Hebrews 12:23

Monday, 29 April 2019

…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, Hebrews 12:23

The author continues with the words of the previous verse concerning where believers have arrived when they come to God in Christ. As noted in the previous verse, there should be a comma after “to an innumerable company,” and then it should read with the word “angels” being connected to the first clause in this verse. Thus, it would say, “to a festal assembly of angels.” From there, it would continue with, “and church of the firstborn…” Though this is debated, and translations vary, this appears to be more in line with the intent of the passage.

In this construction, it would then show that both the angelic assembly and the church of the firstborn are gathered in one assembly, both meeting for a common purpose. The word translated as “general (festal) assembly” is only found here in Scripture. It signifies a general gathering to celebrate, or commemorate, an event. It is akin to the Feasts of the Lord found under the Old Covenant. There is one gathering of all people to come into the presence of God and rejoice in the works of God in Christ, and to hail the Lamb Slain, and the Risen Savior.

The words, “the firstborn who are registered in heaven,” connects believers to Christ who is called the Firstborn on several occasions in the New Testament, including Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15 & 18, Hebrews 1:6; and Revelation 1:5. In being united to Him, we share in His status, having moved from Adam to Christ. The thought goes back to Esau (Edom) who bartered away his status as the firstborn under his father Isaac, and which then transferred to Jacob (Israel). That looked forward to Christ’s attainment of that status when Adam lost his right to it, a concept described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. For all, Jew and Gentile, who come to Christ, they are included in the spiritual heritage of Israel.

Next, the author says, “to God the Judge of all.” The Greek, more correctly, reads “to a Judge, who is God of all.” This is reflected in several translations, such as the Christian Standard Bible –

“…to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect.” CSB

This would then be in line with Daniel 7:9-14, where God sits as Judge over all humanity, and who then brings forth His Son as a testimony to that judgment. As Vincent’s Word Studies states it, “God of all his first-born, of those whom he chastens, of all who are in filial relations with him under both covenants, and who, therefore, need not fear to draw near to him as judge.”

The author finishes this verse with, “to the spirits of just men made perfect.” The words, “just men made perfect,” are based on the Greek word, teleioó. It signifies reaching the final stage after working through an entire process. It shows that only in the coming of Christ were all of the saints of old perfected. Man has gone through dispensations of time while God has slowly unveiled His redemptive plan. Christ is the focal point of all dispensations, and those who were prior to His coming did not receive the promise in those times. Instead, “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:40).

Life application: Because of Jesus, we now have a restored relationship with the Creator Himself…we have come to God. And God, being judge of all men has the authority to save or destroy. In the case of those who follow Jesus, we are made perfect by His work. The pardon is given, the penalty removed, the transfer is made! How can one read this verse and not be excited enough to jump and shout! Praise be to God for what He has done through Christ on our behalf. Praise be to Jesus who has redeemed God’s people! Hallelujah and Amen!

Yes Lord! You have, through the precious Gift of Jesus, brought us to Yourself. As Your word says, “judgment begins at the house of the Lord,” but in the case of Your redeemed, it will be a judgment unto eternal life. How can we do anything but praise You! In the most awesome and glorious name of Jesus we pray! Amen.

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