Hebrews 12:22-24 "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel."
As I write this post for today, I am beginning a new chapter in my life of living out the rest of my days on this earth without my dad being on it. My beloved dad passed away at 12:55 a.m on Tuesday (yesterday) January 13, 2015. Death's cold fingers and chilly waters had no sting as my dad breathed his last. He has traveled with angelic accompaniment the incalcuable distance from this world to the one beyond the stars and endless galaxies. (Luke 16:22; 2 Corinthians 5:6) Christ His Savior achieved the guarantee of death having no sting in the passing of the Christian from this life to the next. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
How the gift of eternal life brings the hope of Jesus Christ
When my father was 16 years of age, an evangelist came to do a series of revival meetings at the church where his father (my grand-daddy) pastored in Kentucky. As the evangelist preached and as my dad came under conviction, he gripped the back pew ever so tightly. For years my grand-daddy begged and pleaded with my dad to trust in Jesus as his Savior and Lord and told him that if he didn't do so, my dad would spend an eternity in torment. My dad as a young lad would ignore my grand-daddy's tearful pleadings. However the day my dad heard that evangelist make his appeal, the words of that preacher were attended by the Holy Spirit's inner working in his heart. It was not the preacher's voice that won my daddy to Christ; rather the Spirit Himself convincing him to trust in Jesus. According to what my daddy relayed to me, the day he trusted in Jesus, my grand-daddy literally lept the front pew where he was sitting. Finally! Prayer had been answered and a lost son was won to the faith!
What happened to my dad on that day? The Lord brought to him the gift of eternal life in saving faith. What is eternal life? John 17:3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." How is this miracle working of God in salvation received? John 3:16 answers: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." The Spirit of God brought home to him the reality of Hebrews 12:22-24, which I would classify as the clearest explanation of the miraculous truth summarized by John 3:16.
Hebrews 12:22 begins: "But you have come to Mount Zion". Now order to "come to some place", there first had to been a place from whence one derived. If you read the verses prior in Hebrews 12:18-21, the scene is that of Mount Sinai, historically signifying the giving of the law of God and symbolically picturing the place of God's judgment. All the descendants of fallen Adam stand around the base of the Mount of judgment - thinking that they can get to the Judge on their own merit. No one can ever be reconciled to God by the law - since the law can only demand and not supply rightousness. The sinner has to be sentenced and pronounced spiritually dead at the judgment bar of God by the law of God. Furthermore, the sinner must be brought to see the awfulness of his sin by the Spirit of God and agree with the sentence by faith and repentance.
My daddy had this occur in his life some 56 years ago. He was "brought from" that place of well-deserved judgment (which all of us deserve) by the Spirit of God moving in his heart. The moment my daddy forsook his own merit and trusted in what was earned and acheived by Jesus by faith alone, he "came to" the gates of paradise in salvation" or "Mount Zion". God intervened in his human timeline and used an old evangelist preaching the only book that can convert the sinner to a saint to win my dad to Jesus. (Psalm 19:7; Romans 10:17) My dad was credited with Jesus' achievement and began walking as a new creation, a child of God by faith.
How the gift of eternal life gives hope for the remainder of life in this world
For 56 years my daddy walked and talked with Jesus. He poured over his Bible every morning and gradually developed into a man of prayer. Literally my daddy had the reality of Heaven-sent, God-called salvation brought to him and he was as-it-were brought into contact with the glories of heaven in his soul. A Christian who walks this earth walks with a growing home-sickness. When a person is converted in saving faith, the drama and reality of the Spirit of God bringing Jesus and that person into contact with one another at saving a faith is a miracle. The remainder of one's Christian walk is spent understanding and living out what took place at that moment in time. Such a verse as Hebrews 12:22 tells us that the Christian is made a heavenly citizen and participant in the Heavenly kingdom populated by myriads of angels. (Also see Philippians 3:20)
How the hope of Jesus Christ gives hope about the after-life
Now notice Hebrews 12:23 "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect." When I read that last clause in verse 23, I marvel at the fact that those Christians who have passed on in Jesus are perfected in their immaterial spirit and soul. My daddy is among that company! What is the writer of Hebrews talking about here? We can think of the hope of salvation as a series of four stages: regeneration, sanctification, glorification and resurrection.
First, at saving faith in regeneration or the new birth, the spirit or innermost being of a person is set free from the penalty of sin. (Romans 5:1; 8:1).
Secondly, for the remainder of time here on earth, the process of sanctification sets the soul of the Christian (made up of the mind, emotions, will) free from sin's power. That is to say, though Christians retain the residual effects of sin's corruption in their soul in this life and will choose to sin, the point is they don't have to. Romans 7:14-25 captures the Christian's wrestling match with inner sin on the one hand and the desire to live for Jesus on the other hand.
So at salvation the Christ is set free from sin's penalty and in sanctification the Christian is set free from sin's power. With that understanding, we see thirdly that at death the Christian is set free from sin's presence - and event called glorification. Believers who die in the Lord go on ahead to be with Jesus and await the time He returns and they are re-united with a gloriously, resurrected, transformed version of their physical body. (2 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
The fourth and final stage will be the resurrection at Christ's return, wherein Jesus will rapture and resurrect those believers who died in Him, followed by the saints still alive here on the earth. Thus at resurrection, the putrification of the body caused by death will be reversed and annulled, rendering Christians with a glorified resurrected body likened unto Jesus' own. (1 Thesslonians 4:13-18)
My daddy is now in that company of glorified saints. His journey on this earth ended yesterday, however the next leg of his journey with Jesus is only beginning. He is among that company of saints who being perfected in their spirits await resurrection. He is rejoicing in who he is with and is experiencing the dimensions of Christ's glorious presence that no preacher nor any pen can hope to capture. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Hebrews 12:24 gives the greatest hope: "and to Jesus...". The same one Whom my dad was brought to in salvation is the one with Whom he is with right now. I find such hope in these verses because at salvation - heaven is tasted and glimpsed by faith and at death is enjoyed and experienced. Heaven is heaven because Jesus is there. My question to you dear reader: do you have this hope in Jesus? Unless you receive such hope by faith, you will not get to have eternal life. Nor will yoy have any remianing hope in this life. Nor can you expect to have hope in the after-life. Only in Jesus by faith can we have the hope of eternal life, have remaining hope in this life and have hope for the after-life. It is in this hope I cling and it is because of Jesus that I know I will see my daddy once again.