Hebrews 12:22
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
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(22-24) “What it was to which Israel in the time of the Old Covenant drew nigh, we have now heard. Their drawing nigh was at the same time a standing afar off; the mount of the revelation might not be approached by them; the voice of God was too terrible to be borne; and yet it was only tangible material nature in which God at once manifested and concealed Himself. The true and inner communion with God had not yet been revealed: first must the Law lead to the painful consciousness that sin prevents such communion, and intensify the longing that sin may be taken out of the way. Under the New Covenant, no longer is a tangible mountain the place of a divine revelation made from afar; but heaven is thrown open, and a new super-sensuous world in which God is enthroned is opened to admit us, opened through the Mediator of the New Covenant, accessible in virtue of His atoning blood” (Delitzsch).

(22) Unto mount Sion.—Literally (and in these difficult verses it is unusually important to follow the literal rendering of the Greek), Ye are come unto Zion (the) mountain and city of a Living God, a heavenly Jerusalem. The thought of a celestial city which should be the exact counterpart of the earthly Jerusalem is often dwelt upon in Jewish writings: hence the writer is using familiar words, but with a new and spiritual meaning. The same imagery has been employed in Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:13-16, for this is the city “that hath the foundations, whose Architect and Maker is God.” (See also Revelation 21:2, et seq.; Galatians 4:26.) This “heavenly Jerusalem” is “Zion, mountain and city of a Living God.” Mount Zion is mentioned first, because the contrast with Mount Sinai is throughout present in thought. The name recalls many passages of the Old Testament, especially of the Psalter, as far back as the time when David chose the place for the Ark of the Covenant. Here God desired to dwell (Psalm 68:16); in this holy hill He set His anointed King (Psalm 2:6). (See also Psalm 48:2; Psalm 48:11; Psalm 78:68; Psalm 110:2; Psalm 132:13.) Zion is not only the mount of God, His dwelling place; it is also “the city of God,” whose gates the Lord loveth (Psalm 87:2). (See Psalm 48:12-13, et al.) In Hebrews 8:2 we find associated the place of the special manifestation of the glory of God and the resort of His worshipping people; so here the heavenly sanctuary and the city inhabited by “the ransomed of the Lord” (Isaiah 35:10). In Horeb Israel intreated that they might not hear the voice of “the living God” (Deuteronomy 5:26). In this spiritual commonwealth we all “have drawn nigh” to Him.

In the first member of these three verses (Hebrews 12:22-24), therefore, there is very little that is open to question; the difficulties lie in the words which follow, “and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven.” Four or five different arrangements of these words are allowed by the Greek, and every one of these has been adopted and defended by writers of eminence. Here the discussion must be very brief. On a careful examination of the whole passage, it seems in the highest degree probable that the writer introduces by” and” each successive member of the sentence, and that groups of words not so introduced serve as appositions, explaining what precedes them. If this be so, the arrangement of the Authorised version is not tenable. We believe that the choice must lie between two renderings: (1) “And to myriads of angels, a festal assembly and congregation of the firstborn enrolled in heaven.” (2) “And to myriads, a festal assembly of angels and a congregation of the firstborn enrolled in heaven.” In the first of these renderings angels are the subject throughout; in the second, “the myriads” to whom we have come nigh are divided into two companies—the festal host of angels, the church of the firstborn. Let us look at the latter interpretation first. By it the “firstborn” are sought amongst. men; either those who are already inhabitants of the heavenly world, or men still living upon earth, though enrolled as citizens of heaven (Luke 10:20). Some have understood the words to relate to those who hold precedency, either in rank or in time, among men to whom God has given the name of sons; as, saints of preeminent piety, “the noble army of martyrs,” the faithful under the Old Covenant, Enoch and Elijah, the Apostles, the first generations of Christians, or the believers of the later as distinguished from those of the earlier dispensation. A far more probable explanation is that which makes the word here “equivalent to heirs of the kingdom, all faithful Christians being ipso facto ‘firstborn,’ because all are kings” (Dr. Lightfoot on Colossians 1:15). See Hebrews 1:6; also, “as instances of the figurative use of firstborn in the Old Testament, where the idea of priority of birth is overshadowed by and lost in the idea of pre-eminence,” Job 18:13; Isaiah 14:30. If this be the true interpretation, 1Peter 2:9 unites the two thoughts which this figure suggests, “Ye are . . . a royal priesthood” (see above, Hebrews 12:16); and the whole of that verse. especially as compared with Exodus 4:22, well illustrates the position here assigned to the company of the faithful upon earth. The word which we have here rendered congregation, moreover, is that which is regularly applied to the Church of Christ. There is, therefore, very much to be said on behalf of this interpretation, which is in every way attractive. And yet, full of interest as is such an explanation of the special words, it seems certainly unsuitable to the passage as a whole. It is not easy to believe that the words “and to myriads” are to be taken by themselves. It is still more difficult to explain the introduction of the living Church on earth in this position—between angels and the “God of all,” whilst “the spirits of just men made perfect” are mentioned later, in an association from which the Church on earth cannot be severed—with “Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant and the blood of sprinkling.” For these reasons especially it seems necessary to adopt the first-mentioned arrangement of the words: “ye have come near . . . to myriads of angels, a festal assembly and congregation of the firstborn enrolled in heaven.” Two passages of the Old Testament seem to have been chiefly in the writer’s mind (Deuteronomy 33:2, and Daniel 7:10); in each of these the Lord appears attended by “myriads of angels,” who stand before Him and minister to Him (Psalm 103:20). We who by means of the “better hope draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:19) are led to this “holy hill” and city, and through the hosts of “ministering spirits” into the very presence of the “God of all.” The descriptive words which follow are borrowed from the history of Israel. The first (Ezekiel 46:11; Hosea 2:11; Hosea 9:5; Amos 5:21; Isaiah 66:10) is the general and joyous gathering for the feasts of the Lord; the second is the word used throughout for the “church in the wilderness,” the “congregation” of Israel. The latter points to the united body of the servants of God, the former to the joyful gathering for His service. The second word is so commonly used of Israel and of the Christian Church that it has been denied that any other application is ever made; but there is certainly an exception in Psalm 89:7 (a Psalm which, as we have seen, was much in the writer’s thoughts), “God is greatly to be feared in the congregation of the saints.” How fitly angels—who in Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7 (comp. Psalm 29:1, et al.), are called “sons of God,” are here spoken of as “firstborn,” needs no explanation; they are the enrolled citizens of heaven, whose assembly we are permitted to join (Revelation 5:11; comp. Luke 20:36).



Hebrews 12:22-23The magnificent passage of which these words are part sums up the contrast between Judaism and Christianity which this whole Epistle has been illustrating and enforcing. The writer takes the scene on Sinai as expressive of the genius of the former revelation, whose centre was a law which evoked the consciousness of sin, and kindled terror; and which was embodied in sensible and material symbols. Far other and better are the characteristics of the latter revelation. That excites no dread; is given from no flashing mountain with accompaniments of darkness and trumpet blasts and terrible words; and it brings us into contact with no mere material and therefore perishable symbols, but with realities none the less real because they are above sense, and not remote from us though they be.

For, says my text, ‘Ye are come,’ not ‘Ye shall come.’ The humblest life may be in touch with the grandest realities in the universe, and need not wait for death to draw aside the separating curtain in order to be in the presence of God and in the heavenly Jerusalem.

