The Jerusalem above (Gal 4:26) is also called the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22) and heaven. It is where our heavenly Father dwells (Mat 6:9) and Jesus is seated at His right (Heb 12:2). God has also seated us in Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6). That is a lot to take in, but we can comprehend it by the Spirit, as we are exhorted to do by Paul.
Now if you were raised with Christ, be eager for the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right of God. Keep your mind on things above, not on earthly things. You see, you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your Life, appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory. Col 3:1-4 AAT
One of my favorite ways to help me set my eyes on the things that are above is to meditate on Hebrews 12 and Revelation 21-22. In Hebrews 11, the author has just recounted acts of faith of our forefathers and mothers. Beginning in Hebrews 12:1-17, he exhorts us to follow their example and Jesus’ example. Then, urges us to submit to God our Father’s discipline and live holy, with endurance, perseverance and the perspective of eternity it takes to do what God wants us to do and not do what He doesn’t want us to do.
In that context, the writer of Hebrews brings out the contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant by pointing out the difference in the setting of the covenants, Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. The first is physical: the second is spiritual. At the physical Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the Law of the old covenant. From Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, God brought the love, grace and glory of the new covenant.
The Law was given through Moses, but Jesus Christ brought grace and truth. Nobody has ever seen God. The only-begotten God who is close to the Father’s heart has told us about Him. Jn 1:17-18
Mount Sinai—the old covenant
Shortly after God delivered the Israelites from 400 years of Egyptian slavery. Even after witnessing the 10 plagues God inflicted upon the Egyptians and the parting of the Red Sea, their faith in God was weak. They did not fear God more than natural enemies or other God’s.
Since God’s old covenant people were not indwelt with the Holy Spirit, God lead them as natural man. God was already revealing His presence in a glory cloud by day and a flame by night. Then, preparing to give the Ten Commandments and the Law, God revealed Himself on Mount Sinai.
You didn’t come to anything you could touch, to a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, a storm, the blast of a trumpet, or the speaking of a voice. Those who heard that begged to be told no more, because they couldn’t endure the order that was given: Even an animal, if it touches the mountain, must be stoned. And the sight was so terrible Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.” Heb 12:18-21 [Ex 19]
Even Moses was terrified and trembling. That got the Israelites attention. While Moses was on the mount, they we so afraid they decided to make a Golden Calf and worship it as their God. Moses came down the mountain in despair and anger, but he pleaded for God to forgive them. God spared them (Ex 32).
Jerusalem at Mount Zion is the setting for the new covenant
Since God has made us new creatures created in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:10) and sent the Holy Spirit so we can walk after the Spirit (Ro 8:1), God relates with us as His children, who live by the spiritual nature (Ro 8:5). Thus, we can picture the heavenly Jerusalem with eyes of faith.
No, you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here are tens of thousands of angels, the whole festival gathering and church of God’s firstborn people with their names written in heaven. Here is the God and Judge of all. Here are the spirits of the righteous who have been perfected. And here is Jesus, who gave us a new covenant with God, and the sprinkled blood that has better things to tell than Abel. Heb 12:22-24 AAT
Mount Zion is the spiritual mountain where God dwells. It is called the city of God in Old Testament (Ps 9:11; Ps 76:2; Ps 110:2; Is 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-2). In the New Testament, the city is identified as the heavenly Jerusalem, which is above (Gal 4:26).
There, we come to a festival gathering. God gave His old covenant people 7 feasts to celebrate; three required their presence in Jerusalem. The pilgrimages and feasts were festive gatherings of God’s kindred people. Here at the heavenly Jerusalem, we are shown a 24/7 festival according to our sense of time. This is a joyous gathering of angels and God’s firstborn people. The church of God’s firstborn people includes living or dead the whole Israel of God (Gal 6:16, Ro 11). We are there in Christ.
But God, who is rich in mercy, loved us with such a great love. He made us who were dead in sins alive with Christ. [You are saved by a gift of His grace.] And since we are in Christ Jesus, He raised us with Him and had us sit with Him in heaven to show in the coming ages the immeasurable riches of His love by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. You are saved by a gift of grace which you get by faith. You didn’t do it. It is God’s gift. It isn’t because of anything you have done, or you might boast. He has made us what we are, creating us in Christ Jesus to do good works, in which God long ago planned for us to live. Eph 2:4-10 AAT
“Here is the God and Judge of all.” God will judge all mankind. He will do justice to all. The Hebrews reading this had much to fear if they went back to Judaism, but they had the hope of glory (Col 1:27) if they trusted in Jesus as the Son of God (1 Jn 4:15). Our righteousness is God’s covenant justice in action. Through the act of God’s covenant justice, God declares us to be in the right (Ro 3:25). He also gave us faith to believe it (Eph 2:8-9). Our names are written in the book of life (Rev 20:12). God’s justice for unbelievers is final: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15 KJV).
“Here are the spirits of the righteous who have been perfected.” The old covenant people of faith will be made perfect with us. “And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Heb 11:39-40 AAT). Something better is the new covenant in the blood of Christ (Heb 9:11-15). Thus, they join us in the new covenant blessings.
The final perfection awaits the resurrection and regeneration, when will all be changed in a moment, to live in a glorified body to live eternally in the kingdom of God that is to come (Ro 8:20-23; 1 Th 4:16; Rev 21-22).
“And here is Jesus, who gave us a new covenant with God, and the sprinkled blood that has better things to tell than Abel.” Again, we see the contrast between the old and the new covenant. The old covenant had an earthly temple and earthly sacrifices for sin. They did not clear the conscience (Heb 9:1-10). The blood of Christ does.
But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Heb 9:11-15
The eternal inheritance is the kingdom that is to come (Mt 25:31-46).
A stern warning
Encouraged by the witness of the Old Testament heroes of faith we are exhorted to run with endurance looking to Jesus as our example. We are to accept the Lord’s training and discipline, take hold, stand firm and move forward in total allegiance to God. march on. We are to try hard to live in peace with everybody and to be holy. The author of Hebrews backs that up with a stern warning.
See that you don’t refuse to listen to Him who is speaking. If the others didn’t escape when they refused to listen to Him warning them on earth, much less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. Then His voice shook the earth. But now He has promised: Once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. The words once more show clearly He will take away what is shaken, seeing He made it, leaving what isn’t shaken as permanent. Since we have received a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us thank God and so worship in a way that pleases Him, with fear and awe, because our God is a consuming fire. Heb 12:25-29 AAT
“We have received a kingdom that can’t be shaken.” This refers to the kingdom that is to come in the same sense we are saved now and will be saved at the regeneration (Mat 19:28, Eph 1). The kingdom that is to come is stored up for us in heaven.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pe 1:3-5 NASB
New Jerusalem coming down
The kingdom that cannot be shaken is described in Revelation 21-22. This is our eternal inheritance.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from God in heaven, dressed as a bride, ready to meet her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, say: “Look! God’s home is among the people, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, and there will be no more grief or crying or pain, because the first things have passed away.”
“Look! I am making everything new,” said He who sat on the throne. And He added: “Write this because these words are true and you can trust them.” Then He said to me: “It is done! I am A and Z, the Beginning and the End. To anyone who is thirsty I will give water, that costs nothing, from the spring of the water of life. Be victorious, and you will have these things, and I will be your God and you will be My son.”
“But cowardly, untrustworthy, and abominable people, and those who murder, sin sexually, practice witchcraft, and worship idols, and all liars will find themselves in the lake burning with fire and sulfur: this is the second death.” Revelation 21:1-8 AAT