************ Sermon on Hebrews 12:22-29 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 17, 2017
"You Have Come to Mount Zion"
Remember where we left off last time? The Hebrew Christians were given a choice between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. We learned when you come to Mount Sinai you come to a mountain that is fearful and scary and frightening and ends in judgment. And, we learned when you come to Mount Zion you come to a mountain that is comforting and joyful and reassuring and results in salvation.
Writing to the Hebrew Christians, the author of Hebrews says, "You have not come to a mountain ... that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm ..." (Heb 12:18). Instead, "you have come to Mount Zion ..."
Remember why Zion is so comforting? Zion is comforting because when you come to Zion you come to Christ. And when you come to Christ you come to the cross and the grave. And when you come to the cross and the grave, you find wonderful forgiveness because of Christ. And when you find forgiveness because of Christ you can approach God and enjoy God. So the message of Hebrews: COME TO ZION.
Today, we discover seven benefits, seven blessings, because of Christ when we come to Zion.
I The Heavenly Jerusalem
A Blessing number one. "Come to Zion." Why? Because when you come to Zion "you have come to ... the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God." What is the heavenly Jerusalem? It is heaven. It is the abode of God. So when you come to Mount Zion you come, by grace, to the presence of God.
Earlier, Hebrews tells us the New Jerusalem is the city Abraham looked forward to -- the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (cf Heb 11:10).
When you come to Zion you are coming not only to the heavenly city but also to all the spiritual blessings of the heavenly city (cf Eph 1:3). So, you talk with God. You pray to God. You call God, "Abba, Father." You are assured you have been chosen by God.
B "You have come to ... the heavenly Jerusalem." Let me remind you that if you are a Christian, heaven is where you belong. Heaven is your home. All your possessions are there. Your Father is there. Your Savior is there. Your brothers and sisters are there. Your inheritance is there. Your life is there. Your home is there. Everything that is important is there. You are a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem.
C If you are a Christian, heaven is your home. Yes, you live on earth for a while. But you are simply passing through. You are a pilgrim who is using earth as a way station, as a hotel or cottage or summer home. You life and home here on earth is not meant to be permanent; rather, it is temporary. Shortly after the writing of Hebrews, the earthly Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. But the heavenly Jerusalem endures forever.
If you are a Christian, heaven is your home. And, as long as you are alive on this earth, you are heaven's ambassador to the world. You represent God to the world just like Ambassador John F. Tefft represents the USA to Russia. Tefft lives in Russia but America is where he belongs. We may live on earth but heaven is where we belong.
II Thousands of Angels in Joyful Assembly
A Blessing number two. "Come to Zion." Why? Because when you come to Zion "you have come to ... thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly." Another translation: "thousands upon thousands of angels in festal gathering." When you come to Zion you come to a great number of celebrating angels. When you come to Zion you come to an angel party.
The angels have been celebrating for a long time. In fact, it is the longest and biggest party ever. It is the biggest party ever because we can't count the number of angels (cf Dan 7:10; Rev 5:11). It is the longest party ever because every time a sinner gets saved they celebrate (Lk 15:10). There is joy, great joy, in heaven over one soul. They celebrated when Joseph's brothers admitted their sin. They celebrated when David repented and confessed his sin of murder and adultery. They celebrated when Peter repented of denying the Lord. They celebrated when Cornelius and his family believed and were baptized. They celebrated when Lydia believed. They celebrated when Luther and Calvin rediscovered the truths of the Gospel. They celebrate every time a new church is planted through Mission India. They celebrate whenever Rev. Schering is asked to give Bible training to a government official. They celebrate over every conversion in the Bob Wiley jail. They celebrate over every single profession of faith in our church. They celebrate. They rejoice. They sing. They praise.
Now get this. When you come to Zion you join the angel party. You join the angels in praising God day and night. You join the angels in serving God and delighting in God and celebrating what God has done and is doing and will do.
B Did you know the angels were also at Sinai? In Hebrews 2 we are told "The message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment" (Heb 2:2; cf Deut 33:1-2; Gal 3:19; Acts 7:53). Hebrews is talking about the Law. Somehow, in someway, the angels delivered the law at Sinai. However, at Mount Sinai the people could not join the angels. God's mighty angels kept the people away. But Zion, the mount of grace, is totally different. You get to join the angels. You get to party and celebrate with the angels.
C We don't worship the angels. Rather, we join the angels in the worship of God. The Bible forbids the worship of angels (cf Col 2:18). In Revelation 19 the Apostle John was so awestruck by the message of an angel that he fell at his feet to worship him. Remember what the angel said? "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!" (Rev 19:10).
We join the angels in the worship of God. We don't worship the angels as is done in the Roman Catholic religion. They even say the worship of angels is justified and, taking it a step further, that we can pray to them.
So in coming to Christ, in coming to Zion, we join the fellowship of the angels. Isn't this wonderful? Isn't this marvelous? They are joined with us and we are joined with them in the worship of God!
III The Church of the Firstborn
A Blessing number three. "Come to Zion." Why? Because when you come to Zion "you have come to ... the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven."
Who is the firstborn? The firstborn is Jesus. Listen to these descriptions of Jesus:
(Rom 8:29) [He is ] the firstborn among many brothers.Jesus is the firstborn.
(Col 1:15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
(Col 1:18) ... he is ... the firstborn from among the dead ... (cf Rev 1:5).
