Warning: Follow Peace and Holiness
Will all who appear to start the Christian race endure to the end? Contemporaries of these Hebrews had abandoned their faith. What will happen if they follow their example? As the writer closes the teaching of the book, there is one final warning for the Hebrews. There are two outcomes for those who seem to start the race, and only the one who follows or pursues peace and holiness will see the Lord. They are the ones who have started and are continuing in the race.
Warning: Follow Peace and Holiness to See the Lord and Don’t Refuse Him that is Speaking!
V14-17 – Two Results
Following is a result of true sonship. Following peace and righteousness is evidence that one is continuing in the race, which was the theme of the first 13 verses of the chapter. Following peace and holiness are necessary to see the Lord. Peaceable fruit of righteousness and being a partaker of holiness are the results of the discipline of God. We can see this by noticing that the purpose of the chastening of God is that “we might be partakers of His holiness” (v10), and that “afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (v11).
There is a danger of “failing to obtain the grace of God” (ESV). If one does not obtain it, they have never obtained it. They have not gained it and lost it, but the pursuit of peace and holiness includes watching carefully over one’s own life to ensure that nothing is springing up that would indicate the lack of reality in one’s profession. Such a “root” would be extracted by the grace of God if it is present in one’s life.
The writer gives the example of Esau who sold his birthright and as a result found no place as a son or in the promises through Abraham. The seriousness of the matter to these Hebrew readers is that while they have claimed the place as son, they may go the way of Esau. Esau counted his place in the family, which was sovereignly given by God at birth, as unimportant – evident by the sale of his birthright. What was linked with this place as son was the promises of God through Abraham. In the time of receiving inheritance, Esau did not receive this inheritance. He sought repentance but it was too late. The parallel example for these Hebrews was the temptation to sell out for physical prosperity by abandoning the spiritual promises of God. They demonstrate that they are not sons by not enduring the discipline of the Father (v7), and so will not receive inheritance though they may say “Lord, Lord,” in a coming day.
V18-24 – Two Covenants
Two covenants and the places linked with them add to the weightiness of rejecting the word of the Hebrew writer. The people feared to see the Lord at Mt. Sinai, and yet we can freely approach the Lord at Mt. Zion, despite it being a much more solemn place. Mt. Zion is essentially the heaven that we often speak of.
The inauguration of the old covenant was marked with seven things: a mount not to be touched, a mount that burned with fire, a mount of blackness, of darkness, of tempest, where there was the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words. The Hebrews have not come to this place, but to something more awesome. More awesome in inauguration, and more dreadful to despise!
The Hebrews have come to mount Zion, where we find an inauguration of the new covenant. They have arrived with a decision at hand: to continue on and prove the reality of their faith, or to fall back like Esau. “In Jesus eternity has already invaded time… Our eternity depends on our response to him; and we must respond now.”
Again, there is a sevenfold description of the mount:
City of the living God – heavenly Jerusalem
Myriads of angels – the general assembly
Church of the firstborn ones – written in heaven
God – Judge of all
Spirits of Just Ones – who have been made perfect
Jesus – Mediator of the New Covenant
Blood of sprinkling – speaking better things than Abel
V25-28 – Two Shakings
This section opens with a warning similar of Chapter 2. Men who refused Him when He spoke on earth did not escape judgment, so what kind of wrath can one expect who rejects what He has spoken from heaven in the Son? In the past, as at Sinai, His voice shook the earth. Yet now we read the promise from Haggai 2:6, that He will also shake heaven. All that is created will be taken away, but what is of the Mt. Zion will endure forever. The physical, emotional and sensory appeals associated with Judaism will cease, but what is spiritual is eternal and cannot be touched.
Notice the confidence of the writer including these readers in v28, as he pens “we receiving a kingdom.” He is confident, as we should be, that what we have received will never be shaken. Gratefulness over this truth should naturally spur us to service. Service is not to be done any old way we please, but remembering that “our God is a consuming fire.” The precepts and principles given to us in the New Testament guide the tenor of our service. In the fear of God, if we do not overlook nor add to His ways then our service will please Him.
V14 uses the word “follow” or “strive.” Look at Matthew 5:10, Galatians 1:13, and other places to find how else the same word may be translated. With the strength of this word in mind, to what degree should peace and holiness be sought with?
V15 quotes from Deuteronomy 29:18-19. Read there to find the context to what “any root of bitterness” refers to. How does the context of Deuteronomy 29:18-19 fit the situation of a Hebrew apostate?
In V24, the word for “new” is different than the other times the word is translated as “new”, referring to the covenant, in Hebrews. Other times the word “new” referred to form and quality. This word refers to “new in time.” How do both of these words describe the New Covenant?
 David Gooding, An Unshakable Kingdom: Rock Solid Truth in Uncertain Times (Port Colborne, ON: Gospel Folio Press, 2002), 249.