One Thing Remains
April 18, 2008 one of the largest earthquakes to ever hit the Midwest, do you guys remember this, it was in Mount Carmel, Illinois. It measured 5.2 on the moment magnitude scale, whatever that means. It was big, apparently. The reverberation of the earthquake could even be felt all the way up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That is how strong this earthquake was. On that night, in particular, we were in Louisville, KY. Louisville was so close to the center of the earthquake that even some old buildings in downtown Louisville were shaken and there was some bricks that fell off some old buildings, there was damage felt in Louisville from this giant earthquake in Mt. Caramel, Illinois. While at that point, April of 2008, Bethany had not yet graduated high school, but we were down in Louisville because she knew that she was going to move there after graduation. We were going to be engaged for a year before we got married, and we were going to go to Boyce together. That weekend was what they call “preview weekend” at Southern Seminary. Basically what it is they bring in a bunch of high school students and give them a tour of the campus, let them sit in on classes, give them a free night at the hotel, let them experience what Boyce College is and then they can make a more educated decision on whether or not they would like to attend school there in the fall. So Bethany was visiting for that, we were down there; family members were down there on that night. The morning after the earthquake, everybody was talking about it, right? Everybody was like, “Did you feel that last night? Did you know what was going on?” People had seen the news about this earthquake that had happened. Bethany even told me, she was obviously staying in a different room, that she woke up in the middle of the night, but she wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. So everyone’s talking about this earthquake and what they felt and I had nothing to say, because I had slept through the whole thing. I didn’t even know that it had occurred. Didn’t even know what happened. One of the largest earthquakes in the history of the Midwest, buildings in downtown Louisville are literally crumbling, and I slept through the whole thing. I had no idea.
Maybe you remember that earthquake. Whether you felt it or not, you saw it on the news, or you read about it. Maybe, as I was telling you that story, you thought of a different time you had experienced a different earthquake. Maybe you’ve never experienced one at all. Maybe you are sitting here and you’ve only heard stories and you’ve never felt an earthquake, but you’ve seen news footage. Remember in 2010, that giant earthquake that hit Haiti? You know the damage that happened there. We have all been exposed to the damage of earthquakes, whether we have actually felt one of not. Earthquakes are strong and they are violent. They do damage. I don’t know anybody who would volunteer to find themselves in the middle of an earthquake.
And this is the language that the Holy Spirit is using in Hebrews 12 to describe the future of the world, the end times, eschatology, prophecy, Armageddon, or whatever you want to call it; the return of Jesus and how we ought to respond to that truth. Remember last week, at the beginning of last week, we look at a comparison between two mountains – mount Sinai and mount Zion. We looked at the juxtaposition between the old covenant and the new covenant, between Moses and Jesus. We are not under the new covenant, we are under the new covenant, we are not under the old, we are new covenant Christian. We live under the covenant that is mediated by Jesus and his sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Able. It speaks a word of grace. Now in verses 25-29, the end of the chapter, we see our response to the truth that we are already citizens of the New Jerusalem. Church we just sang together, moments ago, that we will not be shaken, that we are heaven’s citizens by grace and grace alone. We just confessed that together in song, as a church, and now we see how we ought to live, how we ought to think, how we ought to love because that is true.
Verse 25 starts see that you do not refuse him who is speaking. He just said in verse 24 that we have come to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant to the sprinkled blood of Jesus that speaks a better word than Abel. Now immediately, see that you do not refuse Jesus. That is the antecedent of him. This is a command. This is an imperative for us. Jesus’ blood speaks a better word. Since that’s true, we must not refuse his voice. Remember, church, the point of the book of Hebrews, the point of this letter, is that Jesus is better; therefore don’t fall away from Jesus. Jesus is better don’t fall away from Jesus. Again, the text harkens back to mount Sinai to warn us. He is still talking about the two mountains. He is says For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, Moses. Moses warned them not to worship idols and they built a golden calf, and what happened? They were judged. If they didn’t escape when Moses warned them, how much less will we escape if we reject who warns from Heaven? If God judged Israel in the wilderness after they were warned by Moses, if God was that serious about his people obeying Moses’ voice, how much more serious do you think he is about obeying Jesus’ voice? Jesus is better than Moses. Moses pointed us to Jesus. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.