How are these things brought to us? By the revelation of God in Christ. How are we brought to them? By faith in that revelation. So every believing life, howsoever encompassed by flesh and sense, can thrust, as it were, a hand through the veil, and grasp the realities beyond. The scene described in the first words of my text may verily be the platform on which our lives are lived, howsoever in outward form they may be passed on this low earth; and the companions, which the second part of our text discloses, may verily be our companions, though we ‘wander lonely as a cloud,’ or seem to be surrounded by far less noble society. By faith we are come to the unseen realities which are come to us by the revelation of God in Christ. ‘Ye are come unto Mount Zion.’

Now, looking generally at these words, they give us just two things - the scene and the companions of the Christian life. The remainder of the passage will occupy us on future occasions, but for the present I confine myself to the words which I have read. And I shall best deal with them, I think, if I simply follow that division into which they naturally fall, and ask you to note, first, where faith lives, and, second, with whom faith lives.

I. First, then, where faith lives.

‘Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.’ There are two points here which carry us back to the topography of the ancient sacred city. In the literal Jerusalem, Zion was the lofty Acropolis, at once fortress and site of the king’s palace, and round it clustered the dwellings of the city.

The two symbols are thus closely connected, and present substantially the same idea, and perhaps it is pressing a figure too far to find a diversity of meaning in the separate parts of this closely connected whole. But still it seems to me that there is a substantial difference of aspect in the two clauses.

The first thought, therefore, that I would suggest to you is this, that the life of a man who has truly laid hold of Jesus Christ, and so is living by faith, is on its inward side - that is, in deepest reality - a life passed in the dwelling of the great King. All through this letter, the writer is recurring to the thought of access to God, unimpeded and continual, as being the great gift which Jesus Christ has brought to us. And here he gathers it into the noblest symbol. There, lifted high above all the humbler roofs, flash the golden pinnacles of the great palace in which God Himself dwells. And we, toiling and moiling down here, surrounded by squalid circumstances, and annoyed by many cares, and limited by many narrownesses which we often find to be painful, and fighting with many sorrows, and seeming to ourselves to be, sometimes, homeless wanderers in a wilderness, may yet ever more ‘dwell in the house of the Lord, to behold His beauty and to inquire in His temple.’

The privilege has for its other side a duty; the duty has for its foundation a privilege. For if it be true that the real life of every believing soul is a life that never moves from the temple-palace where God is, and that its inmost secret and the spring of its vitality is communion with God, what shall we say of the sort of lives that most of us most often live? Is there any truth in such exalted metaphors as this in reference to us? Does it not sound far liker irony than truth to say of people whose days are so shuttlecocked about by trifling cares, and absorbed in fleeting objects, and wasted in the chase after perishable delights, that they ‘are come unto Mount Zion,’ and dwell in the presence of God? Is my ‘life hid with Christ in God’? There is no possibility of Death being your usher, to introduce you into the house of God not made with hands, unless faith has introduced you into it even whilst you tarry here, and unless your habitual direction of heart and mind towards Him keeps you ever more at least a waiter at His threshold, if you do not pass beyond. ‘I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of wickedness.’

My brother! do we so knit ourselves to Him, by heartfelt acceptance of the good news of His loving proximity to us which Jesus Christ .brings, as that indeed we have left earth and care and sin at the foot of the mount, with the asses and the servants, and have our faces set to the lofty sweetnesses of our ‘Father’s house’? ‘Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house,’ and no less blessed are they ‘in whose hearts are the ways’ that lead to it.

Then let me remind you how Zion contrasts with Sinai, and thus suggests the thought that a true Christian life, based upon faith, has a communion with God which is darkened by no dread, nor disturbed by consciousness of unforgiven sin. We have set against each other the terrors of that theophany on Mount Sinai, attendant on, or rather precedent to, the giving of the law - the mountain wrapped in smoke; in the heart of the wreathing blackness the flashing fire; from out of the midst of it the long-drawn trumpet blasts, the proclamation of the coming of the King; and then. the voice which, divine as it was, froze the marrow of the hearers’ bones, that they entreated that no words like these should any more fall on their trembling ears.

That is the one picture. The other shows us the mount where the King dwells, serene and peaceful, the clouds far below the horizon; the flashing fire changed into lambent light; the blast of the trumpet stilled; the dread voice changed into a voice ‘that speaketh better things’ than were heard amidst the granite cliffs of the wilderness.

And so in vivid, picturesque form the writer gathers up the one great contrast between the revelation of which the message was law and its highest result the consciousness of sin and the shrinking that ensued, and the other of which the inmost heart is love, and the issue the attraction of hearts by the magnetism of its grace. The old fable of a mountain of loadstone which drew ships at sea to its cliffs is true of this Mount Zion, which is exalted above the mountains that it may draw hearts tossing on the restless sea of life to the’ fair havens’ beneath its sheltering height, There is no dread, though there is reverence, and no fear, though there is awe, in the approach of those who come through Jesus Christ, and live beneath the smile of their reconciled God and Father. ‘Ye are come unto Mount Zion,’ the dwelling-place of the living God, from whose lips there will steal into the ears and the hearts of those who keep near Him, gracious words of consolation, so thrilling, so soothing, so enlightening, so searching, so encouraging, that they which hear them shall say, ‘Speak yet again, that I may be blessed.’

And then there is the other aspect of this scene where faith lives. ‘Ye are come unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.’ I need not remind you of how much we hear in this Epistle in reference to that city. It is generally set forth as being yet to come, as being the object of seeking rather than of possession. But the fact is that there are two aspects of it. In one it is future, in the other it is present, The general idea to be attached to it is simply that of the order and social state of those who love and serve God. Here, in this part of my text, we have to deal with the city rather than with its inhabitants. They follow thereafter, but, so far as we can separate between the two, we have just this idea enforced in the words that I am now commenting upon - viz., that the lowliest life, knit, as it seems to be, by so many bonds to the perishable associations and affinities of earth, yet, if it be a life of faith in Jesus Christ, has its true affinities and relationships beyond, and not here. ‘We have our citizenship in heaven,’ says the Apostle, ‘from whence also we look for the Saviour.’ And every Christian man and woman is therefore hound to two or three very plain duties.

If you are living by faith, you do not belong to this order in the midst of which you find yourself. See that you keep vivid the consciousness that you do not. Cultivate the sense of detachment from the present, of not being absorbed by, or belonging to, things which are not coeval with yourself, and from all of which you will have to pass. Cultivate the sense of having your true home beyond the seas; and look to it as emigrants’ and colonists in a far-off land do to the old country, as being home. Live by the laws of your own city, and not by those that run in the community in which you dwell. You are under another jurisdiction. The examples, the maxims of low earthly prudence, or even of a somewhat higher earthly morality, are not your laws. You are not bound to do as the people round about you do.

‘I appeal unto Caesar.’ I take my orders from him. I send my despatches home, and report to headquarters, and if I get approbation thence, it does not matter what the people amongst whom I dwell think about me. Make your investments at home. The Jews invented banking and letters of credit in order that they might the more easily shift their wealth from one land to another as exigencies required. We are strangers where we are. Do not put your property into the country in which you live as an alien, and lock it up there; but remit, as you can do, to the land where you are going, and to which you belong. Home securities are a good deal better than foreign ones. ‘ Ye are come to the city of the living God.’ ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth.’

II. And now let me turn to the other thought herewith whom does faith live.

I need not trouble you with merely expository remarks upon the diversity of arrangements which is possible in the second half of my text. Suffice it to say that just as the scene of the life of faith has been represented in a twofold and yet closely connected form as Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem, so the companions of that life are also represented in a twofold and yet closely connected form.

