PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|The Discipline of the Lord||The Race of Faith||Exhortations and Warnings||God our Father||The Examples of Jesus Christ|
|The Discipline of God|
|12:4-11||God's Fatherly Instruction|
|Warning Against Rejecting God's Grace||Unfaithfulness is Punished|
|The Glorious Company||The Two Covenants|
|Hear the Heavenly Voice||12:22-24|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 12:1-2
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
12:1 "Therefore" Verse 1 is an unusual triple compound (toigaroun) found only here and in I Thess. 4:8. Based on the preceding examples of faithfulness, the readers are to live godly lives that help and encourage others.
▣ "cloud" "Cloud" is often used metaphorically in Greek literature of a group of people (cf. Herodotus VIII.109).
▣ "witnesses" This term can mean
1. a legal witness in court
2. someone who shares what they have seen, known, or experienced
3. someone who has been killed (martyred) for their faith in Christ
4. metaphorical expression of the examples of faith in chapter 11
Because of the context of chapter 11 it seems best to view this verse not as teaching that "they" watch us, but that we are to look to their lives of faithfulness as examples to follow (NASB Study Bible, p. 1798). This verse is often used, I think, incorrectly, to support the view that our believing-dead loved ones in heaven observe our lives on earth. Believers will surely know each other and be reunited in fellowship on Resurrection Day, but the Bible is silent about a reunion at death or their being able to view the life of loved ones on earth.
The Handbook on The Letters to the Hebrews by Ellingworth and Nida, from United Bible Society, makes the opposite interpretation, "The thought is that the Old Testament heroes are watching how the writer of Hebrews and his readers run their race in the Christian life, since their own salvation is linked with that of Christians (11.40)" (p. 287).
▣ "let us" This is translated as a subjunctive, but the first verbal is a present active participle. The subjunctive does not appear until "let us run."
Notice what believers should do in light of the faithful OT witnesses.
1. lay aside every encumbrance, v. 1
2. lay aside every sin which so easily entangles us, v. 1
3. run the race with endurance, v. 1
4. fixing our eyes on Jesus, v. 2
▣ "lay aside" This is an aorist middle participle meaning "lay aside as a garment" (cf. Acts 7:58). This grammatical form implies a personal (i.e., middle voice), decisive (i.e., aorist tense) decision. However, Paul used the term figuratively in an ethical sense (cf. Rom. 13:12; Eph. 4:22,25; Col. 3:8-9 and "put on" in Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10,12,14). Christians must be actively involved in their free salvation (cf. Phil. 2:12-13). There is a race to be run, a witness to be made, a fight to be fought (i.e., Phil. 3:12-14)!
NKJV, NRSV"every weight"
TEV"everything that gets in the way"
NJB"everything that weighs us down"
This term is literally "fat" or "weight." Those who participated in the Greek athletic contests ran almost naked. It is used
1. literally of body fat
2. of athletic training weights
3. metaphorically in Greek literature as pride
4. philosophically as be careful of "the good" as the enemy of "the best"
▣ "the sin" This either refers to (1) the sin nature; (2) a besetting sin; (3) unbelief; or (4) this unique context may give the added meaning of "shrinking back" (cf. 10:38). This letter/book/sermon is addressed to the Jewish believers and Jewish unbelievers.
NASB"so easily entangles us"
NKJV"so easily ensnares us"
NRSV, NJB"that clings to closely"
TEV"which holds on to us so tightly"
The ancient papyrus manuscript P46 has "easily distracts." This reference is to anything that trips up the believer in the race of life. It may be a recurrent sin, an out-of-balance desire or even the presence of many good things—anything that causes them to neglect the things for which they are gifted and called by God.
▣ "run" This is a Present active subjunctive, which speaks of a continual action but with a note of contingency. This surely fits the overall emphasis of the four warnings directed to Jewish believers who were "shrinking back" from Christ and the gospel.
▣ "endurance" This chapter may be a rabbinical play on the word "endure" (noun, cf. 10:32,36), which means "voluntary, aggressive (active), patient (passive) endurance." The verb is in vv. 2,3, and 7 and the noun in v. 1. This is the theme of the book and especially these last few chapters—hang in there!
