By: Daniel Goepfrich
The First Warning
Hebrews 2 continues the writer’s comparison between Jesus and the angels and introduces the first of five warning passages in the letter. The writer’s concern was that the readers’ situation would cause them to “drift” from “what we have heard”(Hebrews 2:1-2), referring to the revelation that came through Jesus. Drifting could result in “neglect,”which would bring some sort ofpunishment. In fact, the writer pondered, if the old message delivered by angels resulted in punishment for those who rejected it, how much more will the new message, delivered by the One better than angels, bring punishment on those who reject it?
As noted in the introduction, Hebrews 2:3-4 hints that the writer was not an apostle, someone who “heard him” and did “signs and wonders and various miracles,” but rather a second-hand witness. This seems to eliminate at least Paul from consideration as the writer. However, it also reinforces what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:12, that signs and wonders were limited to true apostles, not made available to all believers.
After this brief, first warning, the writer returned to the Old Testament and the subject of Jesus’ superiority over angels, this time expounding on Psalm 8. He also shifted his emphasis from “Jesus the Son” to “Jesus the Man.” Although Jesus was and is superior to angels, he underwent an experience that placed him “a little lower than the angels for a little while.”
Hebrews 2:5 contains an essential key to the proper interpretation of the whole book. “He did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels.” With this statement, the writer clarified that the “salvation” (and later “inheritance” and “rest”) that was the subject of his teaching was “the world to come.” In historic Judaism, “the world to come” refers specifically to the Messianic Kingdom, not eternal life or forgiveness of sin (a typical understanding of “salvation”). Thus, the warnings about what these believers might lose in salvation refer to the Kingdom, not eternal life.
The Humanity of Jesus
In the rest of the chapter, the writer gave four reasons that Jesus’ humanity was so great. First, it enabled him to regain man’s lost rule (Hebrews 2:5-9). During his earthly life and ministry, the Son-King of Hebrews 1 seemed to have no control, and the Creator “suffered death,” but both of these were only “for a little while.”
Second, it allowed him to restore our relationship with God (Hebrews 2:10-13). Third, it equipped him to disarm Satan and deliver us from death (Hebrews 2:14-16). Fourth, it enabled him to become a sympathetic high priest for his people, “able to help those who are tempted”(Hebrews 2:17-18). This is the first mention of “high priest” in Hebrews, a subject that will dominate the rest of the letter.
Because of his temporary lowering and suffering, Jesus is “now crowned with glory and honor…bringing many sons to glory,” so he can finally “destroy the one who holds the power of death…and set free those who were held . . . by their fear of death.”
This verse is one of three often-overlooked passages that mentions that God used angels to give the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai. The other two passages are Acts 7:53 and Galatians 3:19.
These two passages should be strongly considered when discussing whether signs and wonders should be normative for believers today, as various Pentecostal denominations teach.
Only about 12% of all uses of the Hebrew and Greek words for “salvation” throughout the Scriptures refer to eternal salvation. The far more normal use is personal or national “deliverance” tied to God’s promises to bring Israel into the Kingdom. This is the predominant meaning of “salvation” in both the Old and New Testaments.
Each Thursday, DPH runs a Chapter-by-Chapter blog by Daniel Goepfrich, progressing readers chapter-by-chapter through the New Testament. This series is taken from New Testament Chapter-by-Chapter, published by Trust House Publishers, a division of DPH. Daniel serves as Pastor of Oak Tree Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, and blogs at www.TheologyIsForEveryone.com
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