We come this morning to the first in a series of five urgent warnings. This one is the briefest and most restrained of all of them, but it is nonetheless solemn.
Let me remind you about what we have seen in chapter 1. The writer stresses the utter superiority and uniqueness of Jesus over angels, because angels had played a crucial role in mediating the word of God in the Old Testament (Hebrews 2:2). He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact representation of God's nature. He is God the Son (Hebrews 1:8); and, as such, angels worship him (Hebrews 1:6).
So, chapter 1 has filled our minds with the glories of the deity of Christ. Chapter 2 is about to do the same with the glories of his humanity and of his sufferings.
Hebrews 2:5 (NKJV) For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.
The clear overarching meaning of this verse is: God never promised to subject the coming world to angels. The author stresses this truth because it is quite possible that the Hebrew believers were being influenced by a Jewish sect called "Qumran" that anticipated the advent of two Messiahs; a kingly and a priestly Messiah. Both of whom would be subordinate to the archangel Michael. Thus assigning supremacy to an angelic being in the future world. The author of Hebrews' statement in 2:5 refutes this view.
Let's take verse 5 apart and see if we can understand what the author is saying. The "for" of verse 5 connects to 1:14. Verses 1-4 of chapter 2 are parenthetical in the exposition, but not to the writer's purpose.
"In subjection" is from the Greek word hupotasso. It means: "to line up under." It is a military term used for arranging soldiers in order under a commanding General.
The Bible teaches us that God ordains every power that exists.
Romans 13:1 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
It is God, and God alone, who gives the right to rule, and angels will not rule in the new world.
"World to come" - the word "world" is not kosmos, which means: "the system" or aion, which means: "the ages." The Greek word used here is oikoumene, which comes from oikeo, which means: "to occupy a house", and the word ghay, which means: "soil, land, or world. So, the word oikoumene means: "the inhabited earth." Thayer defines the "world to come" as, "That consummate state of all things which will exist after Christ's return form heaven." The thought of the "world to come" pervades the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 6:5 (NKJV) and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
There was an age coming that would follow the age they were living in.
Hebrews 11:10 (NKJV) for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Hebrews 13:14 (NKJV) For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
Abraham and the recipients of the book of Hebrews were waiting for a coming city.
Now, something that we must see here is that in the phrase "world to come" the author again used the Greek word mello. The Greek verb "mello" means: (in the infinitive) "to be about to", and "be on the point of" - see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance and Harper's Analytical Greek Lexicon.
Whatever this "world" was, the writer is telling them that it was "about to come." It was near in time; soon to arrive.
Most people reading the New Testament violate the basic hermeneutical principle of audience relevance, which seeks to discover what the original readers understood a passage to mean. The concern of the evangelical interpreter is to understand the passage in light of the historical circumstances and context of the original audience. The world that was "about to come" was about to come in the first century. What was future to them is 2000 year old history to us.
The author tells us that this world is one that he has been talking about. "Of which we speak" - this phrase looks back to 1:10-14 which emphasizes the covenantal changes which took place at the Lord's second coming. The Greek word mello is also used in 1:14. So, the world spoken of in 2:5 that is "about to come" is the same world that is spoken of in 1:10-14.
Hebrews 1:10-14 (NKJV) And: "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail." 13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
As we have seen in our study on these verses, the term "heaven and earth" is used in Scripture for something other than the physical creation; it is used to speak of the nation Israel, the Old Covenant. The author says the heavens and earth shall, "grow old like a garment," and then they would be "changed." Is it just a coincidence that the Bible speaks of the passing away of the old covenant using the same language?
Hebrews 8:13 (NKJV) In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
The same Greek word palaioo, which means: "to make worn out, or declare obsolete" is used in Hebrews 1:11 of the heavens and earth and 8:13 of the Old Covenant. The writer here says that the old covenant is about to pass away. Not many years later, it did in the destruction of Jerusalem.
The writer of Hebrews is not talking in this text about the end of the "world" but of the end of Old Covenant Israel. The Old Covenant that was mediated by angels was about to end, but Christ's kingdom will never end, thus Christ is superior to angels.
