What does Hebrews 12:22 mean?
ESV: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
NIV: But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
NASB: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,
CSB: Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering,
NLT: No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering.
KJV: But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
Prior verses referred to the moment when the nation of Israel approached Mount Sinai, where they received the old covenant. That incident was accompanied by a fearsome display of God's power and authority (Exodus 19:9–20), including smoke and fire and trumpet sounds. It also came with a dire warning: anything that touches this holy mountain must die. Even Moses, chosen by God and allowed to approach the mountain, was afraid at the sight of these things (Deuteronomy 9:19). The purpose of these signs, as with the old covenant itself, was to guide mankind's understanding. By grasping the nature of our own sin, we would prepare to accept Christ and the new, superior covenant (Hebrews 9:8–12; Galatians 3:23–24).
This verse begins to describe how believers approach the new covenant in direct contrast to the way Israel approached Mount Sinai. Mount Zion features heavily in end-times prophecy, and is often used specifically as a reference to the hill where the temple of Jerusalem stood. In other cases, it is a reference to the city of Jerusalem itself. This verse encompasses this meaning, as well as a reference to the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1–4), the ultimate destiny of all who have faith in Christ. Rather than a smoky, flaming, forbidden mountain, the new covenant presents us with heaven.
As with the rest of the letter, the purpose of this contrast is twofold: to show that the new covenant is superior to the old covenant, and to encourage Christians to "hold fast" to their faith despite hardship. References to angels, celebrations, and such contrast the mood of Sinai, where God's holiness was displayed through fearful signs, showing that we could not approach Him in our sin. Through Christ, on the other hand, the barrier has been removed (Hebrews 9:24) and we can have confidence in coming to God (Hebrews 4:16).
Hebrews 12:18–29 summarizes the lessons given through chapters 11 and 12. Those living under the new covenant have the advantage of looking to Christ, rather than to the law. The Old Testament was given through ominous signs, dire messages, fire, and sacrifice; it involved material things in a material world. God presented Himself as unapproachable, symbolic of His holiness. The New Covenant offers something better, and something beyond rituals and earthly needs. Also symbolically, Christ gives us an ability to approach God which the old covenant could not grant. While prior things can be changed and destroyed, the destiny offered to believers in Christ cannot. That is the ''kingdom that cannot be shaken,'' and our worship for God ought to reflect reverence as a result.
Chapter 11 explained the victories of some of the Old Testament's greatest heroes. It also explained their sufferings and persecution. This chapter uses those examples as a ''cloud of witnesses'' to prove that God does not abandon us when we suffer. In many cases, He uses those experiences to ''train'' us, as if we were athletes, to make us stronger. In other cases, it's the same kind of discipline that a child receives from a loving father. Unlike the old covenant, which rightly inspired fear and dread, the new covenant offers us peace. As with any other matter of truth or falsehood, we should cling to what's true, so that we can be part of ''a kingdom that cannot be shaken.''
Hebrews chapter 12 builds on the example of the heroes of the faith mentioned in chapter 11. The main point of this lesson is that these figures endured suffering and hardship, yet held to their faith in God, which allowed them to achieve victory. Chapter 12, in particular, points out that earthly hardship is not a sign of God's displeasure, or abandonment. Rather, it's part of living in a fallen, godless world. And, in many cases, it's a form of ''training'' the Lord uses to mold us into more powerful instruments. This, as with other passages in Hebrews, leads into another explanation of why we should take these ideas seriously, and sets up a few final practical lessons in chapter 13.
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
Accessed 11/30/2023 6:19:15 AM
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