Hebrews 2

Hebrews 2  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 8
SEEING THAT GOD has addressed Himself to us in Christ, who is far superior, not only to Moses but also to those angels through whose hands Moses received the law, we ought to give more abundant heed to all that has been said. With this the second chapter opens, and it is impossible to evade the solemn force of it. God’s word spoken by angels was by no means to be trifled with, as Israel discovered before they had gone very far on their wilderness journey; what then shall be said as to the word that has now reached us in and through the Son of God?
A better rendering of the first verse is perhaps, “lest at any time we should slip away.” To let slip the things heard would mean forgetfulness, but to slip away oneself from them might even mean apostasy. So also in verse 3 the word “neglect” carries the thought of not caring for God’s great salvation when they were inside the Christian company as having professed faith, and not merely neglecting the Gospel when it was preached to them. In these words then we have the first of the solemn warnings against apostasy that we find repeated through the epistle; but this being so, the common use of these words in connection with the Gospel is fully justified. If the professor of Christianity who neglects the great salvation will by no means escape, even less will they escape who pay no attention to it when they hear it.
However the point in verses 2 and 3 is that it is more serious to trifle with God’s salvation than to transgress His law, for there is no greater sin than that of despising the grace of God. Of old Moses had been the sent one, and had been commissioned to announce salvation out of Egypt to their fathers, and then through Moses that salvation had duly been carried out. The greatness of our salvation may be seen in the fact that He who has announced it is the Lord, whose glory has been set before us in chapter i., and from the fact that the apostles, who confirmed His message after His exaltation into the heavens, were themselves accredited by ample displays of divine power in the energy of the Holy Spirit who had been given to them. Further on we shall find that not only did the Lord Jesus act as the Apostle in announcing the great salvation, but that all is carried out through Him as Surety, Mediator and Sacrifice.
In our chapter we shall find that it is His priesthood that is emphasized. Presently a new order of things is to be established, spoken of in verse 5 as “the world to come” (ch. 2:5). Every Jew expected that new order to be introduced by the advent of the Messiah. Now in that world to come angels will not be the supreme authority, though they will have certain services to render in it, as other scriptures show. It is in its entirety subject to Christ as the Son of Man, as the eighth Psalm had predicted, and when the Lord takes up His great authority “He shall be a Priest upon His throne” (Zech. 6:1313Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zechariah 6:13)).
The quotation from the eighth Psalm covers not only verse 7 but also the first sentence of verse 8. In the rest of verse 8 and in verse 9 we have an inspired explanation of how the Psalm applies at the present moment. The quotation begins at the point where David, having surveyed the wonders of the universe, asks what man is worth. He used a Hebrew word which has the sense of “frail man” or “mortal man.” Well, what is he worth? Evidently he is worth nothing. What then shall be said of the Son of Man? Ah! now we have a very different story. Even in the psalm David changed the word for man, and wrote “the Son of Adam” (Luke 3:3838Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. (Luke 3:38)); and this we know our Lord was, as seen in Luke 3:3838Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. (Luke 3:38). He is worth everything. Though once made a little lower than the angels He is to be crowned with splendor and be set in absolute dominion, with all things under His feet.
It is very noticeable that the quotation stops just at the point where, in the psalm, words are added which seem to confine the “all things” set under His feet to all things on earth and in the sea. The Old Testament view of things did not for the moment go beyond that. In our chapter however the moment we turn from the quotation to the explanation a far larger range of things comes before us. We are assured that the little word “all” is to be given its full value, without the least shadow of qualification. Search through the universe and there is to be found nothing which is not put under Him. In that world to come man, in the person of the Son of Man, is to be absolutely supreme.
This is a most wonderful and glorious fact, and it illustrates for us how God always sees the end from the beginning, and is never defeated nor turned aside from His purpose in anything to which He sets His hand. God never made angels to rule: He made them to serve. The only creature, of which we have any knowledge, that was made to rule was man. Only of man was it said, “Let us make... and let them have dominion... So God created man” (Gen. 1:26, 2726And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:26‑27)). Man fell: he ceased to rule the lower creation in any proper sense; he ceased indeed to properly rule himself. What then? Has God’s purpose failed? Not only has it not failed but, when the SON OF MAN comes forth in His glory, the Divine purpose will be seen established with an extended fullness and glory undreamed of when Adam was created, by any save God Himself. Instead of failing God has triumphed most gloriously.
