Summary: This is an exposition Bible study of Hebrews 12:18-29 that shows the contrast between law and grace
THE TWO MOUNTAINS
As we look at these two mountains, we are reminded of the contrasting differences of law and grace. What took place at these two mountains serves as a summary statement of the way law and grace operates in it respective dispensation. The Book of Hebrews was placed in the canon of Scriptures to show God’s way of communicating His riches that we now enjoy in the economy of Grace as opposed to the legal economy that first appeared. As the Book of Hebrews is being concluded, we are strongly reminded in this great chapter of two things that is required of the Lord. We are required to keep our eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ and we are to carefully listen to what He has to say. In both instances, it is required that we do this by receiving the Word of God. There is nothing mystical about seeing and hearing the Lord.
By this, we do not look for dreams and visions, nor do we look for voices. There are so many who get caught up in their charismatic confusion who are continually looking for or listening for something new. With all due respect, we have all that we need in God’s sacred, precious Word. It is from the Word of God that I am able to see Him. It is His Word that allows me to hear what He has to say. The warning to listen to Him was given in Hebrews 1, beginning with the very first verse: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” Heb 1:1-3 (KJV).
In Barnes notes, when he was giving an analysis of the first chapter of Hebrew, he showed that the Book was written to discourage a drift back into Judaism. Notice the way that he worded the purpose of Hebrews chapter one: The main object of the epistle is to commend the Christian religion to those who were addressed in it, in such a way as to prevent defection from it. This is done, principally, by showing its superiority to the Mosaic system. The great danger of Christians in Palestine was of relapsing into the Jewish system. The imposing nature of its rites; the public sentiment in its favour; the fact of its antiquity, and its undisputed Divine origin, would all tend to that. To counteract this, the writer of this epistle show that the gospel had higher claims on their attention, and that, if that were rejected, ruin was inevitable. In doing this, he begins, in this chapter, by showing the superiority of the Author of Christianity to prophets, and to the angels; that is, that he had a rank that entitled him to the profoundest regard. The drift of this chapter, therefore, is to show the dignity and exalted nature of the Author of the Christian system—the Son of God. (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament).
What Barnes said clearly demonstrates the intent of the writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to give us Hebrews as he did. It is for this purpose that the Lord concludes the study of Hebrews with such a graphic display of the contrasting nature of the old system with the new. Thus, we will examine these two mountains to further emphasize this difference.
I. THE MOUNT THAT SPEAKS OF TERROR (Vv. 18-21)
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,” So begins the verse that describes the terror of this mountain. The phrase, “that might be touched” speaks of this mountain as being an actual mountain that was chosen to convey the spirit of the dispensation of law. Though, it was a mountain that could be touched as its realness is being described, it could not be touched as the law required. To touch it by human or beast would mean certain death. Again, quoting from Barnes we see how clearly he understood this truth: The mount that might be touched. Mount Sinai. The meaning here is, that that mountain was palpable, material, touchable-in contradistinction from the Mount Zion to which the church had now come, which is above the reach of the external senses, Hebrews 12:22. The apostle does not mean that it was permitted to the Israelites to touch Mount Sinai-for this was strictly forbidden, Exodus 19:12; but he evidently alludes to that prohibition, and means to say that a command forbidding them to "touch" the mountain, implied that it was a material or palpable object. The sense of the passage is, that every circumstance that occurred there was fitted to fill the soul with terror. Everything accompanying the giving of the law, the setting of bounds around the mountain which they might not pass, and the darkness and tempest on the mountain itself, was adapted to overawe the soul. The phrase, "the touchable mountain"-if such a phrase is proper—would express the meaning of the apostle here. The "Mount Zion" to which the church now has come, is of a different character. It is not thus visible and palpable. It is not enveloped in smoke and flame, and the thunders of the Almighty do not roll and re-echo among its lofty peaks as at Horeb; yet it presents stronger motives to perseverance in the service of God.