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. – Hebrews 12:25-29 ESV
It pays to listen to God. That should go without saying. Yet when God had spoken to the Israelites from Mount Sinai, they trembled in fear, but refused to obey what He had to say. They had been scared out of their wits by all the booming thunder, lightning and smoke, but that fear didn’t turn into faithful obedience to His commands. The author tells us “the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them” (Hebrews 12:19 ESV). They heard, but they felt like they had heard enough. Even Moses trembled in fear at the sight of God descending upon the top of Mount Sinai. And it was from the top of that mountain that God would give him the Ten Commandments. From that point forward, the righteous expectations of God would be clearly articulated and scrupulously regulated. Sin went from being a somewhat subjective, arbitrary thing to a highly objective, non-debatable trespass against a holy God.
The author of Hebrews warns his readers not to repeat the mistake of their ancestors. “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking” (Hebrews 12:25a ESV). God had come down to earth. He had descended upon Mount Sinai. And there He gave to Moses His list of commands. His voice had shaken the heavens and His physical glory could be seen in the thunder, lightning, smoke and fire. But they had refused to listen to God. “And they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth” (Hebrews 12:25b ESV). Even while Moses was up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the people were down in the valley worshiping and dancing before a false god they had made. As a result of their disobedience, Moses commanded the Levites, “‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ 2And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell” (Exodus 32:27-28 ESV). The rest of the history of the people of Israel would be marked by disobedience and disloyalty to God. In spite of them hearing His voice, they had refused to listen and had to suffer the consequences.
And so, the author of Hebrews warns his readers not to repeat the same mistake. This time, God is speaking from heaven, where He is accompanied by His Son. And quoting from the Old Testament book of Haggai, the author of Hebrews credits God with the words, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26 ESV). The actual quote from the prophecies of Haggai is “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” (Haggai 2:6 ESV). At this point in Jewish history, the people of God had returned from exile in the land of Babylon and had rebuilt the temple. It was just a shadow of its former glory. The city of Jerusalem was still being reconstructed and the nation was in a highly weakened state, with no king and no army to protect them. Haggai went on to prophecy, “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. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:7-9 ESV). That prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. But the author of Hebrews is telling his readers that it one day will be.
God is going to one day shake the earth again. This time, it will involve “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” (Hebrews 12:27 ESV). God is going to redeem what He has made. He will destroy the old created order, marred by sin, and replace it with something new and free from the effects of sin.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4 ESV
Isaiah speaks of the same incredible event:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. – Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV
Peter gives us another glimpse of that coming day.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:8-13 ESV
So what should our response be to all of this? The author of Hebrews tells us, “let us be grateful for receiving an 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” (Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV). We have much for which to be grateful. Our God is in control. He has a perfect plan. He will one day complete that plan and restore things back to the way He made them before the fall. Let us listen to His words of promise and rest in His holy character, fully believing that we will receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken.