1. Mount Sinai (verses 18-21)
2. Mount Zion (verses 22-24)

For all practical purposes, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, which goes through Labor Day in September. I’m sure that many of you have made your summer vacation plans. I know that some of you are planning to visit relatives. Some of you are planning to head to the lake for a few days. Some of you are planning to head north. Some of you will spend the entire summer at home. At our house, our plans are made. Like last year, we are planning to take another camping trip. We are scheduled to spend a bit of time in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. From there, we will continue on to California.

Now, believe it or not, we have faced some opposition from our children in this trip. See, last year, we stopped in the Badlands of South Dakota. We spent only one night there, but for some reason the kids loved it! Our campsite wasn’t particularly beautiful. It was on an open field. The weather wasn’t so particularly nice. It was stormy windy just as we got there, which literally blew some of the tents that were set up in the campground into the open field beyond the campground. It rained off and on throughout the night. I think (in some regard) that our children liked it so much because it was their first experience at camping on our trip.

Anyway, they have expressed a desire to return to the Badlands and spend a week there this year. Now, for those of you who haven’t been to the Badlands, let me tell you a bit of what it’s like. It has been best described, like going to the moon. There are miles and miles of barren land with little hills dotting the countryside. To be sure, there is some beauty in the Badlands. But, it doesn’t get its name, "The Badlands" for nothing. It is a beautiful place. But, it is a barren place.

Personally, I believe, the Rocky Mountains will be far more breath-taking. The mountains are bigger. The vegetation is greener. The variety is greater. It’s not so barren. It’s unlike all that is around us. So, we’re camping this year at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Why do I tell you these things? It’s not because you need to know our vacation plans. Rather, it’s because there are similarities with our text this morning. If you haven’t done so already, I invite your Bibles to Hebrews 12. Our text begins in verse 18 and continues through verse 24. These verses describe two mountains. One is a barren, hard place. The other is a lush and beautiful place.

As I read our text, I want for you to listen for the two mountains.

Hebrews 12:18-24
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned." And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling." 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 firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

There is an obvious contrast in these verses. There is a contrast of mountains. In verses 18 through 21, we see Mount Sinai. In verses 22 through 24, we see Mount Zion. Indeed, these two mountains form the outline of my message this morning. Mount Sinai (verses 18-21) and Mount Zion (verses 22-24). And my question of application for you this morning is simple. Where are you camping? Are you camping on Mount Sinai? Or, are you camping on Mount Zion?

This was the big question for the original hearers who had left their Judaism and had come into the church. That is, they had left Mount Sinai and had come to Mount Zion. But, some of them were waffling, and thinking of returning to Sinai. These mountains couldn’t be more different! One comes with thunder and lightning and terror. The other comes with joy and reconciliation and happiness.

In some regard, the people of the first century were like our children, who want to return to the barren lands of the Badlands, rather than enjoying the breath-taking views of the Rocky Mountains. And by showing the contrast, the author, once again, is showing how Jesus (and His covenant and His future and His kingdom) is better.

Let’s begin this morning with ...
1. Mount Sinai (verses 18-21)

Hebrews 12:18-21
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned." And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling."

These words describe the giving of the law, when the Lord came down upon the mountain, to deliver the law to Moses. The best way for us to deal with these verses are to go back to the original source. So, turn in your Bibles back to Exodus 19. I want for us to spend some time reading and reflecting upon the terrors surrounding the giving of the law.

I trust you well remember what took place in the book of Exodus. We find the nation of Israel multiplying in the land of Egypt. Egypt enslaved them with hard labor. Israel cried out to the LORDbecause of their bondage (Ex. 2:23). "God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Ex. 2:24). And so, God delivered them from the hand of the Egyptians.

In Exodus 19, we pick it up three months after Israel had been released from their bondage of slavery. Verse 1, ...

Exodus 19:1-2
In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.

