“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, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV).
This week I received an email from a friend in Katmandu, Nepal which included the following paragraph:
“Last Saturday at about 11:50 I finished a segment of my next correspondence [subject: Freedom], printed it, turned off the computer and printer, and sat down to review my words. At 11:56 I was running out the door and down three flights of stairs for my life. My neighbor lady and her 17-year-old daughter were doing the same from the 2nd floor. The look on their faces was pure FEAR. Their screams and crying matched. I will never forget their faces, the swaying stairway, and those desperate moments of the unknown.”
He was describing his initial reaction to the massive earthquake which devastated Nepal on April 25. Though I can certainly empathize with victims of such disasters, I am confident that since I have never experienced anything comparable, I cannot possibly imagine exactly what it is like to be in the center of it. Nor can I truly appreciate the hardships and difficulties that the people of Nepal will have to endure for months and years as they attempt recovery.
“Shaking” may seem to us a relatively innocuous word. We drink milk-shakes. We “shake before opening” various containers. But it only takes an instant to transform that concept into something far more significant and terrifying.
The Hebrew writer reminded his audience of the time when God spoke to Israel from Mount Sinai (Hebrews 12:18-21; Cf Exodus 19:16-20), revealing the Ten Commandments and calling them into covenant with him. Though the mountain was not destroyed, yet the shaking and other manifestations of God’s presence were sufficient to cause great fear.
Later in Hebrews 12 (verse 26) God is quoted as prophesying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” Here “shake” includes the ultimate destruction of heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:10). The people of the kingdom of Nepal can surely appreciate the seriousness of this promise. They know what devastation can result when the mountains shake.
But there is a jurisdiction that will never experience such destruction. It is the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 12:28). We have received it as the church which Jesus promised to build (Matthew 16:18). That kingdom “cannot be shaken.” Ever. Jesus stated, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church / kingdom is eternal and even the end of creation will not destroy it.
Citizens of God’s kingdom have a security that is not available to anyone else on earth. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, fires, and volcanoes may destroy cities and nations throughout the world. Countries may bomb each other to oblivion. But God’s kingdom will stand forever.
Eventually the earth itself with all created things will pass away. But the new heaven and new earth will be revealed (Revelation 21:1) and the Kingdom of God will remain, providing for eternal fellowship between God and man. We can live peacefully in this certainty, and in our hope of partaking in that communion.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'” (Revelation 21:3-4).