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We Are Receiving A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken- Hebrews 12:25-29

When you see in the news that there has been a devastating earthquake you will often discover that the people will not go back into their homes for fear of more earthquakes. In that moment they are instructed to stay outside where exposure to the elements is more preferable than finding comfort in their homes which may collapse if another earthquake occurs.

If this instruction is wise and good then our text this morning should give us reason to pause and consider the wisdom and goodness of our text today. There was a time in the past when God shook the earth with His voice so that the people would fear Him and obey (responses of true faith). At that time the people heard His voice and they promised to listen and obey. However, soon they no longer feared the LORD and obeyed Him. They quickly returned to living lives that were a reflection of their faithless hearts. They turned away from ‘God who is a consuming fire’ (12:29).

The shaking that I just described occurred at Mt. Sinai. After that shaking the LORD later promised that He would shake the world once again (Haggai 2:6). He promised that the next time He would do this it would be even more powerful. He promised that it would remove all things so that only that which could not be shaken would remain.

In light of this promise we would be foolish to ignore Him who warns us from heaven! How foolish it would be if we heard this warning from heaven and then went back into the city, and back into our homes, and acted like there would never be a shaking again. We would be most wise to take our families and go outside the camp (13:13).

In Hebrews 12:25-29 we read these words, “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 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, for our God is a consuming fire.

We must ask ourselves some questions after reading this text,

  • When is this shaking going to happen?

  • Did this shaking happen in the past?

  • Is this shaking happening now?

  • Is there a shaking yet to happen in the future?

  • Are we ready for the shaking that is described in our text?

  • How am I going to respond to this?

  • Refusal and rejection of these words and return to a normal life?

  • Or by receiving the kingdom by faith and responding with worship and faithful service?

As I consider this ‘shaking’ my first instinct is to think that this will happen in the future. I would even say that I find myself hoping this happens sometime far in the future. Like King Hezekiah, who after receiving word that destruction and calamity prophesied against Israel would not happen in his lifetime, was content and happy. I also hope that this ‘shaking’ will not happen in my life. Then I can say of this text, “‘The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.’ For he (Hezekiah) thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’” (Isaiah 39:8)

As I consider this text I say, ‘Surely we would have known if something this big had already happened!’ The language in these verses seems apocalyptic. It sounds like something that will happen when God destroys this creation with fire (2 Peter 3:3-13). It seems like this would happen when God rolls up this present creation like a garment (Isaiah 34:4) and when He brings about the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:5).

I think that we can quickly conclude that in the future there will be a great ‘shaking’ which will leave behind only that which is permanent, enduring, and abiding.

Question: Does this mean that there has not already been a shaking or that this shaking does not continue today?

We live in a world that is being shaken, rocked and jolted even now. All of creation is groaning for its liberation from its bondage to corruption. This present time is characterized by suffering, weakness, bondage and pain. These things leave us groaning inwardly as we wait in hope for the adoption as sons, the redemption of these bodies. (Romans 8:18-27)

Even as this happens we have hope because we have been given the Holy Spirit who comforts us with the reality of the love and the blessings that we have in Christ. We live in a world that shakes but God is able to complete His will, ‘...those He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified' (8:30) The world shakes, but God’s plan is being carried out in the midst of such things with great success (Matthew 24:3-8). Our world shakes but the God who calls us will also see that we are glorified. Who or what could ever separate us from the love of God! In this there is great peace.

In Hebrews 12:25-29 every believer in every generation is being told not to refuse God who is warning us from heaven. The LORD shook Mt. Sinai in the past but later (in Haggai’s day) He promised to do it again. I will contend today in this sermon that the LORD has begun to fulfill that promise in Jesus Christ and that He continues to shake all things until only ‘the things that cannot be shaken will remain.’

God has Shaken The Earth Before

Our text this morning makes it clear that on Mt. Sinai God shook the earth. The author of Hebrews described this moment in Hebrews 12:18-21, “We have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned. Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’

The description in Exodus 19:16-19 says, “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.

We may ask, ‘Why did God shake Mt. Sinai in this way?’ God did this so that the people would fear Him and serve Him through faith. This is the same response that the author of Hebrews is moving us towards as we come to the end of this chapter (Hebrews 12:28-13).

