SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER
The first five verses of this chapter are a warning based on the truth of chapter one. If the word spoken by angels was disobeyed, judgement followed. Why should it be any different if the word spoken by the Son is disobeyed? Everything in chapter one that impresses us with the glory of Christ also warns us about the danger of rejecting one so glorious as He. In the subsequent verses, there is first of all a quotation from Psalm 8 about man, which gives the theme of the section, and then the seven-fold work of Christ as man is detailed. This time the contrast is not with the prophets or angels, but with Adam.
STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER
|Verses 1-4||First warning passage- the word through angels and the word through the Lord.|
|Verses 5-8||Quotation from Psalm 8- man made lower than angels.|
|Verses 9-10||Christ made lower than angels.|
|Verse 11||The path of separation from the world of Adam.|
|Verse 12||The path of (resurrection) life with Christ.|
|Verse 13||The path of faith.|
|Verses 14,15||The path of deliverance.|
|Verses 16-18||The path of victory over temptation.|
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 1-4
2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
2:2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him;
2:4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?
Verses 1-4 FIRST WARNING PASSAGE- THE WORD THROUGH ANGELS AND THE WORD THROUGH THE LORD
2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard- one of the failings of Israel in Old Testament times was they had not listened to the prophets. But now that the Son has spoken to them, dare they ignore Him, as they had ignored the prophets?
Lest at any time we should let them slip- The Textus Receptus gives “lest at any time we should slip away”. For some reason the Authorised Version does not follow it at this point. The danger was of drifting away from the things they had heard, as those who were not taking earnest heed to them. If persisted in, this would result in apostasy.
In chapter one the contrast was between the fragmentary revelations through the prophets, and the full revelation through the Son. In this chapter, however, the contrast is between the Lord speaking in grace, and angels mediating the Law at Sinai.
Israel had sat at the feet of God, Deuteronomy 33:2,3, and heard the law; Judas had listened to Christ in the upper room, but went out to betray, showing that he had apostatised.
2:2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast- Note the contrast between slipping away, and the steadfast word of God, in whatever age. “Was steadfast” means “became confirmed”. By the penalty inflicted when the law was broken, God confirmed that He meant what He said.
And every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward- The law was confirmed by judgement, but the gospel is confirmed by acts of grace. Not only actual transgressions were judged, but also the attitude of disobedience, the refusal to hear with the intention of obeying.
2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?- The writer groups himself with the nation as a whole. The Lord Himself had been in their midst, for He was “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers”, Romans 15:8. There was no escape from just recompense of reward if the law was broken and disobeyed, so we need not expect to escape when a greater word from God is uttered. Law works are not called for now, however, so it a question of simply ignoring the words of grace, and neglecting to believe them. They had only to let themselves slip away from the words for the judgement to come.
Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord- Notice John the Baptist is not included here, for “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John”, Matthew 11:13, but here the prophets and the law are superceded. The apostle John speaks of “that which ye have heard from the beginning”, 1 John 2:24, meaning from the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. Note the great salvation is spoken, for it consists in doctrine. Israel were looking for salvation in war-terms, deliverance from their political enemies. Compare Matthew 13, where the mysteries of the kingdom begin with a parable about sowing the word of God, not judging enemies. Note the word is spoken by the Lord, the one with as much authority as the God of Sinai, (see Matthew 5:21,27,33,38). He is also the Lord of angels, as is indicated by the way the angel of the Lord spoke in Luke 2:11, “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord”. The angel’s Lord, and the shepherd’s Lord.
And was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him- This is surely decisive evidence that Paul is not the writer, for he insists that he received the truth of the gospel from the Lord Himself, and “those who seemed to be somewhat” because they had been with the Lord on earth, added nothing to him, Galatians 2:6. The word confirmed is connected with the word translated steadfast in verse 2. The law-threats were confirmed by acts of judgement, grace-promises are confirmed by acts of mercy.
2:4 God also bearing them witness- literally “God bearing witness with”. So all the time the gospel was being made known by those who heard the Lord themselves, and were now bearing witness of what they had heard, God was bearing witness too.
Both with signs and wonders and with diverse miracles- The Lord had promised that signs would follow those that believed and preached the gospel, Mark 16:17,18. Signs are the miracles considered as significant acts, illustrations of doctrine. Wonders are the miracles looked at as unusual and tremendous events, designed to arrest attention. The word miracles emphasises that what is done is completely out of the ordinary, and which, because they were accompanied by words of truth, could only be caused by Divine power. (The devil will instigate miracles to promote error, Revelation 16:14). These three words had been used by Peter to describe those things which Christ did, and which marked Him out as approved of God, Acts 2:22. So the witness to the apostles was the same as the witness to Christ. The miracles were also witness to the fact that Christ was the one qualified to bring in the millenial age, for His miracles are “powers of the age to come”, 6:5, showing the sort of changes that the reign of Christ will bring in.
And gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will- In view of what the Lord had said about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:22-37, this is a reminder that the miracles and the Holy Spirit go together. The great and wicked mistake of saying Christ worked miracles by Satan must be avoided if they are to know salvation. Israel had seen God’s works for 40 years in the desert, yet failed to enter in to “salvation”, 3:9,17-19. They would have another 40 years of opportunity before the fall of Jerusalem, again with works of power from God.
The word “gifts” does not refer to the gifts given to believers to further the testimony, in the 1 Corinthians 12 sense. Rather, the word is literally “distributions”, referring to the strategic way in which the Holy Spirit moved the apostles and others to exercise the gift of the working of miracles. A reading of the Acts of the Apostles will show this. The Holy Spirit also retained the right to withdraw the miracles at the time of His choosing, and this He did. He thus acted according to His Divine will.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 5-10
2:5 For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
2:6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou visitest him?
2:7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands:
2:8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
2:10 For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Verses 5-8 QUOTATION FROM PSALM 8- MAN MADE LOWER THAN ANGELS
2:5 For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection- the fact that the Lord has come, and men have been sent forth with power to work miracles of confirmation and grace, shows us that angels are no longer to the fore.
The world to come whereof we speak- the habitable earth in its future condition is what the writer speaks of in 1:5-2:4. There are three major words used in the New Testament for “world”. There is the word cosmos, which, ideally, is the world of order, beauty and harmony as it came from God, (used in Hebrews 9:1); the opposite of cosmos being chaos. Sadly, that world has been spoiled, and hence it is now the world, not of harmony, but of hostility. Another word for world is “aionas”; which has to do with the passing of time, and so is the world of history. The third word is “oikoumene”, the habitable earth, the world of humanity. So the writer is here referring to the future state of the earth as it will be when man’s day has come to an end, and his rule over the earth is cancelled. This is the earth as the writer has spoken of it in chapter 1:5-14. The question is, if that world is not to be subject to angels, then to whom is it to be subject? And if the answer is man, then the question is, which man? Who is competent enough to manage the earth for God? For the answer to this question the writer turns to the David’s words in Psalm 8. Perhaps he penned the psalm after a night out on the hillside looking after the sheep near Bethlehem, his home town. Just as centuries later shepherds would be guarding their flock on those same hillsides, when the birth of Christ was announced to them. As David looked above, he saw the moon and stars; as he looked around, he thought of men; as he looked back he thought of Adam; as he looked forward he thought of Christ.
2:6 But one in a certain place testified, saying- the writer does not distract us by telling us the name of the psalmist, nor the particular place where the psalm is found.
What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?- The word used for man in Psalm 8:4 is “enosh”, frail, mortal, man. Seemingly so fragile, and subject to death, how can God’s purpose be centred there? He seems almost beneath being noticed by God.
Or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?- Not only does God notice him, but visit him, to make known His ways. From this we learn that God has great interest in man. He not only is mindful of man, but moves towards him. He not only has interest, but intervenes.
We should not think of this expression “son of man” as being a reference to Christ, for that is not how the psalmist uses it; he is simply describing men as sons of Adam, through their fathers, in a long line which stretches back to Adam. Implied in this is the fact that a sinful nature is passed on from father to son.
2:7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels- both man and the son of man are made by God, either through creation or procreation. Man will always be lower than angels, so the meaning “for a little while” lower, is not meant here.
Note that it is not “made a little higher than the animals”. Man was made on the same day as the land animals, as if to highlight the difference between them, Genesis 1:24-27. “There is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts,” 1 Corinthians 15:39. Prominent evolutionists may hoodwink the public that it is “proved” than man came from the lower animals, but it is they themselves who are deceived, for they have adopted a world-view which takes no account of God, and in many instances denies that He exists. But if God does not exist then there is no logical, rational thought. So by thinking, the atheist verifies that God exists!
Man is lower than angels because:
Angels are greater in power and might than men, 2 Peter 2:11.
Angels do not die, being pure spirit.
Angels are fitted to live in heaven.
Angels can move from heaven to earth.
Angels are not limited by an earthly body.
Angels rest not day and night, worshipping God, Revelation 4:8.
So angels are higher because of their power, permanence, privilege and praise of God. But man is said to be only a little lower, so despite the foregoing, there are things which compensate, for man was made in the image and likeness of God, and the Son of God passed angels by, and became man.
God’s intention to make man is expressed in a unique way- “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, Genesis 1:26. That this applies to the male and the female is clear from verse 27. As far as relationship with God is concerned, there is no bias with God towards the male or the female, all are equal in His sight, and both were created in God’s image and after His likeness.
The Lord Jesus in Matthew 22:15-22 referred to the head of Caesar on a coin as the image of Caesar. In other words, the image represented Caesar and His authority, and those who used the coin were recognising this. Part of God’s plan in making man, then, was that He might have someone to represent Him to the rest of the creation. One of the reasons why murder should be penalised by capital punishment is that man is made in the image of God, see Genesis 9:5,6.
Man is also said to be made after God’s likeness. It was not necessarily true that Caesar’s image on the coin was a very good likeness, but God made sure that man had the capacity to represent Him well, by giving him certain characteristics which He Himself possesses.
Man was made in the likeness of God in a three-fold way:-
God has personality, and each of the persons of the Godhead has his own particular distinctive features, by which He displays Himself. So man was given personality, to display God through it.
God has spirituality, which not only means that He is a Spirit, see John 4:24, but also means He can appreciate His own glories. Man was made so that he might appreciate those glories too, and worship God in his spirit.
God has rationality, which means that He reasons, plans, purposes, and decides. Man has these abilities too; not, of course, in the sense that He could advise God, see 1 Corinthians 2:16, but so that he could order his life in relation to God’s purpose in an intelligent way.
Sadly, as the subsequent chapters show, this perfect state of things did not last long, for man sinned, and Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image”, Genesis 5:3. The original purpose for which man was created was now only partially realised, and his abilities were now diverted for his own ends.
The remedy for this situation is found in the Lord Jesus, who became man that He might be the head of a new order of things. He displayed to perfection those things that God looked for in man. As such He is the perfect example to those who believe. As Ephesians 4:21 says, “the truth is in Jesus”, which means that if we would see a life lived that is true to God’s will, then we may see it in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. Only those who are in Christ, and as such are a new creation, are able to represent God adequately.
Some translations of Psalm 8 say that man was made a little lower than God, since the word the psalmist used was “elohim”, and this is a word used many times for God. But it is also used in a lesser sense, even of the judges in Israel, Exodus 22:28; Psalm 82:6; John 10:34. In any case when the inspired writer to the Hebrews came to quote the psalm in Greek, he had separate words for God and angel at his disposal, and chose the word for angel. Does it not go without saying that man is lower than God; how could he be anything else? And is he only a little lower?
Thou crownedst him with glory and honour- Glory is official, honour is moral, and these two perhaps correspond to man made in the image of God, (official position), and after His likeness, (moral character). So although lower than angels in the ranks of creation, yet man has a potential beyond all the angelic hosts. The word used for crown here is “stephanos”, a wreath or circlet that was merited, (in contrast to the diadem that was inherited). The crown of the one who won the race as an athlete; who won respect as a citizen; who won a battle as a soldier; who won a bride as a suitor.
And didst set him over the works of Thy hands- man was a steward, responsible for the safe keeping of the property of another, even God.
2:8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet- In the case of Adam this was limited to things on the earth, which the psalmist specifies, sheep, oxen, etc. Being crowned with glory and honour should have ensured that the task was carried out faithfully. But Adam allowed his authority to be usurped.
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him- This shows that there is nothing put under angels, and also that the “all” is not qualified, as if it was only all of a certain range of things, for there is nothing else to be under him. We must understand this in connection with Adam before we advance to the idea, under the guidance of the writer, that these things can only be fulfilled in Christ.
