Hebrews 12:25-29 Ruling with Christ in the unshakable kingdom
Having heard Jesus, the one who warns from heaven concerning the judgment that is shaking the new covenant community, believers must live life with reverence and godly fear. The only guarantee of the believer’s salvation is his piety towards God in the midst of testing. The new covenant does not remove the necessity for repentance and godly living; it provides grace to work towards a holy ambition of ruling with Christ in His kingdom.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.
At Sinai, Moses was the one who warned on earth with words uttered in an atmosphere of terror by the God who was unapproachable. But at Zion, Christ was the one who warned from heaven saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17, whose blood speaks of forgiveness for those who acknowledge Him as Lord. At the back of the festal atmosphere at Zion, the author warned against complacency: See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. The warning addresses specifically a group who is culpable for refusing to listen to the one speaking from heaven. Even though Zion appears gracious and welcoming, it does not imply that punishment for rebellion as the law requires is removed. In fact, the warning from heaven carries a greater punishment for disobedience as the speaker is none other than the Son Himself. If the congregation do not heed Moses’ call for repentance and lose their inheritance, the congregation of the new covenant will suffer a more severe loss if they reject Jesus’ call: must less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.
26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
Shaking of the earth is associated with God’s rule and the annihilation of nations that were disobedient to His commands. At that time his voice shook the earth, most definitely refers to Sinai where God ratified the old covenant and exercised His rule over them. God also prophesied of a future event (now he has promised) that He will once more … shake not only the earth but also the heavens. This future event involves the shaking of the earth and the heavens involving a geopolitical change on a global scale where God will exercise His sovereign rule over all nations. The prophet Haggai says,
“For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple.” Haggai 2:6-7
From the perspective of the church, the earth represents the community of the old covenant, and the heaven represents the new covenant community. God in shaking the earth judged the old covenant community; He will also in a more severe and profound way judge the new covenant community. Those who carelessly ignore the revelation and the message of His Son and who show contempt for the blessings of the Spirit cannot escape detection. In the act of shaking, righteous judgment will remove from the community those who have denied Christ as Lord through their character and lifestyle: in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
From the political perspective, shaking will continue until a time when nations converge towards God’s ideal kingdom. From the perspective of the church, the shaking serves as judgment, as a filtering process where the wicked will be weeded out, saving the righteous who lives by faith.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
The kingdom which cannot be shaken refers to the final and purest form of the heavenly kingdom where God governs the world directly. The unshakable kingdom is an eternal kingdom inhabited by the righteous who emerged victorious through the shaking process. Therefore, in view of the future kingdom and the judgment to come, believers must receive grace daily to live life with reverence and godly fear. Our lifestyle on earth must be shaped by His holiness: a consuming fire. The fact that He requires all who approach Him to be holy and in view of the certainty of the final judgment, we must express fear and awe in our worship of Him. In the light of God’s grace revealed through the life of Jesus, God remains a consuming fire that consumes the wicked and refines His sons towards His holiness.
As long as we fear God, we are guaranteed salvation. As God looks at the heart, the only assurance that we have of our salvation is our piety towards Him. The apostle Paul said,
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
Salvation is the result of the heart that acknowledges Christ as Lord and as risen King. The purpose of grace is to lead believers in recognition of Christ as Lord without which there is no salvation. The fear of God and the lordship of Christ is the consequence of the successful working of grace. Grace must lead us to fear God and to love Him unreservedly. But if that which causes people to take advantage of God’s love by living wantonly, then that is definitely not grace but deception. Many churchgoers being misled by false teachers were taught salvation without the necessity for repentance. Hence, there is no fear of God in their lives, only an empty celebration of grace that supposedly covers all wickedness. The author said, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. As believers harbor a heart of fear and reverence towards God, we can boldly (but not audaciously) approach God while being imbued with His grace to reject the lure of the world.
The certainty of God’s unshakable kingdom gives occasion for holy ambition to rule with Christ in His kingdom. Jesus said to His disciples,
“Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” Matthew 19:28-30
Jesus invited His disciples to rule with Him in a kingdom that will come on the last day. With this assurance (of a unshakable kingdom), He encouraged them to do all to obtain the glory and authority that will be given to the Son of Man. This same glory will also be given to believers who forsake all things like Jesus did in order to do God’s will. Many believers have neither goals nor ambition concerning the unshakable kingdom. Hence, they live like cultural Christians without passion other than the assurance of God’s blessings and salvation. The thrones at the unshakable kingdom are reserved for those who possess holy ambition. The author said, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken”… we need much grace and courage to forsake all so that we may rule with Christ in His kingdom.
- Are you accustomed to living as you please because you are told that God’s love for you is unconditional? Hence, you comfort yourself because you have been regular at church on Sunday’s and that you have not committed grave sins like murder or idolatry? The question is: do you have confidence that you are given a part of His kingdom on the last day?
- What is keeping you from pursuing a holy ambition of ruling with Christ in the unshakable kingdom? Perhaps, you are distracted by the cares of life and being led by the world’s agenda. Make a decision to be discipled by your church and participate in your church’s outreach program.
Dear Lord, I make a decision to fear you and to obey your commands the best that I could. Reveal to me your commission and give me the grace to do your will. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.