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Hebrews 2

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Verses 1-4

Heb 2:1-4



Hebrews 2:1-4

Hebrews 2:1 ---Therefore we ought, etc.—The word therefore (dia ton to) is illative, and forms the hinge of the Apostle’s argument. It is the connecting link between the conclusion which follows, and all that he has said in the preceding chapter, touching the revelation which God has made to us through his only begotten Son. He argues that since it is an indisputable fact, that God has spoken to us by his Son, who is himself the Heir of all things, the Creator of all things, and the Upholder of all things; the brightness of the Fa¬ther’s glory and the express image of his essence; and since he is himself the expiator of our guilt, endowed with all the attributes of Divinity, and infinitely exalted above all angels, it follows, of course, that “we should give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard” from the Father through him and concern¬ing him. The Apostle proceeds here on the assumption that wher¬ever much is given, there also much is always justly expected and required. (Luke 12:47-48; Matthew 11:20-24.) And hence he mea¬sures the greater extent of our obligations to give heed to the things spoken, both by the greater fullness of these revelations and also by the greater dignity of him through whom they have been made to us. According to our author, there is resting on every man who hears the Gospel, an obligation to receive and obey it, that is commensurate with the infinitely exalted character of Christ..

Hebrews 2:1 ---the things which we have heard,—By these are meant simply the facts, precepts, promises, warnings, and threatenings of the Gospel. They are of course very numerous; but the following brief summary of the main points may suffice for illustration. It seems, then,

(1) that God made man upright, in his own image and after his own likeness; pure, holy, and happy. (Genesis 1:26-27; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9-10.)

(2) That Adam fell by disobedience, bringing death upon himself and on his entire posterity. (Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 5:12 Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.)

(3)That in this fallen condition, man was morally helpless, unable to do anything whatever either to please God (Romans 8:8), or to save himself from the incurred penalty of God’s violated law. (Romans 3:20 Romans 8:13-25.)

(4) That while mankind were all in this deplorable and helpless condition, God mercifully interposed in their behalf, and provided for them a remedy; a remedy perfectly suited to their wants; and which at the same time meets the requirements of his own government so far that he can now be just in justifying everyone who truly believes in Jesus. (John 3:16; Romans 3:21-31.)

(5) That for the purpose of perfecting this plan of Divine mercy, and carrying it into effect for the salvation of the world, the Son of God himself became incarnate (John 1:14) ; tasted death for every man (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:6); was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4); reascended to the heavens (Acts 1:9) ; offered his own blood in the Holy of holies not made with hands (Hebrews 9:12 Hebrews 9:24) ; and was then crowned Lord of all, “angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject to him” (1 Peter 3:22).

(6) That he then, according to his promise, sent the Holy Spirit to qualify the Apostles for the work of their mission (John 16:13; Acts 1:8) ; to convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:7-11) ; and to dwell in his saints as their comforter and sanctifier (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:18), helping their infirmities (Romans 8:26), and strengthening them with might even into the inner man (Ephesians 3:16).

(7) That salvation from all past personal transgressions is now promised to all who truly believe in Christ; confess his name before men, repent of their sins; and who, in obedience to the authority of Christ, are baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:10.)

(8) That all who are thus received into the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and who continue to give all diligence in walking soberly and righteously and godly in this present world, will ultimately be admitted into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11.)

(9) That those who neglect the Gospel, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be finally banished with an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15.) Such is a very brief summary of the things which we have heard from God through his Son and his own chosen Apostles; and to which our author would have us give the more earnest heed.

Hebrews 2:1 ---lest at any time we should let them slip.—Or rather, lest perchance we should be drifted away from them (pararruomen aor. 2, sub. pass); “as a ship,” says Luther, “shoots away into de¬struction.” Our author represents us all as on a stream, the natu¬ral tendency of which is to carry us downward to ruin. If it is any one’s purpose to go there with the devil and his angels, it is an easy matter for him to do so. No exertion on his part is at all necessary. Like a man that is afloat above the falls of Niagara, he has but to fold his arms, give himself up to the natural current, and very soon he will be beyond the reach of mercy. But the man who would reach the haven of eternal rest must of necessity make an effort. He must lay hold of all the means and helps which God has graciously provided and offered to him in the Gospel; or other¬wise, he must soon perish forever. “Strive,” says Christ, “to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able.” (Luke 13:24.) Why not? Because they do not strive until it is too late; until they have allowed themselves to be carried away beyond the proper limits of safety and security. “When once the Master of the house,” he says, “is risen up, and has shut the door,” then all cries for help and mercy will be in vain. See Luke 13:25-28; Proverbs 1:24-28; and Matthew 25:11-13. And hence the necessity of making our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10) by now giving diligent heed to the things which we have heard. —

Hebrews 2:2 ---For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast,—The Apostle now proceeds to give a reason for what he has so strongly urged in the preceding verse, viz., that we should give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard from God through his own well beloved Son. This he insists we should all do in view of our greater responsibilities. For if the law which God gave to the Israelites through the ministration of angels was steadfast, and every positive transgression (parabosis) of it, and even every mishearing or neglect (parachioee) of it received a just recompense (misthopodosia, a paying off of wages, a requital in the sense of either reward or punishment), then, how, he asks, can we escape unpunished, if we neglect the fuller and more gracious means of salvation which God has offered to us in the Gospel? This mode of reasoning is what logicians call “a minori ad majus;” from the less to the greater. The argument rests on the assumption that an increase of light and privileges implies also an increase of respon¬sibility on our part.

That “the word spoken by angels” means the Sinaitic Law, is quite obvious from sundry other passages of Scripture as well as from the context. Paul, for example, writing to the Galatians, says, the Law “was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” (Gal. 3: 19); that is, it was promulgated through the intervention of angels, and by the hand of Moses acting as a mediator between God and the people. See also Deut. 33: 2; Psalm 68: 17; and Acts 7: 53. It is evident, therefore, that angels were present at the giv¬ing of the Law from Mount Sinai, and that they performed some part in its promulgation, as the Jewish Doctors believed and taught. (Joseph. Ant. 15: 5, 3). But in what that part consisted is not so clear. Nor is it at all necessary that we should understand this. (Deut. 29: 29.) It is revealed that the angels served as God’s ministers, in some capacity, in the giving of the Law from Sinai; and it is further revealed that every objective transgression of that Law, and even every subjective neglect of it, received its just pun¬ishment. The man, for instance, who was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath-day, was stoned to death (Num. 15: 32-36) ; and the man who would presumptuously neglect to hear the instructions and warnings of the Priest, touching the requirements of the Law, even that man was to be put to death (Deut. 17: 12, and 27: 26). This, then, being so, how fearfully great are our responsibil¬ities under the superior light of the Gospel; and how very pene¬trating and heart-searching is the following interrogatory.

Hebrews 2:3 ---How shall we escape, etc.—In what way, and by what means shall we escape the just recompense of our neglect? If there was no way by which the Jews could escape under the Old Economy, then how shall we escape under the superior light and increased responsibilities of the New? This question has been on file for the last eighteen hundred years; but as yet no satisfactory answer has been given to it. Indeed, the Apostle did not propose it as a prob­lem for solution. It is another case of erotesis in which the author affirms with strong emphasis the utter impossibility of any one’s being saved who neglects the means of salvation which God has so graciously offered to us in the Gospel. The pronoun “we” in this clause is emphatic, and comprehends all who have heard and re­ceived the offer of salvation through Christ. The object of the Apostle here is, not to contrast any one class of Jews with another, or any one class of Christians with another, but to contrast all Jews as subjects of the Old Covenant with all Christians as sub­jects of the New Covenant; and that, too, for the purpose of show­ing the greater obligations of the latter, and the consequent dan­gers of neglecting the provisions of the Gospel. And hence he in­cludes in this strong interrogation all the professed followers of Christ, whether they be of Jewish or of Gentile origin.

Hebrews 2:3 ---if we neglect so great salvation;—It is not necessary that we should positively reject or despise God’s offers of mercy and means of grace, in order to seal our final condemnation. To effect this, it is enough that we simply neglect (ameleesantes) the means of sal­vation which God has provided. “He that believeth not on me,” says Christ, “is condemned already, because he has not believed on the only-begotten Son of God.” (John 3: 18.) And again he says, “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3 : 36.) In all such passages the word believe implies not only faith subjectively considered, but also the obedience of faith as illustrated in the eleventh chapter of our Epistle. And hence Christ says on another occasion, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathered not with me, scat­tered abroad.” (Matt. 12: 30.) A strict observance of all the commandments and ordinances of God, is therefore indispensable, not as a means of procuring salvation, but as a condition of enjoying what Christ has himself freely purchased for us with his own blood.

There is an implied contrast here between the salvation which was offered to the Jews, on the conditions of legal obedience; and that which is now offered to all, on the conditions of Gospel obedi­ence. The former was relative; but the latter is absolute. The former was procured through carnal ordinances imposed on the people till the time of reformation; but the latter has been procured for us through the blood of Christ. The former was temporal; the latter is eternal. And hence it is properly called a “great salva­tion,” involving as it does the free and full pardon of sin; the justi­fication and sanctification of the sinner; the redemption of the body from the corruption of the grave; and the eternal glorification of both the soul and the body in the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 2:3 ---which began to be spoken by the Lord.—The author does not mean that this salvation was wholly unknown to the ancients. The good news of redemption through Jesus Christ was enigmatically suggested even to our first parents before they were expelled from Eden (Gen. 3: 15); and the subject was afterward more fully re­vealed to Abraham (Gen. 12: 3; Gal. 3: 8) and the Prophets (Isa. 53; 1 Pet. 1: 10-12.) Nevertheless, it is certainly true in a very important sense that Christ by his appearing “brought life and im­mortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim. 1: 10.) He was the first to reveal to the people by his teachings, his sufferings, and his triumphs, the true economy of the grace of God which “bring- eth salvation to all men.” And hence it is that the most ignorant subject of his Kingdom knows more of the way of life and salva­tion through the atoning blood of Christ and the renewing influ­ence of the Holy Spirit, than did even John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:11) How far Christ himself, while on Earth, revealed to his dis­ciples the plan of redemption, it may be difficult to say. But from sundry passages of Scripture (Matthew 28:20; John 14:26), it seems probable that he instructed them in nearly all, if not in quite all of the laws and principles of his Kingdom. And hence our au­thor says that this salvation which “at the first began to be spoken by the Lord” was afterward “confirmed unto us by them that heard him”; that is, by the Apostles and Prophets who were eye and ear witnesses of his personal ministry. (Acts 1:8 Acts 1:21-22;. 1 John 1:1-3.)

From this remark, it is inferred by Bleek, Alford, and others, that Paul is not the author of this Epistle. For it is manifest, they say, that the writer classifies himself with those who had not heard the Lord, in contrast with those who had heard him. But it ap­pears from Galatians 1:11-24, that Paul had not only heard and seen Jesus, but that he had also actually received from him his commis­sion and all his qualifications as an Apostle.

This is a plausible objection against the Pauline authorship of the Epistle; but that it is not valid, will appear from the following considerations: (1) It seems probable that in the above remark, the author has reference only to Christ’s personal ministry on Earth; and consequently that he speaks here only of those who saw Christ, heard him, handled him, and conversed with him, dur­ing the period of his earthly ministry. If so, then Paul may in fact have belonged to that class of Christ’s ministers who did not hear and see him during the period to which our author refers. At all events, he certainly did not hear him in the full and pregnant sense in which the word hear is used in this connection. (2) It is not the author’s purpose here to vindicate his own authority as an Apostle, or to give prominence to himself in any way; but just the reverse. He aims simply to vindicate the claims and the authority of the Gospel, and while doing so to keep himself in the back­ground as much as possible. And hence by a common figure of rhetoric (anacoenosis), he seems to have purposely associated him­self with his readers, as he often does in other parts of the Epistle (Hebrews 3:14 Hebrews 4:1-3 Hebrews 4:11 Hebrews 4:14-16 Hebrews 6:1 Hebrews 6:3, etc.), in order that he might have as strong a hold on their sympathies as possible. See Introduction Section I. Div. 2: 2.

Hebrews 2:4 God also bearing them witness,—God himself is ever pres­ent with whatever agents or ministers he employs to work out any given end or purpose. “My presence,” said he to Moses, “shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” (Exodus 33:14.) “I am not alone,” says Christ (John 8:16) ; “the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). So also God was ever pres­ent with the Apostles, confirming their testimony with signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will. There are not so many different kinds of miracles, wrought by God in attestation and confirmation of the truth; but they are rather the same miracles viewed under different aspects. It is plain, as Ebrard says in substance, that miracles may be regarded in a fourfold aspect; first, with regard to their design, as signs (seemeia), miraculous testimonies in behalf of the truth; secondly, with respect to their nature, as wonders (terata), supernatural acts calculated to excite wonder and amazement in the minds of those who witnessed them; thirdly, with respect to their origin, as manifestations of supernatural powers (dunameis) ; and finally, in their specifically Christian aspect, as gifts and distri­butions of the Holy Spirit (pneumatos hagios merismoi) imparted to the original witnesses and proclaimers of the truth, according to the will of God. (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11.)


These might be multiplied almost indefinitely. But it is hoped that the few suggested under each section will be sufficient to in­duce the thoughtful reader to reflect and meditate on the text for himself; and to draw from it such lessons of comfort and consola­tion, as are best adapted to his own immediate wants and circum­stances. The following are given but as a specimen:

  • God has certainly spoken to fallen man (1:1). Of this we have very strong evidence in this first section of our Epistle; the thoughts of which are as far above the conceptions of the most gifted heathen poets and philosophers, as Heaven is above the Earth. Compare, for instance, the theology of this section with the theology of Homer and Hesiod; and mark the infinite contrast.

  • But just as certain as God spoke to the ancients, first by the Prophets and afterward by his Son, so certain it is that he now speaks to us in and through every book, chapter, and verse of the Holy Scriptures. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and com­fort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4.) The canon of Holy Writ was framed for our benefit, on whom the end of the ages has come. And hence we should receive every word of the Bible as the living voice of Jehovah; for “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

  • The harmony of the Old and New Testament Scriptures is complete. As the Christian Fathers taught, “The New Testament lies concealed in the Old; and the Old Testament lies patent in the New.” The one is but the complement of the other. The revela­tions of the New Testament are fuller and simpler, and conse­quently more encouraging than those of the Old; but together they serve to develop and illustrate one plan of mercy and grace for the salvation of the world.

  • The Eloheem Jehovah of the Old Testament, is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the New. Sometimes, indeed, these names are ascribed to the Father alone (Psalms 2:2 Psalms 2:7 Psalms 45:7 Psalms 110:1-2 Psalms 110:4) ; and sometimes to the Son alone (Psalms 45:6; Jeremiah 23:6) ; but generally, as in Genesis 1:26 Genesis 3:22-23, they each compre­hend the whole Godhead; the former expressing the infinite power, and the latter the essential being and eternity of the Deity. And hence it follows that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are the one eternal, immutable and omnipresent God. “Hear, O Is­rael, Jehovah our Eloheem is one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4.)

  • The evidence of Christ’s Divinity given in this section is full and complete. He is the Creator of all things; the Upholder of all things; the effulgence of the Father’s glory and the exact likeness of his substance. He is associated with the Father in the govern­ment of the universe; is called God by the Father himself; and as God he is worshiped by all the holy angels. His throne is eternal; and though he will roll up the heavens as a curtain, and change and readjust them as a worn-out garment, he himself is still the same, “yesterday, to-day, and forever.” If these facts are not suf­ficient to prove beyond all doubt the Divinity of the Lord Jesus, then will our Socinian friends have the kindness to tell us what ev­idence would be sufficient for this purpose ?

  • We have also in this section abundant evidence of God’s will­ingness to save sinners. The obstacles that lay in the way of his doing so were of course very great. Great indignity had been cast on himself as well as on his government, by the sin of man. Ail mankind had become enemies to him by wicked works (Colossians 1:20-21), and the human heart had itself become desperately wicked and polluted (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19). To remove these obstacles out of the way, was of course a very difficult problem. But “all things are possible with God.” He so loved the world, even when it was dead in trespasses and sins, that he gave his Son, his only Son, to make expiation and propitiation for the sins of mankind. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8 Romans 8:32.) He sent the Holy Spirit to con­vince the world of sin, and righteousness, and of judgment (John 15:26 John 16:8-11) ; and also to dwell in the hearts of his children as their Comforter and Advocate (John 14:16-17 John 16:7; Romans 8:26). He sent holy angels to minister to the heirs of salvation; and he has given to us the Holy Bible as the rule of our faith and practice. He created the Church and furnished it with all that is necessary for our edification and growth in the Divine life. Who, then, can doubt, that as a Father pities and loves his children, so also the Lord pities and loves those who earnestly en­deavor to serve him ?

  • How transcendently great are our obligations to love and serve God, through Christ, for his abounding goodness to us poor miserable sinners. (Hebrews 2:1-4.) If, to redeem us from death, he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; if he has sent his Holy Spirit to enlighten, comfort, and sanctify us; if he watches over us with even more than a Father’s care; and if he has promised to save us from our sins, to deliver us from the corrup­tion of the grave, and to crown us with honor, glory and immortal­ity in the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, on the simple condition that we give him our poor hearts, and consecrate our lives to his service—then who can estimate the extent of our obligations to do this? And who can estimate the infinite remorse and agonies of those who live and die in the ne­glect of this great salvation! May Heaven save us from the folly and destiny of all such.

Commentary on Hebrews 2:1-4 by Don E. Boatman

Hebrews 2:1 --Therefore we

This suggests a conclusion to be drawn from previous points:

a. Since God has loved us, giving us a ministry, a word, a Christ, ministering angels, some duties must rest on us.

b. Salvation is not to be solely God’s responsibility. It is time man should awaken, for God will not endure a wayward society.

Hebrews 2:1 --to give the more earnest heed

This calls for application of man’s energies, and not a careless. carefree attitude:

a. God challenges men to hear—to reason.

1) Revelation 3:13 : “—hath ears, let him hear.”

2)Isaiah 1:18 : “—let us reason.”

3) Deuteronomy 18:19 : “—not hearken.”

4) Matthew 7:27 : “—heareth and doeth not.”

b. Man is a creature of choice. Therefore, he must use his intellect for his self-preservation.

Jesus spoke plainly concerning disbelief, saying that disbelievers will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

Hebrews 2:1 --to the things that were heard

What had been heard?

a. This refers to the message heard from Christ and his Apostles.

1. Some might want to say that it refers to all the Old Testament scriptures, but this is not true, except as preached by the Lord and the apostles.

2. The content suggests the preaching of Christ and His apostles, and not the divers portions and manners of the Old Testament times.

b. The message that made them Christians is referred to here.

Hebrews 2:1 --lest happily we drift away from them.

Drifting is always downstream.

a. Like a man that is above the waterfall, he has only to fold his hands and drift to his destruction.

b. The man who would reach heaven must strive, not drift.

An alternate translation is, “Lest at any time we should let them slip.”

a. The Word will not slip—it is final and eternal.

1. Matthew 24:35 : “—my word shall not pass away.”

b. Man needs to guard himself lest he slip.

1. Luke 13:24 : “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”

2. 2 Peter 1:10 : “Make your calling and election sure.”

Hebrews 2:2 --for if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast

Milligan says this refers directly to the Mosaic law.

a. Galatians 3:19—law was ordained in the hands of a mediator by angels.

b. Deuteronomy 33:2, “—from His right hand went a fiery law for them.”

c. Acts 7:53 :—“who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”

God’s words to Israel were filled with warnings, and the history of Israel proves that God meant what He said:

a. Exodus 23:20-21 : “An angel before thee—provoke him not.”

b. Deuteronomy 17:12 : There was a death penalty for rejecting the word of a priest.

The word “if” suggests a conclusion to be drawn—look for it.

Hebrews 2:2 --a just recompense of reward

The penalty in the Old Testament was severe and quick. A few examples of its severity are given:

a. Deuteronomy 19:16-21—The penalty for a false witness.

b. Joshua 7:25—Israel stoned Achan for disobedience.

c. Deuteronomy 22:21—A harlot stoned to death.

The New Testament gives us a picture of the seriousness of sin.

a. Acts 5:1-11—Ananias and Sapphira—carried out dead.

Hebrews 2:2 --a just

Israel agreed to the justice of it:

a. Deuteronomy 27:26 : “all the people shall say amen.”

Who is man that he could challenge the justice of a Father who is so forgiving and loving?

Hebrews 2:2 --recompense of reward

“Recompense” means compensation, award or payment:

a. Good, as well as bad, has its retribution.

b. We live in a dependable universe, where whatever a man sows, that will he reap. Galatians 6:7-8.

c. Every road has its ending.

d. Every law has its penalty, else it is no law.

Recompense is God’s privilege, for it is He who has made the laws of the universe.

a. Hebrews 10:30-31 : “Vengeance belongeth to Me, I will recompense.”

b. Revelation 19:15 : “winepress of the wrath of the Almighty.”

Hebrews 2:3 --How shall we escape

This is the conclusion suggested by the “if” in verse two.

There is no escape.

Three characteristics of God make it impossible for man to escape:

a. He is omnipresent—man cannot go where God is not.

b. He is omniscient—all-wise, so He cannot be outwitted by man.

c. He is omnipotent—all-powerful, therefore man cannot overpower Him.

1. He is almighty.

a) Genesis 17:1; Genesis 35:11; Revelation 21:22.

2. He is the source of all power.

a) Romans 13:1 : There is no power but of God.

Some have tried to escape from God, but found it impossible:

a. Adam and Eve tried to hide. Genesis 3:8.

b. Cain tried to hide, Genesis 4:10, but God said, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.”

c. Jonah tried it, but he had more than a tribal deity.

Hebrews 2:3 --if we neglect so great a salvation

In what ways is our salvation great?

a. 1 Peter 1:12 : Angels desire to look into it.

b. John 8:56 : Abraham rejoiced as he saw it coming.

c. Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 12:2 : Christ is the author of it.

d. John 3:16 : God loved us.

e. Romans 1:16 : It has power.

f. Hebrews 2:3-4 : It is confirmed.

Hebrews 2:3 --the Lord

Was there no salvation until Christ?

a. Yes, in a sense:

1. Enoch was translated, Hebrews 11:5.

2. Elijah went up by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire and horses of fire, 2 Kings 2:11.

3. Lazarus carried into Abraham’s bosom, Luke 16:22.

4. Psalms 23; “through the valley of the shadow of death.”

b. Old. Testament salvation is not as clearly set forth as that which Jesus gives, which is the great salvation.

1. 2 Timothy 1:10 : “brought life and immortality to light,” Of what did He the Lord speak?

a) He spoke of His Deity:

1. John 1:18 : “Son who is in the bosom of the Father.”

2. John 10:30 : “I and the Father are one.”

b) He spoke of Himself as “the Way.”

1. John 14:6.

c) He spoke of repentance.

1. Luke 24:47; Luke 13:3.

2. Luke 15:7.

d) He spoke of His authority.

1. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16.

Hebrews 2:3 --was confirmed unto us

Who did the confirming?

a. No doubt those that heard Him is here meant:

1. The apostles were eye and ear witnesses of His personal ministry:

a) Acts 1:8.

b) Acts 1:21.

c) 1 John 1:1-3.

d) 1 Peter 1:20 : “—but was manifested at the end of time for your sake.”

e) Acts 26:26 : “This thing hath not been done in a corner.” Does the word “us” destroy the apostleship of Paul?

1. Not necessarily, for he could be simply associating himself with his readers.

2. This is done frequently in other parts of the epistle, (See Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 4:1-3; Hebrews 4:11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 6:3.)

Hebrews 2:4 --God also bearing witness with them

The apostles did not have to stand on their word alone:

a. They had proof that accompanied their message.

b. Thus the person who rejected the preaching rejected not only the word of God, but also His works.

The Jews in their heckling of Jesus had asked for proof. Matthew 12:39.

Hebrews 2:4 --both by signs and wonders

What is meant by “signs”?

a. Hear Jesus name some signs: Mark 16:17-18; Mark 16:20.

1. Cast out demons, Hebrews 2:17.

2. Speak with new tongues, Hebrews 2:17.

3. Take up deadly serpents, Hebrews 2:18.

4. Drink deadly poison, Hebrews 2:18.

5. Lay hands on sick and they recover, Hebrews 2:18.

b. These signs were miracles:

1. They were not witch doctor trickery, but proofs of the origin of the message delivered.

2. They are called “signs” because they arouse men’s minds to think of something higher than what appears.

What is meant by “wonders”?

a. This is not necessarily something different, but a different way of looking at the same thing:

1. Milligan quotes Ebrard as teaching that miracles may be regarded in a fourfold aspect:

a) First with regard to their design as signs—miraculous testimonies in behalf of the truth.

b) Secondly, with respect to their nature as wonders, supernatural acts calculated to excite wonder and amazement in the minds of those who witnessed them.

c) Thirdly, with respect to their origin as manifestations of supernatural powers.

d) Finally, in their specific Christian aspects, as gifts and distributions of the Holy Spirit imparted to the original witnesses and proclaimers of the truth. (See 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11; Milligan, pp. 79, 80.)

A good example is Acts 2:43 : “And fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”

a. Signs would set their thoughts to work.

b. Wonders would cause them to feel.

c. Miracles would cause faith. John 20:30-31.

d. Works beyond the uniformity of nature would cause astonishment.

Hebrews 2:4 --and by manifold powers

“Powers” rather suggests the energy put forth in wonders:

a. It was seen in Jesus, Luke 9:43.

b. Christ always gave glory to God for the power that worked in Him.

The word “manifold” is suggestive, for Christ proved His power over many things:

a. Power to forgive sins. Matthew 9:6.

b. Power over unclean spirits. Matthew 10:1.

c. Power to heal sickness. Mark 3:15.

d. Power over nature. Mark 4:39 : “Peace be still.”

e. Power over death. John 10:18 : “Power to lay it down, power to pick it up.”

f. Power to transform human life abounds in the scripture and in human history.

These three expressions appear together to show the devil’s powers likewise:

2 Thessalonians 2:9 : “Working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.”

a. The devil deceives, while Jesus deals with truth.

b. The devil’s servants can practice magic as well as a magician can fool people; but remember that it is deceit, not truth.

Hebrews 2:4 --and gifts of the Holy Spirit

These gifts pertain primarily to the church, whereas the other expressions were definitely true of God in times past:

a. Ephesians 4:11 : “—He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers—”

b. 1 Corinthians 12:4-17—diversities of the Spirit.

c. 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 is a very good list.

Hebrews 2:4 --according to His own will

God in His wisdom is able to distribute gifts arbitrarily in order to make them most efficient in His service.

Calvin says, “The words remind us that the miracles mentioned could not be ascribed to any except to God alone and that they were not wrought undesignedly, but for the distinct purpose of sealing the truth of the gospel.” (p. 56)

Study Questions

164. Did God ever speak through angels a punishment or a warning?

165. “Just recompense of reward” means what?

166. Name some instances of fair punishment.

167. Did the people ever agree that God was just? (See Deuteronomy 27:26.)

168. Is this a world that gives recompense of reward? (See Galatians 6:7-8.)

169. What is there about God that makes it impossible for man to flee from God? Explain.

170. Name some who have tried to escape.

171. What is referred to as “gifts of the Holy Spirit”?

172. Why did God give some people gifts? (See Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:4-17; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30.)

173. What new discussion does Paul begin in Hebrews 2:5?

174. What is meant by the expression, “world to come”?

175. Does he mean that in the new earth man will reign?

176. Was this world ever subjected to man?

177. Was it ever lost?

178. When? (See Genesis 3:15-24.)

179. Was it lost to anyone? cf. Psalms 68:18; John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31; John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 2:2; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9.

180. Did the Jews desire signs?

181. What is the difference between signs and wonders?

182. What is the real difference? Are not both miracles?

183. What power do we see in the apostles?

184. “Manifold powers” suggests many powers. Will you name some indications of Christ’s power over many things?

185. Could power refer to the energy put forth in doing wonders?

186. Does the devil have similar power? cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Ephesians 6:12.

187. Is neglect a sin?

188. What will neglect do in other realms, such as a flower garden, a farm, a building, a baby?

189. Is the sin in proportion to the greatness of the thing neglected?

190. In what ways is salvation through Christ a great salvation?

191. What in this salvation was spoken by the Lord?

192. Did He add to what has been previously spoken?

193. Did He just add more light?

194. Name some things spoken of by Jesus.

195. Did Jesus speak of the death, burial, resurrection?

196. What do you understand by the word “confirmed”?

197. Who did the confirming?

198. Is the author stating that he received his message from the apostles who traveled with Jesus?

199. Is it characteristic of the author to identify himself with the reader?

200. Who is referred to by the expression, “them that heard”?

201. Explain the statement, “God bearing witness with them.”

Special Study

Hebrews 2:3-4)



A. “An event occurring in the natural world, observed by the senses, produced by divine power, without any adequate human or natural cause, the purpose of which is to reveal the will of God and do good to man” (McCartney, in Twelve Great Questions About Christ).

1. Hume once argued: there is more evidence for regularity in nature than for irregularity; therefore, regularity and not irregularity must be the truth of the matter.

2. Certainly there is more evidence for the regular occurrence of nature than for any supernatural occurrence. If there weren’t we could not talk of miracles.

3. The argument of miracle rests on the regularity of nature generally.

4. Only if all the historical evidence available to man could show there is no being outside nature who can in any way alter it can there be an argument against the possibility of miracles. This the evidence does not do—indeed cannot do!

B. In our text four different words are used:

1. semeiois = signs

2. terasin = wonders

3. dunamesin = powerful deeds

4. merismois = distributions (of the Holy Spirit)

5. Milligan (Hebrews) says these words classify miracles as:

a. to their design (signs)

b. to their nature (wonders)

c. to their origin (supernatural power)

d. to their Christian aspect (distributions of the Holy Spirit)


A. Were these writers eyewitnesses?

B. Are they credible?

C. Are the documents authentic?

D. This is another subject—but it is the fundamental subject.


A. As our text points out, the primary purpose of miracles was to “bear witness” that the message from Jesus and that Jesus Himself was from God. John 10:25; John 10:37-38; John 15:10-11; Matthew 9:1-8

The miracles do not prove Jesus to be the Son of God—many men worked miracles—but they prove Him to be a truthful messenger, and this truthful messenger says that He is God. Christ may have wrought miracles and not have been God; but He could not have wrought miracles and said that He was God without being God.

B. To demonstrate the mercifulness of God in the case of individual men. Miracles illustrate and explain the teaching of Jesus on the love and mercy of God.

C. To demonstrate God’s wrath upon sin and rebellious sinners Matthew 21:18-19 (cursed fig tree), Acts 13:11 (blinding of Elymas) Acts 5:5-10 (Ananias and Sapphira). Bible miracles taught not only God’s love and goodness but also His power and authority, and sometimes His righteous and fearful judgments.

D. Miracles of the Bible demonstrate clearly that miracles were never intended to be universal:

1. In extent: for they were always limited to few and special cases. Never have they been used to relieve suffering or prolong life here for all of God’s people universally.

a. Some received no miraculous deliverance here (Hebrews 11:35-40)

b. John the Immerser, greatest born of women, worked no miracles, nor was he delivered miraculously (Matthew 11:7-11; John 10:41).

c. Jesus could have healed all or raised all from dead but He didn’t.

d. Paul healed many, but did not heal Trophimus and Timothy (2 Timothy 4:20; 1 Timothy 5:23).

2. In result: All who were delivered from sickness had at other times to suffer again and die. All who were raised from the dead had to die again. Peter was delivered twice, but not a third time. (God was no less compassionate and Peter no less believing.)


A. It would take some convincing to persuade me that God does not work providentially in history today. I believe He answers when we pray (sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes without acting at all).

1. I teach Life of Christ, Old Testament Prophets and Revelation. You cannot study and teach those books and believe them for 20 years without believing God is active in the affairs of men and nations.

2. I do not deny that God could reinstitute an age of miracles such as we read about in the Old Testament and New Testament if it suited His purpose.

3. It is just that I believe He will not because He has no further need of such miracles and signs. Here is why I believe that:

B. “When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away . . .” 1 Corinthians 13:10.

1. The reason for the election of the Jews in Christ (Ephesians 1:1-23) was for “a plan in the fulness of time, to unite all things in him . . .” (not for heaven, but for earth). Thus the plan was to unite both Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and woman, into one body, the church. This is why the spiritual miraculous gifts were given in Ephesians 4:11 f., for this ministry of unifying. These miraculous gifts were to last until the teleios “man” was formed (Ephesians 4:13).

2. The identical context, outline, illustrations, and terminology in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 leads us to conclude that such is also the meaning of teleios there . . . to perfect both Jew and Gentile in the one body.

3. It is unquestionably apparent that the problem in both Ephesians and Corinthians was the immaturity and schismatic tendencies of the early church. In light of the frequent association of love with perfection (maturity)—and in light of the fact that the entire epistle of I Corinthians deals with the grand theme of divine love in the context of the childish immaturity of so many Christians at Corinth, it seems best to define “the perfect” in terms of the ultimate goal, aim, and end which Paul seeks to accomplish which is growth and maturity in Christ.

4. Paul’s description of the carnal immaturity of Christians at Corinth serves to underscore his emphasis on the ultimate goal which he sets for them in chapter 13. Chapter 13 must be read in the context of the whole book and may not be interpreted apart from his charge in 1 Corinthians 14:1—“Make love your . . .” and in 1 Corinthians 14:20 “Do not be children in your thinking; in malice be babes, but in thinking be perfect.”

5. When the “perfect” comes, says Paul, the tongues, etc. would cease. These miraculous gifts were not proofs of spiritual maturity. Paul does not say that these will cease when Jesus comes again, nor when the Corinthians get to heaven. Rather that in time, during their life on earth, the miraculous demonstrations will cease.

6. I do not think “perfect” means just the completed canon of New Testament books; it also has to do with a “perfected” church.

a. The canon’s formation was by uninspired men (so far as we know). I believe every book in the New Testament is inspired and apostolic. But what if another scroll of antiquity is found with the same credentials as the books we now have? We would not have a “perfect—complete” New Testament!

b. The “perfect law of liberty” was already at work when James wrote of it in James 1:25. This perfect law was in action before the completion of our 27 books of the New Testament were formed into a New Testament. One could look into this law then and be blessed in obedience to it. It was the perfect law of freedom because it accomplished what the incomplete Law of Moses could not do. It is significant in this context that James also speaks of the children of God as being perfect and complete in the church (James 1:4-5).

C. The end for which miracles were wrought, to attest to the veracity of Christ and His claims, to bring the church to maturity, and to bring about faith through which we may partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4)—this is the ultimate goal of God’s work with us. MIRACLES CAN NEVER BE AN ACCEPTABLE SUBSTITUTE FOR THIS INDWELLING (1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 1 John 1:5-8; 1 John 3:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1; 2 Corinthians 3:18). (See A Study of the Work of the Holy Spirit in Christians, by Seth Wilson, mimeo, Ozark Bible College bookstore.)

1. Miracles are signs or works of the Holy Spirit, not the Holy Spirit Himself. They are the effects of which he is the cause. Miracles have been found where the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit did not occur. (Matthew 10:1-42; Luke 10:1-42; apostles and 70 disciples worked miracles months before Jesus said the Holy Spirit had not come yet (John 7:38). King Saul on his way to murder God’s anointed was made to prophesy by the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 19:18-24). Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22:25-30). Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48).

2. It is evident that some men whom Christ called “workers of iniquity” claimed to have worked many miracles in His name. If they speak that boldly to His face, at judgment, does it not appear that they will be sincerely convinced that they have actually wrought such mighty works by His power here?

3. It does not appear that miraculous demonstrations are necessary effects whenever or wherever the Holy Spirit dwells in men. 1 Corinthians 12:3, the man who honestly says Jesus is Lord manifests he has the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 shows that not all in the New Testament church had the gifts of miraculous works.

4. The word of God has the power to regenerate and to sanctify through faith which allows the Spirit of God to dwell in us (Ephesians 3:16-19; 1 Timothy 1:5; Galatians 5:22-25; 2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

5. Miraculous deeds did not guarantee a spiritual church. The Corinthian church “came behind in no gift” and was enriched “in all utterance and in all knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7); yet that church was notorious for errors in doctrine and evils in practice.

6. Are such wonders and signs always caused exclusively by the Holy Spirit? May some of the experiences and utterances be caused by the workings of the subconscious mind, by something like hypnotic influences? (See The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, by John P. Kildahl, Harper & Row.) Scriptures warn of the possibility (at least in the first century) of “lying wonders” (Matthew 24:24; Matthew 7:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 John 4:1-6; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:20). Even the Old Testament warned against false prophets with signs (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Deuteronomy 18:22; Isaiah 8:20).

7. Isolated wonders do not necessarily prove a divine revelation from God. Bible miracles were part of a coherent combination of many miracles and messages to which they were significantly related. The extent and quality of Bible miracles and revelations is different from the many alleged miracles and prophecies of today or centuries since apostles. Philip’s miracles and those of Simon Magus were different. Even Pharaoh could see (or should have) the difference between Moses’ miracles and those of his magicians (Galatians 1:6-9). Even a gospel by angels, if different than Paul’s would be condemned.

8. 1 John 4:6 says it is not the Holy Spirit if men show they do not hear (heed and keep) the words of the apostles. James 3:13-18 shows that the Spirit of God does not cause men to be jealous and factious—divisive. WHEN THERE ARE SO MANY DENOMINATIONAL FACTIONS, ALLEGING TO HAVE THESE MIRACULOUS SIGNS AND WONDERS, YET STRIVING TO MAINTAIN THEIR DENOMINATIONAL DIFFERENCES EVEN IN THE FACE OF PLAIN SCRIPTURAL TEACHINGS, WHAT ARE WE TO CONCLUDE ABOUT THEIR CLAIMS?

V. FUNCTIONAL GIFTS (Romans 12:1-13)

A. I believe all men and women have gifts from their Creator.

1. All may not have the same gifts or latent potentialities.

2. Some may have many more potentialities than others.

3. BUT THEY ARE ALL NEEDED AS FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. This is the important point: No gifts, capacities, talents, abilities (all given by the grace of God) are more important FUNCTIONALLY, than others.

4. The whole context here indicates Paul is talking not about miraculous gifts given by God for the same purposes as those of 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; but of functional gifts, one of which at least every member of the body has (“. . . I bid every one among you . . .”).

B. I like the way Carl Ketcherside explains it in Mission Messenger Vol. 36, No. 10, Oct. 1974, “Functioning Gifts.”

1. Any gift freely bestowed by God is a gift of the Spirit, regardless of how it is communicated to the recipient. That is why I object to designating any period of time a charismatic age. There is no such thing as a charismatic age, for the simple reason that there is no non-charismatic age. There has never been a time when the will of God was not enhanced and promoted by gifts of grace. A gift is not charismatic because of its nature, method of reception, or effect, but because of its origin. It is charismatic because it is a gift of charts, grace.

2. The man who has the enviable gift of understanding and relieving the needy is “charismatic” as surely as one who has the gift of prophecy. The one who can give cheerfully and freely as his contribution to the work of the saints is “charismatic.” In view of this, I am not turned on by such expressions as “The Spirit is working again in our time.” The Spirit has never ceased working.

3. The gifts of God are varied. Paul wrote to a congregation which came behind in no gift and told them that the ability to restrain sexual passion, making marriage unnecessary was a charisma of God. But he also implied that the gift of sexual need which could be gratified in marriage was a charisma. “I would that everybody lived as I do; but each of us has his own special gift from God—one in one direction and one in another” (1 Corinthians 7:7). It is quite evident that Paul’s gift was in a different direction than that of the majority.

C. Ephesians 4:7 “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

1. Do not the parables teach that men are given (how else, but by the grace of God) “talents” and “pounds” according to different measures, and each one is expected to use them (none are non-functional) and be rewarded according, not to what he does not have, but according to how he uses what he does have?

2. Now if we will follow the leading of the Spirit in His revealed will and make sure instead of worrying about “having the Spirit” that the “Spirit has all of us,” we will “use” our praxin (function, or action) charismata gifts for the benefit of the one body.

3. Actually, if we simply let ourselves be “transformed” by “the renewing of our minds . . .” (Romans 12:1-2) we will use our gifts of grace for the upbuilding of the body in love.

4. Even unconverted men and women have charismatic gifts! functional gifts—whatever they have in potentialities they have by the grace of God but they are not allowing the Spirit to use them for the upbuilding of Christ’s body.

D. Does all this mean that the special supernatural gifts should also be continued by the Holy Spirit in the church today? No.

1. They were for special needs. The functional gifts will always be needed.

2. I do not need to see a miracle performed by anyone else, nor have one performed upon me, to produce faith in the revealed Word of God.

3. The original envoys of Jesus who gave the message were thoroughly accredited and their message was confirmed by miracles, wonders and signs. There is no sense in having miracles to confirm miracles, and once truth is confirmed it never needs to be confirmed again.

4. The spectacular, super natural, signs and wonders were to cease (there is no doubt about that), but the functional gifts through which every member of the body may love man and God will abide!


a. The miraculous, supernatural gifts could be given and made to function regardless of the measure of the faith of the person.

Commentary on Hebrews 2:1-4 by Burton Coffman

Hebrews 2:1 --Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we should drift away from them. (Hebrews 2:1)


The first four verses of this chapter are a digression from the main line of thought for the purpose of exhorting the readers to a more alert fidelity to God’s word; and there are no less than five instances in the epistle where such a digression is made. It should not be overlooked that this is a marked characteristic of all Paul’s writings. New said, "Like the acknowledged epistles of Paul, this is characterized by frequent, sudden, and brief departures from the general outline of thought."[1] The basis of the exhortation here is that more is required of them to whom more is given, a principle taught by Christ (Luke 12:48); Christ the Son of God, being far greater in dignity than any of those who communicated the Old Testament truths to mankind, is therefore, the argument runs, entitled to receive more careful and obedient attention from them that hear him.

The pivotal words are [@prosechein] ("to give heed") and [@pararrein] ("to slip, to drift") .... Both terms are used in a nautical sense .... It is the picture of a ship "slipping" past its haven because the pilot has not paid "attention" to the course.[2]

It is possible to drift away from the teachings of Christ because: (1) some, being in him, are still not anchored in him; (2) subtle and powerful tides and currents surge and tug against the soul’s safety; (3) the believer fails to exercise due care and diligence in the defense and development of his faith; and (4) some allow preoccupation with unimportant and secondary things to preempt too much of their time and attention.

The description of apostasy given in this verse is true to life for people seldom turn boldly and dramatically away from the Lord; but their defection, imperceptible at first, is marked by such a gradual departure that the unwary soul is blind to it until the haven is lost and the storms of the great gulf herald the approach of eternal ruin.

[1] C. New, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 21, Hebrews, p. 67.

[2] Clarence S. Roddy, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1962), p. 27.

Hebrews 2:2 --For if the word spoken through angels proved stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.

The mediation of angels in the giving of the Law of Moses was not stated at that time, the nearest thing to it being found thus: "He came with ten thousands of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law before them" (Deuteronomy 33:2). Paul stated it clearly, saying that the Law "was ordained through angels in the hands of a mediator" (Galatians 3:19); and Stephen also made reference to it, speaking of them "who received the law as it was ordained by angels, and kept it not" (Acts 7:53). The argument is that God’s word, although received second or third hand through Moses and angels, was despite that a sacred and binding obligation, not to be despised or set at naught, and was sternly enforced by the imposition of drastic penalties for every infraction or neglect. Many examples of such penalties are recorded in the Old Testament. The sabbath breaker was stoned; Achan was put to death; Saul was rejected from being king; David was not permitted to build the temple; the prophet who did not obey was slain by a lion; and an entire generation perished in the wilderness because of their murmuring and disbelief. Even Moses was restrained from entering the promised land because of his disobedience in striking the rock.

Hebrews 2:3 --How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard?

