Our Epistle reading for this upcoming Sunday comes from the twelfth chapter of Hebrews. It’s really easy to skim over passages like this on Sunday morning, so I thought I would highlight it here. The second half of this reading gives us an amazing vision of the heavenly life that is ours in Christ and contrasts it with what the presence of God meant to the Israelites who were under the law.
First, the author of Hebrews describes the giving of the law on Mount Sinai:
18For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”
Then he describes the life we have in Christ:
22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and 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, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Our Lord has not brought us back to Mount Sinai to be judged and condemned under the law, but He has brought us to Mount Zion, His holy church, where we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Here in Mount Zion we praise God with the innumerable angels and with the assembly of the firstborn. We will, after Christ returns, enter fully into this heavenly worship for all eternity. We enter this heavenly scene even now in our worship. Every Sunday we worship God “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven”.
There is an ancient hymn of the church, the Te Deum Laudamus, that really captures this well. The Te Deum Laudamus dates from the fourth century and may have been written by Saint Ambrose. I’ll just post the first section of this hymn, where the author lists all the company of heaven that we join when we praise God. I believe that these ancient words still speak clearly to us today:
We praise thee, O God :
we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubin and Seraphin :
continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world :
doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.