Contrasting the Mountain of Fear–Sinai with the Mountain of Joy–New Jerusalem

The differences between them and the desirability of the heavenly

My translation and notes on Hebrews 12:18-24

We Do Not Come to the Mountain of Fear

18 For youp have not come to a physical mountain with its burning fire, blackness, gloom, violent winds,

19 Trumpet blast, and spoken words, which when they heard, the hearers begged that the message wouldn’t be spoken to them anymore.

[The purposes and meanings of the shofar, the trumpet (source):

One of the sages of Israel listed ten reasons to sound the shofar today:

  • To proclaim the sovereignty of God, because it was used at the coronation of kings.

  • To herald the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe (the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

  • As a reminder of the giving of the law and the need for faithfulness.

  • As a reminder of the prophets who loudly sounded their voices to a world that needed to hear.

  • As a reminder of the destruction of the Temple.

  • As a reminder of the Akedah (substitute for Isaac).

  • To inspire awe.

  • As a summons to the heavenly court on the Day of Judgment.

  • As a call to the Jewish remnant to come home.

  • As a reminder of the resurrection.

20 For they could not tolerate what was commanded, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be killed by stoning or spearing.”

[Exodus 19:12-13. The mountain was holy because of God’s presence. All creatures, even innocent creatures, have been contaminated by sin. If someone taints a masterpiece, then the whole painting is not perfect. Holiness is very important to God and to believers (2 Corinthians 7:1)].

21 So terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I’m terrified and shaking.” [Deuteronomy 9:19]

We Come to the Mountain of Joy

22 But youp have come to Mount Zion, to the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable group of angels,

[The great contrast between the earthly laws and culture with the heavenly laws and culture. The heavenly Jerusalem is in heaven. God lives there with His angel assistants and the souls of the believers who died. God’s glory is so full of awe and brightness that the sun will appear dim and the moon dark. See Isaiah 24:23 and Revelation 21:2-7. Compare Galatians 4:21-27. Bob Deffinbaughf writes (NEAR TO THE HEART OF GOD: A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS 32. An Unshakable Kingdom):

Mount Sinai is something like Jacob’s stew, while Mount Zion is like Esau’s birthright. The birthright and its blessings were vastly better, but these were future and thus as yet “unseen.” The revelation of God to Israel at Mount Sinai was seen, heard, smelled (the smoke), and felt (the earthquakes). The law that was given set forth God’s conditions for Israel’s enjoyment of an earthly kingdom. Judaism clung to Sinai, Moses, and the Old Covenant because it seemed to offer a more immediate (albeit inferior) and more visible kingdom.

Mount Zion, on the other hand, represents a spiritual city (“the heavenly Jerusalem,” verse 22) and thus a spiritual kingdom. Mount Zion represents all that Christians hope for in the next life and that for which they are willing to make great sacrifices in this life. Just as Esau had to make a choice between a bowl of stew and God’s promised blessings, so the readers must choose between a present, earthly, Jewish kingdom (Mount Sinai) with its earthly temple, or God’s promised eternal kingdom (Mount Zion)].

23 To the joyful gathering and assembly of the firstborn (whose names are written in heaven), to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just people made perfect,

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and the sprinkling of blood that speaks better than Abel’s.

[There is Mount Sinai representing the Old Covenant of laws which was characterized by fear. Then, there is Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem, being prepared by the Lord Jesus (John 14:1-4). This latter mount that we believers seek and look forward to is joyful. There we will fellowship with the holy angels, the assembly of the firstborn (church believers), to God, to spirits of just people made perfect (all other believers except the church believers), and to Jesus our mediator. The sprinkling of blood is animal sacrifice offering for forgiveness of sins which could not cleanse the conscience. Jesus’s blood sprinkling, as a perfect offering in the Holy of Holies, is superior for forgiveness and does cleanse the conscience].

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