Sinai is a barren place. It’s found in the wilderness, where the Israelites wandered. When I put the pictures up of the Badlands, it look about like that -- lots of rocks, few plants, little water. It’s not a pretty place. I do not believe it to be any accident that God chose to reveal His law on that mountain. It’s a hard place, and so is the law.

But, it’s not hard because God’s heart is hard. Look at how soft God’s heart is toward Israel. Verse 3, ...

Exodus 19:3-6
Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

God’s heart for Israel was good. He rescued them from slavery (Ex. 19:4). He planned to enter into covenant with them (Ex. 19:5). His heart for them was to be "His own possession" (Ex. 19:5). His heart for them was that they would be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6).

Furthermore, the law that was given to Israel was a good law. Isaiah 42:21 says that "The LORD was pleased for His righteousness sake to make the law great and glorious." And the people of Israel knew that God would give them a good law. We see this in their response. Verse 7, ...

Exodus 19:7-8
So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!" And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.

Here we see Moses playing mediator with God’s message. He brought it down to all the people. They affirmed their heart to obey the Lord in all things. And so, Moses brings their message up to the LORD. And now, God sets the stage for the giving of the law (in chapter 20).

Exodus 19:9-15
The LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever." Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. The LORD also said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain." So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, "Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman."

When God comes, it’s going to be an awesome display. He will speak in a thick cloud (verse 9). He will sound the ram’s horn, for the entire assembly to hear (verse 13). The people need to prepare themselves; they needed to wash (verse 10); they needed to wash their garments (verse 10); they needed to keep pure sexually (verse 15).

Moses was to establish a boundary around the mountain. Nobody was to come near, not even a beast. If anyone even as much as touches the mountain, they would be put to death with stones or with arrows. The stage is set. In verse 16, we read of God’s coming with the law.

Exodus 19:16-20
So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

This is no peaceful nature scene. No, this is violent and stormy and loud. It is dangerous and fearful and terrifying, smoky, fiery, and shaking.

You might well think of it a bit like a tornado. I was directed this week to a video on YouTube, where a man filmed his experiences in the tornado that ripped through the city of Joplin, Missouri. [1] The man who filmed the video found himself in a gas station when the tornado was coming through the town. I’m guessing that there were about 20 people in the gas station at the time. Everyone was directed away from the windows into the back room. This gas station was in direct line of the tornado (like about everything else in Joplin, Missouri). There really isn’t much to see on the video. Occasionally, you get a glimpse of something going on. With the power out, there isn’t much to see. But, there sure is a lot to hear.

You sure can hear the reactions of those who were bunched together in a building as it was totally demolished by the wind. At the beginning, it sounds a bit like a well-behaved crowd that has gathered in a small room. But, pretty soon, you can hear chaos erupt. You hear shrieks and cries and prayers being made. You may take prayer out of the public forum, but when this disaster struck, several were very vocal, praying to Jesus for mercy and help! Someone in the congregation told me that it reminded her of the shrieks of hell. By God’s grace, these screams lasted only for a few moments. Within 5 minutes, the ordeal is over. The video shows a hole in the building, where those in the room were able to crawl to safety.

The man went back to the gas station the next day to film what it looked like. It’s a big heap of destroyed building. How anyone survived, I’m not really sure. He begins the video by saying, "Here’s the gas station." And you can see the pumps, but they are like a pile of mangled tin. Then, he turns the camera to where the building was. He shows a pile of junk, a pile of cinder blocks and metal and debris all over the place, and says, "This is where we walked in." He then walks around to the back of the gas station to show where everyone was seeking shelter and how they crawled to safety. [2]

It’s a fascinating video of the destructive power of God, and the grace of God to these people, that they have survived. But, as you think of this scene upon the mountain, you might think of something similar. The same elements are there: wind blowing, violent shaking, loud, and out of control. Such was the nature of the first covenant. God came in with guns blazing.

We continue in verse 21, ...

Exodus 19:21-25
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them." Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.’" Then the LORD said to him, "Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, or He will break forth upon them." So Moses went down to the people and told them.

