The author offers one final warning against impenitent unbelief by quoting a prophecy of the final judgment found in Haggai 2:6. The final judgment of God upon the nations, unbelievers, and all creation should serve as an encouragement and solace to believers who face hostility and affliction at the hands of unbelievers. An exposition of Hebrews 12:26-27.
There is an unbiblical notion that seems to flourish among immature and untaught believers in Christian circles, and it is the teaching that there is a difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. If you follow or hear or listen to progressive Christians or progressive Christianity, then it’s not uncommon for you to hear this notion put forth in one form or another. And according to this idea, this doctrine, the God of the Old Testament is filled with wrath. He is angry and seething at sinners, utterly devoid of mercy, grace, and love. His anger is overbearing and mostly unjustified. He is like a petulant child who bursts forth with outbursts of wrath anytime he doesn’t get his way. And He can only be satiated and appeased by blood and death, and all He is known for really is His judgments.
And then according to this same doctrine in the New Testament, we have Jesus. He came to show us that all the Old Testament writers got it wrong. They didn’t know any better. They were simply products of their time and their culture. They suffered from an ignorance of the one true God and were shaped by the superstitions of their age. But Jesus came to show us a softer, more gentler God. He came to show us the softer side of Sears. And He stressed love and forgiveness and tolerance and acceptance. And according to this way of thinking, Jesus wants us to know that we have nothing to fear from God. He is not mad at you. He’s mad about you. He just can’t get enough of you. He thinks you are fantastic. And He is OK with sin and unrighteousness. And He will wink at violations of His law and unrighteousness and holiness. And that idea of repentance, well that is an old-fashioned word and one that certainly doesn’t belong in any New Testament understanding of God because God loves you just as you are.
Now that message appeals to the fleshly man. It appeals to us in our fallenness because really that is a God that is fashioned after our own image. It is a God who demands nothing, expects nothing, and will hold nobody accountable for anything. That portrayal of God is based mostly upon the most shallow of possible readings and understandings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yes, it is true that in the Old Testament we see the wrath of God on display. You see it at Sodom and Gomorrah. You see it in the judgment. You see it at the garden. You see it at the Tower of Babel. You see it all over the Old Testament. There are many examples of the wrath of God. But it is equally true that the love and the grace and the mercy of God is on display all the way through the Old Testament as well. The Psalms are filled with references both to God’s justice and to His loving-kindness. These are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is in the Old Testament that we read of God’s redeeming love, that He would send one who would be the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s heel and redeem a people for Himself. That is an expression of God’s love. And that’s all the way through the Old Testament.
And it is true that in the New Testament we do read a lot about God’s compassion for sinners and His grace and His kindnesses on display in the Person of Christ and in the teachings of the New Testament. That is true. But it is also true that the New Testament is filled with references to hell and damnation and God’s righteousness and the justice that will fall upon sinners. The wrath of God is described in the New Testament just as clearly and unequivocally and unapologetically as anything you will find in the Old Testament. And to walk away from the Bible, a reading of the Bible, with this idea that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament is a God of mercy and grace, you have to ignore vast portions of the New Testament. Certainly the entire book of Revelation, right? You have to ignore that entire book. In fact, you have to skip over quite a few, most of the Epistles, which warn of God’s wrath and judgment and damnation. In fact, you really have to just cherry-pick a few references in the Gospels where Jesus talks about love and loving your neighbor and being kind to others and the golden rule. And you have to cherry-pick those verses and exclude all of the passages where Jesus talked about the wrath of God and warned sinners to flee from the wrath that is to come and called sinners to repentance. You have to ignore all of that, the red words of Jesus, as it were, in the Gospels, and just sort of cherry-pick the ones that make you sort of have the feels, the warmth, the fuzzies inside. Just focus on those.
Jesus not only warned of the wrath to come. But the Jesus of the New Testament promised that when sinners face that wrath, He will be the one that they face. He said the Father doesn’t judge anybody but has committed all judgment to the Son. That’s John chapter 5. Every man and woman who has ever lived will stand before Jesus Christ and will either be welcomed into His eternal kingdom based upon the merits of what He has done or they will be cast into eternal damnation based upon the merits of what they have done. And He will be the one who executes that wrath.
