I live in earthquake country. I have been through so many earthquakes that I sometimes act a little too casually when they hit. Instead of panicking, I walk to the “safe part” of a building to wait it out.
Strong earthquakes are another story, though.
When they hit, I move more quickly and hope that it won’t last much longer. Then, I try to reach my family to make sure they’re o.k.
The author of Hebrews tells us that God will shake both the earth and the heavens (Hebrews 12, ESV):
26 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.” 27 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. 28 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, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
In the heart of this terrifying threat is a hopeful promise, there are things that cannot be shaken, but will remain.
Earlier in the chapter, the author writes about the discipline of God’s children. He doesn’t allow us to be spoiled and arrogant. He uses physical ailments, sickness, persecution, and other trials to drive us back to His word.
It is His means of purifying the faith of His children. It is also the evidence of His presence in our lives (along with scripture and the sacraments).
The pain and suffering He sends are like a cross that we must bear. And some will actually be killed for the very faith they have.
But this isn’t God’s wrath.
That comes later, when He will shake the heavens and the earth.
It is the promise of a “hellish” day which everyone will witness. It is the fulfillment of the “Mount Sinai” experience of ancient Israel. God will be seen as a “consuming fire”.
For those who have been put through the trials and suffering meant to drive them to faith, they will remain secure on “Mount Zion”. That is, of course, if they remain believing in the one who secured their salvation in the first place, Jesus.
Who is Jesus? “… the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Through Him, we are, ” … the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (12:23). And, as the author writes at the end of the chapter, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken …” (12:28).
Jesus is our Mount Zion. He is the temple that will not be shaken. He is the foundation upon which our faith is both founded and perfected, now and forever.