Hebrews 12:23
To the general assembly and 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,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) And to God the Judge of all.—The order of the Greek seems to require the rendering, and to a Judge (who is) God of all. Up to this point our thought has rested on the heavenly world and those who from the time of their creation have been its inhabitants. Men who have passed through this earthly life have no essential right to citizenship in the “heavenly Jerusalem.” They come before a Judge (comp. Hebrews 9:27). “The Lord shall judge His people” (Hebrews 10:30), severing between His servants and His foes (Malachi 3:18; Malachi 4:1), condemning the wicked, and receiving the righteous to His own dwelling-place. This Judge is “God of all”—of angels and of righteous souls (Wisdom Of Solomon 3:1), and of Christian men who “draw nigh” to the celestial city. How characteristic of the writer and his theme is the introduction of these solemn words into the midst of this description of Christian privilege and blessing.

And to the spirits of just men made perfect.—The last verses of Hebrews 11 are at once called before the mind by these words. The “righteous” men have “by faith” run their course (Hebrews 10:38; Hebrews 11:4; Hebrews 11:7; Philippians 3:12); they have obtained the promises (Hebrews 6:15; Hebrews 11:1). The analogy of Scripture forbids us to consider their present state as the full consummation; for that, these “spirits” and we who are yet “in the body” await the day of the resurrection. These words, however, do not refer to the period of the Old Covenant only; indeed they do not in strictness belong to that period at all. The spirits of the righteous servants of Christ join the same fellowship; and only when Christ was manifested does the state to which the name “perfection” is thus given seem to have begun. What was received by those “spirits of the righteous” when they saw the day of Christ, we cannot tell; but. the teaching of Scripture seems to be that they were raised to some higher state of blessedness. These are the new inhabitants of the world above; they have come into the presence of God by means of the blood of sprinkling, through Jesus.

Hebrews

FAITH’S ACCESS TO THE JUDGE, AND HIS ATTENDANTS

Hebrews 12:23THE principle of arrangement in this grand section of this letter is obscure, and I am afraid that I cannot east much, if any, light upon it. We might, at first sight, have expected that the two clauses of our present text should have been inverted, so as to bring all the constituent parts of ‘the city of the living God’ closely together - viz., ‘the angels,’ the members of the militant Church on earth, and those of the triumphant Church in heaven; and also to bring together ‘God the Judge of all,’ and ‘Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant.’ But the arrangement, as it stands in our text, may he compared profitably with that of the preceding verses, which we were considering in the last sermon. There, as here, the allusion to the immediate presence of God passed at once into the reference to the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. And just as there Zion, the palace, was immediately connected with the city of the living God, so here the writer, harking back, as it were, to his original starting-point, no sooner names ‘God the Judge’ than he passes on to set before us ‘the spirits of just men made perfect.’ In the earlier clauses we have had the more general reference to the palace and the city around it. Here, if I may so say, we pass within the palace gates, and the writer tells us what we find there. This interweaving of the presence of God with that of the creatures that live in His love witnesses to the great truth that our God dwells in no isolated supremacy, but in the midst of a blessed society; and that the solitary souls who find their way into His presence have a welcome, not only from Him, but from all their brethren Of His great family.

So the arrangement may not be so inexplicable as, at first sight, it strikes us as being, if it suggests to us the close and indissoluble connection between God Himself and all those who, in every place, whether the place above or the place beneath, call upon the name of Him who is both their God and ours. In dealing with these words, I have simply to consider these two ideas thus set before us.

I. Faith plants us at the very bar of God.

‘Ye are come to God the Judge of all.’ Now, it is to be observed that, more accurately, the words might be rendered, ‘Ye are come to the God of all as Judge’; for the point which the writer wishes to bring out is not so much the general idea of the divine presence, as that presence considered under a specific aspect, and referring to one mode of His action - viz., the judicial It is further to be noticed that the judgment which is here spoken about is not, as the very language, ‘Ye are come to the Judge; implies, future, but present. The Old Testament, with continual reference to which this letter is saturated, has a great deal more to say about the present continuous judgment which God works all through the ages than about the final future judgment, And, in accordance, not only with the language of our text, which makes coming a present thing, but, in accordance also with the whole tone of the Old Testament, we should recognise here, not so much a reference to the final tribunal Before which all mankind must stand {at which the Judge is characteristically represented in the New Testament as being, not God the Father, But Jesus Christ}, as to the continual judgment, both in the sense of decision as to character and infliction of consequences, which is being exercised now by the God of all.

So, then, the first thought that I would suggest from this idea is, Here is a truth which it is the office of faith to realise continually in our daily lives. Your loving access to God, Christian men and women, has brought you right under the eye of the Judge, and, though there be no terror in our approach to that tribunal, there ought to be a wholesome awe as the permanent attitude of our spirits, the awe which is the very opposite of the cowering dread which hath torment. He would be a bold criminal who would commit crimes in the very judgment-hall and before the face of his judge. And that must be a very defective Christian faith which, like the so- called faith of many amongst us, goes through life and sins in entire oblivion of the fact that it stands in the very presence of the Judge of all the earth. Oh, if we could rend the veil as death will rend it, and see the things which are, as faith will help us to see them - for it thins, if it does not tear, the envious curtain between - would it be possible that we should live the low, mean, selfish, earthly, sinful lives, devoured by anxieties, defaced by stains, depressed by trivial sorrows, which, alas! so many of us do live? ‘Ye are come.., unto God the Judge of all.’ ‘If ye call Him Father, who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’

Then, again, notice that this judgment of God is one which a Christian man should joyfully accept. ‘The Lord will judge His people,’ says one of the psalms. ‘You only have I known of all the inhabitants of the earth; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities,’ says one of the prophets. Such sayings represent this present judgment as inevitable, just because of the close connection into which true faith brings a man with his Father in heaven. Inevitable, and likewise most blessed and desirable, for in the thought are included all the methods by which, in providence, and by ministration of His truth and of His Spirit, God reveals to us our hidden meannesses; and delivers us sometimes, even by the consequences which accrue from them, from the burden and power of our sin.

