“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to 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, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
The Christian is a citizen of a cosmic kingdom. Our citizenship is in heaven. While we currently live in the physical world, our true home is in a very different perfect world. Although we have numerous relationships in this world (family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, enemies, and general nuisances), many of those relationships are temporary. We are already in fellowship with those who have gone before us, the “righteous made perfect.” We will live eternally with them and with the Lord. Those “righteous made perfect” constitute a “great cloud of witnesses” who are already celebrating our spiritual victories and encouraging us to stand up when we falter.
The church is a covenant community, united under Jesus. That covenant is eternal. That covenant community received instruction from Jesus that is preserved in the Gospels. The covenant was sealed in His body and blood, given on the cross for our sins. Its promises were secured in Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Ancient Israel was part of a covenant people who received their instructions at Mount Sinai. On that mountain, God showed His power: fire, a loud voice. The message was clear: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The same God who had rescued the Israelites by leading them through the Red Sea had destroyed the Egyptian army in the same sea. You cannot play games with God and hope to get away with it. “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am filled with fear and trembling’” (Hebrews 12:21).
On Calvary, Jesus forged the New Covenant, which showed another aspect of God’s power. Here, Jesus showed His mercy. Yes, God revealed His power that day: darkness covered the land, an earthquake occurred, and the veil of the temple was torn asunder (Matthew 27:45-54; Mark 15:33-38; Luke 23:44-47). Onlookers saw the power of God on full display. But, Jesus willingly surrendered His life. The One who created the universe subjected Himself to humanity’s ability to destroy life. Yet, at that moment, He conquered death. A preview of His power to conquer death was seen as several Old Testament saints rose from the tombs and appeared to people around Jerusalem. (Some readers are probably imagining a zombie apocalypse like “Dawn of the Dead,” but I doubt it was anything that morbid: Perhaps a little unnerving, though, especially if they appeared to people who had known them while they were alive.)
By faith in Him, we come to a spiritual Mount Zion, the “heavenly Jerusalem.” “You have come,” the writer of Hebrews tells us. We are not looking forward to our heavenly destiny. It is not something we hope for with uncertainty. Our destination is guaranteed in Christ, as certain as if we are living in it now. Yes, suffering surrounds us, but we can live in victory because the One who dwells in us is more powerful than the forces of hell and evil (1 John 4:4).
Today, those of us who follow Jesus are part of that righteous community. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, “the righteous made perfect.” One day, we will shed our mortal flesh and be fully united with them. This is our goal. Let us take comfort that God, in His power, has given us righteousness and mercy, which can guide our steps as we journey through life to the spiritual Mount Zion where we live forever in His presence, glory, and joy.
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