Hebrews – Chapter Twelve XXXIX

by Ed Urzi

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering” (Hebrews 12:22 ESV).

To the author of Hebrews, Mount Zion was more than just a physical location. Just as Mount Sinai serves to represent the Old Covenant, Mount Zion serves to represent the New Covenant, the realm of heaven, and the kingdom of God. The Old Testament book of Psalms directs our attention to the use of Mount Zion in this sense…

“Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed— This Mount Zion where You have dwelt” (Psalm 74:2).

“Those who trust in the Lord Are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125:10).

“For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: ‘This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it'” (Psalm 132:13-14).

More significantly, the New Testament epistle of 1 Peter cites the Old Testament prophet Isaiah in relating Mount Zion to Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith…

“For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame'” (1 Peter 2:6 NIV).

So while Zion represents a physical location, it also symbolizes “the city of the living God.” And unlike the fearsome specter of God’s presence on Mount Sinai, Mount Zion is populated with “…countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering” (NLT). One author builds upon that contrast with the following observation…

“As opposed to Mt. Sinai, where God gave the Mosaic law which was foreboding and terrifying, Mt. Zion here is not the earthly one in Jerusalem, but God’s heavenly abode, which is inviting and gracious. No one could please God on Sinai’s terms, which was perfect fulfillment of the law (Gal 3:10–12). Zion, however, is accessible to all who come to God through Jesus Christ (cf. Ps 132:13, 14; Is 46:13; Zec 2:10; Gal 4:21–31).” (1)

Finally, we should also note our author’s use of the phrase, “…you have come” to Mount Zion. In other words, those who place their trust in Christ have already arrived in the city of the living God through Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf. In light of this, the author of Hebrews encourages us “…not to go back to the First Testament, to Sinai, and judgment, and exhorts them to go on to the New Testament and join this vast multitude composing this festal gathering.” (2)

(1) John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Heb 12:22.

(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Hebrews 12:22-24) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.