So, then, the office of faith in regard to this continuous judgment which God is exercising upon us because He loves us is, first of all, to open our hearts to it by confession, by frank communion, by referring all our actions to Him to court that investigation. That judgment is no mere knowledge by cold omniscience, such as a heathen conception of the divine eye might make it to be; but just as a careful gardener will go over his rose-trees, and the more carefully the more precious they are in his sight, to pick from each nestling-place at the junction of the leaves with the stem the tiny insects that are sucking out the sap and destroying them, so God will search our hearts in order to pluck from these the crawling evils which, microscopic and tiny as they may be, will yet, in their multitude innumerable, be destructive of our spirits’ lives.

It is a gospel when we say, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ Therefore in many a psalm we have the writers spreading themselves out before God, and beseeching Him to come and search them, and try them, and sift them through His sieve, and know them altogether, in the sure confidence that wheresoever He beholds an evil He will be ready to cure it, and that whosoever spreadeth out his sin before God will be lightened of the burden of his sin.

This merciful judgment, which is, in fact, all directed to the perfecting and sanctifying of its subjects, reaches its end in the measure in which we register its decisions in our consciences. God writes His mind about us on them, and when they speak they are only speaking an echo of the sentence that has been pronounced from that loftier tribunal. Therefore, whosoever professeth himself to be a Christian and does anything, be it great or small, which his conscience rebukes when done, and prohibited before it was done, that man is despising the judgment of God, and bringing down upon himself the condemnation which follows despised judgment. ‘If we should judge ourselves we should not be judged.’ Reverence your consciences: they are the echo of the Judge’s voice; peruse their records; they are the register of the Judge’s sentence; and whensoever that inward voice speaks, bow before it and say, ‘Lord! servant heareth.’

And then, further, remember that this judgment is one that demands our thankful acceptance of the discipline which it puts in force. If we knew ourselves we should bless God for our sorrows. These are His special means of drawing His children away from their evil. ‘When we are chastened, we are chastened of the Lord that we should not be condemned with the world.’ Oh! there would be less impatience, less blank amazement when suffering comes to us, less vain and impotent regrets for vanished blessings, if we saw in all the dealings of our Father’s hands the results of His judgment, and believed that it is better for us to be separated, though it be with violence and much bleeding of torn-away hearts, from our idols than that our idolatry should destroy us and mar them. ‘Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.’ This judgment is not only the merciful separation of us from our sins, but it is also a judgment on our behalf.

The office of the early Jewish judges was not only the judicial one which we mean by the word, but was much wider, and some trace of that wider idea runs through almost all the Old Testament references to the divine judgment. It comes to mean, not merely a decision adverse or favorable, as the ease may be, as to the moral character of its subjects, but it also substantially means pleading their cause, defending their right, intervening for them, and so in many a psalm you will find such petitions as this, ‘Judge me, O Lord; for I am poor and needy. Plead my cause against them which rise up against me.’ And the same conception of the Judge’s office appears in one of our Lord’s parables, familiar to us all, in which we are told that ‘the Lord will judge His own elect though He bear long with them.’

Thus, another of the blessed thoughts that come out of this conception of our approach to ‘the Judge of all’ is that we may confidently commit our cause to Him, and leave our vindication in His hands. So, abstinence from self-assertion, from self-vindication, from vengeance or recompense, patience, courage, consolation, strength, all these virtues will be ours if we understand to whom we come by our faith, and can behold, on the throne of the universe, One who will plead our cause, and undertake for us whensoever we are burdened and oppressed.

II. Secondly, Faith carries us while living to the society of the living dead.

‘The Judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect.’ Immediately on the thought of God arising in the writer’s mind, there rises also the blessed thought of the blessed company in the centre of whom He lives and reigns. We can say little about that subject, and perhaps the less we say the more we shall understand, and the more deeply we shall feel We get glimpses but no clear vision, as when a flock of birds turn in their rapid flight, and for a moment the sun glances on their white wings; and then, with another turn, they drift away, spots of blackness in the blue. So we see but for a moment as the light falls, and then lose the momentary glory, but we may at least reverently note the exalted words here.

‘The spirits of... men made perfect.’ That is to say, they dwell freed from the incubus and limitations, and absolved from the activities, of a bodily organisa-tion. We cannot understand such a condition. To us it may seem to mean passivity or almost unconsciousness, but we know, as another New Testament writer has told us, that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord; and that in some deep, and to us now undiscoverable, fashion, that which the corporeal frame does for men here, immersed in the material world, there the encircling Christ in whom they rest does for them. We know little more, but we have a glimpse of a land of deep peace in which repose is not passivity nor unconsciousness; any more than service is weariness. And there we have to leave it, knowing only this, that it is possible for a man to exist and to be, in a relative sense, perfected without a body. Then, further, these spirits are ‘perfect.’

The writer has said, at the close of the preceding chapter, that the ancient saints ‘without us should not be made perfect.’ And here he employs the same word with distant reference, as I suppose, to his previous declaration. From which I infer that that old thought is true, that Jesus Christ shot some rays of His victorious and all-reconciling power from His Cross into the regions of darkness, and brought thence those who had been waiting for His coming through many a long age. A great painter has left on the walls of a little cell in his Florentine convent a picture of the victorious Christ, white-robed and banner-bearing, breaking down the iron gates that shut in the dark, rocky cave; and flocking to Him, with outstretched hands of eager welcome, the whole long series from the first man downwards, hastening to rejoice in His light, and to participate in His redemption.

So the ancient Church was ‘perfected’ in Christ; but the words refer, not only to those Old Testament patriarchs and saints, but to all who, up to the time of the writer’s composition of his letter, ‘slept in Jesus.’ They have reached their goal in Him. The end for which they were created has been attained. They are in the summer of their powers, and full-grown adults, whilst we here, the maturest and the wisest, the strongest and the holiest, are but as babes in Christ.

