Many recognize the film “Back to the Future” from years ago. It became the highest-grossing film of 1985 and an international phenomenon, leading to a second and third films of the same type. What many do not know is that it was unceremoniously rejected forty times before coming to the big screen. The reason for its slow-release date was the notion that movies that were based on time travel generally did not do well in the box office, or so they thought anyway.
The portion from Hebrews 12:18 -29 covers a sequence of events that spans the past, Mt. Sinai and the giving of the law from vv.18-21, then to the early Church Believer in the 1st century from vv.22-25, and to the future where God’s Kingdom is complete from vv.26-29. So, strap up and let us become time travellers to look in on the huge gathering of Israelites at the base of Mt Sinai where a sense of dread looms over them.
While God is speaking, a wall of sounds and startling effects pour out over the mountain so that the developing scene was so foreboding and terrifying that the Israelites could no longer endure it and begged for it to end. Before them, the lesson could not have been clearer: God’s Majestic Holiness is so great that no living being could possibly stand before God on their own merit. None were even allowed to touch the mountain, nor any animal for that matter. If such a thing were to happen death by stoning was required (v.20). Natural man in his self-righteous state cannot approach God. So then what is to be done? Since the law cannot save, is man lost forever? For the O.T. people the answer rested in the fact that God’s promise of deliverance would be realized at some point. They had faith and while the O.T. people could not know all there was to know about salvation as did the early Christians of the New Testament, still these ancient people were expected like everyone else to place their trust in God and His promise of a Messiah.
In verses 22-25 the author speaks of a second mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem, surrounded this time not by terror and darkness but by countless angels, fellow believers, God who judges, Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant – all these are in the midst of this heavenly place in heaven: quite a joyful setting in contrast to the dreadful scene we saw earlier on Mt. Sinai! This shows us the privileges that are ours as N.T. believers; we are blessed to experience the fullness of salvation and have been given direct access to God through Christ His Son.
The remaining verses from 26 – 29 include a warning about the certainty of divine wrath (judgment, mine) and not being able to escape it. He concludes by pointing to a kingdom that is to come, yet already partly here (v.28). New Testament Christians now enjoy an eternal and immovable kingdom. As such our response to God should be one of gratefulness and reverence for the great privilege it is to be found in His Kingdom under the New Covenant.