After describing the festal gathering occurring in heaven, Paul warns the readers that they need to pay attention to God’s voice because God will shake “yet once more . . . not only the earth but also the heavens” (Heb. 12:26, ESV). Paul is saying that although Jesus has been enthroned in heaven, our salvation has not been consummated. We need to pay attention because an important event is still to happen.

In the Old Testament, the shaking of the earth was a common figure for the presence of God, who shows up to deliver His people. When Deborah and Barak fought against Sisera, God fought from heaven on their behalf (Judg. 5:20). This is described as a powerful earthquake, a shaking of the earth and mountains because of the presence of God (Judg. 5:4, 5). We find this same image appearing throughout the Old Testament when God arises to deliver the oppressed (Ps. 68:7, 8; 60:2; 77:17, 18). Thus, a shaking signaled God’s judgment as He asserts His authority over the peoples of the earth. The prophets predicted this would happen in the Day of the Lord (Isa. 13:13; 24:18–23).

For Hebrews, the “shaking” of heaven and earth refers to the judgment of the enemies of God. This is what God promised at the enthronement of Jesus. God said to Him: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Heb. 1:13, ESV). Thus, Jesus has defeated the enemy (Heb. 2:14–16) and been enthroned (Heb. 1:5–14), but the enemies have not yet been destroyed (Heb. 10:11–14; 1 Cor. 15:23–25).

But God will destroy these enemies in the future, when He will shake the heavens and the earth. The shaking of the heavens and the earth means, then, the destruction of the earthly powers that persecute God’s people and, more importantly, the destruction of the evil powers (Satan and his angels) who stand behind the earthly powers and control them.

God has also announced that He will “shake” the heavens and the earth, which means that He will destroy enemy nations. Many modern translations of Hebrews 12:27 suggest that the shaking of the heavens and the earth means that they will be removed and forever gone. The Bible is clear, however, that God will create new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1–4), and we will be resurrected and have a new body (1 Thess. 4:13–17; Phil. 3:20) on this earth. Thus, the “shaking” implies the cleansing and renovation of creation, not its complete removal. Wha is here will be re-created, and it will be where the redeemed live.

There are some things, however, that will not and cannot be shaken. They include the righteous. They will not be shaken because they trust in God. The Creator sustains them and guarantees their survival.

Note that in Hebrews, permanence and stability are associated with Jesus. Hebrews 1:10–12 says about Jesus: “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end” (ESV). Hebrews also says that Jesus’ priesthood remains forever (Heb. 7:3, 24), as does also the inheritance of the redeemed (Heb. 10:34). In the final judgment, those who hold fast“in Jesus” will not be shaken (Ps. 46:5).

Hebrews 12:28 also says that we will receive “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (ESV). This is a reference to Daniel 7:18, which says that the saints will “possess the kingdom forever.” This is the kingdom that “shall never be destroyed” mentioned in Daniel 2:44. This kingdom belongs to the Son, but He will share it with us. Revelation 20:4 says that we will judge with Him the evil powers that persecuted us (1 Cor. 6:3).