The church of the firstborn is us, the body of Christ, the members of the church. Every single believer is part of the church of the firstborn.
So what does this mean? Go back to the Old Testament. What is the significance of the firstborn? The firstborn gets the birthright. The firstborn is the head of the family. The firstborn gets the major part of the inheritance. The firstborn is responsible for the well-being of the family.
When I go to Zion, when I come to Jesus, I join His body. He is my head. This means He looks after me. He is responsible for my well-being. I belong -- body and soul, in life and in death -- to Jesus. He watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
B Hebrews reminds us the name of every member of the church of the firstborn is written in heaven. What does that mean? Every Spring there is a sign in front of CVC saying "Now open for Enrollment." You enroll your student in school well before the start of the school year. Well, do you realize you have been enrolled in heaven? When did you get enrolled? You know: before the foundation of the world. Isn't that amazing to think about?
Someday God is going to do a roll-call. Your name is on His list. Your name is under the family of Jesus. Your name is listed with all your brothers and sisters. And nobody will take your place. A spot has been reserved for you that cannot be taken away.
(Jn 6:39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
How grand, how glorious, how wonderful to know your name is written in heaven. According to Jesus this is the absolute best thing for anyone of us. Do you remember the 72 who were sent out by the Lord. They came back amazed that even the demons submitted to them in Jesus' name. Do you remember Jesus' response?
(Lk 10:20) However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written [where?] in heaven.That's the biggie. That's bigger than miracles and demons and tongue speaking and preaching and being an office bearer.
It is glorious indeed to come to Zion. It is glorious to come to Christ. Who would even consider Sinai anymore?
IV God, the Judge of All Men
Blessing number four. "Come to Zion." Why? Because when you come to Zion "you have come to ... God, the judge of all men."
At Sinai, the Jews feared God. Because of the thunder and the lightning and the threat of judgment, they feared God. They didn't even dare to say the name of God. God was holy -- so holy that He was unapproachable. And when they worshiped, the veil of the tabernacle and the temple always separated them from the presence of God.
But when you come to Zion, you come to God, the Judge of all men. In our courtrooms it is the lawyer who approaches the judge's bench, not the criminal. But in the divine courtroom, our Lawyer, our Advocate, Jesus Christ, takes us by the hand. He leads us into the very presence of the Judge.
This cannot happen at Sinai. This would never happen at Sinai. At Sinai you come near God and you die. But it can happen at Zion because Jesus has torn the veil of the temple, because Jesus is the Mediator between God and man.
V The Spirits of Righteous Men Made Perfect
Blessing number five. "Come to Zion." Why? Because when you come to Zion "you have come to ... the spirits of righteous men made perfect."
Who is Hebrews talking about? Who are the righteous men? Go back to Hebrews 11. The first hero of faith, Abel, is identified as a "righteous man." Abel is the first of a long list of righteous men. They are all waiting for their perfect resurrection bodies but their spirits are already perfect. When you and I come to Zion, we are one in spirit with these righteous saints.
Come to Zion. Come to Zion and be part of a crowd that includes Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on. You get the picture. Come to Zion and rub elbows with the great saints of old.
I would like to meet Moses and Elijah. My grandson would like to meet Samson. My wife would like to meet Ruth. Someday we will. That's the promise here.
VI Jesus the Mediator
Blessing number six. "Come to Zion." Why? Because when you come to Zion "you have come to ... Jesus the mediator of a new covenant."
We said this last week, but we need to say it again. When you come to Zion you come to Jesus. Now, remember what the name "Jesus" means? "Give him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins." That's what the angel said to Joseph (Mt 1:21). When you come to Jesus you come to the mercy seat. When you come to Jesus you come to the atoning sacrifice. When you come to Jesus you come to grace and you come to mercy. When you come to Jesus you come to the Savior.
That's what it all comes down to. Come to Jesus, the Savior. Come to Zion.
Hebrew Christian torn between Sinai and Zion: come to Jesus; come to the Savior.
VII Sprinkled Blood
Blessing number seven. "Come to Zion." Why? Because when you come to Zion "you have come to ... the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."
Abel offered God a bloody sacrifice. He offered God fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. By faith Abel offered God a good sacrifice. We know it was good because God accepted it. In the Bible, at least, this was the first acceptable sacrifice.
Six thousand years later there was a better sacrifice of a better lamb dripping with a better blood. I am talking about the sacrifice of Jesus. This bloody sacrifice is better because it is once for all. It is once for all times. It is once for all peoples. It is once for all sins.
Do you see the blessings, dear friends, of coming to Zion? Do you see the benefits?
So, how do you respond? Come to Jesus. I beg you, come to Jesus. Don't say "NO!" Don't ignore this. Don't neglect this. Don't be afraid. Come to Jesus and enjoy the benefits. Come to Jesus and be blessed in a way that was not possible at Sinai.
However, if you don't -- if you don't come to Zion, if you don't come to Jesus -- let me close with the final phrase of our Bible reading, a warning: "God is a consuming fire."
If you don't come to Zion, if you don't believe in Jesus Christ, if you don't accept God's grace, you are stuck with your works at Mount Sinai. And, those works aren't good enough. They are stained. They are imperfect. They are inadequate. So you face what the people faced at Sinai: smoke and lightning and thunder and judgment. You discover that our holy God is a consuming fire of judgment if you don't come to Jesus.
Sinai or Zion? Moses or Jesus? How do you respond?
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