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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 2

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 2 A First Warning To Take Heed To His Words - Followed By The Revelation That This One Who Is Son Is Now Revealed As Jesus Who Has United Himself with Mankind Through Being made Lower Than The Angels And Crowned As True Man So That Through Suffering He Might Save All Who Believe Making Them His Brothers And Destroying The Fear of Death (Hebrews 2:1-18)


Verse 1

The First Warning - We Must Take Heed To What God Has Said For God’s Salvation Is What Is Involved And Especially As We Have Learned It On The Greatest Possible Authority, That Of The Son Himself (Hebrews 2:1-4).

‘Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest it be that we drift away.’

Therefore, because the things that we have heard have come to us, not on the authority of angels, but on the authority of the Son, we must (it is necessary to) take the more earnest heed to them, for otherwise the danger is that we may drift away from them, like a boat loses anchor and drifts from its moorings, or like a pilot misses His way through neglect and takes his charge away from the harbour, and thus by carelessness lose sight of them. That would indeed be a great loss when we consider the importance of the One who brought them.

Note that he speaks of ‘we’. He includes himself along with them because he wants to be identified with them and wants them to feel included within the whole church of Christ. He does not want them to feel that they have been selected out as especially weak.

‘Give the more earnest heed’ contrasts with ‘neglect’ (Hebrews 2:3). We cannot just mark time in the things of God. We either go on growing by giving determined consideration to the truths that we have heard, and to our response to them, or we begin to drift away because of neglect, for the tide is certainly against us. There is no standing still. We must go on. This is a theme of the letter (e.g. Hebrews 6:1). Note the strength of the phrase, ‘the more earnest’. It requires effort and dedication.

‘The things that were heard.’ The message of Christ and His Gospel in all its fullness. It is not enough just to believe one or two simple facts. We must enter ever more deeply into its truths, for they keep us close to Christ, and it is He and His promises Which are our anchor and prevent us from drifting (compare Hebrews 6:19).


Verse 2

‘For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,’

For if the word that was spoken by angels proved true in what it said, which was that every failure to keep it and every disobedience to it would receive its just punishment, (that is, what it justly deserved as a result of breaking it), as it did, then those who have received an even greater word and who neglect it can certainly have no hope.

And that is what history proved. Israel reaped what it sowed. It heard, it sowed disobedience, it reaped disaster. The Old Testament is packed with examples of those who transgressed and suffered punishment, even Moses. How much more then will the word spoken by the Son have such a result for those who disobey or neglect it. Note that he does not speak of ‘the Law’ but of ‘the word’, both softening its harshness and paralleling it with the word spoken by the Son. It is seen as a word from God (as it was) rather than a harsh law; as a resultant of salvation for those who would respond to His saving covenant. But they were destroyed by the very means that had been intended as a blessing. And observing the ‘word’ now from God is equally important. Failing to observe it can also only bring the same harsh consequences.

‘The word spoken through angels.’ Both Paul (Galatians 3:19) and Stephen (Acts 7:53) mention the part played by angels in the giving of the law, but the Old Testament is almost silent about it. All took place behind a cloud. Deuteronomy 33:2 and Psalms 68:17 provide what are references to angels as present at Sinai, but without amplifying them. The idea arose from a recognition that God was so holy that He could not be dealt with by the people face to face, but that everything had to be mediated through angels.

‘Every transgression and disobedience.’ The former word emphasises more the sins done positively by breaking the Law, a crossing of the boundary, the latter the failure to obey, a falling short in obedience.

‘Received a just recompense of reward.’ It was the sin that brought the punishment. Man was to receive the due reward for his sins. This was a necessity because of what God is, because of His aversion to all that is sin. The punishment was not arbitrary, but in accordance with the crime. It is just that when we consider it we underestimate the crime, often not realising the consequences, while God does not.


Verse 3

‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? Which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard,’

That being so how can we hope to escape judgment if we neglect an even greater offering of salvation, ‘so great a great salvation’, such as is revealed in the words of the Son, Who is a far more wonderful deliverance vehicle than anything the Old Testament could produce? If we neglect this new ‘word’ that was originally taught directly by the Lord Himself, and which we have heard confirmed to us by eyewitnesses, that is, by those who personally heard it and knew Him, what hope of escape from just punishment can we possibly have?

For to neglect a message is to treat it with contempt, but to neglect such a message delivered by such a Person is to be in total contempt of God Himself. This is in fact the great sin of the majority of the world. It is not that they reject the truth out of hand, it is that they simply do not bother with it. They neglect it. They often claim to honour Jesus but they disregard His word as ‘Lord’.

‘So great a salvation.’ In considering its greatness we should consider certain factors.

1) The greatness of the Son Who achieved it (chapter 1).

2) The greatness of the judgment from which it rescues the sinner (Hebrews 10:27-31).

3) The greatness of the eternal future which is promised through it (Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 12:22-23).

4) The greatness of the Father’s love that has provided it (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10).

5) The greatness of the humiliation and suffering endured by the One Who obtained it. (Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 12:2-3; Philippians 2:6-8; Isaiah 53).

‘Having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard.’ Central to Christian truth is that its source is in Jesus. Only what is in conformity with His words can be accepted as ‘Gospel truth’. This was why Paul himself stressed that what he taught came directly from Him, and this was why the Apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to later fully remember His teaching.

Much is often made of this verse as though it required that the writer had not himself heard the teaching of Jesus personally. But while the writer does use ‘we’ (emphasised, in contrast with those who were not Christians) he may well be using it rather loosely, signifying by it the group to which he was writing of which he saw himself a part, and continuing the use of ‘we’ with which he had begun the chapter. