The Tale of Two Mountains

David Norczyk
6 min readJun 4, 2024

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In preaching Law and grace, the faithful man of God will present the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin. Man is exposed for being a wretched sinner under the light of the Law of God. He learns of God’s great salvation of sinners when the preacher explains the grace of God.

In Hebrews 12:18–24, the author presents the contrast of two groups of people. The Israelites of the wilderness generation serve as a foil to the Jewish Christians, to whom the writer is sending his sermon of exhortation. His audience is encouraged to be different than the generation that was cut off in God’s righteous anger for their unbelief. They did not believe God’s Word to them, which led to disobedience.

At Mount Sinai, the Israelites received the Law of God through the mediation of Moses, who ascended the mountain to meet with God. Moses twice received the stone tablets of the Law written by the finger of God. At the base of the mountain, the Israelites wanted nothing to do with Yahweh because of the terror produced as the Holy God communicated with Moses, who feared and trembled, too (Heb 12:21).

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a Holy God (Heb 10:31), who is angry every day with wicked sinners (Ps 7:11). The Law is holy (Rom 7:12). It is good and righteous; and the effect upon unholy sinners, who are being prepared as vessels of wrath for destruction in fiery hell, is to condemn them. Moses is the D.A. against the people.

Knowledge of the Law provides no salvation nor does the futile efforts of sinners to win favor with God by it. Simply put, no sinner can keep the Law of God to attain right standing before God. Works righteousness is utter vanity for helpless sinners (Rom 4:5; Eph 2:12). If the Israelites were terrified of God at the giving of the Law; they should have been even more terrified at their failure to keep the Law.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law unto righteousness through His meritorious effort (Mt 5:17). He alone was successful at attaining permanent right standing before the Holy God, His Father. God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on behalf of God’s chosen, redeemed people. These included some of those who received this exhortation. They are identified by direct address as “you” in 12:22.

Two groups of people have come to two different mountains. One is earthly (Sinai), and the other one is heavenly (Zion). In Galatians 4:21–31, the Apostle Paul explains that Sinai sadly devolved into Judaism, the man-made religion of the Jews. The purpose of Sinai was to terrify the people into coming to Yahweh, in order to receive something other than the Law unto salvation. They needed mercy and grace from the Holy God (Rom 9:15–16; 11:5).

Those who come to Christ are dragged there by the Father (Jn 6:44, 65) via God’s irresistible grace (Eph 2:8–9). God has mercy upon those He has chosen to have mercy according to His free will and gracious choice (Rom 9:15–16; 11:5). These who are transferred into Christ’s kingdom are joyful rather than repulsed in fear (Col 1:13; Gal 5:22).

Jesus had mediated peace with God through His precious blood atonement (Rom 5:1; 1 Pet 1:19), according to the terms of the new covenant (Mt 26:28). His beloved, His church, are all released from their sins because of the blood of the covenant (Rev 1:5; Heb 9:22). He bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet 2:24); and this means our debt of sin is paid-in-full (Col 2:14).

There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1); and it is by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). This frees the Christian to serve the living God without fear (Rom 12:1; 1 Thess 1:9; Heb 9:14).

The Christian fixes his eyes on Jesus and his mind on things above, where Christ is seated on the throne of God (Col 3:2; Heb 8:1; 12:2), having been given all authority in heaven and earth (Mt 28:18), to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Cor 5:10; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). He is King (Ps 110:1–3); High Priest (Ps 110:4–6; Heb 5–7); and Judge of all (Heb 12:23). Jesus is the righteous Judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25). His judgments are just because He alone is righteous as the God-man (Jer 23:6; Jn 1:14; Acts 17:31; 1 Cor 1:30; 1 Jn 2:1).

The born again are taught these things by our Teacher, the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17, 26), who guides us into all truth by illumining the Scriptures (Jn 16:13; Eph 1:18). In them, we learn of our salvation by learning Christ, our Savior (2 Pet 3:18; Titus 1:4; 2:13). Thus, we come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22). We are in Christ and with Christ (Eph 2:6); and He is in us.

Myriads of angels and the great cloud of witness, who are the saints of heaven, occupy Zion. Our citizenship is there, too (Phil 3:20). While we remain in the land of the living, we serve the living God as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). Our ministry is one of persuading men to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:11,18–20). The Law never reconciled anyone. As we have seen, it pushes men away from God and increases their sinning against Him (Rom 5:20). In this, Judaism misleads many by encouraging efforts to keep the Law, as a means of righteousness. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to counter that unsound teaching.

My dear reader, remember that you have been saved by grace, not works of the Law. Your right standing before God has been granted to you. You have an alien righteousness that has been imputed to you. Your boast ought to be in the One who, alone, secured righteousness by His perfect sinless life and His perfect sacrificial death on your behalf, in your stead, and for your benefit.

The spirits of the righteous made perfect are those enrolled in heaven and who represent Christ’s church victorious. They, like us, were granted faith to believe God’s Word, when it was preached to us in the Spirit, who made us alive to God by it (Jn 6:63; 1 Cor 2:2, 4; Eph 2:5).

The tale of two mountains, Sinai and Zion, both speak to us. Their respective messages and purposes remind us that two ends result for the two groups who come to each mountain, respectively. The writer of Hebrews emphatically exhorts his readers to come to Zion, that is, Christ Jesus because His mercy and grace are sufficient, forever. The blood of Christ, the blood of the new covenant, was shed once (Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). It remains a permanent feature on the mercy seat of heaven.

Christians sin until their bodies of sin and death expire (Rom 3:23; 6:23). They have already died with Christ in His death upon the cross (Rom 6:8; Col 3:3). Just as the Christian soul has been regenerated (Col 2:13); on the day of Christ’s second coming, all the saints will be raised, bodily, to life eternal (Jn 5:28–29; 1 Cor 15).

Thus, in our souls, we have come to Mount Zion; but on that day, we will come to New Jerusalem (Rev 3:12; 21:2, 10), in the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Pet 3:13). Our resurrection hope rests in the resurrection life already experienced, spiritually; and yet not fully realized in the body. A Sabbath rest remains for the people of God; therefore, let us hold fast our confession of Christ, the one and only way to God, the King of the mountain.

David Norczyk

Spokane valley, Washington

June 4, 2024

Hebrews 12:18–24

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher