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The meaning of "For this reason" is that since Jesus Christ is greater than the angels we should take the revelation that has come through Him seriously. If the Israelites received severe punishment whenever they disobeyed the Mosaic Law that God gave them through angels, the punishment for disregarding what God has give us through His Son will be even more severe. [Note: Ellingworth, p. 137.] Later in this epistle we learn that the original readers were slow to respond to Scriptural imperatives (Hebrews 5:11-12). They had not grown as Christians as they should have. The writer took this opportunity to exhort them to "pay much closer attention" (Gr. prosechein) to what their teachers had taught them and to what they had read in the Scriptures. This Greek word means not only to turn the mind to something but also to act upon what one perceives (cf. Acts 8:6; Acts 16:14). The readers were apparently regarding these things too lightly.
"God’s speaking is the basis for the writer’s own ’word of exhortation’ (Hebrews 13:22)." [Note: Ibid., p. 134.]
The writer illustrated their position. It is as though they were in a boat on a river or at sea. He pictured them moored at a dock or anchored. If they continued to neglect their attachment to the truth that does not change, the currents of their age might carry them away from it. They might drift away from the truth that they had heard (though not from their eternal salvation, cf. Hebrews 6:19). "What we have heard" is the antecedent of "it." This is a warning against apostatizing, departing from truth once held. All the warnings in the Bible against following false teachers are similar to this one in their intent. If we do not diligently remain in the truth-and to do so we must know it and remember it-we will depart from it. We live in a world that is striving to separate us from it. Satan also wants us to abandon it (cf. Genesis 3; Matthew 4).
". . . the [five warning] passages in question are concerned with the danger of apostasy." [Note: Stanley D. Toussaint, "The Eschatology of the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews," Grace Theological Journal 3 (1982):67-68. ]
However, this writer believed the apostates were all unbelievers.
". . . apostasy . . . [is] the central concern of the entire epistle." [Note: George E. Rice, "Apostasy As a Motif and Its Effect on the Structure of Hebrews," Andrews University Seminary Studies 23:1 (Spring 1985):33.]
"That church’s experience 2,000 years ago intersects our lives in this way: drifting is the besetting sin of our day. And as the metaphor suggests, it is not so much intentional as from unconcern. Christians neglect their anchor-Christ-and begin to quietly drift away. There is no friction, no dramatic sense of departure. But when the winds of trouble come, the things of Christ are left far behind, even out of sight." [Note: R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews , 1:48.]
". . . if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?" [Note: C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 124.]
C. The Danger of Negligence (The First Warning) 2:1-4
Having just encouraged his readers with a reminder of God’s help for the faithful (Hebrews 1:14), the writer next urged his readers to be faithful. He did so to warn them of the possibility of retrogressing spiritually and consequently losing part of their inheritance. Jacob’s sons Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had done this.
"The second step in the argument for Jesus’ superiority shows him to be infinitely great because of the nature of the salvation he won. . . . The author precedes the development of this thought with a brief section in which he exhorts his readers to attend to what has been said, a feature we shall notice elsewhere (e.g., Hebrews 3:7-11; Hebrews 5:11-14)." [Note: Morris, p. 21.]
"The author uses doctrine as a basis for exhorting believers." [Note: Pentecost, p. 24. Cf. 3:1, 8, 12, 13, 15; 4:1, 11, 14, 16; 6:1, 11, 12; 10:22, 23, 24, 25, 32, 35; 12:1, 3, 12, 14, 15, 25, 28; 13:1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, 24.]
"The number of unusual words and idioms and the avoidance of the vocabulary of the LXX suggest that in this paragraph it was the writer’s intention to confront the thought and life of his readers in a more arresting way than reliance upon familiar words and phrases would foster." [Note: Lane, p. 35.]