But yet that ‘perfecting’ does not exclude progress, continuous through all the ages; and especially it does not exclude one great step in advance which, as Scripture teaches us, will be taken when the resurrection of the body is granted. Corporeity is the perfecting humanity. Body, soul, and spirit, these make the full-summed man in all his powers. And so the souls beneath the altar, clothed in white, and rapt in felicity, do yet wait ‘for the adoption, even the redemption of the body.’

Mark, further, that these spirits perfected would not have been perfected there unless they had been made just here. That is the first step, without which nothing in death has any tendency to ennoble or exalt men. If we are ever to come to the perfecting of the heavens, we must begin with the justifying that takes place on earth.

Let me point you to one other consideration, bearing not so much on the condition as on the place of these perfected spirits. It is very significant, as I tried to point out, that they should be closely associated in our text with ‘God the Judge of all.’ Is there any hint there that men who have been redeemed, who being unjust, have been made just, and have had experience of restoration and of the misery of departure, shall, in the ultimate order of things, stand nearer the throne than unfallen spirits, and teach angels? If the ‘just man made perfect,’ and not the festal assembly of the angels, that are brought into connection here with ‘the Judge of all.’ Is there any hint that in some sense these perfected spirits are assessors of God in His great judgment? ‘Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,’ seems to point in that direction. But the ground is precarious, and I only point to the words in passing as possibly affording a foothold for a ‘perhaps.’

But the more important consideration is the real unity between poor souls here who are knit to Jesus Christ, and the spirits of the just made perfect who stand so close to the judgment seat.

Ah, brethren! we have to alter the meaning of the words ‘present’ and ‘absent’ when we come to speak of spiritual realities. The gross localized conceptions that are appropriate to material space, and to transitory time, have nothing to do with that higher religion. It is no mere piece of rhetoric or sentiment to say that where our treasure is, there are our hearts, and where our hearts are there are we.

Love has no localities. It knits together two between whom oceans wide roll; it knits together saints on earth and saints in heaven. To talk of place is irrelevant in reference to such a union; for if our love, our aims, our hopes be the same, we are together. And if they on the upper side, and we on the lower, grasp each the outstretched hand of the same God, then we are one in Him, and the same life will tingle through our earthly frames and through their perfected spirits. He is the centre of the great wheel whose spokes are light and blessedness; and all who stand around Him are brought into unity by their common relation to the centre.

Our sorrows would be less sorrowful, our loss less utter, if we truly believed that while apart we are still together. Our courage and our hope would rise if we came closer in loving contemplation and believing thought to the present blessedness of those once our fellow-travelers, who, weak as we, have entered into rest. Heaven itself would gain some touch of true attractiveness if we more clearly saw, and more thankfully felt, that there is

‘the Judge of all,’ and there also ‘the spirit of just men made perfect.’ But howsoever great may be the encouragement, the consolation, the quieting that come from them, let us turn away our eyes from the surrounding and lower seats to fix them on the central throne. Let us ever realise that we are ever in our great Judge’s eye. Let us spread out our hearts for His scrutiny and decision, for His discipline if need be. Let us commit to Him our cause, and, in the peace that comes therefrom, we may understand why it was that psalmists of old called upon earth to rejoice and the hills to be glad because He ‘cometh to judge the earth, to judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth.’Hebrews 12:23-24. To the general assembly — To the Christian Church, consisting of the whole number of true believers spread over all the world. The word πανηγυρις, here used, properly signifies a stated convention, upon some joyful and festival occasion: particularly it is applied to the concourse at the Olympic games; in which view it presents a very elegant and lively opposition to the case of the Israelites, who were struck with a general terror when they were convened before mount Sinai. And church of the firstborn — The whole body of true believers, consisting of converted Jews and Gentiles. The saints are called the firstborn, because under the law the firstborn were peculiarly appropriated to God, and heirs of a double honour and inheritance: and the saints are in a special manner devoted to God, are made his children by a gratuitous adoption, and entitled to the heavenly inheritance. Therefore they are said (Revelation 14:4) to be redeemed from among men, the first-fruits to God and the Lamb, being the most excellent of mankind, as the first-fruits were judged to be the best of the harvest. Which are written in heaven — The firstborn of Israel were enrolled by Moses in catalogues kept on earth, but these are registered in heaven as citizens of the New Jerusalem, and entitled to all the privileges and immunities of the church of God, whether militant or triumphant. See note on Philippians 3:23, and Php 4:3. And to God the Judge of all — Instead of standing afar off, as your fathers did at Sinai, you are allowed to draw near to God as to a friend and father, and to have intercourse and communion with him, who, as Judge of all, will reward you with a crown of glory, and inflict on your persecutors condign punishment. And to the spirits of just, or righteous, men made perfect — Namely, the spirits of the saints in paradise, with whom the saints on earth have communion by faith, hope, and love, and make up one body with them. These are said to be made perfect, because, being justified before God, and fully sanctified in their natures, they are completely holy; and being freed from all the infirmities of the body, are perfected in a much higher sense than any who are still on earth. Hence it is evident, says Whitby, “that the souls of just men are not reduced by death to a state of insensibility; for, can a soul that reasons and perceives good things be made perfect by perceiving nothing at all? Can a spirit, which here enjoyed the pleasures of a good conscience, of a life of faith, of communion with God, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost, be advanced to perfection by a total deprivation of all those satisfactions and enjoyments?” And to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant — Far exceeding that established with Israel of old by the mediation of Moses, a covenant founded on better promises, and ratified with unspeakably greater solemnity. And to the blood of sprinkling — To all the virtue of Christ’s precious blood shed for you, whereby you are sprinkled from an evil conscience. This blood of sprinkling was the foundation of our Lord’s mediatorial office. The expression is used in allusion both to the sprinkling of the Israelites with blood, when the covenant was made at Sinai, and to the sprinkling of the blood of the sin-offerings before the veil and on the mercy-seat. For the former sprinkling typified the efficacy of Christ’s blood in procuring the new covenant, and the latter its efficacy in procuring the pardon of sin, acceptance with God, his renewing Spirit, and all the other blessings of the gospel, for all them who believe in him with their hearts unto righteousness. That speaketh better things than the blood of Abel — For whereas Abel’s blood called for vengeance upon him that wickedly shed it, the blood of Jesus obtained mercy and salvation for his malicious and cruel murderers. This is the general interpretation of the clause. But Dr. Whitby, and some others, by the blood of Abel, understand not his own blood, which called for vengeance on his murderer, (see Genesis 4:10,) but the blood of the sacrifice which he offered in faith, of which God testified his acceptance, and by which, it is said, he being dead yet speaketh; understanding the sense to be, that the blood, or sacrifice, of Christ speaks, or procures, better things than Abel’s sacrifice, his procuring acceptance for himself alone, but Christ’s meriting it for all believers; his only declaring himself righteous, but Christ’s interceding to God for the justification of all men. But, as Doddridge observes, there is a harshness not easily to be paralleled in calling the blood of Abel’s sacrifice his blood. The other interpretation, therefore, seems preferable, as referring to the gentle and gracious character of Christ, and the blessings, instead of vengeance, drawn down by his blood. “There seems, throughout this whole period, to be a reference to the manifestation God made of himself upon mount Sion, as being milder than that upon mount Sinai. And the heavenly society with which Christians are incorporated is considered as resembling the former (that is, mount Sion) in those circumstances in which it was more amiable than the latter. Sion was the city of God. In the temple, which stood there, cherubim were the ornaments of the walls, both in the holy and most holy place, to signify the presence of angels. There was a general assembly and congregation of the priests, which were substituted instead of the firstborn, of whose names catalogues were kept. There was God, as the supreme Judge of controversies, giving forth his oracles. The high-priest was the mediator between God and Israel, (comp. Luke 1:8-10,) and the blood of sprinkling was daily used.” — Doddridge.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.To the general assembly - see the notes on Hebrews 12:22.