Church, we need to hear this warning this morning. Notice the first person plural of verse 25, look at verse 25: so if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth how much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. That is first person plural. That is us! That is we. He is not saying, “How will they escape? These hypothetical people who don’t follow Jesus anyway.” He includes himself! We. Please do not be too quick to make this verse fit your theological system. Let the bible speak. Let the bible roar. Let the bible warn you, warn me, this morning. Don’t be too quick to retort, “Well, we believe in ‘once saved always saved,’ so this doesn’t really apply to us, this just applies to somebody who probably didn’t believe to begin with, so warning adverted.” The weight of this warning is for the church. This letter wasn’t written to people who don’t go to church. This letter was written to the church, and he says, we. How much more will we escape if we reject Jesus. Church it doesn’t matter if that one time you asked Jesus into your heart, or whatever, if you walk away from Jesus, you will not escape God’s judgment. That is what he is saying. You need to feel the weight of that. Wherever you are in your walk with Christ, if you walk away you may not escape. Everyone of us right now should be thinking, “I want to follow Jesus. This is calling me to follow Jesus.” Not, “Well it is not really about us.” We won’t escape if we reject him. Church, the Bible teaches the perseverance of the saints. That is what is teaches. Those who are saved in the end are those who persevere, and genuine followers of Jesus follow him to the end.
The earth shook when YHWH spoke at Mount Sinai, that is what it says, that is what the Old Testament tells us in Exodus 19 and 20, but the author of Hebrews says here that the next time that YWHW speaks, the next time that a great theological earthquake occurs not only will the earth shake, the heavens will shake as well. I love the way NT Wright says it, he says that there is not just going to be an earthquake, but there is also going to be a heavenquake too. He is quoting the book of Haggai. We just read that in our call to worship Haggai 2.1-9. In the book of Haggai where he says“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” Haggai is declaring God’s sovereignty. Remember the situation that is going on after the exile, Haggai is calling Israel to rebuild the temple. Do you guys remember that? That is what the whole book is about, they have to rebuild the temple if they are going to follow the Lord. He says, once that Temple is rebuilt, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the nations are going to bring their treasures to the temple and God’s people are going reign in God’s kingdom, basically is what he is saying. The second temple was rebuilt and it was beautiful. Don’t you remember Peter says to Jesus, “Jesus look at how beautiful this building is” in the gospels? He is talking about the building from Haggai that they built. That beautiful building was built and yet this theological earthquake never happened. Did it? Is there anything during the Intertestamental period, during the time of the Maccabees, is there anything during the time of Jesus where we read about a great shaking of the Heavens and the Earth? There isn’t. Historically there is not. Israel never became a world power again.
The book of Hebrews tells us why. You see he says Haggai was actually talking about Jesus Christ. It was about Jesus! After the Mount Sinai shaking there would be one more shaking. And just like Sinai we need to view it kind of like a mountain range. This is where we get a little confused with our Old Testament/New Testament. To someone like Haggai, he looked at this shaking, this word from God, and to him it looked like one event, yet once more I am going to shake the heaven and the earth. It looked like a mountain. Like a mountain range, if you have ever been to the Rockies or the Smokies you know from far away it looks like one but as you get closer you notice that there are actually multiple mountains, right, that make up this mountain range. What we see is that what looked like one event in the Old Testament was actually two. There were actually two different mountains, when Jesus came to die and when Jesus is coming again. This great shaking is actually two events. You see when Jesus was born of a virgin and placed in that humble manger the earth shook with the victory song of the angels. When Jesus healed the sick, and fed the hungry, and preached the gospel, the world reverberated with the fall of Satan from heaven. When Jesus died on the cross, the cosmos rumbled from the wrath of God poured being out on the Christ, when Jesus resurrected from the dead, the planet quaked as the stone was rolled away. When Jesus ascended into heaven and the Spirit descended at Pentecost, the world vibrated with the celebration of its king’s coronation.
