Hebrews 12:25-29

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 2, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“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.’”
-Hebrews 12:25-29

In this last section of chapter 12, the author again employs contrast to continue encouraging his readers to live Christlike lives. All people will be judged by God, and only those who worship God will be on the right side of that judgment.

The contrast in this passage starts out in verse 25, looking at how “they” responded to God speaking and how we today respond to God. The “they” referred to is the nation of Israel in the Old Testament times. God warned the people time and again through many prophets how He would bring judgment on them for their disobedience. But the people didn’t listen, and they did receive the necessary punishment multiple times, especially during the years of the Babylonian exile.

Israel did not escape the consequences of refusing to listen to God, and that has not changed even under the new covenant. Yes, we are recipients of God’s grace, but He still warns us to follow Him and obey what He commands us to do, and we will still receive the just consequences when we disobey. This is why discipline is so important among fellow believers, so we learn from each other how to obey God better.

In verse 26, the author brings up what happened on Mt Sinai in Exodus 19:18. This shaking of the earth shows how important of an event this was when Moses received God’s Law for the people. Simply God’s voice shook the earth and caused it to tremble violently! God promised that He would shake the earth and also the heavens again, as the author of Hebrews quotes from Haggai 2:6. This refers to a great cosmic event, possibly at the end of time. It may be looking toward the new heaven and the new earth that we see in Isaiah 66:22 and Revelation 21-22.

The fact that the author picks out and explains the words “once more” in verse 27 shows that this is a final moment that is coming. It is the decision time, the judgment day. We see that the world that God created can be shaken, but in contrast, the things that are truly of God cannot be shaken. God is beyond time, eternal, and permanent, even though this world that He created is fragile and passing away. Only the things that cannot be shaken will remain after God “once more” shakes not only the earth but also the heavens. We may not know exactly what that looks like, but this will be a final separation that occurs one day.

In verse 28, the author gives us the good news that we receive these things that cannot be shaken by way of God’s Kingdom. When we become believers in Jesus Christ, we enter into that kingdom. It’s not a place like we may think of a kingdom here on earth, but it’s a mindset and a way of life. We live as residents of the Kingdom of God while we’re here on this earth, and we will one day live fully in that kingdom!

Because we are a part of God’s Kingdom, we are called to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Interestingly, the word used for “be thankful” in Greek is more commonly translated as grace rather than an idea of gratitude. A few English translations render it as “hold onto God’s grace” or similar language to bring out that idea, but most go with some form of thankfulness or gratitude.

The word translated here as “worship” also means to serve, which is a great picture for us to live out. We commonly think of worship as what we do on a Sunday morning when we gather with fellow believers, but worship really should encompass our entire lives in everything that we do. We worship God by obeying Him, which means loving and serving all those around us whom God has called us to. Anytime we’re serving a fellow human being and doing what God has called us to do, we’re worshiping Him.

Finally, this verse says to worship God “with reverence and awe.” These words are meant to show us our place as humble and lowly creatures in comparison to the majestic creator God of the universe. We are to be in awe of Him because we cannot fathom His greatness and majesty. We are to revere, treasure, cherish, and admire God simply because of who He is. He is the Almighty God of the universe, and we are simply His creation.

Verse 29 gives us another reason to worship God – that He “is a consuming fire.” This expression appears to be taken from Deuteronomy 4:24. We need to remember who God is, and the fact that He can literally consume us with fire at anytime should He choose to. We often get so caught up in God’s grace, love, mercy, and compassion that we forget that He cannot be in the presence of evil (which we are). God is love, but God also has wrath and anger against anything that goes against His pure holiness. This should also cause us to worship Him with reverence and awe!

This passage serves as a warning to us that we need to keep a proper perspective of who God is and what He has done in this world. We need to listen to Him, or else we will face the consequences of His judgement. He is worthy of all our thankfulness, worship, and praise, and we need to give Him the proper place of reverence and awe in our lives!

The end of chapter 12 is somewhat of an ending to this letter, as chapter 13 is almost like an appendix of extra thoughts tacked onto the end. We’ll dig into that final chapter starting next week.

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