Some may say to themselves-That may be, but there are no very obvious signs of it in the world at the present moment. That is so. We do not yet see all things put under Christ. Even those who profess to be His followers show very little sign of being really subject to Him. The fact is that we are living in a time during which there is very little to see except we possess that kind of telescopic sight that faith gives.
Faith it is that sees. This we shall find elaborated when we come to chapter 11, especially verses 8 to 22, and verse 27. These great men of old penetrated by faith into the unseen world, yet they never saw the sight that shines before us—if we really possess faith’s keen vision. We see the once humbled Jesus crowned with glory and honor in the highest heaven. Did the Hebrews possess faith’s telescopic powers of sight, penetrating to the glory-crowned Jesus, and to the things which are above the sun? Do we? If we do we shall not be neglecting the great salvation; we shall not be letting go nor slipping into apostasy. Looking unto Jesus we shall be running the Christian race with energy divinely given.
But what means this statement in Psa. 8, that the Son of Man is made “a little lower than the angels” (ch. 2:7)? Have we not read in chapter i. that He is “made so much better than the angels” (ch. 1:4)? There is an apparent contradiction here!
These passages where verbal contradictions appear upon the surface do us a good service if they cause us to pause, and think. Viewing them in their context and meditating upon them, we discover harmonies and teaching which otherwise we had passed over. See how it is in the case before us. In chapter 1, the Deity of our Lord is the great point, connected with His Apostleship. Yet He has become a Man, so that God is His God. Seeing however that it is GOD who has become Man, He is of necessity “made so much better than the angels” (ch. 1:4).
In chapter 2, the emphasis lies upon the Manhood of the Lord Jesus. He became a Man with a view to the suffering of death. Man was so created-spirit, soul and body—that he could die, by the spiritual part of him being separated from the body. In this respect man was made a little lower than the angels. Now the Son of God has become the Son of Man in so real a sense that as a Man He has taken up the death penalty and died for men. From this standpoint He has been made a little lower than the angels, for angels never die.
In these wonderful verses one expression is repeated six times: thrice in verse 8, once in verse 9 and twice in verse 10. It is the word for all or all things, and only at the end of verse 9 is it otherwise translated. The Lord Jesus has tasted death for “all” and not merely for the Jew. At the present moment “all” is made subject to Him, and in the age to come we shall see it to be so.
In verse 10 we find a second object that was in view in the sufferings and death of Christ. Not only did He accomplish propitiation for all, but He thereby qualified Himself—if we may so put it—for the position He was to take up according to the purpose of God. God has instituted a new pilgrimage. Of old He used Moses and Joshua to bring a nation from Egypt to Canaan. Now He has set His hand to the mighty task of bringing many sons, gathered out from all the nations, to glory. He will not fail in this glorious enterprise for, firstly, He who has initiated it has all things at His disposal, and secondly, the One to whom it is entrusted as Leader is the risen Christ. He went through all possible sufferings here in order that He might have full experimental knowledge of all the sorrows under which lay those who are now the sons on the way to glory.
Is it not a wonderful thing that the Lord Jesus should have condescended to become the Leader of our salvation? Wonderful as it is, it is a fact. Having died and risen again, He has placed Himself at the head of the great redeemed family that is being gathered out of the nations and led to glory. They are the sanctified ones of whom verse 11 speaks—that is, those set apart for God—but He is the Sanctifier. They are set apart for God by virtue of their connection with Him.
Our connection with Him is of a very close and intimate order, so much so that it can be said of Sanctifier and sanctified that they are “all of one.” Of one what?—we may ask. Well, we are not told. But inasmuch as it goes on to say, “for this cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren,” it would seem that the thought must be that He and they are of one lineage, of one life and nature. The day is now arrived in which we know, according to the Lord’s own words in John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20), that He is in the Father, that we are in Him, and He in us; as also the day in which, according to John 17:1919And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:19), He has set Himself apart in heaven in order that we may be set apart through the truth.
