“See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:” (Hebrews 12:25, AV)
In 1966, the United States passed a law that mandated the inclusion of a warning label on all packages of cigarettes sold. The warning was that smoking cigarettes was dangerous to one’s health. A 2012 warning was, “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.” Yet, in spite of the warnings, people still smoke cigarettes. As a result, many will suffer the adverse effects of smoking on their health, only to regret their failure to heed the warnings while there was time.
In the previous verses, the writer of Hebrews reminded his Hebrew audience of Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the law of the Old Covenant, which Moses then gave to the people. However, the people did not harken to the words they received. Oh, they heard what Moses said, but did not heed the words spoken. As a result, they did not enter the Promised Land, but wandered in the wilderness until that faithless generation died out.
The point the author is making is one of comparison and contrast. The Old Covenant was spoken to the people of Israel from Mount Sinai on earth, while the New covenant was spoken from Mount Zion from heaven. If the consequences for failing to heed the words of the Old Covenant spoken from earth were devastating, the Jews to whom the author wrote must consider how much more severe the consequences would be for failing to heed the words of the New Covenant spoken from heaven. This was a matter of life and death, of eternal bliss or eternal judgment.
Remember that in the Hebrew community to which the author wrote, there were not only those of true faith, but also those who had yet to express true faith in Christ. Some had intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel and even identified with those who truly believed. The author is using the familiar story of Sinai to move them to fully trust in Jesus. The problem, as mentioned before, was that there was much pressure on that community to leave Christianity and move back to traditional Judaism.
Today, there are many in our churches and communities who are failing to heed the blessed message of the New Covenant. That is that Jesus is God who became flesh and lived a sinless life; That He died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins and rose again on the third day for our justification; That He offers a gift of eternal life to all who believe. The consequences of failing to truly believe in this hope are severe. Those who do not believe will miss the mark, and experience the devastating judgment of God for sin, which will result in eternal punishment.
Do not give up in your witness for those who are perishing. There are many in our churches and in our communities, who need to hear the message. It is likely that many have heard and failed to heed the message. Continue to implore them to respond, for the consequences for them are dire. If you would warn them to quit smoking cigarettes because of their harmful effect on health, would you not warn them of a much greater peril to come?