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THEOLOGY > Future > The Believer in Eternity > The Heavenly Assembly 


But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).

The writer of Hebrews speaks of “the assembly of the firstborn” (ESV; but the NKJV has:  “church of the firstborn”). Both words, “church” and “assembly,” are translations of the Gr. word, ekklēsia, which is used of a general assembly, such as a political assembly, or as a definite term to refer to the body of Christ, the Church.

Etymologically the word speaks of a group that has been called together for a specific purpose. This assembly/church in Hebrews is associated with Mount Zion, the heavenly city of God, and with a large number of angels; also present with the assembly is God the Judge, and present is Jesus, “the mediator of a new covenant”. Several observations are appropriate:

The heavenly assembly is the assembly of the redeemed.

Several exegetical points support the view that this group is the assembly of the redeemed: one, the group is associated with “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (v. 22); two, it is referred to as the assembly of “the firstborn” (v. 23); three, the group is “enrolled in heaven” (v. 23); and four, the group is surrounded by God, Christ, and innumerable angels (vs. 22-24).

Regarding number one: the terminology relates extensively to the Old Testament which projects the earthly Mt Zion and Jerusalem into the spiritual realm as the dwelling place of God and as an idealized projection of the dwelling place of the redeemed, perhaps even the redeemed themselves (see: Ps. 2:6; 102:16; 110:2; Isa. 62:6-12; Gal. 4:26-27; Rev. 3:12; 14:1; 21:2, 10; and see: The Holy City).

Regarding number two: in Heb. 1:6 Christ is called “the firstborn” (see: Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18; Rev. 1:5), a designation that reaches back into the Old Testament and indicates position and privilege (Ex. 4:22; II Sam. 7:12-14; Ps. 89:27). In the Greek “firstborn” is plural in Heb. 12:22 indicating the total of all believers and identifying them with Christ. To be a “firstborn” indicates sonship and inheritance (Heb. 1:14; 2:10; 9:15; 12:5-8). To be “firstborn” is to be in Him who is the Firstborn.

Regarding number three: to be “enrolled in heaven” is to be listed or included with the redeemed. Perhaps the reference is to the book of life (Ex. 32:32-33; Ps. 69:28; Dan. 7:10; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 20:12-15).

Regarding number four: the assembly is in the companionship of God and His angelic host; “His name shall be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4).

The heavenly assembly includes all of the redeemed.

It is an “assembly,” meaning a significant number; and the number is composed of those who are “enrolled in heaven.” So included are the redeemed from the beginning of creation to the end of history. In eternity every believer from all the ages will be present and all the believers will be together. What an assemble! 

The assembly is gathered to a place.

The assembly will be real, and if the assembly is real then the assembly must be in a place, a real place. So, on the one hand, the eternal state is the believer beholding the glory of God and enjoying His presence; on the other hand, the eternal state is a state that includes a real place.

It must be admitted that the word “place” in the eternal dimension is not identical to “place” in the present dimension, for the words “new heaven and new earth” are not completely comprehended. Suffice it to say, however, that the heavenly assembly will be real and will be occupying a real place, whatever the word “place” conveys. The statement of Jesus stands: “I go to prepare a place for you” (Jo. 14:2; see: The Holy City).

The biblical doctrine of the New Earth implies something startling: that if we want to know what the ultimate Heaven, our eternal home, will be like, the best place to start is by looking around us. We shouldn’t close our eyes and try to imagine the unimaginable. We should open our eyes, because the present Earth is as much a valid reference point for envisioning the New Earth as our present bodies are a valid reference point for envisioning our new bodies (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, 81).

The idea of the New Earth as a physical place isn’t an invention of short-sighted human imagination. Rather, it’s the invention of a transcendent God, who made physical human beings to live on a physical Earth, and who chose to become a man himself on that same Earth. He did this that he might redeem mankind and Earth. Why? In order to glorify himself and enjoy forever the company of men and women in a world he’s made for us (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, 81).

If earth is the dwelling place of man then earth must be made appropriate for the renewed believers—renewed individuals on a renewed earth; the earth will be renewed as the believers are renewed.

The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire . . . the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved . . . the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved . . . and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (II Pet. 3:7-13). 

Fulfilled will be the longing of believers throughout history, as typified by the statements related to Abraham and the people of faith: “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God”; and “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:10, 16; see: 10:34; 13:14; Phil. 3:20). The believer longs to be part of the heavenly assembly that will be on Mount Zion.

Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus
let us offer to God acceptable worship.
Heb. 12:28

The heavenly assembly possesses eternal life.

The text states that this assembly has been “made perfect” (v. 23). God’s determined goal for the believer is perfection, full salvation. And full salvation is a new body in a new state, that is, the possession of eternal life. Eternal life is eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9).

Eternal life is knowing God and knowing His Christ (Jo. 17:3). Eternal life is from Christ: “He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9; see: Rom. 5:21); and additionally, the Scriptures affirm that God “will give eternal life” (Rom. 2:7; Titus 1:2). Thus, eternal life is related to both God the Father and God the Son; this relationship is seen in Paul’s statement: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Eternal life is essentially different from the life we now possess; it is not life like we possess now with an endless character attached. Rather, it is life that cannot be destroyed nor taken away. It is life that is appropriate to eternity.

Eternal life is life without sin. The life is perfect; the body is perfect; the person is perfect; and the place is perfect (see: No Sin).

Return to: The Believer in Eternity; Next Article: Characteristics of the Eternal State 

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