God said, "Tell them again." Moses said, "God, I already told them. I think that they got it. We marked out the boundaries. They aren’t coming close." God said, "Tell them again. Make sure that the people understand what’s going on." Let the priests consecrate themselves. Let everyone stay far away.

And then, the 10 commandments were given in Exodus 20 (in the first 17 verses). Just after they were given, the narrative focuses upon the people of Israel. They got the message, ...

Exodus 20:18-21
All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin." So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

Such is the Old Covenant. Such is Mount Sinai. It’s a terrifying place. People didn’t want to be there! And that’s exactly what the writer of the Hebrews wants for us to see. Sinai is a fearful place. You don’t want to be there.

Let’s go back to Hebrews 12. Again, we read in verse 18, ...

Hebrews 12:18-21
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned." And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling."

We saw all of this in the account recorded in Exodus: the fire, the darkness, the gloom, the whirlwind, the trumpet. We saw the begging on behalf of the people, "You go Moses! Not me!" and the death penalty to anyone who touches the mountain! The only thing that we didn’t see was the quote of Moses, "I am full of fear and trembling." There’s some question as to what the writer is referring to. It’s because we don’t have any written revelation that he said this in Exodus. But, it’s easy to see how even Moses would be fearful of entering the presence of God. And we know that on another occasion, Moses said that he was fearful in approaching God (Deut. 9:19).

Anyway, when God revealed Himself in the Old Covenant, it was with fear and trembling. So, why would the original readers ever want to go back to that? Why would they ever forsake the treasures of Christ? I don’t know. But, there are other things that I don’t understand either, that shows a similar behavior.

I’ve been told many times by many different sources that wives who are abused by their husbands will often return to their husbands and defend their husbands, even at great hurt to themselves. Now, I’m not talking about those who have such a commitment to marriage, that regardless of how bad it is, they are going to stay. That’s not it. I’m talking about those who have found themselves in horrific marriages, where their husbands are abusive with their words and with their fists. They manipulate and brainwash and even torture them.

I have read stories of women who have endured some of the most horrific circumstances in their marriage. Where a husband is using drugs, where a wife is receiving beatings and abuse, and yet the wife returns. Why? I don’t know. Those who study such things say that it’s because their view of love is totally eschew. They think that they are being loved when they are being beaten.

In some regard, this is what was happening to those in the first century. For some strange reason, these Jews were tempted to go back to the law, which came with fear and trembling and smoke and fire. Rather than enjoying the pleasures of Christ. Why? Perhaps they didn’t fully understand love -- God’s love, the love of Christ, who offered Himself up for us and for our sins. To enter God’s presence, you don’t have to earn your way. You don’t have to be good enough. You don’t have to say exactly the right things. Rather, you need to come broken and dependent upon the Lord.

And so, as you think about your life, where are you camping? Are you camping on Mount Sinai? Or upon Mount Zion?

Now, admittedly, our danger this morning isn’t to be caught up in the ways of the Old Covenant with priests and sacrifices and rituals and diets. But, that still doesn’t mean that there isn’t danger for us. We can easily possess some of the same attitudes of Sinai, rather than Zion. We can easily think that we come to God based upon our works -- our Christian works, our church attendance, our Bible reading, our giving. We can easily think that we have become acceptable to God because of our righteous deeds. But, such is not the case. We always need to come to God, broken and in need of His grace.

In Galatians, chapter 4, Paul used the same imagery of the two mountains. Hagar represented Mount Sinai. Sarah represented Jerusalem above, or, you might say, "Zion." He said, "Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?" (Gal. 4:21). The children of the Law are slaves, just like Hagar was Sarah’s bond-servant. But, by faith in Jesus, it’s different. We are free!

Paul concludes his argument in Galatians 4 by saying, "we are not the children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman." That is, by faith we are free. We are not under the bondage of the legalism of the law. And when I ask you where you are camping, you may very well have seeds of the law in your heart and the way you live.

