We have noticed in our studies that the book of Hebrews is a sermon given to the Christians in the first century to not give up their faith in the face of the difficulties and rejection from society. Now we have further noticed that the way the preacher of this book is encouraging faith is by showing them great and important truths about Jesus. The point of the book is not a concern that these Christians might return to Judaism. The point is that the faith we need to hold on and to remain strong in the Lord comes from having a clearer, fuller vision of Jesus. In particular to our theme, we are going to look at the power of the cross and why we need to keep near the cross in our lives. This brings our attention to Hebrews 2:5-9.
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5–9 ESV)
Subjecting The World To Come (2:5)
Remember in Hebrews 2:1-4 the preacher turns to a word of exhortation, telling the audience that they must pay closer attention to what they have heard so that they will not drift away. God has spoken to us by his Son who is enthroned and sustains all things by his powerful word. Now he returns to his message as we see in verse 5.
“For he has not subjected to angels the world to come that we are talking about” (2:5). The writer has spent quite a bit of time in chapter 1 confirming that as glorious angels are, they are not as glorious as the Son. Angels are ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation (1:14). Now the author wants to return to this idea. The world to come was not subjected angels. We noted back in Hebrews 1:2 when looking at the phrase “the last days” that there were two ages in their minds: the age when God made promises and the age when God would fulfill his promises. God was going to fulfill his promises in the messianic age and the last days. Another term for this idea is used here in Hebrews 2:5, “The world to come.” There was the present age and the age to come. There was the known world and the world to come. The time of the Messiah was the time of the age to come, the world to come, and the ushering in the new heavens and new earth. So the author says that the fullness of the Messianic age, the world to come, has not be subjected to angels. This statement begs the question: Who is the world to come subjected to? Who is to rule in the new age that is come in its fulness when Jesus restores all things (cf. Acts 3:20-21)? There is this glorious world to come and angels are not in charge of that world. Now the author will show us who the world to come has been subjected to in verses 6-8.
Ruling the World To Come (2:6-8)
To show what is about to happen in the future, the author quotes Psalm 8. Psalm 8 praises the majesty of the Lord. God has set his glory above the heavens and has established strength. Then the psalmist declares:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3–9 ESV)
You will notice that the psalm is rhetorically asking what humans are that the Lord would remember them and care for them. The question implies insignificance before the majesty of God. What are humans that God cares for them? What are humans that God remembers them? When you look at all the works of God, the moon and the stars, we are so small. We are a speck in the vast universe. The more scientific knowledge we gain, the more we see how small we are. We are so small when we look at the heavens, when we look at the universe. The focus is on what God has done to humans. The phrase “son of man” does not mean anything more than humans or mortals in Hebrew. We have seen this in Ezekiel where God constantly calls Ezekiel, “son of man.” It is a contrast of the divine, immortal God and the mortality of humans.
But notice what the psalmist continues to say. You have made humans for a little while lower than the angels, but you have crowned them with glory and honor. You have put everything in subjection to them. The psalmist is amazed about the rule that God has given to humans over the earth. As you read the rest of Psalm 8 you can see that the description given refers to God’s intention as expressed in Genesis 1:26-28. Humans were created in the image of God and were told to subdue the earth.
Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26–28 ESV)
All things were put under the rule of humans. The writer of Hebrews confirms this in Hebrews 2:8. “For in subjecting everything to him, he has left nothing that is not subject to him.” But remember that the writer of Hebrews is making the point that it is not to angels that the world to come has been subjected. He quotes Psalm 8 to show that the world to come has been subjected to us — to humans. Now we immediately have a problem with this because it certainly does not look like we are ruling the world. The writer of Hebrews agrees. Look at the rest of verse 8. “As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him.” Why do we not yet see this? We can go back to Genesis for the answer. Human sin has wrecked the dominion we are to exercise over the world. So we do not see this rule that has been given to us for the world to come. So how do we have hope? How do we know this is true? How can we possibly believe that the world to come has been subjected to us?
But We See Jesus (2:9)
We do not see our rule but we do see Jesus. Notice how verse 9 describes the parallel between Jesus and humanity. We see Jesus who was made lower than the angels for a little while but then crowned with glory and honor because he tasted death for everyone. The example of Jesus becomes our proof. Jesus was temporarily lowered and then crowned with glory and honor. The writer of Hebrews takes Psalm 8 that was originally written about humans and applies it to Jesus, the Son of Man. Now Psalm 8 takes on a whole newly added meaning. Now we see the rule of Jesus that has been given to him over all the creation. Jesus has come and established his rule and will continue to reign until all the enemies are put under his feet (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26).
Look at verse 9 again. “So that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Notice that the cross is the grace of God for us. But consider that the author does not say that by tasting death our sins are forgiven. While this is certainly true, it is not the point at this moment. What Jesus did in the cross puts back in order the dominion over the world that we are to have, which we will experience in the fullness of the world to come. Jesus does what the first man, Adam, failed to do. This is presented to us as one of the reason why our Lord had to become human. He became like us to fulfill what we could not do. He becomes for a little while lower than the angels by becoming human. But notice also the other big point in verse 9. The reason he was crowned with glory and honor was because he suffered death. Jesus was exalted because he went to the cross.
Now remember that this sermon is to encourage Christians to hold fast and not give up. How does this part of his message do that? There are two important keys that we need to see so that we will have the same spiritual strength to not give up. Those two key points come from verse 10.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10 ESV)
First, humans are destined for glory and honor. The writer of Hebrews does not look back at Psalm 8 with sadness declaring how we ruined it all and lost everything. Rather, the writer uses Psalm 8 to show a preview of paradise to come. He uses Psalm 8 to show that the promise still exists to us because Jesus followed what the psalmist pictured. Humans are lower than the angels for a little while. But in time humans will be crowned with glory and honor. We do not see this glory and do not see this rule yet. But we do see Jesus. We see that Jesus has traveled the painful route from lowliness to glory. By the grace of God Jesus has tasted death so that we can be crowned with glory and honor in the age to come. This is the point at the first half of verse 10. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things, exist, in bringing many sons to glory….” What was God doing? God is bringing us to glory. God is bringing his children to glory. Friends, God is bringing us to glory. So the first word of encouragement is to not give up because you do not see the rule and the glory that God is going to give to you. You do not see all that God has in store for you. The world to come was not subjected to angels, but to us.
This leads to the second point of encouragement for us, which is found in the second half of verse 10. “For it was fitting that he…should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” How does perfection come? How does glory come? When does exaltation come? It comes through suffering. We see Jesus. The point is not that Jesus was not perfect in some way or possessing some sort of flaw that needed correction through the cross. Rather, the goal of bringing us into glory could only be accomplished through his suffering. Jesus is shown to be the perfect leader and founder of our salvation by leading the way to glory. He is the perfect trailblazer for us, showing the path to glory. The path to the crown was the cross. Jesus was crowned with glory and honor because he tasted death. The present suffering of the cross was the path for Jesus’ exaltation. Our path to this rule and glory that has been promised is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Do not give up your faith in the midst of suffering, pain, evil, trials, persecution, loss, injustice, and so forth because this is the path to eternal glory. When we are ridiculed for Jesus, we understand that we are on the path to the glory to come. Our path is the same path as Jesus. This is why we need to be kept near the cross. We are to carry our cross and follow him. What are humans that the Lord remembers us? We are the ones to whom God has subjected the world to come. We are the ones who become exalted because by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone. Do not give up because God has made you for his purpose. Remain faithful in hard times because we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.