And church of the first-born - That is, you are united with the church of the first-born. They who were first-born among the Hebrews enjoyed special privileges, and especially pre-eminence of rank; see the notes on Colossians 1:15. The reference here is, evidently, to those saints who had been distinguished for their piety, and who may be supposed to be exalted to special honors in heaven - such as the patriarchs, prophets, martyrs. The meaning is, that by becoming Christians, we have become in fact identified with that happy and honored church, and that this is a powerful motive to induce us to persevere. It is a consideration which should make us adhere to our religion amidst all temptations and persecutions, that we are identified with the most eminently holy men who have lived, and that we are to share their honors and their joys. The Christian is united in feeling, in honor, and in destiny, with the excellent of all the earth, and of all times. He should feel it, therefore, an honor to be a Christian; he should yield to no temptation which would induce him to part from so goodly a fellowship.

Which are written in heaven - Margin, enrolled. The word here was employed by the Greeks to denote that one was enrolled as a citizen, or entitled to the privileges of citizenship. Here it means that the names of the persons referred to were registered or enrolled among the inhabitants of the heavenly world; see the notes, Luke 10:20.

And to God the Judge of all - God, who will pronounce the final sentence on all mankind. The object of the reference here to God as judge does not appear to be to contrast the condition of Christians with that of the Jews, as is the case in some of the circumstances alluded to, but to bring impressively before their minds the fact that they sustained a especially near relation to him from whom all were to receive their final allotment. As the destiny of all depended on him, they should be careful not to provoke his wrath. The design of the apostle seems to be to give a rapid glance of what there was in heaven, as disclosed by the eye of faith to the Christian, which should operate as a motive to induce him to persevere in his Christian course. The thought that seems to have struck his mind in regard to God was, that he would do right to all. They had, therefore, everything to fear if they revolted from him; they had everything to hope if they bore their trials with patience, and persevered to the end.

And to the spirits of just men made perfect - Not only to the more eminent saints - the "church of the firstborn" - but to "all" who were made perfect in heaven. They were not only united with the imperfect Christians on earth, but with those who have become completely delivered from sin, and admitted to the world of glory. This is a consideration which ought to influence the minds of all believers. They are even now united with "all" the redeemed in heaven. They should so live as not to be separated from them in the final day. Most Christians have among the redeemed already not a few of their most tenderly beloved friends. A father may be there; a mother, a sister, a smiling babe. It should be a powerful motive with us so to live as to be prepared to be reunited with them in heaven.

23. written in heaven—enrolled as citizens there. All those who at the coming of "God the Judge of all" (which clause therefore naturally follows), shall be found "written in heaven," that is, in the Lamb's book of life (Re 21:27). Though still fighting the good fight on earth, still, in respect to your destiny, and present life of faith which substantiates things hoped for, ye are already members of the heavenly citizenship. "We are one citizenship with angels; to which it is said in the psalm, Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God" [Augustine]. I think Alford wrong in restricting "the Church of the first-born written in heaven," to those militant on earth; it is rather, all those who at the Judge's coming shall be found written in heaven (the true patent of heavenly nobility; contrast "written in the earth," Jer 17:13, and Esau's profane sale of his birthright, Heb 12:16); these all, from the beginning to the end of the world, forming one Church to which every believer is already come. The first-born of Israel were "written" in a roll (Nu 3:40).

the spirits of just men made perfect—at the resurrection, when the "Judge" shall appear, and believers' bliss shall be consummated by the union of the glorified body with the spirit; the great hope of the New Testament (Ro 8:20-23; 1Th 4:16). The place of this clause after "the Judge of all," is my objection to Bengel and Alford's explanation, the souls of the just in their separate state perfected. Compare Notes, see on [2597]Heb 11:39, 40, to which he refers here, and which I think confirms my view; those heretofore spirits, but now to be perfected by being clothed upon with the body. Still the phrase, "spirits of just men made perfect," not merely "just men made perfect," may favor the reference to the happy spirits in their separate state. The Greek is not "the perfected spirits," but "the spirits of the perfected just." In no other passage are the just said to be perfected before the resurrection, and the completion of the full number of the elect (Re 6:11); I think, therefore, "spirits of the just," may here be used to express the just whose predominant element in their perfected state shall be spirit. So spirit and spirits are used of a man or men in the body, under the influence of the spirit, the opposite of flesh (Joh 3:6). The resurrection bodies of the saints shall be bodies in which the spirit shall altogether preponderate over the animal soul (see on [2598]1Co 15:44).

