The Great Cloud of Witnesses
1As for us, we have all of these great witnesses # 12:1 Or “martyrs.” who encircle # 12:1 Or “clothe us like clouds.” us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us # 12:1 Or “get rid of every arrow tip in us.” The implication is carrying an arrow tip inside, a wound that weighs us down and keeps us from running our race with freedom. and the sin we so easily fall into. # 12:1 Or “the sin that so cleverly entangles us.” The Aramaic can be translated “the sin that is ready [and waiting] for us.” If this is speaking of one sin, the context would point to the sin of unbelief and doubting God’s promises. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race # 12:1 Or “obstacle course.” The Greek word agona means agony or conflict. The assumption is this race will not be easy, but the proper path to run has been set before us. with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us. # 12:1 The Aramaic can be translated “the race [personally] appointed to us.” God has a destiny for each of us that we are to give ourselves fully to reach.
2We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation # 12:2 Implied by the Aramaic word chor, which implies a gaze upon Jesus full of expectations that he is enough. onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. # 12:2 Or “He is the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, # 12:2 Or “instead of the joy set before him.” This was the joy of our salvation. He placed before his eyes the bliss we would forever share together with him, which empowered him to go through his agony. Instead of remaining in heaven’s glory with the Father and all the angels, he chose you as the joy set before him. He desires you to the point of laying down his life and being God for all eternity to be with you. He pursued you, not seeing your weakness and failures but what you will be. He can see what we will be in the end from the beginning. This was the joy that prompted him to become a man. he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, # 12:2 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “thinking nothing of its shame.” and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!
3So consider carefully how Jesus faced such intense opposition from sinners who opposed their own souls, # 12:3 Or “those who were their own stumbling block.” As translated from the Aramaic. so that you won’t become worn down and cave in under life’s pressures. 4After all, you have not yet reached the point of sweating blood # 12:4 Or “resisting until blood.” in your opposition to sin. 5And have you forgotten his encouraging words spoken to you as his children? He said,
“My child, don’t underestimate the value
of the discipline and training of the Lord God,
or get depressed when he has to correct you. # 12:5 Or “when he puts you under scrutiny.” The Aramaic can be translated “Don’t let your soul tremble [with dread] when your loyalty strays from him.”
6For the Lord’s training of your life
is the evidence of his faithful love. # 12:6 The Aramaic word used here means nurturing love, a mother’s love. This passage shows both the strength of a father’s love in how God disciplines us and the nurturing care of a mother’s love. The Aramaic could be translated, “The Lord shows his nurturing love [mercy] to those he is sanctifying.”
And when he draws you to himself,
it proves you are his delightful child.” # 12:6 The Aramaic word for “draws you to himself” is nagad, which can mean “scourge” (severely punish) or “to attract,” “to draw,” or “tug the heart.” The Greek is “The Lord scourges [chastises] every son he receives.” See also Prov. 3:11–12.
7Fully embrace God’s correction as part of your training, # 12:7 Or “What you endure is meant to educate you.” for he is doing what any loving father does for his children. For who has ever heard of a child who never had to be corrected? # 12:7 The Aramaic can be translated “Who has ever heard of a child not approved by a father?” 8We all should welcome God’s discipline as the validation of authentic sonship. For if we have never once endured his correction it only proves we are strangers # 12:8 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “illegitimate.” and not sons.
9And isn’t it true that we respect our earthly fathers even though they corrected and disciplined us? Then we should demonstrate an even greater respect for God, our spiritual Father, as we submit to his life-giving discipline. # 12:9 See Prov. 6:23. 10Our parents corrected us for the short time of our childhood as it seemed good to them. But God corrects us throughout our lives for our own good, giving us an invitation to share his holiness. 11Now all discipline # 12:11 Throughout this passage the word discipline can also be translated “correction,” “instruction,” and “training.” seems to be painful at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace # 12:11 See James 3:18. to those who yield to it. # 12:11 Or “those who have endured its [gymnastic] training.”
12So be made strong even in your weakness by lifting up your tired hands in prayer and worship. And strengthen your weak knees, # 12:12 The Greek word used here can also mean “paralyzed knees.” 13for as you keep walking forward on God’s paths # 12:13 See Isa. 35:3; Prov. 4:26. all your stumbling ways will be divinely healed!
14In every relationship be swift to choose peace over competition, # 12:14 See Ps. 34:14. and run swiftly toward holiness, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. # 12:14 The Aramaic can be translated “no man will see into the Lord.” 15Watch over each other to make sure that no one misses the revelation of God’s grace. And make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness # 12:15 Or “resentment.” sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.
16Be careful that no one among you lives in immorality, becoming careless about God’s blessings, like Esau who traded away his rights as the firstborn for a simple meal. 17And we know that later on when he wanted to inherit his father’s blessing, he was turned away, even though he begged for it with bitter tears, for it was too late then to repent. # 12:17 The Aramaic can be translated “he found no place of restoration.”
Entering into God’s Presence
18For we are not coming, as Moses did, to a physical mountain with its burning fire, thick clouds of darkness and gloom, and with a raging whirlwind. # 12:18 See Ex. 19; Deut. 4:11 (LXX); Amos 5:20. 19We are not those who are being warned by the jarring blast of a trumpet and the thundering voice; # 12:19 Or “the sound of words.” the fearful voice that they begged to be silenced. 20They couldn’t handle God’s command that said,
“If so much as an animal approaches the mountain it is to be stoned to death!”
