The Expository Files

You Have Come To Mount Zion

Hebrews 12:22-24

It must have been a sight that filled hearts with fear and awe, even from a distance. It was in the morning and the people of Israel were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. It began with thunder and lightning flashes. A cloud descended upon the mountain, and from within the cloud came the sound of very loud trumpets. The people watched from their camp and trembled.

The smoke cloud ascended into the air, and the whole mountain trembled very violently. The trumpet sound increased to a deafening volume, and the Lord's voice spoke to Moses as thunder. At God's instructions, a boundary was placed around the mountain as a warning not to touch it, for the mountain was declared consecrated to the Lord. It was upon this mountain that God gave, through Moses, His old covenant law to His people, Israel (Exodus 19,20).

Those were the good old days! Nothing like this has happened in our lifetimes. We could go visit Sinai today, but the Lord's presence there is no longer demonstrated in such a powerful way. Oh, but we do have a mountain, though the unspiritual mind may scoff, those who view our mountain through the eyes of faith know that our mountain is the far more significant of the two. It is greater, more enduring and loftier.

Of course, the mountain I am speaking of is “Mount Zion”. The last part of Hebrews chapter twelve draws a contrast between physical Mount Sinai and spiritual Mount Zion. The point: we have come to the more magnificent mountain of the two. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Climb The Mountain!
“The the Lord spoke to Moses, 'Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish.” (Exodus 19:21).
The contrast is great. Mount Sinai of old may have been more overwhelming to the physical senses, but God, in His holiness and righteousness, was also inapproachable while on it. Passages in the Book of Hebrews as well as the rest of the New Testament challenge and encourage us to draw near to God (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19-20; James 4:8).

The New Covenant encourages us to climb our mountain, where the Old Covenant forbade the people to touch the mountain of that covenant. Of course, this Mount Zion is not a literal mountain like Mount Sinai was. While there is a literal Mount Zion (which is where the Jewish temple was built by Solomon in Jerusalem), the “Mount Zion” of this passage is something altogether different.

To Mount Zion
”But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My Holy Mountain.” (Psalm 2:6). The second Psalm is highly Messianic in nature, speaking of the coming rule of the Messiah as King. The Hebrew writer, employing this concept, makes it known that Jesus is now ruling in spiritual Zion as King. He always had intended to rule over a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom (John 18:36). Disciples are now in His kingdom (Colossians 1:13) and await with anticipation for the return of King Jesus who will then take His kingdom home to the Father in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:24,25).

To City of the Living God
“...for he was looking for the city which has foundation, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10). We are also citizens of God's city. Often we think of heaven, and certainly there is such a future aspect and hope that we have of living there. But there is a sense in which we are citizens of that city right now. Though our bodies are not yet redeemed and changed, and we cannot yet behold our city with new, perfect spiritual eyes, we can enjoy it by faith presently. We enjoy fellowship with the same spiritual neighbors. We enjoy many privileges and freedoms already (Ephesians 1:3). The cities men build will one day crumble away, but the city of God is eternal.

To the Heavenly Jerusalem
“But the Jerusalem from above is free, she is our mother... and you, brethren, like Isaac, are children of the promise.” (Galatians 4:26,28). This description of our state has very similar connotations to the city of the living God”. The word “heavenly” means “spiritual”. We are describing spiritual relationships. Paul says that physical Jerusalem stands for bondage, but spiritual Jerusalem means freedom.

Old Jerusalem is where the temple of God once stood. The New Covenant refers to the church as the “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17; Ephesians 2:19-22). Once when asked if the only acceptable place to worship was Jerusalem, Jesus answered; “...nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father... But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (John 4:21b,23). We worship in “heavenly Jerusalem” when we worship in spirit and truth.

To Myriads of Angels
“...and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne... myriads of myriads...saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Revelation 5:11,12).

As we approach God's throne and praise Him with our voices, we need to recognize that we are joining with angels who are doing likewise. God's creatures, celestial and earthly, joining together in spiritual realms at God's throne. How wonderful it is to add our voices to the voices of angels.

To The General Assembly
“And the heavens will praise Thy wonders, O LORD; Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.” (Psalm 89:5). This great assembly is not located in a physical place, but rather in a spiritual place. Those who are holy are those who are without sin, either angels who have never sinned or men and women who have had their sins washed away. As one, we are able to stand together in Christ, assembled by Him and for Him through His redemptive work.

To the Church of the First-born
“To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21). The church also is a spiritual state. Those who partake in this fellowship are members of the church. Our Hebrews text refers to the church as “the church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven” (12:23). James adds that we are “brought forth buy the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first-fruits among His creatures.” (James 1:18). Let none be mistaken about it, you cannot separate being a member of the church from being a citizen of the city of God and a worshiper on spiritual Mount Zion. It is impossible to be one without the other.

It is in this body, the church, that we come to “God, the judge of all” (Hebrews 12:23). For this reason, the church is sometimes referred to as “the church of God”. It is in this body that we also have fellowship with “ the spirits of righteous men made perfect” (12:23b). The word “perfect” means “complete”. Perhaps this speaks of those who have already died in faith and the brotherhood we have with them as people living by that same faith. Jesus is the ”mediator” of a new covenant, which is a better covenant than the one God made at Sinai (12:24a, cf. 8:6-13). And finally, Christ gave Himself up for His church that He might cleanse and purify her (Ephesians 5:23-25). This is accomplished by His “sprinkled blood” (Hebrews 12:24).

The Israelites of old trembled at the foot of Mount Sinai. They were afraid; but now we have come to a new mountain; spiritual Mount Zion. The Lord invites us to come and ascend the mountain and experience the glories there, both in this life and the next.

By  Jon  W. Quinn
From Expository Files 10.6; June  2003