Escape? None is possible where disobedience of the word of God is involved. Penalties of the most awful consequence await the soul which through unbelief, neglect, or disobedience fails to heed God’s message through his Son. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18). The inevitability of sin’s receiving its just punishment is founded in the holiness and perfection of God, coupled with the utter abhorrence of evil, the latter attribute of God being little noted by many in this day; but everything revealed in the Bible concerning God shows that sin will be punished. God has already executed judgments upon the wicked, and these emphasize the extent of the divine will in that direction. There have already been imposed upon wicked men overwhelming judgments of sorrow and wretchedness because they obeyed not, not merely upon individuals alone, but upon nations, races, cities, extensive populations, and indeed upon the entire race of Adam! Witness the expulsion from Eden, the overthrow of the antediluvians, and the summary destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Think of the casting out of the angels themselves when they sinned, their removal being recorded in the same verse that detailed their crime; and it is written that they are reserved in chains of darkness until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. Let every man ask himself, "How shall I escape where so many have failed?"

In the cross of Christ you read a manifestation of the wrath of God against iniquity, which must reduce to hopelessness every considerate person still living in sin, or must reduce to silence at the last day every sinner that will cling to delusive hope.[3]

Neglect. It is not necessary to take up arms against God in order to be lost. Not merely the active pursuit of evil but the neglect of positive good can destroy the soul; and it is doubtless from the latter fault that the great majority of unredeemed people shall fail to win the crown.

So great a salvation is an appropriate designation for the redemption in Christ; and the true greatness of it is apparent because of: (1) the greatness of the Saviour who achieved it; (2) the greatness of the disaster from which it rescues the sinner; (3) the greatness of the eternal reward in heaven provided by it; (4) the greatness of the Saviour’s love that underlies it; (5) the greatness of the adversary who opposes it; (6) the greatness of that multitude who shall receive it; and (7) the greatness of those certainties upon which it is grounded.

The contrast in this verse is between the sinners of the Old Testament and the New Testament, leading to the conclusion that if they suffered punishment for disobeying the word that came through angels, how much more certain is it that the wrath and judgment of God shall be executed upon them that neglect or disobey the word delivered by God’s Son himself.

Which having at the first been spoken through the Lord must be one of the most significant utterances in the whole sum of divine revelation. It defines Christianity as the message brought by Christ. Not even the function of the Holy Spirit in the apostles contravened this, for it was declared by Christ of the work of the Spirit that he should "not speak from himself" (John 16:13) but aid their "remembrance" (John 14:26) of the things Christ had spoken. The true faith was Christ-delivered; and Christ is the only source of the words of life (John 6:68). The bearing of this exceedingly significant truth upon the religious problems of these times is seen in the fact that such a vast body of man-originated doctrines, human innovations, and traditional ceremonies have been received, all of which have no connection whatever with Christ. People who accept such things should look to people for their reward, since it is so certain that Christ is not the author of those things. The practical effect of this verse before us is to limit Christianity to the teachings of the New Testament and those parts of the Old Testament approved in the New Testament. Christ made his sayings the basis of everything (Matthew 7:24-27). The great commission made the charter and constitution of faith to be, in the words of Jesus, "Whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20). If Christ did not teach it, therefore, it is not part of the Christian religion. And since only the New Testament contains authentic teachings of Christ, it is altogether proper to refer to Christ’s system as New Testament Christianity.

Was confirmed unto us by them that heard. These words are said to remove the apostle Paul from consideration as the author of Hebrews. Cargill, for example, wrote that "Hebrews 2:3 indicates that Paul was not the author of the book, because the writer says that he received the gospel secondhand, from those who heard the Lord himself."[4] Common as this view is, it carries no weight at all with this writer. See under "Authorship" in the introduction. Suffice it to say here that the text says nothing that requires one to view it as anything except a delicate and gracious identification of the author with his readers for the sake of making a more personal and persuasive appeal for their obedience; and for a commentator to interpret the word "secondhand" out of the pronoun "us" is to make that pronoun about the most pregnant ever heard of. The writer of Hebrews used this very same approach in Hebrews 6:1-5, and in that instance, there is no question but that he did it for the purpose of achieving a better rapport with his readers and to make a stronger appeal. Since it is certainly the case there, why should it be considered as anything else here?

The confirming of the word of Christ, mentioned here, was, in a sense at least, unnecessary; because nothing can add to the truth and dependability of God’s word. Such confirmation, then, must be viewed as a heavenly concession to the decent opinions of mankind, and as respect to the scriptural admonition to establish everything in the mouth of two or three witnesses. The confirming witnesses of Christ’s revelation were: (1) the miraculous deeds that accompanied it; (2) the witness of the apostles; and (3) the various gifts of the Holy Spirit next mentioned.


[3] Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967), p. 85.

Hebrews 2:4 --God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.


The signs, wonders, and powers mentioned in this verse are a plain reference to the miracles by which God throughout history consented to authenticate his message to man. Moses appeared before Pharaoh in a series of astounding miracles; Gideon tested the word with the fleece; Elijah raised the son of the widow; Elijah healed the leprosy of Naaman; and so on throughout the Old Testament; but the miracles of Christ are the most impressive and convincing wonders ever to appear upon the earth. Their utility in achieving the desired result is apparent in the testimony of Nicodemus who admitted that "No one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). Christ established the principle that the ability to perform a miracle resides in any person who can forgive sins, saying, "Which is easier, to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise, take up thy bed and walk?" (Mark 2:9).

Thus, it was in full keeping with the pattern already established by God himself that the new revelation preached unto people through the apostles of Jesus should have been corroborated and confirmed by certain miracles. The very birthday of the church on that first Pentecost saw the apostles speaking with tongues, not the ecstatic jabberings that later embarrassed the disciples at Corinth, but authentic tongues which citizens of many lands heard, each in his own language. Another miracle was the gift of prophecy, exercised, for example, by Paul when he prophesied that all on board the shipwrecked vessel would be spared alive (Acts 27:34). The apostles also had the power to cast out demons, as in the case of the girl at Philippi (Acts 16:18), the power to inflict divine punishment upon the wicked, as in the case of Elymas who was blinded (Acts 13:11) and that of Ananias and his wife who were stricken with death (Acts 5:1-10). Overwhelmingly, therefore, were the confirming miracles establishing the word of the apostles of Christ as being truly that of God himself.

Why, then, have miracles ceased? If miracles were a good thing in the first age of the church, why not now? Perhaps the answer lies in a study of God’s dealings with ancient Israel, a study that quickly reveals the temporary nature of miracles. When Israel entered Canaan, the manna ceased; the pillar of cloud and fire no longer guarded them; and the nation entered a new era (Joshua 5:12). The cessation of miracles in Canaan should lead people to expect that they should have ceased after a few years in the early history of the church. Paul said, "Whether there be tongues they shall cease" (1 Corinthians 13:8). The word of God, having been delivered by Christ and sufficiently confirmed by miracles attending the age of the apostles, there was no further need of miracles. Nor should the claims of certain modern religious teachers to the effect that they can do such wonders as those attesting the validity of the apostles’ preaching deceive men. Clearly, no miracles of the scope and significance of those the apostles did are being performed by anybody today. They raised the dead; modern healers do not do so. There are also many other points of variance. Therefore, the claims of miracles, even when seemingly authentic, raises a further question of the origin of such wonders; are they of God? Does God’s word need confirming again, or can it be that Satan is operating even as the ancient prophecy foretold, "with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved"? (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). On the basis of that prophecy, and in view of the marked differences between the so-called miracles in modern times and those of the apostolic age, modern miracles must be held as suspect, regarding both their validity and their origin.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit are a part of the perpetual inheritance of the church; but, even here, there are limitations defining the present age as distinguished from that of the apostles. In that age, the gift of the Spirit enabled the speaker to communicate in languages he had not learned, guided them in the execution of penalties upon the wicked, protected them from such things as poisonous serpents, enabled them to foretell future events, empowered them to raise even the dead, and to heal all manner of diseases. Christians today have a measure of the Holy Spirit and spend their probation under the precious influence of that Spirit; but it simply does not appear that they are able to do such things as the apostles did. That such a limitation of the gift of the Holy Spirit is by divine purpose seems probable in the light of its being called "an earnest" (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5), which means a token or a pledge. Further, the scripture that most fully describes the work and benefit of the Spirit in Christians, has no mention at all of any such things described above but dwells upon inner qualities of attitude and character. These are listed as "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22).

This verse concludes the first of the five special passages of exhortation in Hebrews; and the author’s plea for faithful adherence to God’s word being concluded, he returned to the subject from which he had broken off.

Verses 5-9

Heb 2:5-9



Hebrews 2:5-9

Hebrews 2:5 ---For unto the angels—The logical connection here is not very clear; and hence the critics are not agreed as to what is the proper antecedent clause of the conjunction "for’* (gar). Some find it in Hebrews 1:13; and others in Hebrews 2:4. But it seems most probable that the object of the Apostle is to introduce another line of argument co­ordinate with that which is given in the first chapter, and leading to the same general conclusion found in Hebrews 2:4. And hence he beau­tifully and with great rhetorical skill and propriety, makes the ex­hortation given in Hebrews 2:1-4, the connecting link between the two. In view of what is stated in the first chapter, he says, ‘‘We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest haply we should be drifted away from them.” And this, he says by implication, we should do also from the further consideration, that God has made it the business of Christ, and not of angels, to restore to mankind their lost dominion over the world.

Hebrews 2:5 ---the world to come, whereof we speak.—The world to come (hee oikoumenee hee mellousa) means, not the coming age (ho aion ho mellon) as in Matthew 12:39, etc., but the habitable world under the reign and government of the Messiah. (1:6.) It is the world in which we now live; and in which, when it shall have been purified from sin, the redeemed will live forever. For man, it was at first created (Genesis 1:28-31); and to man, it still belongs by an immutable decree of Jehovah. This is manifest, as the Apostle here shows, from what is recorded in the eighth Psalm, to which in the popular style of his age, our author here elegantly refers. It consists of two parts; in the first of which (Psalms 8:1-2), David celebrates the praises of God for the marvelous manifestations of his wisdom, power, and goodness, displayed in all his works. These manifestations of the Divine perfections are so very plain that even babes and sucklings perceive and acknowledge them (Matthew 11:25 Matthew 21:16), and thus put to silence the profane scoff - ings of ignorant and foolish men, who say in their hearts, “No God.” (Psalms 14:1.)

In the second part (Psalms 8:3-9), the author speaks particularly of God’s favor and goodness to man: “When I consider thy heav­ens, the work of thy fingers, the Moon and the stars which thou hast ordained,” then he says I am constrained to exclaim,

Hebrews 2:6 ---What is man, that thou art mindful of him?That this has reference to mankind in general, and not to Jesus Christ personally considered, as some have alleged, is evident from the Psalm itself, as well as from the scope of the Apostle’s argument. It is God’s care for the human race, as such, and not for any one person in particular, which so much excites the wonder and admiration of the Psalmist. When he looked upon the heavens as the work of God’s fingers, and thought of the Moon and the stars which he (God) had created, he was amazed that a Being so exalted, so ex­cellent, and so glorious, should ever condescend to think of man and to supply his numerous wants.

Hebrews 2:6 ---or the son of man, that thou visitest him?—This, in connec­tion with the preceding clause, is a case of synonymous parallelism. “Son of man” (huios anthropou) in the latter clause is equivalent to “man” (anthropos) in the first; and each of these terms is used generically for the race. The word visit, according to Hebrew usage, means to manifest one’s self to another, for the purpose of either blessing (Genesis 1:1; Exodus 3:16) or punishing (Job 35:15; Psalms 89:32). In this connection, both the words, visit and remember, are used in a favorable sense, indicating God’s special care over man, in that he provides for him, and, as Christ says, numbers even the hairs of his head. (Matthew 10:10.)

Hebrews 2:7 ---Thou madest him a little lower than the angels,—Or as the Hebrew may be more literally rendered, Thou hast made him fall but little short of Eloheem; or, Thou has lowered him a little be­neath Eloheem. The word Eloheem in this passage means the an­gels. It is so rendered in the Septuagint, no doubt in harmony with Hebrew usage, and most likely on the authority of some of the ancient Prophets; and it is, moreover, so rendered by the au­thor of our Epistle.

It is still a question with the critics whether the word little (Brachu ti) is expressive of time or of degree. Those who take this as a Messianic Psalm, and refer the words “man” and “son of man” to Christ, generally construe the word “little” as a particle of time (Bleek, Ltinemann, Macknight, Clarke); and so also do some others, as Ebrard, who take these words as referring to mankind generally. But I agree with Delitzsch, Alford, Moll, and others, that both the Psalmist and our author refer here simply to the rank which God has assigned to man in the scale of creation. He has made him, they say, a little inferior to the angels; and there is no intimation given here or elsewhere, that he will ever make him their superior. That man redeemed by the blood of Christ, will, in his glorified state, occupy a place of more tender care and solic­itude than the angels, is quite probable. This is in harmony with several scenes in the Apocalypse (Revelation 5:11-12 Revelation 7:9-12) ; and it is in harmony also with the teachings of Christ in the parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of money, and the prodigal son (Luke 15). But in none of these passages is there any evidence that man will ever rise in rank above the angels. As a lost and recovered child, he will ever be an object of wonder and sympathy through­out the universe; and the angels will doubtless often lean on their harps, and listen in rapture to the more tender and transporting songs of the redeemed. But I know of no evidence in the Scrip­tures that the present rank of men and angels will ever be re­versed.

Hebrews 2:7 ---thou crownedst him with glory and honor,—The two words here rendered glory and honor (doxee kai timee) are nearly syn­onymous in both the Hebrew and the Greek; and they are used, ac­cording to a well known Hebrew idiom, for the.sake of emphasis. Together, they express royal dignity; and in this instance, they in­dicate the fullness of the regal power and authority which God has bestowed, not on the first or on the second Adam merely, but on the race; or rather, on the loyal portion of it. By a decree as im­mutable as the laws of gravitation, God has ordained that man shall inherit the Earth and have dominion over it.

Hebrews 2:7 ---and didst set him over the works of thy hands:—This clause is now generally rejected by the critics as spurious. See critical note above given by Bagster. But it is found in the original He­brew, in the Septuagint, and also in manuscripts, A, C, D, M1, etc.; and I am therefore inclined to retain it as genuine.

Hebrews 2:8 ---Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.This, with the last clause, is another instance of Hebrew parallel­ism. It is not, however, synonymous, but constructive parallelism, which occurs here. The Psalmist first expresses the general thought, that God has placed man over the work of his hands. But he does not stop with this. To indicate still further the degree of man’s sovereignty over the world, he adds, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.” The latter clause is, there­fore, more expressive than the former, as it indicates the perfect and entire subjection of all things earthly to the will of man; and so the Apostle reasons in what follows.

For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him.—In these words, there is no reference whatever to angels, or to other worlds or systems. It is of the Earth, and of the Earth only, that the Holy Spirit here speaks. This is obvious from what follows in the latter part of the eighth Psalm. After saying that all things are by the decree of Je­hovah put under the feet of man, the Psalmist immediately adds, by way of explanation, the following specifications: “all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the. fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” It is to this world as it was, as it is, and especially as it will be hereafter, that both the Psalmist and the Apostle have refer­ence. When God had renovated the Earth and filled it, as a vast storehouse, with all that was necessary for the well-being and hap­piness of its intended sovereign, he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the Earth, So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multi­ply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28.) This is the perpetual decree of Jehovah with respect to the domain and the dominion of man. True, indeed, Satan has for a time usurped the dominion of this world; and man has by transgression forfeited all claims upon it. The crown of glory and honor has fallen from his head because of sin; and now he is exposed and assailed by a thousand obstacles in earth, air, and sea. And hence the Apostle adds:

Hebrews 2:8 ---we see not yet all things put under him.—From this, it is evi­dent that the eighth Psalm is prophetic. The Psalmist looks rather at the decree and purpose of Jehovah touching the final al­lotment of this world, than to the state of things which actually ex­isted at the time in which he wrote. He means to say, that al­though man’s scepter is now broken, the decree of Jehovah con­cerning it is not broken. His purpose is unchangeable. And hence there can be no doubt but that mankind will yet regain their lost dominion over the Earth. How far this will be accomplished before the Earth shall have been renovated by fire (2 Peter 3), it may be now difficult to say. When Satan shall be bound for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6), and the saints of the Most High possess the Kingdom (Daniel 7:14 Daniel 7:18 Daniel 7:22), the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 11:6-9) may be more literally fulfilled than we now anticipate. But whatever may be true of this blissful era, so long and so often foretold by the Apostles and Prophets, it is not at all probable that man’s dominion over the world will be fully restored, until the new heavens and the new Earth appear, in which righteousness will forever dwell. (Revelation 21.)

Hebrews 2:9 ---But we see Jesus,—The Apostle here makes a very striking contrast between “Jesus” and “man,” to whom by the decree of Je­hovah, the world is to be subjected. “We do not yet,” he says, “see all things put under man”; but in the coronation of Jesus, as Lord of all, we see that the work is in progress; and this is, of course, to all Christians a sure pledge that in due time it will be fully consummated.

Hebrews 2:9 ---who was made a little lower than the angelsWe learn from the seventeenth verse of this chapter, that “in all things it be­hooved Christ to be made like unto his brethren.” But they are all “a little lower than the angels” (verse 7) ; and hence it was neces­sary that he too should, as a man, be made “a little lower than the angels.” For otherwise, indeed, he would not be a man; would not be capable of suffering death for every man; and would not be such a merciful and faithful High Priest, as we all need to sympa­thize with us in our infirmities. That he is God, the Creator of both men and angels, is clearly taught in the first chapter; and that he is also a man is just as clearly taught in the second. Perfect Divinity and perfect humanity are both perfectly united in the per­son of the Lord Jesus. Nothing short of this, it seems, would make him just such a Savior as we need.

Hebrews 2:9 ---for the suffering of death,—It is still a question with exposi­tors, whether this phrase is grammatically connected with what precedes, or with what follows. As rendered in our Common Version it is most naturally connected with what precedes; and seems intended to express the end or purpose for which Jesus was made a little lower than the angels: viz., in order that he might be capable of suffering death. If this is the proper rendering, then it follows that this expression forms a sort of parallelism with the last clause of the verse, and the whole sentence may be construed as follows: “But we see Jesus (who was made a little lower than the angels, for the purpose of suffering death, so that he by the grace of God might taste death for every man) crowned with glory and honor.” This construction is in harmony with the Apostle’s argument; but it does $ot altogether harmonize with the laws of grammatical arrangement. Had our author intended to express a parallelism by means of these two expressions, it is not probable that he would have separated them, as he has done in the original, by the intervening words, “crowned with glory and honor.”

And hence I am inclined to think with Delitzsch, Alford, and most modern expositors, that the words in question stand connected with what follows, and that the passage should be rendered thus: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor, for (dia, because of, on account of) the suffering of death”; that is, on account of, and as a reward for, his sufferings. To this rendering there can be no grammatical ob­jection whatever; and in sense it harmonizes well with the follow­ing and other parallel passages: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no rep­utation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he hum­bled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in Earth, and things under the Earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11.) "

Hebrews 2:9 ---crowned with glory and honor,—The best explanation of these words may be found in the above passage from the Epistle to the Philippians. God had long before promised that Christ should be abundantly rewarded for his sufferings. (Isaiah 53:12.) And hence as we are told by Luke (Acts 1:1-11), after that he had borne the pains and agonies of the cross, and after he had risen from the dead and instructed his disciples for forty days in matters pertain­ing to the Kingdom of God, he was then taken up into Heaven, and in the presence of adoring millions (1:6) crowned Lord of all; “angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Peter 3:22). This was first announced to the people, as a fact, by the Apostle Peter, on the following Pentecost (Acts 2:36) ; and afterward it was proclaimed to every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation under heaven. See Acts 4:10-12 Acts 5:30-32 Acts 10:36-42; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:23, etc.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that Christ is now the anointed Sovereign of the universe; and that he will reign over all creatures in Heaven, and on Earth, and under the Earth, until he shall have restored to the saints their lost dominion over this world.

Hebrews 2:9 ---that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.—Instead of the phrase “by the grace of God” (chariti. Theou), we have in a few manuscripts, “without God” (choris Theou). This reading was preferred by Theodoret, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and the Nestorians. But the evidence, both internal and external, is against it; and it is therefore now generally re­jected by the critics, as a marginal gloss.

Conceding, then, that the common reading is genuine, let us next consider what is the proper grammatical connection of this clause with the rest of the sentence. It is manifestly a subordinate and dependent clause; but on what does it depend ? What was done so that (opos) Jesus “might by the grace of God taste death for every man’’? Was he crowned with glory and honor for this purpose? Surely not. His death preceded his coronation; and he was crowned, as we have seen, in consequence of it. What then? Was he made a little lower than the angels, so that he might by the grace of God taste death for every man ? Clearly, to my mind, this is the meaning of the passage. And I would therefore prefer the following arrangement of this very complex sentence, as being more in harmony with the less flexible rules of English syntax: “But we see Jesus (who was made a little lower than the angels, so that he might by the grace of God taste death for every man) crowned with glory and honor, on account of the suffering of death.”

The several words of this clause need but little explanation. The phrase, “by the grace of God,” means simply that the incarna­tion, death, atonement, and mediation of the Lord Jesus, are all the offspring of Divine love. “For,” as Christ says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16.) To “taste death ” is the same as to experience death, or to suffer death. And the phrase “for every man” is as plain as it can be made; clearly indicating that the atonement of Jesus Christ is for every human being, and that all men may therefore be saved by it. We have but to comply with the very plain and reasonable condi­tions on which salvation is offered to all, and then we will finallyreceive “an abundant entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11.)

From the given explanations, then, it is quite obvious that the main object of the Apostle in this paragraph (Hebrews 2:5-9), is to remind his Hebrew brethren, that by an irrevocable decree of Je­hovah this world belongs to man; and that although it has been forfeited by sin, and its dominion usurped by Satan, it is neverthe­less God’s purpose to redeem it for the benefit of his saints; not, however, through angels, nor through the law given by angels (Hebrews 2:5); but through that scheme of grace, mercy, and truth of which Jesus is the Author and the Finisher. And so also this same Apostle testifies to his Roman brethren. Speaking of this very matter, he says, “For the promise that he [Abraham] should be heir of the world (Kleeronomos Kosmou), was not to Abraham or to his seed through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they who are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. Because the Law worketh wrath; for where there is no law, there is no transgres­sion. Therefore it is of faith, ‘that it might be by grace; to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abra­ham ; who is the Father of us all.” (Romans 4:13-16.) The promise that his posterity according to the flesh should inherit the land of Canaan, was given to Abraham and to his seed through law. But all these legal, carnal, and temporal arrangements were but a type or shadow of the more gracious provisions of the economy of re­demption through Jesus Christ; according to which it seems that Abraham and the whole family of the faithful will yet inherit the entire Earth, after that it shall have been purified by fire, and pre­pared for the descent of the New Jerusalem. See Psalms 37:9-11; Matthew 5:5; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 5:10 Revelation 21.

How very important it is, then, that we should all give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest perchance we should be drifted away from them. For into this renovated Earth nothing can ever come that is impure or unholy. For “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore­mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” (Revelation 21 :1) How then, shall we escape if we neglect the great salvation offered to us in the Gospel, “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” ?

Commentary on Hebrews 2:5-9 by Don E. Boatman

Hebrews 2:5 --For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come

1. The Catholic Bible (revision of the Challoner Rheims version) states it this way:

“for He has not subjected to angels the world to come—“.

C.B. footnote: “To come” here means the Christian dispensation, not the future life.

2. Footnote to American Standard version: “The inhabited earth.” However, observe that it is the inhabited earth to come.

3. Was this world subjected to man? Yes:

See Genesis 1:28 : “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

4. Was it ever lost by man?

a. “Yes,” says Calvin: “As soon then as Adam alienated himself from God through sin, he was justly deprived of the good things which he had received—The wild beasts ferociously attack us, those who ought to be awed by our presence are dreaded by us, some never obey us, others can hardly be trained to submit, and they do us harm in various ways; the earth answers not our expectations in cultivating it; the sky, the air, the sea and other things are often adverse to us,” (P. 57)

b. “Yes,” says Milligan: “But in consequence of sin, man has in a great measure lost his dominion. See Genesis 3:15-24.” (p. 82)

5. Was it lost to everyone? Did someone take over when man lost the dominion?

Milligan believes this is what occurred, “For a time Satan got possession of this world.” (p. 82)

a. Psalms 68:18 : “Thou hast ascended on high; Thou has led away captives.”

b. John 12:31 : “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

c. John 14:30 : “I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world cometh and he hath nothing in Me.”

d. John 16:11 : “The prince of this world hath been judged.”

e. 2 Corinthians 4:4 : “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.”

f. 2 Corinthians 2:2.

g. 1 John 5:19.

h. Revelation 12:9.

Hebrews 2:5 --the world to come

What is the “world to come”?

a. Observe the footnote—“the inhabited earth.”

b. Observe the Catholic Bible comment, which says that it means the Christian Dispensation, not the future life.

c. Milligan: “The world to come is not that which we hope for after the resurrection, but that which began at the beginning of Christ’s kingdom; but it will no doubt have its full accomplishment in our final redemption.” (p. 58)

d. Newell: “The thought of the world to come pervades the book of Hebrews, and cannot here refer to present things.” (p. 43)

e. Thayer defines “world to come”: “That consummate state of all things which will exist after Christ’s return from heaven.”

f. Connybeare: “The world to come here corresponds with the city to come of Hebrews 13:14.”

Hebrews 2:6 --what is man that thou art mindful of him?

This is an interesting question. What is man?

a. He is very little, physically.

1. For labor in China, India, Tibet, he receives a few cents a day.

2. For length of life, very little.

a) James 4:14 : “life is a vapor”.

b) Animals and trees outlive man. Some turtles are centuries old.

3. His strength is very little:

a) A human baby is the most helpless of creatures.

b) Animals are faster and stronger.

4. Yet, man gives great significance to the flesh as he lives for its gratification.

b. Mentally, he is worth more.

1. He is able to rule the animals of the earth.

2. He can alter nature itself.

a) Harness the waterfalls to make power.

b) Capture the rivers to turn dynamos.

c) Improve upon plants, making hybrids.

3. He can discover the secrets of the world.

a) With the telescope, he scans the heavens.

b) With the microscope, he examines the unseen.

c) He combats disease.

d) He combines elements to build machines for man’s own good.

4. Although man’s mental attainments are temporary, people live as though they were of prime importance.

c. Spiritually, his worth is immeasurable:

1. God is interested in each person individually.

a) Physically, yes:

1) Matthew 10:30 : “—hairs of your head are numbered.”

2) Luke 12:27 : “—consider the lilies—”

3) Malachi 3:10 : “—open you the windows of heaven—”

b) Mentally, yes:

1) Man is made in the intellectual likeness of God. Hebrews 2:7-8.

2) Genesis 1:26 : “In Our image.”

c) Spiritually, more so;

(1) Matthew 10:32; “—shall confess Me before man—”

(2) John 3:16. “God so loved the world—that He gave—His Son.”

(3) James 4:14 : “What is your life? It is even a vapor.”

2. The giving of Jesus is God’s attempt to show man’s greatness;

a) He did not send an angel or offer an animal.

b) His Son’s pain, sorrow, and death is proof of God’s love.

Historically, what is man?

a. Man as God made him:

1. Genesis 2:7 : He made him as dust.

a) Scientifically, man is: 10 gallons of water, 24 pounds of carbon, 7 pounds of lime, 1¼ pounds of phosphorous, ½ teaspoonful of sugar, 4½ teaspoonfuls of salt, some oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, enough iron for 1 large nail.

b) If this is all of which man consists, a man could be purchased for .79c (before inflation).

c) A scientist, curator of Northwestern Department of Chemistry, once valued man’s body at .98c. Now, in 1960, it is worth $31.04.

d) An estimate of your day: Your heart beats 103,689 times a day. Your blood travels 168,000,000 miles. You give off 85.6 degrees Fahrenheit in heat, which means you generate 450 foot tons of energy. You exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.

b. Hebrews 2:7-8 : “Crowned him with glory and honor.”

c. Made him a trinity:

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 : “May your spirit, soul, and body be preserved.”

2. Jesus—Matthew 22:37 : “Love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart . . . thy mind and . . . thy soul.”

What is man as sin makes him?

a. Sin makes him brutal.

1. Cain slew Abel.

2. The wealthy live in luxury, while the poor starve.

3. The powerful plunge men into war.

4. A man can kidnap babies for gold.

5. A man can live on an animal level, which will bring him to destruction. 2 Peter 2:10-12.

b. Sin makes him dirty and diseased.

c. Sin makes him rebellious toward God.

1. 1 John 3:4 : Sin is transgression of God’s law.

d. Sin makes him purposeless. Dr. Shirley once told of a certain youth who was seven days in New York. He saw eighteen shows, but was oblivious to the libraries, scenic, and historic spots there to see. He spent the last day reading a “true story”.

Man as Christ remakes him.

a. See how Christ can change people:

1. Woman of Samaria—John 4:6 : five husbands, but she came to Christ and became a soul-winner.

2. Paul, a cruel persecutor of church, was transformed.

3. Begbies, in Twice Born Men, proves His power. Get this book and read it!

b. He gives people a purpose in life.

1. Soul winning.

2. Helping the needy.

3. Working for the eternal, in place of the temporal.

c. He makes them rise above the temporal.

1. Riches—treasures laid up in heaven.

2. Emphasis is placed upon the eternal.

Hebrews 2:6 --Son of Man

Who is referred to here, man or Christ?

a. Arguments for Christ being referred to:

1. Similar expressions are made in reference to Christ:

a) Matthew 21:16—quotes from Psalms 8:2 : “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou has perfected praise.”

b) Ephesians 1:22 : “And He put all things in subjection under his feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.”

c) 1 Corinthians 15:27 : “For, He put all things in subjection under His feet, but when He saith all things are put in subjection, it is evident that He is excepted who did subject all things unto Him.”

1) The translator has noted in the margin that this is a quotation from Psalms 8:6.

2) This passage in Corinthians, some say, refers to Christ.

2. Much is made of the alternate reading of Hebrews 2:7! “A little while lower.”

a) Even Calvin, who holds that Psalms 8 refers to man, feels that Paul turns here from David and “designates the abasement of Christ’s humiliation.” (p. 58.)

b) Some insist that since the Logos could not die, a body was prepared for Him so that He could die, b. Arguments for man in general being referred to:

1. Because it is a visitation of God from generation to generation.

2. When did God visit Jesus? God was with Jesus all the time; on the cross would be an exception.

3. Because we know what Christ is, who He is, It would not be necessary to raise such a question about the Lord.

4. Because God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.

5. Because the writer later calls specific attention to Christ, cf. Hebrews 2:9.

6. God didn’t visit His Son, but visited man through His Son.

7. The 8th Psalm is a discussion of man.

8. Man is lower than the angels, 2 Peter 2:11 : “Whereas angels though greater in might and power bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord.”

9. Authorities who say Psalms 8 does not refer to Christ:

a) Milligan says: “That this has reference to mankind in general and not to Jesus Christ personally considered, as some have alleged, is evident from the Psalm itself, as well as from the scope of the apostle’s argument.” (p. 85)

b) John Calvin: “It seems to be unfitly applied to Christ . . . The Psalm speaks not of any particular person, but of all mankind—This affords no reason why the words should not be applied to the person of Christ.” (p. 56)

Hebrews 2:6 --that thou visitest him

What is the difference between “mindful and “visitest”

a. “Visit” is the effect of God’s mindfulness.

b.Since God recognized man, He visits man with blessings out of His loving heart.

God’s visiting is twofold:

a. He visits for good to bring blessings.

1. Joseph said to his brethren: “God will visit you and bring you out of the land.”

2. Luke 1:68 : “For He hath visited and wrought redemption for His people.”

a) This is the most important visitation, although dozens of verses can be quoted to show God’s physical blessings such as named by Joseph.

b) How grateful lonely people are when guests visit them, but here is named the greatest Visitor.

b. He visits man to punish him:

1. He has in the past:

a) Exodus 32:34 : “I will visit their sin upon them—”

b) Psalms 89:32 : “Then will I visit their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes.”

c) Jeremiah 10:15 : “In the time of visitation they shall perish.”

d) Exodus 20:5 : “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children for the third and fourth generations.”

e) Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9.

2. He will in the future:

2 Peter 3:8-13.

Hebrews 2:7 --Thou madest him a little lower

Observe that the footnote in the A.S. version says, “For a little while lower.”

Milligan says, “It is still a question with the critics whether the word “little” is expressive of time or degree.”

Who holds for the time element?

a. Those who say “Son of Man” refers to Christ.

1. They say it means “a little while”, and designates the abasement of Christ’s humiliation.

2. Since Christ the Logos would not die, a body was prepared for Him so that He could die.

If we do not try to push this theory, we have man a little lower than the angels:

a. Christ was praised by angels at His birth: “Glory to God in the highest,” not because He was made lower than the angels.

b. Man is ministered to by angels (Hebrews 1:14); so we may conclude that, in some sense at least, we are lower.

Is man lower than the angels according to other scriptures? Yes: 2 Peter 2:11 : “Whereas angels though greater in might and power bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord.”

Hebrews 2:7 --Thou crownedst him with glory and honor

This was true of Adam in his pre-sin state.

a. Genesis 1 : He was given dominion over fish, birds, cattle, over all the earth and every creeping thing.

b. Psalms 8:1-8.

Milligan states that “glory” and “honor” are nearly synonymous in both Hebrew and Greek, and they are used for the sake of emphasis, (p. 86) If this verse applies to Christ, it would apply after His resurrection.

Hebrews 2:7 --and didst set him over the works of Thy hands

Critics reject this passage, but it occurs frequently in manuscripts:

a. Milligan says, “It is found in the original Hebrew, in the Septuagint and in several manuscripts. I am therefore inclined to retain it—“ (p. 86)

b. It is in harmony with other scriptures.

Note man’s responsibility over the creation:

a. Genesis 2:15 : “—dress it and keep it—”

b. Genesis 1:28 : “—have dominion—”

Hebrews 2:8 --under his feet

The scriptures quoted above verify this:

a. After Adam’s sin things become different for man.

b. The earth brought forth weeds and animals turned upon him, so that they are now called wild beasts and domesticated beasts.

Man was the crowning glory of God, but sin caused him to lose much of his dominion.

Hebrews 2:8 --subjected to him

This fits man perfectly:

a. Once everything in the sea, air, and earth was beneath man.

b. Now it is a different picture. Who would dare to go unarmed into a jungle?

c. Man’s lost estate is described. Some make it apply to Christ.

When was everything subjected to Christ? When was it taken away?

a. 1 Corinthians 15:25-27, is quoted by those who hold this theory.

b. They do show similarity, but that is not proof.

c. Hebrews 2:8, does not fit Jesus, although a stretching of points can make it fit.

The verse’s purpose is to show that man is no longer king.

Hebrews 2:9 --a little lower than the angels, even Jesus

Christ was lower only as He took upon himself the role of man:

a. In this way He was lower—in suffering.

b. In his flesh, He was lower than the heavenly bodies of angels. The author picks out the one Person lower than angels Who will be able to restore man to a place of glory and honor.

Hebrews 2:9 --crowned with glory and honor

On earth, Jesus became a wise being, humiliated and crucified. This He came to do, and His obedience brought Him to God’s right hand. Without suffering, He could not have died; without dying He could not have made atonement; without the atonement man would yet be in his sins:

1) Matthew 26:28 : “—shed for the remission of sins—”

2) Hebrews 9:22 : “—without the shedding of blood there is no remission—”

When was this glory and honor given?

a. Not on earth, for here He had to suffer.

b. Peter preached this after Christ’s ascension.

Hebrews 2:9 --that by the grace of God He should taste of death for every man.

This shows the impelling motive—grace:

a. Man rebels, but God seeks man.

b. Man is ungracious, but God is gracious, This states the importance of Christ’s death:

1. Matthew 20:28 : “a ransom.”

2. 1 Peter 1:18-19 : “redeemed with precious blood.”

Why is blood used for man’s redemption?

a. Let the scriptures speak:

1. Genesis 2:17 : Life was lost.

2. Genesis 9:4 : Life is in the blood. Compare Leviticus 17:14.

b. Life being lost, blood which has life is the price of redemption.

Study Questions

202. What is man, according to James 4:14?

203. Where does man rate physically? cf. Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:27.

204. Where does man rate mentally? cf. Hebrews 2:7-8; Genesis 1:26.

205. Where does man rate spiritually?

206. Where does man rate as a ruler?

207.What is man, according to Genesis?

208. What is he according to 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Matthew 22:37?

209. What is man as sin makes him?

210. Give illustrations of people made over by Christ.

211. Who is referred to as Son of Man, Christ or man?

212. Where does the scripture concerning the Son of man appear originally?

213. Is it prophetic?

214. Does Paul in Corinthians throw any light on this subject? cf. 1 Corinthians 15:27.

215. Why do some think the 8th Psalm is referred to here?

216. Give arguments to show that the 8th Psalm refers only to man.

217. If we are uncertain at this point, is the total teaching lost? What is being taught?

218. For what purposes has God visited man?

219. Are such visits all over, or will they be repeated? cf. 2 Peter 3:8-13, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

220. Give an exegesis of “Thou madest Him a little lower than the angels.”

221. If Christ is referred to, how long was He a little lower than the angels?

222. Is man lower than angels? cf. Hebrews 1:14; 2 Peter 2:11.

223. Does the term “little” refer to time or degree? Give reasons.

224. If Christ is crowned with glory and honor, when was He crowned?

225. Did man ever rule over the creation of God’s hands? cf. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:15.

226. Does Hebrews 2:8 describe a lost dominion of man?

227. What is meant by “under His feet”?

228. Does the term “domesticated animals” indicate that all is not subject to Him?

229. What proof is there that man does not rule everything now?

230. What rebels against man?

231. What seems to be the purpose of Hebrews 2:8?

232. Who is beheld in Hebrews 2:9?

233. How was Christ lower than the angels?

234. Is there any doubt over Hebrews 2:9 as there is over Hebrews 2:8?

235. When was He crowned with glory and honor?

236. What is the difference between glory and honor?

237. What is meant by the “grace of God”?

238. Define the meaning of, “taste of death.”

239. Why were death and blood used as the means of redemption? cf. Genesis 2:17; Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:14.

240. Who is the one Person able to restore man to his dominion and power?

241. Was the thought expressed in Hebrews 2:9 preached on Pentecost?

242. What does Hebrews 2:10 say was becoming to God?

243. What about His nature would constrain Him?

244. Does it carry the idea of expediency?

245. What is meant by “for Whom are all things”?

246. Does Christ have all things now?

247. What does 1 Corinthians 15:24 have to say in this regard?

248. Does “through Whom are all things” refer to God, Christ, or both?

249. Discuss Acts 17:28; John 1:3; John 1:10; Colossians 1:16-17.

Commentary on Hebrews 2:5-8 by Burton Coffman

Hebrews 2:5-7 --For not unto angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak. But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou crownedest him with glory and honor, And didst set him over the works of thy hands.

Although the great theme continues to be the superiority of Christ, at this point the problem of Christ’s sufferings begins to come into view. As Lenski expressed it, "With Hebrews 2:5 humiliation begins, the humiliation of Christ’s sufferings."[5] Even the humiliation of Christ, however, is made to support the thesis of his overwhelming superiority over angels because, AS ADAM WAS CREATED, even man was superior to angels. Thus Christ, the second Adam, took up in his human nature where the first Adam left off, but without his sin; therefore Christ, on the lowest plane of his being, that of the incarnated state, possessed in his human nature the superiority over angels that Adam had before the fall.

Quoting from Psalms 8:4 ff, the author showed from that passage that people, not angels, are destined to be placed over all the works of God’s hands; and, of course, from what was written earlier, it is seen that HUMAN NATURE in the person of Christ risen and glorified has already begun to enjoy royal dignity like that foretold in the Psalm concerning people. As Thomas noted,

It is not to angels but to men, in the representative man Christ Jesus, that God has subjected the coming habitable world. Thus the Son is better than angels, not only as the revealer of God (Hebrews 1) but also, as will now be shown, as the representative of man.[6]

The difficulty of this passage is seen in the author’s argument for the superiority of Christ, while at the same time quoting a passage from the Old Testament that seems to contradict it, "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels." The English Revised Version (1885) rendition of the quotation reads, "Thou hast made him a little lower than God"; and, of course, that would remove the difficulty were it not for Hebrews 2:9, "But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels." The key to the problem is the expression "a little lower," which actually means "for a little while lower." (See English Revised Version (1885) margin.) The only exception in Christ’s superiority over angels was therefore in this, that for a short while he was made lower in order to taste of death for every man; but the short duration of that exception and the grand achievement wrought by it leave the major thesis of Christ’s superiority unimpaired.

Throughout all his incarnation, other than that excepted, the angels served Christ, attended his every desire, and were upon call at his request (Matthew 26:53). Therefore, his being made "for a little while" lower than angels was only for this that he might die for man’s sin. That death, so absolutely necessary for man’s redemption, involved his actually being made sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Surely, therefore, in his humiliation and death, Christ descended to a place lower than angels; but that in no way diminished his superiority over them, because it was for such a brief time, and altogether vicarious at that. The word that declares Christ to have been made sin on our behalf begins with the affirmation that he "knew no sin?’

Apparently, therefore, the author of Hebrews is still affirming the superiority of Christ over angels throughout his entire incarnation (except for that "for a little while lower"), which would therefore justify and make applicable to Christ as perfect man the bold declarations of Psalms 8 regarding man’s being placed over the works of God’s hands, etc. The special glory that pertained to Christ even in the deepest of his humiliation appears in the fact that God crowned him with glory and honor for that awesome crisis (see Hebrews 2:9).

It is wrong to refer the royal dignity of man to some far-off utopian state such as a millennium; because the coming age has already arrived, or at least dawned (Hebrews 1:1-2). The author of Hebrews makes much of the new order ushered in by Christ. Robertson noted that "The author is discussing this new order introduced by Christ which makes obsolete the old dispensation of rites and symbols."[7] Bruce also identified "the world to come" as "the new world order inaugurated by the enthronement of Christ at the right hand of God."[8]

What is man ... This inspiring passage of Psalms 8 dwells upon the paradox of man’s physical insignificance contrasted with his spiritual importance, so great that even God is mindful of him. The words "but one hath somewhere testified" do not imply any uncertainty as to the authorship of Psalms 8, which was known both to the author and to his readers as David’s; but this was merely a literary way of introducing a quotation. Besides, since the entire Old Testament was held in honor as God’s word, it was not necessary to identify the particular writer through whom God spoke.

The son of man is part of a Hebrew parallelism and means the same thing as "man" in the other clause. Before leaving this wonderful passage, it is well to think of the physical littleness of man, small enough as compared even with other creatures in the animal kingdom, but whose whole environment, earth and all, appears only as a speck of dust in a limitless universe. Lenski wrote that "Modern skepticism, especially Deism and philosophy, observing man’s insignificance, imagine that, if there is a God at all, he certainly cannot bother with us little creatures."[9] In the scriptures, however, all that is changed. Man is of eternal consequence, potentially an heir of the blood of Christ and a candidate for everlasting glory; and the reasons for this are clearly outlined.

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels ...; Psalms 8:5 from which this is quoted actually says, "thou hast made him a little lower than God"; but whichever reading is used the meaning is unaltered, the superiority of Christ over angels being unaffected, as noted above. Dummelow wisely noted the important implications of this text thus: "The words imply the doctrine of the incarnation of One who was essentially and previously higher than angels."[10] Holding to the inspiration of the writer of Hebrews, we accept "angels" as the proper translation of Psalms 8:5, which is the way it appears in the Septuagint, and from which it is alleged the author quoted. However, it does no violence to speak of man as but a little lower than God; for the scriptures, in some instances, actually refer to people as "gods." Psalms 82:6 has, "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High." It was to this very passage that Christ appealed in these words,

Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and scriptures cannot be broken), say ye to him, whom the Father sanctifieth and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the son of God? (John 10:34-36).

Thus, there is truly a sense in which people are gods.

The import of this passage challenges people to look beyond the failures, foibles, sins, and wretchedness of people as they appear in their lost and sinful condition and to behold the man perfect and glorious as he was created "in the image of God," and destined for lordship over all God’s creation. Mankind in the person of our Lord was returned and uplifted to that exalted state; and yet, through failure to accept Christ and dwell in him, man remains still far short of what the Creator intended. Cargill commented on that failure thus,

Considering the divine origin of man, and the Bible’s description of his potential to master the universe, it is exasperating to look around and see his pitiful condition. He should be free but is bound; he is described as king, but is actually a slave. Man is frustrated by circumstance, defeated by temptations, gird about with weakness, and finally humiliated with death.[11]

The author therefore has maintained the supremacy of Christ over angels, in spite of what seemed at first a difficulty posed by the incarnation, especially the passion and death. But the difficulty was cleared up on the basis of these considerations: (1) Christ’s incarnation was served by angels who ministered to him throughout all of it. (2) His being made lower than angels, as the scriptures said of him, was but for "a little while," and for the noblest purpose. (3) Christ’s being made a man is no problem at all, when it is remembered that man himself, when viewed AS GOD MADE HIM, is higher than the angels, since it is said that man is made in God’s image and was given dominion over all things; and it should be remembered that Christ became man in the highest and best sense.

[4] Robert L. Cargill, Understanding the Book of Hebrews (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1967), p. 15.

[5] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Epistle of James (Minneapolis, Minn., Augsburg Publishing House, 1958), p. 71.

[6] W. H. Griffith Thomas, Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 32.

[7] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1932), p. 344.

[8] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 33.

[9] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 73.

[10] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Whole Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1017.

Hebrews 2:8 --Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he subjected all things unto him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to him.

This verse emphasizes the differences between man’s potential and what he has actually become. The grave consequences of the fall of Adam, the expulsion from Eden, the cursing of the ground, and the imposition of the penalty of death - all these things have for long ages frustrated the human attainment of the purpose of God in man. Instead of all things being in subjection to him, man finds that he cannot even control himself; and beyond that there are countless things that he cannot subdue or subject to himself, so much so that unaided humanity must ever despair of any true realization of the royal dominion assigned in Genesis 1. But Jesus Christ came, taking upon him the form of a servant, providing for the plenary discharge of man’s sins, tasting of death for every man, and rising to heaven with man’s glorified nature upon him, and thus on man’s behalf achieving that dominion of man intended from the beginning. Although prior to this writing of Hebrews, Psalms 8 was never understood as Messianic, yet it is only in the Messiah that it could ever be true.

Hebrews 2:9 --But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man.

Here is the abysmal depth in which, for a little while, the Son became lower than the angels. (The true translation is "for a little while"; see English Revised Version (1885) margin.) As G. Campbell Morgan so well expressed it,

The Son was made lower than the angels, descending to the level of human nature (especially regarding his passion and death), in order that he might die. From death, angels are exempt; therefore, he passed them by, coming not merely to the level of ideal humanity, but to the level of failing humanity; made lower than the angels that he might taste of death.[12]

This verse has one of the most astounding statements in the Bible, that Christ was crowned with glory and honor in order that he might taste death for every man. Again, from Morgan, "The amazing and revealing declaration then is that God conferred upon his eternal Son a crown of glory when he gave him to death for the ransom of the race."[13] Here is set forth the importance and centrality of the death of Christ, not merely for some, but for every man. Christ did not come into this world merely to deliver noble teaching, nor to establish some kind of ideal, but to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world.

[12] G. Campbell Morgan, God’s Last Word to Man (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1936), p. 33.

[13] Ibid., p. 34.

Verses 5-18

Heb 2:5-18

Hebrews 2:5-18


The main object of the Apostle in this section is to encourage the believing Hebrews to persevere in their Christian course, by presenting to them sundry motives drawn chiefly from the human­ity of Christ; from his oneness with us, and his great love, conde­scension, sympathy, and sufferings for us.

Having presented the origin and greatness of the salvation that is offered to us in the Gospel, as a reason why we should give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, the Apostle now passes with consummate skill to the consideration of some other matters looking in the same direction. He insists particu­larly that we should give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard:

I. Because, he says, it is through the man Jesus and that system of grace of which he is author and the finisher, that we will regain our lost dominion over the world (Hebrews 2:5-9).

  • When man was created, God said to him, “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.” (Gen. 1: 28.)

  • But in consequence of sin, man has, in a great measure, lost this dominion. (Gen. 3: 15-24.) Satan for a time got possession of this world (Psalm 68: 18; John 12: 31; 14: 30; 16: 11; 2 Cor. 4: 4; Eph. 2: 2; 1 John 5: 19; Rev. 12: 9) ; and by his cunning arti­fice and hellish malice, he not only enslaved man, but actually turned many of the elements of the world against him. Even the worm and the insect now luxuriate on his fallen remains.

  • That this state of things is, however, only temporary, and that, according to God’s purpose, man will again have at his com­mand the dominion of the world, is manifest from the eighth Psalm, in which David says, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet^; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.”

  • From this passage, then, it is quite evident that God intends that man shall possess and hold the world as his lawful and right­ful patrimony. But this, says Paul, has not yet been accom­plished : “We do not yet see all things put under him.”

  • But what do we see? “We see Jesus,” says he, “who was made a little lower than the angels, so that he by the grace of God might taste death for every man, crowned with glory and honor for the suffering of death.” All things are put under him as our Leader and Captain. And this is therefore to us a sure pledge that in due time the dominion of the world will be restored to man; that he will enjoy the whole habitable Earth as his home, and that he will rule over it as his rightful patrimony, even as Adam ruled over Eden before he fell.

II. But just here arises another thought that requires further development and illustration; the consideration of which occupies the remainder of this section (Hebrews 2:10-18). The Apostle has said in the ninth verse that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, so that he by the grace of God might taste death for every man. The question, then, naturally occurs here, Why was this? Why did the Logos assume a nature that is a little lower than that of the angels, with the view of tasting death for every man ?

1. The reason assigned by our author is, that it became God the Father, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10). The full meaning of this remark he does not stop to develop. But in the light of what follows in this section, and what is clearly taught in many parallel passages, it is evident—

(1.) That this was required by the nature and government of God. Without an atonement adequate to meet and satisfy all the claims of Divine Justice against man, there could be no pardon; no emancipation from the dominion of sin and Satan; no recovery of man’s lost dominion over the world; and of course no bringing of many sons unto glory.

(2.) This was required by the nature, wants, and circum­stances of mankind. None but a suffering, bleeding, dying Savior, uniting in his own person all the elements of humanity, as well as all the attributes of Divinity, could take hold of the affections and so control the hearts and lives of men as to bring them back again to God, and make it possible for him to restore to them their for­feited inheritance.

(3.) When Christ became a man, it was then necessary that, as a man, he should be educated and qualified for the great work that was before him. He had to grow in knowledge and in experience, like other men. (Luke 2:52.) And hence we see that it became God to make Jesus perfect through sufferings—(a) with reference to the claims of his own government on man; (b) with reference to the condition and wants of mankind; and (c) with reference to the educational wants and requirements of Christ’s human nature.

1. And now to show that this was no new device, but that God had so decreed from the beginning, the Apostle makes sundry quo­tations from the Old Testament Scriptures, clearly demonstrating that even under the Law, it was God’s revealed purpose that the Messiah should be one with his brethren (Hebrews 2:11-13).

2. And hence it was that, in harmony with God’s ancient pur­pose, the Logos became flesh; and thus, as a man, was made a little lower than the angels; so that by his death he might be able (1) to destroy Satan, who has the power of death; and (2) that he might deliver those who had been made captives by Satan, and who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bond­age (Hebrews 2:14-15).

3. The necessity of Christ’s being made a little lower than the angels by becoming a man—a suffering, bleeding, sorrowful man —is still further amplified and illustrated by the fact that he came to help fallen men, and not angels. And hence it behooved him to become like unto his brethren in all things (sin only excepted), so that, as their officiating High Priest, he may the more readily and fully sympathize with them in all their trials, temptations, and suf­ferings (Hebrews 2:16-18)

This section, therefore, comprises the two following subdivi­sions :

I. Hebrews 2:5-9. Man’s lost dominion over the world to be restored through Jesus.

II. Hebrews 2:10-18. Why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Verses 10-18

Heb 2:10-18



Hebrews 2:10-18

Hebrews 2:10 ---For it became him,The Apostle aims here to meet and re­fute a Jewish objection founded on the humiliation and sufferings of Christ. “We have heard out of the law,” said the Jews on one occasion, “that Christ abideth forever.” (John 12:34.) This opinion was founded on such passages as Psalms 72:7 Psalms 72:17 Psalms 89:36-37 Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Daniel 2:44 Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 4:7; in which the Kingdom of the Messiah is described as an everlasting Kingdom; and his reign, as enduring throughout all generations. To many of the Jews, these passages of Scripture seemed wholly inconsistent with the humble life and the ignomin­ious death of the Lord Jesus. And it was therefore eminently proper to remove this objection as far as possible, by showing just at this point of the argument that the humiliation, sufferings, and death of Christ are, in fact, an essential part of the scheme of re­demption. This, our author does with great force and tenderness in the remaining portion of this chapter. He begins by saying that it “became (eprepen) Him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Cap­tain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” God is here represented both as the final cause (dia on) and also as the efficient cause (dia ou) of all things. The universe is, in fact, but a manifestation and development of his infinite perfections. And hence its government is not with him a matter of caprice, or of ar­bitrary choice, but of divine propriety. As it became God to adapt means to ends in the work of creation, so also it becomes him to do the same in the works of providence and redemption. When he resolved to bring many sons unto glory, there was then imposed on him (if I may say it with reverence) a moral necessity, deep and profound as his own nature, to qualify Jesus for the great work that was before him: and this, it seems, could be done only by means of his incarnation, sufferings, and death.

Hebrews 2:10 ---in bringing many sons unto glory,—To whom does the parti­ciple “bringing” (agagonta) refer? To God the Father, repre­sented by the pronoun “him” (auto in the dative case), or to Jesus, represented by “captain” (archeegon in the accusative case) ? The grammatical agreement is in favor of the latter; but the scope of the passage and the general construction of the sen­tence are in favor of the former. And hence this is now generally regarded as a case of anacoluthon. See Winer’s Gram. Section 63.

The heirs of salvation are here called “sons” in relation to God as their Father and supreme Leader; just as in the following verse they are called “brethren,” in relation to Christ who is our Elder Brother and also our Leader by the Father’s appointment. To bring many sons unto glory is the same as to bring them to Heaven. This world now abounds in sin and suffering, misery and death. But in Heaven all is light, and life, and love. (Revelation 21.)

Hebrews 2:10 ---the captain of their salvation—The word here rendered cap­tain (archeegos) means properly a leader; one who at the head of an army or other company leads them onward to the goal or place of their destination. The word is applied by Philo to Adam, who, as Paul says, “was a type of him that was to come.” (Romans 5:14.) These are both captains or leaders of the entire race. But they lead to different goals, and in opposite directions. The first Adam led all to death; whereas the second Adam leads all to life. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22.) “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sin­ners; so by the obedience of one shall the many, be made righ­teous.” (Romans 5:19.)

The phrase, “many sons,” as used in our text, is not, however, strictly equivalent to “the many” in Romans 5:19. The latter in­cludes the whole human race; but the former includes only those “who by patient continuance in well going,” follow Christ wher­ever he goes. The latter, it is true, will all be raised from the dead, and forever saved from all the effects of the Adamic sin; but many of them will, on account of their own personal transgressions, be raised “to the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29), and banished “with an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The former, however, will all, without the loss of one, be brought home to the full enjoyment of honor, glory, and immortality. And these, be it observed, will not be a few, but a vast multitude which no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Revelation 7:9-10.)

Hebrews 2:10 ---perfect through sufferings.—The word here rendered to make perfect (teleioo—from telos, an end, termination) means properly to be full, complete, wanting in nothing; and as applied to Christ in this connection, it means simply that he was by God fully qualified for the work that was before him; that in this respect he was com­plete and entire, wanting in nothing.

In what this perfection consisted, it may be difficult for us to ex­plain. Perhaps none but God can understand this matter fully. But this much we may say in general:

(1.) That it consisted in Christ’s being fully prepared to honor God and to magnify his government, by making an adequate atone­ment for the sins of the world. God, be it reverently spoken, can­not without full satisfaction pardon any sin or transgression of his law. By an eternal moral necessity, the soul that sinneth must die, unless by adequate means the claims of Divine Justice can be fully satisfied. (Exodus 34:7.) Any attempt, therefore, to bring many sons unto glory without a ransom sufficient to atone for all their transgressions, would of necessity be a failure. And hence it was, that when no other means were found adequate, God set forth Jesus Christ, as a propitiatory sacrifice, for a demonstration of his justice in passing by the sins of his ancient people; and to show also how it is that he can now be just in justifying every one who believes in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26.) It became God the Father, therefore, to make his Son a perfect Savior by the shedding of his blood, so that by means of it an adequate atonement might be made for the sins of the world.

(2.) The perfection of Christ, as the Captain of our salvation, consisted also in his being relatively adapted to the nature, wants, and circumstances of those whom he came to redeem. It was not enough that he should come with a ransom sufficient to meet and satisfy all the claims of the Divine Government on the sinner. He had to look at the human, as well as at the Divine, side of the ques­tion. He had to lay hold of human nature as it was, and adapt himself to it in such a way as would best serve to enlighten the understanding, renew the heart, and control the will and the life of our sin-ruined race. But it is a law of the universe that “Like loves its like.” And hence it is, that God has generally clothed himself and his angelic ambassadors in human form, whenever he has sought to manifest them and himself to mankind in compassion, tenderness, and love. (Genesis 18:1-2 Genesis 19:1 Genesis 19:12, etc.) But in the case of Jesus, the mere form of humanity was not enough. In order to reach the heart of a race at enmity with God by their own wicked works, and to change that enmity into love, it was neces­sary that the Word should become flesh, and by the grace of God taste death for every man. (Colossians 1:21-22.) In no other conceiva­ble way could the love of God be sufficiently manifested to our re­bellious race. True, indeed, the benevolence, as well as the wis­dom and power of God, is revealed in every law and ordinance of nature. It is seen in every star that twinkles in the firmament; it is seen in every flower that blooms on the landscape; and it is seen in every organ, and even in every element, of the human body. Nevertheless, our experience, as well as the light of history, goes to prove that in all nature there is not power sufficient to convert a single soul. We love God because he first loved us, and mani­fested his love to us in giving his own dear Son to weep, and bleed, and die for us. (1 John 4:10 1 John 4:19.) This, then, is manifestly an­other reason why it became God the Father, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

(3.) When Jesus became a man, he had to be perfected, as a man. He was, in his infancy, endowed with every element and at­tribute of human nature in its sinless state; and consequently these elements of humanity in the person of the Lord Jesus had all to be educated by a severe course of discipline and experience, such as is common to man. And hence Luke says, “he [Jesus] increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52.) But no man is fully qualified to visit the sick, and to admin­ister to the wants of the afflicted, who has not himself drunk deep of the cup of human sorrow and of human suffering; and hence it was that Christ had to drink of it to its very dregs. And now that “he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.”

Hebrews 2:11 ---For both he that sanctifieth, etc.—The sanctifier is Christ himself; and the “sanctified” are the same as the “many sons” spo­ken of in the tenth verse. These and Christ, our author means to say, are very nearly related, being together properly called sons, “for” they are all of one Father. The word sanctify (hagiazo) means (1) to make clean, to purify, to make holy; and (2) to con­secrate, or set apart from a common to a sacred use. In the latter sense, it is applied both to persons and things; in the former, only to persons. In the latter sense, it has reference to state or condi­tion ; in the former, to character. In the latter sense there are prop­erly no degrees and no progress; but in the former, we may and we should make constant progress. Very frequently this word is used in one of these two senses to the exclusion of the other; but in our text, it is used in its most comprehensive sense, so as to in­clude the idea of both consecration and moral purification; each of which is effected through the death and mediation of the Lord Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justification, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30.)

Hebrews 2:11 ---are all of one:One what? Some say, One race (ex henos genous) ; some, One blood (ex henos haimatos) ; some, One seed or offspring (ex henos spermatos). But the idea that they are all of one Father (ex henos patros), not Adam or Abraham, but God, “from whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things,” seems to accord best with all the terms and conditions of the con­text.

Hebrews 2:11 ---for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,—If the Sanctifier and the sanctified are all sons of God, having one and the same Father, they have also of course one common brotherhood, of which Jesus is not ashamed; and which, as our au­thor now proceeds to show, had long before the date of this Epistle been symbolically set forth in the types and shadows of the Old Testament.

Hebrews 2:12 ---Saying, I will declare thy name, etc.—This is a quotation from the twenty-second Psalm, in the course of which, David, as a type of Christ, pleads for help (1) on the ground of his very near and intimate relations to God (verses 1-10) ; and (2) on the ground of his imminent danger and intense sufferings (verses 11­21). After this he changes his tone from the deepest despondency, and breaks out into exclamations of gratitude and praise to God for his signal deliverance and the many mercies bestowed on him (verses 22-31). In all this, David refers primarily to his own per­sonal experience, under the severe trials and persecutions which he endured from Saul. During the last seven or eight years of Saul’s reign, he (David) was surrounded by enemies as by wild beasts; and his way to the throne was through the most violent and unrea­sonable opposition. But, trusting in God, he was delivered from all his foes; and afterward, on many joyful occasions, he declared the name of Jehovah to his brethren; and in the midst of the Church, or congregation of Israel, he often celebrated the praises of his Deliverer.

And just so it was with Christ, the great antitype of David, to whom also the words of this Psalm have special reference, and to whom they are, in fact, several times applied in the New Testa­ment. Compare, for instance, the first verse of this Psalm with Matthew 27:46; the eighth, with Matthew 27:43; the fifteenth, with John 19:28; the sixteenth, with John 20:25; and the eighteenth, with John 19:23-24. It is therefore, beyond doubt, a typical Psalm having reference primarily to David and secondarily to Christ. See notes on 1:5. But as Delitzsch justly remarks, “David’s description of personal experience and suffering goes far beyond any that he had known in his own person; his complaints descend into a lower deep than he had sounded himself; and his hopes rise higher than any realized reward. Through his hyper­bolical character, the Psalm became typico-prophetic. David, as the sufferer, there contemplates himself and his experience in Christ; and his own, both present and future, thereby acquires a back­ground which, in height and depth, greatly transcends the limits of his own personality.”

That this Psalm, then, has a double reference, relating in its highest and fullest sense to the humiliation, sufferings, deliverance, and final triumphs of the Messiah, as the antitype of David, is very obvious. But why does our author refer to it? For what purpose does he quote from it the words of our text? His object, as we have seen, in this part of his argument, is to show the very iiiti- mate relation that exists between Christ and his people; it is to re­mind his Hebrew brethren in Christ and to convince others, that the Messiah was to be a man; a man of sorrows; one in nature and sympathy with the “many sons” whom he is bringing home to glory. This he might have done so far as to satisfy the more en­lightened portion of his readers, by referring to such passages of Scripture as Matthew 12:48-49 Matthew 25:40, etc., in which Jesus speaks to and of the children of God as his brethren. But he very wisely pursues a different course. He was writing for the Hebrews, all of whom had the most implicit confidence in the Divine origin and plenary inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures. And by ap­pealing to these sacred Oracles, he not only establishes the fact of Christ’s oneness with the sons of God, but he furthermore shows that this was all in harmony with God’s ancient purpose. To us the narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are, of course, just as authoritative as any other parts of the Holy Scriptures. But not so with many of those for whose benefit the Epistle was written. And hence it is that the Apostle so often draws his proofs and arguments from the Old Testament, demonstrating at the same time the sublime unity of God’s gracious plans and pur­poses in all ages and dispensations.

The word church (ekkleesia), in its Jewish sense, means the na­tion of Israel assembled in Jerusalem; where David and his breth­ren often celebrated the praises of Jehovah; but, in its Christian sense, as it is here used and applied by the Apostle, it means the united body of believers under the mediatorial reign of the Mes­siah. The former was a type of the latter, just as David himself was a type of Christ.

Hebrews 2:13 ---And again, I will trust in him.—Words equivalent to these occur in 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 18:2; Isaiah 8:17 Isaiah 12:2. In the first two instances, David is the speaker, and represents Christ in his relations as the King of God’s people; and in the last two, Isa­iah is the speaker, and represents Christ in his prophetic relations. It is still a question with the critics, to which of these our author refers. Many think that he refers to Isaiah 8:17; but it is more probable that the quotation is taken from 2 Samuel 22:3, or Psalms 18:2. In either case, the object of our author in making the cita­tion is simply to show that according to God’s will and purpose as revealed in the Old Testament, the Messiah was to be a man, en­dowed with all the attributes and sympathies of our nature. And this he does here by showing that, as a man, Christ, like David, felt his dependence on God and trusted in him.

Hebrews 2:13 ---Behold I and the children which God hath given me.—That this clause is taken from Isaiah 8:18, is very evident. But what is its meaning, and what bearing has it on the argument of the Apostle ? How can words which in their first intention have a clear reference to Isaiah and his children be applied to Christ and his disciples? The proper answer to this question is to be found in the typical re­lations which Isaiah and his children sustained to Christ and the children of God. As every divinely appointed high-priest under the Theocracy represented Christ in his priestly office; and as every king of the royal line of David represented him in his kingly office; so also did every true prophet represent him to some extent in his prophetical office. And whatever, therefore, was said of Isaiah and his sons, as types, has reference also to Christ and the children which God has given him, as antitypes. See notes on Hebrews 1:5.

This is further indicated by the names which God gave to this illustrious Prophet and his two sons, to whom reference is made in this section of prophecy. (Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 9:7.) The name Isaiah means salvation of Jehovah, and is nearly equivalent to the name Joshua or Jesus, which means “Jehovah’s salvation,” or Jehovah is his sal­vation. The original name was Hoshea, salvation (Numbers 13:8) ; but Moses changed it to Jehoshua, Jehovah’s salvation (Numbers 8:16). After their return from captivity, the Jews contracted the name to Jeshua, as in Nehemiah 8:17, etc. From this, is derived the Greek name Jesus (Ieesous), which is from the same root as the name Isaiah. The eldest son of Isaiah named in the Scriptures is called Shear-Jashub, which means, A remnant shall return. (Isaiah 7:4) This, then, as well as the name Isaiah, was prophetic, and was manifestly intended by God to be a sign and an assurance to his suffering people, that he had still merciful designs in reserve for those of them who would remain faithful to the end. The next son mentioned was to be called Immanuel, which means “God with usThis name, it seems, was given to the first-born son of Isaiah by a second wife, to indicate that God was still among his people for their protection and deliverance. (Isaiah 7:13-16.) And as evi­dence of this, Isaiah was directed to announce the speedy fall of the two kings, Rezin and Pekah, who were then threatening to overthrow Jerusalem. “Before the child [Immanuel],” said God by the Prophet, “shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” (Isaiah 7:16.) And in order to impress this matter still more deeply on the minds and hearts of the people, God further in­structed Isaiah to call the same child Maharshalal-Hashbaz, Haste-to-the-spoilSpeed-to-the-prey: indicating by this name that in a very short time, even “before the child should know to cry, My father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria would be taken away by the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 8:1-4.) This was all fulfilled, as predicted, within the short space of three years after the delivery of the prophecy.

But there is also in this prophecy, as in many others, a double reference, first to the type and then to the antitype. This is evi­dent from the application which Matthew makes of the fourteenth verse of the seventh chapter. See Matthew 1:23. If, then, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew could say with propriety, “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” why may not Paul also say, speaking by the same Spirit, that Christ became a man, and suffered for us, as a man, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet Isaiah, saying, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me”? Manifestly, the application which is here made of the words of Isaiah, in the latter case, is just as plain, direct, and authoritative, as in the former.

Care must be taken, however, in both cases, not to press the analogies too far. The name Immanuel, as applied to the son of Isaiah, was to the chosen people of that age a sign that God was still among them as their guardian and protector; but as applied to Christ, it is indicative of his Divinity, implying that he is himself God manifest in the flesh. There is a difference also between the relation which Isaiah bore to his children, according to the flesh, and that which Christ sustains to his disciples, as the children of God. But the resemblance between the two is sufficient to indicate that Christ and the “many sons” that he is leading on to glory, are all of the same family, and that they are bound together by cords of the deepest and tenderest human sympathy. This is all that the Apostle aims to prove by these citations from the Old Testament.

Hebrews 2:14 ---Forasmuch then—(epei oun) since then. In the context preceding, the Apostle has shown that it was a part of God’s gra­cious will and purpose, as revealed in the Old Testament, that Christ and the children of the covenant (Galatians 3:7 Galatians 3:9 Galatians 3:29) should all be of one Father, and of one family. But according to the es­tablished laws and ordinances of nature, the children have all been made partakers (kehoinoneeke) of flesh and blood. And hence it was that, in compliance with God’s will and purpose, Christ also partook of the same. “Though he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7.) The expression, “flesh and blood,” says Bleek, “betokens the whole sensuous corpo­real nature of man, which he has in common with the brutes, and whereby he is the object of sensuous perception and corporeal im­pressions; whereby also he is subjected to the laws of infirmity, decay, and transitoriness of material things, in contrast with purely spiritual and incorporeal beings.” Frequently it is used by synec­doche in a more comprehensive sense for human nature; as, for example, in Matthew 16:17; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12. And there can be no doubt that in becoming incarnate, the Logos assumed human nature in all its fullness, including every element of our spiritual, as well as of our physical and sensuous being. But in this in­stance, as in 1 Corinthians 15:50, the words seem to be used in a more limited sense. The Apostle does not say that the children are flesh and blood, but that they have been made partakers of flesh and blood; thereby making a distinction between what constitutes the essential and eternal part of man’s nature, and what is merely acci­dental, and in which we now live as in a clay tabernacle. (2 Corinthians 5:1.) Even this sensuous part of our nature was put on by Christ, so that he might in every particular, “be made like unto his brethren,” and “through death destroy him that has the power of death.”

Hebrews 2:14 ---that is, the devil;—The word devil (diabolos—from diaballo, to calumniate) means properly a calumniator, a traducer, an ac­cuser, or a slanderer. The corresponding Hebrew word is Satan, meaning one that hates, an enemy. Our knowledge of this won­derful being is quite limited. But from the Scriptures we may learn (1) that like man he was at first created upright; and that like man he afterward sinned and fell. Christ says of him in John 8:44, that “he abode not in the truth”; which implies very clearly that he was once in it. And Jude says (verse 6), “The angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own proper habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judg­ment of the great day.” See also 2 Peter 2:4. From a compari­son of these passages, it is very manifest that Satan was one of those angels who, not being satisfied with their “first estate,” or original condition (archee), were cast down to Tartarus on account of their rebellion. (2) There is but little said in the Bible in refer­ence to the particular occasion and circumstances of Satan’s fall. But it is pretty evident from 1 Timothy 3:6, that it was occasioned by pride. Paul here admonishes Timothy not to appoint to the Bishop’s office “a new convert, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil”; that is, lest he fall into the same condemnation into which the devil fell. That this is the meaning of the Apostle, is evident from the fact that it is not the prerogative of the devil to condemn anyone. He ensnares (1 Timothy 3:7); but it is Christ that condemns (Romans 8:34). How pride or any other sin could enter Heaven, may be a mystery above our comprehension. But it seems that in some way (per­haps by comparing himself too much with his inferiors, instead of duly considering the Infinite), pride got possession of Satan’s heart, begetting in him, and through him in others, an unhallowed ambition to rise still higher among the principalities and powers of the heavenly realms. They “left their own proper habitation”; and as a consequence were cast down to Hades. (3) After he was cast out of Heaven, he successfully plotted and effected the fall of man.

Why Satan was allowed to come to this world and tempt our first parents, as he did, is a question too high for us. God alone may be capable of fully understanding this mystery. But the fact is indis­putable. God had said to Adam: “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17.) Satan, whose intellect is marvelously great, next it may be to that of the Infinite, was not long, it seems, in perceiving how he might turn this ordi­nance of God to his own advantage and to man’s ruin. He knew that so long as man was loyal to his Maker, he and all his fallen compeers, though numerous it may be as the leaves and flowers of Eden, could do nothing to his injury. But Satan had no doubt well weighed and considered the awful, mysterious, and compre­hensive import of the word death in the threatened penalty. He saw that there was in this thing death, a power, the possession of which would make him the prince of the world (John 12:31 John 14:30 John 16:11), and make man his most abject slave (John 8:34). He resolved if possible to secure it; and succeeded but too well in his diabolical designs. Through his influence, Adam sinned and fell; and humanity sinned and fell in him. (Romans 5:12 Romans 5:18-19.)

Hebrews 2:14 ---the power of death,—What is it, and in what does it consist? This is a question which we can now answer but in part. Until we understand perfectly what death is, we cannot of course fully un­derstand its power. But such matters are above our weak capacity. We know, however, that it has, in a very important and com­prehensive sense, separated man from his Maker (Ephesians 2:12-13); robbed him of his highest spiritual power and enjoyment (Ephesians 2:1 Ephesians 2:5); filled his heart with enmity to God (Genesis 3:8; Colossians 1:21) ; made him the willing slave of sin and Satan (John 8:44; Romans 1:28-31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 3:8 1 John 5:19) ; and greatly deranged all his physical as well as his spiritual powers, resulting in a separation of soul and body (Romans 5:12 Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Its power is therefore immensely great; and it is all used by Satan for the purpose of promoting his own diabolical ends and purposes.

But “the Word became flesh” in order that, by means of his death, “he might destroy him that has the power of death.” The word destroy (katargeo) does not mean to annihilate, but simply to render useless, to bring to naught. The Apostle John expresses the same thought in his first Epistle (3:8) where he says, “For this purpose was the Son of God manifested that he might destroy (lusee) the works of the devil.” The mere destruction of Satan himself would not accomplish God’s purpose. Had Christ annihi­lated him, as he doubtless might have done, this alone would not have relieved mankind from their woes and misfortunes. For death, be it observed, is not wholly an invention of the devil. It was of course brought about by his hellish craft and cunning; for if man had never sinned, he would never have died. Nevertheless, death it­self, under the circumstances, springs up out of a moral necessity; a necessity which is as immutable as the truth and justice of God. And consequently, whatever may become of Satan, death cannot be destroyed, until all the claims of the Divine government on man are fully satisfied, and man himself is again made holy and so rec­onciled to his Maker. To effect these ends, as we have seen in our exegesis of the tenth verse, it was indispensable that Christ should become a man, and, as such, be made perfect through suffering. And now having by his own blood made purification for the sins of mankind, he has sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; there to reign until the works of Satan shall be destroyed, and the dominion of the world shall be restored to the “many sons” whom he is leading on to glory.

Hebrews 2:15 ---And deliver themThe Apostle does not mean, that all men will actually be delivered from the bondage brought upon them by sin and the fear of death; but only that through Christ all may be delivered. In partaking of flesh and blood, it was his purpose to open up “a new and living way,” through which all might come to God, obtain the pardon of their sins, and be made heirs of the eter­nal inheritance.

Hebrews 2:15 ---through the fear of death—This fear is natural and universal. Men fear death (1) because of the pain, misery, and dissolution, which attend it; (2) because of the darkness and corruption of the grave which follow it; and (3) because of the uncertainty of their condition and destiny beyond it. It is the terminus of our proba­tionary state, beyond which there is no place for repentance. The man who passes this solemn bourn, in union, communion, and fel­lowship with God, will die no more. (Luke 20:36.) But for those who are then disloyal and unholy, there remains nothing but the horrors and torments of the second death. (Revelation 20:14-15.) See Matthew 25:46 Matthew 26:26; Hebrews 10:26-27;Revelation 22:11.

No wonder, then, that death has been called “the King of ter­rors.” (Job 18:14.) It must be so to every man in his senses who has not been delivered from its enslaving influences through the Lord Jesus. Nothing but a strong, firm, and unfaltering faith in Christ—a faith which “works by love, purifies the heart, and over­comes the world,”—can ever save and deliver those who through the fear of death are all their lifetime subjects of bondage (eno- choi douleias). But faith in Christ saves us from all such fears and torments; knowing, as we do, that “if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1.) Under the sustaining and strengthening influence of this faith, we can ex­claim with Paul, even in the face of Death, “O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” Or with David we can calmly say, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou [Jehovah] art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4.) And hence we feel that it is even better to depart and to be with Christ. (Philippians 1:23.)

Hebrews 2:16 ---For verily he took not on him the nature of angels;—Or more literally, For not indeed of angels doth he take hold; but he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham. The Greek word (eplambo- netai) means (1) to take hold of any thing as one’s own; and (2) to take hold of any person with the view of helping him. In this latter sense the word is used here by our author. His object is, not as was generally supposed by the ancient commentators to reassert the fact that Christ took on himself our nature, but rather to assign a reason for his having done so. Christ’s mission, he says, was not to take hold of angels and deliver them from slavery; but it was to take hold of man, and to free him from the bondage of sin and death. And hence, as our author has shown in the preceding context, it was becoming that he (Christ) should be made a partaker of flesh and blood, so that by means of his death he might destroy him that has the power of death, and deliver those (men, not angels) who through fear of death were all their lifetime subjects of bondage.

Hebrews 2:16 ---but he took on him the seed of Abraham.—Or rather as above explained, he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham. As the Apostle was writing for the special benefit and encouragement of the Hebrews, there was certainly no impropriety in his using terms so very limited. But in doing so he does not mean to exclude all, save the seed of Abraham, from the benefits of Christ’s death, atonement, and intercession. Certainly not; for in the ninth verse of this chapter, he assures us that Jesus had by the grace of God tasted death for every man. This shows beyond all doubt that the benefits of Christ’s death are applicable to all men who will humbly submit to the terms and conditions on which salvation is so gra­ciously offered to us in the Gospel. But in this saying there is a rhetorical propriety which could not be so well expressed by any terms that are more general and comprehensive.

Hebrews 2:17 ---Wherefore it behooved him—As Christ came to help the seed of Abraham (and all the rest of mankind), it behooved him to be made like them. The word here rendered behooved (opheilen) is different from that which is rendered became (eprepen) in the tenth verse; and also from that which is rendered ought and be­hooved (edei) in Luke 24:26 Luke 24:46. The last of these (edei) de­notes moral necessity growing out of God’s decrees and purposes; the second (eprepen), as previously explained, denotes an intrinsic fitness and propriety in conformity with the Divine attributes; but the first (opheilen) expresses an obligation which arises out of any work or enterprise already undertaken. The Apostle means to say, therefore, that since Christ had voluntarily undertaken the work of redeeming the seed of Abraham from the bondage of sin and Satan, he thereby incurred the further obligation of being made like them.

Hebrews 2:17 ---in all things—That is, in all things (kata panta) essential to perfect humanity. This does not of course include the depravity which we have incurred by sin. See notes on 4: 15. Christ had none of the evil lusts and propensities which now defile human na­ture (Matthew 15:18-20); enslave the unregenerate (Romans 7:23) ; and from which even we who have the first-fruits of the Spirit are not wholly freed while we live in these clay tabernacles (Romans 8:10). He was “without sin” (choris hamartias) in the fullest and widest sense. But he had every faculty, power, and susceptibility which belongs to human nature in its sinless state; and he was therefore subject to all the sufferings, perils, temptations, toils, and conflicts which we endure. Thus far it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, so that he might be fully qualified for the great work which he had undertaken.

Hebrews 2:17 ---that he might be a merciful and faithful high priestOr rather, that he might become (geneetai) a merciful and faithful High Priest. For as Alford very justly remarks in his commen­tary on this passage, “The High-priesthood of Christ in all its fullness, and especially in its work of mercy, and compassion, and suc­cor, was not inaugurated till he entered into the heavenly place. His being in all things like unto his brethren, sufferings and death included, was necessary for him in order to his becoming, through those sufferings and death, our High Priest. It was not the death (though that was of previous necessity, and is therefore often spo­ken of as involving the whole), but the bringing the blood into the Holy Place, in which the work of sacerdotal expiation consisted.” This is all just and right so far as it goes. Care, however, must be taken not to press this view of the matter so far as to exclude everything of a sacerdotal character from Christ’s earthly minis­try. This would be inconsistent with both the types of the Old Testament and the subsequent teachings of our Epistle. For on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest had first to slay the victim, and then carry its blood into the Most Holy Place to make recon­ciliation for the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16:15.) And so also Christ is said to have offered himself on the cross, so that he might afterward enter Heaven with his own blood, and there make expia­tion for our sins according to the Scriptures. Christ was therefore the Priest as well as the victim in the offering of himself on Cal­vary. But this offering on Calvary was only a preliminary part of the one great offering of Christ which was consummated in Heaven; and it was, moreover, an essential part of the preparatory discipline through which he had to pass before he could be fully qualified to officiate as the great High Priest of our confession. See notes on Hebrews 7:17 Hebrews 7:27. And hence the High-priesthood is not im­properly presented here as the goal which he had to reach through his many trials and sufferings; and especially through his suffer­ings on the cross. “Before reaching it, he had to walk the path of human suffering down to this deep turning-point, in order to ac­quire the requisite qualifications for the exercise of high-priestly functions, extending thenceforth from Heaven to Earth” (Del. in loc.). The idea of the Apostle, then, is this: that it was necessary for Christ to become a man—a man of sorrows; a man in all re­spects like ourselves, but without sin—in order that he might be the better qualified to have compassion on the erring and the ig­norant; and to discharge with fidelity, as a High Priest, all his duties both to God (Hebrews 3:2 Hebrews 3:6) and to man (Hebrews 10:23).

Hebrews 2:17 ---in things pertaining to God,—The High Priest under the law was wholly consecrated to God. Holiness to Jehovah was in­scribed on the golden plate of his miter, as an indication that he was set apart to minister to the Lord in the services of his Sanctu­ary. And so also Christ, as the High Priest of the New Economy, has been called and set apart to minister in “the Sanctuary and the true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man.” (8:2.) As a King, he rules over Heaven and Earth; and supports all things by the word of his power. But the functions of his sacerdotal office are more limited, having special reference to the wants of man and the relations which we sustain to God and to his government. This will become more apparent as we proceed with the exegesis of the Epistle.

Hebrews 2:17 ---to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.—These words indicate the main purpose of Christ’s Priesthood. He be­came such a Priest, as he is, in order to expiate by means of his death the sins of the people. The word here rendered “to make reconciliation for” (hilaskomai), means, in classic Greek, to ap­pease or to propitiate; as, for instance, when Homer, Hesiod, and others, speak of appeasing the wrath of the gods by means of sacri­fices. But it is a significant fact, that neither this nor the corre­sponding Hebrew word is ever so used in the sacred writings. God is never made the direct object of this or any other word of like import in either the Old or the New Testament. In no part of the inspired word do we find such an expression as, to appease God’s wrath or to reconcile him to man by means of sacrifice. The whole tenor of the inspired word goes to show that God had compassion on the world, and sent his Son to redeem it. (1 John 4:4 1 John 4:10.)

Caution is necessary, however, just here lest perchance we fall into the extreme of supposing with some that Christ came into the world merely for the purpose of showing forth the love of God to man. There is certainly a sense in which it may be truthfully said that the atonement of Christ has rendered God propitious to man. For it must not be forgotten that we were all by nature the chil­dren of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3), and that it is only through Christ that this wrath has been, or can be, averted. “He that be- lieveth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36.) There is therefore no reasonable ground to doubt that the sacrifice of Christ has an influence on the mind of

God toward the sinner, as well as on the sinner himself. But it is not such an influence as many have supposed. It may be properly illustrated by the case of a wise, just, and benevolent father; who though insulted by an ungrateful son, still loves and pities him; and while vindicating his own authority as a father, does at the same time all that he can to reclaim his son. In like manner, God was insulted; his government was dishonored; and man had be­come an enemy to him by wicked works. (Colossians 1:21.) Never­theless, God had pity and compassion on his erring and prodigal children. He so loved and pitied them, even when they were dead in trespasses and sins, “that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have ever­lasting life.” (John 3:16.) Thus “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19.) “Herein,” then, “is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (hilas- mos) for our sins.” (1 John 4:10.)

The whole plan of redemption, therefore, including the work of atonement, is an arrangement of the Godhead, embracing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and is designed (1) to meet and satisfy the claims of the Divine government against man, so that God’s mercy might justly flow to penitent sinners; (2) to rec­oncile man to God, by removing enmity from his heart and filling it with gratitude and love; and (3) to actually blot out and forever cancel the sins of all such as become obedient to the Divine will. But in order to effect all this, it was necessary, as the Apostle here shows, that Christ should become a man, in all respects like unto his brethren, so that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God. Thus, and thus only, could he make expiation for our sins; and so render it possible for God’s abounding mercy and love to flow out freely and fully to all who love and obey him.

Hebrews 2:18 ---For in that, etc.—In this verse, the Apostle explains how it is, that Christ’s being made like unto his brethren in all things serves to make him a more faithful and compassionate High Priest. “For in that,” he says, “he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” As God, he knows of course all our wants, and is ever able and willing to supply them. But as a man, he had to experience all the trials, temptations, pri­vations, sorrows, and sufferings, which are common to our race, in order to fully qualify him for the duties of his mediatorial office: and these, as the Divine record shows, he endured to the utter­most. Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, and brought up in the humble condition of a peasant, he entered upon his public du­ties under the most trying and discouraging circumstances. Satan tempted him; the scribes and Pharisees derided and persecuted him; and even his own friends and brethren forsook him. But he faltered not in his purpose. His course was ever onward toward the sublime goal of his earthly mission. Amidst the lowering tem­pests and gathering storms of demoniacal fury and satanic malice, he marched directly onward, until baptized in sufferings, his op­pressed and care-worn frame sunk under the tremendous pressure of his mental agonies, and his great heart literally burst under the crushing and overwhelming influence of his incurred responsibil­ities. See notes on 5:7. He could endure no more; but calmly said, “It is finished”; and then expired.


1. God has provided a home for his children. (Hebrews 2:5-9.) “The meek,” says Christ, “shall inherit the Earth.” For ages, the domi­nation of the world has been a matter of strife and contention; and ambitious men have waded through seas of blood to obtain it. But it is all in vain. They will never, except by temporary usurpation, enjoy even so much as a foot-breadth of it; for to Abraham and his seed it has all been given by an irrevocable decree of Jehovah, as their everlasting inheritance. (Romans 4:13.) It matters not how humble and how destitute we may now be, if we have the earnest of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:14) ; “then indeed are we Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). I do not say that we will always be confined to this world, as we now are while living in these “houses of clay whose foundation is in the dust.” This is not probable. With bodies like unto that of the Son of God (1 John 3:2), purified and spiritualized (1 Corinthians 15:44 1 Corinthians 15:50), we may, like angels, pass from world to world, and from system to system, to behold the works of the Lord and to make known to others the mysteries of redemption. But wherever we go, and on whatever errand we may be sent, our object finished, we will return again on joyful wing to this renovated earth to behold with increasing wonder and delight the beauty and the glory of the Lord in the New Jerusalem, “the city of our God, the mountain of his holiness.” There with David we will often ex­claim, with wonder and amazement, “Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?” When we see the countless myriads of suns, and moons, and stars that compose the vast empire of Jehovah, and the higher sons of light who inhabit them, and who from so many centers of creation swell the lofty praises of their Creator in everlasting anthems— feeling our own nothingness and unworthiness, we will be filled with wonder and amazement that God, in his infinite condescen­sion, mercy, and love, should have provided such a home for us as the New Heavens and the New Earth, filled and illuminated with his own glorious and eternal presence. See Revelation 21, 22.

2. The atonement made by Christ is for all men, and its benefits are in some measure unconditionally extended to all. Even the lives that we now live in the flesh, we live through the forbearance of God in Christ (1 Timothy 4:10) ; and the removal of the effects and consequences of the Adamic transgression will be as wide and as comprehensive as the human race. For “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22.) And “as by means of one trespass, the righteous sentence of God came upon all men to condemnation; so also by means of one righteous act, the favor of God will come on all men to justification of life [from the penalty of death incurred through Adam]. For as by the disobedience of one man [Adam] the many [all men] were made sinners; so also by the obedience of the one [Christ], the many [all men] shall be made righteous [so far as it respects the sinfulness incurred through Adam].” (Romans 5:18-19.) Nor is this all: for where sin abounded, grace superabounded. Through the infinite merits of the one offering of Christ, the justice of God has been satisfied, and ample provision has been made for pardon­ing the many personal offenses of all men who repent of their sins and humbly bow to the will and authority of God. And hence the cry of Mercy now is, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters: and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

3. The scheme of redemption through Christ is not an arbitrary scheme (Hebrews 2:10). It is a scheme prompted by the love of God; founded in justice, judgment, and equity; and administered throughout in infinite wisdom. The nature of God is its constitu­tion, in harmony with which all its laws and ordinances have been enacted. And hence it became God in bringing many sons unto glory, to look not only to the qualifications of their Captain, but also to the rightful demands of his own nature and government. Until these were satisfied, it were all vain to talk of saving any sin­ner. By an eternal moral necessity, deep and profound as the Di­vine nature, the soul that sinneth must die; unless an adequate ransom can in some way be provided. This has been done through the one offering of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, by his death and incarnation, has magnified God’s law and made it honorable (Isaiah 42:21) ; he has by the offering of his blood, once for all, brought in everlasting righteousness (Daniel 9:24) ; and under his peaceful and glorious reign, “Mercy and Truth have met together, Righ­teousness and Peace have kissed each other” (Psalms 85:10). No wonder, then, that angels desired to look into these things, and to study with profound reverence the economy of redemption. (1 Peter 1:12.) There is here nothing of fatality, nor of arbitrary will and caprice; but there is here a system of rectitude, broad, deep, and profound as the Divine government; every element of which is marked by that “wisdom which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated; full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17.)

