Hebrews 12:22-24 “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
With three terms—Mount Zion, heavenly Jerusalem, and city of the living God—the writer of Hebrews describes our spiritual destination. Perhaps “the city of the living God” is the easiest one for us to understand.
A city is not a place where one person lives alone. Many people live close together, often stacked on top of each other. The city of the living God is the place where people are living close to God. Here He has invited them to be his neighbors and enjoy his friendship.
This is a place to which we have already come by coming to the Christian faith. It is our home in the Church of Jesus Christ. God himself has led us here. It is not just a part of our heavenly future. We are God’s children, his family, his friends right now. We can come to him boldly and confidently and ask him for our heart’s desire. His replies express a tenderness that assures us we are finally home.
There are angels here! “You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” If only God would open our eyes, as he did for the servant of Elisha, and we could see the hills filled with angelic horses and chariots of fire–the armies of God. One guardian angel? Thousands upon thousands surround us with their protection.
And what else are these angels doing? They are having a joyful assembly, a festival celebration. We have crashed their party, where they are celebrating the fact that sinners like you and me have repented of our sins and come home to our heavenly Father.
These are the kinds of people we have as neighbors in God’s city: “You have come to…the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” Though it seems like numerical nonsense, he treats each of us as though we were his own firstborn son. He gives us a double portion, a double share, of his blessings. We are loved, and honored, in a way that would be fitting for Jesus himself. And not the least of these honors is the title to a piece of heavenly real estate, signed by the Lord’s own hand.
“You have come to God, the judge of all men.” Please notice that he does not say that we have come before God, the judge of all men, as though we were on trial and about to be condemned. We have come to God the judge of all men. The Lord is on our side as judge, and he is going to vindicate his children by making right all the wrongs they have ever suffered.
In this city we possess the hope which so fills the hearts all who have ever been parted from those they love. “You have come…to the spirits of righteous men made perfect.” We have come to the spirits of our believing parents and grandparents, and friends, and maybe even spouses or children for some of you, whom the Lord has called home to heaven before us. We have not lost them. We still live together in the same Christian Church. With us, they continue to sing our Savior’s praises. With us, they are residents on Mount Zion, fellow citizens in this same city of God, except they live in it by sight (while we still live in it by faith) because they have now been made perfect.
Our life here is possible because we have come “to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” You remember the story of Cain and Abel. Cain became jealous of his brother Abel, because Abel had offered God a sacrifice from a heart of faith. So he murdered him. Abel’s blood preaches how far our human race has sunk–that a man would murder his own brother just because he sought to please the Lord.
Like Abel, Jesus had his blood spilled by sinful men and died. But his blood has something better to say. His blood is not the sign of an unfortunate murder or miscarriage of justice. It is blood of cleansing. It speaks to us about sins forgiven. It preaches the love of God, who so yearns to have us live with him in his holy city that he would rather let his one and only Son be cruelly crucified than live forever without you and me. The blood of Jesus has carried us up Mount Zion, lifted us to this heavenly Jerusalem, and made us citizens in the city of God to which we have come. Christians, we have arrived!