For you are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor to blackness, and darkness, and tempest,…
I. FAITH PLANTS US AT THE VERY BAR OF GOD. 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 to the permanent attitude of our spirits, the awe which is the very opposite of the cowering dread which hath torment. Then, again, notice that this judgment of God is on e 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 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 of 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. 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.
II. 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 rising in the writer's mind there rises also the thought of the blessed company in the centre of whom He lives and reigns. "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 organisation. 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 distinct reference, as I suppose, to his previous declaration. From which I infer 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 were 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, had " slept in Jesus." They have reached their goal in Him. 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 of 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 lapt 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 that they should be closely associated in our text with " God the Judge of all." Is there any hint 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?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,