1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him; 6 for whom the LORD loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives."

7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.

11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: "And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow." 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.")

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." 27 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.  Version: New King James Version



  • The "great cloud of witnesses" (v.1) are the O.T. men and women of faith in chapter 11.
    • The cloud is metaphorical; the dead have no knowledge of the living. They are "witnesses" not of us but to the truth of God. They held fast their confession all their life long.
    • Nevertheless, the imagery is that of a race.
      • Preparation requires eliminating anything (and any sin) which might weigh us down.
      • We are called to run!
      • Only one has finished the course: Jesus.
    • Jesus, whose example we should emulate, has completed the course before us (v.2).
      • Before the crown, the Cross.
      • Jesus' spiritual stamina included perseverance through opposition (v.3).
      • The image shifts from racing to boxing in v.4.
      • These Christians' sufferings had stopped short of bloodshed (v.4). This likely refers to martyrdom.
  • In our suffering, the Lord is at work, both chastening us for sin and training us for deeper service.
    • Proverbs 3:11-12 is main text from here to middle of chapter.
    • We must not ignore his voice (v.5) -- what his Word says about discipline.
    • There are two extremes to avoid:
      • We should not make light of the Lord's discipline -- ignoring or minimizing it.
      • Nor should we take it too hard -- becoming defeatist.
    • Unlike our earthly fathers, our heavenly Father disciplines us perfectly; he makes no mistakes (vv.7-10)!
      • Discipline is for a legitimate son, one who will receive the inheritance. Fathers did not invest a lot of time fostering children who would not inherit the estate. Inheritance is a major theme in Hebrews.
      • We can fully trust in the wisdom of his correction.
  • Though discipline is unpleasant at the time, it is immensely profitable in the long run. Therefore we must, like the runner in the race, strengthen our bodies (vv.11-13)! Specific areas of discipline include (vv.14-16):
    • Harmonious relationships with others.
    • Holiness.
    • Rooting all bitterness our of our hearts.
    • Avoiding sexual sin.
    • We must not follow in the steps of Esau, who put short-term gratification above God's plans and purposes (Genesis 25). V.16 (fornication) may refer to Esau's marriage outside the covenant (Gen 26:34-35), since exogamy is a form of porneia.
  • From 12:14-13:21, Proverbs 4:26-27 LXX is the base scripture.
  • We have come to Mount Zion, not Mount Sinai (vv.18,22).
    • To review what happened at Mount Sinai (Horeb), read Exodus 20.
    • Mount Zion is not the physical Zion (either the City of David or even the temple mount), but the heavenly Jerusalem. See Galatians 4:26; Revelation 3:12; 21:2.
      • Heaven is where we, and the righteous dead, are enrolled (even though no human has yet gone there). It is our true home and ultimate dwelling place, after the day of judgment.
      • Heaven is also the abode of God, the angels, and Jesus, who serves as our priest.
  • Thus to our lists of contrasts we add two more; the revised list becomes:
    • Prophets / Son.
    • Angels / Son.
    • High Priest / Christ.
    • Moses / Jesus.
    • Joshua / Jesus.
    • Sabbaths / Sabbath rest.
    • Melchizedek / Jesus.
    • Tabernacle / Jesus' heavenly ministry.
    • Old covenant / New covenant.
    • Blood of animals / blood of Christ.
    • Holy of Holies / Heaven.
    • Mount Sinai / Mount Zion.
    • Earthly Jerusalem / heavenly Jerusalem.
  • In verse 25, once again, we must listen to the voice of God (3:7,15; 4:7,12; 12:26).
    • This passage connects back to 10:26-31.
    • The O.T. citation is Haggai 2:6, where the shaking of the cosmos ("heaven and earth") is an image of judgment on the enemies of God (Haggai 2:7).
    • The only thing exempt from such judgment ("shaking") is the eternal kingdom of God (v.28). Obedient service to the King, with fear (reverence) is the only appropriate response. See also Philippians 2:12.
  • For even though we live under the new covenant, our God is still a consuming fire (v.29). The God of the O.T. is the God of the N.T.


  • Some suggest that "for" the joy set before him (antí, in Greek) should perhaps be translated instead of, as this word is frequently rendered.
    • If this is right, the joy would not be Jesus' pleasure in doing God's will, but this possibility of a joyous release from the duty to die. Jesus refused to take the easy way out.
    • However, in Gen 31:41 LXX the same grammatical construction is used, without this meaning. I also came across this same prepositional meaning in Num 18:31.
    • Moreover, Louw-Nida 89.24 specifies one of the 6 uses of antí as a marker of reason, with a possible implication of purpose—"because, for this reason, for the purpose of," and so the traditional rendering is probably correct.
  • The opposition is mainly verbal, as suggested by the Greek antilogia (v.3).
  • Re: "scorning the shame": “Lictor, go bind his hands, veil his head, hang him on the tree of shame” (Cicero, Pro Rabirio 13; Livy 1.26.6-7).
  • The Hebrew and Greek of Proverbs 3:11 (quoted in v.5) has not been well rendered by the NKJV or the NIV. Yet the translation in Hebrews 12 is correct: the verbs are not synonyms, but antonyms.
  • V.24 sees the final occurrence of the word better in Hebrews.
  • The sprinkled blood of Jesus is better than the sacrifice of Abel (v.24). This refers not to Abel's animal sacrifice, but to his murder (11:4). Jesus was not only innocent and the victim of jealousy, but the means of our propitiation.
  • V.25 reminds us that God has spoken through Jesus. From 1:2 to 25:12, this has been heavily emphasized -- which is why we must pay attention and not drift away!
  • Notice the "already but not yet" of v.28. The kingdom has come (past) and we are in it, yet it is still to come (future). We do not yet have what we seek, even though we have already found it.

Thought questions:

  • How do I react when the Lord disciplines me? Do I tend to minimize correction, laughing it off, or do I overreact, making myself a victim of an impossible standard of holiness?
  • Can I think of any recent situations when I traded long-term holiness for short-term gratification?
  • How do I pursue holiness on a daily basis?
  • Granted that I love God as my Father, do I also fear him? Or has my theology removed entirely the fear of God from my thinking?