The Joy of Zion
There are many descriptions of the Kingdom of God in scripture, each highlighting as aspect of the Reign of God. One of the things we learn as we look at the larger picture of the Kingdom in scripture is that the Kingdom has never been static. Since the beginning, God has been moving toward the fulfillment of his plans for his ultimate universal reign when it will fill the universe after all other power, rule and authority has been abolished. One of the passages that characterize the reign of God comes from Hebrews 12:18f.
The passage makes a contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. God established a Kingdom at Sinai that would play a part toward the realization of his eternal kingdom. But this was not his final goal. Sinai was in the desert. Sinai was a place of separation. No one could come up the mountain and approach God. There was dark smoke, fire and the sound of God that filled people with terror and dread. Thankfully, Sinai was not the final destination.
In contrast, the text highlights, the final destination, Mount Zion, the mountain of God which is in the city of God. Of course, we know this is not talking about the physical city. It clearly says this is the "heavenly" one. This is speaking of the Kingdom of God, which transcends the kingdoms of the world. It is figuratively called Mount Zion, which is where God's throne sits, the city of the living God and the heavenly Jerusalem, which is where God's people live.
There are several contrasts between the old mountain of God, Sinai, and the new mountain of God, Zion, which is where God people figuratively have come to. First of all, Zion is a festive place. The Greek word used here, panhgeros, does not just mean assembly, but a festive or joyful assembly. It is always used of parties, celebrations, or simply the festive atmosphere of gatherings such as a feast or one of the annual games. This paints a picture of the nature of the assembly at Mount Zion. The myriads of angels, the church of the firstborn ones, and the spirits of the righteous gather there are rejoicing. It is a place of jubilant joy. Jesus has redeemed them with his blood and has enacted a new covenant of grace by which God's people can actually come to Mount Zion and approach the throne of grace. This stands in stark contrast to the dread, gloom, and terror of Mount Sinai.
No wonder the text warns us not to refuse our Lord. The joy, peace, and redemption can only be found through Christ who brings us to Mount Zion, the eternal Kingdom of God and no place else. The text reminds us that the entire universe will be shaken. This will be unlike any earthquake the world has ever seen. The only thing that will remain is that jubilant kingdom of God built on the only firm foundation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we remain in the Kingdom, on Mount Zion so that we will not just survive the earthquake, but continue to thrive in the presence of the Lord of life.
This is a call to both faithfulness and joyful jubilation. We have not come to gloom, dread, and terror, but to the joy of the Lord which strengthens and sustains us. We should encourage one another with these words and encourage a response of hope and the joy of the Lord that comes with it in our worship and in daily life. Reminding each other of our Lord's work and responding by rejoicing together is encouraging and strengthening.