1. How wonderful are the condescension and the love of Christ in assuming our nature and being made like unto his brethren in all things; so that he might by the grace of God taste death for every man, destroy the works of Satan, and “deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subjects of bondage” (verses 9-18).

“He left his radiant throne on high,

Left the bright realms of bliss,

And came to Earth to bleed and die:

Was ever love like this?”

“Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8.)

2. Perhaps, then, it should not excite our surprise, that this marvelous condescension of the Lord Jesus has always proved to be one of the chief stumblingblocks in the way of unbelievers. There is nothing in the depraved and selfish nature of man that will at all compare with it. And hence to those who are wont to estimate the motives of others by their own, it seems wholly incred­ible that “he who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God” should make himself of no repu­tation, and take upon himself the form of a servant, that he might become obedient to death, even the death of the cross. But as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9.)

3. To me, therefore, it seems far more strange and remarkable that any who profess to believe the testimony which God has given to us concerning his Son, should at any time refuse to obey any of his precepts. When we think of the condescension of Jesus; the sufferings of Jesus; and the many benefits which he has procured for us through the rich merits of his own precious blood, we feel as if we could never do enough, or suffer enough for such a Savior. And yet, alas, how many who profess to believe the Gospel are still hardened through the deceitfulness of sin! How many such are still slaves to “the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life”! Nor is perfection found even in us who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, “which God has given to them that obey him.” We, too, fall far short of that perfect obedience which the law of God requires, and which our own hearts approve. To know this is, of course, very painful to every true child of God; and makes us long for that perfect state where we will no longer grieve our Father and our Redeemer.

In the meantime, how very encouraging and delightful is the thought that our blessed Savior sympathizes with us in all our griefs, trials, and temptations; and that if we only rely on him, trust in him, and struggle on in our imperfect way for a little while, he will soon take us to that brighter and better world, where we will sin no more (Hebrews 2:18).

Commentary on Hebrews 2:10-18 by Don E. Boatman

Hebrews 2:10 --for it became Him

Paul, or the author, explained Christ’s greatness. Now he shows why it was done:

a. It was expedient.

b. Because of the nature of God, it was “becoming” of God to do it.

c. Because He loves, He would be constrained to do something about lost man.

Hebrews 2:10 --for Whom are all things

A loving Father will commit all to the consecrated Son:

a. Romans 8:17 : “Heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.”

b. Hebrews 1:2 : “—whom He appointed Heir—”

Christ has proven His worthiness but has not come unto the inheritance as yet:

a. 1 Corinthians 15:24 : “When He shall deliver up the kingdom to God.”

b. For the present, God is the owner of all things.

Hebrews 2:10 --and through whom are all things

This can be said of both Christ and God.

a. Of God—Acts 17:28 : “In Him we live.”

b. Of Christ—John 1:3 : All things were made by Him.

c. John 1:10 : The world was made by Him.

d. Colossians 1:16-17 : By Him all things consist.

Creation is ascribed to the Son, but then all things are preserved by the power of God.

Hebrews 2:10 --in bringing many sons unto glory

God is to add to His family through Jesus Christ:

a. He desires all men to become part of His family.

1) 2 Peter 3:9 : “—not wishing that any should perish.”

2) John 3:16 : “—whosoever believeth—”

b. We have the privilege of choosing to be born into this family, unlike into our earthly home, where we had no choice.

What is our glory?

a. Philippians 3:21 : “—fashioned like His glorious body.”

b. 1 Corinthians 15:43 : “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”

When will we have glory?

a. We have some glory now:

1. Romans 8:21 : “—glorious liberty.”

2. 1 Peter 4:14 : “—spirit of glory.”

3. Ephesians 3:13 : “—tribulation which is your glory.”

b. We have glory that is yet to come:

1) Colossians 3:4 : “When Christ shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory.”

How do we receive this glory?

a. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 : “—He called you through our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

b. 1 Peter 5:10; “—God of all grace who called you unto His eternal glory in Christ.”

Hebrews 2:10 --to make the Author of their salvation perfect

The Greek word for “author” is Archegos, a combination of two Greek words:

a. The words mean “to begin” and “to lead.”

b. The word “Author” is also translated “Captain.”

c. Christ is our “leader”, and a perfect one.

d. The idea of leadership is expressed elsewhere:

1. Acts 5:31 : A Prince, a Saviour.

2. Acts 3:15 : Prince of Life.

It is time the world should heed this Leader, Who alone can save.

Hebrews 2:10 --perfect through sufferings

Suffering made Him perfectly qualified for the execution of His office:

a. Christ was perfect in character, being without sin, but His experiences as man perfectly qualified Him to be a merciful High Priest.

b. His perfection makes a good Bible study:

1. Perfect in His life.

a) Luke 23:4 : Pilate found no fault.

b) Hebrews 4:15 : Tempted, yet without sin.

c) 1 Peter 1:19 : Without spot.

2. Perfect in His sacrifice.

a) Isaiah 53:7 : Openeth not His mouth.

b) Luke 23:34 : Prayed for His enemies.

c) 1 Peter 1:19 : Without spot or blemish.

Suffering, tribulations, etc., serve to perfect us.

Romans 5:3 : “—tribulation worketh stedfastness.”

Hebrews 2:11 --for both He that sanctifieth

What is meant by “sanctifieth”?

a. The word is also translated “consecrates.”

b. It means to set apart for a holy use, or to an office.

1. Matthew 23:19.

2. John 17:17.

c. It means to purify from pollution, either ceremonially or spiritually.

1. Ceremonially—Hebrews 9:9-10.

2. Morally or spiritually—1 Thessalonians 5:23.

d. It means to purify from the guilt of sin by a free remission.

Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 10:18.

How are we sanctified?

a. It is done in obedience to truth:

1. John 17:19 : Sanctified through the truth.

2. 2 Timothy 2:21 : Vessels sanctified for the Master’s use.

3. 1 Corinthians 1:2 : Sanctified in Christ Jesus.

4. 1 Timothy 4:5 : Sanctified by the Word. Who is meant by “He”?

a. The connotation suggests Christ, for this one calls us brethren, and God does not do that.

b. The other members of the Godhead do sanctify too.

1. Holy Spirit—Romans 15:16.

2. God—John 10:36.

Hebrews 2:11 --and they that are sanctified are all of one

What is meant by “all of one”?

a. Some suggest one race, one blood, one offering.

b. Newell: “It speaks of one kind of quality of being, rather than mere unity.” (p. 52)

c. One inheritance (Romans 8:17) is suggested.

d. Milligan says: “Of one Father.”

1. This fits best, for we have a common Father with Jesus, Who calls us brothers.

2. We do not have the devil as father, but Jesus’ own Father as our father.

Hebrews 2:11 --for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren

Christ will be ashamed of all who are not sanctified:

a. Matthew 10:33.

b. Mark 8:38.

If He calls us brothers, should we call Him brother?

a. No, for we are brothers by grace.

b. He is so much more than brother; He is Lord, God, Saviour, Master, King of kings, High Priest.

Hebrews 2:12 --saying, I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren

This is a quotation from Psalms 22:22 :

a. This is Christ speaking through David.

b. The word “declare” is also translated “proclaim.”

The name of God is to be declared:

a. Jesus in His miracles prayed and gave glory to God.

b. John 1:18 : Christ declared the God Whom men could not see.

Who is meant by “brethren”?

a. Some say, “Christ also spoke to the Gentiles, and they were not His brothers.”

1. Mark 7:26 : A Greek—a Syrophoenician.

2. John 4:9 : Samaritan.

This probably refers to the great victory when Christ and His brethren will be around the throne of God. Revelation 19.

Hebrews 2:12 --In the midst of the congregation will I sing Thy praise

This phrase verifies the idea of Christ being with His church.

The church should praise God.

a. Ephesians 5:19 : “Speaking . . . in psalms and hymns.”

b. Some churches roll up the rug on Sunday evening for dancing rather than for praising God.

Hebrews 2:13 --And again I will put My trust in Him.

The source of this quotation is uncertain, for several places sound similar.

a. Psalms 18:2 is suggested, for much of this Psalm is Messianic.

b. 2 Samuel 22:3, Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 12:2 are suggested.

An alternate translation says, “I will confide in Him.”

Who is trusting who?

a. Is the Christ trusting in God?

b. Does Christ have faith in God, when He knows God personally?

1. It is true that knowledge eliminates faith.

2. Christ did not have faith in God’s character or existence, for these He knew.

3. Trust enters in when God’s purposes are yet to be fulfilled.

c. Christ is our perfect example of trust.

Hebrews 2:13 --And again, behold I and the children whom God hath given Me.

This is a quotation from Isaiah 8:18.

a. “This quotation concerns Isaiah and his children and is applied to Christ and God’s children, His disciples.” (Milligan)

b. The idea probably is that the elder brother and the children will trust in God. A warning is therefore needed. Hebrews 3:12 : “evil heart of unbelief.”

What is meant by “children given unto Me”?

a. It does not mean that we become children of Christ, but children of God in the church of Christ.

b. See John 6:37 : “All that the Father hath given Me, will come unto Me.”

Notice the similarity in names of the type, Isaiah, and the antitype, Jesus.

a. “Isaiah” means “salvation of Jehovah.”

b. “Jesus” means “Jehovah’s salvation.”

Hebrews 2:14 --Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood

The King James version says, “partakers of flesh”.

In flesh, man is sensuous, subject to infirmity and decay.

Hebrews 2:14 --He also in like manner partook of the same

He did not become like an angel to save angels, but became like man to save man:

a. Hebrews 10:5 : “—a body Thou hast prepared.”

b. Philippians 2:5-11 : “—took the form of a servant.”

An immortal being cannot die, so Christ became mortal so that He could die for man.

Hebrews 2:14 --that through death He might bring to nought

The Catholic Bible and the King James version translate “nought” as “destroy.”

a. “The word does not mean to annihilate, but to render useless.” (Milligan)

b. “The devil is now only weakened; his power is gone.” (Calvin)

c. If these men are right, will the devil ever be destroyed? Yes. See Revelation 20:10.

“through death” is suggestive:

a. Some accomplish in death that which they could not accomplish in life.

1. Death of a mother, a wife, sometimes leads to the conversion of a father, a husband, a child.

2. Death of men, when untimely, helps to make them national heroes, martyrs to a cause, and prompts men to arise to the cause.

b. Through death Jesus could prove He had power over it, and authority over the grave. He demonstrated that He was the one who had the power over death.

1. 2 Corinthians 5:1.

2. 1 Corinthians 15.

Hebrews 2:14 --him that had the power of death, that is the devil

The devil has an ambition, but his power is weakened:

a. The meaning of his name:

1) “Diablos” in Greek means “accuser” or “slanderer”.

2) “Satan” in Hebrew means “he who hates, an enemy”.

b. Pride was probably his downfall:

1. 1 Timothy 3:6 : “—lest being puffed up, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

c. He works to control man:

1. John 12:31; John 16:11 : He is “Prince of this world.”

2. John 8:34; 1 Timothy 3:7 : He seeks to enslave and ensnare.

d. His power to accuse man as he did Job of old is gone:

1. He cannot slander us before God, for we have been accepted.

2. Jesus breaks the power of sin, and thus death, the result of sin, is broken.

Hebrews 2:15 --and might deliver all them

Some feel that this refers directly to the Gentiles who had no revelation, but we may say that “all” is world-wide.

Christ is a deliverer for all men, not simply a national hero. This suggests that Christ is the help of man to escape the works of the devil.

a. This is proven by 1 John 3:8 : “That He might destroy the works of the devil.”

b. This word “might” is also translated “may”, which suggests futurity.

c. Why does not God destroy the devil now?

1. It would leave a vast number of orphans, for the devil’s children are numerous.

2. A destruction of the devil would change this world from one of choice.

Hebrews 2:15 --who through fear of death

Why do men fear death?

a. Because of pain, misery.

b. Because of the darkness and corruption of the grave.

c. Because of the uncertainty of their condition and destiny beyond it.

For the Christian it loses its terror and sting:

a. 1 Corinthians 15:55 : “O death where is thy sting?”

b. Psalms 23:1 “Thou art with me.”

c. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 : “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

d. 2 Corinthians 5:8 : “at home with the Lord.”

Hebrews 2:15 --were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Bondage is twofold:

a. Bondage to fear is the one specifically meant.

1. Men dread death, work against it, spend fortunes to prolong life and to escape it.

2. Death haunts us, if not for self, for our loved ones.

b. Bondage to sin is likewise present. See Romans 6:16-18 : “Servants . . . of sin unto death.”

What is the end of those who are in bondage to fear?

a. The answer is plain.

1. Revelation 20:14-15.

2. Matthew 25:46.

3. Revelation 22:11.

b. Christ delivers from this end.

1. Romans 8:15 : “—received the spirit of adoption.”

Study Questions

250. How does God obtain sons?

251. Does God want many sons? See 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16.

252. Harmonize the expression, “many” with Jesus’ statement of the strait and narrow way.

253. What will be our glory?

254. Do we have any glory now?

255. How do we obtain glory?

256. Define the word “author”. What is its origin?

257. What verses speak of Christ as a leader?

258. How is the word, “leader”, translated by others?

259. What made Christ perfect?

260. Does this refer to His character?

261. Could it refer to His quality as a leader?

262. Discuss the verses that speak of Christ’s perfection.

263. Does it refer to His being qualified by suffering?

264. Of what value are sufferings for us? See Romans 5:3.

265. Give an exegesis of Hebrews 2:11.

266. What does “sanctification” mean?

267. Who sanctified who, according to chapter 2?

268. When are we sanctified? See Ephesians 5:26.

269. What is meant by, “are all of one”?

270. Does the author refer to God, or to Christ?

271. Does God ever call us brethren?

272. What verse teaches that Christ will not be ashamed of us?

273. Should we call Christ our brother?

274. Do we have any record of Jesus singing?

275. Where is this quotation found?

276. What is the purpose of the singing?

277. Who is meant by “brethren”?

278. Whose name is declared?

279. When will this singing take place? Revelation 19.

280. Who has faith in whom?

281. What is meant when it is said that Jesus would put His trust in God? Is faith present where there is knowledge? In what did He trust?

282. Who are the children given to Christ?

283. Are we children of Christ? cf. John 6:37.

284. Why did Christ share in flesh and blood according to Hebrews 2:14?

285. Why did Christ not take up the flesh of an angel?

286. Why did He not remain immortal, and in heaven?

287. Why is “through death” significant?

288. What is meant by the word “nought”? Does it mean to annihilate?

289. Does death prove a blessing in other realms?

290. Could Christ die if He were not in the flesh?

291. What could Christ prove by death? cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 15.

292. How can it be said that the devil had the power of death?

293. Is the past tense significant in the words, “had the power of death”?

294. What does the word “devil” mean?

295. What is the Devil able to do according to John 8:34; 1 Timothy 3:7?

296. Hebrews 2:15 suggests deliverance from the fear of death. Do you feel that Christians are delivered, that they fear death less than non-Christians?

297. Why are people fearful of death?

298. Give verses that tell of man’s freedom from the terror of death.

299. What bondage is referred to?

300. Is the devil’s power destroyed outright? If not—why not?

Hebrews 2:16 --For verily not to angels doth He give help

Jesus’ coming was for man, not angels.

It is also translated, “He took not on Him the nature of angels.” (KS)

a. He did not, as the next verse verifies.

b. He came not as an angel, but as man.

That He preferred us to angels was not owing to our excellency, but to our misery.

Hebrews 2:16 --but He giveth help to the seed of Abraham

There are two groups for consideration:

a. The physical seed.

1. He came to the house of Israel, but this consideration alone limits the verse.

2. The good tidings announced concerning the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem was for all men.

b. The spiritual seed, which includes all men of faith.

1. Galatians 3:9 : “—are of faith are blessed.”

2. Galatians 4:28 : “Now we, brethren . . . are children of promise.”

3. Romans 9:8 : “The children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.”

Hebrews 2:17 --Wherefore it behooved Him in all things

He felt a moral necessity, an obligation to do something for man:

a. The nature of God, loving, just, merciful, would require God to seek man.

b. Jesus was of the nature of God, so He would feel obligated to save man.

Two things should be considered in the expression, “all things”:

a. Man has a twofold being.

1. Flesh.

2. Affection, feeling or emotion.

b. Jesus came as flesh, and He had sympathy, feeling, and emotion.

Hebrews 2:17 --to be made like unto His brethren

Who were His brethren?

a. Some suggest His flesh and blood relatives.

b. Some suggest His Jewish brethren.

c. Some suggest His brethren in the church.

d. His brethren in the flesh—mankind in general—may be considered, for the emphasis is on becoming like man, and not upon the word, “brethren”.

Hebrews 2:17 --that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest.

“Might become” suggests that living in the flesh was needed in order to qualify Him:

a. We do not like to limit Jesus, but from our standpoint we cannot now excuse ourselves and say that Deity does not know our feeling since Jesus suffered as man.

b. We become the most sympathetic when we have experienced the same thing as the one who needs our sympathy.

“Merciful” is suggestive:

a. In Old Testament times, sin’s punishment had no mercy. cf. Hebrews 10:28 : “Die without mercy.”

b. Jesus was merciful:

1. His coming was an act of mercy.

2. He showed compassion on earth.

a) John 8:11 : “—go and sin no more.”

b) Luke 7:13. “—He had compassion on her.”

c) Matthew 9:36 : “—Jesus was moved with compassion.”

c. Since Christ experienced all of life, we readily believe that He will be merciful to us.

Hebrews 2:17 --faithful

Christ proved His faithfulness:

a. Luke 9:51 : “—He stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

b. Matthew 26:39 : “—not My will but Thine be done.”

c. Matthew 26:52 : “—Put up again thy sword into its place.”

d. Hebrews 3:2 : “Jesus . . . was faithful.”

Jesus was faithful to His purpose in this life. Therefore we feel He will be faithful as our High Priest.

Hebrews 2:17 --High Priest in all things

On earth He was our sacrifice, in heaven He is our High Priest:

a. The High Priest on earth made sacrifices, then went into the Holy Place to make restitution for the sins of the people.

b. Jesus serves in the Holy Place as our Priest.

1. Hebrews 3:1 : “—High Priest of our confession.”

2. Hebrews 10:21 : “—having a great High Priest.”

Hebrews 2:17 --in things pertaining to God

Jesus had many opportunities to leave God’s way:

a. Men sought to make Him bow to their traditions.

b. The devil sought to receive His devotion. Matthew 4

He was pleasing to God rather than to men:

a. Baptism, Matthew 3:17 : “—well pleased.”

b. Transfiguration, Matthew 17:5 : “—well pleased.”

c. Acts 2:33 : “—being at right hand of God.”

Hebrews 2:17 --to make propitiation for the sins of the people

The word, “propitiation” means “a covering”, “an appeasement”, and is also translated “reconciliation”.

a. His atonement is referred to.

b. This is the priestly function of Christ.

The Catholic Bible uses the word “expiate”.

Hebrews 2:18 --For in that He Himself had suffered being tempted.

Alternate translations should be seen here:

a. A.S. footnote: “for having been himself tempted in that wherein He hath suffered.”

1. This suggests that there is suffering in temptation.

2. Temptation here “means no other thing than experience or probation,” says Calvin. (p. 76)

a) Jesus is a good example of the distress of the soul: Luke 22:44 : “—great drops of blood.”

Matthew 26:38 : “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.”

b) Men who are not dishonest, but have great temptations before them, undergo great distress of soul.

b. Catholic Bible: “Himself has suffered and has been tempted”:

1. This makes the experiences separate.

2. Of course He did experience suffering apart from being tempted.

Hebrews 2:18 --He is able to succor them that are tempted

There are three things needed by the one tempted:

a. Strength to withstand.

1. Philippians 4:13 : “—through Christ.”

2. 1 Corinthians 10:13 : “God . . . will not suffer: you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear.”

3. Ephesians 6:13 : “. . . may be able to withstand.”

b. Consolation for the spirit.

1. Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are ye.”

2. 1 Peter 1:6-7 : “Rejoice.”

3. Romans 8:28 : “—to them that love God, all things work together for good.”

4. James 1:2; James 1:12.

c. Deliverance.

1. 2 Peter 2:9 : “—The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly.”

2. 1 Corinthians 10:13 : “—a way of escape.”

The Great Shepherd will walk down the valleys and will prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies.

Study Questions

301. Does Christ help angels, according to this chapter (Hebrews 2:16)? Why not?

302. Why would He help us instead of angels?

303. Does this verse limit His help to the Jews?

304. What is meant by “seed of Abraham”?

305. Are we the seed of Abraham, too? cf. Galatians 1:1; Galatians 4:28; Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:29; Romans 9:6-8.