"The word spoken through angels" refers to the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2 LXX; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). [Note: See Moffatt, p. 18.] For the Jews, it was the Law under which they lived. For them the will of God was unalterable. It required obedience. Under the Old (Mosaic) Covenant the connection between sin and punishment was clear and direct. Even more so, the readers could count on the New Covenant that had come, not through angels, but through God’s Son, to involve punishment for sinners. This is especially true if that sin involves failing to give attention to all our responsibilities as Christians who have received such a great salvation. "Transgression" refers to overstepping bounds, and "disobedience" to the violation of God’s will more generally. Another less probable view is that "transgression" refers to sins of commission and "disobedience" to sins of omission. [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:282.] The writer did not specify the punishment, but it cannot be loss of salvation since Scripture specifically states that we will not lose our salvation (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 1:11-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5; et al.). In view of the context (Hebrews 1:8-14), the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and their own glorification and rewards seem to be what the readers were in danger of forgetting.
"The neglected salvation is not our final deliverance from hell, that is not the salvation ’about which we are speaking.’ Rather, it is the opportunity to enter into the final destiny of man, to reign with Christ over the works of God’s hands (Hebrews 2:8-9)." [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, p, 131.]
"Salvation includes far more than moral and bodily regeneration, for it embraces the covenanted kingdom of God, the inheritance of David’s Son, the joint-heirship and reign with Christ." [Note: George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, 3:451.]
Note that the writer himself could have been negligent. He said, "How shall we escape?" not "How shall you escape?" (cf. Hebrews 2:1). The most natural conclusion is that genuine Christians are in view in this warning, not simply unsaved professing Christians. The writer gave us no clues in the text that he had in mind unsaved professing Christians. Furthermore, everything he said can be and has been true of genuine believers.
"Unlike most modern congregations the early Christian church was an integrated community centered around the worship of God and the advancement of his kingdom. Economically it was a commonwealth, which meant that its members were not being pulled apart from one another by the pursuit of individual goals of success; they were devoting everything they were and owned to the strengthening of one another and the cause of Christ. Worshiping and eating together, the members were in constant communication [cf. Acts 2:42]. . . . Little time or distance separated the members of this body, so there was an unhindered communication of the gifts and graces of each one to the others." [Note: Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, p. 161.]
"It is emphatically NOT the same situation a Baptist preacher in the twentieth century faces when he climbs into the pulpit before eight thousand professing Christians. We are therefore fully justified in concluding that, when a New Testament writer uses a term like ’brethren,’ he is not thinking that some may and some may not really be brothers, but he assumes and believes that all his readers are in fact born again.
"Since the [epistolary] writers themselves never explicitly say that they feel their audience is a mixture and since they everywhere make statements to the effect that they are talking to genuine Christians, we have no warrant for reading into their otherwise clear statements qualifications which they themselves never make." [Note: Dillow, p. 241.]
The warning is against neglecting, not rejecting, salvation (cf. Hebrews 6:19). "Neglecting" assumes that one has something, whereas "rejecting" assumes that one does not have it.
"He [the writer] is not encouraging sinners to become Christians; rather, he is encouraging Christians to pay attention to the great salvation they have received from the Lord.
"More spiritual problems are caused by neglect than perhaps by any other failure on our part. We neglect God’s Word, prayer, worship with God’s people (see Hebrews 10:25), and other opportunities for spiritual growth, and as a result, we start to drift." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:282. Cf. pp. 276, 277, 278.]
Chapter 1 glorifies the person of our great Savior, and chapter 2 exalts the work of our great Savior: our great salvation.
Jesus Christ spoke of salvation during His earthly ministry (e.g., Matthew 4:17; Matthew 19:28; Luke 12:31-32; Luke 22:29-30). The apostles taught the same truth and by doing so confirmed His word. This is the gospel, in its widest meaning.
"By speaking of ’the hearers’ (ton akousanton), all interest is concentrated on the message, not the office, of those who had brought the word of redemption to the community . . ." [Note: Lane, p. 39.]
