“See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven. At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 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” Hebrews 12:25-28 ESV
Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Revelation 3:2 NASB
The first verse above was the key verse yesterday at Daily Encouragement. The writers focused on the great ‘shaking’ that is taking place in the world, particularly in the United States, and the overall moral decay in America.
What struck me however was the distinction between “things that are shaken” and “things that cannot be shaken.” For some reason, I was reminded of the above verse in Revelation. The Voice translates this as:
Wake up from your death-sleep, and strengthen what remains of the life you have been given that is in danger of death…
with the sections in italics representing additions to the text for clarity. The NIV has
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…
Matthew Henry says of this:
(1.) He advises them to be upon their watch. The cause of their sinful deadness and declension was that they had let down their watch. Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground, and therefore must return to our watchfulness against sin, and Satan, and whatever is destructive to the life and power of godliness.
(2.) To strengthen the things that remain, and that are ready to die. Some understand this of persons; there were some few who had retained their integrity, but they were in danger of declining with the rest. It is a difficult thing to keep up to the life and power of godliness ourselves, when we see a universal deadness and declension prevailing round about us. Or it may be understood of practices, as it follows: I have not found thy works perfect before God, not filled up; there is something wanting in them; there is the shell, but not the kernel; there is the carcase, but not the soul—the shadow, but not the substance. The inward thing is wanting, thy works are hollow and empty; prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with suitable devotion of soul to God; there are not inward affections suitable to outward acts and expressions. Now when the spirit is wanting the form cannot long subsist.
Returning to our original consideration, the verse in Hebrews, The Voice — again adding explanatory content within the verse, a practice some may be uncomfortable with — has:
…those things that can be shaken will be removed and taken away, namely, the first creation. As a result, those things that remain cannot be shaken…
This reminds me of Matthew 24:35:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. (CEB)
which is paralleled in Mark 13:31
Earth and sky will pass away, but what I have told you will never pass away! (Phillips)
and Luke 21:33
The sky and the earth won’t last forever, but my words will.
Commenting on the Hebrews passage, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones preached:
…Wait a minute, says some one, what about the earth round and about us? What about the Beacons, the great mountains and the valleys and the rivers, surely these are durable and certain? Are they? Let off your hydrogen bombs and they will soon have vanished. As the Bible has prophesied centuries ago, ‘the elements shall melt with a fervent heat’ (2 Peter 3:10). Even creation is not durable; everything is being shaken. Man himself who has been worshipping himself, what is he? According to scientists he is nothing but chemistry and physics, he is nothing but a bundle of sensations. All our kingdoms are collapsing before our eyes. They can all be hurt, they can all be moved and yet men bank on them. They laugh at religion, they ignore the Bible, they do not believe in God. These are the kingdoms they believe in and yet they are collapsing before our very eyes. That is the message of the Bible.
But why do they collapse? Why is all that I have been saying been so true? And this man tells us. The certainty you see with all these kingdoms is that they are made. ‘And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made,’ These are man-made kingdoms and the tragedy of man is that he is too small to be a kingdom builder. Man is finite, he is limited, he is small. This is the final folly of man, that he thinks he knows everything. He thinks he can encompass the whole cosmos with his little mind. How small he is, he is finite, he is limited, he lacks the capacity to see things as a whole. He only sees little sectors of reality. Things that are made-man!
Yes, but even worse than that, according to the Bible, man is not only finite, man is also sinful-and this is what bedevils all his great efforts. Every one of us is sinful. What does that mean? It means that we are selfish. it means that we are self-centred. It means that we are subjects of jealousy and envy and malice and spite and hatred. We want things for ourselves – let the other man get on with it. This is in the heart of man, everything he touches, everything he makes therefore has got the seed of decay in it. That is why our Lord said: ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal’ [Matthew 6:19-20]. But man keeps on doing this and everything collapses. Why? Moth and rust, this element of evil. You cannot trust anybody. You may think that you have got a man who will fight with you to the end-he will desert you at the very moment that you need him most of all. He is a false friend, he lets you down. You see it in the political parties and everywhere else, they all seem to be carrying a dagger in their hip pockets and they are attacking one another. No man trusts anybody, why? We are all sinners, we are all selfish, we are in no condition to build empires…
To read the full sermon transcript, click here.
The verse in II Peter 3:10 is:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare (NIV)
The Message follows with verse 11:
Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life?
And so we close with the words of Jesus in the parable of the fig tree in Luke 21:28 (NCV):
When these things begin to happen, look up and hold your heads high, because the time when God will free you is near!”