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 the 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.
Now the picture shifts from the terror on Mount Sinai to the joy of Mount Zion, the Christian’s destiny. This sets a contrast to the provisions of the Old Covenant, which were temporary (He 12:18–21). Verse 22 is parallel to verse 18, showing the positive side to the negative.
Verses 22–24 describe the “heavenly Jerusalem” to which all believers will come. There are several spiritual objectives to which Christians will arrive.
But [strong contrast] you have come to Mount Zion
As over against Israel, the church is the New Covenant people. Christians today are a heavenly group, not a national entity like Israel. The readers of Hebrews “have” already come to the privileges of the New Covenant (perfect indicative). The issue is not future, but present. The Christian has already begun to realize possession of heaven itself by grace. One day he or she will find it complete.
Christians have come to the place where they are justified by grace and free from the condemnation of the law. They are in a position of superior excellency. The contrast of the antitype to the type is striking. Christians have arrived in principle to everything they have in Christ.
Coming to Mount Zion is not coming to future arrival in heaven, but the idea is of coming to the point of salvation. In this case, Hebrews uses “Zion” in the figurative sense, or “heavenly Jerusalem.”
and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
The city of the church is heavenly, not earthly like Jerusalem in Israel. They have come to possess heaven itself presently. To come to Christ is to receive the right to heaven.
to an innumerable company of angels,
“Innumerable” refers to a myriad of angels. Christians will join tens of thousands of angels in worship. Angels rejoice over one person who comes to Christ (Lu 15:7,10).
to the general assembly [congregation]
The “general assembly” is a festive public gathering. The angels celebrate any person who comes to Christ. This is an august gathering of various entities to worship God.
and church of the firstborn who are registered [enrolled] in heaven,
The “firstborn” here may refer to the inheritance rights of the church. Christ Himself won those rights for the church. Jesus enrolled us in heaven. This is a permanent registration (perfect participle). God wrote their names in a heavenly registry. The rights of the New Covenant are shared experiences, not merely a private one.
to God the Judge of all,
The church has come to “God the Judge of all.” He is the one who searches every soul with precise scrutiny. We give account to Him.
to the spirits of just men made perfect,
This phrase may refer to Hebrews 11:40. There is a fellowship with every person justified by faith. This includes believers anywhere at any time.
Believers are called “spirits” here because they do not yet have their resurrection bodies. They are justified in their spirits, but they await their resurrection bodies.
to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,
We come now to another object to which the believer has come. “New” here means new in kind. Jesus mediated a new kind of covenant. His mediatorship was not like Old Testament priests (He 8:6; 9:14, 15, 22).
and to the blood of sprinkling
Jesus’ blood does not insist on judgment. He fully secured our acceptance before God. The “blood of the sprinkling” refers to atoning blood as the means of salvation. His shed blood was for the forgiveness of our sins (He 4:14, 22).
that speaks better things than that of Abel.
This is the last time Hebrews uses the key term “better.” Christ’s “blood of sprinkling” was a better sacrifice than any other.
God confronted Cain, who killed (sacrificed) Abel. He said that his brother’s blood cried out from the ground (Ge 4:10). Abel’s bloodshed by the sin of murder only related to condemnation (Ge 4:10–11). It could not bring salvation. Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God (He 11:4). Christ’s blood speaks of redemption. It does not demand justice like Abel’s blood because Jesus met all the just demands from God by shedding His blood.
There is joy in the fact that Jesus met every demand that God had on us by His blood sacrifice.
Mount Sinai of the Old Testament was a terrifying revelation of what sin is. However, Mount Zion of the New Testament is inviting and gracious. Heaven is the home of every believer who has come to Christ. Those who believe in Christ have entered into relationship with Jesus by His mediatorship of the New Covenant.
Is the church of the firstborn the universal church in heaven? Does the spirits of just men includes old and new covenant believers?
JROCK, it appears that this verse references all believers of all time but it is stated in such a general way that it is difficult to be dogmatic about the interpretation.
So the church of the firstborn includes all believers of all time. This is different from the earthly church, correct?
JROCK, I would presume that it includes the early church as well.