God testified to His approval of Christ’s preaching and the apostles’ preaching about Christ by providing authenticating miracles that showed God was with them (cf. Acts 2:43; Acts 4:30; Acts 5:12; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:6; Acts 8:13; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12). "Signs" emphasizes that the miracles signify something. "Wonders" emphasizes the reaction of awe that the miracles produced in those who observed them. "Miracles" emphasizes their supernatural origin and "gifts" the graciousness of God in providing them. The writer intended that reference to these miracles would bolster the readers’ confidence in the gospel that they had received.
This statement does not force us to date the epistle after the apostles had died.
"It is too much to read into this verse that the writer and his readers belonged to a second generation of Christians . . ., though Hebrews 5:12 shows that they were not new converts . . ." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 141.]
The original readers seem to have been people who had heard the apostles’ preaching and had observed the miracles that accompanied that preaching. Guthrie believed the writer had not heard Jesus firsthand. [Note: Guthrie, p. 82.] This verse does not say that the signs and wonders had already ceased. They may have, but this statement does not say that. The prediction that they would cease occurs in 1 Corinthians 13:8. Ephesians 2:20 implies the temporary duration of apostolic ministry that included signs and wonders. [Note: See J. Lanier Burns, "A Reemphasis on the Purpose of the Sign Gifts," Bibliotheca Sacra 132:527 (July-September 1975):245-46; Morris, p. 22.]
"Hebrews’ references to the Holy Spirit are generally incidental; much of the space occupied in Paul’s theology by the Spirit is filled in Hebrews by the exalted Christ." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 143.]
I think signs and wonders are less common in developed countries today because most of these countries have the complete Word of God. God now typically validates the gospel through His Word (cf. Romans 8:16; 1 John 5:1-13). Occasionally we hear reports of miracles that validate the gospel, but they are usually in places where the Word of God is not as available.
This is the first of five warnings in Hebrews (cf. Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 10:19-39; Hebrews 12:1-29). It is the shortest and mildest one. These five warnings deal with drifting from the gospel, disbelieving the gospel, dullness toward the gospel, despising the gospel, and defying the gospel.
"The warning of Hebrews 2:1-5 is linked by dia touto (’for this reason’) with the entire argument of Hebrews 1. Because of the Son’s superiority to angels (Hebrews 1:1-5), the angels’ worship of and service to Him at His coming (Hebrews 1:6-7), His future rule and sharing of joy with His companions (Hebrews 1:8-9), and His future subjugation of His enemies (Hebrews 1:10-14), the readers would do well to heed these eschatological teachings. Neglect of this eschatological salvation (cf. Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 2:5) may result in individual temporal discipline similar to that experienced under the Old Covenant (Hebrews 2:2). The ’salvation’ of Hebrews 2:3 is the same as that in Hebrews 1:4. Hebrews 2:5 clarifies that the soteria under discussion is eschatological." [Note: Oberholtzer, p. 97.]
"One of the greatest dangers of the Christian life is losing interest in what is familiar (Hebrews 8:9; Matthew 22:5). The entire Epistle lays stress on steadfastness at almost every stage, and this is one of the essential marks of the true, growing, deepening Christian life (Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 6:19; Hebrews 10:26; Hebrews 12:27-28; Hebrews 13:8)." [Note: Thomas, p. 29.]
". . . the doctrines the epistle presents, the warnings it delivers, and the exhortations it gives all were intended to prevent regression and to encourage continuous dynamic development toward spiritual maturity." [Note: Pentecost, p. 31.]
"The world to come" refers to the inhabited earth under Jesus Christ’s reign (during the Millennium and from then on; cf. Hebrews 1:8-9; Hebrews 1:11-13). Some branches of Judaism believed Michael and his angels would rule over it. [Note: Zane C. Hodges, "Hebrews," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 783.] The angels administer the present world (Deuteronomy 32:8; Daniel 10:20-21; Daniel 12:1), but the Son will administer the world to come.
"This will occur at His second advent when He returns to this earth to sit as David’s Son on David’s throne and rule over David’s kingdom in fulfillment of God’s covenants and promises." [Note: Pentecost, p. 57.]
