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Hebrews 12:23

    Hebrews 12:23 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

    American King James Version (AKJV)

    To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    To the great meeting and church of the first of those who are named in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of good men made complete,

    Webster's Revision

    to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

    World English Bible

    to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

    Definitions for Hebrews 12:23

    Church - Assembly of "called out" ones.

    Clarke's Commentary on Hebrews 12:23

    To the general assembly - Πανηγυρει. This word is joined to the preceding by some of the best MSS., and is quoted in connection by several of the fathers: Ye are come - to the general assembly of innumerable angels; and this is probably the true connection.

    The word πανηγυρις is compounded of παν, all, and αγυρις, an assembly; and means, particularly, an assembly collected on festive occasions. It is applied to the assembly of the Grecian states at their national games, Olympic, Isthmian, etc.; and hence a speech pronounced in favor of any person at such festive assemblies was called πανηγυρικος λογος, a panegyrical discourse; and hence our word panegyric.

    The first-born - Those who first received the Gospel of Christ, and who are elsewhere termed the first fruits: this is spoken in allusion to the first-born among the Israelites, who were all considered as the Lord's property, and were dedicated to him. The Jews gave the title בכור bechor, first-born, to those who were very eminent or excellent; what we would term the head or top of his kin. The Church of the first-born is the assembly of the most excellent.

    Which are written in heaven - Who are enrolled as citizens of the New Jerusalem, and are entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of the Church here, and of heaven above. This is spoken in allusion to the custom of enrolling or writing on tables, etc., the names of all the citizens of a particular city; and all those thus registered were considered as having a right to live there, and to enjoy all its privileges. All genuine believers are denizens of heaven. That is their country, and there they have their rights, etc. And every member of Christ has a right to, and can demand, every ordinance in the Church of his Redeemer; and wo to him who attempts to prevent them!

    God the Judge of all - The supreme God is ever present in this general assembly: to him they are all gathered; by him they are admitted to all those rights, etc.; under his inspection they continue to act; and it is he alone who erases from the register those who act unworthily of their citizenship. Judge here is to be taken in the Jewish use of the term, i.e. one who exercises sovereign rule and authority.

    The spirits of just men made perfect - We cannot understand these terms without the assistance of Jewish phraseology. The Jews divide mankind into three classes: -

    1. The Just Perfect, צדיקים גמורים tsaddikim gemurim.

    2. The wicked perfect, רשעים גמורים reshaim gemurim.

    3. Those between both, בינוניים beinoniyim.

    1. The just perfect are those,

    1. Who have conquered all brutal appetites and gross passions.

    2. Who have stood in the time of strong temptation.

    3. Who give alms with a sincere heart.

    4. Who worship the true God only.

    continued...

    Barnes' Notes on Hebrews 12:23

    To the general assembly - see the notes on Hebrews 12:22.

    And church of the first-born - That is, you are united with the church of the first-born. They who were first-born among the Hebrews enjoyed special privileges, and especially pre-eminence of rank; see the notes on Colossians 1:15. The reference here is, evidently, to those saints who had been distinguished for their piety, and who may be supposed to be exalted to special honors in heaven - such as the patriarchs, prophets, martyrs. The meaning is, that by becoming Christians, we have become in fact identified with that happy and honored church, and that this is a powerful motive to induce us to persevere. It is a consideration which should make us adhere to our religion amidst all temptations and persecutions, that we are identified with the most eminently holy men who have lived, and that we are to share their honors and their joys. The Christian is united in feeling, in honor, and in destiny, with the excellent of all the earth, and of all times. He should feel it, therefore, an honor to be a Christian; he should yield to no temptation which would induce him to part from so goodly a fellowship.

    Which are written in heaven - Margin, enrolled. The word here was employed by the Greeks to denote that one was enrolled as a citizen, or entitled to the privileges of citizenship. Here it means that the names of the persons referred to were registered or enrolled among the inhabitants of the heavenly world; see the notes, Luke 10:20.

    And to God the Judge of all - God, who will pronounce the final sentence on all mankind. The object of the reference here to God as judge does not appear to be to contrast the condition of Christians with that of the Jews, as is the case in some of the circumstances alluded to, but to bring impressively before their minds the fact that they sustained a especially near relation to him from whom all were to receive their final allotment. As the destiny of all depended on him, they should be careful not to provoke his wrath. The design of the apostle seems to be to give a rapid glance of what there was in heaven, as disclosed by the eye of faith to the Christian, which should operate as a motive to induce him to persevere in his Christian course. The thought that seems to have struck his mind in regard to God was, that he would do right to all. They had, therefore, everything to fear if they revolted from him; they had everything to hope if they bore their trials with patience, and persevered to the end.

    And to the spirits of just men made perfect - Not only to the more eminent saints - the "church of the firstborn" - but to "all" who were made perfect in heaven. They were not only united with the imperfect Christians on earth, but with those who have become completely delivered from sin, and admitted to the world of glory. This is a consideration which ought to influence the minds of all believers. They are even now united with "all" the redeemed in heaven. They should so live as not to be separated from them in the final day. Most Christians have among the redeemed already not a few of their most tenderly beloved friends. A father may be there; a mother, a sister, a smiling babe. It should be a powerful motive with us so to live as to be prepared to be reunited with them in heaven.

    Wesley's Notes on Hebrews 12:23

    12:23 To the general assembly - The word properly signifies a stated convention on some festival occasion. And church - The whole body of true believers, whether on earth or in paradise. Of the first - born - The first - born of Israel were enrolled by Moses; but these are enrolled in heaven, as citizens there. It is observable, that in this beautiful gradation, these first - born are placed nearer to God than the angels. See Jam 1:18. And to God the Judge of all - Propitious to you, adverse to your enemies. And to the spirits - The separate souls. Of just men - It seems to mean, of New Testament believers. The number of these, being not yet large, is mentioned distinct from the innumerable company of just men whom their Judge hath acquitted. These are now made perfect in an higher sense than any who are still alive. Accordingly, St. Paul, while yet on earth, denies that he was thus made perfect, Php 3:12.