Hebrews 2—The Bible in Miniature
I heard a sermon preached by Tommy Nelson about 15 years ago on Hebrews 2 that really helped me with this difficult passage. The author of Hebrews is developing his theme that Christ is superior to angels, great people, religion, the Law of Moses, and every other created thing. Chapter 2 is the completion of his argument that Christ is superior to angels, and he does so by quoting from Psalm 8 written by David over a thousand years before. Many theologians err by thinking that Hebrews is talking about Jesus when it says that “Thou has made Him for a little while lower than angels; thou has crowned him with glory and honor, and Thou has appointed Him over the works of Thy hands; Thou has put all things in subjection under his feet.” This does sound like Jesus, doesn’t it? A close inspection of Ps.8 will help you understand that David was writing about mankind, and meant that in the original creation, God had created man to rule on earth in His stead. Of all His creation on earth, God gave man the most glory and honor and gave him a dominion mandate to be a ruler. In doing so God “put all things in subjection” to mankind. This was man’s purpose to serve and glorify God by ruling over God’s creation. You can also find this in the creation account of Genesis 1:26-28.
In Heb.2:5-10, the author establishes how necessary the incarnation, sinless life of Jesus, and the atoning work on the cross was by reviewing the history of the entire Bible in six verses. God made man in “God’s image”, special in all the creation for the purpose of ruling, but something bad happened in the fall of man from his position as ruler of the earth. There was a mutiny, and the children of God being in rebellion, became the children of the devil. By rejecting God’s authority, man would love evil and hate good even unto causing his own death. The human race became like a herd of lemmings running away from God and following each other right off a cliff. Paul said it well in Romans 1:22-23 that they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, and they denied God even to the point of making themselves God. If you doubt it, just study history, and find the multitude of kings and conquerors who became corrupted, and even demanded to be worshipped by their subjects. Studying history you will see that you can’t trust man not to kill his neighbor, or even to try to wipe out other races or nations. One estimate of money spent by man in warfare would make a band of gold around the earth 10 feet wide and 12 feet high that would circle the earth 2.5 times—that’s quite a lot. Man is the only creature who murders for no reason, or kills for pleasure, and who is self destructive in his behavior. Man relishes in his eating, drinking, smoking, and drugs—even though he knows they will eventually kill him.
The Short Version of the Bible
Hebrews 2:5-10 gives the Bible in miniature. You have the creation account of Genesis1-2, then the fall of man in Genesis 3, and the progressive nature of sin in Gen.4-11. You have God’s plan of redemption inGen12-22, then man’s great need for a Savior revealed in the rest of the Old Testament. In the four Gospels you have God’s plan fleshed out in the incarnation, along with the victory at the cross which makes our salvation possible. You have the theology lessons of the epistles explaining why God did it this way, and what all Jesus accomplished for us. Then Hebrews 2:10 caps it off with the message of the last book of Revelation about the future second coming and our resurrection unto glory.
The author begins in v.5 by talking about the end result of the creation of man. Throughout the New Testament, believers are promised that in the coming kingdom believers will reign and rule with Christ. Angels are ministering spirits sent by God, but human beings created in God’s image will reign in the kingdom. Heb.2:6-8 are quoted verses from Psalm 8 written by David about mankind. God’s original planned destiny for mankind in the creation account before sin was to crown him with the glory and honor of the dominion mandate. This is the theology term of God’s appointment to man to rule earth in His place. David was in awe that God had taken little old man who seems so insignificant compared to the vast universe, and given him such glory and honor. “What is man that Thou are concerned with him?” is David’s way of saying that it is amazing that God has such a high regard for mankind and such a great plan for us.
Hebrews 2:7 says man, for a little while is lower than the angels in the sense that we are currently limited in our physical bodies, or earthbound for now, but God appointed us to rule over creation in Genesis 1:26-28. Then in Heb.2:8 he says that it was God’s purpose to put all things of the creation in subjection to man. God’s plan was for man to rule, but here in v.8 he says that “But now” that is not happening. Something got messed up and ruined the plan. Something drastic happened to put man’s destiny on hold. When Adam sinned, he lost his honor and glory, and his job as ruler. Nature was corrupted, and we lost control. Now, man fights himself, he fights each other, and he fights his earth (natural disasters, diseases, predators). Something terrible happened to our God given rule.
Hebrews 2:9 is a wonderful pivot in the story of the history of mankind. We don’t see man in his original glory ruling the creation (v.8), but we do see Jesus who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, meaning Jesus who pre-existed creation in the form of God took on the limitations of human flesh. His purpose in the incarnation was to reconcile man with God, and thus bring an end to suffering and death.
CHRISTMAS in Hebrews 2:5-10
Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ, and the birth of Christ is the incarnation as explained by Paul in Philippians 2:5-10. Christ existed in heaven as God, worshipped by the heavenly host, and with all the glory and prerogatives of deity. Christ gave all that up out of love for mankind, He took on human flesh, and humbled Himself to the plan of God of living a sinless life, and then dying the worst kind of death for our sins. Hebrews 2:9 says that by the grace of God (to us), Jesus tasted death so that we could taste eternal life. Jesus literally was born a man so that He could die—because only His death could accomplish our salvation. Jesus’death also restored mankind’s future “glory and honor”, as well as God’s intention that we rule in the kingdom. Think of it, the Creator of angels, who is worshipped by angels, became lower than angels in order to restore us who do not deserve it to a position of glory and honor, now that’s love. This is really good stuff. One theologian I read said, “If the Bible were not true, I would worship the authors.”
The bottom line is that what man lost, Jesus recovered. What man would not be obedient to, this man Jesus was obedient to all the way to the worst kind of death. Jesus became what man lost (the burden of sin was placed on Him at the cross), so that what man lost could be restored.
The Last of the Mohicans
Remember in the great movie scene when the bad guys were closing in on Daniel Day Lewis and the woman he loved? They were surrounded with no way out, and no hope. This is the plight of the human race facing death. Daniel Day Lewis saw no way out but to sacrifice himself by jumping over the waterfall, so he said to his love, “Stay alive, I will come for you and I will find you.” Of course he did in the end, but why did he take such a risk, and go to such great lengths?
Hebrews 2:10 speaks of why Jesus did it for us by saying, “it was fitting (consistent with his attributes) for Him”. It was consistent with God’s righteous character. It was fitting for God’s great love, holiness, and wisdom. WHAT GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS REQUIRED, HIS LOVE PROVIDED. We should have known He would come for us, and He would find us. As Hebrews 2:10 says, “bringing many sons to glory”. Jesus brought deity down to earth, and He took humanity back to heaven. What Jesus did in the incarnation, sinless life, and sacrificial death, was the most God worthy way of salvation for us. Nothing else “was fitting”.
Restoration, Reconciliation, and Glorification
Using the words of Hebrews 2:8-9, we do not now see man fulfilling God’s original purpose in creating him. Yet we do see Jesus on the cross making a substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf to restore us. Based on what Jesus accomplished for us, our honor and glory will be restored in the Kingdom of God. Because of original sin, we now see distance between God and man. There is enmity between us because God abhors sin, but we do see that the atoning work of Christ has reconciled us to God. Because of the fall, we were spiritually dead, but now Christ has made us spiritually alive, and when Jesus comes back He will bring us to glory. Holidays are fun and family is important, but this Christmas let us remember the love of God revealed in the incarnation of the Christ—that is what Christmas is really about.