▣ "race" This Greek word agōna is an athletic term from which we get the English term "agony." It is often used as a set course for a race.
▣ "that is set before us" This is a present passive (deponent) participle. The Christian life is often characterized as an athletic contest (cf. I Cor. 9:25; Phil. 1:30; II Tim. 2:5; racing, I Cor. 9:24,26; Gal. 2:2; 5:7; Phil. 2:16; boxing, I Cor. 9:26; I Tim. 1:18; 6:12; II Tim. 4:7; wrestling, Eph. 6:12).
12:2 "fix our eyes on Jesus" This is a present active participle meaning "looking intently." Notice that we watch Him—not the crowd, not the circumstances, not ourselves. This may be figurative of constantly focusing on the new covenant (the gospel).
NASB"the author and perfecter of faith"
NKJV"the author and finisher of our faith"
NRSV"the pioneer and perfecter of our faith"
TEV"on whom our faith depends from beginning to end"
NJB"who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection"
This first term (archēgos) is used in 2:10 of Jesus as the author of salvation; in Acts 3:15 of Jesus as the Prince (author) of life; in Acts 5:31 of Jesus as the Prince (leader) and Savior. See Special Topic at 2:10.
The second word (teleiōtēs) means "the one who completes and perfects." It refers to Jesus' total completion of God's assigned redemptive task. In a sense it is like the title Alpha and Omega (cf. Rev. 1:8), the First and the Last (cf. Rev. 1:17; 2:8). This author uses the concept of "perfecting" many times in the book (cf. 2:10; 5:9; 6:1; 7:11,19,28; 9:9; 10:1,14; 11:40; and here). See Special Topic at 7:11.
▣ "faith" Pistis can refer to
1. a personal faith relationship with Christ
2. a life of faithful Christlikeness
3. Christian doctrine (cf. Jude vv. 3,20)
Christianity is a person to be welcomed, truth about that person to be believed (the gospel), and a life like that person's to be lived (i.e., Christlikeness)
▣ "for the joy" The preposition anti normally means "on account of" or "because of," but can also mean "instead of." The first would refer to Christ leaving heaven (cf. Phil. 2:5-11), the second to His joy at the finished redemption and ascension (cf. Isa. 53:10-12).
▣ "set before Him" This word occurs in v. 1 referring to the struggle (race) of the Christian life. Now the term is used again of the struggle of Jesus' laying His life down for us. This is the author's way of urging the Jewish believers to persevere. Jesus did His part; they must do theirs. When He finished there was great joy, so too, if they finish the course.
▣ "the cross" The rabbis of Jesus' day saw this as a curse by God because of their interpretations of Deut. 21:23. Paul says that Jesus bore this curse of the Law for us (cf. Gal. 3:13).
▣ "despising the shame" The cross is the objective evidence of the love of the Father and the Son (cf. John 3:16 and Rom. 5:8). This is a strong Greek word. Jesus looked to the glorious outcome of His humiliation (cf. Isa. 53:10-12). The cross was not easy, the price of redemption not cheap!
▣ "has sat down at" This is a perfect active indicative which emphasizes a completed act with abiding results. This is a continuing allusion to Ps. 110:1 (cf. 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12).
▣ "right hand" This is not literal, but a biblical metaphor for "the place of power," "authority," or "pre-eminence" (cf. Acts 2:33-36).
▣ "throne of God" Fallen humans can only imagine the glory and majesty of the spiritual realm. It must be put into physical imagery (streets of gold, gates of pearl, sea of glass). God is a spiritual, eternal, omnipresent being, far too great for any throne (cf. I Kgs. 8:27). See SPECIAL TOPIC: Anthropomorphic Language to describe God at 3:11.
NASB (UPDATED TEXT: 12:3-11
3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
6For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives."
7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
12:3 "For consider" This is an aorist middle (deponent) imperative. It literally means "add it up" and is used to emphasize the careful analysis of something. The ancients added numbers upwards and drew a line at the top for the total.
▣ "Him who has endured" This is a perfect active participle. As Jesus endured such shameful treatment for believers' salvation, they need to live for Him and other believers (cf. I John 3:16).
▣ "against Himself" The singular pronoun is found in all modern translations. However, the majority of the ancient Greek manuscripts, versions, and Patristic quotes support a plural ( eis eautous, א*, D*;  eis autous, P13,46, א2;  eis eauton, A, P, Dc, K, L). Although it is a commonly accepted tenet of textual criticism (i.e., see Appendix Two) that the most unusual, most difficult text is probably original, this plural does not fit this context at all. The subject is obviously Jesus. This must be an ancient scribal error from the first one to two hundred years before the majority of the papyri texts were written.
▣ "so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" These are athletic terms for runners panting and collapsing after a hard run race. Our author is encouraging these Jewish believers to continue even though it may be difficult. This warning is continued in vv. 15, 25-29.
12:4 "you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood" The original readers had suffered persecution, but not yet death (cf. 10:32ff). Jesus had suffered death for them, they must be willing to live or die for Him.
▣ "in your striving against sin" This is another athletic term as was used in v. 1. It is transliterated in English as "agony." The "sin" in context of the whole book refers to
1. the sin of unbelief related to the group of unbelieving Jews
2. the sin of apostasy ("shrinking back" 10:38) relating to the group of believing Jews
12:5 "you have forgotten" This is a perfect middle (deponent) indicative. This term is used only here in the NT. It denotes
1. a complete forgetting (i.e., emphasis on tense)
2. a deliberate forgetting (i.e., emphasis on voice)
▣ "do not regard lightly. . .nor faint when you are reproved by him" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Pro. 3:11-12. These both are present imperatives with a negative particle, which usually means to stop an act already in process.
▣ "the discipline of the Lord" This term refers to "child training." There is a play on this term in vv. 5-11. This is another familial metaphor. As earthly parents discipline their children, so too, God disciplines His (cf. I Cor. 11:32; Rev. 3:19).
12:6 "For those whom the lord loves he disciplines" This is one reason why believers are involved in suffering for the faith (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 8:1b,4; 14:22; II Thess. 1:4-10).
▣ "and he scourges every son whom he receives" This is the continuing quote from the Septuagint of Pro. 3:11-12. This is so important! Jesus has been called "a son" several times, while the OT characters have been called "servants." Now NT believers are called "sons" (cf. vv. 7-8). Fathers discipline sons
1. for the father's purpose
2. for the son's benefit
3. for the benefit of the whole family
12:7 "that you endure" This is a present active indicative or present active imperative (same Greek morphology). Since v. 5 has two present imperatives, this is probably also an imperative. The word means "voluntary, steadfast endurance" (cf. vv. 1,2,3; 10:32,36). This testing will result in stronger faith!
▣ "God deals with you as sons" This theme of God as a disciplining parent may be an allusion to Deut. 8:5 as is Hosea 11:1-4.
The verb is a present passive indicative of a term that means "to bring something to Jesus or God, often by means of a sacrifice; but here the passive voice denotes God's willingness to be approached by sinful humans, by implication through Christ's sacrifice.
12:8 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true for the author's purposes. All of God's children have experienced discipline (perfect active indicative).
12:9 "Father of spirits" This has nothing to do with theories of the origin of the "soul." It is used in the sense of the true source of all life. God is being contrasted with earthly fathers (cf. vv. 9-10).
▣ "and live" The Father's discipline brings true life, not death.
12:10 "but He disciplines us for our good so that we may share His holiness" Every believer is sanctified at salvation (positional) and is called to holiness (see Special Topic at 2:11). This is God's purpose for every believer (cf. Matt. 5:48; Rom. 8:28-30; II cor. 3:18; 7:1; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:13; I Thess. 3:13; 4:3,7; I Pet. 1:15). Believers are predestined to holiness (cf. Eph. 1:4). It often occurs only in a disciplinary setting (cf. Heb. 5:8 and Rom. 8:17).
12:11 "it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" The Christian life is from faith to faith, from affirmation (profession of faith) to character (life of faith, cf. Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
For a word study on "Righteousness" see Special Topic at 1:9.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 12:12-13
12Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
12:12 This is an allusion to Isa. 35:3, which may be the background of the whole discussion in chapter 12. The mature ought to strengthen the weak (those close to shrinking back). "Strengthen" is literally "make straight," which is a word play on the next vers.
12:13 "make straight paths for your feet" This may be an allusion to Pro. 4:26 in the Septuagint (LXX) or to a well known proverb using "straight paths" as an OT metaphor for righteousness.
▣ "put out of joint" This phrase can be understood
1. in its OT sense (cf. I Kgs. 18:21) of a metaphor for alternating between two opinions, like the people of Israel alternating between YHWH and Ba'al
2. in Greek literature of fixing the road so that the lame will not fall and hurt themselves (cf. M. R. Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, p. 1168)
▣ "but rather be healed" Encouraging one another leads to restoration (cf. Gal. 6:1; James 5:16).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 12:14-17
14Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
12:14-17 this is the lasts warning (cf. 2:1-4; 3:7-4:11; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-17).
12:14 "Pursue peace" This is a present active imperative. In the context of
1. persecution from without
2. unbelief among friends (Jewish unbelievers with whom the believing Jews were still worshiping)
3. doubt within (the danger of "shrinking back" (cf. 10:38) this discussion of peace is very important.
There are several related passages about "peace."
1. Ps. 34:14, "seek peace, pursue it"
2. Mark 9:50, "be at peace with one another"
3. Rom. 12:18, "If possible, so as it depends on you, be at peace with all men"
4. I Cor. 7:15, "Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave. . .but God has called us to peace"
5. II Tim. 2:22, "pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart"
▣ "and the sanctification" This term "sanctification" must relate to v. 10 and is connected to "discipline." God disciplines believers for holiness. The goal of salvation is Christlikeness.
This is not positional (instantaneous) sanctification, but experiential (progressive) sanctification. The gospel presents salvation and the Christian life in two tension-filled ways. In one sense it is a finished, free, once-for-all gift from God (indicative), but it is also a life of faith, obedience, service, and worship (imperative). Many believers emphasize one aspect to the exclusion of the other (Augustine vs. Pelagius; Calvin vs. Arminius). Believers' relationship with God begins at a point in time, a point of conviction, culminating in repentance and faith, but it must also move through time to a culmination at death or the Second Coming; faithfulness, righteousness, perseverance are important, crucial evidences of a true salvation.
Compare the following texts on sanctification.
|Positional (indicative)||Progressive (imperative)|
I Corinthians 1:2-3; 6:11
II Thessalonians 2:13
Hebrews 2:11; 10:10,14; 13:12
I Peter 1:2
II Cor. 7:1
Ephesians 1:4; 2:10
I Thess. 3:13; 4:3-4,7; 5:2
I Timothy 2:15
II Timothy 2:21
I Peter 1:15-16
▣ "without which no one will see the Lord" This is paradoxical: (1) believers will see the Lord one day (cf. Job 19:25-27; Ps. 17:15; Matt. 5:8; I John 3:2; Rev. 22:4) and (2) believers cannot see the Lord now (cf. Exod.33:20; John 1:18; I Tim. 6:16; I John 4:12).
This may refer to one's spiritual eyes, in the sense of responding to the gospel. In this context it may be metaphorical of "understanding."
12:15 "See to it" Literally "observing" (episkopountes) is a present active participle used in an imperatival sense. This term is built on a form of one of the terms for pastor (literally bishop, episkopos, cf. Phil. 1:1; I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:7 and of Jesus in I Pet. 2:25). Here it can refer to church leaders or to mature believers who should care for others. Apostasy should be confronted by maturity. This group of believers desperately needed to act in a mature way (cf. 5:11-14).
No Christian is an island (cf. I Cor. 12:7). Christianity is a team sport! The term "saint" is always plural (except one time in Phil. 4:21, where it is used in a corporate sense). We are our brother's keeper. We must spare no effort to encourage one another. We are given and gifted for the health of the whole.
▣ "that no one comes short of the grace of God" This is a present active participle used in an imperatival sense meaning "falling short of the grace of God." This word is used in 4:1 in the sense of "fail to attain," but in this verse the preposition "away" (apo) forms a prepositional phrase implying "a falling away from something previously possessed" (cf. 6:4-6; 10:23,38-39; 12:25). Apostasy was a real possibility in this cultural situation. See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at 3:12.
