One of my favorite things about teaching our Bible Information Class is the fact that you never know quite what to expect. I encourage people to ask any question they have about God and religion. And they do. This week, I was asked one that I've been asked so many times, and I love it, because it is such a great question. Basically, it boils down to: "What about everyone else?" God says that we get to go to heaven because we believe in Jesus, but what about those people who never heard of him? What about those people who grew up where they were taught something else? What happens to them?
You know, there are all sorts of different religions out there, even different styles of Christianity. And some people have never known or really listened to anything but whatever they were raised in, whether that is Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Atheism, you name it. But ultimately, even with all those religions out there, God is pretty clear - there are only two destinations. There are only two paths. We are either trusting the law - or how well we do at doing what God wants, or we are trusting the gospel - the free gift that Jesus gives us. There is no in between, no changing, no do-overs.
The first four verses of the text describe that first path. That's where people try to approach God on their own merit. They feel they've been good enough. They've made the right choice. The writer to the Hebrews says it will never work that way. We'd be like the Israelites looking at God's holiness up there on the mountain, knowing that there is no way we can even get close to that. This letter says that that is not how you have come to God, so don't start trying to rely on your obedience now.
Then the next four verses describe how we have come to God - through Jesus. Look at this list. Hebrews 12 says: 22 "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God." Instead of the mountain of the law, Mt. Sinai - here is the picture of the city of blessing, where God promised and kept his promises to David and Solomon, and to us through what Jesus has done there.
"You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven." We aren't coming somewhere we have to be afraid. The angels are there to protect us. It is a celebration. We have all the rights of a firstborn son.
"You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect." We are in front of the judge with an innocent record - so we can be sure that justice will be done - for us. Then he gets to the climax: "You have come... to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."
You have come to Jesus, the only way that does not rely on our ability or merit, but his grace. You have come to Jesus, who shed his blood that covers our sins; to Jesus, whose name means "Savior;" to Jesus, who still cries out for our forgiveness - and his prayer is heard. You are forgiven.
All that and I still really haven't given the full answer to the question I mentioned at the beginning. I've just set the stage. If you want to hear a fuller answer - come to Bible Information Class. God's Word has answers for all of our questions. So, in that way too, come to Jesus.