Today we read from Hebrews 12:22-24:
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
We have been treating the covenant of grace, first from the Old Testament, and then this month from the New Testament. We defined the covenant of grace as that relationship of fellowship that God establishes with His elect people in Jesus Christ. We have said that it is one covenant, but in different manifestations. Therefore, we read of Jesus in Hebrews 8:6, that He is the Mediator of a better covenant. And in Hebrews 12:24, that He is the Mediator of a new covenant. What does that mean? How is the covenant of grace revealed and unfolded in the New Testament? In what way is it better or new?
The author of Hebrews is making a sharp comparison and contrast, a contrast between the types and the shadows of the Old Testament and the reality now in Jesus Christ. You see, there were Jewish Christians, some because of persecution by the Judaizers, others because they felt that now they were missing something, having come to Christ, who now wanted to go back to the Old Testament laws. They missed the Temple worship, the priests with their fine clothing, the annual feasts involved with sacrifices and fellowship sacrifices. The author of Hebrews is urging these Christians not to return to the Old Testament laws and types. They have something far greater in our Lord Jesus.
In our text, compared and contrasted was God’s coming to Mount Sinai and the people’s coming to Mount Zion. At Mount Sinai, the people could not approach the mountain and, later on, the people could never go into the Holy of Holies in the Temple. But now, in the New Testament, we read that we may draw nigh boldly. The author of Hebrews says, “Ye are come to Jerusalem.” He is talking there about heaven: life with God and life with all of His saints and angels. The earlier comparisons were made between Moses, the mediator in the Old Testament, and Jesus, the Mediator of the new. There was a comparison in Hebrews between the line of Aaron, which had a beginning and an end, and Jesus Christ, who was after the order of Melchizedek, meaning that there is nothing written about a beginning or an end. There is a comparison between the Old Testament priests’ having to make endless sacrifices, never being done, never being able to sit down, as compared to Jesus Christ’s one sacrifice, once for all, so that He gave Himself and He sat down. There is a comparison between the sprinkled blood of the Old Testament sacrifices and the poured out blood of Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 12:22-24, therefore, the author of Hebrews is pointing out the greatness of the reality, which all of the Old Testament could only faintly picture. And the author of Hebrews is telling these Christians, “Don’t go back to the pictures. You have the reality in Christ. Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant.”
What does that mean, the Mediator? There is a contrast between what was obtained in the Old Testament and what is now obtained in the New Testament in Christ. Moses, as a mediator, was a middle person between Israel and God. He was acknowledged such by the people. Exodus 20:19: the people spoke unto Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” God appointed Moses to declare His mind to His people. God says to Moses, “Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shalt thou make unto you gods of gold. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee” (Ex. 20:22-24).
Moses alone must go up the mountain of Sinai. He was given the law. There were laws upon laws upon laws. Read them all. Even while Moses was yet receiving that law from God, the people of Israel near the mountain make a golden calf. Three thousand of them were slain at the hands of the Levites. And then, before Moses goes back up the mountain, he says, “Ye have sinned a great sin and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.” Moses even offers himself for the people. He says to God, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Ex. 33:31). God revealed His glory to Moses and to Moses alone. We read in I Corinthians 10:2 that all the people were baptized unto Moses. But, you see, Moses was only a man, and at that a fallen descendant of Adam. Yes, Moses delivered God’s law to the people. It was written on tablets of stone. But Moses was unable to write it on their hearts. Moses was unable to bring the perfect obedience necessary for them. Moses was unable to save, by offering himself, because he could never be a perfect sacrifice.
Over against Moses, a mediator of the old covenant, Jesus Christ is our Mediator. In other words, Moses was pointing forward. A type is always imperfect, pointing forward to the perfect reality, the antitype. Jesus Christ is truly one of us, that is, He was man, but He is also God, chosen by God to be the Head of His people. He alone can save, by His blood. In the Old Testament, the blood of the animal was sprinkled upon the altar, sprinkled upon the vessels of the temple, sprinkled upon the priest himself and even the people. But it could not wash away even one sin. It could not remove the curse of the law. In fact, all those animals that were killed, over and over and over again, only testified to the people of their sin. Jesus’ blood is better. That is why in Hebrews 8:6 it is called a better covenant. It is called the new covenant. So, compared with Mount Sinai, Mount Zion was the palace of the king, where the Temple was. In the Old Testament there were laws that came. In the New Testament it is the gospel that comes, the good news of Jesus Christ.
Notice, our text speaks of the blood of Jesus. His personal name is used. It means “Jehovah Saves.” Moses was a mediator. He did bring the people out of Egypt. He brings them to Canaan. But Jesus is the Mediator of a new covenant. He takes us out of our death in sin and He gives us new life, making us citizens of heaven.