Commenting on Hebrews 2:5, John Owen writes, "By the expression 'the world to come,' is intended no other but the promised state of the Church under the gospel." Owen goes on to say, "The world whereof the Apostle treats was immediately made subject unto Jesus -- this is, the Church of the New Testament."
So, the "world that is about to come" is speaking about the New Covenant age that was consummated in AD 70 with the destruction of the Jewish temple.
How many different ages does the bible speak of?
All through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age" and the "age to come."
Matthew 12:32 (NKJV) "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means: " about to be." We could translate this, the "age about to come" (in the first century). Many think that the age to come will be a sinless age; not according to this verse. Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in that age, referring to the age of the New Covenant, our present age. We see here that both of these ages have sin in them.
Ephesians 1:21 (NKJV) far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
Here again, we see the two ages. So, the New Testament speaks of two ages, "this age" and "the age to come." The understanding of these two ages and when they changed is fundamental to interpreting the Bible.
WHAT AGE DID THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS LIVE IN?
The New Testament writer lived in the age that they called "this age." To the New Testament writers, the "age to come" was future, but it was very near, because "this age" was about to end.
1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NKJV) However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The wisdom and rulers of "this age" were coming to nothing, because the age was passing away. He is speaking of the Jewish leaders and the Old Covenant system. The rulers of "this age" crucified the Lord. These rulers would shortly have no realm in which to rule, because "this age" was about to end. Think about this: If the Jewish age ended at the cross, as so many claim, why were they still ruling the age?
1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV) Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Paul said very plainly that the end of the ages was coming upon them; the first century saints. "This age," along with its wisdom and rulers, was about to end.
So, "this age" of the Bible is the age of the Old Covenant that was about to pass away in the first century.
What age do we live in?
We now live in what was to the first century saints the "age to come." When most Christians read in the New Testament and see the words "the age to come," they think of a yet future (to us) age. But the New Testament writers were referring to the Christian age. We live in what was to them the "age to come," the New Covenant age.
Since the "present age" of the Bible ended in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Lord, we must be in the "age to come."
Mark 10:29-30 (NKJV) So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 "who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
We live in the "age to come"; we have eternal life now!
The Bible doesn't teach about an age future to us. The age in which we live is the everlasting age of the New Covenant. It has no last days, no end, and nothing left to be fulfilled.
The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to understand that the world of the future (the New Covenant age in which we live) does not belong to the angels.
Who is going to rule in the New Covenant age?
Hebrews 2:6-7 (NKJV) But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? 7 You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands.
Our author is about to demonstrate by the application of Psalm 8 to Christ, that all things, angels included, are placed in subjection to his sovereignty.
"But one testified in a certain place" - the literal Greek here reads, "Someone has said somewhere." I have always emphasized learning the reference with the verse, so when you are asked, "Where does the Bible say that?" you can point them to the Scripture. The Navigators also stress learning a verse's address. It is clear that the author of Hebrews is no Navigator. This is characteristic of our author. It is sufficient for him that he is quoting from the Holy Scripture. God being its author; the identity of the human author is relatively unimportant.
The author of Hebrews is quoting here from Psalm 8. Psalm 8 is an ode on the majesty of God and the insignificance, yet at the same time, the remarkable future of man. This psalm was not regarded by the Jews to be Messianic, and at first sight it might appear to have little in the way of messianic content. Yet, in the New Testament it is repeatedly applied to Christ. In Matthew 21:16, Jesus quotes from this psalm and applies it to himself.
Matthew 21:16 (NKJV) and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?"
In 1 Corinthians 15:27 and Ephesians 1:22, Paul teaches that the Psalmist's assertion that God has put all things in subjection under man's feet finds its fulfillment in Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:27 (NKJV) For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.
Ephesians 1:22 (NKJV) And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,
The application to Christ of what this psalm says about man is explained by the fact that the incarnate Son was the perfect, indeed the only perfect, man. And that the intention and achievement of his incarnation was precisely to restore to fallen man the dignity and the wholeness of his existence as he reintegrated in himself the grand design of creation.
We must keep in mind that the real meaning of an utterance is not the meaning a majority of hearers or readers understand it to have, but the meaning intended by the author. Psalm 8 finds its true focus preeminently in Him who is uniquely the Son of man and in whom alone the dominion of man is restored. Only in union with Christ can man become man as God meant and made him to be. We must see this psalm as messianic and eschatological.