We are all born legalists. We like the law. We want the law. We want to show God how good we are. We want to be in control. We like our checklists. We need to constantly keep ourselves on the path of grace.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan shows how easily you can get turned off the path. During his travels to the Celestial city, Christian was turned out of the way when he met a Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who said to him, ...

Worldly Wiseman: In yonder village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality, a very judicious man, and a man of a very good name, that has skill to help men off with such burdens as thine are from their shoulders; yea, to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way: aye, and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their burdens. To him, as I said, thou mayest go, and be helped presently. His house is not quite a mile from this place; and if he should not be at home himself, he hath a pretty young man, his son, whose name is Civility, that can do it as well as the old gentleman himself. There, I say, thou mayest be eased of thy burden; and if thou art not minded to go back to thy former habitation, as indeed I would not wish thee, thou mayest send for thy wife and children to come to thee to this village, where there are houses now stand empty, one of which thou mayest have at reasonable rates: provision is there also cheap and good; and that which will make thy life the more happy is there to be sure, for thou shalt live by honest neighbours, in credit and good fashion.

Now was Christian somewhat at a stand; but presently he concluded, "If this be true what this gentleman hath said, my wisest course is to take his advice;" and with that he thus further spoke.

Christian: Sir, which is my way to this honest man's house?

W. Wise. Do you see yonder high hill? (Which represents Mount Sinai.)

Chr. Yes, very well.

W. Wise. By that hill you must go, and the first house you come to is his.

So Christian turned out of his way to go to Mr. Legality's house for help. But, behold, when he was got now hard by the hill, it seemed so high, and also the side of it that was next the wayside did hang so much over, that Christian was afraid to venture farther, lest the hill should fall on his head; wherefore there he stood still, and knew not what to do. Also his burden now seemed heavier to him than while he was in his way. There came also flashes of fire out of the hill, that made Christian afraid that he should be burned: here, therefore, he sweat and did quake for fear.

And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly Wiseman's counsel. And with that he saw Evangelist coming to meet him; at the sight also of whom he began to blush for shame. So Evangelist drew nearer and nearer; and coming up to him, he looked upon him with a severe and dreadful countenance, and thus began to reason with Christian. [3]

For the sake of time, we can’t read through what he said, but, enough to say that he was telling him to forsake the way of Legality and Civility. It may have the appearance of helping, but it will never take the burden of sin off your back. But, to go through the wicket gate, where alone your burden can fall off, and keep your eyes upon the Celestial City.

When Christians unto Carnal Men give ear,
Out of their Way they go, and pay for’t dear.
For Master Worldly Wiseman can but shew.
A Saint the way to Bondage and to Wo. [4]

Let’s turn our attention this morning to the Celestial City. Enough of Mount Sinai. Let’s look at, ...
2. Mount Zion (verses 22-24)

Hebrews 12:22-24
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 firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Now, Biblically, Mount Zion is a term that is difficult to pin down. It often refers to the mound upon which Jerusalem is built. Early in his reign, king David conquered the city of Jerusalem, which was identified as "the stronghold of Zion" (2 Samuel 5:7). When the ark was brought into the temple, it was brought "from the city of David, which is Zion" (1 Kings 8:1). These references refer to nothing more than physical location of the city.

And yet, the term often links the city closely to the people of God. Psalm 129:5 says, "May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward." That is, "May those who hate God’s people be put to shame." With the association with the people of God, there is the idea of the blessing of God, and the protection of God and the delight of God. Psalm 128:5 says, "The LORD bless you from Zion." Psalm 87:2, 5 tell us, "The LORD loves the gates of Zion ... Of Zion it shall be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her'; And the Most High Himself will establish her."

