Unshakeable Kingdom (Hebrews 12:18-29)
I read online that Apple watches are the best smartwatches for swimmers, so I bought one. I fell in love, for it tracked my laps and my heart rate—I had a wealth of data after a swim. The watch also worked very well for tracking my rides.
After about a year, the watch just quit one morning, so I took it to the Apple Store. The tech who helped me told me that water had gotten in the device while I was swimming. Since that wasn’t supposed to happen and the watch was under warranty, Apple replaced it, no questions asked.
About a month after I received the replacement watch, the device got too much water in it and died again. It was much worse the second time—my watch malfunctioned and called 911 as I was trying to record a swim.
So, I got a Garmin Forerunner, and I’ve started using it and I’m very happy with it.
Haven’t you had stuff quit on you? Have you ever been on a trip and started having car trouble? Have you ever had a refrigerator that stopped keeping your food cold? Have you ever been sound asleep when a smoke detector decided to start chirping for no reason? Have you ever had some electronic device—a computer or a cell phone or a TV or a smartwatch—and it just never worked as promised?
Nothing in this world lasts, but the Hebrew Christians were given hope of something which would last forever—the kingdom of God. The Epistle of Hebrews was written to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, and this passage shows Christianity to be superior, for “God’s kingdom is eternal.”
Scripture (Hebrews 12:18-29)
The Hebrews had better not reject the one who was speaking, for the new covenant—the word from heaven—is far better than the old covenant. God punished those who disobeyed the lesser covenant; therefore, he will severely punish those who reject the greater covenant.
When God gave Moses the law, the land around Mt. Sinai shook. A popular Jewish tradition claimed that the entire earth shook at God’s voice.
Whether that tradition is right or wrong, God will once more “shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” That shaking will be a far greater shaking than at Sinai, for even the heavens will shake. As the text will soon make clear, the shaking of the heavens and the earth refers to their destruction.
All things that have been made—the heavens and the earth—will be shaken and removed (i.e., destroyed). God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1), and he will remove the heavens and the earth and everything in them.
The heavens and earth will be removed “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” Some things simply cannot be destroyed, and the shaking at the end of the age will expose that which is firm, solid, and unshakeable.
The Hebrew Christians were receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken; that kingdom is permanent and will last throughout all eternity. God, through Daniel, had promised an unshakeable kingdom: “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people” (Dan 2:44).
The Hebrews were to be grateful for that kingdom; an outgrowth of their gratitude was to be “acceptable worship.” From the time of Cain men have worshiped their own way instead of God’s way, but this inspired text reminded the Hebrews that their worship must be acceptable. That acceptable worship was to be “with reverence and awe,” with proper respect.
One must worship respectfully, “for our God is a consuming fire.” The Lord “descended on [Mt. Sinai] in fire” (Ex 19:18), and the people were terrified. That same God who came to Sinai in fire, who shook the earth, and who severely judged the disobedient under the Law of Moses is the God before whom one comes to worship. Therefore, it’s extremely wise not to enter worship just with any attitude but “with reverence and awe.”
“God’s kingdom is eternal.” The covenant given at Sinai did not last. Not a single cent, not a single success, not a single good deed will last to the end. All that will remain is the kingdom of God.
God’s kingdom refers to his reign in the hearts of men. This morning, he reigns in his church. However, when the heavens and earth are shaken, God will reign in heaven. The king will say to the righteous, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). “There will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:11). “The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (Rev 11:15). When the author mentioned receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, he was talking about receiving a heavenly kingdom that will endure after this world is no more.
How should you live because “God’s kingdom is eternal?” Well, this passage answers that question:
One: You Live with Gratitude.
“Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Gratefulness itself is to characterize the Christian’s life. “Be thankful” (Col 3:15). “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).
Why did the Hebrews need to express gratitude for the kingdom which cannot be shaken? Well, think about that question in light of the broader context here. The Hebrew Christians were struggling mightily with the temporary nature of their Jewish faith. They desperately wanted to cling to the law of Moses, and, throughout Hebrews, the author reminded them of the superiority of Jesus’s new covenant.
Yet, when the Hebrews became Christians, they entered a kingdom that will not pass away like the law of Moses. The old covenant—everything they had known from childhood—was passing away, but the law of Moses was being replaced with something far better and something something that would never be replaced.
Why should you be grateful for receiving a kingdom that will never be shaken?
God’s never-ending kingdom gives certainty in an uncertain world.
You don’t know what’s going to happen today, let alone tomorrow. But you do know that you have “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).
God’s never-ending kingdom means you will have never-ending life in a place without evil.
God’s never-ending kingdom means you will be with God eternally.
“We will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17). You will always be able to gaze upon his glory and be near him.
Because you’re receiving “a kingdom that cannot be shaken,” you need to be grateful. Express that gratefulness to God in prayer. As you pray this week, be sure to thank the Father that you’re receiving “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”
Two: You Live with Glorification.
The Hebrews needed to glorify God because they were receiving “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” They were to glorify God by offering “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”
You must offer God acceptable worship. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24). Jesus mentioned two aspects of appropriate worship: “in spirit [with the right heart] and truth [with the right actions].” The author of Hebrews reversed that order: he first spoke of “acceptable worship” and then he said that worship must be with “reverence and awe.”
Your worship must always fit biblical standards. You worship by the book, and you give God “acceptable worship” by New Testament commands.
Your worship must also be “with reverence and awe.” You worship “with reverence” by respecting God. You never forget that the One whom you worship is the Great I AM. You’re not trying to rush through worship, you’re actively participating, and you’re keeping your mind squarely on God. Let me ask you: How respectful are you when you worship? How can you be more respectful? Look at the way you engage in worship and see how you can be more respectful.
You worship with “awe” by worshiping with godly fear. You remember who God is and why you’re here to worship. You did not come this morning to a social club, to feel good about yourself, or to punch your card to heaven. You’re not sitting here because that’s what Mom and Dad always did; you’re not here because your spouse expects you to be here. You have come to lay your gift of praise at the feet of a holy and awesome God.
Look at your heart. How much do you worship with godly fear? How can you better worship with godly fear? Search your heart. Make any corrections that are necessary.
Since “God’s kingdom is eternal,” you live with gratitude and glorification. You live with gratitude and glorification because the Christian life is serious business: “Our God is a consuming fire.” The God from whom we receive an eternal kingdom is a God of justice and vengeance.
On that last great day, you will receive from God either a kingdom which cannot be shaken or you’ll receive eternal justice and vengeance. Which will it be?