Three Old Testament Scriptures are quoted in verses 12 and 13 in order to show how thoroughly we are identified with Him and He with us, and also that this immense privilege was foreseen, though not realized, in the days before His advent. The first of the three is especially remarkable. It comes from the latter part of Psa. 22, just at that point where the prophecy passes from His death to His resurrection, and the word “congregation” is translated into “church.” The church (that is, the ecclesia, the called out ones) is that to which we all belong, and here it is quite definitely identified with the “many sons” and the “sanctified” of the earlier verses.
But if we were in this marvelous way to be identified with Him, it was necessary first that He should in His grace identify Himself with us in our need, and this He did in everything, apart from sin. He did not come to save angels but men. Consequently He did not take on Him the nature of angels but of men; and in particular of the seed of Abraham, for, as we know, our Lord sprang out of Judah. The word used here means, “to take hold of,” and it has been stated that, “it is constantly used for ‘taking up a person to help him,’ though in other senses as well.” Amazing grace this, when we see that it involved His taking a part in flesh and blood, which is the common lot of mankind; and that this He took in order that He might die.
Verse 14 is as clear on this as verse 9 had been before. Only death could meet the tragic situation in which we were found. Death is possible for man since he is a partaker of flesh and blood. His blood may be shed, his flesh go to corruption, his spirit depart to God who gave it-and all this is impossible to angels. Death is actually passed as the Divine sentence upon all men because of sin, and Satan who at the outset maneuvered man into disobedience, now wields the power of death in the consciences of men, making them afraid and thereby holding them in bondage. What could destroy (that is, annul or bring to nothing, make of no effect) the devil and the power he wields? One thing only. Nothing but DEATH could annul death. And it must be the death of a MAN to annul death for men. All this was fulfilled. The Captain of our salvation, by taking part in flesh and blood, became a true Man, and for us He died.
Flesh and blood is a term which describes the state and condition of manhood, without reference to the question of sin. When Adam came forth fresh from God’s creating hands he was a partaker of flesh and blood, but his humanity was innocent. He fell, and he and his posterity remained partakers of flesh and blood, but theirs is a fallen humanity. Our blessed Lord Jesus took part in flesh and blood and His humanity is the very essence of holiness.
Yet in all things it befitted Him to be made like to those whose cause He had taken up, as verse 17 declares. A very strong statement this, and the reality that it presents will be a theme of wonder and worship to us throughout eternity. Just think of how it might have pleased Him to stoop and rescue His sinful and degraded creatures without being made like them at all. That however would not have fitted His love, even if it could have been done in conformity with His righteousness. Having taken part in flesh and blood He would be made like them in all things. He would be tempted and suffer, as verse 18 says, and thus enter into all their experiences save those that involved sin; and this in view of becoming the High Priest of His people.
All through the latter part of this chapter the Lord is presented in the same light. Whether as Captain of our salvation, or Sanctifier, or High Priest, He is seen as standing on our behalf before God, and not as standing on God’s behalf before us; as He is when His Apostleship is in question. As High Priest He acts in things relating to God, as also He is able to succor us in our temptations. Towards us He is ever merciful, while always maintaining the purposes and glory of God with the utmost faithfulness. But while this is so His personal glory and pre-eminence is fully established. He is not ashamed to call us brethren, but nowhere are we encouraged to turn round and use that same term towards Him, as sometimes is done.
Before we leave the chapter notice how everything is cast in a mold suited to Jewish minds. Each point is supported by quotations from the Old Testament, showing how that which is now established in Christ had been foreseen and indicated. This might mean nothing to a Gentile, but it would be very significant to a Jew. Moreover the truth is stated in terms which would instantly remind them of the way in which their ancient religion had foreshadowed these good things to come. The end of verse 17 is an illustration of what we mean, where the work of the Lord Jesus is spoken of as making “reconciliation” (or “propitiation,” as it really is) “for the sins of the people” (ch. 2:17). Why put it thus? Why not say, “for our sins,” or, “for the sins of men”? Because then the truth would not have been nearly so striking to Jewish minds. As it stands it would at once turn their thoughts to the well known work of Aaron, and their subsequent high priests, on the great Day of Atonement; of which we read in Lev. 16, and which was a striking type of the work of Christ.
No New Testament book throws greater light on the Old Testament than Hebrews; and none shows more clearly how needful it is for us to read and understand the Old Testament. If we read Hebrews apart from this it is very easy to run away with mistaken notions.
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