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Lowell Brueckner

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The New Testament Inheritance


 (An expository study of the book of Hebrews)

 Chapter 12, part 2

 12. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,

13. and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

14. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

15. looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

16. lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.

17. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.


Healing preferred instead of removal

 The therefore that starts verse 12 connects with the first verse in this chapter. Let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Therefore… It is very obvious that the Holy Spirit is using parts of the body to illustrate the condition of the church… the Hebrew church, first of all, but then, whatever church that can be found in the same situation that they were in. He is still speaking of a spiritual marathon.

 In verse 1, we have another quote from the Old Testament; this one is Isaiah 35:3 and a few years ago, I commented on this chapter 35:  Because the book of Hebrews applies this promise to its readers, this principle lives throughout the church age. Discipline may fall heavily upon man’s spirit, but the final, godly intention is to bring healing. The ministry of Isaiah cannot be estranged from his character. His name is Isaiah, God is salvation, and therefore his message speaks to the anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you” (Is.35:4). He would come in the person of Jesus Christ and “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Is.35:5,6)”.


 The elbows must be bent and the arms and hands must be in the proper position in order to run successfully. The knees must be strong and the feet cannot stagger from side to side. As the body presses forward to the prize, it is the will of God for any member that is ailing and hindering it, be healed and not that it be removed. It is the good will of God that He not lose one member (13).

 Pursue peace, the writer commands. A good question for our day, after having celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, is whether there can be peace between Calvinists and Arminians. I have a short article containing questions put to the Arminian, John Wesley, from a Calvinist, Charles Simeon, including the following: “‘Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?’ To which Wesley responded, ‘Yes, I do indeed.’” After posing several other questions, upon which Simeon found that he and Wesley were in agreement, he concluded: “Instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.” Simeon pursued peace with Wesley and found it. 

The practical holiness, which the Christian pursues, cannot reach perfection on this earth. What, then, is the holiness, which he must possess in order to see the Lord? It is the holiness of the new heart… a perfect heart attitude, received by new birth (14). John says, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 Jn.3:2,3).

 Concerning verse 15, John Wesley comments: “Lest any, not following after holiness, fall. In general, any corruption, either in doctrine or practice, is a root of bitterness and may pollute many.” This bitterness is not necessarily an attitude, as we use the word today, but is again a principle in the Old Testament, taken from Deuteronomy 29:18. “That there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood.” Moses is speaking of idolatry as a poisonous root.

 To fall short of the grace of God means to function upon human power and understanding. It will lead to a yen for the temporal and immediate, and a lack of appreciation for the eternal. We don’t read anything of literal fornication in the account of Esau, but he had the heart of a fornicator (16). A fornicator does not wait for marriage, but demands immediate sexual enjoyment. Esau indulged his flesh in an immediate stew and sold his future birthright in order to get it (Gen.25:29-34). Yet later, he still wanted the blessing of his father, but he could not have it.

 When Isaac faced the truth, the account states that he “trembled exceedingly”. Here is Esau’s reaction: “When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry” (Gen.27:32-34).What he sought diligently with tears was the blessing, not repentance (17). The doctrine of “here and now Christianity”, which some teachers put forth, is not compatible with seeking “those things which are above” (Col.3:1), which are spiritual and eternal. The exchange of the temporal for the eternal will one day bring a terrible remorse.

 18. For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,

19. and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.

20. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.”

21. And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

22. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,

23. to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God and Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.

24. to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.


Mount Sinai and Mount Zion

The mountain that the writer is describing was Sinai, a mountain that could be touched. A few verses later, we find out that it wasn’t very wise to touch it; but what the writer is conveying is a scene, which involved the world of the senses. In fact, in the entire book, he has been weighing the untouchable against the touchable… a physical priesthood, a visible tabernacle, and a touchable mountain against the invisible, spiritual and eternal. They saw fire and darkness (18). They heard a sound and a voice (19) and they were warned not to touch the mountain. Even if an animal touched it, it was stoned or shot.

 The people were overwhelmed and begged not to hear more (20). The commandments were beyond human ability to perform. To those, including Moses, who physically experienced the giving of the divine law, which came upon Mt. Sinai, it brought extreme fear and trembling (21). To this day, it brings the same to the sinner and drives him to the cross, so that he might become a partaker of the gospel, the eternal and unshakable.

 Mt. Sinai is the birthplace of the Law, but Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, which is above, is the homeland of the Christian. “The Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all,” the apostle Paul states in Galatians 4:26. It is the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the city that Abraham saw with the eyes of his heart and taught Isaac and Jacob to be pilgrims and foreigners on this earth.

 In the next chapter, the Holy Spirit will declare, “Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Heb.13:14). Please, let us take these words from Paul to heart and live accordingly: “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Php.3:20). It is true that this place does not move the senses; it cannot be seen, heard, or touched, but faith makes it more real to the heart, than the physical senses can discern. Shame on the believer, who has put down roots into earthly soil, during the few years, in which he passes through this world.

 Let us look more closely into the Christian inheritance. The commentators insist that it is a happy, festive environment. The heavenly city of God is the home of an innumerable company of angels. The only place where I find an attempt to number them is in Revelation 5:11: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne… and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” Try to enumerate them mathematically, if you will, but the Hebrews writer leaves it at innumerable, and I think that is also John’s intention in Revelation.

 They are around the throne and they surround the saints: “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Ps.34:7). When surrounded by an enemy army, Elisha’s servant had his eyes opened, so that he could see them: “The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 K.6:17). Believe me, there are enough for every situation, in which the saints find themselves (22).