The passage before us in Hebrews chapter 12 is one such warning of that judgment. It is the fifth and final warning passage in the book of Hebrews. There is implicit in this warning—and we’re looking specifically at verses 26 and 27 today, but the warning passage is verses 25–29, the end of the chapter. There is implicit in the warning the reminder that forgiveness is available in Jesus Christ, for this judgment will fall. The judgment that is warned of here will fall upon those who are impenitent and heart-hardened and will not repent and turn from their sin and trust in the Savior.
Let’s read together Hebrews 12 beginning at verse 25:
25 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.
26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”
27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:25–29 NASB)
Now we have in that passage four motivations for attentive obedience in light of the blessings that we have received in Christ. You remember this follows on the heels of the blessings of the new covenant that are enumerated in verses 22–24, and that is contrasted with the fear and trembling that accompanied the giving of the old covenant described in verses 18–21.
The first motivation for obedience is in verse 25. It is the pattern of past judgments against disobedience, and we already looked at that last time we were together in the book of Hebrews. God has a good track record of dealing in justice with those who have received the warnings of judgment, and those who refuse His word and ignore the warnings will not escape, just as Old Testament Israel did not escape when they were warned. If they would not heed the warnings, then they certainly would not escape the judgment that was to come. Just like the generation that came out of Egypt did not escape the judgment when they refused to hear Him who warned them from Heaven. The pattern of God’s past judgments is a harbinger of what is to come. You can look at God’s past activity, and how He has handled sin and what He has done, and every one of those is a foreshadowing of a much greater judgment that is to come upon sin and upon sinners, impenitent sinners. So that was the first motivation for obedience, verse 25, the pattern of past judgments against disobedience.
The second motivation is in verses 26 and 27, and this is where we’re at today, the promise of a final future judgment on the wicked. That is what is described in verses 26 and 27. Verse 28 is the pledge of an unshakable kingdom, and at verse 29, the perfection of an unchanging God. Those are our four motivations for obedience. Today we’re just focusing on the promise of final future judgment on the wicked.
Read verses 26 and 27 with me again. “And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Now those two verses are describing an eschatological or end times judgment. There is a judgment coming that will be so severe as to remove everything that is temporal so that only that which is permanent remains.
Verse 26, you will notice, contains a quotation from the Old Testament, and that is probably noted in your Bible translation in some way, either all capitals or by italics. Verse 27 offers a commentary or an explanation of the quotation from the Old Testament that we find in verse 26, and there are a number of contrasts in these two verses. I want you to notice them. The author contrasts the shaking of the earth that occurred at Sinai with the shaking of the earth and Heaven that will occur at the end of time. He describes the “then” versus the “now.” “His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven” (v. 26). There is the threatenings of judgment at Sinai versus the promise of a final judgment. There is the contrast of temporal and created things with eternal and everlasting things, and then there is the contrast with things which will be removed and then things which can never be removed.
The connection in verse 26 is with Sinai. When the author says, “And His voice shook the earth then,” what shaking of the earth was he referring to? He is referring to that monumental event recorded in Exodus chapter 19 when God met with His people at Mount Sinai after He had brought them out of the land of Egypt. It is described in our passage in verses 18 and 19. So look up at those two verses. Remind you of the context. “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.” Words were spoken to them at that point. God spoke to them. And it was accompanied by the trembling of the earth and the mountain quaking violently. And though that is not described in Hebrews 12 verses 18 and 19, it was something that accompanied that event. We read of it in multiple places all the way through the Old Testament. Like, for instance, where the incident is recorded in Exodus 19 verse 18, it says, “Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.”
There are other passages that describe the same event. Judges chapter 5: “Lord, when you went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, even the clouds dripped water. The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord, this Sinai, at the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel” (Judg. 5:4–5).
Psalm 68:7: “O God, when You went forth before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness, Selah. The earth quaked; the heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.”
Psalm 77:18: “The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.”