To the general assembly: other inhabitants of this heavenly city and polity with whom believers are incorporated, are such, into whose communion they have admittance here below, viz. to the catholic assembly of Christ, his whole body, the fulness of him who filleth all in all; all assembly gathered out of all nations, Revelation 5:9 7:9, throughout the world, extended to all times and ages, especially to that part of it which is on earth, sojourning here, fitting for heaven; the other part is triumphing in it. They are not called or incorporated only into a particular national assembly, a straitened society, as the Old Testament church was; the general assembly of saints are more helpful to holiness than a lesser, Psalm 22:27,28 Ga 4:25-27.

And church of the firstborn: this

general assembly is not a rout, but a

church, such as are called out of the world with a holy calling, subjecting themselves to Christ as their Head, and are, as quickened, so ordered and ruled by him: it is not a weak or an infant church, but strong and perfect, come unto maturity, in respect of the great discoveries of the mysteries of God made by Christ to them, Hebrews 5:12,13 6:1 Galatians 4:1,3,4. This chosen, called, and well ordered society, were only of such persons who were the first-born of God, and partners of Christ’s sonship and primogeniture, being regenerated by him, and dignified with his birthright privileges, Romans 8:17,29. They are the might and excellency of Christ; whereas the church at Sinai, for the body of them, were but typically, literally, and externally so, Exodus 4:22 Colossians 1:15,18, and did not universally enjoy, as those do, the strength and fulness of grace from God, John 1:16 Galatians 3:26,29; are joint-heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17, and made by him kings and priests to God and his Father, 1 Peter 2:5 Revelation 1:6.

Which are written in heaven: they were not, as the church at Sinai, of an earthly enrolment, registered here to know their families and descent, whether right Jews and priests or no, whose genealogy was preserved to that end, Ezra 2:43, &c.; but had their register in heaven, were written in the Lamb’s book of life, to be of heavenly descent, born of God, partakers of the Divine nature, and who had a right and title by faith in Christ to the heavenly inheritance, and were free denizens of it, Luke 10:20, and have all heavenly privileges derived to them, Luke 20:12,19 21:27. How obliging, influencing, and promoting are these privileges of every Christian’s pursuit of holiness!

And to God the Judge of all; they were as Christians privileged with an access, not as Israel had at Sinai, with fear, and terror, and trembling, so as to fly from the great Author, Lord, and Judge of the covenant, lest they died, as Exodus 20:18; but with liberty and boldness of faith, in the strength of love and with firmness of hope, they come now in Sion, Isaiah 59:20 Hebrews 10:19, unto God in his being and sovereignty, who ruleth all, and who giveth to all according to their works, and in a most eminent manner ruleth them; who, as he is their Judge, hath not, as at Sinai, any bars to keep them from him, Exodus 19:12 Ephesians 2:18, nor is terrifying and consuming, as then, Deu 5:24,25, but justifying them; full of grace and love to all approaching him in Christ, his throne is a throne of grace to them, he comforting and encouraging them to make home to him, John 5:22 Acts 10:22 Romans 3:6. So as they have boldness in the day of judgment, and stand unshaken before their Judge, and are strengthened by him, Romans 8:1,33,34 1Jo 4:17. He rewards them gloriously, 2 Timothy 2:8, perfecting holiness in them beneath, and crowning them with glory above. What a help is this to pursue holiness!

And to the spirits of just men made perfect: the perfect state to which the gospel covenant leadeth is promoting holiness, for they have an access to the same lot, and are come into the same way of being perfected in holiness, which the spirits of the righteous, separated from their bodies, enjoy in heaven; and have a right unto, and shall have the certain enjoyment of, the same privilege, which carrieth through all difficulties in the pursuit of it, expecting themselves by death to be put in possession with them of the same state, Romans 8:22,23 2 Corinthians 5:1,2,8; compare Philippians 3:12-14. To the general assembly,.... A "panegyris", the word here used, was a public and solemn assembly of the Greeks, either at their games, or feasts, or fairs, or on religious accounts; and signifies a large collection and convention of men; and sometimes the place where they met togethers (i); and is here used, by the apostle, for the church of God, consisting of all his elect, both Jews and Gentiles, and the meeting of them together: they met together, in the infinite mind of God, from all eternity; and in Christ, their head and representative, both then and in time; and at the last day, when they are all gathered in, they will meet together personally; and a joyful meeting it will be; and a very general one, more so than the assembly of the Jews, at any of their solemn feasts, to which the apostle may have some respect; since this will consist of some of all nations, that have lived in all places, and in all ages of time:

and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven; by the "church", is not meant any particular, or congregational church, nor any national one; but the church catholic, or universal, which consists only of God's elect, and of all of them, in all times and places; and reaches even to the saints in heaven: this church is invisible at present, and will never fail; of which Christ is the head, and for which he has given himself: now the persons, that belong to this church, are styled the "firstborn"; who are not the apostles only, who received the first fruits of the Spirit; nor the first converts among the Jews, who first trusted in Christ; but also the chosen of God, who are equally the sons of God, and born of him; are equally loved by him, and equally united to Christ, and interested in him: they have the same privileges, honours, and dignity, and shall enjoy the same inheritance; they are all firstborn, and are so called, with respect to the angels, the sons of God, as Christ is with respect to the saints, the many brethren of his: and these are said to be "written in heaven"; not in the earth, Jeremiah 17:13, such writing abides not; nor in the book of the Scriptures, for the names of all are not written there; nor in the general book of God's decrees, which relate to all mankind; but in the Lamb's book of life, kept in heaven; and is no other than their election of God: and this way of speaking, concerning it, shows it to be personal and particular; that it is firm, sure, and constant; that it is out of the reach of men and devils to erase it; it denotes the exact knowledge God has of them, and expresses their right to heaven, and the certainty of their coming there: now all such, who are truly come to Sion, are openly come to this assembly and church, and appear to be a part thereof, and are among the firstborn, and have their names written in heaven:

