Mount Sion

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Russian atheistic leaders long ago tried to cast out the thought of God-to exile Him from their borders. This campaign has been considerably short of a 100 per cent success, although it has made a serious impact on the world at large. Lately these leaders have tried to ridicule the idea of God and of heaven by saying that they sent their astronaut out into space, and he returned without seeing anything of God and His dwelling place.
We might suppose that such a childish argument would affect no one, but there are persons who will grasp at any straw to support their wish that there be no God to whom they must give account. Suppose an astronaut were to go out from the earth many times the distance that the Russian did; how far would he have gone in God's universe? In space that is measured in "light years," or the distance that light can travel in a year-6,000,000,000,000 miles-what is a few hundred miles? The Russian statement is consummate foolishness. We might liken it to an ant emerging from a hole in an inland desert area and sallying forth on an excursion measured in feet, and then returning to the ant colony to inform them that after due examination it simply was not true that such a thing as an ocean existed on earth. An ant would not have the ability to go far enough to find an ocean, nor the capacity to understand what it was if it could be found. So also is puny man, with the single exception that he is wise in his own conceits. And we might add with Daniel the prophet, "The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified." Chap. 5:23.
Let us examine a little of what the Word of God says about not merely heaven, but the heavens. We read of "fowls of heaven," "the dew of heaven," "the clouds of heaven," "the winds of heaven." Thus, the atmosphere surrounding the earth is called heaven. Perhaps we may call this the first heaven. Then there is "the sun and the moon," and "the host of heaven." These are referred to in Psalm 8 as "the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained." This is also spoken of as "the firmament of His power" (Psalm 150:11Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. (Psalm 150:1)). The sun, or the greater light, was to rule the day; and the moon, or lesser light, was to rule the night. Then "the precious things brought forth by the sun" are mentioned, and the "precious things brought forth by the moon" (or moons, or months). Jehovah asked Job, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" Chap. 38:31. Is not this another sphere which God calls heaven? It is all the work of God, yes, of His fingers. The most daring of men have only barely entered on this territory, and astronomers with their largest telescopes cannot fathom its extent. It approaches an infinitude of expanse. But with all this, does the Bible speak of any of it as God's abode, or the "father's house"? Never.
The Word of God speaks of another heaven thus: "The heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee" (1 Kings 8:2727But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? (1 Kings 8:27); see also 2 Chron. 2:6; 6:16But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him? (2 Chronicles 2:6)
1Then said Solomon, The Lord hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. (2 Chronicles 6:1)
.8). Here is a third heaven; and the Apostle Paul speaks of having been caught up to the "third heaven," into "paradise." Now if man can only touch the outer reaches of the heaven of the stars and other celestial bodies, and cannot penetrate to the end of this sphere by great telescopes, how is any atheistic mortal man going to say where God is, or what the place is like? The fact is that atheists, infidels, and just plain unbelievers are not going to get there at any time.
How can man find out the dwelling place of Him whose glory is "above the heavens" (Psalm 8:1; 113:41<<To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.>> O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. (Psalm 8:1)
4The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. (Psalm 113:4)
)? And in Heb. 4 we read: "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into [literally, through] the heavens, Jesus the Son of God." v. 14. And in chapter 7, He has been made "higher than the heavens." v. 25. Such is the place of the Lord Jesus Christ who came down from heaven, was cast out by the world, and has gone back higher than the heavens. He passed right on through them all, back into the immediate presence of God, and is now seated at "the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." Chap. 8:1.
After the Apostle Paul came back from seeing things there, he said it was not possible for him to utter what he saw. It was so far beyond anything with which the human mind is familiar, that it was not possible to convey to saints on earth a description •of those celestial scenes, and the glory of that place.
Many people have speculated about what kind of a place heaven is; and mere speculation is worse than useless, for it is bound to convey erroneous ideas. A case in point is the folly of the Koran, with its foolish imagery, about bowls of milk, maidens, etc. But many of the mental pictures conjectured by Christians are not much better. God does not specially occupy us with heaven, but with Him who will be the delight and joy of heaven. When the Lord Jesus was about to leave the disciples, He did not say, "I am going to heaven," but He told them of the Father's house- the scene of bliss from which He came and to which He was returning, having accomplished the work of redemption for us. He was going away and He cheered their thoughts with the knowledge that He would not remain there forever without them; for He said: "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:33And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:3). What would heaven be without our Lord and Savior? What would the Father's house be without the Father? Many peoples' idea of heaven would not go beyond the beautiful, uninhabited place. Would this satisfy your heart, fellow Christians? The poet has expressed this well:
"Oh bright and blessed scenes,
Where sin can never come,
Whose sight our longing spirit weans
From earth where yet we roam!
"And can we call our home
Our Father's house on high,
The rest of God our rest to come,
Our place of liberty?
"Yes! in that light unstained,
Our stainless souls shall live,
Our heart's deep longings more than gained,
When God His rest shall give.
"His presence there, my soul,
Its rest, its joy untold.
Shall find when endless ages roll,
And time shall ne'er grow old.
"Our God the center is,
His presence fills that land,
And countless myriads owned as His,
Round Him adoring stand.
"Our God whom we have known,
Well known in Jesus' love,
Rests in the blessing of His own,
Before Himself above.
"Glory supreme is there,
Glory that shines through all,
More precious still that love to share
As those that love did call.
"Like Jesus in that place
Of light and love supreme;
Once Man of Sorrows full of grace,
Heaven's blest and endless theme.
"Like Him! Oh grace supreme!
Like Him before Thy face,
Like Him to know that glory beam
Unhindered face to face!