 We have come to the general assembly and church of the firstborn. Here is Strong’s Greek definition for the general assembly: A mass meeting, that is universal companionship. Synonymous with the assembly is the church, according to Strong again: The ekklesia, a calling out, that is, a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation… a Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both – assembly, church. I read nothing here of any denomination or name besides, which a Christian may be called. We have been called out of the world in order to belong to this universal companionship and community of members on earth. There are no subdivisions or subtitles. All such belong to men and are not the intentions of God.

 The firstborn is a principle brought up from the Old Testament, when Israel was called out of Egypt. Because all the firstborn of Egypt died and only the houses with lintels, covered with blood from a slain lamb, could not be penetrated by the death angel, the firstborn in every Israelite house was saved. Because of that salvation, God said that the firstborn belonged entirely to him. Moses made a full count of the firstborn of Israel (Nu.3:40,42). Every member of the church has been called out to belong entirely to God and their birth certificates are registered in heaven. James 1:18 says, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

 We have come to God, the righteous judge of all, who makes a clear distinction between the just and the unjust. Abraham knew His righteous judgment and said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” In Psalms 1, the just man is like a tree planted by the waters and the ungodly are like the chaff, driven by the wind. He stands to judge at the death of every human being and appoints them their destiny in paradise or in the flames of hell, as we learned in chapter 9:27: “As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

 We learned from Strong’s definition of the church that it is made up of members on earth and in heaven. The body of believers is not only universal, but it is also made up of the saints of all ages. They are described in verse 23 as the spirits of just men made perfect. They are all one body with the saints on earth. These are the triumphant church, already admitted to the glory of heaven. We are familiar with some, who have gone before us into the presence of God, but we should become more familiar with others, by studying church history. They have prepared the way for us.

 We are in the New Covenant with Jesus as our Mediator. He is at the right hand of the Father, interceding as High Priest. The idea of the sprinkling of blood is, again, brought forward from the Old Testament. The blood of the sacrificed animals was sprinkled upon everything that had to do with God’s people and their service. Under the New Testament, the blood of the Lamb is sprinkled upon every believer and that fact is most significant. It is a continual reminder of the sacrifice of Christ. Nothing can touch the saint, who is sprinkled by the blood of Christ. By His blood, we are accepted by the Father and have access to His presence. It is the sign that we do not stand alone, but in Christ, and He “became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Co.1:30).

 The blood of Abel cried to God from the ground for vengeance. It screamed in God’s ears and He could not ignore it: “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground,” He said to Cain (Gen.4:10). The blood of Christ called for forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk.23:34). It cries out for redemption, reconciliation, propitiation and justification and cannot be ignored (24).  

 25. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,

26. whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”

27. Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

29. For our God is a consuming fire.


A final shaking

 The New Covenant, into which we have just looked, not only speaks of mighty salvation and greater things, than those of the Old, but it also speaks of more severe consequences for those who refuse to listen. The Old Covenant came through visible means, as we have seen, and through man’s physical senses, but the New comes to us from heaven and speaks of the invisible, spiritual and eternal things (25),

 Mt. Sinai shook, when the presence of God came upon it and spoke: “Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Ex.19:18). A word of prophecy comes to us from more than one source in the Old Testament. It is in Isaiah 13:13, Joel 3:16 and Haggai 2:6-7.

 The writer quotes here, speaking of a terrible shaking of heaven and earth. The same gospel, which when heeded, brings forth eternal salvation; when it is refused, it brings eternal damnation, to which nothing that happened from Mt. Sinai can be compared (26). It is superior to the types and figures of the Old Testament. “This is it!” as we say. Nothing that preceded it is comparable. It is described in Revelation 6:15-16: “The kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

 The inspired writer emphasizes yet once more, which indicates a total devastation, so that no other need follow. It will be once for all, thorough and complete. Its purpose will be to remove everything that is shakable. As before the foundations of the earth, the spiritual things, which brought the created, material things into being, will prevail.  Already it begins to shake, and judgment is imminent. 

 It strikes fear to the kingdoms of this earth, but it brings consolation to those, who have built upon the firm foundation of God and His Messiah. That will remain forever (27). Let us have grace, because grace gives us appreciation for the wonder of all, into which we have entered. By God’s grace, we can see the invisible and look into future reality. Only by grace can we serve God acceptably, because that ability is never found in anything human or synthetic. God’s grace provides the motivation of reverence and godly fear. We need the teaching of the Holy Spirit in order to understand these divine attributes. Human comprehension of them will bring dread and cause repulsion, but in the care of the Spirit, they are healthy and sane and provide a pleasant environment in order to better serve God (28).

 When Elijah challenged the people on Mount Carmel, he proposed that the God, who answered by fire, would be recognized as the true God. The people understood that it was a legitimate test and so it was (1 K.18:21-24). God has many times manifested Himself in fire. Fire fell upon David's altar in the field of Ornan. He appeared to Moses in a flaming bush, and fire fell from heaven twice upon sacrifices. Once it happened before the tabernacle in the wilderness and again in front of Solomon’s temple. God gave commandment that this fire should never go out, but be maintained day and night.

 John the Baptist proclaimed that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt.3:11). On the day of Pentecost, He appeared in flames of fire. Nothing resists fire; it consumes everything that it touches. The disciples were transformed and empowered by heavenly fire. In Mexico, where we lived, the people set fire to the entire countryside once a year. No pesticides were needed; all the insects were destroyed. The effect was intense upon the entire territory. I used to fly over 11,000 feet in order to maintain visibility. Jesus will return one day, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes.1:8). The heavens and the earth that exist today will one day go up in flames (2 P.3:10). Our God is a consuming fire (29).












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