A slight alteration in the punctuation and order of the words in our text brings out, as it seems to me, the writer’s idea. Suppose you put a comma after ‘innumerable company,’ and substitute for that phrase the original Greek word, so reading ‘and to myriads’ and then pause there. That is the general definition, on which follows the division of the ‘myriads’ into two parts; one of which is ‘the general assembly of angels,’ and the other is the ‘Church of the firstborn which are written in heaven.’ So then, of companions for us, in our lonely earthly life, there he two sorts, and as to both of them the condition of recognising and enjoying their society is the same - via, the exercise of faith,

Now the word rendered ‘general assembly’ has a grander idea in it than that. It is the technical word employed in classic Greek for the festal meetings of a nation at their great games or other solemn occasions, and always carries in it the idea of joy as well as of society. And so here the writer would have us think of one part of that great city, the heavenly Jerusalem, as, if I may So say, the dwelling-place of a loftier race of creatures whose life is immortal and pure joy; and that we, even we, have some connection with them. In an earlier part of this letter we read that they are all ‘ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation.’ But here the ministration is not referred to, simply the fact of union and communion.

I am not going to enter at any length upon that subject, concerning which we know but very little. But still it seems to me that our ordinary type of Christian belief loses a great deal because it gives so little heed to the numerous teachings of the New Testament in regard to the reality of the existence of such beings, and of the tie that unites them with lowly believers here. All the servants of the King are friends of one another. And howsoever many they may be, and howsoever high above us in present stature any may tower; and howsoever impossible it be for us to see the glancing and hear the winnowing of their silver wings, as they flash upon errands of obedience to Him, and rejoice to hearken to the voice of His word, there is joy in the true belief that the else waste places of the universe are filled with those who, in their loftiness, rejoice to bend to us, saying, ‘I am thy fellow servant, and of them which worship God.’ Brethren, we have a better face brightening the unseen than any angel face. But just because Jesus Christ fills the unseen for us, in Him we are united to all those of whom He is the Lord, and He is Lord of men as well as angels. So if the eyes of our hearts are opened, we, too, may see ‘the mountain full of chariots of fire and horses of fire round about’ the believing soul. And we, too, may come to the joyful assembly of the angels, whose joy is all the more poignant and deep when they, the elder brethren, see the prodigals return.

But the second group of companions is probably the more important for us. ‘Ye are come,’ says the text, not only to the angelic beings that cluster round His throne in joyful harmony, but also ‘to the Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.’ And, seeing that the names are in heaven, that means, evidently, men who themselves are here upon earth.

I have not time to dwell upon the great ideas which are here contained in the designation of the community of believing souls; I only remind you that probably the word ‘church’ is not so much employed here in its distinct ecclesiastical sense {for there are no ecclesiastical phrases in the Epistle to the Hebrews}, as with allusion to the assembly of the Israelites beneath Mount Sinai, the contrast with which colours the whole of the context. It means, therefore, in general, simply the assembly of the firstborn. Can there be more than one firstborn in a family? Yes! In this family there can, for it is a name here not pointing to a temporary order, but to dignity and prerogative. The firstborn had the right of inheritance; the firstborn was sanctified to the Lord; the firstborn, by his ‘primogeniture, was destined in the old system to be priest and king. All Israel collectively was regarded as the firstborn of the Lord. We, if our hearts are knit to Him who is preeminently firstborn amongst many brethren, obtain, by virtue of our union with Him, the rights and privileges, the obligations and responsibilities, of the eldest sons of the family of God. We inherit; we ought to be sanctified. It is for us, as the ‘first fruits of His creatures,’ to bring other men to Him, that through the Church the world may reach its goal, and creation may become that which God intended it to be.

These firstborn have their names written in heaven - inscribed on the register of the great city. And to that great community, invisible like the other realities in my text, and not conterminous with any visible society such as the existing visible Church, all those belong and come who are knit together by faith in the one Lord.

So, dear friends, it is for us to realise, in the midst, perhaps, of loneliness, the tie that knits us to every heart that finds in Jesus Christ what we do. In times when we seem to stand in a minority; in times when we are tormented by uncongenial surroundings; when we are tempted by lower society; when we are disposed to say, ‘I am alone, with none to lean upon,’ it does us good to think that, not only are there angels in heaven who may have charge concerning us, but that, all over the world, there are scattered brethren whose existence is a comfort, though we have never clasped their hands.

Such, then, is the scene, and such is the society, in which we may all dwell. Christian men and women, do you make conscience of realizing all this by faith, by contemplation, by direct endeavors to pierce beyond the surface and shows of things to the realities that are unseen? See to it that you avail yourself of all the power, the peace, the blessing which will be yours in the degree in which your faith makes these the home and companions of your lives.

How noble the lowest life may become, like some poor, rough sea-shell with a gnarled and dimly coloured, exterior, tossed about in the surge of a stormy sea, or anchored to a rock, but when opened all iridescent with rainbow sheen within, and bearing a pearl of great price! So, to outward seeming, my life may be rough and solitary and inconspicuous and sad, but, in inner reality, it may have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, and have angels for its guardians, and all the firstborn for its brethren and companions.

Hebrews 12:22. But ye — Who believe in Christ, by your embracing Christianity; are come unto mount Sion — Are admitted to the communion of the church of Christ, with its privileges and blessings. Or, ye are come to a dispensation the reverse of all these terrors, even to the mild and gentle discoveries which God makes of himself in the new covenant. For what the apostle intends is evidently to describe that state whereunto believers are called by the gospel: and it is that alone which he opposes to the state of the church under the Old Testament. For to suppose that it is the heavenly future state which he intends, is, as Dr. Owen justly observes, “utterly to destroy the force of his argument and exhortation. For they are built solely on the pre-eminence of the gospel state to that under the law,” and not on the pre-eminence of heaven above the state of the church on earth, whether Jewish or Christian, which none could question. Unto the city of the living God — That holy and happy society or community, of which true believers are citizens, Ephesians 2:19; Php 3:20; in which God himself dwells, and which is governed by him; the heavenly Jerusalem — Termed, (Galatians 4:26,) the Jerusalem above; so called because it has its original from heaven, and the members thereof have their conversation in heaven, and tend thither, and its most perfect state will be there. All these glorious titles belong to the New Testament church. To an innumerable company of angels — To join with them in the service of God, typified by the cherubs in the temple. The Greek is, to myriads of angels. A myriad is ten thousand; and when it is used in the plural number, it signifies an innumerable company, as we here render it. Possibly he speaks with an allusion to the angels that attended the presence of God in the giving of the law, whereof the psalmist says, The chariots of God are twenty thousand, &c.