And now, church, we’re waiting. We are waiting for that final aftershock of the Christ event. This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. That is what he says. He quotes Haggai. The emphasis on the phrase is “once more.” There’s only one thing left to happen. When Jesus returns he will raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. And when that happens everything that is opposed to Jesus’ kingdom – sin, Satan, the world, and even death itself– is going to be shaken and removed. Jesus is not only going to shake the earth, he is going to shake the heavens. Jesus is going to return to set the world to rights and then the New Creation will be exclusively filled with the kingdom of Christ. When Jesus comes back church, he’s going to grab the world by the scruff of its neck & he is going to shake it so hard that the only thing that remains is his kingdom. That is what it says. That is what we are waiting on! Everything that is wrong with the world is going to be shaken off when Jesus comes back. Amen! That is our hope.
Now, a lot of Christians get kind of weird when you start talking about the return of Christ, or eschatology, or the end times, or prophecy, or the end of the world, or whatever you want to call it. You have probably experienced that before, haven’t you? Some overzealous Christian who wants to tell you why Victor Putin is the Anti-Christ. They want to tell you they figured out the exact date that Jesus is going to come back. They want to show you some chart. Churches will want to have these Revelation series where they tell why everything that is going on in the world means Jesus is definitely coming back ASAP. You know, every generation of Christians has thought that, by the way. They have all thought that it was going to be in their lifetime. Or they know that so and so is the anti-Christ. Man, Luther thought the Pope was the Anti-Christ, that was 500 years ago! Everyone does that. Some people believe that if you don’t believe what they believe about the end times, then you don’t believe the Bible. All of these responses are misguided. They are inappropriate. They are not the appropriate response to what we believe about the return of Jesus.
What should our response to the doctrine that Jesus is coming again and that his kingdom is the only thing that is going to remain? What should our response be? Look at verses 28&29 - 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Brothers and Sisters, our eschatology ought to produce gratitude. Thinking about the end times shouldn’t make us feisty, it should make us thankful. Isn’t it ironic that studying the end times, the eschatology, the return of Jesus, probably creates more divide in protestant churches than any other issue when the Bible says it should make us gracious. Isn’t that ironic? We should be grateful that the Father in his grace saw fit to elect us; we should be grateful that Jesus in his grace died for us, we should be grateful that the Holy Spirit in his grace saw fit to regenerate, to resurrect our dead hearts. Christian, if thinking, reading, studying, talking about the return of Christ doesn’t make you grateful, then you’re doing it wrong.
The other response that should bubble up in our hearts, according to the text, is worship. Let us offer up to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. We should offer worship in reverence and awe, why? Because our God is a consuming fire. Israel saw the fire at Sinai, but now we see that God himself is the consuming fire. He will devour everything that opposes him. He will purify his kingdom. He is a consuming fire. Our response is to offer worship in awe, in reverence. Now awe and reverence doesn’t necessarily mean that worship has to be boring. Let’s clear that air on that. A lot of people defend weird practices in the name of reverence and awe. Worship doesn’t have to be boring to be reverent. It doesn’t mean that worship necessarily always has to be somber. It doesn’t mean you have to stop talking once you come into the sanctuary. It doesn’t mean we need to chant like a bunch of monks. It doesn’t mean we can’t wear hats. It doesn’t mean we have to dress a certain way. It doesn’t mean we need to act like we’re at a funeral. That is not what reverence and awe means. Offering reverent worship means that you realize whose presence you’re coming in to. The answer is King Jesus. Now if that is true, if we gather to worship around the resurrected Lord of the universe, how could any one of us be bored? How is that even possible? Church if you sing these songs, if you pray, if you give, if you come to the table, if you are listening to the word of God and you are bored, if I am bored. Now, can songs and sermons be boring? Yes, that goes both ways doesn’t it. How wrong are we if we are bored every Sunday when we are together. That is not the picture of worship we see here. God is a consuming fire! His kingdom is unshakable. When the church gathers for weekly worship we are gathering around the throne of a king, together. We are convening at the table of our Father. We are offering living sacrifices in the temple of the Holy Spirit (Heb 12.1-3).
