So Great a Cloud of Witnesses
The Church of Jesus Christ is not only something on earth; it is in heaven as well. Here on earth the Church is referred to as the “Church Militant,” for here we still war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Church in heaven is referred to as the “Church Triumphant,” for there her members experience the victory that is theirs in Christ Jesus. Now there is only one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, mind you. But this is the classical way of referring to those of her members in heaven and those of her members on earth.
Here in Hebrews 12, the Preacher paints a beautiful portrait of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing up there, and they seem quite interested in the affairs of their brothers and sisters down here. Indeed, we are “surrounded” by them. And what are they doing? Cheering us on! They are calling on us to finish the race and to triumph gloriously for the Kingdom. We are not told that they are intercessors for us, but they are at least pulling for us with might and main. And why wouldn’t they?
And now we are to copy them—their sacrifice and endurance—and pursue holiness as they did counting nothing as too high a cost for the sake of the Promise. Yes, we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit within, but that does not make the Promise of the Eternal City any less a goal to be gained. The Apostle Paul said that he strained forward “to what lies ahead,” that he “pressed on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul did not sit back and say to himself, “I’ve got this. I’m eternally secure.” Indeed, it was because of his heavenly citizenship that he set his mind on heavenly things rather than earthly—which is the way that leads to death (3:17-21).
The Preacher tells us that there is a race set before us which we must run with endurance. And he is quite clear that to run this race, we must slough off the sin that entangles us and look to Jesus—the founder and perfecter of our faith; that is, the beginning and the end of it, and everything in between. He is the one who came in the fullness of time to make a way for all his saints, enduring the cross and despising or the shame. And why? Because there was joy set before him—a kingdom and a Church. And so those Old Testament saints experienced the fullness of that joy when he arose, and we shall experience that fullness when we join them. BUT WE MUST RUN THE RACE. Persevere and let nothing throw you off course.