21The astounding phenomena Moses witnessed caused him to shudder with fear and he could only say, “I am trembling in terror!” # 12:21 See Deut. 9:19.
22By contrast, we have already come # 12:22 The Greek verb is in the perfect tense indicating that the fullness of our salvation and our entrance into God’s heavenly realm has already taken place. See also Rom. 8:29; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1–4. near to God in a totally different realm, the Zion-realm, # 12:22 Or “Mount Zion,” which is not a literal mountain but an obvious metaphor for the realm of God’s manifest presence. Mount Zion was once a Jebusite stronghold conquered by David (2 Sam. 5:6–9) who made it the capital for his kingdom. This is inside the walls of present-day Jerusalem. Zion is used in both the Old and New Testaments as more than a location. Zion is referred to as the place of God’s dwelling (Pss. 9:11; 48:1–2; 74:2; Isa. 8:18). God’s people are called “Zion maidens” (Song. 3:11; Zech. 9:9) or “people of Zion” (John 12:15). Zion is the heavenly realm where God is manifest (Pss. 84:7; 102:16; 110:1–2; Rev. 14:1). for we have entered the city of the Living God, which is the New Jerusalem in heaven! # 12:22 This is the fulfillment of Abraham’s vision (Heb. 11:10) and what Israel’s ancestors had seen from afar (Heb. 11:13). The New Jerusalem is not only a place, but a people who dwell with God in their midst. It is a city that is a bride or a bridal-city coming out of heaven to the earth (Rev. 21:9–14). We are not going to the New Jerusalem; we are going to be the New Jerusalem! The breastplate worn by the high priest over his heart with its precious stones was a miniature scale model of the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is the amplification of that breastplate, a metaphor of transformed sons with their names engraved upon the precious stones. See Rev. 21:2–4. The Aramaic can be translated “You have already received communion on Mount Zion.” We have joined the festal gathering of myriads of angels # 12:22 See Deut. 33:2; Dan. 7:10; Jude 14; Rev. 5:11. in their joyous celebration! # 12:22 This is much more than an assembly of angels. The Greek word panēgyris was used in classic Greek literature for civic festivals and celebrations which drew people from all parts of the empire and included all the various social classes. These were times of great joy and festivities with people wearing white robes and with garlands on their heads. (See Philo, Gaius 12; Isocrates, Panegyricus 43, 46.) This verse teaches that we have already entered into the festival of angelic bliss through Jesus Christ.
23And as members of the church # 12:23 This is the Greek word ekklēsia, which is commonly used for church. However, ekklēsia means more than a church meeting, for it signified in Greek culture the governing assembly which had the authority to make decisions for the entire city. See Matt. 16:18. of the Firstborn # 12:23 This is Jesus who is God’s uniquely Firstborn (Heb. 1:6). In Christ we are all the firstborn and have all the rights and blessings that Jesus has. all our names have been legally registered # 12:23 Or “whose names are written in heaven.” There are many books in heaven. See Ex. 32:32; Pss. 69:28; 87:6; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. as citizens of heaven! And we have come before God who judges all, and who lives among the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect in his eyes! # 12:23 The Aramaic can be translated “and to the Spirit who has perfected the righteous ones.”
24And we have come to Jesus who established a new covenant with his blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat; blood that continues to speak from heaven, “forgiveness,” a better message than Abel’s blood that cries from the earth, “justice.” # 12:24 See Gen. 4:10.
25Make very sure that you never refuse to listen to God when he speaks! # 12:25 Or “don’t turn your back on the speaker.” For the God who spoke on earth from Sinai is the same God who now speaks from heaven. Those who heard him # 12:25 The Greek is somewhat ambiguous with the possibility that it is Moses or even Christ who is speaking. The context seems to imply however that it is God himself who speaks both from Sinai and from heaven. speak his living Word on earth found nowhere to hide, so what chance is there for us to escape if we turn our backs on God and refuse to hear his warnings as he speaks from heaven?
26The earth was rocked at the sound of his voice from the mountain, but now he has promised,
“Once and for all I will not only shake the systems of the world, # 12:26 Or “earth.” Although earthquakes are prophesied to come (Matt. 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11; Rev. 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18) the prophet is most likely using a metaphoric term for the world’s systems (finance, military, governments, religious, etc.). The message of the gospel has shaken the world’s foundations as it includes an unshakable kingdom rising on the earth. Kings of the earth have placed their crowns down before the cross of a man who was crucified as a common criminal. The power of the gospel is still shaking the world.
but also the unseen powers in the heavenly realm!” # 12:26 It is not God’s power or throne being shaken, but invisible forces of darkness in the heavenly realm. See Hag. 2:6; Eph. 6:12.
27Now this phrase “once and for all” clearly indicates the final removal of things that are shaking, that is, the old order, # 12:27 Or “things that have been made.” so only what is unshakable will remain. 28Since we are receiving our rights # 12:28 The Greek word paralambano is often used in classical Greek literature for heirs who have the “rights of succession” (to a throne). (See Aristotle, Pol. 3.14.12; Herodotus, 2.120.) to an unshakable kingdom # 12:28 See Dan. 7:18. we should be extremely thankful and offer God the purest worship that delights his heart # 12:28 Or “offer pleasing service to God.” as we lay down our lives in absolute surrender, filled with awe. # 12:28 The Aramaic can be translated “We have received grace to serve and we please God in awe and tender devotion” (submission). 29For our God is a holy, devouring fire! # 12:29 The Aramaic can be translated “consuming light.” See also Deut. 4:24; 9:3.