Psalms 8:1-4 (NKJV) O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! 2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
David is writing this. He asks the question, "What is man?" The Hebrew word for "man" is enowsh, it means: "mortal man." The word "visit"in Hebrews 2:6 is the Greek word episkeptomai,. It means: "to visit in order to care for." The Psalmist asks what there is about man that the great God should stoop to help him. How did God visit man in order to help him? The Incarnation!
Luke 1:68 (NKJV) "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,
Acts 15:14 (NKJV) "Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
This is the same Greek word; God visited and redeemed His people.
Let's look at the doctrine of the INCARNATION:
The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets-- God became a man! Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.
John 1:14 (NKJV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The "Word became flesh" has been expressed by the theological term "Incarnation," which comes from the two Latin words "in" plus "cargo" meaning: "infleshment, the act of assuming flesh." God chose to become united to true humanity. The incarnation came about through the miracle of the virgin birth.
Matthew 1:18-23 (NKJV) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV) "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
At the incarnation, God the Son, the Second person of the one triune God, was forever joined to true humanity. This joining together has been designated as the hypostatic union.
So the doctrine of the hypostatic union is the doctrine of the personal union of the two natures, the divine and the human, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man. This is where we get the theological term "theanthropic", which comes from theos, which means: "God and anthropos," which means: "man." Jesus Christ is the God-Man. He is One person with two natures.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, (Chapter 8: Article 2) explains the hypostatic union this way:
The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature (John 1:1, 14; Gal 4:4; Phil 2:6; 1 John 5:20), with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin (Heb 2:14, 16, 17; 4:15): being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance (Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Gal 4:4). So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion (Luke 1:35; Rom 9:5; Col 2:9; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 3:18). Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (Rom 1:3, 4; 1 Tim 2:5).
Jesus Christ is One person with Two natures; we cannot illustrate this in the human realm. Jesus Christ is different from God in that he is mankind, and different from mankind in that he is God. Jesus Christ is the unique person of the universe. He is the God-Man.
This is how God "visited" man, it was through the incarnation. Now let's go back to Psalm 8, which the author of Hebrews is quoting.
Psalms 8:5 (NKJV) For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
This verse marks the point of transition from the concept of man in general to the incarnate Redeemer, "You have made him". Both the Hebrew word "made" in Psalm 8:5 and the Greek word "made" in Hebrews 2:7 signify: "to be brought down from a higher station to a lower." It does not signify to be created originally in a lower condition. The same Greek word is used in:
John 3:30 (NKJV) "He must increase, but I must decrease.
Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7 are speaking of Jesus Christ in his incarnation.
"A little lower than the angels" can mean: "by a small degree" or "for a short time." Here it means: "for a short time" Jesus Christ was made lower than the angels in his incarnation. How was Jesus Christ lower than the angels? He became a man. Angels don't know what it is like to suffer or to die. Angels are spirit beings; they don't have bodies like we have.
"And You have crowned him with glory and honor." - the Greek word for "crowned" is stephanoo. It is a word used of the victor's crown, the crown given to a person because of his exalted rank or station. This does not fit man in general, it is a reference to the exaltation of Christ.
Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV) Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The only other use of stephanoo, outside Hebrews 2 is in:
2 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV) And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
Let's go back to Psalm 8.
Psalms 8:6-9 (NKJV) You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen; Even the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
"You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands" - This sounds just like what we have seen in:
Hebrews 1:2 (NKJV) has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
Now let's go back to Hebrews 2.
Hebrews 2:8 (NKJV) You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.
"You have put all things in subjection under his feet" - everything is in subjection to Christ, even angels.
Hebrews 1:13 (NKJV) But to which of the angels has He ever said: "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"?
The angels don't sit at the right hand of God, but Christ does. Christ is Lord of all, everything is in subjection to Him.
Commenting on the phrase, "You have put all things in subjection under his feet" one writer said, "That at least was God's original plan. But we do not need to be told that the plan seems to have gone wrong somewhere."
What is he saying? Has God's plan failed? Does God have plan B?
Psalms 115:3 (NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
God is absolutely sovereign; his plans never fail.