And what was the effect of that at Sinai? It struck terror in the hearts of the people. They got very clearly the impression that this was not a God to be trifled with, this was a God who warned them, and if they did not heed His warnings, then they would face the judgment at the hands of this God who is a consuming fire. Standing at the foot of that rock mountain, they saw that mountain and the ground upon which they stood tremble and shake so violently that the children of Israel felt as if these things which are immovable and impenetrable and unchangeable, rocks, mountains of rocks, would suddenly dissolve and fall apart into sand. And they were terrified by that. The effect was a terror and a dread, and that was then. Now, he says, if you thought that was a precursor of judgment, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We have the promise of a judgment that is to come that is an even greater judgment, not just the shaking of a mountain, but the shaking of every mountain. Not just the undoing of one rock, but the undoing of every rock. Not just the terror and threatening upon one nation, but terror and threatening upon all the nations, not just the children of Israel, but all who have ever lived. That is the judgment that is to come. If you think Sinai was something, and you think they were terrified, wait until the unbeliever stands before a holy and righteous God, having violated His commandments, and is forced to stand there before the piercing glory of His holiness and His righteousness and give an account for every thought, word, and deed that they have ever said or done. You think the children of Israel were terrified? That is nothing compared to the judgment that is to come. That is the point of the author in Hebrews chapter 12.
In verse 26 he quotes an Old Testament passage, “But now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ ” That is a quotation from the book of Haggai chapter 2, verse 6, and I know what all of you are thinking right now. You are thinking, Jim, I sure hope that you ask us to turn back to Haggai chapter 2 so that we can see the context of this quotation and what it meant to them and why the author of Hebrews quotes it. And since that is what you are thinking, that’s what we are going to do. So turn back to Haggai chapter 2, and this is where we are going to spend the remainder of our time. There are a number of connections in the book of Haggai to the themes of Hebrews 10, 11, and 12 that I want you to notice.
Now I know that Haggai is one of those books that gets lost in the last twelve books of the Old Testament. So Haggai, in case you’re still flipping and looking for it, is the third from the last book of the Old Testament. Third from the last book. So find the division between the Testaments, start turning toward the left, and you will eventually run into it rather quickly. Haggai is the second shortest book of the Old Testament. The only book shorter than that is Obadiah, which is a prophecy against the nation of Edom. Haggai is the second shortest book of the Old Testament, and it is only quoted in the New Testament one time. It’s in Hebrews chapter 12, which is something unique about the book of Haggai.
There are a number of connections with our Hebrews passages. The book of Haggai describes an unshakable kingdom that we are promised. It describes a judgment that is to come. It describes a reward for faithful saints who will be faithful to be obedient in the face of opposition from God’s enemies, and it promises a reward for those who will obey God in the face of hostility. Now does that sound familiar? If you’ve been with us through Hebrews, you realize that those are the same themes of Hebrews 10, 11, and 12. That’s the very thing that we’ve been looking at. So it shouldn’t surprise us that the author would quote now from the book of Haggai.
Let me give you a little bit of history and put this in some context for you. If you’re going to understand what we’re about to cover here, you’re going to have to understand a little bit about the context in which Haggai is written. We’re going to cover basically the entire book of Haggai today. So I want this to be something of an encouragement to you on two fronts. Number one, if you wonder why it’s taking us so long to go through the book of Hebrews, it’s because we have to go back into the Old Testament and preach whole other books of the Old Testament as we’re going through the book of Hebrews. Two, let it be known that I’m preaching through a whole book of the Bible in one sermon today. We’re doing the book of Haggai in one sermon. We’re going to give you an overview of this whole thing.
Haggai takes place in the closing decades of our Old Testament time line in the Old Testament era. Haggai is the first postexilic prophet. So when you’re reading through your Bible and you get to the end of the book of 2 Chronicles, you’re reading about the fall and destruction of the nation of Jerusalem. And then you get to Ezra and Nehemiah, and you read about Zerubbabel’s return to rebuild the temple, Ezra’s return to reform the people, and then Nehemiah’s return to rebuild the wall. Those events take place roughly four and a half, five centuries prior to Christ, and that is basically the end of Old Testament revelation history by the time you get there. So now we’re going back, in the book of Haggai, we’re going back to about five, almost five and a half centuries prior to the birth of Christ. But it is, keep in mind, toward the end of our Old Testament narrative storyline that we’re familiar with in revealed Scripture.