306. Hebrews 2:17 gives us another reason for Christ coming in human flesh. What is it?

307. What is meant by “behooved”?

308. What is meant by “all things”?

309. What is characteristic of man besides flesh?

310. Would “all things” refer to emotion—love, sympathy, etc.?

311. How could Christ’s life on earth make Him a merciful high priest?

312. Was the Old Testament priesthood merciful? cf. Hebrews 10:28.

313. Tell of Jesus’ compassion on earth.

314. Are we the most sympathetic when we have suffered similar experiences?

315. Tell of Christ’s faithfulness.

316. What might be included in “all things”?

317. Is the expression, “pertaining to God”, significant?

318. Did God ever express pleasure in Christ on earth?

319. What is meant by “propitiation”?

320. What does Hebrews 2:18 suggest about temptation? Does it describe its effect on the one tempted?

321. Does all temptation come through suffering, or are two different things named here?

322. What are the things needed by the person tempted?

323. Do we have the promise of Christ’s strength?

324. Do we have consolation?

325. Is there deliverance in Christ?

326. What temptations did Jesus face?

Commentary on Hebrews 2:10-18 by Burton Coffman

Hebrews 2:10 --For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

On this place, Westcott noted that

The difficulties which at first sight beset the conception of a suffering Messiah vanish upon closer thought. For when we consider what is the relationship between the Son of man and men - the Son and the sons - what man’s condition is and how he can be redeemed only through divine fellowship, we ourselves can discern the "fitness" of the divine method of redemption. So far, therefore, from the death of Christ being an objection to his claims, it really falls in with what deeper reflection suggests.[14]

The use of the word "became" is in the sense of that which compliments or enhances; and it calls attention to the excellent beauty and perfection in all of God’s work, even in the smallest particulars. In all the wondrous annals of the scheme of redemption, there is no or unbecoming thing, but only total loveliness, appropriateness, and aesthetic satisfaction pertaining to everything that God did. How marvelous are his ways. The cross itself, dark and terrible as it looms upon the horizon of human history, is clothed with glory and beauty that surpass the imagination; and, seeing this, Christ said, "And, I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself" (John 12:32).

The word "author" is also translated "captain" (English Revised Version margin), and some have found in the word such a meaning as "pathfinder" or "pioneer." Another word of challenging interest in this verse is "perfect," which poses a problem; for how can the author speak of Christ’s being made perfect when he is already perfect? Bruce commented thus,

The perfect Son of God has become the people’s perfect Saviour, opening up their way to God; and in order to become that, he must endure suffering and death. The pathway of perfection which his people must tread must first be trodden by the Pathfinder.[15]

[14] Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), p. 47.

[15] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 43.

Hebrews 2:11 --For both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.

This is a further explanation of the fitness of Christ’s death for people. Since the Son has taken upon him the form of human beings, and in that sense is one with them, he is not ashamed to call them brethren, even to the extent of partaking of all their sorrows and sufferings, even death itself. The sanctification spoken of here is on a higher level than is usually thought of in connection with this term. It applies to the setting up of a new relationship to God rather than to achieving some greater holiness of character and partakes of the meaning of "justification" as used by Paul in Romans and elsewhere. Adam Clarke, speaking of "sanctifieth" in this verse, wrote:

The word does not merely signify one who sanctifies or makes holy, but one who makes atonement or reconciliation to God; and answers to the Hebrew word [~kaphar], to expiate (Exodus 29:33-36). He that sanctifies is he that makes the atonement; and they who are sanctified are they who received the atonement, and, being reconciled unto God, become his children, through adoption, by grace.[16]

That Christ is "not ashamed to call them brethren" is a most instructive thought. That the sinless and perfect Saviour should not be ashamed of vile and sinful man, and through his great love for them, should consent to partake of all their sufferings, even death, and should even go so far as to receive them as his spiritual body and make of them his bride - that must be hailed as an attitude of loving grace that beggars all description. Nor will Christ ever be ashamed of his brethren but will confess them before God and his holy angels (Mark 8:38). But if the attitude of Christ toward people is so commendable beyond all human comprehension, how loathsome is the opposite attitude of people who are ashamed of him?


[16] Adam Clarke, op. cit., p. 696.

Hebrews 2:12 --Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, In the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise.

As proof of Christ’s being unashamed of his brethren, the author here begins a series of three quotations from the Old Testament, this one from Psalms 22, which opens with the words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and which from New Testament times has been universally hailed as Messianic and as a detailed prophetic account of the crucifixion. The author of Psalms 22 is thought to be David who, as a type of Christ, came to his own throne through suffering which was followed by joyful fellowship. The second portion of the Psalm hails the triumph after rejection and sorrow (Psalms 22:22).

A choice of words by the author of Hebrews gives grounds for a very significant deduction, as pointed out by Bruce:

Our author uses the word [@ekklesia] for congregation (the Hebrew of Psalms 22:22 has [~qahal]). The employment of this word is a synonymous parallelism with "brethren" in a Christian context indicates that those whom the Son of God is pleased to call his brethren are the members of his church.[17]

The dramatic meaning of this will not be lost in the good and honest heart.


[17] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 46.

Hebrews 2:13 --And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me.

This quotation from Isaiah 8:17 ff shows the Old Testament basis for Christ’s not being ashamed of his brethren, the Messianic import from the quotation being that the Messiah shall not be glorified alone, but in conjunction with his spiritual "children," synonymous with "brethren." This use of the term "children," thus making disciples to be the sons of Christ, although the term is not so used elsewhere in the New Testament, is nevertheless founded on a valid deduction from this place in Isaiah and is also supported by Isaiah 53:10 which has, "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed." There is also another point in the quotation, that God has given those children, which has New Testament corroboration in John 17:9, "I pray not for the world but for those whom thou hast given me."

Hebrews 2:14 --Since the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.

The superiority of mortal man to the animal kingdom is implicit in the word that they are sharers in flesh and blood, indicating some higher element in man’s existence. Milligan and Lenski agree in this interpretation of "sharers."

This implies that "flesh and blood" is not, as in the case of the brute creatures, the whole of their being; theft soul or spirit, their real person exists only in fellowship with a physical body.[18]

The apostle does not say that the children are flesh and blood, but they have been made partakers of flesh and blood; thereby making a distinction between what constitutes the essential and eternal part of man’s nature, and what is merely accidental, and in which we now live, as in a clay tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1).[19]SIZE>

Here is the explanation of the mingled love and pity that humankind have for animals, flesh and blood being the common bond between them, and man’s higher self the impassable gulf that separates them. A sympathetic view of the essential kinship of man and animals is seen in these words of Borland,

And I saw the tracks of a rabbit, a fox, two field mice. I heard a cardinal whistle and a jay scream. Warm blood like mine. Flesh, like mine, that quivers with pain. Senses keener than mine.[20]

Partook of the same. Christ took a mortal body, partaking of blood and flesh; and this is an essential Christian doctrine. "He who was manifested in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16) was constantly extolled and adored from the earliest Christian times; and the man who would not receive the truth that "Christ came in the flesh" was held to be of the antichrist (1 John 4:3). The old creeds were altogether correct in their affirmation that Christ is both God and man and fully representative of both, being "wholly God and wholly man."

The reason for Christ’s partaking of flesh is given in this verse, namely, that he through death might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. It is regrettable that so many modern scholars make so little of man’s ancient and implacable foe, the devil; and although it must be confessed that faith in the devil never saved any person, yet the true believer does not hesitate to accept the things spoken by our Lord and the apostles concerning the person and devices of the evil one.

Death was the instrument Christ used to bring Satan to naught, and a more unlikely weapon cannot be imagined. That the death of Christ should have appeared to the author of Hebrews, and to Christians generally, as an instrument of world-shaking victory is absolutely astonishing and provides most convincing inferential evidence of the truth of Christ’s resurrection. Think of the death of Christ. He was rejected, despised, condemned, and tortured to death, not in some out-of-the-way province, but in the very capital of Hebrew hopes and aspirations. Not even his disciples understood what was taking place, and their gloom is seen in the words of his followers who said, "But we had hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21). Abandoned by his disciples, hated by the leaders of the nation, betrayed by an apostle, Christ did not even defy the government in his dying agony, but spoke mysteriously of God’s having "forsaken" him! Who could have believed that the followers of One who died that kind of death would be hailing it as a cosmic victory over the prince of evil within seven weeks and a day of the event itself?. And yet they were! Bruce said,

This sudden change from disillusionment to triumph can only be explained by the account which the apostles gave - that their Master rose from the dead and imparted to them the power of his risen life.[21]

Satan’s weapon, death, was therefore wrested from him and used as the instrument of Satan’s own destruction; and just as David took Goliath’s own sword and cut off the giant’s own head with it, David’s greater Son took Satan’s weapon of death and destroyed him with it. That all evil heads up to a fountain source in Satan is everywhere set forth in scripture, and that this source is personal and malignant is evident from the temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-4). That Satan had the power of death means that, by tempting Adam and Eve to sin and causing them to fall, he was the means of bringing death upon all mankind; and this may be the reason that Satan is called a "murderer" from the beginning (John 8:44). That the purpose of Satan toward the family of man is destructive, and only that, is evident from the examples of his operations, given now and again throughout the Bible. Thus, Satan brought death to Job’s family (Job 1:19), entered the heart of Judas, making him a suicide (John 13:27), and accomplished the destruction of the swine as soon as his emissaries were permitted to enter them (Matthew 8:32).

How can it be said that Christ has brought the devil to naught? Satan was brought to naught in that his sole purpose regarding mankind was absolutely frustrated and eternally defeated. It should be noted that all of Satan’s activity against humanity could have had only one objective, the destruction of the entire race, that being the primary objective of his seduction of Eve in Eden. Christ became a man, paid the penalty due Adam’s transgression, and opened up the way for the renewal for the lost fellowship with God. The motivation of satanic opposition to people would appear to lie in the desire of the evil one to fight back against the Eternal who had cast him out of his former estate and reserved him unto punishment, mankind providing the only known opportunity of Satan for any kind of a counter-movement against God. The seduction of mankind, therefore, should be viewed as a device of Satan in striking at God through God’s highest and favored creation, man. Inscrutable as the designs of God assuredly are, it is nevertheless possible to conjecture that God’s motivation in permitting Satan’s access to man was simply that of providing a test of man’s faith and obedience, a test which the first parents miserably failed. Satan’s failure was total and complete. He was not able to destroy mankind, but on the other hand found himself used as a means of testing and developing people; and the fact that some, even many, people will be lost must itself be seen as an utter failure of Satan to frustrate God’s purpose; for God will doubtless create and redeem the total number of humankind included in the original purpose, regardless of Satan or evil men who will follow Satan. Exell expressed it thus,

Since Jesus died, the devil and his power are destroyed. Destroyed? Certainly. Not in the sense of being extinct. Still, he assails the Christian warrior, though armed from head to foot; and goes about seeking whom he may devour, and deceives men to ruin. Yet he is destroyed. Are we not all familiar with objects which are destroyed without being actually ended?[22]

This verse outlining the victory of Christ over Satan, is actually the introduction of a theme to be treated extensively somewhat later in the epistle; and that is the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of humanity, called the atonement.

[18] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 88.

[19] R. Milligan, New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), p. 98.

[20] Hal Borland, Homeland (Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1969), p. 115.

[21] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 49.

[22] Joseph S. Exell, op. cit., p. 164.

Hebrews 2:15 --And might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

The victory over death, as announced here, was prophesied of old: "And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces" (Isaiah 25:7-8). This victory over death prophesied by Isaiah pinpoints some significant facts with reference to it. Where shall such a victory be achieved? "In this mountain," meaning on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, one of the mountains of Moriah, where Abraham offered Isaac, and where our Lord suffered, Golgotha, nowhere else! (See "Isaac a Type of Christ" under Hebrews 11:17). And at what time shall it be achieved? Isaiah’s mention of the "veil" or "face of the covering" suggests that when the victory is achieved, a "veil" will be destroyed. That occurred when the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, an event conspicuously connected with the death of Christ on the cross. Thus, whether determined by the place the victory was won, on Mount Zion, or by the destruction of a veil, as of that in the temple, the victory was won by Christ alone. Here again is the same paradox noted in the preceding verse where the destruction of Satan did not mean he was annihilated. Likewise here, death is destroyed, and yet people die. How can this be?

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; and it is Christ who said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live"! (John 11:25).

Cargill spoke of Christ’s victory over death as follows:

He destroyed the principle of sin, which is the cause of death. It is just like the cure for polio; we have it, but everyone is not cured; however, the end of it as a dread epidemic is in sight. Jesus annihilated the effects of death in his resurrection. He promises us the same victory.[23]

The fear of death is surely included in the word that says, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18). Paul flatly declared to Timothy that Christ abolished death (2 Timothy 1:10).


[23] Robert L. Cargill, op. cit., p. 23.

Hebrews 2:16 --For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham.

It is hard to understand why the translators gave this rendition, since the margin gives the Greek text thus, "For verily not of angels doth he take hold, but he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham."

The meaning of this verse is that Christ took upon himself the flesh of the seed of Abraham; and the expression "he took hold of" is very illuminating, for it shows that Christ had an existence before he decided to partake of flesh and blood, and that it was by his own volition that he did so. Exell so understood this, as indicated by

He TOOK; he did not inherit or receive a body. It is not the language that describes the ordinary birth of a common man. How strange it would sound if we were to speak of our children as if they had a thought or volition respecting their nature, and as if they were pleased to take on them such and such a body, when they were born. It describes voluntary action. It was an act contemplated beforehand. It implies not only pre-existence, but power, dignity, and condescension.[24]


Also, here is a problem. Why did Christ elect to enter the arena of human life as a man and to suffer and die for human redemption, whereas it is revealed that he made no such decision or movement on behalf of fallen angels who also had sinned? People have offered learned explanations why such should have been so, alleging that angels sinned with their eyes open, whereas man was deceived, and that angels found the source of temptations within themselves and not from an external source, as in the case of man; but the view here is that it is a part of the mystery "hidden before times eternal!" and that it does not lie within the periphery of complete finite understanding. 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; no hawk ever forgave the prey; and even in the Law of Moses, there was never any such thing as actual forgiveness, since sins were remembered again every year (Hebrews 10:3). How utterly unaccountable, therefore, is the heavenly grace exhibited on behalf of sinful man, a grace conveyed at such awful cost!

The fact of God’s willingness to undertake the redemption of man, despite all precedent to the contrary, and without any hesitation at the extravagant price of it, added to the other plain implications of God’s word in this chapter, bespeak the most overwhelming encouragement for humankind. The argument set forth in these verses presents Christ as superior to angels even during his incarnation as a man, a superiority that was not contravened even by Christ’s being made "for a little while" lower than the angels that he might taste of death, thus making it plain that man himself (as God created him) is superior to angels. No imagination then, however fertile, can conceive the fullness of the privilege of being a human being, created in the image of God, immortal except for the fall, destined for dominion over all things, and enjoying such a kinship with the Creator as would make such a thing as the incarnation possible; and furthermore, after having thrown it all away through sin and transgression, receiving the further privilege of forgiveness through Christ and reinstatement as an heir of everlasting glory! Any soul that despises all that God has done for man is surely worthy of the death that God has ordained for them that "know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 1:8). At last, the lost themselves will have no word of defense or complaint but shall concur in speechless acceptance of their judgment; for they shall be like him of whom Jesus said, "He was speechless" (Matthew 22:12)!

The meaning of "taketh hold of" in this verse is two-fold according to Milligan, "The Greek word means: (1) to take hold of anything as one’s own, and (2) to take hold of any person with a view to helping him."[25] Due to the emphasis on "partook of" in Hebrews 2:14, and "made like unto his brethren" in Hebrews 2:17, the first meaning seems preferable here; but, of course, since the purpose of Christ’s partaking of flesh and blood was to help man, the second meaning is certainly not excluded.


That Christ entered earthly life as a descendant of Abraham was due primarily to the promise of human redemption made to Abraham by God, to the effect that it would be in Abraham’s seed that all the families of man should be blessed (Genesis 12:3). For Christ to have entered human life through any other human family would have vitiated that prophecy. Further, the choice of Abraham’s posterity as the vehicle of God’s entry into our earth life and the selection of Abraham to receive the promise did not derive from any caprice or partiality on God’s part but were founded in the most convincing logic; and God saw fit to explain it as follows:

For I know the he (Abraham) will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him (Genesis 18:19).

Thus God discerned in Abraham the necessary qualities required for the long process through which redemption would be achieved. Any thought of partiality on the part of God disappears in the consideration that it was God’s purpose to bless through Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth, Jewish and Gentile alike, all of whom are invited to be Abraham’s spiritual children (Galatians 3:9; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:29). All people should thank God that such a man as Abraham was found, whose broad shoulders could carry such a dreadful weight of responsibility. In the long centuries afterward, Abraham (in his posterity) surely did what God knew he would do, that is, "command his children after him," an ability which the Gentiles, on the other hand, conspicuously failed to demonstrate. A mention of the seed of Abraham in this verse is dramatic reference to the fact that the Jews themselves needed the help of that promised "seed" which was Christ, in order to achieve forgiveness. This was a truth which the wavering Jewish Christians who received Hebrews might be tempted to overlook.

[24] Joseph S. Exell, op. cit., p. 162.

[25] R. Milligan, op. cit., p. 101.

Hebrews 2:17-18 --Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.

Behooved carries with it the idea of indebtedness, as of money owed, and indicates that Christ, having decided to help people, incurred the frightful obligations inherent in such a decision. "Like unto his brethren" is suggestive of the great prophecy concerning "that Prophet" (Deuteronomy 18:15) who was specifically promised as one who would be "like unto his brethren." That Christ was made "in all things" like his brethren should be qualified by the considerations that: (1) in his birth; (2) in his sinlessness; and (3) in his death for our sins according to the scriptures, Christ was utterly different from all others who ever lived. The expression "merciful and faithful high priest" involves a dual relationship, toward God and toward man.

"Merciful" is placed before the verb and is thus emphatic; so that we evidently have two predictions: "made merciful" toward his brothers, and a "faithful" high priest toward God.[26]

The merciful nature of Christ’s priesthood contrasted sharply with that of the cold and merciless Sadducees with whom the original readers of this epistle were familiar. Robertson noted that "The Sadducean high priests were political and ecclesiastical tools and puppets out of sympathy with the people and chosen by Rome."[27] The Jewish Christians who first received Hebrews must have warmed to the thought of such a high priest as Jesus is shown to be. It may at first seem that the designation of Christ as high priest in this place is abrupt, but it logically follows the marvelous statements made concerning him a little earlier, to the effect that he is the "author" of salvation, and made "purification for sins," and "tasted of death for every man." More on this below.

A merciful and faithful high priest denominates Christ as the holy and effective high priest of his people, and much of the subsequent material in this epistle is concerned with an elaboration of this significant office of the Saviour. As Hewitt observed, "The word `high priest’ occurs here for the first time in Hebrews. It is also the first time that it is directly applied to Jesus in scripture."[28] In fulfillment of the office of high priest, Christ is the reality of that which was typically performed by the Jewish high priest who, on the day of atonement, entered into the holiest place and offered blood for the sins of the people; Christ entered heaven and offered his own blood for the sins of all people; and, just as the priest slew the victim prior to offering its blood, Christ offered himself upon the cross, thus combining in himself the functions of both the victim and the one offering the blood. The high priesthood of Christ is so predominantly discussed in Hebrews that some find this as the theme of the entire epistle. Many other things pertinent to this subject will be discussed later in the epistle. The verse before us stresses the qualifications of our Lord, his sympathetic mercy toward man and the utmost fidelity toward God.

We note especially the sympathy of Jesus as indicated by his mercy. People who have never fallen are likely to be too severe, those who have, too lenient; but Christ, though tempted in all points, did not fall, and is alone capable of making the proper judgment concerning people. How encouraging is the thought that, whatever sorrow or temptation befalls man, Christ has full and perfect knowledge of it. In him, there is none of that cold arrogant detachment that characterized men like Annas and Caiaphas. How thankful all people should be for the mercy of the Lord.

Make propitiation for the sins of the people focuses attention upon the meaning of "propitiation." Although the Greek usage of the word applies it to making sacrifices to gods or men to mollify their anger or procure their favors, scholars assure us that there is no implication of any exactly parallel meaning in its application to the work of Christ. This is true because God cannot be appeased or propitiated in the sense such was understood of pagan deities or worldly princes. It is not God who needs to change his mind, but people who need to change theirs. The sacrifice of Christ therefore was not to reconcile God to man, but man to God. As Paul taught, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" (1 Corinthians 5:19). Other New Testament passages in which the word "propitiation" is found are: Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; and in the prayer of the publican, Luke 18:13. Thus, as Paul explained it in Romans 3:24 ff, God’s righteousness and justice could be vindicated only by the invocation of the penalty of death. The great love and mercy of God are seen in that he paid it himself, in the person of his Son upon the cross, thus doing for man that thing which man alone could not in a billion years have done for himself; also making God the one who propitiates and the one propitiated at the same time!

In the inexpressibly sublime and wonderful fact that God gave the sacrifice for man’s sins, the Christian faith parts company with all the ethnic and purely human religions which through the ages have risen and flourished on the earth. In all the human religions, without exception, it is man who pays and pays a thousand years; it is the boldest warrior of the tribe that faces the dragon; it is the fairest maiden offered as a sacrifice; and it was a man, Prometheus, who was bound to the rock forever with the vultures upon him. Strangely enough, in that latter myth, the sentence was eternal and could be lifted only when some immortal consented to die in Prometheus’ place, thus providing pagan testimony to the spiritual truth that redemption must come from without mankind. But it is precisely in this business of "Who pays?" that the unique superiority of Christianity appears; for in the Bible it is God who pays it all.

Being tempted, as used here, seems to make Christ’s temptations to consist chiefly of his sufferings. He might well have thought, "Why bother with it all? Why go through such an agony as the cross for the sake of saving people who constantly seemed to prove themselves unworthy of it?" That some such thoughts did occur to Jesus is implied by his reference to the twelve legions of angels whom he had the power to summon to his aid (Matthew 26:53). Only his great eternal love could have strengthened and steadied him against aborting his mission of salvation and calling it off.

As for the alleged impossibility of Christ’s committing a sin, such has never appeared reasonable to this writer; because, in the very nature of all things, no man can be tempted to do that which he is incapable of doing. The value of Christ’s temptations is seen in the enhanced position it gave him as one able to comfort his human children. Cargill explained this thus,

He did not suffer in vain. If you have never known temptation, you cannot succor another. I have observed that there is no comforter for a widow like one who has lost her husband. The mother who has lost her child is the most comforting to another mother.[29]

[26] A. T. Robertson, op. cit., p. 351.

[27] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 94.

[28] Thomas Hewitt, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), p. 17.

[29] Robert L. Cargill, op. cit., p. 25.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Hebrews 2". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/hebrews-2.html.
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