Now, notice the end of verse 8. "But now we do not yet see all things put under him." The word "see" is the Greek word horao. This speaks of the visible impression our eyes passively receive from objects. They (first century believers) didn't see everything subject to Him, because the AD 70 judgment on Jerusalem had not yet occurred. Christ's enemy, Judaism, was still very much active at the time of the writing.
We must understand that the enemies of Christ, that were going to "soon" (at the time of the writing) be in subjection to him, were of the nation Israel. Jesus, in the parable in Luke speaking of the Jewish nation, said:
Luke 19:27 (NKJV) 'But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.'"
The authority of Jesus was then challenged by those Jewish leaders. Jesus continued by speaking to them about the "Parables of the Tenants" in which he told them:
Luke 20:18 (NKJV) "Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."
Luke 20:19 (NKJV) And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people; for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.
Jesus had used many of the parables as a warning to the Jewish leaders, but due to their vagueness, the Jewish leaders had not been able to amass enough resistance against Jesus to get him killed. Early in his ministry, the Jewish leaders wondered if the parables were spoken against them. During the middle of the ministry of Jesus, his parables became clearer, and they thought that he was referring to them. However, in the last week of his ministry, he spoke the parables more plainly, and they knew Jesus was talking about them. They were enraged and determined that Jesus would be killed. These enemies of Christ would themselves, within the next five years of the writing of this letter, be destroyed in AD 70. Christ came in judgment, and the nation of Israel was destroyed.
With the destruction of Israel, the Old Covenant was fulfilled, and death was destroyed.
1 Corinthians 15:26 (NKJV) The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
The Old Covenant was a ministry of death.
2 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NKJV) who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away,
When the Old Covenant was abolished, so was death. At the time of the writing, the Old Covenant was still in effect, the Jewish temple still stood, thus the writer could say, "But now we do not yet see all things put under him." But in AD 70, it was clearly seen. Matthew tells us that the destruction of Jerusalem is the sign that Christ has put all his enemies under his feet.
Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
When is "then?" "Then" refers to "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (verse 29). After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was the great tribulation, this sign will be seen. What is the sign? To understand what this sign was, we first need to have a correct translation. The NIV really adds to the confusion, it reads, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky." A word-for-word rendering from the Greek reads: "And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven." Notice carefully that the location is heaven, not the sky; and it is not the sign that is in heaven, but the Son of Man who is in heaven. The point is this: The destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple was the sign that the Son of Man was in heaven.
J. Marcellus Kik said, "A sign was not to appear in the heavens, but the destruction of Jerusalem was to indicate the rule of the Son of man in heaven."
Hebrews 2:9 (NKJV) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
The Greek word for "see" here is blepo, it implies: "direction or intention". We see by faith - God told them that Jesus Christ had been exalted.
Hebrews 1:13 (NKJV) But to which of the angels has He ever said: "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"?
Jesus Christ became a man so that he could die for the sins of man. The last part of the verse is a theological explanation of what Christ did - "by the grace of God" - We didn't deserve it.
"Might taste death for everyone" - The word "taste" is geuomai, it means: "to experience something to the fullest." Jesus Christ experienced physical and spiritual death on the cross.
It was because of the suffering and death that he was crowned with glory and honor. Exaltation is his reward for suffering.
Philippians 2:8-9 (NKJV) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
The world in which we live, which was the future world to the Hebrews, belongs to Jesus Christ and to his partners. We share in the dominion of Christ.
The dominion that was lost by the first Adam was regained by the Last Adam, and we share it, because we share all that Christ is and has.
The message of Hebrews was that the Jewish Old Covenant world would soon be destroyed, and since the new covenant world is better in every way, why were the Jewish Christians returning to the old Mosaic Law? A great change was about to occur, and Jesus would rule throughout the never ending Christian age. This book was not written to show us what we will have at the end of the Christian age, but rather, it shows us what we have today, during the Christian age, in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is greater than the angels whom the Jewish people highly regarded. This was the first principle that the writer established: To demonstrate to the Jewish Christians why they had an urgent need to remain faithful to Christ. They would be placing themselves under the chastening hand of God if they drifted back into Judaism.
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