In this respect, too, Jesus is superior to the angels. The phrase "concerning which we are speaking" indicates that the writer was resuming his exposition and continuing his thought from Hebrews 1:5-14.
D. The Humiliation and Glory of God’s SON 2:5-9
Hebrews 2:5-18 present eight reasons for the incarnation of the Son: to fulfill God’s purpose for man (Hebrews 2:5-9 a), to taste death for all (Hebrews 2:9 b), and to bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10-13). He also came to destroy the devil (Hebrews 2:14), to deliver those in bondage (Hebrews 2:15), to become a priest for men (Hebrews 2:16-17 a), to make propitiation for sins (Hebrews 2:17 b), and to provide help for those tested (Hebrews 2:18). [Note: Ibid., pp. 58-68.]
Some of the original Jewish readers of Hebrews felt inclined to abandon the Christian faith because of Jesus’ humanity. The writer stressed His deity in chapter one because some Jews failed to appreciate that. In this chapter he showed why Jesus was not inferior because He was a man. Jesus’ humanity enabled Him to regain man’s lost dominion (Hebrews 2:5-9) and to bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10-13). It also equipped Him to disarm Satan and deliver us from death (Hebrews 2:14-16) and to be a sympathetic high priest to His people (Hebrews 2:17-18). [Note: Wiersbe, 2:283-84.]
The writer returned to his main argument (ch. 1). He did so to develop the destiny of Jesus Christ more fully so his readers would strengthen their commitment to continue following Him.
The writer interpreted this passage (Psalms 8:4-6) as Messianic. [Note: See Donald R. Glenn, "Psalms 8 and Hebrews 2 : A Case Study in Biblical Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology," in Walvoord: A Tribute, p. 44. ] There is some evidence that most of the Jews of this time did not consider Psalms 8 to be messianic. [Note: Guthrie, p. 84. See also Martin Pickup, "New Testament Interpretation of the Old Testament: The Theological Rationale of Midrashic Exegesis," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51:2 (June 2008):353-81.] "Son of Man" is a Messianic title (Daniel 7:13-14). As a man, Jesus was temporarily lower than the angels during His earthly ministry. His crowning took place at His ascension as did His receiving authority from the Father over all creation. The time when all things now under His authority will bow to that authority awaits Jesus’ return to earth at His second advent and the judgments that will follow His coming.
Even though believers do not yet see Jesus glorified on earth, we do see Him with the eye of faith glorified in heaven. God has crowned Jesus with glory and honor because He endured death. [Note: See Moffatt, p. 24.] He suffered death because it was God’s will for Him to taste death for every person. Suffering, introduced here, becomes a dominant theme in this epistle. This was God’s purpose in the Incarnation.
Jesus Christ’s death was for everyone in that by dying He paid the penalty for the sins of every human being, elect and non-elect (cf. 1 John 2:2; 2 Peter 2:1; John 3:16). His death was sufficient for all, but it is efficient only for those who rest their confidence in it as what satisfied God.
"There is a profound note of anticipation in the OT teaching about humanity. The words of the psalmist look forward into the future, and that future is inextricably bound up with the person and work of Jesus. His condescension to be made for a brief while ’lower than the angels’ set in motion a sequence of events in which abasement and humiliation were the necessary prelude to exaltation. His coronation investiture with priestly glory and splendor provide assurance that the power of sin and death has been nullified and that humanity will yet be led to the full realization of their intended glory. In Jesus the hearers are to find the pledge of their own entrance into the imperial destiny intended by God for them." [Note: Lane, p. 50.]
The writer proceeded to give a commentary on the last clause of Hebrews 2:9, particularly on the phrase "by the grace of God."