Or, as I have maintained, there are two groups being addressed: (1) believing Jews in danger of "shrinking back" (v. 15) and (2) unbelieving Jews having clearly understood the gospel in the lives and testimonies of their believing synagogue companions, rejecting Jesus (v. 25). Whichever theory is correct, the truth remains that salvation is not a product, but a relationship. It is more than an initial response. The warnings are serious, challenging, and real. In this context it is a call to help believers in danger of "shrinking back" (cf. 10:38).
▣ "no root of bitterness" This may be an allusion to Deut. 29:18 in the Septuagint, which warned the people of God about the dangers of idolatry, both individually and corporately. All of Israel was never right with God, but only a believing faithful remnant. The phrase "a root of bitterness" in Deuteronomy is parallel to "whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God."
▣ "and by it many be defiled" The presence of one disgruntled person affects the whole group. Our beliefs, actions, and attitudes do influence others. What an awesome responsibility!
12:16 "Esau" He becomes a very evil person in rabbinical Judaism's traditions (cf. Jubilees 25:1,8 and Genesis Rabba 70d,72a). This context, however, uses him because he knew God's promises but did not act on them.
12:17 "the blessing" The patriarchal blessing could not be recalled. This involves the Hebrew concept of the power of the spoken word (cf. Genesis 1 and Isa. 55:10-12).
▣ "for he found no place for repentance" In its OT context this refers to his sorrow after Isaac, his father, blessed his younger brother, Jacob, and the blessing could not be recalled. The author uses this as a warning to the recipients of the letter. He wants them to make a decision for Christ now while there is time and then to persevere in that new relationship with Christ because there is no second chance (cf. 6:6; 10:26).
▣ "with tears" This is from Gen. 27:34 and 38.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 12:18-24
18For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned." 21And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling." 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
12:18-21 This section is a description of the giving of the Mosaic Law on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod.19:16-25; Deut. 4:11-14).
▣ "to darkness and gloom" This is possibly an allusion to Deut. 5:22.
12:19 "blast of a trumpet" God's voice sounded like a trumpet (cf. Exod.19:16,19; 20:18)
▣ "who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them" YHWH's awesome power on Mt. Sinai frightened the people (cf. Exod.20:19; Deut. 5:22-27; 18:16).
12:20 "if even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned" This is a third class conditional sentence. It is another allusion to the awesome holiness of God descending on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod.19:12-13).
12:21 "I am full of fear and trembling" This is a quote from Deut. 9:19 which refers to Aaron's golden calf. Rabbinical hermeneutics used this phrase for Moses' fear of God at Mt. Sinai.
12:22 "But you have come" This is a strong contrast. These believing readers are not trusting in a Sinaitic covenant, but in a new covenant, a heavenly Jerusalem, a new Mt. Zion, a new city. In Gal. 4:21-31 Paul uses the same type of analogy using two OT mountains (Mt. Sinai versus Mt. Zion).
▣ "Mount Zion" The author is comparing the first covenant at Mt. Sinai to the new covenant with the new heavenly city (cf. 11:10,16; 13:14; Rev. 3:12; 21:2,10).
▣ "of the living God" This is a play on the covenant name for God, YHWH, which is a form of the Hebrew verb "to be." YHWH is the ever-living, only-living One. In the OT He swears by Himself, "the living God." See Special Topic: Names for Deity at 2:7.
12:23 "church of the firstborn" Because of Exod. 4:22 some commentators understand the references to OT Israelites, but context demands that it be understood as all the people of faith (cf. 11:40). The "first born" is a reference to Christ, "the first born"
1. of many brothers (the image of God, Rom. 8:29)
2. of all creation (the image of God, Col. 1:15)
3. of the dead (Col. 1:18 and I Cor. 15:20,23 [first fruits])
Look at all the ways the new covenant is designated in this paragraph.
1. Mt. Zion
2. the city of the living God
3. the heavenly Jerusalem
4. myriads of angels
For "church" see Special Topic at 2:12. For "firstborn" see Special Topic at 1:6.
