No nation or living creature can escape the fierce shaking judgment of God in time in reference to His plans for this world. God shakes all living creatures, nations and the earth for the purpose of bringing about the purpose for which He created the world and all mankind. He shook Israel in order to bring about the intended purpose for which he called Israel into existence to continue the seedline of Abraham that resulted in the Seed of woman, the Christ (See Gl 3:16). In order to remind us of this eternal purpose of God, Ezekiel was called to direct the thinking of the faithful remnant of Israel to another “shaking” that would happen in the years to come in their history:
“The fish of the sea and the birds of the heaven, and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth, will shake at My presence. And the mountains [governments] will be thrown down and the steep places will fall, and every wall [of every city] will fall to the ground” (Ez 38:20).
Israel was shaken by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The nations who took Israel into captivity were themselves shaken in order that they release the seedline remnant of Abraham in order that they might return to the promised land. This brings us to the time of the prophecy of Haggai, and the preceding prophecy of Ezekiel. After their captivity, it was time in the history of Israel to give the remnant of God hope for something that was coming in the future. Therefore, according to Haggai there was another “shaking” that was to come in the history of Israel. This was the “shaking” about which the Hebrew writer referred in Hebrews 12:26,27.
At the time of the prophecy of Haggai, the remnant of captives had returned to the land of promise and were to be prepared for the future. Haggai was called by God in order to encourage Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest (Hg 2:2). The Lord encouraged these two leaders of the returned remnant with the following exhortation, “Now be strong” (Hg 2:4). The Lord promised them, “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Hg 25).
In the middle of the Lord’s encouragement that the people rebuild the physical temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, there was an implanted prophecy that would not be fulfilled until four hundred years later. The Lord promised, “Yet once again in a little while I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land” (Hg 2:6). The phrase, “a little while,” did not refer to something that would happen 2,400 years later, supposing that the “shaking” would be at the end of time with the final coming of the Lord Jesus. Neither did the statement refer to something that would take place in their lifetime. Since the Hebrew writer quoted this prophecy of Haggai, which quotation was made about thirty years after the ministry of Jesus, then we must conclude that there was yet one more “shaking” by which national Israel would be sifted in order to separate the chaff from the grain.
In the historical context of Haggai, Zerubabbel and Joshua, the Lord continued to historically contextualize the shaking that would come. Haggai continued, “And I will shake all nations, and they will come to the desire of all nations. And I will fill this house with glory” (Hg 2:7). The prophecy Haggai moved beyond the physical temple that the Israelite remnant was to rebuild. The physical temple would be a symbol of the temple of the spiritual house of the Lord. Isaiah explained: “And it will come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established on top of the mountains, and will be exalted above the hills. And all nations will flow to it” (Is 2:2). Both Haggai and Isaiah revealed that all nations would come unto the temple (church) of the Lord at sometime in the future from the time they prophesied.
When the Lord eventually shook the nations with the gospel of King Jesus, it was then that the mountains of the nations came tumbling down. People from all nations submitted to the kingdom reign of the Son where there is “neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither bondservant nor free. There is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gl 3:28). The final shaking of Israel began during the ministry of Jesus and continued until the consummation of national Israel in A.D. 70. The first part of the shaking was spiritual with the preaching of the gospel message by Jesus, and then after Acts 2, by the apostles. The second part of the shaking was physical when God brought down national Israel in A.D. 70. The patience of God prevailed during the forty years from the beginning until the end (See 2 Pt 3:9).
When the gospel went into all the world, it was then that the prophecy of Haggai 2 began to be fulfilled. The gospel brought all men under the kingdom reign of Jesus (See Dn 2:44; 7:13,14). This is the meaning of the following final words that the Lord gave to Haggai to deliver to the people: “I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations” (Hg 2:22).
A. One more “shaking”:
And now we come to the conclusion of God’s “shakings.” This brings us to the “shaking” of Hebrews 12 that in these times has “end-of-time” speculators trying to shake everyone in their boots. Unfortunately, in their efforts to shake us by twisting the meaning of Hebrews 12, they are promoting the end-of-times in reference to the world. Unfortunately, these end-of-time prophets have simply missed the in-time “shakings” of Israel in order to bring about repentance, and finally, to bring about the end of national Israel in A.D. 70. They forget that the “shakings” of God were always in-time events that had in-time results. When we understand the purpose of why God shook people in time, then we can easily determine that the work of God to shake humanity never refers to end-of-time events.
Before we look at Hebrews 12 that was written about thirty years after Jesus made the pronouncements of the demise of national Israel in Matthew 24, we must focus on one statement in Luke’s parallel account of what Jesus said was coming in the lifetime of some of His disciples (See Mk 9:1). In Luke’s record of Jesus’ prophecy of the end of Israel, which was written less than a decade before the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, Luke referred to an emotional state of the people that is always prevalent in the hearts of man every time God shakes humanity. Jesus prophesied that this state of emotional distress would exist among the Jews when Rome finally brought down judgment on the insurrectionist Jews of Palestine: “Men’s hearts will be failing them for fear, and for expecting those things that are coming on the earth. For the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Lk 21:26). The “powers of heaven” (Rome) would be shaken in order to shake the chaff of unbelieving Israel from the grain of believers. The chaff (national Israel) would then be gathered up in Jerusalem and burned (See Mt 13:40). The seed (grain) of the kingdom of God would then continue unhindered by the chaff. After A.D. 70, there was never again any persecution of Christians by the Jews that was so prevalent during the forty years that led up to that date.