He is the first postexilic prophet, meaning that he was the first prophet to prophesy after the Babylonian exile. We’ve heard of the Babylonian exile, Babylonian captivity. So to give you a little bit of Old Testament history, Israel had disobeyed the covenant that God made with them that’s described actually in Hebrews chapter 12 verses 18 and 19. You remember Mount Sinai, the terms of that covenant, they had disobeyed that, and God’s patience ran out with that nation, and He sent them into exile. So in about 597, 608 BC, somewhere in that neighborhood, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, came in and laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, eventually invaded it. Jerusalem fell, and that sort of ended the Davidic dynasty of that age. And kings were taken in exile to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar led three deportations of Jews from the city of Jerusalem back to Babylon. He destroyed the wall around the city. He destroyed the temple, wiped out temple worship basically for that whole seventy years and left just a remnant of the poorest and the worst of the Jews in the land of Israel. And he took the best and the brightest and the best-looking of all the Jews back to Babylon to bring to sort of include them into his culture and his society, and that’s how Nebuchadnezzar grew his kingdom. So he had conquered Jerusalem, brought Jews back to Babylon, and dispersed the Jewish people. That was the Babylonian captivity. That started in 597 or around 600 BC. Seventy years went by. During those seventy years we have Daniel and Obadiah and Ezekiel. Those are exilic prophets, Daniel writing from inside Babylon, and his life span basically spans that entire seventy-year captivity.
So seventy years pass. In about 538 BC, some Jews returned to the land with the king’s permission to rebuild their temple. And one of the men who returned with that group that came from Babylon was Haggai, and he was accompanied by Zerubbabel, who was a civic leader of the Jews, and Joshua, a man named Joshua, the High Priest, who was the religious or spiritual leader of the Jews. A couple of years later in 536 BC, they started rebuilding the temple. That was what Zerubbabel went back there for, not just because he liked the barren desert of the Judean landscape, but Zerubbabel went back to rebuild the temple of his God. He did this, of course, with the king’s permission. And Ezra talks about these rebuilding efforts. Ezra comes later, but Zerubbabel returned with Zechariah and Haggai. And they started the rebuilding project, but they came up against opposition from the enemies of God. The book of Ezra describes this opposition, and the people stopped. They faced opposition, and the people suffered from a little bit of apathy and a little bit of indifference. And so they stopped the building in the middle of it, and they kind of went about their own lives for a period of fourteen years.
Then in 520 BC, something happened. Ezra chapter 4 says the “work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” Second year of the reign of Darius, the king of Persia. What happened in the second year of the reign of Darius, the king of Persia? Look at Haggai chapter 1, verse 1: “In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying . . .” And then you have this prophecy where the prophets of God begin to encourage the people to start the building project again. Ezra describes this, and Ezra mentions both Zerubbabel and Joshua and Zechariah, which is the next book in your Old Testament, and Haggai. Ezra chapter 5 verse 1:
1 When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them,
2 then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them. (Ezra 5:1–2 NASB)
So God raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. And He raised up those two prophets so that they would preach to the people, prophesy to the people, encourage the people, and the people then would be motivated to return back to the rebuilding project on the temple, led by Zerubbabel and Joshua. Their ministry was to comfort and motivate the people, to encourage them to pursue holiness. So the idea of holiness is all the way through the book of Haggai and through the book of Zechariah, particularly. Their ministry was to strengthen the people, to endure the hostility, and to look forward to a kingdom that was to come, the kingdom being the ultimate reward for their faithfulness. Again, these themes should sound familiar if you’ve been with us in the book of Hebrews. There is a kingdom that is to come that will reward the faithful. So endure in faith, Hebrews chapter 11 says, so that, having done what you are supposed to do and been obedient, you may receive that which is promised. Haggai’s ministry was to come on the scene and to tell the people that. Let’s get back to building this temple, understanding that God still has a plan for our nation. There is a kingdom that is to come. There is a King who is coming, and with Him will be His reward. That’s Haggai and Zechariah. That’s their ministry. That’s their prophecy.
Now Haggai is unique because we know the exact date of every message that he preached. They’re given to us in his book. There are four distinct messages that are given over the course of sixteen weeks. So he preached four times in sixteen weeks, and each one of them is dated. And given the amount of time that I’ve been here in the last couple of months, you might think that I’m adopting the Haggai model for ministry, but that is not my intention at all.
Look at Haggai chapter 1, verse 1. You will notice the date that is given: “In the second year of Darius the king.” We know that that’s 520 BC. “The first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel.” That’s the first introduction to the first message. Then there was a second message—Haggai chapter 2, verse 1. “On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet.” The third message is Haggai chapter 2, verse 10: “On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Haggai the prophet, saying . . .” And then the fourth message is Haggai chapter 2, verse 20: “Then the word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month.” So you may not think that he’s preaching a lot, but you have to give him credit because he preaches two messages on the same day. Message three and four are actually delivered—maybe a morning and an evening service. I don’t know what. But he preaches these four messages over the course of these sixteen weeks. The second and the fourth messages are the ones that are our focus. But in order for us to understand and appreciate his entire ministry and everything that he’s kind of driving at here, I’m going to give you briefly an overview of messages one and three as well.
Message number one is a reproof and an encouragement to build the temple. So remember the temple building had stopped, and it stopped for fourteen years. God raised up then Haggai and Zechariah and said go preach to the people, get them motivated, they will go back out and they will rebuild the temple. So chapter 1, verse 2 says,
2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.” ’ ”
3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”
5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!” (Hag. 1:2–5 NASB)
This message was really straightforward. You people are saying that it’s not time to build the house of the Lord. “We’ve had opposition, now’s not a good time, it’s really kind of out of season, we don’t really want to do this, we’ve had some hostility. God has sort of closed the doors. I mean, if God wanted us to do this, it would be easy, right? He would make it easy. It hasn’t been easy, therefore the time has not come.“ And then Haggai comes on the scene and says, “Oh, but it’s time for you to build your own house? And yet this place to worship Me [God] lies in ruins and desolate? You won’t work on this, but you’ll build your own houses? So consider your ways.”
And then in verses 6–11, God describes how He was chastening the nation, disciplining the nation. Does that theme sound familiar? Hebrews chapter 12, a whole series on discipline that lasted like ninety weeks or something like that. We went through what discipline was. God chastens the nation through that period of time and He says, I’ve withheld your blessing. You go out and you sow and then you reap, and the reaping and the harvest is thin, and you bring it home and I blow it away. You’re under a curse. Why, you say? Look at verse 9 of chapter 1: “ ‘You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.’ ” You have all the money and time and effort to spend on yourselves, doing your own thing, building your own kingdom, taking care of yourself, living in luxury, but what I brought you back here to do you have neglected to do for these last fourteen years.
Then verse 12 says the people obey the voice of the Lord through Haggai the prophet. There is encouragement in verse 13: “Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke by the commission of the Lord to the people saying, ‘ “I am with you,” declares the Lord.’ ” This is the encouragement. Just like Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That was God’s encouragement to the nation. I will be present with you.
Chapter 1, verse 14: “So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.” Now, here’s another thing that makes Haggai unique among all the other Old Testament prophets. And probably only—thinking off the top of my head here—probably the only one who had this kind of response like this was Jonah. But the people responded to Haggai’s message and Zechariah’s message. That makes them unique, especially when you compare them to the pre-exilic prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. When God said to them, “You’ll go to the people and you’ll prophesy, but I want to give you a little heads-up, they’re not going to listen to you. In fact, they’re going to stiffen their necks, they’re going to harden their hearts, and they’re going to come after you, but they’re not really coming after you, they’re coming after Me. It’s because they have rejected Me that they’re going to reject you. But go out and preach. It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be horrible. You’re going to hate it. They’re going to hate you. You’re probably going to die doing this, but you need to go out and preach to the people anyway.” And exactly what God said was going to come to pass came to pass. The people rejected their messages. And Haggai stood up and preached, and the people said, “You know what? He’s right. We need to get back to work. Let’s get back to work. Let’s rebuild the house of God.” And they did it. And they were encouraged and edified and strengthened through the ministry of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah.