Here in our context, Zion is used to refer to the blessings of the New Covenant reality. And here we see seven descriptions of Mount Zion, to which we have come by faith in Jesus Christ. When you come to Mount Zion, you come (1) to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; (2) to myriads of angels; (3) to the church of the firstborn; (4) to God, the Judge of all; (5) to the spirits of the righteous made perfect; (6) to Jesus; and (7) to the sprinkled blood.

Very quickly, I just want to spend some time reflecting upon each of these realities. In so doing, I want to attract you by grace to what we have in Jesus. I want to show you how much better Zion is than Sinai. That’s what the writer was seeking to do as well. If you will, The Rocky Mountains are more lovely than the Badlands!

Notice that is says in verse 22, "You have come." That is, it’s a present reality. These things all appear to be future realities of heaven -- someday. But, they are true for us today. It’s the great reality of the Scriptures. Theologians like to say, "Already/Not Yet." As believers in Christ, we are "Already" in our heavenly home. And yet, in a very great and real way, we are "Not Yet" there.

It’s the way that Scripture speaks. You have come, first of all, ...
1 - to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.

Zion is God’s city. It’s where the blessing will come! It’s where God will dwell! The great reality of heaven is this very fact! God dwells there. Revelation 21:3 says, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God Himself will be among them."

The 100th race of the Indianapolis 500 begins this morning at noon, Eastern time (which is like 11am our time). It started just about 5 minutes ago. If you have read the sports section of the Rockford Register Star, you know that one of the racers is Danica Patrick. Much ado is made of the fact that she is from Roscoe. There is great celebration in this.

This is nothing compared to God being from our city! And the heavenly Jerusalem, to which we have come, is God’s city. He dwells among us. Philippians 3:20 tells us, "Our citizenship is in heaven." We are citizens of God’s city.

You have come, second, ...
2 - to myriads of angels.

Again, we are brought to the great heavenly reality of the city of God. We read that there are "Myriads of angels" in Zion. The writer isn’t isn’t trying here to be exact. It is like when we make up words for big numbers, such as "bazillions" or "gazillions". Rather, the idea here is that there are a bunch of angels in heaven. The city of Rockford may be filled with many potholes. Heaven is filled with many angels. Revelation 5:11 says, "I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the numbers of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands."

Think about this. Angels are servants. Back in Hebrews 1:14, they are called, "ministering spirits," who are "sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation."

I want you to think of yourself in Disneyland. You may not have been there. I know that some of you have been there. But, I know that you can picture it. When you are at Disneyland, there are workers all over the place, serving you. There are those outside the park, welcoming the guests. There are those at the ticket counter, taking your tickets. There are those who work in the shops. There are those who operate the rides. There are those who work in the places to eat, making the food, serving the food, cleaning up. There are those who sweep the streets. There are those who accompany the special guest of Disneyland, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Wile E. Coyote. Behind the scenes, there are scores of administrative workers, all trying to insure that Disneyland is "the happiest place on earth."

That’s what angels are. They are our servants in heaven, to make sure that our stay in heaven is as happy as possible. We have a taste of these angels on earth Hebrews 13:2 tells us, "some have entertained angels without knowing it."

We have come, third, ...
3 - to the church of the firstborn,

Verse 23 says, "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven." Here, we are brought back to earth, lest our view of Zion is too heavenly. We are, "the church of the firstborn." We are, "enrolled in heaven."

During the summer, you enroll in school for the fall. You aren’t there yet, but your spot is reserved because your name is on the books. We have a similar idea here. We aren’t fully in heaven yet, but we are enrolled.

That’s the great reality of the "Book of Life," which is referred to so often in the Scriptures. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are on the books. Your name is written in a book in heaven.

Revelation 20 refers to these books, ...

Rev. 20:12, 13, 15
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. ... And they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. ... and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

But, through faith, our names are in the book! We can expect to get in.

And our experience here on the earth is this: We are dwelling with those who have their spot reserved in heaven. Today, picture with me a family planning to head to Disneyland this summer. There is joy, anticipation, excitement. Such ought to be our joy and excitement at the prospect of arriving someday at "the happiest place in creation." It’s all ours; that’s what it means to be "firstborn." We will inherit it all!

