If you were wandering down a forest pathway and came across a sign that warned of danger ahead, what would you do? Would you ignore it and keep going? What if a few minutes later you encountered a second warning sign? Then a third, a fourth, and so on… how many warnings would you need before you were convinced to turn back?
In his letter to the Hebrews, the writer included several “warning passages” to caution them against certain behaviors. As we have read through this book, we have come across these warnings again and again like signs on a trail. While many Bible scholars list 5 of these warnings, in this series I have pointed out 6 (including the one we’ll discuss today). The exact number doesn’t really matter, but that repeated emphasis is something to consider.
Today’s message is titled, “Don’t Deny”. It is the last of the warning passages in Hebrews. It follows “Don’t Drift”, “Don’t Doubt”, “Don’t Disobey”, “Don’t Depart”, and “Don’t Disregard”. Clearly, the writer felt it necessary to issue several warnings. It is almost as if he is speaking to children, trying to make them understand the gravity of their choices...
I. HEED GOD’S WARNING (v25)
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.” This warning refers back to the previous passage, in which God spoke to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. They gathered at the base of the mountain, a safe distance away, and God came down upon it with fire. A thick, dark cloud settled upon Mount Sinai, and the LORD spoke thunderously from it. The whole congregation of people were terrified and trembled at the sound of His voice.
God warned the Hebrew Children to carefully obey the laws and follow the instructions He gave them at Sinai. They were to occupy the Promised Land and drive out its inhabitants. Once there, they were to live in obedience to the LORD as His chosen people and be a blessing to the entire earth. However, they refused to do this. Instead they complained, murmured, and longed to return to Egypt. Despite seeing the miraculous work of God again and again, this generation of Israelites failed to enter Canaan and instead died in the wilderness. They were unable to escape God’s judgment “on earth”.
In light of the fact that men can not escape the Lord’s judgment in this life, how foolish is it to believe they will be able to in the next? God issues a clear and serious warning “from Heaven” - unrepentant sinners will be held accountable for their wickedness and rebellion. They will be eternally separated from God and condemned to Hell. There will be no escape for those who refuse to heed His warning. Only those who respond to the Lord’s warning, as the blood of Jesus speaks to His saving grace (v24), will be saved.
II. CREATION WILL SHAKE (v26-27)
At Sinai, when the LORD spoke the entire mountain shook “violently” (Exodus 19:18). The mountain wasn’t shaking on its own initiative (it is an inanimate object), but rather God was causing it to. Centuries later King David reminisced about this remarkable event in the psalms. He wrote that “the earth quaked”, rain fell from the shy, and Mount Sinai itself shook “at the presence of God” (Psalm 68:8).
Just as He shook the earth many years ago during the exodus, Almighty God will someday shake “the heaven” also. This citation comes from the writings of an Old Testament prophet. During the days of Zerubbabel and the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, Haggai prophesied of this coming event (Haggai 2:6). The heavens themselves and the powers thereof will be shaken in the end times.
This final shaking can be understood as both a judgment and a sifting. Through it, “created things” will be removed. As used here, “created things” refers to that which has been corrupted by sin and cursed by God. In other words, those things which have been tainted by sin will be separated out and discarded. This fallen heaven and earth will be transformed into a new, glorious, perfect, and incorruptible place. What remains will be unshakable.
III. A CONSUMING FIRE (v28-29)
The redeemed children of God will someday “receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken”. They will dwell in it with the Lord for all of eternity. Jesus will reign over it in righteousness and truth. The saints of God from all generations will abide peacefully and joyfully together in this unshakable kingdom. In a sense, they possess this kingdom in their hearts even now, though it is not yet fully realized.
Knowing this, those who have received Christ should be extremely grateful for what He already has and what He promises to provide. They should be a thankful people. Furthermore, believers should willingly and humbly serve the Lord and do His will. They should demonstrate reverence and awe toward Him, by acknowledging His great power and authority. The God who shakes the heavens and the earth is worthy and fully deserving of our love and respect.
The writer of Hebrews closes this passage with a deliberate reminder that God is “a consuming fire”. This solemn description of the LORD was originally used by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3. The ancient prophet and leader depicted the Lord’s wrath as fire that destroys those who practice idolatry and who align themselves as enemies against God. Again, this reinforces the seriousness of the warning given in the previous verse - do not refuse to hear and abide by God’s voice!
Do you remember having fire drills during elementary school? The bells would ring to sound the alarm, and we would stop the lesson immediately. Our teacher would grab her gradebook, have us line up in an orderly fashion, turn off the lights, and lead us out of the building following a pre-designated escape route. The last kid out got to shut the door, which at the time seemed like a tremendous honor. All of the classes would meet outside at a certain spot and wait quietly until the bells rang again, signaling it was safe to return inside.
I didn’t come up with the school’s disaster plan, but I followed it. So did my classmates. Had there ever been a real fire - and fortunately there wasn’t - we were all well prepared to evacuate quickly and calmly. When the warning sounded, everyone took it seriously. Can you imagine if our teachers would have ignored it or disregarded it? “Don’t worry about those bells class - I’m sure it’s nothing. Let’s just finish this lesson.” How foolish would that have been?
Sadly, many people today deny the truth - God will judge and punish sinners. Right now He is graciously sounding the alarm and offering us an opportunity to escape His divine wrath. He has set forth a plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Are we listening? The gospel is blaring! Will we take it seriously? We will act upon it in faith? Or will we wait until the flames have engulfed us and there’s no way out? Once we die, there is no second chance.