The Son of Man is not the only One God intends to glorify (Hebrews 2:6). All of His sons, believers, will experience glorification. "Him" is God the Father. "Author" is Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. The unusual title "author" (Gr. archegos) describes Jesus as a file leader, pioneer, pathfinder, and captain of a company of followers (cf. Hebrews 12:2; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:31). [Note: See J. Julius Scott Jr., "Archegos in the Salvation History of the Epistle to the Hebrews," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29:1 (March 1986):47-54.] However, it also views Him as originator or personal source. [Note: Moffatt, p. 31.] God perfected Jesus by charting His path to glory through suffering, and He does the same for Jesus’ followers. We must go through suffering before we get to glory. By having experienced suffering, Jesus can more perfectly help us as we suffer (Hebrews 2:18). He was "perfected" in this sense. "To perfect" (Gr. teleioo) is another favorite word of this writer, who used it nine times, more frequently than it occurs in any other New Testament book.
"Since His sinlessness is an accepted fact, it is clear that the perfection is viewed as a fitness for the fulfilling of the office assigned to Him." [Note: Everett F. Harrison, "The Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews," Bibliotheca Sacra 121:484 (October-December 1964):338.]
"This representation of the achievement of Jesus was calculated to recall one of the more famous labors of Hercules, his wrestling with Death, ’the dark-robed lord of the dead’ (Euripides, Alcestis, II. 843, 844 . . .). The designation of Jesus as archegos in a context depicting him as protagonist suggests that the writer intended to present Jesus to his hearers in language that drew freely upon the Hercules tradition in popular Hellenism . . ." [Note: Lane, p. 57. Cf. W. Manson, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Historical and Theological Reconsideration, pp. 103-4.]
E. The Son’s Solidarity with Humanity 2:10-18
The writer next emphasized the future glory that the Son will experience to heighten his readers’ appreciation for Him and for their own future with Him. He did this by reflecting on Psalms 8. He wanted his readers to appreciate these things so they would continue to live by faith rather than departing from God’s will (cf. James 1; 1 Peter 1). This section concludes the first major part of the writer’s address and prepares his audience for the next one (Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 5:10).
"The three thoughts quickly made in Hebrews 2:9 are . . . filled in by further theological reflection in Hebrews 2:10-18. They are not taken up in distinct sections but are interwoven in the argument of the paragraph. . . .
"The first theme . . . is that Jesus as God’s Son came to earth to share fully in our humanity and thus to establish His solidarity [unity, identity] with all people. . . .
"The second theme . . . is that in God’s plan Jesus had to undergo suffering and death in order to provide salvation for humankind. . . .
"The third theme . . . is that because of His obedience in carrying out God’s redemptive plan despite severe temptation, Jesus has been exalted to the honored position in God’s very presence as the believers’ perfected High Priest." [Note: Fanning, pp. 379, 381, 382.]
"He" is probably Jesus Christ. There is great solidarity between Jesus Christ and believers. The Old Testament taught this solidarity in Psalms 22:22 (Hebrews 2:12), Isaiah 8:17 (Hebrews 2:13 a), and Isaiah 8:18 (Hebrews 2:13 b). Jesus will not feel ashamed to call sanctified believers His brethren when He leads us to glory (Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 2:10).
These quotations illustrate that Jesus will not blush to identify with the people of God. The emphasis in the first quotation is on the character that Jesus Christ and believers share. His death has made us holy (set us apart; cf. Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14). Consequently we can have intimate fellowship with Jesus who dwells among us (by His Spirit; cf. Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:46).
The point of the second quotation is that Jesus, as well as His followers, trusted God. This is the basis for intimate fellowship. Daily trust in God marked Jesus, and marks Christians who continue to follow God faithfully. Such daily trust results in intimate fellowship with God. The point of the third quotation is that believers are Jesus Christ’s spiritual children. As such He will provide for us and prepare us for the future as a loving parent who has had greater experience travelling the same path (cf. John 14:1-3).
"The description of Christians as the ’children’ or ’sons’ of Christ is peculiar to this epistle among the New testament writings . . ." [Note: Bruce, p. 48. Cf. Isaiah 8:18; 53:10.]