and to God the Judge of all: the Ethiopic version reads, "the Judge of righteousness", or the righteous Judge: some think that Christ is here meant; who is truly and properly God, and is the Judge: all judgment is committed to him; he is Judge of all; he is ordained Judge of quick and dead; for which he would not have been fit, had he not been God: true believers come to him by faith, and that, as their Judge, King, and Governor; and it is their privilege, that Christ is and will be the Judge of all at the last day and hence is his coming to judgment desirable to them. But since Christ is spoken of in the next verse, as a distinct person, to whom the saints come, God the Father seems rather to be designed here: and it is one of the privileges of the saints, in the present life, that they have access to God: all men are at a distance from him, in a state of nature; and they naturally run further and further from him, and have no desire after him; and, when they are made sensible of sin, they are afraid and ashamed to come to him; nor is there any coming to God, but through Christ; and this is a fruit of God's everlasting love, what follows upon electing grace, is an effect of Christ's death, and owing to the quickening grace of the Spirit; it is performed in a spiritual way, and is by faith; it is a coming to the throne of God, even to his seat, to communion with him, and to a participation of his grace: and it is their privilege that they have access to him as the Judge of all; not only as a Father, and as the God of all grace, but as a Judge, and a righteous one, to whom they can come without terror; for though he is just, yet he is a Saviour, and the justifier of his people, on account of the righteousness of his Son; whose sins he pardons in a way of justice, through the blood of Christ; and is their patron, protector, and defender, who will right their wrongs, and avenge their cause:

and to the spirits of just men made perfect; which may be understood of the saints on earth, who are "just men"; not naturally, for so no man is, but the reverse; nor in opinion only, or merely externally, as the Scribes and Pharisees were; nor by the deeds of the law; nor by obedience to the Gospel; nor by faith, either as wrought in them, or done by them, though by the object of it; nor by an infusion of righteousness into them; but by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto them: and these are "made perfect"; not as to sanctification, unless in Christ, or in a comparative sense, and with respect to the parts of the new man, but not as to degrees; for no man is without sin, and the best stand in need of fresh supplies of grace; but as to justification, Christ has perfectly fulfilled the law for them, and has perfectly expiated their sins, and perfectly redeemed them from all sin, and has procured a full pardon of them; and they are completely righteous through his righteousness; and the "spirits", or souls of these are only mentioned, because the communion of saints in a Gospel church state lies chiefly in the souls and spirits of each other, or in spiritual things relating to their souls; and their souls are greatly affected, and knit to each other: though the saints in heaven may be here intended, at least included; whose spirits or soul's are separate from their bodies; and they are the souls of just men, for none but such enter into the kingdom of heaven; where they are made perfect in knowledge and holiness, in peace and joy; though they have not their bodies, nor as yet all the saints with them. Now, believers, in the present state of things, may be said to be come to them, being come to the Church below, which is a part of that above; as also in hope, expectation, and desire. The apostle seems to have respect to some distinctions among the Jews: they divide mankind into three sorts; some are perfectly wicked; and some are perfectly righteous; and there are others that are between both (k): they often speak of , "just men perfect" (l); and distinguish between a just man perfect, and a just man that is not perfect (m); as they do also between penitents and just men perfect; See Gill on Luke 15:7.

(i) Vid. Philostrat. Vita Apollen. l. 8. c. 7. (k) T. Hieros. Roshhashanah, fol. 57. 1. & T. Bab. Roshhashanah, fol. 16. 2. Derech Eretz, fol. 19. 4. (l) Zohar in Gen. fol. 28. 2. & 29. 1. & 39. 3. T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 18. 2. & Roshbahanah, fol. 4. 1. Pesachim, fol. 8. 1. 2. (m) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 6. 2. & Avoda Zora, fol. 4. 1.

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made {k} perfect,

(k) So he calls them that are taken up to heaven, although one part of them sleeps in the earth.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 12:23. Πανηγύρει καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων, ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς] to the festive assembly and congregation of the first-born, who are enrolled in heaven, πανήγυρις, in the N. T. a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, designates the total gathering under the form of conception of a being gathered together in festivity and jubilant joy [cf. Joseph. Antt. v. 2. 12]; whereas ἐκκλησία characterizes those assembled as bound together in inner unity. To be enrolled in heaven, however, signifies to stand recorded upon the book of heaven’s citizens, or to have part in the rights and privileges of the heavenly citizens. From the connection (προσεληλύθατε Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἐπουρανίῳ καὶ μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων) beings must be intended, who already dwell in heaven, are actually in possession of the civil rights and immunities of heaven, not those by whom the enjoyment of the same is only to be looked for in the future. Since, then, they are by means of πρωτότοκοι represented as those who in point of time first (before others as yet) became sons of God, we have to think most naturally, with Calvin, Bengel, Chr. Fr. Schmid, Woerner, and others, of the patriarchs and saints of the Old Covenant (comp. chap. 11), who, it is true only upon the condition of union with Christ (Hebrews 11:40), but yet by reason of their filial relation to God, did, in a temporal respect before the Christians, receive a dwelling-place and rights of citizenship in heaven. According to Nösselt, Storr, Kurtz, and others, we have to understand by the πρωτότοκοι, still the angels before mentioned, as being the earliest inhabitants of heaven; but for the designation of the angels, the characteristic ἀπογεγραμμένοι ἐν οὐρανοῖς is unsuitable. The majority discover in πρωτότοκοι a reference to the Christians; and that either, as Primasius and Grotius suppose, specially to the apostles—against which, however, stands πανηγύρει καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ, which involves the idea of a great host; or, as Schlichting, J. L. Mosheim (de ecclesia primogenitorum in coelo adscriptorum, Helmst. 1733, 4to), Schulz, Bleek, Ebrard, and others, to the first believers from among the Jews and Gentiles, particularly the former, quite apart from the question of their being now dead or still living; or, as Knapp, Böhme. Kuinoel, Tholuck, Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr p. 117), Alford, Hofmann (Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 147, 2 Aufl.), Moll, and others, specially to the church which is still upon earth, so that in connection with πρωτότοκοι we have to hold fast only to the particular fact of the dignity, while we retain no reference to time; or, as de Wette and Maier, specially to those who have fallen asleep in the faith of Christ, and perhaps even were glorified by martyrdom; or finally, as Piscator, Owen, Carpzov, Stein, Stuart, Stengel, and others, to the members of the New Covenant in general. But the thought of Christians in this place is a remote one; since the mention of them, in harmony with the order of relating now chosen, would more naturally take place only later, in connection with the mention of Christ Himself, and not already here, between that of the angels and God.