After Sinai, Before The Coming Of Jesus, God Promised To Shake Things Again

God shook the earth at Sinai so that the people would fear Him, hear His voice, and faithfully obey Him. But we also know that Israel continuously failed to do this and God found fault with them (Hebrews 8:8). Therefore, God judged His people, He destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and He sent His people into exile. Yet, God had promised through His prophet Isaiah that after a short time the LORD would return them to the Promised Land.

The author of Hebrews refers to this moment when he paraphrases the prophet Haggai as he spoke to God’s people when they returned to Jerusalem from exile. He does this with the words, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” (26). Here the author of Hebrews is paraphrasing something from Haggai 2:7.

Please turn to Haggai 2. In the book of Haggai we see that the people of God had returned to rebuild the Temple and things were progressing well but then the work suddenly stopped. There were two reasons for this. First, the neighboring nations began to hinder their work. These nations protested to the king that if Israel was allowed to rebuild the Temple they would rebel against him and his kingdom (Ezra 4).

The same thing was happening to the Christians that the book of Hebrews was written to. Their Jewish neighbors were persecuting them because they considered them to be rebels for leaving the traditions of their forefathers. They were turning the whole world upside down!

Secondly, the people in Haggai’s day had stopped building because some of the older Israelite’s who had seen Solomon’s Temple in all of its glory were discouraged because the work they were doing seemed so small and insignificant (Ezra 3:10-13). They remembered the beauty of the Temple and this new one did not impress them. These people made the rebuilding of the Temple difficult and the work stopped and they were not motivated to begin it again. We see the prophet address this when he says to them, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” (2:3)

In a similar way, these Jewish Christians that the author of Hebrews was writing to knew that they were giving up many things when they became believers. They had turned to Christ and had turned away from the Temple, the priesthood, the Law, the sacrifices, the traditions of their fathers, and Moses.

In Haggai’s day when this work stopped they began to give their attention to other things. For example, they began to build houses for themselves. In Haggai 1:4 we read that the Lord said through Haggai, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” Similarly, these Jewish Christians that the book of Hebrews was written were turning away from Christ and had begun to protect their properties and their possessions (Hebrews 10:34-39).

Application for us: Is our attention given to this worldly kingdom while we neglect the heavenly kingdom? Are we fulfilling our calling and the Great Commission or are we caught up in other things?

When these things happened the LORD sends His prophet Haggai to them saying in verse 4, “Yet, now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.”

Notice: Here the prophet points them back to when the LORD delivered them from Egypt and made a covenant with them. But please take note that before and after this the Haggai is pointing them forward to something which would be even more glorious and lasting.

To encourage His people the LORD says something shocking. In Haggai 2:9 we read, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former (glory), says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.

Do you see how Haggai is prophesying in between two events? He is prophesying after God made a covenant with the people at Mt. Sinai. He is also speaking about how in the future (2:6) the LORD will do something greater (2:7-9).

Question: “What will make this smaller insignificant Temple be more glorious than Solomon’s Temple?

In verse 6 we read, “For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.”

This shaking could be terrifying without any clarification. The LORD says that there will be a day coming when everything in heaven, on the earth, in the sea, and on dry land.

Question: How will telling this people about such a cataclysmic event motivate them to build a temple?

It does not seem that this would be something that would naturally happen. Normally a shaking like this would be terrifying. However, this shaking will bring two seemingly contradictory things. It will shake all things which is normally terrifying, but this shaking would bring glory to the temple and there would be peace (9).

Question: How can this be? The shaking at Mt. Sinai did not bring peace, but terror even to Moses!

Note: It is from Haggai 2:6 that the author of Hebrews paraphrases. By paraphrasing this section I believe that the Holy Spirit is showing us that this shaking may be in ways that we would not expect. It is a shaking that can be seen and it may be unseen. It is a shaking that will have the ability to bring peace in some way and usher in a greater reality of God’s glory.

As Haggai continues to prophecy we see that great blessings come with this shaking. In verse 7, “And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.” Again, the author of Hebrews has paraphrased this part and not included this section to show that this shaking can be visible and observable or it can be eternal and unseen. In some ways this shaking will not simply be about money, wealth, and visible treasure. Rather, it will involves a spiritual blessing that includes the whole world.