The second message begins in chapter 2, verse 1. And this really is one of the ones that we need to focus on because this is the message that the book of Hebrews quotes. Beginning at verse 1, chapter 2:
1 On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying,
2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying [this was addressed to the leaders, civil and religious, and to the remnant of the people. That is, those people who had come back out of Babylon and were here and were doing the work. Speak to them and say],
3 “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?” (Hag. 2:1–3 NASB)
What was going on? They were rebuilding the temple, but these are people who had just come out of Babylon. They didn’t have a lot of wealth. They came into a land where commerce was nothing, industry was nothing, trade was nothing. All they really had was the shirt on their back, and they’re scraping together a living. And then they’re called to go and to rebuild this temple, but what do they really have to offer to it? So they start to rebuild the temple, and there were some among them who were old enough to remember Solomon’s temple before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. And they compared this temple, as small and meager as it was, to Solomon’s temple and said, “Man, we remember the glory of Solomon’s temple. That was truly magnificent. This thing is so small.” And they got discouraged. “Could God really be pleased with the work of our hands when this is all we have to offer to Him?” And so Haggai comes along to encourage them. They wanted to do it right. They were discouraged by the outcome of this. What they were doing was inglorious compared to Solomon’s temple. Remember, Solomon was so wealthy that silver was considered as nothing in his days. Why? Because of the wealth of that land. Solomon had money to burn after he built his temple. And then that was destroyed and all of its wealth plundered by Nebuchadnezzar. Then they come back to the land, and they’re doing their best to scrape together stones and timbers. They have almost nothing with which to rebuild that house. And so they were discouraged.
4 ‘But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ [that’s the promise again, right? I will never leave you nor forsake you. Go about your work] declares the Lord of hosts.
5 ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ (Hag. 2:4–5 NASB)
Notice that the author connects the children of Israel coming out of Egypt into the land with nothing and God telling them to conquer the land with what He is telling them here to rebuild the temple. They came out of Babylon with nothing, and He’s saying rebuild the temple. And the excuse of this generation could have been the same as the excuse of that prior generation. “Now we don’t want to go up into that land. You don’t understand, Lord, we don’t have anything to fight those people with, and they’re like giants.” And so He is comparing this generation with the previous generation. Remember, the previous generation, they disobeyed what they heard, and they were judged for it. And here the author is comparing this new generation coming out of Babylon with that old one, and he’s saying the promise is the same. God will be with you; therefore, build the temple.
And then there is the promise of this incredible glory that is to come. Verse 6:
6 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Once more in a little while [here’s our passage—long time to get there—from Hebrews chapter 12, verse 26], I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
7 I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of hosts.
8 “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,” declares the Lord of hosts.
9 “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,” says the Lord of hosts, “and in this place I will give peace,” declares the Lord of hosts. (Hag. 2:6–9)
Here was the encouragement. Though their efforts were meager, and though they were oppressed by their enemies and they had to face all kinds of discouragements, God called them, because He was present with them, to continue in the course that He had laid out for them, to continue to be faithful and obedient, and to see it through to the end, trusting in His promises, trusting in His grace, and trusting in His provision. And this encouragement in verses 6 to 9 is a reminder that they lacked provision and God was well aware of that. “We’re just building a small temple, Lord.” And the Lord said, “I know that. But listen, the gold is Mine, the silver is Mine. If I wanted you to have it, I could just pour it out on you. But,” He says, “there is coming a time when I’m going to shake the nations, and they will bring gold into this house. And there will be peace in this land.”
