Notes of an Address at Winnipeg, 1906, on Hebrews 12:18-29
The writer to the Hebrews draws a distinction here between the word spoken at Sinai to which he says we are not come, and that which is spoken by the Lord, who speaks from heaven, to which he says we are come. Many a person hardly knows how it is that he can be said to have come to these things, and yet after all it is not advanced teaching because the Hebrews were not advanced Christians. They had never really made progress in their souls, and the writer of the epistle blames them for that. He says: “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teacheth you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” They were only as babes, when they ought to have been advanced Christians, so that what we have in the epistle, though a good deal of it may to some of us seem mysterious is not advanced teaching, but is that which lies at the very foundation of our relationship with God. The Son of God has spoken the word. You get this in the first chapter. The One that speaks the word is the Son of God—the Object of the worship of angels, and the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He could be addressed thus in the sorrow of His soul as you get in Psalm 102. Jehovah says to Him: “Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment: as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end.” That word was addressed to Jesus. It was what was true of Him. And so the writer says (chap. 2): “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should slip away from them.” For, he says, “if the word spoken by angels was steadfast” (the old covenant given at Sinai was steadfast) “and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him.” That is, the apostles had nothing but what the Lord had spoken and God bare them witness both with signs and wonders, and with diverse miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will. Then in chapter 3 you get the heavenly calling. The saints are addressed as holy brethren and partakers of the heavenly calling, because the Lord who spoke from heaven called those whom He spoke to, to the place from which He spoke.
When we come to this chapter, the principles upon which the age to come will be established are clearly brought before us. You see, if the administration of the gospel belonged to the present age, there would be no calling. It would simply be the announcement of the principles upon which the present age is established, and there would be no calling to another place than the state of things in which we were; but our calling is to another sphere altogether. The fact is, the things that are before us are the principles upon which the age to come will be established: Mount Zion; the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We all know very well when these things will be in evidence. Mount Zion is of very little importance today, and the heavenly Jerusalem is not in display. In a certain sense it is being built. Then there are an innumerable company of angels, not one angel with a fiery law, but a company of angels impossible for men to number, and all attendants upon the Son of Man, all there as worshippers of the Son of Man, because when He bringeth the first begotten into the world, that is, the world to come, He says, “let all the angels of God worship Him.” An innumerable company of angels attend Him in the day of His coronation to do homage to Him in the sight of the whole universe. There will be gatherings together of all the mighty angels in the whole dominions of God to do homage to the One who is to take the throne upon Mount Zion. So we are brought face to face with an innumerable company of angels. This is so different to Sinai where there was one angel. The name of Jehovah was in Him. God told Moses he was one who would not forgive their iniquity. One angel presents the law to men, but an innumerable company are attendant on Man as the servants of man doing homage to Man in the person of the Son of God. And then he says we are come to all these things. You can see that these are the principles upon which the age to come will be introduced and established.