We have come, fourth, ...
4 - to God, the Judge of all.

This is strange that the writer would place an emphasis upon this. You would expect this of Sinai, not of Zion. And yet, the presence of God, the Judge of all, brings a sense of security. God will protect that place. God will guard that place.

We know that in heaven, there will be "nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life" (Rev. 20:27). Heaven is a pure place, where righteousness reigns and where evil is absent. The only way that this can happen is if God is there in His judgment. He keeps those out who need to stay out. He brings in those who need to come in.

There is security in this. There is blessing in this. We taste of that in the church. We are not perfect people. But, there is a very real presence of God’s protection here. If you doubt this, all you need to do is spend some time with those who are without Christ, where drugs and alcohol and immorality and worldliness reign. Imagine them gathering week in and week out, without God in that place at all. And you would have a very different place.

But in the church, where God is proclaimed as judge, it has a refining effect upon us. It has a purifying effect upon us. It’s a place of blessing.

We have come, fifth, ...
5 - to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.

There is some question as to exactly what is being talked about here. Are these the Old Testament believers? Are they the New Testament believers who have died? I’m not sure. But, I am sure of this: these words describe the church.

We are here, not because we are perfect, but because we are made perfect in Jesus. That’s what God does with us when we believe the gospel. Romans 5:19 says, "As through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous." Through Adam’s sin, we were made to be sinners, because we were joined to him. But, through Christ’s righteousness, we were made to be righteous, because we have been joined to him by faith.

This is all throughout the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 10:1 tells us, "For the law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near." But, the clear implication is this: But, Jesus can make us perfect! Hebrews 11:40 talks about the Old Testament saints, "apart from us they would not be made perfect." The implication is this: Joined with us, they are made perfect. Jesus is "the author and perfecter of faith" (Heb. 12:2). Mount Zion is filled with those who are perfect people -- perfect in Jesus Christ.

We have come, sixth, ...
6 - to Jesus,

This is the great characteristic of Zion. Jesus is there! Particularly, we read here that Jesus is "the mediator of a new covenant." That is, Jesus is the one who comes between us and God.

At Mount Sinai, Moses was the mediator. At Mount Zion, Jesus is the mediator. This is the story of the book of Hebrews. Chapters 5 and 7 are all about high priests. They are all about how Jesus is a better high priest. We read in 5:10, "being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek." And in chapter 7, ...

Hebrews 7:23-28
The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

Chapter 8 is about the New Covenant. Christ is the Mediator of a New Covenant. Moses mediated the Old Covenant; Jesus mediates the New Covenant.

Hebrews 8:10
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the LORD:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

In 8:7, we read that the first covenant was fault-filled; we see the need for the second, New Covenant and Jesus, its mediator.

We have come, ...
7 - to the sprinkled blood.

When Moses received the law, he sprinkled blood (Ex. 24:6-8, Heb 9:18-21). Blood is the way that God has established our relationship with Him. It's how we are cleansed (Heb 9:22).

The Old Covenant was filled with the sprinkling of blood. They sprinkled blood on the altar after sacrifices. So, also, the blood of Jesus cleanses us! This is the good news that we proclaim and rejoice in. Through the shed blood of Jesus, God imputes righteousness to us. Though we are unclean, the blood of Jesus makes us clean.

Here we read (in verse 24), "The sprinkled blood which speaks better than the blood of Abel". How does the blood of Abel speak? In Genesis 4:10, it says, "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground." The blood of Abel cried "vengeance!" The blood of Jesus speaks better than that. The blood of Jesus cries, "Mercy!" That is the gospel.

Where Are You Camping? Let's camp here. Let's camp on Mount Zion, where we find mercy through the blood of Jesus.

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on May 29, 2011 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQnvxJZucds

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-P4P68YyNM

[3] John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 13-17.

[4] Ibid., p. 17.