaval and destruction. Jesus prophesied that immediately after the tribulation the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shine, the stars will fall, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Mt. 24:29). 

“Things which cannot be shaken” are synonymous with things that truly matter. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are told to store imperishable treasures in heaven rather than the perishable treasures of earth (Mt. 6:19-21). In the eschatological era, Satan himself will try to destroy the Kingdom of God….only to find himself in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:3).

He who created the universe has the power to rearrange it. God set aside what is temporary to in order to establish what is eternal. As old things pass away, new things are manifested (II Cor. 5:17). Christ’s dynasty is unshakable because so many aspects of it are intangible. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). Unlike Judaism, the Kingdom of God is absolutely indissoluble and perpetual. It can never be exchanged for another system of religion. Jesus has promised that only those who are born-again will see the kingdom that is “not of this world” (Jn. 3:3 & 18:36).

v. 28
The Lord’s “durability tests” separate the perishable from the imperishable; the transitory from the permanent. A firm belief in God’s power to replace outdated things should strengthen our resolve to stay true. The Kingdom of God will never take second place to any other kingdom, for it is immovable and eternal.

“Grace” (charin) here is better translated “thankfulness.” “Acceptably” (euarestos) is “well-pleasing. An attitude of gratitude is essential to serving the Lord in a manner pleasing to Him. Jesus taught us to worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn . 4:24). To serve the Lord with reverence (eulabeia) pictures one who approaches Him in humility, caution, and discretion. “Godly fear” is not terror or intimidation, but a reverential awe and respect for His power. 

v. 29
“Our God” is the same in all dispensations. He cannot be trifled with. His holy attitude toward sin is one of those things that “cannot be shaken.” When Moses reminded the people that God is a consuming fire, it was coupled with a warning to not forget His covenant (Deut.4:23-24). “Consume” (katanaliskon) means “to spend; to use up,” for His fires of judgment will consume all transitory things. It is right and just that God’s holy fervor burn against all who spurn the gift of His Son. It is on this adamant and final note the writer closes the doctrinal portion of his epistle.   

QUESTIONS: FIFTH WARNING: DON’T DEPART

Hebrews 12:25-29

1. How many “warnings” are contained within the book of Hebrews?
A. 1
B. 2
C. 3
D. 4
E. 5

2. According to Psalms 68:8, what moved or shook in God’s presence?

3. According to Haggai 2:6, what things will the Lord shake?

4. Immediately after the Tribulation, which of the following events will occur?  (Matthew 24:19)
A. the sun will be darkened
B. the moon will not shine
C. the stars will fall
D. earth will be shaken
E. all of the above

5. According to the next verse, Matthew 24:30, who will then arrive? 

6. In order to show that God’s attitude toward sin remains unchanged, what same element is seen in Hebrews 12:29, Isaiah 66:15 and II Thessalonians 1:8?

7. According to Mark 9:44, 46 & 48, how does Jesus describe the fires of hell?

8. According to Haggai 2:1-4, to which of the following men was the prophecy given?

A. Zechariah
B. Zerubbabel
C. Zephaniah
D. Zedekiah
E. Zerah

9. In verse 28, the word “grace” (charin) is more accurately translated “thankfulness.” List the things you are especially thankful for.

 


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