I’ve been pondering this passage from Paul to the Hebrews:
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice (i.e. the voice of God) they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
(For they could not endure that which was commanded, (the commandment being:) And if so much as a beast touch the mountain it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, [who] are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling (i.e. the effects of His shed blood of atonement), that speaketh better things than that (the shed blood) of Abel (a symbol for the law of sacrifice – Abel likened to the lambs of the Mosaic Law – now become the law of the Gospel?).
See that ye refuse not [to hear the voice of] him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused [to hear] him that [published oracles] on earth, [how] much [less] shall we escape, if we turn away from (H)im that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And [these words], Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.
~ Hebrews 12:18-29
I’ve been trying to figure out what Paul means by saying that the Saints of his day had come to Mount Zion, and the innumerable company of angels, etc. Because they hadn’t really come, had they? They were going towards it – as we are. Or maybe they had come to it, because the early Saints, for a short time, lived the law of Zion – with everything temporal in common, supernatural manifestations, and so on. I really like the last verses, where Paul describes the ‘shaking’ of the earth (and heaven? I’m not sure what that means), so that changeable, earthly, non-eternal things would be removed, because they’d fall apart, so that eternal things that can’t be ‘shaken’ will remain. I love that description! And the kingdom which we’ve received – as the Saints of Paul’s day had – cannot be moved, because it’s God’s kingdom. That’s what it means to stand in holy places and not be moved, as the Lord revealed in the last days that we need to be/do in order to survive its calamities. The world, or kingdom of the devil, is being shaken, so that it will disintegrate; we must be able to endure that shaking – make sure we are standing in God’s kingdom, which can’t disintegrate.
To really get this passage, I’ve been looking at the LDS scripture citation index, which lists what General Authorities have said about every scripture, from really early on. There are some fantastic addresses and other writings in there! Including some of the things that have been said about the words in this chapter. Like this, from George Q. Cannon (in 1884). I had also been reading a chapter from Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion (chapter 11 – it’s very interesting – partially he talks about how these manifestations, like the one Paul quoted, have always been terrifying for people, so that they are paralysed with fear. It motivates them to live in the surprising, alternative system God reveals. That system – of Zion – is such a break from the regular world that it seems to take revelations that shake the earth and/or them to jolt them into changing to fit it), and I think he quoted Paul in Hebrews 12, which might have sent me there in the first place. I was revisiting it, though, because I’ve been curious about it for a few weeks. These words, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, are well-known to me, being in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, describing the abode of those who inherit the celestial kingdom. So I wanted to know what they meant in the original context.
I find that Paul’s teachings are so advanced; he had an amazing grasp of things you can sense are very high and eternal. He’s like Joseph Smith in that way – having glanced into heaven multiple times, and sharing these things with the Saints of his day in a way that would lead them to understanding them, somehow. But such remarkable, different, sometimes shocking things to those people, who had had hundreds of years without such an understanding in their culture. They had to be brought into the light; pulled into it, I think, judging from the things Paul wrote. It’s such a shame that his letters have been so badly translated in parts, and there’s so much missing that we know he must have written also, because he mentions other letters or situations that would have helped a lot in knowing why he wrote some of these things. But it’s still amazing stuff, especially with all the other scriptures you can turn to for support, and other translations (like the Louis Segond French edition I use).