12:18-29 Mount Sinai, on which the Jewish church state was formed, was a mount such as might be touched, though forbidden to be so, a place that could be felt; so the Mosaic dispensation was much in outward and earthly things. The gospel state is kind and condescending, suited to our weak frame. Under the gospel all may come with boldness to God's presence. But the most holy must despair, if judged by the holy law given from Sinai, without a Saviour. The gospel church is called Mount Zion; there believers have clearer views of heaven, and more heavenly tempers of soul. All the children of God are heirs, and every one has the privileges of the first-born. Let a soul be supposed to join that glorious assembly and church above, that is yet unacquainted with God, still carnally-minded, loving this present world and state of things, looking back to it with a lingering eye, full of pride and guile, filled with lusts; such a soul would seem to have mistaken its way, place, state, and company. It would be uneasy to itself and all about it. Christ is the Mediator of this new covenant, between God and man, to bring them together in this covenant; to keep them together; to plead with God for us, and to plead with us for God; and at length to bring God and his people together in heaven. This covenant is made firm by the blood of Christ sprinkled upon our consciences, as the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled upon the altar and the victim. This blood of Christ speaks in behalf of sinners; it pleads not for vengeance, but for mercy. See then that you refuse not his gracious call and offered salvation. See that you do not refuse Him who speaketh from heaven, with infinite tenderness and love; for how can those escape, who turn from God in unbelief or apostacy, while he so graciously beseeches them to be reconciled, and to receive his everlasting favour! God's dealing with men under the gospel, in a way of grace, assures us, that he will deal with the despisers of the gospel, in a way of judgment. We cannot worship God acceptably, unless we worship him with reverence and godly fear. Only the grace of God enables us to worship God aright. God is the same just and righteous God under the gospel as under the law. The inheritance of believers is secured to them; and all things pertaining to salvation are freely given in answer to prayer. Let us seek for grace, that we may serve God with reverence and godly fear.But ye are come unto Mount Sion - You who are Christians; all who are under the new dispensation. The design is to "contrast" the Christian dispensation with the Jewish. and to show that its excellencies and advantages were far superior to the religion of their fathers. It had more to win the affections; more to elevate the soul; more to inspire with hope. It had less that was terrific and alarming; it appealed less to the fears and more to the tropes of mankind; but still apostasy from this religion could not be less terrible in its consequences than apostasy from the religion of Moses. In the passage before us, the apostle evidently contrasts Sinai with Mount Zion, and means to say that there was more about the latter that was adapted to win the heart and to preserve allegiance than there was about the former. Mount Zion literally denoted the Southern hill in Jerusalem, on which a part of the city was built.

That part of the city was made by David and his successors the residence of the court, and soon the name Zion, was given familiarly to the whole city. Jerusalem was the center of religion in the land; the place where the temple stood, and where the worship of God was celebrated, and where God dwelt by a visible symbol, and it became the type and emblem of the holy abode where He dwells in heaven. It cannot be literally meant here that they had come to the Mount Zion in Jerusalem, for that was as true of the whole Jewish people as of those whom the apostle addressed, but it must mean that they had come to the Mount Zion of which the holy city was an emblem; to the glorious mount which is revealed as the dwelling-place of God, of angels, of saints. That is, they had "come" to this by the revelations and hopes of the gospel. They were not indeed literally in heaven, nor was that glorious city literally on earth, but the dispensation to which they had been brought was what conducted them directly up to the city of the living God, and to the holy mount where he dwelt above. The view was not confined to an earthly mountain enveloped in smoke and flame, but opened at once on the holy place where God abides. By the phrase, "ye are come," the apostle means that this was the characteristic of the new dispensation that it conducted them there, and that they were already in fact inhabitants of that glorious city. They were citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem (compare note, Philippians 3:20), and were entitled to its privileges.

And unto the city of the living God - The city where the living God dwells - the heavenly Jerusalem; compare notes on Hebrews 11:10. God dwelt by a visible symbol in the temple at Jerusalem - and to that his people came under the old dispensation. In a more literal and glorious sense his abode is in heaven, and to that his people have now come.

The heavenly Jerusalem - Heaven is not unfrequently represented as a magnificent city where God and angels dwelt; and the Christian revelation discloses this to Christians as certainly their final home. They should regard themselves already as dwellers in that city, and live and act as if they saw its splendor and partook of its joy. In regard to this representation of heaven as a city where God dwells, the following places may be consulted: Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:14-16; Hebrews 12:28; Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2, 10-27. It is true that Christians have not yet seen that city by the physical eye, but they look to it with the eye of faith. It is revealed to them; they are permitted by anticipation to contemplate its glories, and to feel that it is to be their eternal home. They are permitted to live and act as if they saw the glorious God whose dwelling is there, and were already surrounded by the angels and the redeemed. The apostle does not represent them as if they were expecting that it would be visibly set up on the earth, but as being now actually dwellers in that city, and bound to live and act as if they were amidst its splendors.

And to an innumerable company of angels - The Greek here is, "to myriads (or ten thousands) of angels in an assembly or joyful convocation." The phrase "tens of thousands" is often used to denote a great and indefinite number. The word rendered "general assembly," Hebrews 12:22 - πανήγυρις panēguris - refers properly to an "assembly, or convocation of the whole people in order to celebrate any public festival or solemnity, as the public games or sacrifices; Robinson's Lexicon. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and refers here to the angels viewed as assembled around the throne of God and celebrating his praises. It should be regarded as connected with the word "angels," referring to "their" convocation in heaven, and not to the church of the first-born. This construction is demanded by the Greek. Our common translation renders it as if it were to be united with the church - "to the general assembly and church of the first-born;" but the Greek will not admit of this construction.

The interpretation which unites it with the angels is adopted now by almost all critics, and in almost all the editions of the New Testament. On the convocation of angels, see the notes on Job 1:6. The writer intends, doubtless, to contrast that joyful assemblage of the angels in heaven with those who appeared in the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. God is always represented as surrounded by hosts of angels in heaven; see Deuteronomy 33:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Daniel 7:10; Psalm 68:17; compare notes, Hebrews 12:1; see also Revelation 5:11; Matthew 26:53; Luke 2:13. The meaning is, that under the Christian dispensation Christians in their feelings and worship become united to this vast host of holy angelic beings. it is, of course, not meant that they are "visible," but they are seen by the eye of faith. The "argument" here is, that as, in virtue of the Christian revelation, we become associated with those pure and happy spirits, we should not apostatize from such a religion, for we should regard it as honorable and glorious to be identified with them.

22. are come—Greek, "have come near unto" (compare De 4:11). Not merely, ye shall come, but, ye have already come.

Mount Sion—antitypical Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem, of which the spiritual invisible Church (of which the first foundation was laid in literal Zion, Joh 12:15; 1Pe 2:6) is now the earnest; and of which the restored literal Jerusalem hereafter shall be the earthly representative, to be succeeded by the everlasting and "new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven" (Re 21:2-27; compare Heb 11:10).

22, 23. to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church—The city of God having been mentioned, the mention of its citizens follows. Believers being like the angels (Job 1:6; 38:7), "sons of God," are so their "equals" (Lu 20:36); and being reconciled through Christ, are adopted into God's great and blessed family. For the full completion of this we pray (Mt 6:10). English Version arrangement is opposed: (1) by "and" always beginning each new member of the whole sentence; (2) "general assembly and Church," form a kind of tautology; (3) "general assembly," or rather, "festal full assembly," "the jubilant full company" (such as were the Olympic games, celebrated with joyous singing, dancing, &c.), applies better to the angels above, ever hymning God's praises, than to the Church, of which a considerable part is now militant on earth. Translate therefore, "to myriads (ten thousands, compare De 33:2; Ps 68:17; Da 7:10; Jude 14; namely), the full festal assembly of angels, and the Church of the first-born." Angels and saints together constitute the ten thousands. Compare "all angels, all nations" Mt 25:31, 32. Messiah is pre-eminently "the First-born," or "First-begotten" (Heb 1:6), and all believers become so by adoption. Compare the type, Nu 3:12, 45, 50; 1Pe 1:18. As the kingly and priestly succession was in the first-born, and as Israel was God's "first-born" (Ex 4:22; compare Ex 13:2), and a "kingdom of priests" to God (Ex 19:6), so believers (Re 1:6).

The Spirit now adds the privilege of Christians in the better state to which they have access by the gospel dispensation, Hebrews 12:22-24; Ye have left those hinderances and disadvantages instanced in before, but are come to these helps for yonr furtherance in holiness; ye have an access to all those most excellent, though invisible, things, by faith, and by it attain them, and are incorporated into them, as they follow.

But ye are come unto mount Sion: this is not literally to be understood for the mount on which the city of David was built, for that was as visible and touchable as Mount Sinai, to which it is opposed; but that mount which is higher than the highest, as high as heaven itself, Hebrews 12:25 9:24 John 3:13; where is the most orderly government of God for holiness, Micah 4:7; whence all good gifts and gospel blessings are conveyed to the church, of which these believers were members, Isaiah 8:18 28:16 59:20 Revelation 14:1.

And unto the city of the living God; of which the living God is the Builder and Maker, and wherein he dwelleth, where nothing but life is, and whence Christ’s voice giveth life to dead souls, enabling them to live a life of holiness to God, as Psalm 46:4,5 48:1,8 87:3 Isaiah 40:14 John 5:25. To distinguish this from any earthly city or corporation, it is said to be

the heavenly Jerusalem, its original, nature, and end being all heavenly; a fruitful place, whence believers are made partakers of the most spiritual influences for holiness; where there is nothing carnal, terrible, deadly, barren, but all causal and productive of holiness issueth thence, Isaiah 42:1-25,65:17-19 66:10 John 17:24 Galatians 4:26 Revelation 3:12 21:2,10.

And to an innumerable company of angels; in which city are many excellent inhabitants with whom believers are incorporated, and to whom they have relation, as myriads of angels, who are ministering spirits under the gospel, as under the law, full of holiness, power, agility, and endowments, fit for their work and end; who, though for number are thousands and millions of them, Psalm 68:17 103:20 104:4 Acts 7:53 Galatians 3:19 Revelation 5:11, yet are all fulfilling their Lord’s pleasure in every place, as ordered by him. Their ministration of the law was terrible in flaming fire, but of the gospel, most sweet and gracious, Luke 2:13,14. At Sinai they ministered externally and sensibly, affecting senses; but from Sion they minister spiritually, to hearts, Matthew 4:11 Luke 22:43 Psalm 91:11, resisting evil spirits ministering wickedly. Their ministry little effectual under the law; but under the gospel, saving, Acts 7:53 Hebrews 1:14 Revelation 19:10. Their former ministration temporary and ceasing, but this everlasting, till they bring all their trust into Abraham’s bosom, Luke 16:22. They are promoting holiness by God’s sending things to us by them, and by their observing the goings and doings of Christians, whether holy or not, 1 Corinthians 11:10, and giving an account of the success of their ministry towards them, as to this end, Matthew 18:10. And the neglect of this means to help our pursuing holiness, will God require, Hebrews 2:2.

But ye are come unto Mount Sion,.... The Alexandrian copy reads, as in Hebrews 12:18 "for ye are not come"; which may seem to favour that interpretation of this passage, which refers it to the heavenly state; to which saints, in this present life, are not, as yet, come: but, by "Mount Sion", and the other names here given, is meant the church of God, under the Gospel dispensation, to which the believing Hebrews were come; in distinction from the legal dispensation, signified by Mount Sinai, from which they were delivered: and this is called Mount Sion, because, like that, it is beloved of God; chosen by him; and is the place of his habitation; here his worship is, and his word and ordinances are administered; here he communes with his people, and distributes his blessings and this, as Mount Sion, is a perfection of beauty the joy of the whole earth; is strongly fortified by divine power, and is immovable; and is comparable to that mountain, for its height and holiness: and to come to Sion is to become a member of a Gospel church, and partake of the ordinances, enjoy the privileges, and perform the duties belonging to it:

and unto the city of the living God; the Gospel church is a city, built on Christ, the foundation; and is full of habitants, true believers, at least it will be, in the latter day; it is pleasantly situated by the river of God's love, and by the still waters of Gospel ordinances; it is governed by wholesome laws, of Christ's enacting, and is under proper officers, of his appointing; and is well guarded by watchmen, which he has set upon the walls of it; and it is endowed with many privileges, as access to God, freedom from the arrests of justice, and from condemnation, adoption, and a right to the heavenly inheritance: and this may be called "the city of God", because it is of his building, and here he dwells, and protects, and defends it; and who is styled "the living God", to distinguish him from the idols of the Gentiles, which are lifeless and inanimate, no other than sticks and stones.

The heavenly Jerusalem: the church of God goes by the name of Jerusalem often, both in the Old and in the New Testament; with which it agrees in its name, which signifies the vision of peace, or they shall see peace: Christ, the King of it, is the Prince of peace; the members of it are sons of peace, who enjoy a spiritual peace now, and an everlasting one hereafter: like that, it is compact together, consisting of saints, cemented together in love, in the order and fellowship of the Gospel; and is well fortified, God himself, and his power, being all around it, and having salvation, for walls and bulwarks, and being encamped about by angels; and it is a free city, being made so by Christ, and, through him, enjoying the liberty of grace now, and having a title to the liberty of glory in the world to come; as Jerusalem was, it is the object of God's choice, the palace of the great King, and the place of divine worship: it is called "heavenly", to distinguish it from the earthly Jerusalem; and to express the excellency of it, as well as to point out its original: the members of it are from heaven, being born from above; their conversation is now in heaven; and they are designed for that place; and its doctrines and ordinances are all from thence.

And to an innumerable company of angels; which are created spirits, immaterial and immortal; very knowing, and very powerful; and swift to do the will of God; they are holy, and immutably so, being the elect of God, and confirmed by Christ: and saints now are brought into a state of friendship with them; and into the same family; and are social worshippers with them; and they have access into heaven, where angels are; and with whom they shall dwell for ever: and, in the present state of things, they share the benefit and advantages of their kind offices; who have, sometimes, provided food for their bodies; healed their diseases; directed and preserved them on journeys; prevented outward calamities; delivered them out of them, when in danger; restrained things hurtful, and cut off their enemies: and, with regard to things spiritual they have, sometimes, made known the mind and will of God unto the saints; have comforted them under their distresses; helped them against Satan's temptations; are present at their death, and carry their souls to glory; and will gather the saints together, at the last day: and, as to the number of them, they are innumerable; they are the armies of heaven; and there is a multitude of the heavenly host; there are more than twelve legions of angels; their number is ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: and this makes both for the glory and majesty of God, whose attendants they are; and for the comfort and safety of saints, to whom they minister, and about whom they encamp: a like phrase is used in the Apocrypha:

"Before the fair flowers were seen, or ever the moveable powers were established, before the innumerable multitude of angels were gathered together,'' (2 Esdras 6:3)

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
Hebrews 12:22-24. Contrast to Hebrews 12:18-19. Positive characterization of the communion into which the readers have entered by the reception of Christianity. The description, Hebrews 12:22-24, corresponds not in detail to the particulars enumerated, Hebrews 12:18-19 (against Bengel, who ingeniously constructs a sevenfold antithesis; as likewise against Delitzsch, Kluge, and Ewald, who have followed the same), although we should be led to expect this from the corresponding words of commencement, Hebrews 12:18; Hebrews 12:22. Moreover, the succession of clauses contained in Hebrews 12:22-24 is no strictly logical one, since at least καὶ πνεύμασιν δικαίων τετελειωμένων would have been more appropriately placed before than after καὶ κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων.