Summarising, we may think of what the psalmist says as follows:
|What is man, that thou art mindful of him?||The mystery|
|Thou madest him a little lower than the angels||The minority|
|Thou crownedst him with glory and honour||The majesty|
|Thou didst set him over the works of Thine hands||The ministry|
|Thou hast put all things under his feet||The mastery|
But now we see not yet all things put under him- a change has come in, showing that the potential of Psalm 8 has not been realised in Adam, and this situation continues, hence the word “now”. There is also the word “yet”, telling us that there is something in prospect. The “now” refers to conditions under Adam, the “yet” to conditions under Christ.
The emphasis in this chapter is on the manhood of Christ, as in chapter one it was on His Deity, and the remainder of the chapter sets out seven things that Jesus has been able to do by coming into manhood:
|Verses 5-8||Vindicate God’s trust in man|
|Verse 9||Consummate God’s purpose|
|Verses 10-13||Elevate God’s people|
|Verse 14||Eradicate the Devil|
|Verse 15||Emancipate the slaves|
|Verses 16-17||Propitiate sins|
|Verse 18||Relate to believers’ sufferings|
Verses 9-10 CHRIST MADE LOWER THAN ANGELS
2:9 But we see Jesus- The first of seven uses in the epistle of the name which emphasises His manhood. The Son of God has been made in fashion as a man, to be all that God expected man to be from the beginning. The writers of the New Testament are very sparing of their use of the name Jesus on its own, and only use it like that when there is a special need to do so. The disciples never addressed the Lord as Jesus. He Himself said, “Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am”, John 13:13.
Who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death- here we see why the writer quoted from Psalm 8, for the full potential of that psalm is not reached in Adam, but in Jesus, who is the second man, and the Last Adam, 1 Corinthians 15:45-47. By coming into manhood, He, the creator of angels, has become lower than they are, for “made a little lower than the angels” has now become in the writer’s mind the equivalent of saying “became a man”. Adam was made a little lower than the angels for the enjoyment of life, but sadly, he fell, and this brought in suffering and death. Only Jesus could remedy this, and He did it by enduring the suffering connected with death. “For” means “with a view to”, so He became man expressly to die. Angels do not die, and Adam’s death had no merit- only Christ’s death can deal with the situation brought in by the fall.
Crowned with glory and honour- not only must He correspond to Adam by being made lower than angels, but He must correspond too in being crowned with glory and honour before His great work is done at the Cross, just as Adam was crowned before his great sin in disobeying God. So there was seen in Christ the perfect representation and likeness of God that glory and honour involve, and it takes four gospel records to set just a glimpse of it forth.
We see this in the brief insight Luke gives to us of the boyhood of the Lord Jesus. He is taken by Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. Instead of returning with them He remained behind. When they at last found Him He was in the Temple “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers”, Luke 2:46,47. See how his corresponds with what we have said about the image and likeness of God given to man at the beginning:
His personality- “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?”. He is aware of His distinct mission from the Father, even though He had not yet been anointed for public ministry.
His spirituality- He is with the doctors or teachers in the temple as they discuss the Law.
His rationality- Hearing and answering questions in a manner which impressed the learned doctors, but without asserting Himself as superior to them, for He ever “made Himself of no reputation”.
That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man- this phrase refers to the whole of the previous part of the verse. Note the punctuation, with commas between phrases until the word honour, which is followed by a semi-colon. This would suggest that “crowned with glory and honour” refers to Him during His life, for the first two statements, “made a little lower”, and, “crowned with glory and honour”, become true in order that He might taste death for every man. He showed Himself fit to die by His life before God and men.
Adam was made in the image of God, to represent God to creation. This was a glory indeed. He was also made after the likeness of God, involving, as we have seen, personality, spirituality and rationality. These are honourable things, and they were expressed by Adam as far as man is able to manifest them. Adam fell, however, and lost the dominion that his crown entitled him to. There is another, however, in whom these features were seen to perfection, and with the eye of faith we discern in Christ when He was here those qualities and characteristics which make a man glorious and honourable.
The words “every man” could be translated “every thing”, and assure us of the far-reaching effects of the work of Christ, which has guaranteed the deliverance of a groaning creation, Romans 8:20,21; Colossians 1:20. He gave insights into this deliverance when He was here the first time, as He defeated death, disease, demon-possession, danger and distress, as Matthew 8 details. No wonder the writer speaks of the Hebrews tasting the powers of the age to come, 6:5. Adam tasted of the forbidden tree, and forfeited his rights over the earth, but Christ has tasted death, (on a tree, Acts 5:30), and purchased for Himself the right to have all creation subject to Himself. As the creator of all things, He is supreme over them, but since He has become man He must prove his claim.
2:10 For it became Him- There is no disparity between God’s purpose to bring in glory for the earth through Christ, and the sufferings which He required His Son to pass through. It is a becoming thing for Him to require, because both sufferings and glories are part of His eternal plan. Suffering brings in perfection for Christ, and perfection is becoming to God, (“As for God, His way is perfect”, Psalm 18:30), even though it means sufferings for His Son and His people. The higher good of a restored and delivered creation comes through suffering.
For whom are all things- Seven times we have the mention of “things” in these verses, (if we include “every man”), and the expression signifies the sum total of all things in God’s creation which are relevant in each instance:
|Verse 8||Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.|
|For in that He put all in subjection under him.|
|He left nothing that is not put under him.|
|But now we see not yet all things put under Him.|
|Verse 9||That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man (thing).|
|Verse 10||For whom are all things.|
|By whom are all things.|
The things put under Adam are restricted to sheep, oxen, etc, Psalm 8:7,8. Under Christ, however, are all things, whether the earth to come; angels, 1 Peter 3:22, Ephesians 1:21,22, (note the quotation from Psalm 8); all rule and authority and power, 1 Corinthians 15:24,25; and at the end of time, even death itself, 1 Corinthians 15:26,27. Creation in its entirety is for God; it exists for His sake, and for His glory. “For Thy pleasure they are, and were created”, Revelation 4:11. Christ will see to it that His creation is preserved for His glory.
And by whom are all things- God is not only the reason for all things existing, but they have been brought into existence by Him, too. Yet in chapter one the creation of all things is the work of the Son; so they must be co-equal, as a comparison between John 1:3 and Romans 11:34-36 also shows. Since God is the originator and the goal of all things, (Revelation 1:8), then He has the right to superintend all things through Christ.
In bringing many sons unto glory- As Firstborn Son of God, the Lord Jesus will have many brethren, Romans 8:29. Here we learn the pathway through which they are brought to the glory of association with Christ. Adam brought all descended from him to shame in a corrupted and vain world. God is ensuring that the last Adam has associates who reach a position of glory. Note there is no mention of honour here, for the glory is because of association with Christ, which guarantees it, whereas honour depends upon our conduct here.
To make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings- “Captain” means chief leader or author. As one who has passed through this world without mishap already, Christ is perfectly qualified (perfect) to lead His people through to their ultimate state of salvation, as well as to be the author or source of their salvation from the pitfalls along the pathway of faith. Some in Israel wanted to appoint a captain to lead them back into Egypt when the way was hard, whereas the faithful ones were satisfied to be led into the land of Canaan under Joshua, whose name means “Salvation of Jehovah”, and is the equivalent to Jesus. It is interesting to notice that this was not Joshua’s original name. Went he went with Caleb and the other ten spies into Canaan he was Oshea, but Moses renamed him at that time, Numbers 13:16. It was important that when he eventually led the people into the land that they should realise that the salvation was of the Lord, and not of a man and his military prowess.
Just as Joseph knew sufferings in Egypt before the rest of his family did; and just as Moses knew 40 years of difficulty in the wilderness before the nation did, so Joshua had been a faithful spy, and had risked going into Canaan when it was held by the enemy. But Joshua was met by the Captain of the host of the Lord as he entered Canaan, Joshua 5:13-15, so there is one superior to Joshua as captain. So the Lord Jesus has blazed a trail for His people to follow. He not only died to save from sins judicially, but lives to save from sins practically, showing us the way to tread so that we are saved from sinning.
As a result of these things, we may say that:
The mystery is solved; the minority status is sanctified; the majesty is seen; the ministry is safe; the mastery is and will be successful. The writer now gives to us five features of this path to glory.