Now I ask you, has that happened since that promise was given? It has not happened. Has not happened. Does that mean the promise of God’s Word has failed? Notice in verse 9 that He says the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former glory. Notice He is connecting here this second temple that they were building after the exile to Solomon’s temple, because in the plan and purposes of God, the temple that is built there is the same temple. It’s just, there’s the former temple, there’s the next temple. But it is His house. He is connecting these two things. The promises that are offered here when all of the nations come to Jerusalem and pour their silver and their gold into that city, that has not happened yet. And this temple was never filled with that glory that the Old Testament prophets promised. So has the Word of God failed or will this yet happen? This will yet happen because there will be—listen very carefully—a third temple built on that site in Jerusalem. And that third temple will be filled with all of the wealth of the nations when Christ rules and He is worshiped there and all of the nations come to the very center of world commerce and worship and bring their gifts and their offerings up to Jerusalem to worship at the feet of that divine King in the city of Jerusalem, that divine King who will sit on David’s throne. So that has yet to happen. That will happen. Just as certainly as this temple was built, that next temple will be built, and it will be the house of God, and the dimensions of that temple are given at the end of the book of Ezekiel. That’s the third temple that is described in Scripture. Neither Solomon’s temple nor this temple that was built fulfilled what was prophesied in Ezekiel, which means only one thing, not that the Word of God is going to fail, but that there’s going to be yet another temple. And I know right now (shh!) it’s a big dome on top of that rock, and the world’s second largest religion occupies that space. But Messiah is going to take care of that at some point, and they will rebuild the temple on that site. And the glory of that temple will be greater than the glory of Solomon’s temple. That’s the promise.
So you see what He’s saying? He’s saying, “I have a purpose.” The Lord’s saying through Haggai, “I have a purpose, and My purpose is to fill this land with glory. So you just be diligent to do what I’ve called you to do. Be faithful in doing it, looking forward to and understanding the fact that in My time, you will receive the reward that I have promised, for there is still coming a King, there is still coming a temple, there is still coming a kingdom. And if you are righteous, and you’re righteous by faith, and you’re obedient and faithful, you will participate in that kingdom.” So all of this awaits yet a future fulfillment. That’s the second message. Notice again verses 6 and 7: “ ‘I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
The third message is a message to pursue holiness. That begins in verse—is it 10? I think it’s 10. Then in verse 14, Haggai says, “So is this people.” He’s talking about unholiness, the unholiness of the people, and he declares that the people were unholy. “ ‘So is this people [verse 14 says]. And so is this nation before me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean’ ” (Hag. 2:14). And so Haggai is encouraging the people in that third message basically to pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And he gives them a little object lesson about holiness and why it’s important to pursue holiness. Haggai says, the little object lesson, this is a contemporary example, but if you walk in the house with your dirty boots on, do your boots become clean when you step on the carpet, or does the carpet become dirty? The carpet becomes dirty. Therefore, what is unclean pollutes that which is clean. It’s not cleanliness that makes something holy. And so when you handle unholy things and unclean things and you don’t pursue holiness, then you become defiled. These people are defiled, Haggai says. So he encourages them to pursue holiness.
And the fourth message is a promise regarding the future temple and the Messiah. Verse 20 is the fourth and final message: “Then the word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, “I am going to shake the heavens and the earth” ’ ” (Hag. 2:20–21). Notice the same language. I’m going to shake the heavens and the earth. Second message, fourth message, same sort of language. I’m going to shake everything. Verse 22: “I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another” (Hag. 2:22). He is prophesying here a complete political and military conquest and utter destruction of every nation in the world.
Revelation 19:11: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” By the way, does this sound like Jesus meek and mild? Does it sound like the Jesus who wants to sell us the softer side of Sears? Not at all. Verse 12:
12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.
13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev. 19:12–16 NASB)
It’s the New Testament description of this event. Shaking the nations, overthrowing kingdoms, destroying armies. That is going to happen just as literally as any prophecy of the Old Testament has ever been fulfilled. That is coming.
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them [them being the nations who plot together a vain thing to overthrow the Lord and His anointed].
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
7 “I will surely tell the decree of the Lord. He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, and You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ ” (Ps 2:4–9 NASB)
Daniel chapter 7:
13 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like the Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
14 And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, [listen] nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13–14 NASB)
It will what? It will remain. That’s Hebrews chapter 12. This shaking will happen so that everything temporal will be taken out and only that which cannot be shaken will remain. Daniel 7:18: “But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all the ages to come.”