ἀλλὰ προσεληλύθατε Σιὼν ὄρει καὶ πόλει θεοῦ ζῶντος, Ἱερουσαλὴν ἐπουρανίῳ] but drawn near have ye to the mountain Zion and the city of the living God, namely, the heavenly Jerusalem. The three substantive-appellations contain a single idea, in that to the closely connected twofold expression: Σιὼν ὄρει καὶ πόλει θεοῦ ζῶντος, the following Ἱερουσαλὴν ἐπουρανίῳ forms an explanatory apposition. As Mount Zion (in opposition to the Mount Sinai, Hebrews 12:18) the heavenly Jerusalem is designated, because in the O. T. the Mount Zion is very frequently described as the dwelling-place of God, and the place whence the future salvation of the people is to be looked for. Comp. Psalm 48:3 [2], Psalm 50:2, Psalm 78:68, Psalm 110:2, Psalm 132:13 ff.; Isaiah 2:2-3; Joel 3:5 [Joel 2:32]; Micah 4:1-2; Obadiah 1:17, al. Likewise also is the heavenly Jerusalem called the city of the living God (comp. too in relation to the earthly Jerusalem: πόλις ἐστὶν τοῦ μεγάλου βασιλέως, Matthew 5:35), not so much because the living and acting God is its architect (Hebrews 11:10), as because He has His throne there.

καὶ μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων] and to myriads of angels, the servants, and as it were the court of God. καὶ μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων belongs together (Beza, Schlichting, Jac. Cappellus, Calov, Braun, Kypke, Carpzov, Cramer, Baumgarten, Storr, Dindorf, Tholuck, Kurtz, Hofmann, and others), without, however, our having, with Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Clarius, Vatablus, Calvin, Corn. a Lapide, Piscator, Grotius, Tischendorf (ed. 2), Bloomfield, Conybeare, Ewald, and others, to refer likewise πανηγύρει, Hebrews 12:23, to the same as an apposition. For such apposition, consisting of a bare individual word, would be out of keeping with the euphonious fulness of the whole description; and, if this construction had been intended, καὶ μυριάδων ἀγγέλων πανηγύρει would have been written. But just as little must we with others (also Bleek and de Wette) take καὶ μυριάσιν alone, as standing independently; whether, as Seb. Schmidt, Wolf, Rambach, Griesbach, Knapp, Böhme, Kuinoel, Stengel, Bisping, Maier, Moll, we regard as apposition thereto merely ἀγγέλων πανηγύρει, or, as Bengel, Chr. Fr. Schmid, Ernesti, Schulz, Lachmann, Bleek, Tischendorf (ed. 1), Ebrard, Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 117), Alford, Kluge, Woerner, both the following members: ἀγγέλων πανηγύρει καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς—in connection with which latter supposition, however, the more nearly connecting τε καί, of frequent use with the author (Hebrews 2:4; Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 4:12, al.), would have been more naturally expected than the bare καί before ἐκκλησίᾳ. For μυριάσιν is a very indefinite notion, which, where its reference is not self-evident from the connection, requires a genitival addition; besides, the accentuation of the idea of plurality alone would here be meaningless. Further, the reasons advanced against our mode of explanation, that in such case we ought, after the analogy of the following members, to expect a καί before πανηγύρει (Seb. Schmidt, Bleek, Ebrard); that πανηγύρει and that which follows would become in the highest degree dragging (Bleek); that πανηγύρει would be superfluous (de Wette),—are without weight. For καί was omitted by reason of the euphonious πανηγύρει καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ, into which a καί placed also before πανηγύρει would have introduced a discordant note; the charge of dragging would have been justified, only if a καί had really been added before πανηγύρει; nor, again, is πανηγύρει, superfluous, since it contains a very significant notion, and one different from that of ἐκκλησίᾳ.

Hebrews 12:22. The Christian standing and attainment are now described in contrast with the Jewish. Ye are brought into the fellowship of eternal realities. ἀλλά προσεληλύθατε, “but ye have drawn near” (already you have entered into your eternal relation to the unseen) to Σιὼν ὄρει, “in the twenty-three passages in the LXX where the two words are combined the order is uniformly ὄρος Σιὼν and not Σιὼν ὄρος. Evidently here the ‘Zion mountain’ is mentally contrasted with another, the ‘Sinai mountain’. And thus the omission of ὄρει in the revised text of Hebrews 12:18 is virtually supplied” (Vaughan). The ideal Zion is the place of God’s manifestation of His presence (Psalm 9:11; Psalm 76:2) but also of His people’s abode (Psalm 146:10; Isaiah 1:27 and passim). It is therefore impossible to find another particular of the enumeration in πόλει θεοῦ ζῶντος Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἐπουρανίῳ, as if the former were “the transcendent sphere of God’s existence where He is manifested only to Himself,” and the latter “the place where His people gather and where He is manifested to them”. (Cf. Isaiah 60:14, κληθήσῃ πόλις Κυρίου, Σιών); the mount and the city are viewed together as the meeting-place of God and His people, where the “living God” manifests fully His eternal fulness and sufficiency. It is “the heavenly Jerusalem” (cf. Galatians 4:26, ἡ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλήμ and Revelation 21:2, ἡ πόλις ἡ μέλλουσα [καὶ μένουσα], Hebrews 13:14) as being not the earthly and made with hands but the ultimate reality [cf. the beautiful description in Philo, De Som., ii. 38, and the Republic, ix. p. 592, where after declaring that no such city as he has been describing exists on earth Plato goes on to say, Ἀλλʼ ἐν οὐρανῷ ἴσως παράδειγμα ἀνάκειται τῷ βουλομένῳ ὁρᾶν καὶ ὁρῶντι ἑαυτὸν κατοικίζειν. Also the fine passage in Seneca, De Otio, chap. 31, on the two Republics.] καὶ μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων, and to myriads of angels, the usual accompaniment of God’s glory and ministers of His will, as in Deuteronomy 32:2; Revelation 5:11; and Daniel 7:10, μύριαι μυριάδες παρειστήκεισαν αὐτῷ. The construction of the following words is much debated. (1) πανηγύρει καὶ ἐκκλησ. may be construed in apposition with μυρ. ἀγγέλων, to myriads of angels, a festal gathering and assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven; or, (2) a new particular may be introduced with καὶ ἐκκλησ.; or, (3) a new particular may be introduced with πανηγύρει, “to myriads of angels, to a festal gathernig and assembly of the first-born.” On the whole, the first seems preferable. For although angels are not elsewhere called the “first-born” of God, they are called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7; Genesis 6:2; Genesis 6:4; Psalm 89:6) and the designation is here appropriate to denote those who are the pristine inhabitants of heaven. Cf. the first choir of Angelicals in the “Dream of Gerontius,” who sing:—