Jesus placed the fulfillment of that about which He spoke to occur in time, not at the end of time. This was a shaking in time because of “those things that are coming on the earth” at the time he spoke. But when the Holy Spirit spoke of the final coming of Jesus at the end of time, He revealed things that would happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Co 15:52). In reference to the end of time, Paul added, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Th 4:16). These are events that will take place instantaneously. When speaking of end-of-time events, the New Testament does not speak of events that would unfold gradually over a period of time. Regardless of how long it would take Rome to bring destruction upon national Israel, the day of the Lord in A.D. 70 was more than a 24-hour day. It was judgment that was planned in Rome, which judgment eventually came upon national Israel over a period of several months. This is certainly not within the instantaneous time frame of the events that will take place on last day when Jesus comes again.
This introduces us to the text of Hebrews 10:26,27. The Hebrew writer was directing his words to those who were forsaking the kingdom reign of King Jesus. They were going back to live under the Jews’ religion of the day. Because of the intimidation of the radical Jews at the time in their efforts to restore national Israel, the Hebrew writer penned a document to save the lives of young Christian Jews who might be encouraged to take up a sword and head to Jerusalem in order to fight the Romans. At the time, there were nationalistic zealot Jews at work throughout the Roman Empire who were recruiting all Jews to go to Jerusalem on the Passover of A.D. 70 in order to consolidate their resistance against Rome. Strategically, it was also at that time that Rome planned that the Roman army should show up at the same time.
The finality of the Hebrew writer’s arguments were based on the affirmation of Hebrews 10:39: “But we [faithful Jews] are not of those [apostates] who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” If any Jew fell away from their allegiance to King Jesus, then there was only certain doom waiting him in Jerusalem. God was again going to shake national Israel in order to separate the chaff from the grain. Through and after the destruction, Jesus had prophesied the result: “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). Once the tares were gathered up and burned, then the true grain would be revealed. It would be as Jesus said at the conclusion of the parable of the Tares: “Therefore, as the tares [unbelieving Jews] are gathered and burned in the fire [of the destruction of Jerusalem], so it will be at the end of this [national Israel] age” (See Mt 13:40). (During the final weeks of the destruction, the Jewish historian Josephus stated that hundreds of thousand of Jews were killed by the Romans. The bodies of the dead were burned outside the walls of the city.)
When we read the statement of Hebrews 12:26,27 that was written only a few years before the calamity (shaking) that came upon national Israel in A.D. 70, we must understand that Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 (Lk 21) was in the process of being fulfilled. About thirty years later when the book of Hebrews was written, national calamity was indeed coming upon the Jews. Notice carefully how the Hebrew writer took the minds of the recipients of the letter back to God’s shaking of Israel in the past when Israel continually went into apostasy: “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they [apostate Jews] did not escape when they refused Him [Jesus] who spoke on earth, much less will we escape if we turn away from Him [King Jesus] who speaks from heaven” (Hb 12:15). At the time this statement was made, King Jesus continued to speak from heaven through His apostles whom He sent into all the world (Mt 28:19,20).
In the context, the Hebrew writer spoke specifically of the incarnate Son of God speaking to national Israel during His earthly ministry. But during His ministry, the Jews rejected Him and His word. The writer then continued in Hebrews 12:26, “His voice then shook the earth.” The voice of Jesus shook the earth during His ministry on earth because His word became the standard by which all would be judged both in time and at the end of time: “He who rejects Me and does not receive My words” Jesus reminded the obstinate Jews, “has one who judges him. The word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day” (Jn 12:48). From the time Jesus ascended to the throne of God in heaven, until the time He comes again in the last day, it is the word of King Jesus that will judge all men (At 17:30,31).
In the historical context of the recipients of the Hebrew letter, there would be another “shaking” after Jesus shook the earth with His personal words while He was on earth. “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven” (Hb 12:26). We must not miss the metaphors of this statement. Paul’s statement in Ephesians 1:20,21 is a needed commentary. The Father “worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” It is there that King Jesus is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named.” Paul continued with his commentary on this matter in Philippians 2:9,10: “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the earth.” Jesus is now King of all nations of this world (1 Tm 6:15). He is King of all the realm of Satan (See 1 Pt 3:22). There is nothing outside His present kingdom reign.
The Hebrew writer continued to identity the obedient subjects of the kingdom reign at the time the Hebrew document was written. In view of all those kingdoms of the world that can be shaken out of existence, the obedient subjects of King Jesus “are receiving [accepting] a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hb 12:28). “Those things that can be shaken” were about to be taken away in A.D. 70. They were to be taken away in order to reveal those things that cannot be taken away. Therefore, “let us show gratitude, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hb 12:28). It is significant that the Hebrew writer concluded his exhortation in view of the fact of the fire that was soon to come upon Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. “For our God is a consuming fire.”
[Next chapter: May 7]