Look at Haggai chapter 2, verse 23. This is connected to this messianic rule which we just read about in Revelation 19 and Psalm 2. “ ‘On that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel, Son of Shealtiel, My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord of hosts.” That’s a little bit more difficult to interpret, but I want to give you what is going on here in a very simple way, and I’m not going to take a lot of time to go through this, because we could take a lot of time to go through this. Zerubbabel was in the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ. The signet ring was the ring of power with kingly authority, and what the Lord is saying to Zerubbabel is that on this day when all of the shaking happens and this kingdom is established, He’s saying, “I’m going to make you, Zerubbabel, My servant”—and the phrase “My servant” was one that was used of the Messiah that was to come in the Old Testament, and He’s not calling Zerubbabel the Messiah, but He is reminding Zerubbabel that there is a Messiah who is coming. And so He is saying to Zerubbabel, “That Davidic throne, that Davidic authority, that kingdom that you think has been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, that is no more, Zerubbabel, I’m giving you that signet ring. Because there is coming One, and as it would turn out, He would come from Zerubbabel’s line. He’s mentioned in both the genealogies of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is coming One who will have that kingly authority. Now Zerubbabel never ruled as king, and no one ever ruled as king after Zerubbabel. So the Word of the Lord has not failed here, but the Word of the Lord has spoken of One who would come from Zerubbabel, who would then take the scepter of that Davidic kingdom, and He would rule and He would reign in a kingdom forever and ever. In the coming kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the right to rule the promised Davidic kingdom will rest upon the shoulders of the Lord Jesus Christ, the descendant of Zerubbabel.
So Haggai was called by God to encourage a dejected people, he encouraged them to be faithful and to remain true and obedient, living even amongst God’s enemies, and to do what God had called the people to do, even in spite of the hostility of God’s enemies around them. God had called them to a work, He had called them to faithfulness in Him and to Him, and the righteous were to look forward to the promise of a God which could not fail. So as Hebrews chapter 12 verse 26 says, “His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ ” That judgment is coming. These are the same themes that we see in the book of Hebrews—the promise of a final judgment upon the nations, a glorious coming of their Messiah, the rule of Christ over David’s kingdom, the glory of future Israel when the Lord rewards His people. Abraham looked forward to that heavenly city. All the saints of old, they looked forward to that day when they would stand in the land and the righteous would inherit the land. That was what was promised to them, and they anticipated that. And Haggai is reminding them that the plan and purpose of God, even through the disobedience of the nation, has not been changed, it has not been thwarted. God is still going to keep His promises. He’s still going to fulfill His purposes. So be faithful to the end so that you will stand in that unshakable kingdom. For when He shakes all the nations and the whole world and that judgment comes, He will give to you an everlasting kingdom and an eternal kingdom. And the authority to rule rests, Zerubbabel, in your line.
And that One has come. He was crucified. He rose again the third day. And He is coming again to fulfill every last promise that we have read, in the book of Haggai, in Revelation, in Daniel 7. He will rule and He will reign. He will shake the nations, and they will come and they will worship before Him, and He will give to you an unshakable kingdom. That is His promise. Now, if you’re an unbeliever, that should be a terror to you. That should be a terror to you. Because God is a God who keeps His promise, and He has promised, yet once more, I’m going to shake everything, and only that which is eternal will remain. If you’re a believer, then this is a comfort to you because He has promised that yet once more, He will shake everything, and that which is eternal will remain. To the unbeliever a terror, to the believer a comfort. We are, and we’re going to talk about this more next week, we are to take comfort in the fact that God will judge His enemies. We are to take comfort in that. That is not given to us as something that we are to lament and clutch our pearls over. That is given to us as something that we should rejoice in and delight in, and it should encourage our hearts that God will have His day with the wicked.
Ours is to be faithful. We receive an unshakable kingdom, not because of our merits, certainly not because we deserve it, but we receive that unshakable kingdom on the merits of another, the Lord Jesus Christ. The One who died in the place of sinners, rose again the third day, and has promised to return and judge the world in righteousness. It is His merits that we stand before God in. And if you have no savior and you’re not in Jesus Christ, then you are going to stand before Him in the robes of your own self-righteousness and give an account on that day.