These verses in Haggai are a Messianic prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ who would one day walk into the Temple. The people stopped working on it because it appeared to them to be so insignificant as compared to Solomon’s Temple. In many ways it was.

However, isn’t it fitting that the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, would come into this second temple which seemed to them to be so lowly and humble. This is the same Jesus who left His glory in heaven to be born in a manger and to live as a man under the Law. This is the same Jesus left the heavenly things, the better things, the superior things, and then He ministered in and around this earthly Temple. This is the same Jesus who left His glory to be judged by the political and religious leaders in this world and to die for you and I. Yet, for those who have the eyes to see, and the ears to hear, Jesus is the greater Temple and He visited that earthly Temple. It is gone but He remains forever!

When Jesus came into that second Temple the glory of the earthly Temple was filled with His glorious presence. In that moment the glory in that Temple was immeasurably greater than the glory that had filled Solomon’s temple in the form of the glory cloud (2 Chronicles 7:1). Jesus, the Word, had become flesh and dwelt among us. We read, in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The desire of the nations that Haggai refers to in verse 7 is a reference to the Messiah- Jesus Christ. We see this very clearly in the way that other translations translate this verse. The NIV translates Haggai 2:7 in this way, “I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty.” The KJV says, “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

Hebrews 12:26 paraphrases Haggai 2:6 where we are told that the LORD would, in a little while, shake the heavens and the earth. Note: it does not say, ‘At the end of the age’. Here the emphasis is on something that will happen soon. It will happen ‘in a little while’ at the coming of Christ. This shaking would continue until the end of the ages. After which the only things that will remain are those things that cannot be shaken.

When Jesus came this shaking would begin to shake everything that had been operating up until that time. The first thing to go was the Old Covenant that was enacted on Mt. Sinai when God shook the earth. Jesus did not remove the Old Covenant and leave a void there. No, Jesus shook those things away and brought in a new, lasting and eternal New Covenant.

We currently live in this world which experiences so much shaking. We give lots of diagnosis’ for why this is happening but do not be fooled. The reason is spiritual. The reason this world shakes is because God has subjected it to these things (Romans 8:20). Similarly, the reason you personally are shaken at times is not always the visible things that you might diagnose. God will shake our lives so that we will grow in our faith and dependence upon Him.

In this world we see so much chaos and rebellion against God, His Son, and His Word. And yet, the author of Hebrews has already testified that everything has been put in subjection to Christ and nothing has been left outside of His control (Hebrews 2:8). Jesus is now crowned with glory and honor (2:9). He has now brought many sons to glory and He is not ashamed to call us brothers (2:10-11). In Hebrews 3 we were told that we are now sharers of a heavenly calling!

When Jesus came He began to shake things up and since that time it has intensified. And yet, Jesus has also brought about a new reality, a new covenant, and a new enduring and permanent age. We live here as sojourners, exiles, and pilgrims; but we are already sharers in a heavenly calling. We are running a long race but we have already “...come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and (you have come) to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and (you have come) to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and (you have come) to God, the judge of all, and (you have come) to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and (you have come) to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and (you have come) to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Next week we will be reminded in Hebrews 12:28 that we are to be ‘grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken’. The word ‘receiving’ is a participle verb and it is in the present tense. It is telling us that we are already right now receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

The author of Hebrews wants Christians to know that there was a shaking that began to occur when Jesus arrived that has removed the old covenant and He established a New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13). This New Covenant is better and it has better promises. It is a Covenant of Grace. We are no longer under the Law. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and ascension there has been a dramatic change that has happened once and for all. The old things have passed away, behold, the new has come.

Haggai spoke of a shaking that brought about greater glory and peace. Therefore, we are to live in those spiritual blessings (and all other spiritual blessings). Christians do not be discouraged by the chaos that is all around you. Do not be threatened by the nations that rage against God and His Son (Psalm 2). Do not be tempted to return to those things that are perishing, vanishing and are ready to pass away. Do not love this world because it is passing away (1 John 2:15-17).

Instead, look to Jesus in all of His glory and receive peace. Then respond in faithful obedience to Hebrews 12:28-29 which says, “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, for our God is a consuming fire.


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