We hit on this a bit last week, didn’t we; the Bible here (in Heb 12) is talking about the church, its talking about worship, its talking about the local church. There’s an old Carly Simon song, you may remember this, that goes “you’re so vain you probably think this song is about you.” We do that with the Bible. We are so vain we think it is all about us. Every passage, every sermon, every scripture, what do I got to get out of it? For me personally, what are my hands and feet going to do Monday – Saturday? How am I going to? It is: me, me, me! We are so vain we think it is all about us. How does this apply to me? We are so selfish and individualistic. This text, this passage, this sermon, is about the church. This is about Christ Community Church. Now it applies to you, how? Because you are Christ Community Church. I am not talking about these walls. I am talking about us. He is talking about us. Biblical worship always entails the local church. You may experience personal worship when you watch Charles Stanley on TV or when you listen to a Matt Chandler sermon. You may get the gospel feels when you have your Hillsong playlist going or when you are doing your daily devotional. All of those things are good, but they are not what the Bible calls worship. Worship takes place in the rhythms of grace that are given to the church: preaching, baptism, the bread the wine, singing, praying, confessing, and fellowship. Church, this is worship.
And so the call this morning is to invest your life in the local church, here’s why, for the church is the unshakeable kingdom of Christ. When Jesus returns and he shakes the creation, the only thing that is going to remain is the church. The church is the only thing in the world that is eternal, why? Because Jesus died for her. Think about the last 2,000 years of world history. How many nations have risen and fallen? How many corporations have risen and fallen? What is the one thing that has remained? The church. Jesus died for the church. Invest your life in the church. Brothers and sisters, Jesus didn’t die for your quiet time, he didn’t die for your podcast, or your Chris Tomlin playlist. He died for the church.
So let me encourage you, let me encourage my heart, this morning give your life to that which is unshakeable. Give your time, your treasure, and your talent to your church. Invest your heart and your home in these people. Teach those children the gospel down that hall. Give your time and your energy and effort to them, so that they might love and follow Jesus. Spend time with these students and teenagers so that they might be godly men and women who love and follow Jesus. Spend an afternoon or an evening with an elderly brother or sister who might be lonely. Come to the classes that we offer on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Join a flock and pray for your brothers and sisters. Bear one another’s burdens, because when you do that you fulfill the law of Christ. Offer to babysit for a young mom. Give your life to these people, because brothers and sisters, nothing else in this world is unshakable. Nothing else. Whatever you’ve got going on in your life, now listen to me there are good things that are going on work extracurricular, all good stuff, do it, have fun, praise God. Whatever those things are, whatever you’ve got going on right now that you think is more important than the bride of Christ, it is going to be removed when he returns. It won’t be here! It is shakable. There is only one unshakable kingdom. Only the unshakeable kingdom will remain and the church is Jesus’ unshakeable kingdom.
So this is it. Let me encourage you this morning, it’s not too late. You can always serve here with Christ Community Church. Whether you’re 13 or 93, anything in between, give your life to that which Jesus gave his life for – the church. Where is the Holy Spirit leading you to serve? Kids ministry? Is he leading you join a flock that you are not a part of? Is he calling you to give more than you’re currently giving? Regardless of where you feel the Holy Spirit leading you this morning, I can promise you this much. He isn’t calling you to simply show up on Sunday morning and fill a seat. That is not his will for your life. Do you need to be baptized? Do you need to join the church? Listen, maybe you’re here and you don’t even know Jesus. Maybe you are sitting here and you don’t understand anything that I am saying, you don’t know who Jesus is. Maybe you have heard of him but you don’t really care. Hear the gospel call you this morning. Everything else is going to be shaken away. Come to Jesus. There is something in our hearts, each one of us, that needs to be challenged this morning by this truth. I don’t know what it is for you. I can’t give you three things to go home and do to check off your sermon application list. But I know the Holy Spirit is calling you to move forward to give your life to the unshakeable kingdom. Give your life to it. Give your life to the church, for it is the only thing that is going to be here when Jesus returns. When Jesus comes back he’s shaking the heavens and the earth and I promise you no body is sleeping through that earthquake.