"Oh love supreme and bright,
Good to the feeblest heart,
That gives us now, as heavenly light,
What soon shall be our part."
Those scenes of glory to which we are going are even now for our joy and delight, the dwelling place of our affections and associations. "For our conversation [citizenship, or commonwealth] is in heaven." Phil. 3:2020For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20). We are as those from a foreign country who are living for a while in a strange land. The tastes, desires, and affections of the new nature belong to those bright scenes where all its denizens acclaim the worthiness of the Lamb and give glory to Him. This world and all its affairs are uncongenial, and its climate is debilitating to those who can sing:
"We are but strangers here;
Heaven is our home!
Earth is a desert drear;
Heaven is our home!
Dangers and sorrows stand
Round us on ev'ry hand;
Heaven is our father-land,
Heaven is our home!"
"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,... the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
The first mention is of mount Sion. This stands in sharp contrast to Sinai, the "mount that might be touched"; and at the giving of the law, even a beast that touched the fiery mountain had to be killed. We have been blessed by grace, the grace of God, and not cursed by a law which we could not keep. Grace is needed for sinners; nothing else would do. And after grace comes glory-"The LORD will give grace and glory." Psalm
Grace, that which we did not deserve, is the prerequisite of all blessing now and to eternity.
Next, it is added, "and unto the city of the living God [the God with whom Khrushchev and his comrades will have to do, but in judgment], the heavenly Jerusalem." It is not the earthly Jerusalem in all its millennial splendor to which we are come. It will be glorious in its limited earthly way, as it is said, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion... the city of the great King." Psalm 48:22Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. (Psalm 48:2). The same earthly glory is mentioned in Psalm 122: "Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together." vv. 2, 3. Our hope, and the home of our souls now, is "the city of the living God." It will not be a center of an earthly nation, nor merely a place of blessing for the earth, nor the gathering point for the earthly worshipers at the temple; for it is a "heavenly city" where there is no temple, but "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." Rev. 21:2222And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (Revelation 21:22).
"The Lamb is there, my soul-
There God Himself doth rest,
In love divine diffused through all
With Him supremely blest.
"God and the Lamb!-'tis well,
I know that source divine
Of joy and love no tongue can tell,
Yet know that all is mine."
This heavenly city is the city of the living God, the place of His sovereign throne over all the universe; and nothing that defiles-man's bombs, satellites, and astronauts, and all his sins -will ever enter it. It will be perfect bliss and joy forever, and all based on the grace of God and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in atoning for sins.
Myriads of angels, the general assembly of them, will be there. Those heavenly, untainted beings will neither spoil nor detract from the glory of "the city of the living God." Also the assembly of the firstborn ones will be there, for their names have been written there. All the redeemed from Pentecost to the rapture, all those sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, will be there-not one missing. Christians, this is our sure hope, and should be the home of our affections even now. We want not an atheist to search out God or His dwelling place for us, for we have it by indefeasible title, and by the word of Him who cannot lie. If Khrushchev were to tell us he had found heaven, we would not listen; for only the blessed One who came down from heaven can reveal to our hearts what is there. We feel like the little girl who, when accosted by an infidel and questioned about where heaven is, simply replied, "It is where Jesus is."
"There in effulgence bright,
Savior and Guide, with Thee
I'll walk, and in Thy heavenly light
Whiter my robe shall be."
Also, "ye are come... to God the Judge of all." But He will not be a stranger to us, for He is well known to us in Jesus' love. We have been brought to His God who is now "our God" and "exceeding joy" (John 20:1717Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17); Psalm 4; 3:4). "We... joy in God" (Rom. 5:1111And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11)), not merely in His salvation, or His purposes of grace, but in Him Himself. 0 the blessedness of poor guilty sinners being brought to God! For the ungodly and profane, it will mean endless woe, and the torment of outer darkness forever. Woe to the scoffers who ridicule God and His grace. The sore judgments of God hang over this world which cast out and still rejects God's Son. God will be no party to the dishonor done to His Son by treating their sin of rejection as though it were a light matter.
Then in that scene of perpetual bliss will also be found "the spirits of just men made perfect"-not merely the spirits of just men, but spirits clothed with glorified bodies suited to the heavenly Jerusalem. They are the spirits of just men "made perfect," or complete, in the "heavenly Jerusalem." They are the Old Testament saints whose faith cheered many others as they passed along the same toilsome road. The elders of Heb. 11 are some of them; they and all their company are going to be in the "city of the living God" where we shall be soon. These are those mentioned in the last verse of Heb. 11, as those who still await that scene of glory (their spirits blessed with Him now), "that they without us should not be made perfect." They wait for their ultimate blessing until we get ours.
Last, we read, "And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Ah, yes, Jesus Himself is there-the center and theme of heaven's song-the One who is seen in the midst of the throne in Rev. 5 We might mention one little difference between these verses in Heb. 12 and the scene in Rev. 5 In the former we go in and find Jesus the center; in the latter we find Jesus in the midst and then come out to the various assembled companies.
And in all eternity, it will never be forgotten-"the blood of sprinkling" which will be the foundation on which all rests. The mention of the new covenant here, which will be made with the house of Israel and Judah on earth, is on the basis of His precious, shed blood. Thus all blessing in heaven and on earth are brought together in His work. In contrast with this "blood of sprinkling," the "blood of Abel." cried unto God from the ground, cried for vengeance. But there is a sense in which the martyr sufferings of Christ and His blood which man shed is the world's condemnation. May the heavenly city of the living God, and all that is there, draw our poor hearts away from men's cities which are defiled by sin.