Hebrews 2

Overview

  • The author says:
  • Listen up, peeps, so that you don’t find yourself drifting away from the truth.
  • Because, if the Law of Moses was delivered by angels and had punishments built in for breaking the law, you can imagine how much important it is to pay attention to the way of salvation given to us now.
  • This way of salvation was announced to us by Jesus, and confirmed by those who knew him firsthand. God added his affirmation of it via signs, wonders, acts of power and the distribution of the Holy Spirit.
  • Besides, angels aren’t even supposed to inherit the world to come.
  • Remember how that old song says, “What is a man that you, God, would even think twice about him? What is lowly, ordinary man that you even care about him? For a little while you made him lower than the angels, but then you’ll elevate him, crown him, and make everything subject to him.”
  • And when it says “everything” it means everything, even though it doesn’t look like it yet.
  • But remember, Jesus is currently elevated and crowned, because for a little while he was made lower than the angels just so he could experience death on behalf of everyone.
  • In his plan to elevate all of his kids, God, through whom everything is made, made the trailblazer to glory (Jesus) fully complete through the experience of suffering.
  • Now the one that can make people holy (Jesus) and those he made holy (us) are family.
  • Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, because it’s like that other old song says, “After I was saved by God, I shared the story with my brothers and sisters.”
  • Or when Isaiah the prophet said, “When things look bad, I trust in God.” And, “The signs that what I said was true are me and my kids.”
  • Since we are just people, regular ol’ flesh and blood, Jesus became like us so that through his death he could break the power of the jerk who wields the power of death (the devil).
  • Jesus set us free from the fear of dying.
  • Jesus didn’t come to save angels, he came to help the children of Abraham – those with faith.
  • He became 100% human so that he could become the best high priest ever and forever get rid of our sins.
  • Jesus suffered and was tempted so that he would know exactly what you’re going through, and therefore would be awesome at helping you.

Historical Context

Psalms 8:4-6

This Psalm dwells upon the paradox of man’s physical insignificance contrasted with his spiritual importance.6

This Psalm is based theologically on Gen. 1 in which man is given dominion over the earth. Man was created to rule, but his sin turned the world upside-down. Now sickness, suffering, and death are signs that the world that is not subject to man.5

By quoting from Psalms 8, the author of Hebrews is saying that ultimately people, not angels, are destined to be placed over all of creation.6

In this Psalm the term “son of man” is in a parallel relationship with the term “man.” It is a Hebrew idiom for humanity.4

Psalm 22:22

This same Psalm was quoted by Jesus on the cross when he cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Originally written by David at a moment when he felt overrun by his enemies and forsaken by God, but it’s meaning was taken to go beyond those events and imply a Messianic event in which God would ultimately subdue all his enemies.

Isaiah 8:18

Isaiah predicted that Israel would be overrun by Assyria. The sense in Isaiah chapter 8 is, that the prophet had closed his message to the people; he had been directed to seal up the testimony; he had exhorted the nation to repent, but he had done it in vain; and he had now nothing to do but to put his trust in the Lord, and commit the whole cause to him. His only hope was in God; and he calmly and confidently committed his cause to him.3

The writer to the Hebrews implies that just as Isaiah could include his sons among those who were “with him” in trusting God, so Jesus could include his spiritual children among those who, with him, trust in God even in the midst of trials and tribulations.5

The Devil and The Power of Death

The Devil in Greek (diabolos) means “slanderer” (from diabállein, “to slander”)This term is often interchangeable with the name Satan, and is used 32 times in the New Testament. “Slanderer” is also a word used for humans, such as Judas, and gossips.(Revelation 12:9).9

The original Hebrew term satan is a noun from a verb meaning primarily “to obstruct, oppose”, as it is found in Numbers 22:22, 1 Samuel 29:4, Psalms 109:6. Ha-Satan is traditionally translated as “the accuser” or “the adversary”. The definite article ha- (English: “the”) is used to show that this is a title bestowed on a being, versus the name of a being. Thus, this being would be referred to as “the satan”.9

The Devil is considered a prince of a kingdom. To be a prince means he has power to wield over his subjects. The “power of sin” or “power of death” is his power. The Devil introduced sin into the world and through sin death. His desire is to destroy and kill, and his use of temptations increase death in the world.10

According to the Gospel of John, Satan is “the prince of this world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The word translated “prince” (archon) customarily referred to “the highest official in a city or a region in the Greco-Roman world.” While Jesus and his followers of course believed that God was the ultimate Lord over all creation, they clearly viewed Satan as the functional lord of the earth at the present time.11

Satan is depicted as possessing “all the kingdoms of the world” — to the point where he gives authority to rule these kingdoms to anyone he pleases (Lk 4:5-6). In fact, the various kingdoms of the world can be described as a single kingdom under Satan’s rule (Rev. 11:15, cf. Rev. 13). John goes so far as to claim that the entire world is “under the power of the evil one” (I Jn 5:19) while Paul doesn’t shy away from labeling Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4) and “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2).11

Satan does not have the absolute power over death (Job 2:4-6; 1 Cor. 5:5), but he does hold the power of the fear of death, which he holds over all mankind (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54-57). Jesus has abolished death (cf. 2 Tim. 1:10) and he holds the keys of hades and death (cf. Rev. 1:18).4

High Priest

The Jewish high priest was to be a decedent of Aaron, and was at the head of religion among the Jews. He was set apart with solemn ceremonies,  clad in his sacred vestments, and anointed with oil (Exodus 29:5-9; Leviticus 8:2). He was the general judge of all that pertained to religion, and even of the judicial affairs of the Jewish nation (Deuteronomy 17:8-12; 19:17; 21:5; 33:9-10). He alone had the privilege of entering the most holy place once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to make an offering for the sins of the whole people (Leviticus 16:2). When clothed in his proper vestments, and having on the Urim and Thummim (stones), he made known the will of God in regard to future events.3

Observations

  • The word translated “drift away” in Greek means “to flow by, to flow over; and then to go by, to fall, to go away.” It is used to mean to flow near, to flow by – as of a river; to glide away, to escape – as from the mind, that is, to forget; and to glide along – as a thief does by stealth.3
  • There are two objections the audience for Hebrews would have had: First, that Jesus was a man; and secondly, that he suffered and died. They would ask how he, a mortal man, could be superior to the angels? How could he have had the rank which was claimed for him? This the author answers by showing first, that Jesus’ condition as a man was “voluntarily” assumed – “he was made lower than the angels;” and secondly, by showing that as a consequence of his sufferings and death, Jesus was immediately crowned with glory and honor.3
  • The author now shows how the Son is superior to the angels in a very different way – by taking on humanity (the incarnation) in order to save lost men and women, and restore them to the place of dignity and authority for which they were originally created.5
  • “Taste” in Greek does not mean “sample a small amount” (as a typical English reader might infer), but “experience something cognitively or emotionally; come to know something.”1
  • The Greek word translated pioneer is used of a “prince” or leader, the representative head of a family. It also carries nuances of “trailblazer,” one who breaks through to new ground for those who follow him. It is used some thirty-five times in the Greek OT and four times in the New Testament, always of Christ.1
  • The warning of Hebrews 2:1-5 is linked by the phrase ‘for this reason’ with the entire argument of Hebrews 1. Because of the Son’s superiority to angels (1:1-5), the angels’ worship of and service to Him at His coming (1:6-7), His future rule and sharing of joy with His companions (1:8-9), and His future subjugation of His enemies (1:10-14), the readers would do well to heed these teachings.2
  • Verses 5-18 present eight reasons for the incarnation of the Son: 1) to fulfill God’s purpose for man (vv. 5-9a); 2) to taste death for all (v. 9b); 3) to bring many sons to glory (vv. 10-13); 4) to destroy the devil (v. 14); 5) to deliver those in bondage (v. 15); 6) to become a sympathetic high priest for men (vv. 16-17a); 7) to make propitiation for sins (v. 17b): 8) and to provide help for those tested.2
  • The term “perfect” means “to be complete, mature, equipped for the assigned task” (cf. Eph. 4:12). The author of Hebrews uses “perfect” three times to describe Jesus (cf. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) and three times to describe Jesus’ followers (cf. 10:14; 11:40; 12:23).4
  • “Perfect” can be understood as meaning “to completely prepare.” In this sense, Jesus’ incarnation and sufferings “prepared” him for the work he would accomplish on the cross of Calvary.5
  • “Perfect” is often used to represent the consecration of the High Priest (Leviticus 21:10).8
  • God perfected Jesus by charting his path to glory through suffering. By having experienced suffering Jesus can more perfectly help us as we suffer (v. 18). He was “perfected” in this sense.2
  • The fear of death enslaves unbelievers in that fear of death leads them to behave in ways that please Satan (e.g., selfishly, living for the present, etc.).2
  • Since the sting of death is sin (1 Corinthians 15:55), Christ’s providing the remedy for sin has removed the most dreadful part of the fear of death, which is the fear of punishment afterward. Moreover, death with the resurrection to follow is not death in the former sense. It is the sure and certain hope of the resurrection that robs death of so much of its terror.6
  • “the seed of Abraham” probably refers primarily to believers, the spiritual descendants of Abraham (Gal. 3:29), rather than to Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham (cf. Isa. 41:8-10).2
  • Here the benefits of our Lord’s incarnation, according to the author of Hebrews: 1) Fallen man is restored to his former glory and authority through the incarnation of our Lord (2:5-18). 2) As a result of our Lord’s incarnation, all believers have become a family (2:11-13). 3) Because of the incarnation, Jesus defeated Satan and his colleagues, so that we are no longer paralyzed with the fear of death (2:14-15). 4) Because of the incarnation of our Lord, we have become Abraham’s seed, and thus are assured that we will enjoy the blessings God promised to Abraham (2:16). 5) Because of the incarnation, we now have a merciful and faithful High Priest (2:17-18).5

Discussion

  • The author warns agains neglect as a means of ruining our salvation. This implies that there must be active maintenance of our belief to keep it “alive.” What does this imply? What do we lose to neglect? How do we recognize when we’re drifting away?
  • How does death (or more specifically, the fear of death) effect our thinking about life? What actions do we take to avoid death, based on fear? What actions do we take to “get the most out of life now” based on our fear of death? How might we act differently knowing that Jesus promised us life eternal?
  • The forgiveness which God provided for man is absolutely unique, there being no precedent of any such thing in heaven or upon earth. Where, in all the universe, is there such a thing as the forgiveness of sins, apart from Christ our Lord? No forgiveness was provided for the angels when they sinned; none of the laws of God’s natural creation ever forgave either man or beast; no one ever fell off a cliff and received a reprieve from the law of gravity; no dog ever forgave the quarry; no poisonous serpent ever forgave the victim.6 How does this shape your thinking about grace? What is the difference between grace and justice? How does grace offend our natural sensibilities since we are surrounded by laws (natural and man made) and are born with an innate need for justice?

References

  1. Net Bible Notes
  2. Constable’s commentary
  3. Barnes’ commentary
  4. Utley’s commentary
  5. Deffinbaugh’s commentary
  6. Coffman’s commentary
  7. Cole’s commentary
  8. Cambridge commentary
  9. Devil – Wikipedia
  10. Power of Death
  11. Atonement – ReKnew
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