It’s so precious that when we look up to the sky, our eyes of faith can also see that He is in the heavenly Jerusalem, at the right hand of the Father and shining forth His countenance. We’ve also come to the new Jerusalem! It has already been given to us, though our bodies are not there yet. We are living in grace.
Let’s read Hebrews 12:22-24. I carefully cross-reference many Bible translations including the original scripture, some of which are easier to understand. This passage is very important and we need to understand it correctly. The Chinese translation is a little hard to understand because the use of the conjunction “and” is not as clear as the English version. The word “and” is used seven times in the passage, separating each individual element. This helps us better understand the passage correctly.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV)
In the Chinese translation, it’s unclear whether the term “festal gathering” describes the angels or the firstborn. In the English translation, with the proper location of the word “and” in the passage, it’s clear that the festal gathering is of the innumerable angels. “General assembly” is used in some translations and describes the gathering of the angels as well. A festal gathering is a joyful and festive event. We don’t have to admire the festal gathering of the angels. Angels are ministering spirits, whereas we are the firstborn, who have the highest status. Our gathering will be more joyful than the angels’. In fact, there are many joyful events in heaven, which have been overlooked by many.
The Lord tells us most clearly, because He is from heaven. He tells us there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. Every day there must be more than one sinner who repents. When we consider the joy over all those in this world who repent every day, how great must the joy be in heaven! These angels are so pure. Though Satan has fallen for years, he failed to tempt them to commit sins. These angels are precious. Consider someone who has not sinned at all, how pure and lovable that person will be. The angels also protect us. The Bible tells us not to despise one of the little ones, for their angels always see the face of our Father. (Ref. Matthew 18:10) I think the angels have saved my life in the past. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11) The angels have protected and helped us in many situations without our knowledge. Of course, God protects us as well. But God attends to a lot of things and He doesn’t have to do everything Himself. He also wants to show how prestigious we are. Even though we haven’t received all the glory, the angels have already been sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.
Ephesians chapter 3 tells us that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known. The angels are also very happy when they see our changes. The salvation is so marvelous and that sinners can be saved from many years of transgressions. Heaven rejoices over us when we repent. We didn’t know much when we first believed. We might have only known about the forgiveness of sins and that we were close to God. But the angels knew more. With so many repenting every day, there must be big celebrations in heaven. Our Father celebrates for us. This passage helps me a lot. Knowing that even the angels are very happy because of me, why should I be troubled? When we come before God, we should be joyous. We are more blessed than the angels. Even the archangels admire us. A good understanding of this passage will encourage us to draw near to God with a joyful heart.
“…innumerable angels in festal gathering and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven…” The assembly is the church, as well as the gathering of the church. Even though the term “festal gathering” is not used to describe the church gathering, there are many precious things when we come together. Those who passed away among us are also the firstborn, and they are gathering in heaven. Revelation chapter 5 shows us what it is like in heaven: there is the throne, the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and innumerable angels around. We are closer to the throne than the angels.
“…and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” This part of the passage is quite clear.
“…the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven…” This passage is not as simple as it sounds. It’s very precious that we once were far off, have now been brought near by the blood of Christ. We are in the deepest union with the Father, the Lord and the Holy Spirit. We are God’s family. This passage tells us the precious things in the heavenly Jerusalem. As you can see in Revelation chapter 21 and 22, the beauty of this city is beyond what man can describe. More importantly, this is our dwelling place. Everyone who dwells there will make us happy. Wouldn’t it be great to see the people who gladden your heart as often as possible? When I jog by myself, I often wish to run into brothers and sisters. I’m happy even when I’m alone, because the Father, the Lord and the Holy Spirit are with me. However, when it comes to people, I treasure brothers and sisters the most. I may not know them well, but just seeing them makes me feel good. Only brothers and sisters can give you this feeling, because they are more special than ordinary people. They can understand you more. Similar to you, they belong to heaven, not to this world. No one else on earth can touch you in spirit like brothers and sisters.
You will be in the midst of the church, the firstborn. You already know some of them. For those you do not know well now, they will be like old friends to you. Saints from the Old Testament such as Moses and David will also be there. We will have fellowship with them. The Bible didn’t tell us where the angels live. Since they are the ministering spirits, they will be around us. They are pure and adorable. Everyone whom we will see in the city will love one another with their all. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone you saw on the street made you happy? Therefore, the people are important.
The Father, who is the judge of all, justifies us. His judgement is also to our advantage. It’s very comforting to know that the Father who is righteous, justifies us. His judgement is just, and He is the one to call us just. We are so blessed to be with all these in the heavenly Jerusalem. Indeed, it will take eternity for us to enjoy and have fellowship with one another. God’s creativity and our creativity will create a lot of fun in eternity, and our blessings will have no end.