Chapter 2 begins by presenting the author’s exhortation to his audience now that he has argued the superiority of the Son over angels and over the message given through the prophets.
Therefore we must pay the most careful attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
Now we come to the theme of sermon – encouraging these Christians to not give up. This “therefore” in 2:1 reaches back to the introduction of the writing. Since God has spoken in these last days through the Son, we must pay the most careful attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away. The writer says to look and listen more carefully to the message of the Son.
All of us listen to something. We make provisions to listen to the things we want to listen to. I listen to sports, financial, and Christian podcasts. I make sure that I download these podcasts because I want to listen to them. We position ourselves to listen to the radio or listen to the television. We make ourselves ready to listen. But do we make ourselves ready to listen to the message of the Son? Are we positioning ourselves to hear the word of God? Do we make the time to read as we ought? Do we make the time to study? Do we think about the message of Christ? Are we listening to the word of God? The point is that we make provisions to listen to the things we want to listen to. We make the time to listen to various others things and watch certain things. But are we making time to listen to the Son? We must pay the most careful attention to the message of the Son.
The reason is so that we do not drift away. The imagery that this conjures in our mind is intended by the author. It is a picture of floating away or slipping away. We must pay the most careful attention or else are simply going to float away from God. Going to hell is not hard; we just drift there. Do nothing and you will float yourself right into eternal punishment. Reaching God requires our utmost determination and effort. So pay attention, the writer says. Listen carefully so that we do not drift away.
For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (ESV)
Now, here is an additional reason why we need to pay the closest attention. The argument is built upon the revelation of the law of Moses and the reliability of that law. The law of Moses was given through angels and proved to be firm and reliable. There is no question about that law and its validity, and it was given through angels. We know, therefore, that the message of Jesus is valid because it was given through the Son. As chapter one argued, the Son is greater than angels in every respect.
Further, every transgression and every disobedience received a just retribution. This is one of the important lessons we learn from a study of the Hebrew scriptures. We read about punishment being dealt by God for those who were disobedient in Israel. We read the stories of Korah, Achan, Uzzah, David, and many more. We learn the fact that a just punishment is given. So how can we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? How can we possibly think that we will not come under severe punishment and not receive a just retribution for neglecting the message given by the Son? If the message declared by angels brought a just retribution to the disobedient, how much more for us if we neglect the message declared by the Son? There is no escape for our neglect. Consider also that neglect is the opposite of paying the most careful attention, which we were commanded to do in verse 1. Do not neglect the message because you will drift away. In drifting away, we will receive a just retribution for neglecting the message of the Son.
This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (TNIV)
This message of salvation was first declared by the Lord Jesus. This already makes the message superior to the law of Moses, whose law came through angels. Further, the message of salvation was confirmed by those who heard. There were eyewitnesses who saw and heard the Lord Jesus. Notice that the writer does not include himself in the group of those who heard directly from the Lord. This point is enough for proof that Paul is not the author of this sermon. God also testified to this message of salvation through the Son through signs, wonders, various miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
5 Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 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.
9 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. (ESV)
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 7 You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.
9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (TNIV)
Notice that we are continuing this comparison to angels. The world to come has not been subjected to angels. What is “the world to come?” The author helps us by saying, “about which we are speaking.” Has the writer been talking about the end of the world? No. Has the writer been talking about some future world? No. He has been talking about the superiority of the Son, the Messiah. “The world to come” is simply a reference to the new order of things in the Messianic kingdom. Remember that he is writing to those with a Jewish background and is telling them about the superiority of things in the kingdom of the Son. Those things in the Messianic kingdom have not been subjected to angels.
Now the writer of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 8. A difficult question arises with this quotation: is the author referring to people or is he referring exclusively to the Son? First, the word “man” in verse 6 is a translation of the Greek word anthropos which means “human beings.” It has no reference to gender. “Son of man” is the same thing. The son of a person is a person.
To answer our question, let us go back to Psalm 8. Psalm 8 praises the Lord for his glorious creation. Carefully look at verses 3-8 and notice that the psalmist is talking about humans. God has made humans a little lower than the heavenly beings (LXX reads angels, thus the quotation as such in Hebrews 2:6). God has crowned humans with glory and honor. Further, God has given humans dominion over the works of God’s hands and all things are under the feet of humans. This praise reflects the teaching back in Genesis 1:28-30 where God gave dominion to humans over every created thing. Now some think that this psalm about humanity is being altered by the writer of Hebrews and is now applied to Jesus as the son of man. But I do not think that is right and let me show you why.
Back to Hebrews 2:5-9. The writer is borrowing from Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 to remind the audience that God has placed humans on the earth to rule over the creation. All things are subject to humans. This is a good reminder for our environmentalists and animal rights activists. While we need to be caretakers of the earth and not show brutality, animals are not higher than humans and the earth is not higher than people. God has placed humans at the top and all things created are under our feet. Verse 8 wraps up by pointing out that we cannot even begin to comprehend all that this point entails. We do not fully see all that God has placed under our feet. We are so short-sighted and so unable to comprehend the great dominion that God has given us on this earth. Everything under our feet reflects that the whole created world in subjection to humans.
But there is something that we do see, according to verse 9. In fact, it is a someone. But we do see Jesus. He also became a human for a little while. This is the thrust of the argument: The Son is superior because he became human. If the quotation is referring to Jesus, then verse 9 does not make sense. What makes sense is to use the psalmist argument about the dominion of humans over the created world and then point out that the Son became human. Therefore, the Son also has dominion. We see Jesus and we can see his dominion because he was crowned with glory and honor after tasting death for everyone. We have victory, deliverance, and dominion because of Jesus.
Now, this ties back to verse 5, because the author is speaking about the world to come, that is, the Messianic kingdom. We cannot begin to fully see the dominion and rule we have. In fact, the writer has already point out that angels were created, at least for one purpose, to serve those of us who are inheriting salvation. We cannot see that. We cannot the inner workings of the spiritual realm and our place in that. But we do see Jesus. Jesus was made human and he was crowned with glory and honor. We do see that. We do not have time in this lesson, but the writer is going to continue to argue that we share in that. The Son became human that makes him greater than the angels for he was exalted in the end. So we also will share in that exaltation.
- Pay the most careful attention to the message of salvation delivered by the Son. The message of the Son is too often called a message of peace and grace, yet the writer declares that just retribution will come on those who neglect his message and drift away.
- We are unable to see or fully understand the dominion and glory that God has prepared for us. But we do see Jesus, who has been crowned with glory and honor. We share in that glory and victory because he became like us, a human. In fact, the Son is greater than angels because he became a human. The Son became like us and led the way. We will explore this in further detail in our next lesson.