▣ "enrolled" The Bible speaks of two books of God (cf. Dan. 7:10 and Rev. 20:12). One is the book of life (cf. Exod.32:32; Ps. 69:28; Dan. 12:1; Luke10:20; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27). The other is the book of remembrances (cf. Ps. 56:8; 139:16; Isa. 65:6; Mal. 3:16). The first is for believers, the second for both (cf. Rev. 14:13). These are metaphors for the memory of God.
▣ "to God, the Judge of all" The OT regularly depicts God as Judge (cf. Gen. 18:25; Ps. 50:6; 96:13; 98:9; Isa. 2:4; 51:5; Jer. 11:20; Lam. 3:59; Ezek. 7:3,27). The coming Messiah is also depicted as Judge (cf. Isa. 11:3-4; 16:5). The Father has placed all judgment in the Son's hands (cf. John 5:22-23,27; 9:39; Acts 10:42; 17:31; II Tim. 4:1; I Pet. 4:5).
▣ "to the spirit of the righteous made perfect" This is a perfect passive participle, implying "made perfect by God and the results continue." Because of 11:40 this may refer to the OT saints of chapter 11 and all believers before Christ's coming.
For "perfect" see note at 10:1.
12:24 "Jesus the Mediator" Jesus, the high priest and sacrifice (1) stands before the Father for us and (2) brings a better covenant (cf. 7:22; 8:,6,9-10; 9:15; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-36).
▣ "to the sprinkled blood" This was the way OT covenants were inaugurated (cf. 9:19; 10:22; I Pet. 1:2).
▣ "better" See full note at 7:7.
▣ "blood of Abel" Abel's blood cried out for vengeance; Jesus' blood cries for mercy, forgiveness, and love.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 12:25-29
25See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. 26And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven." 27This expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29for our God is a consuming fire.
12:25 "See to it" This is a present active imperative. This is a different Greek word than the one used in v. 15. This same warning is found in 3:12. After being enlightened by the superiority of the new covenant in Christ, it is crucial that one respond appropriately. There is danger (for both the unbeliever and the believer) in knowing truth and not acting on it.
▣ "that you do not refuse Him" This is one of the two main warnings. The other being, "do not shrink back." This is an aorist middle (deponent) subjunctive. We must make a volitional decision. What will you do with Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith?
▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's point of view or for his literary purposes. Again, the awesome responsibility of rejecting a superior covenant and person is the focus of the comment.
12:26 "His voice shook the earth" This is a reference to the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai mentioned earlier in this chapter (cf. Exod.19:18-19), but it is a paraphrase from the Septuagint of Haggai 2:6. This prophecy speaks of a new shaking of the heavens and earth connected to the new post-exilic temple (cf. Hag. 2:6-9). The new temple will receive glory. The new temple will be better than the first. The new temple will bring peace. These descriptions foreshadow the new covenant in Jesus.
12:27 "Yet once more" This world is passing away. I do think God is going to recreate it (cf. II Pet. 3:10) much like it is, but without the curse of Gen. 3:14,17; Zech. 14:11; Rev. 22:3. The Bible starts with God, man, and the animals (cf. Isa. 11:6-9) in a garden setting (cf. Gen. 1-2) and it also ends the same way (cf. Rev. 21-22).
12:28 "a kingdom which cannot be shaken" This refers to the spiritual nature of the new covenant. It is the last and permanent covenant between God and His people.
▣ "let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe" This describes the appropriate response of the new covenant believers: a life of service because of gratitude for the matchless grace of the Triune God (cf. 13:15,21; Rom. 12:1-2). We were saved to serve, to serve the family of faith (cf. I Cor. 12:7; Eph. 4:12).
12:29 "a consuming fire" This may be a reference to Mt. Sinai (cf. Deut. 4:24). We dare not forget to Whom it is we are responding (cf. 10:31). Fire can cleanse and purify or totally destroy. He will be our heavenly Father or He will be our Judge from heaven. What we do and continue to do with Jesus is the determiner. Believe! Hang in there!
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.
1. List the attributes of the men of chapter 11 and 12:18-29 that we should emulate.
2. Does verse 1 teach that the dead view the lives of the living?
3. Why does the author use so many athletic metaphors in this chapter?
4. What was the purpose of this chapter in relation to the entire book?
5. What is God's ultimate purpose for our lives? (vv. 10,28)
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