But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
After having warned the early church to not fail to obtain God’s grace and exhorting them to avoid sins like bitterness, sexual immorality, and unholiness (Hebrews 12:15-17), God now gives them reason to hope. Harkening back to Israel’s terrifying encounter with God at Mount Sinai, the Hebrew writer reminds Christians, “For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and good and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’” (vs. 18-21). Due to God revealing his power and his laws at Sinai in the midst of what were likely an erupting volcano, an eclipse, deep mists, and a terrible storm (Exodus 19:16-19; 20:18; Deuteronomy 4:11; 5:22), the command had been given that the mountain could not be touched by no one, not even an animal (Exodus 19:12-13). The entire event was so frightening that even Moses was afraid (Deuteronomy 9:19).
Yet such is not the case for Christians. We have not encountered God in such a frightening situation that requires us to stand far off from him in fear. Instead, as God describes in verses 22-24 quoted above, in a spiritual sense we have come to a mountain that encourages us to draw closer to God: Mount Zion. Literally, Zion was originally a Jebusite stronghold in Jerusalem that would eventually come to symbolize the center of Israel’s government, economy, and culture (2 Samuel 5:6ff; 1 Chronicles 11:4ff). Much like Washington is spoken of today by Americans, the term “Zion” came to refer to Jerusalem. Isaiah and the Psalmist also used the term symbolically to refer to the heavenly Jerusalem where God dwells (Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 2:6). The writer of Revelation used the term in the same way (Revelation 14:1), as does the Hebrew author here.
He tells Christians that they have come to “Mount Zion,” correlating it with God’s “city,” “the heavenly Jerusalem” for which the Old Testament giants of faith had longed (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16) and for which Christians likewise pine and will one day enter (Hebrews 13:14; cf. Revelation 3:12; 21:2ff; 22:14). Christians have also come to “innumerable angels,” celestial servants who minister to them in ways not revealed (Hebrews 1:14). The Hebrew author then reminds Christians that they have also come to be part of “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” The term “church” in the original Greek literally means “assembly.” Christ is continually referred to as the “firstborn” (cf. Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18). Thus, Christians are part of the church of Christ, and their names are enrolled in heaven’s registry, the Book of Life (cf. Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5).
Most importantly, Christians have come to God himself, “the judge of all” (cf. Genesis 18:25; 2 Corinthians 5:10). They join “the spirits of the righteous,” those who had died in a righteous state due to being forgiven by the grace of God due to the blood of Jesus and are now “made perfect.” Christians have also come to Jesus, the One who by dying on a cross mediated “the new covenant” which we call the New Testament (cf. Hebrews 8:6; 9:15). Thankfully, they have also encountered his blood. As the Hebrew author had earlier mentioned, Abel’s murdered blood “still speaks” to us (Hebrews 11:4). Yet Jesus’ blood has a much better message: the gospel of forgiveness and hope!
Old Testament Israel met God at a mountain and quaked in fear, receiving a covenant that was designed not to redeem them but to ultimately lead them to their Redeemer, Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:24). How wonderful it is that New Testament Christians have met God under much better circumstances. What a wonderful privilege it is to be part of the church of Christ, the firstborn!