Hebrews 12:28–29, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.”
Lest there be any lingering doubts as to the superiority of the new covenant to the old one, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews takes time to remind his audience once again of this fact in chapter 12 of his letter. Those who are in Christ have not come to a covenant inaugurated in the midst of “darkness and gloom” (v. 18). We have not come to Mount Sinai and the barriers it emphasized between the ordinary worshiper and the Lord (vv. 19–21). Rather, we have come to the heavenly Mount Zion (v. 22). We have come to the great assembly dwelling in the very presence of God Himself (v. 23). We have come to Jesus, whose blood opens for us the way into the presence of God (v. 24).
If breaking this less glorious covenant brought punishment then abandoning Jesus and His new covenant deserves punishment all the more (v. 25; see Matt. 11:22). Indeed, it would be foolish to think otherwise. When Christ consummates His kingdom at His return He will fulfill God’s pledge to shake both the heavens and the earth (Heb. 12:26). When this is done, only those things that cannot be shaken will remain (v. 27). All else shall suffer eternal death.
Today’s passage reminds the original audience (and us as well) that we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken (v. 28). This is the kingdom of God, which Jesus inaugurated at His first coming. This is the only kingdom that will remain when He returns to consummate all things (9:28).
Once we realize that we have received this kingdom, the appropriate response is gratitude and worship (12:28). Ingratitude is often the first step away from God (Rom. 1:21), and the fact that many in the original audience of this epistle were considering abandoning Christ demonstrates a lack of thankfulness for the unshakable kingdom that Christ brings.
Coupled with gratitude is a worship demonstrated by reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28). A life of worship that reverently obeys God demonstrates the unshakable presence of the kingdom of which we are citizens. Moreover, we worship because we know that our God is “a consuming fire” (v. 29) and will destroy all those who do not receive His kingdom with worship and thankfulness.
Today’s passage concluded with a warning to those who will not worship God with gratitude. This warning is given, Calvin says, because our sin makes us prone to ignore the exhortation to worship. Spend some time today in worship, thanking Him for giving you His kingdom and asking Him to help you heed His warnings.