Boys and girls sing a song: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Compared is not only Moses and Jesus as mediators, but also compared is the blood of the Old Testament that was sprinkled and the blood of Jesus Christ that was poured out. The blood of the Old Testament sacrifices speaks just as the blood of Jesus speaks. The author of Hebrews says that the blood of Jesus, sprinkled on the cross, speaketh better things. Better things than what? It was compared to the blood of Abel, which was shed by his brother Cain. Better speech. Let us come, let us come to that blood. Do you, my friend, have an interest in the blood of Jesus? Sadly, today many churches do not want to hear anything about blood theology. For them, Jesus is merely a good man or a good example for us to follow.
So, compared is the blood of Abel and Jesus Christ. That sounds strange, does it not? Humanly speaking, how can they be compared? The blood of Abel really represents all of the blood sprinkling in the Old Testament. When the lambs or the oxen were slain, the blood was sprinkled on the horns of the altar, on the altar of incense, on the people themselves, signifying the need for purification. It was all outward. It was all a picture. We read in Hebrews 10:1 that those sacrifices offered year by year, continually, could not make the comers thereunto perfect. But when the blood of Jesus was poured out on Calvary, the author of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 10:10, “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” And in 10:14: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Hebrews 10:22: “Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
So, how was the blood of Abel similar to that of Jesus Christ? First of all, it was blood shed by their own brethren. Abel was killed by his brother Cain; Jesus Christ was put to death by His fellow Jews, and by the Romans. You and I are the cause of His death. It was for us He died. Second of all, the blood of Abel and of our Lord Jesus was innocent blood. That does not mean that Abel never sinned, but that, while he testified to Cain of his sin, Cain slew him. Our Lord Jesus never sinned. Pilate, the world’s judge, said over and over and over again in the judgment, “I find no fault in this man. He is innocent.” The Jewish leaders, in fact, had to bring in false witnesses in order to try to convict Jesus. Innocent. Thirdly, the blood of Abel and of Christ Jesus is similar in this respect: both speak. We read in Genesis 4:10 that God says to Cain: “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” And in 4:11: “The earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.”
So the figure is given of blood crying out. Crying out, it gives witness. So the blood of Jesus Christ cries out, not from the ground as did Abel’s, but from heaven. For Christ, our High Priest, having brought Himself as a perfect sacrifice, has entered heaven itself. This was pictured in the Old Testament by the high priest, who once a year could enter into the Holy of Holies with the blood of atonement to sprinkle the Ark of the Covenant. Jesus Christ has entered into heaven.
Both the blood of Abel and the blood of Christ speak. But what they say is worlds apart. The voice of Abel’s blood from the ground pierces God’s ears and it cries out for vengeance, vengeance on the criminal. It cries out for justice. God hears that speech and He curses Cain. What a terrible speech of Abel’s blood. What about the blood of Jesus—the innocent One, despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? He was put to death at the hands of men, but listen. The blood of Jesus speaks better things. It cries out before God’s throne. What does it cry? “Forgive, forgive them.” Did not Jesus pray on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”? Oh, the blood of Jesus Christ, who has entered into heaven, cries out: “I have made satisfaction for the sins of My people. I was cast out from Thy presence. I took their crimes and their sins and I have paid for them. Forgive them, Father.”
Through the sprinkled blood of Jesus, all the benefits of Christ are applied to all of God’s people. There is forgiveness of their sins, they are made righteous, the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto them, and eternal life is earned. As we read in Hebrews 2:9, Jesus, who suffered death, is now crowned with glory and honor “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 10:10: Jesus coming to die according to God’s will, “by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” That is why Jesus is called the Mediator of a better or a new covenant. At Mount Sinai, the people dared not come to hear God’s speech. But we read in Hebrews 4:16 that we may come boldly unto God’s throne of grace, or, in Hebrews 10:19: We have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
So, let us go back to Hebrews 12:22ff.: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God.” In the old covenant it was a mountain in the wilderness, later on replaced by a temple and a throne in a land of milk and honey. Ah, but far better is the new covenant, where we go into heaven, where we find that city that Abraham sought, the city that has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.
What a severe warning there is, then, in Hebrews 12:25: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.” Christ’s blood cries out for vengeance on those who do not believe on Him, those who trample His blood underfoot. Oh, our God is a consuming fire.
You and I, we read in Hebrews 11, are surrounded by a host of witnesses—all those saints in the Old Testament who believed God’s promises, who, through the blood of animals, looked for the One who would shed His blood for them once for all. Christ’s blood cries out in mercy: “Forgive them, Father. I’ve paid for their sins, paid in full, justice is satisfied. Give to My people peace. I have reconciled them by My blood. Oh, Father, embrace them.” How much better is this speech of Jesus’ blood than the blood of the Old Testament sacrifices. And God answers this speech. As Cain was cursed by the cry of Abel’s blood, so God answers the cry of the blood of His precious Son. We are forgiven, and we are given everything that Jesus’ blood earned. We experience forgiveness and we experience God’s grace and favor and love. So we come boldly. Heaven’s door is open. We have intimate fellowship with God, through the blood of Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee that heaven is open to us and that Jesus’ blood cries out for all that believe on Him, “Forgive them, Father. I’ve paid for their sins.” What a Savior we have, what wonderful life we have through Him. Amen.