καὶ κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων] and to Him as Judge, who is God over all. πάντων is usually construed with κριτῇ. But from its position it can depend only upon θεῷ. πάντων is masculine, and refers not merely—as Knapp and Bleek suppose—to the fore-mentioned angels and πρωτότοκοι. It stands absolutely; so that God, in delicate opposition to the Jewish particularism, is characterized as in general the God of all. The apparently unsuitable characterization of God in this connection (because one containing nothing specifically Christian), namely, as the Judge, is justified from the aim of the writer, to warn the readers against laxity of morals, and consequently against apostasy from Christianity (comp. Hebrews 12:25; Hebrews 12:29).

καὶ πνεύμασιν δικαίων τετελειωμένων] and to the spirits of the perfected just ones. πνεύματα: designation of the departed spirits, as divested of the body (comp. 1 Peter 3:19; Luke 24:39; Acts 7:59), inasmuch as these only at the resurrection will be clothed with a new body. Most probably the Christians fallen asleep are those meant (Grotius, Mosheim, Bengel, Sykes, Baumgarten, Chr. Ft. Schmid, Storr, and many). Others, as Corn. a Lapide, Schlichting, Wittich, Wolf, Schulz, Bleek, de Wette, Ebrard, Maier, think of the saints of the O. T. (chap, 11); or, as Knapp, Böhme, Tholuck, Bisping, Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 122), Alford, Moll, Kurtz, alike of the departed saints of the O. T. and those of the New. The δίκαιοι, however, are called τετελειωμένοι, not in the sense of the “perfect just ones” (Theophylact, Luther, Stengel, al.),—for which the expression τέλειοι would much more naturally have presented itself,—nor yet because they have finished their life’s course and overcome the weaknesses and imperfections of the earthly life (Calvin, Limborch, Böhme, Kuinoel, Kurtz, and others), but because they have already been brought by Christ to the goal of consummation. Comp. Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 11:40.23. to the general assembly] The word Pançguris means a general festive assembly, as in Song of Solomon 6:13 (LXX.). It has been questioned whether both clauses refer to Angels—“To myriads of Angels, a Festal Assembly, and Church of Firstborn enrolled in Heaven”—or whether two classes of the Blessed are intended, viz. “To myriads of Angels, (and) to a Festal Assembly and Church of Firstborn.” The absence of “and” before Pançguris makes this latter construction doubtful, and the first construction is untenable because the Angels are never called in the N.T. either “a Church” (but see Psalm 89:5) or “Firstborn.” On the whole the best and simplest way of taking the text seems to be “But ye have come … to Myriads—a Festal Assembly of Angels—and to the Church of the Firstborn … and to spirits of the Just who have been perfected.”

and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven] Rather, “who have been enrolled in heaven.” This refers to the Church of living Christians, to whom the Angels are “ministering spirits,” and whose names, though they are still living on earth, have been enrolled in the heavenly registers (Luke 10:20; Romans 8:16; Romans 8:29; James 1:18) as “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” unto God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4). These, like Jacob, have inherited the privileges of firstborn which the Jews, like Esau, have rejected.

to God the Judge of all] Into whose hands, rather than into the hands of man, it is a blessing to fall, because He is “the righteous Judge” (2 Timothy 4:8).