The old covenant is what he refers to as that which we are not come to. “We are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet,” every indication of divine majesty and splendour and terror, and the voice of words that those to whom they were addressed refused to listen to. They excused themselves from hearing them, and entreated that the word should not be addressed to them any more, because it was the demand of God, and they were utterly unable to answer to it. Even Moses, to whom the word was not addressed—the mediator—the one who came with the demand of God to the people, who though he was himself under grace and was not one of the people to whom the law was addressed, nevertheless so terrible was the sight that he says, “I exceedingly fear and quake.” He says, You are not come to that. You and I have not to listen to that rule to which the nation of Israel were not able to listen. We have not to excuse ourselves from listening to the demand of God. You are come to an entirely different order of things. “Ye are come to Mount Zion.” What do you get there? What is said of Mount Zion is that it is the hill of grace. It is where God finds His rest. It says, God will dwell there forevermore. He loves it. Blessing is there; there God commands blessing, life forevermore. It is the hill upon which He places His king. “Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion.” And why do you think He has established His king there? It is for blessing. If God raises up a king, it is for blessing, not for the destruction of man. He raised up David to be a saviour for Israel. He took him from behind the sheep and He took him to shepherd His people Israel, and it is said of David, “He fed them in the integrity of his heart and guided them with the skilfulness of his hands.” He was the shepherd of Israel, and there is a close connection between the shepherd and the king. By and bye what is said of Christ is this, that He will shepherd the nations with a rod of iron. He will shepherd them. If God has His king, it is for blessing. No doubt the rebellious must suffer judgment, but God’s thought in a kingdom is salvation. Indeed, that is what any kingdom is for. It must be for preservation and salvation. It is not for the destruction of man. You and I would not want a kingdom if we could protect ourselves. But because there is evil abroad, we want a king that will protect us, that will save us from our enemies. And that is God’s thought of a king, one who will save the people. So when the king reigns, He will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in judgment, and when that day comes, “a man shall be a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” That is God’s thought of the king. God intended David should be that; that he should reign in righteousness and be a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest—everything to His people, and David has to confess, though he knows what a true king should be, it was not so with his house. David has to give way to God’s king, but when God sets His king on the holy hill of Zion it will mean salvation for the human race. There will be no evil abroad in that kingdom. He will stretch His sceptre over the whole earth and will bring peace and blessing to man. It will be a comfort to man. He will be a shepherd not only of Israel but also of the nations. He will feed them with the integrity of His heart, and guide them with the skilfulness of His hands. He will lead them to fountains of living water and every tear shall be wiped from every eye by His blessed hand, and of His kingdom there shall be no end. “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, even Thy God, has anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions.” Christ has been well proven in the furnace of affliction. He was the righteous One, the One who could obey. No one has any right to reign but the One who can obey. Saul was driven from the kingdom and the throne because he was not able to obey. Samuel tells him “to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams,” and because he disobeyed he lost his throne. Saul was not tested till he got the throne. Then he was tested. But David was well tested and tried before he got the throne, and in that way David is a type of Christ, because Christ has been well tested. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. No one can expect obedience from others who himself is not able to obey. The principles of His kingdom will be right principles, you may be sure. “I have set My king upon My holy hill of Zion,” and that for the salvation, not the destruction of man. Judgments may have to overtake people as it is even in this land. We are under a good government as compared with other countries, but there are the jails and houses of correction, and sometimes people have to suffer the extreme penalty of the law, but that is because they transgress against the laws that are framed for their good. And because they transgress against them they have to suffer, otherwise there would be no security for law abiding people. So in the day of Christ. The sinner will be cut off, but at the same time the kingdom is established for the blessing of man.
And then he says, “we are come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” What is said of it is this: it has the glory of God; its light was like a jasper stone most precious. When you look at it as a whole it is like a jasper stone, but when you come to examine it more closely you find there are other precious stones there, but altogether it looks like jasper, because jasper is the glory of God. The nations, and those that are saved, walk in the light of it, and the tree of life, and the water of life, and the throne of God are there. We are said to come to them. How are we come to these things? How can we be said to come to Mount Zion in a day when Mount Zion literally lies desolate and to the New Jerusalem before the New Jerusalem is in display? I will tell you. By coming to Christ. They are all in testimony, but not only in testimony, they are actual things to us. They are great realities to us, but they are great realities in Christ. How do we come under the sceptre of Christ? You come to Mount Zion in Romans 10:9. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” That is, you come into the kingdom. You come into the kingdom in the age previous to the age in which the kingdom will be in display. You come there now by confessing Christ as Lord. You come there by submitting to Jesus. If you submit to Jesus you come into salvation, and you cannot come into salvation without coming into the kingdom. It is only in the kingdom that salvation is realized, because you come under the protecting sceptre of Christ. You come into the hiding-place from the wind. You find Him a shelter from the tempest. He is everything to you. He is your Saviour, and it says, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is how you come to Mount Zion. You come there before it is literally established because the power of the kingdom is established in Christ. You come to the New Jerusalem by coming to Christ, for you come to the One in whose face the glory of God is. The glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ. By and bye the city will have it, but it has not got it yet because it is not built yet When you come to the city it is the saints of this dispensation, and the saints are being builded now. Like Eve who was taken out of Adam they are taken out of Christ. If you come to Christ you come to the One in whom all that God is shines. All the love of God has been by Him perfectly declared, and in His face it rests. The glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ, and there you get into the light. The water of life is there, but by coming to Christ you come to the water of life. And the tree of life is there, and by coming to Christ you come to the tree of life. If we come to Christ we come to all these things Then a person might say, “Why is it that we are brought to these things in an age to which they do not belong? Why are we brought to these things before they are in actual display?” The reason is that we have to take character from these things. The age to come depends really upon the church, upon the Bride, the Lamb’s wife; because all the blessing of God will be administered by the church. It is not administered now by the church because the day of the administration of the church has not come; but when the church is glorified, through it will be administered all the light and the blessing of God. We come to these things now by coming to Christ, and we come in order that we may take character from them and be built up. The city has the glory of God. How does it get into you and me? We hear the glad tidings as poor sinners: we turn to Christ and get the Holy Spirit who sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. God has been declared in Christ, and we are formed by this, and we grow by the knowledge of God. And then another thing is said about the city. The throne is there. Anybody could understand a throne being in London or Berlin, or in any of the capitals of the world, but when you find the city is a company of people how does the throne get into that city? How is it placed in you and me? What I understand by it is that government is committed to the saints. You know Paul says as to the Corinthians that if they were not able to judge the smallest matter, how would they be able to govern the world? I look at you and say God has taken you up to govern the world. You have to govern this world. I can understand anyone saying it would be a poor world I should govern. I do not understand much about governing a world or about legislation. Well, you will have to judge the world and angels, and tell people what to do and what not to do and how to please God. How will you do it? You are learning it now. It is accomplished by the saints being taught to obey. We are being subjected to Christ, and we are being instructed into obedience, because if I know how to obey I can tell you how to obey. I could not otherwise. If I am disobedient myself how could I instruct another person into obedience? Hence Christ learned obedience by the things that He suffered. It is not that He learned to obey, but He learned what obedience was. We have to learn not only that, but to obey, and when we are instructed in that we will be able to tell the world how to obey in the day of Christ’s glory. All these things are being built into the church in this dispensation, and that done by the principles of the world to come being ministered in this dispensation.
The age in which you and I live began at Sinai, and it began with the shaking of the earth, and it will be concluded by the shaking of the heavens and the earth, so we are told in the latter part of this list of the things that we are to come to. “Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only but also heaven.” He is not only going to shake earth, but heaven. “He has promised.” It is a promise given to you and me to cheer and encourage our hearts. I can understand a person not established in the grace of God saying, “I should be terrified at that. Even an earthquake would terrify me.” But this is what we would want to see, because this once more signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made. I want to see everything shaken that can be shaken, and everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and will be removed. You and I know God well enough to know that God will shake all that can be shaken, and all that can be shaken will be removed. God will have no part in His universe that can be shaken. God will have all on a good foundation, and whatever remains it will be impossible to shake. God spoke at Sinai and the mountain trembled. This was an indication that all that was announced at Sinai will be removed. He will speak again and the heavens will be shaken. Why? Because the heavens are not clean in His sight. All that is clean will remain. But if man has defiled the earth the Devil has defiled the heavens, and when the heavens are shaken the Devil will come down and the whole order of earth and heavens will be altered. Satan will no longer be the prince of the power of the air. He will no longer be the ruler of the darkness of this world. The saints will be in the heavenlies. Everything in the heavens will be according to God. Satan will have no place on earth or heaven; he will go down into the bottomless pit, and from