“To us His elder race He gave

To battle and to win,

Without the chastisement of pain,

Without the soil of sin”;

and Augustine in De Civ. Dei, x. 7, “cum angelis sumus una civitas Dei … cujus pars in nobis peregrinatur, pars in illis opitulatur”. πανήγυρις, meaning a festal gathering of the whole people, and ἐκκλησία meaning the assembly of all enrolled citizens, seem much more applicable to angels. They are enrolled as citizens (ἀπογεγ. see the Fayûm and Oxyrhynchus Papyri, passim) in heaven, and welcome the younger sons now introduced. The myriads of angels which on Sinai had made their presence known in thunders and smoke and tempest, terrifying the people, appear now in the familiar form of a well-ordered community in the peaceable guise of citizens rejoicing over additions to their ranks (Luke 15:10). καὶ κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων, “and to a Judge who is God of all,” and by whose judgment you must therefore stand or fall (cf. Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 10:30-31). Among the realities to which they had been introduced this could not be omitted. He who is God of all living is the ultimate reality, and the Hebrews have been brought near not only to His city with its original inhabitants, but to Himself; and to Himself as allotting without appeal each soul to its destiny. καὶ πνεύμασι … “and to spirits of just men made perfect,” “spirits,” as in 1 Peter 3:19, of those who have departed this life and not yet been clothed with their resurrection body. δικαίων τετελειωμένων is largely illustrated by Wetstein who quotes many examples of “justi perfecti” from the Talmud. It is perhaps more relevant to refer to Hebrews 11:4 and to the whole strain of the Epistle whose aim it is to perfect the righteousness of the Hebrews, see chap. 6. Of course O.T. and N.T. saints are referred to. But as without us, i.e., without sharing in our advantages, they could not be perfected, Hebrews 11:40, there is at once introduced the recent covenant (νέας “new in time,” not, as usual, καίνης “fresh in quality,”) because the idea first in the writer’s mind is not the opposition to the old but the recent origin of the new. (But cf. Colossians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 5:7). It is remarkable that the Mediator of this covenant is here called by his human name “Jesus”. The reason probably is that already there is in the writer’s mind the great instrument of mediation, αἵματι ῥαντισμοῦ, “blood of sprinkling”. In mediating the old covenant Moses, λαβὼν τὸ αἶμα κατεσκέδασε τοῦ λαοῦ, Exodus 24:8. [αἷμα ῥαντισμοῦ, however, does not occur in LXX, though ὕδωρ ῥαντισμοῦ is found four times in Numbers]. But in Hebrews 9:19 this writer replaces κατεσκέδασε with the more significant ἐράντισεν; cf. Hebrews 9:13. In 1 Peter 1:2 we have ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. The “blood of sprinkling” is therefore the blood by which the new covenant is established, see Hebrews 13:20, αἵματι διαθήκης αἰωνίου, this blood having the power to cleanse the conscience, Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 10:22. It cleanses because it speaks better than Abel’s, κρεῖττον λαλοῦντι παρὰ τὸν Ἄβελ for while that of Abel cried for vengeance [Genesis 4:10, φωνὴ αἵματος τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου βοᾷ πρός με ἐκ τῆς γῆς] that of Jesus is a message of salvation, the κρεῖττόν τι of Hebrews 11:40. But it may be adverbial. “Ille flagitabat ultionem, hic impetrat remissionem” (Erasmus).

22. unto mount Sion …] The true Sion is the anti-type of all the promises with which the name had been connected (Psalm 2:6; Psalm 48:2; Psalm 78:68-69; Psalm 125:1; Joel 2:32; Micah 4:7). Hence the names of Sion and “the heavenly Jerusalem” are given to “the city of the living God” (Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:2). Sinai and Mount Sion are contrasted with each other in six particulars. Bengel and others make out an elaborate sevenfold antithesis here.

to an innumerable company of angels …] This punctuation is suggested by the word “myriads,” which is often applied to angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Daniel 7:10). But under the New Covenant the Angels are surrounded with attributes, not of terror but of beauty and goodness (Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 5:11-12).

Hebrews 12:22. Ἀλλ, but) A sevenfold opposition. Let us see the several points:

I. The mountain which was touched:

Mount Zion.

II. The fire that burned:

The city of the living GOD.

III. Blackness or mist:

Ten thousands (an innumerable company) of angels and of the first-born.

IV. Darkness:

GOD, the Judge of all.

V. Tempest:

The spirits of just men made perfect.

VI. The sound of a trumpet:

Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament

VII. The voice of words:

The blood of sprinkling speaking what is very good.

In Articles I. and VII. there is an obvious opposition; there is no doubt but that there is an opposition also in the intermediate points, the number of which also the apostle adapts to one another. Access, in the Old Testament, was of that kind, that the people was kept back; in the access of the New Testament, all things are laid open [to all, people and ministers alike].—προσεληλύθατε, ye have come, ye have access to) having received the faith of the New Testament. And from this beginning, they who partake of Christ more and more reap the benefit of this access, till their perfection at death, and till the judgment, and unto eternal life. For this is not spoken of the coming (access) to the church militant, since others came (added themselves) rather to Israel, than the Israelites to others; but there is described here the highly exalted state of believers under the New Testament, in consequence of communion with the Church made perfect, and with Christ and GOD Himself. This access, too, not less than the former, Hebrews 12:18-19, was joined with the faculty of hearing, and that too in this life, Hebrews 12:24, etc., although our approach is much more obvious to heavenly eyes than to ours, that are still veiled; and brings along with it the best hopes for the future. The apostle here brings forward an excellent knowledge of the heavenly economy, worthy of what Paul heard and saw, when he was blessed by being caught up into the third heaven; 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4.—Σιὼν ὄρει, Mount Zion) This is the seat of the dispensation of Christ; [and therefore comprehends the spirits of just men made perfect.—V. g.] Revelation 14:1; John 12:15; 1 Peter 2:6.—καὶ πόλει Θεοῦ ζῶντος, and to the city of the living GOD) The seat of the dispensation of GOD, Hebrews 12:23, [comprehending ten thousands of angels and of the first-born.—V. g.] For it is a Chiasmus: 1. Zion. 2. The city of God. 3. God the Judges 4. Jesus the Mediator. The first and fourth, the second and third agree.—Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἐπουρανίῳ, the heavenly Jerusalem) Revelation 21:2.—Μυριάσιν, ten thousands) These are spoken of absolutely, as in the prophecy of Enoch, Judges 1:14 : comp. Deuteronomy 33:2; Daniel 7:10.—ἀγγέλων, of angels) We cannot construe καὶ μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων, πανηγύρει καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ, κ.τ.λ.: for both the polysyndeton must be retained, and the general assembly no doubt belongs to one party; the church to another; for who would join the synonyms, general assembly and Church? The church consists of the first-born; the general assembly, therefore, of angels. But the ten thousands consist not only of the general assembly of angels, but also of the church of the first-born. For the expression, ten thousands, is applicable to both, and the dative μυριάσιν is suited to both. The things which are presently about to be mentioned, may be added. In the meantime we must here observe the Chiasmus of the genitive and dative [the genitives being first and fourth; the datives, second and third], ἀγγέλων πανηγύρει and ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων.—πανηγύρει, general assembly) This word, and presently afterwards, church and Judge, indicate solemnity; which is even now in heaven, and will be at its height at the revelation of Jesus from heaven. Consider the expression—all angels, all nations, Matthew 25:31-32.

Verses 22-24. - But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here, as in Galatians 4, Zion and Jerusalem, ideally regarded, are contrasted with Sinai. The foundation of the conception is in the Old Testament. When David at length won the citadel of Zion, and placed the ark upon it, it was a sort of primary and typical fulfillment of the promise of rest, seen afar off by the patriarchs and from the wilderness. Psalm 24, which was sung on that occasion, expresses the idea of the King of glory being at length enthroned there, and his people of clean hands and pure hearts being admitted to stand in the holy place before him (cf. "This is my rest forever: here will I dwell," Psalm 132:14). In the Psalms generally the holy hill of Zion continues to be viewed as the LORD'S immovable abode, where he is surrounded by thousands of angels, and whence he succors his people (cf. Psalm 48; 68; 125; 132; etc.). Then by the prophets it is further idealized as the scene and center of Messianic blessings (cf. Isaiah 12; 25:13; 33; 35; 46:13; Micah 4; to which many other passages might be added). Compare also the visions, in the latter chapters of Ezekiel, of the ideal city and temple of the future age. Lastly, in the Apocalypse the seer has visions of "Mount Zion" (14.), and "the holy city, new Jerusalem" (21.), with the presence there of God and the Lamb, and with myriads of angels, and innumerable multitudes of saints redeemed. If, in the passage before us, a distinction is to be made between "Mount Zion" and "the heavenly Jerusalem," it may be that the former represents the Church below, the latter the heavenly regions, though both are blent together in one grand picture of the communion of saints. For so in Revelation 14. the hundred and forty-four thousand on Mount Zion seem distinct from the singers and harpers round the throne, whose song is heard from heaven and learnt by those below; while the picture of the holy city in Revelation 21. is one entirely heavenly, representing there the final consummation rather than any present state of things. And to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn (rather, and to myriads, the general assembly of angels, and the Church of the Firstborn), which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel (literally, than Abel). Of the several ways of translating the beginning of the above passage, the best seems to be to take μυριὰσιν by itself as including both the angels and the Church of the Firstborn, and to connect πανηγύρει with "angels" only. "Myriads" is a well-known expression for the LORD'S attendant hosts (cf. Jude 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:2; Daniel 7:10); further, καὶ, which throughout the passage connects the different objects approached, comes between πανηγύρει and ἐκκλησία, not between ἀγγελῶν and πανηγύρει, and the application of both πανηγύρει and ἐκκλησία to πρωτοτόκων would seem an unmeaning redundancy. The word πανήγυρις, which in classical Greek denotes properly the assembly of a whole nation for a festival, is peculiarly appropriate to the angels, whether regarded (as in the Old Testament) as ministering round the throne or as congregated to rejoice over man's redemption. "The Church of the Firstborn" seems to denote the Church militant rather than the Church triumphant; for

(1) ἐκκλησία is elsewhere used for the Church on earth (so also in the Old Testament; cf. Psalm 79:6);

(2) the phrase, ἐν οὐρανοῖς ἀπογεγραμμένων, expresses the idea of being enrolled in the books of heaven rather than being already there (cf. Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27);

(3) the "spirits of the perfected" are mentioned afterwards as a class distinct. The word πρωτοτόκων may be suggested here by the firstborn of Israel, who were specially hallowed to the Lord (Numbers 3:13), and numbered as such by Moses (Numbers 3:43), or perhaps still more by the birthright (πρωτοτόκια) spoken of above as forfeited by Esau. God's elect may be called his firstborn as being hallowed to him and heirs of his promises (cf. Exodus 4:22," Israel is my son, even my firstborn;" and Jeremiah 31:9, "Ephraim is my firstborn"). They thus correspond to the hundred and forty-four thousand of Revelation 14, standing on Mount Zion, being "redeemed from the earth," and having "the Father's Name written on their foreheads;" seen distinct from, and yet in communion with, the saints in bliss, whose voices are heard above. Between them and the spirits of the perfected is interposed, "God the Judge of all;" and this appropriately, since before him the saints on earth must appear ere they join the ranks of the perfected: the former look up to him from below; the latter have already passed before him to the rest assigned them. Τετελειωμένεν ("perfected") expresses, as elsewhere in the Epistle, full accomplishment of an and or purpose with regard to things or persons (cf. Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 7:19, 28; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1, 14; Hebrews 11:40); the word is used here of those whose warfare is accomplished, and who have attained the rest of God. Their "spirits" only are spoken of, because the "perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul" is still to come. In the mean while, with respect to the issue of their earthly course, they have been already perfected (cf. Revelation 14:13, "They rest from their labors"). Corresponding to the Lamb in Revelation, there is seen next Jesus the Mediator, through whom is the approach of the whole company to the Judge of all, and the accomplishment to the perfected. The "new covenant" is, of course, meant to be contrasted with the old one before Mount Sinai, under which there was no such approach or accomplishment. Then "the blood of sprinkling" has reference to that wherewith the old covenant was ratified (Exodus 24; cf. supra, Hebrews 9:18). The blood shed by Christ on earth for atonement is conceived as carried by him with himself into the holy place on high (cf. Hebrews 9:12), to be forever "the blood of sprinkling for effectual cleansing. And this blood "speaketh better things than Abel." His blood cried from the ground for vengeance, with the accusing voice of primeval sin; Christ's speaks only of reconciliation and peace. Some commentators (Bengel in the first place, whom Delitzsch follows)see in this contrast between Sinai and Zion a distinct parallelism between vers. 18, 19 and vers. 22-24; seven objects of approach in one case being supposed to be set against seven in the other, More obvious is the correspondence of the successive clauses of vers. 22-24 to the general ideas connected with the giving of the Law. The two pictures may be contrasted thus - The Old Covenant.

Sinai, a palpable earthly mountain, surrounded by gloom and storm.

The angels through whom the Law was given (cf. Hebrews 2:2; Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:53; Deuteronomy 23:2), unseen by men, but operating in the winds and in the fire (cf. Hebrews 1:7).

Israel congregated under the mountain, afraid, and forbidden to touch it.

The LORD, unapproachable, shrouded in darkness or revealed in fire.

Moses, himself afraid, and winning through his mediation no access for the people.

The blood sprinkled on the people to ratify the old covenant, but which could not cleanse the conscience.

The sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, inspiring fear. The New Covenant.

Zion, radiant with light and crowned with the city of God.

Festal choirs of assembled angels.

The accepted Church of the Firstborn, with free approach to the holiest of all.

The Judge of all, without his terrors, accessible, and awarding rest to the perfected.

The Divine availing Mediator.

The ever-cleansing blood of complete atonement.

The voice of that cleansing blood, speaking of peace and pardon.

Such is the vision by the contemplation of which the inspired writer would arouse his readers, amid their trials and waverings, to realize the things that are eternal. He would have them pierce with the eye of faith beyond this visible scene into the world invisible, which is no less real. If they were perplexed and disheartened by what they found around them - by the opposition of the world and the fewness of the faithful - he bids them associate themselves in thought with those countless multitudes who were on their side. The picture is, indeed, in some respects, ideal; for the actual Church on earth does not come up to the idea of the "Church of the Firstborn;" but it is presented according to God's purpose for his people, and it rests with us to make it a present reality to ourselves. Hebrews 12:22The heavenly Jerusalem

See on Galatians 4:26. The spiritual mountain and city where God dwells and reigns. Comp. Dante Inf. i.:128:

"Quivi e la sua cittade, e l'alto seggio."

Comp. Psalm 2:6; Psalm 48:2, Psalm 48:3; Psalm 50:2; Psalm 78:68; Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 18:7; Joel 2:32; Micah 4:1, Micah 4:2; Amos 1:2.

To an innumerable company of angels (μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων)

On this whole passage (Hebrews 12:22-24) it is to be observed that it is arranged in a series of clauses connected by καὶ. Accordingly μυριάσιν to myriads or tens of thousands stands by itself, and πανηγύρει festal assembly goes with ἀγγέλων angels. Μυριάς (see Luke 12:1; Acts 19:19; Revelation 5:11; quite often in lxx) is strictly the number ten thousand. In the plural, an innumerable multitude. So A.V. here. Rend. "to an innumerable multitude," placing a comma after μυριάσιν, and connecting of angels with the next clause. This use of μυριάσιν without a qualifying genitive is justified by numerous examples. See Genesis 24:60; Deuteronomy 32:30; Deuteronomy 33:2; 1 Samuel 18:7, 1 Samuel 18:8; Psalm 90:7; Sol 5:10; Daniel 7:10; Daniel 11:12; Sir. 47:6; 2 Macc. 8:20; Jde 1:14. Χιλιάδες thousands is used in the same way. See Isaiah 70:22; Daniel 7:10.

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