and to the spirits of just men made perfect] That is, to saints now glorified and perfected—i.e. brought to the consummation of their course—in heaven (Revelation 7:14-17). This has been interpreted only of the glorified saints of the Old Covenant, but there is no reason to confine it to them. The writer tells the Hebrews that they have come not to a flaming hill, and a thunderous darkness, and a terror-stricken multitude, but to Mount Sion and the Heavenly Jerusalem, where they will be united with the Angels of joy and mercy (Luke 15:10), with the happy Church of living Saints, and with the spirits of the Just made perfect. The three clauses give us a beautiful conception of “the Communion of the Saints above and the Church below” with myriads of Angels united in a Festal throng, in a Heaven now ideally existent and soon to be actually realised.Hebrews 12:23. Καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἐν οὐρανοῖς ἀπογεγραμμένων, and to the church of the first-born that are written in heaven) The sons of GOD, of the ages that preceded the first coming of Christ, and the believing Israelites, come under the denomination of the first-born; Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9; Ephesians 1:12; especially the patriarchs, Matthew 8:11, and those who first attended Him who rose as the First-born from the dead, Matthew 27:53, as well as also the rest, so to say, of the ordinary flock. The church or assembly consists of these, as the general assembly consists of the angels.[81] The first-born in the time of Moses were written (in a roll), Numbers 3:40; but these, of whom the apostle speaks, are written in heaven, because they are citizens of the heavenly city: comp. ἀπογράφεσθαι, to be enrolled (written in a roll), Luke 2:1. Hence it is plain, that it does not follow on this account that they themselves are not in heaven, because they are written in heaven. They are, however, also written [as well as being actually in heaven], that their names may be at some future period publicly read over: Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27. The antithesis, made perfect, is a sweet antithesis to these first-born; for the van of the host of the blessed is led by the one, the rear is brought up (is closed) by the other. Finally, it is remarkable that these first-born in the Gradation are more nearly connected with the mention of GOD, than the angels; comp. Jam 1:18.—καὶ κριτῇ Θεῷ πάντων, and to God the Judge of all) He is the GOD of all, Ephesians 4:6 : your Judge, favourable to you, opposed to His enemies.—καὶ πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένων, and to the spirits of just men made perfect) In this last place, the apostle enumerates the things which more gently affect and refresh the eyes of travellers, dazzled with the splendour of the economy of God, and which are derived from the economy of Christ. The spirits, souls in the separate state, 1 Peter 3:19. The three young men [Ananias, Azarias, Misael], in their song, exclaim: “O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, bless ye the Lord.” The just made perfect are New Testament believers, who enjoy, after their death, the full benefit of the perfection which was consummated by the death of Christ, and of the righteousness derived from it: comp. ch. Hebrews 11:40, note. The number of these was still imperfect; and for this reason also they have been separated from the ten thousands, and therefore from the first-born. Why the first-born, and the spirits of just men made perfect, are separated in the description, will be evident from the train of thought which will be presently unfolded. While Paul himself is alive, he declares that he is not perfect, Php 3:12 : for the verb, τετέλεκα, has one reference, 2 Timothy 4:7; the verb, ΤΕΛΕΙΟῦΜΑΙ, has another. The former refers to the office, the latter to the person. ΤΕΛΕΙΟῦΜΑΙ does not apply so long as a man has yet even one step before him, although now (at this point) he may make no more progress in his internal perfection. Christ Himself was ΤΕΛΕΙΩΘΕἸς, made perfect, at death: Hebrews 5:9. In the 2d to Timothy, Paul congratulates himself on having finished his course. In the Epistle to the Philippians, he urges them to engage with alacrity in the race; and with that object before him, he makes himself one who is yet far from the goal: comp. Hebrews 3:14, note.

[81] Or else, For there is a church or assembly of them, as there is a general assembly of angels.—ED.To the general assembly (πανηγύρει)

Const. with ἀγγέλων of angels, with comma after angels. Rend. "to a festal assembly of angels." This and the next clause show what the myriads consist of, - a host of angels and redeemed men. Πανήγυρις, N.T.o , is a gathering to celebrate a solemnity, as public games, etc.: a public, festal assembly. Frequently joined with ἑορτή feast. See Ezekiel 47:11; Hosea 2:11; Hosea 9:5. The verb πανηγυρίζειν to celebrate or attend a public festival, to keep holiday, occurs occasionally in Class.: not in N.T.: lxx once, Isaiah 66:10. The festal assembly of angels maintains the contrast between the old and the new dispensation. The host of angels through whose ministration the law was given (see on Hebrews 2:2, and see on Galatians 3:19) officiated at a scene of terror. Christian believers are now introduced to a festal host, surrounding the exalted Son of man, who has purged away sins, and is enthroned at God's right hand (Hebrews 1:3).

And church of the first-born which are written in heaven (καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς)

This forms a distinct clause; "and to the church," etc. For ἐκκλησία assembly or church, see on Matthew 16:18; see on 1 Thessalonians 1:1. The "myriads" embrace not only angels, but redeemed men, enrolled as citizens of the heavenly commonwealth, and entitled to the rights and privileges of first-born sons. Πρωτότοκος first-born is applied mostly to Christ in N.T. See Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5. Comp. Hebrews 11:28, and Luke 2:7. Properly applied to Christians by virtue of their union with Christ, "the first-born of all creation," "the first-born from the dead," as sharing his sonship and heirship. See Romans 8:14-17, Romans 8:29. The word also points to Christians as the true Israel of God. The analogy is suggested with the first-born of Israel, to whom peculiar sanctity attached, and whose consecration to himself God enjoined (Exodus 13:1, Exodus 13:11-16); and with the further application of the term first-born to Israel as a people, Exodus 4:22. The way was thus prepared for its application to the Messiah. There seems, moreover, to be a clear reference to the case of Esau (Hebrews 12:16). Esau was the first-born of the twin sons of Isaac (Genesis 25:25). He sold his birthright (πρωτοτοκία), and thus forfeited the privilege of the first-born. The assembly to which Christian believers are introduced is composed of those who have not thus parted with their birthright, but have retained the privileges of the first-born. The phrase "church of the first-born" includes all who have possessed and retained their heavenly birthright, living or dead, of both dispensations: the whole Israel of God, although it is quite likely that the Christian church may have been most prominent in the writer's thought.

Which are written in heaven (ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς)

Ἁπογράφειν, only here and Luke 2:1, Luke 2:3, Luke 2:5, means to write off or copy; to enter in a register the names, property, and income of men. Hence, ἀπογραφή an enrollment. See on Luke 2:1, Luke 2:2. Here, inscribed as members of the heavenly commonwealth; citizens of heaven; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8, etc. See for the image, Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20.

To God the judge of all (κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων)

Rend. "a judge who is God of all." Comp. Daniel 7:9 ff. God of all his first-born, of those whom he chastens, of all who are in filial relations with him under both covenants, and who, therefore, need not fear to draw near to him as judge.

Spirits of just men made perfect (πνεύμασι δικαίων)

The departed spirits of the righteous of both dispensations, who have completed their course after having undergone their earthly discipline. Notice again the idea of τελείωσις, not attained under the old covenant, but only through the work of Christ, the benefits of which the disembodied saints of the O.T. share with departed Christian believers. Comp. Hebrews 11:40.

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