there will be cast into the lake of fire. He will never more have place in the heavens. He has his place there now, but the heavenly Jerusalem will occupy the sphere that Satan and his legions now occupy; and instead of darkness the light of the love of God will stream down into men’s hearts and all will be warmed and comforted by the light of the love of God. All things will be changed. What was brought in at Sinai will be removed. The order of the heavens will be changed. “And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” And what are the things that cannot be shaken? It is this; “Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion.” There will be no end to His kingdom. If there is to be no end to His kingdom and we receive the kingdom along with Him, “let us have grace” (not law) whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire.” When we think, as Peter says, all these things shall be dissolved, we may well ask ourselves “What manner of persons ought we to be in all manner of holy conversation and godliness?” All that has been defiled by sin will be shaken and removed, but he that does the will of God abideth forever. We want to be found doers of the will of God, serving Him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. What an array of things we are brought to! “Ye are come to Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly: and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven: and to God the Judge of all: and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” We are not come to the new covenant. The new covenant will never be made with us, but we are come to the Mediator and the terms of the covenant are expressed in the Mediator “and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” What a wonderful thing that you and I, Gentiles, can be said (because it is true of Gentile as of Jew) to have come to the blood of sprinkling! When the old covenant was given, Moses took the blood and sprinkled the book and all the people. We are sprinkled by the blood of the new covenant. It is the blood of Jesus. That blood that has made atonement for our sins. That blood that is the seal and the confirmation of all that God is to us in the fathomless love of His heart. We are under that blood. The blood which is the witness of the love of God to us. It is the seal of the covenant because death has come in. How secure we are! What is said in chapter 9 of this epistle is, that “a testament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no force while the testator liveth.” A man makes his will and I might be mentioned in his will and come in for an inheritance, but the man lives after he has made his will and it is of no force while he lives. He might change his will tomorrow, and in the next I might not be mentioned at all. But when he is dead, then it is secure. It is confirmed. It cannot be altered, neither can it be added to. It must remain as it is. The covenanter, the testator, is dead. It is signed and sealed with the blood of Jesus. The death of the testator has taken place and all the terms of the covenant are good for eternity. They cannot be added to or taken from. The covenant is secured for us. So we have come to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel. It does not call for judgment but blessing, and eternal blessing. How rightly, how sweetly then, the exhortation comes in going back to chapter 2, “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh.” That is the whole thing for you and me. “For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” The word spoken by angels was not salvation. The word spoken from heaven is salvation. Who would refuse such a word? And yet after all, the exhortation is very needful, because the world is continually speaking in our ears and seeking to divert us from Christ. By its uproar it seeks to drown in our souls the voice of Jesus. We want to keep our ear closed to the world and open to the voice of Jesus, and thus prove ourselves the sheep of His pasture. What we get in Hebrews all through is the Shepherd of the sheep. We are proved to be His sheep by hearing His voice. “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me and I give unto them eternal life.” Who could speak that way but the King. The Shepherd surely, but the King. The One who has all power in heaven and in earth. “They shall never perish.” We are under His sceptre, under His protection. “Neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.” We get in the last chapter “the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.” Who is the great Shepherd of the sheep? Our Lord Jesus. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep. Surely then we can say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the waters of quietness. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name sake.” Then he says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod (or Thy sceptre) and Thy staff, they comfort me.” It is the Shepherd King. The sceptre protects us, and the staff comforts us. It is the King and Priest. “They comfort me.” And what is it all for? That we might be able to get over this wilderness which is strewn with the carcasses of those who had no faith, and that we might keep our ear open to the voice of Him that speaks from heaven. “For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven.” What a place He calls us to! And then to see what He is doing with us while we are here. We are brought into the light of the world to come, face to face with all the principles on which the world to come is being established, and we are being formed by all these principles. All the truth of these things—all the value of them—the fullness of them is built into our souls. It is so if we are indeed coming to these things. Well, we may listen to the voice of Him that speaks from heaven, and calls us to the place He speaks from. Where is He? He is at the right hand of God. So the twelfth chapter says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us looking off to Jesus.” Why? Because we are running to Him where He is and in the day of His glory we shall receive the kingdom along with Him and of His kingdom there shall be no end. “We receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.