It stresses intimacy and tenderness as well as solidarity.
We children share in flesh and blood with one another; we share the limitations of humanity. To free us from these limitations the Son had to assume the same limitations, which He did at the Incarnation. Jesus Christ broke Satan’s power over believers by His death. Obviously Satan still exercises great power, but Jesus Christ broke his power to enslave believers (cf. Romans 6:1-14). Furthermore Jesus Christ defeated Satan in the area of his greatest strength: his power to inflict death.
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.). A believer need not have the same fear of death as an unbeliever (cf. Luke 11:21-22). Consequently we need not feel compelled to live for the present (e.g., put self first, do anything to save our lives, etc.) as unbelievers do. The fear of death tyrannizes many people both consciously and subconsciously.
"It is ironical that human beings, destined to rule over the creation (Psalms 8:5-7 LXX, cited in Hebrews 2:6-8), should find themselves in the posture of a slave, paralyzed through the fear of death (Kögel, Sohn, 80). Hopeless subjection to death characterizes earthly existence apart from the intervention of God . . ." [Note: Lane, p. 61.]
Here "the seed of Abraham" probably refers primarily to believers, the spiritual descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:29), rather than to Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham (cf. Isaiah 41:8-10). The original readers, saved Jews, were both the physical and spiritual descendants of Abraham. The contrast is between angelic and human believers in the context. Jesus Christ does not give help to angels in the same way He gives help to Christians. He helps us uniquely as an elder brother and parent (Hebrews 2:11-15), a fellow human being.
"All things" means in every way, specifically by experiencing human life and by suffering. Jesus Christ’s identification with us made possible His ministry as high priest in which He would be merciful to us and faithful to God. Eli is an example of a high priest who was neither faithful nor merciful (cf. 1 Samuel 2:27-36). The basis for this ministry was Jesus’ making satisfaction (propitiation, by atonement) for sin by His self-sacrifice.
". . . the concept of high priesthood, as applied to Christ, expresses both Christ’s unity [solidarity] with mankind in a particular historical tradition (Hebrews 5:1) and his leadership of God’s pilgrim people into the heavenly sanctuary." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 186.]
"’O laos ["The people"] is Hebrews’ preferred term for the people of God." [Note: Ibid., p. 190.]
As our priest, Jesus Christ can help us because He has undergone the same trials we experience (in body, mind, and emotions) and has emerged victorious. The testing in view is temptation to depart from God’s will, specifically apostasy. The picture is of an older brother helping his younger brothers navigate the pitfalls of growing up successfully. That is the role that a priest plays.
"Think of it this way-which bridge has undergone the greatest stress, the one that collapses under its first load of traffic, or the one that bears the same traffic morning and evening, year after year?" [Note: R. Kent Hughes, 1:86.]
The writer developed these ideas more fully later. He only introduced them here.
"It is a characteristic of this Epistle just to touch upon a truth, and then to dismiss it for a time, taking it up later for full treatment." [Note: Thomas, p. 36.]
". . . the writer composes like a musician intertwining one theme with another." [Note: John Bligh, "The Structure of Hebrews," Heythrop Journal 5 (April 1964):171.]
The emphasis in Hebrews 2:5-18 has been on Jesus Christ’s present ministry whereas that of Hebrews 1:5-14 was on His future ministry. In both sections, however, there is a looking forward to the time when all things will be subject to Him. The writer focused on the future to encourage his readers to persevere faithfully in the present rather than apostatizing.
"With Hebrews 2:17-18 the writer prepares to lead his hearers directly into the body of the discourse devoted to the exposition of Jesus as priest and sacrifice. Common to the concepts both of champion and of high priest are the elements of representation and solidarity with a particular people. The presentation of Jesus in Hebrews 2:10-18 provided assurance that the exalted Son continues to identify himself with the oppressed people of God exposed to humiliation and testing in a hostile world." [Note: Lane, p. 67.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent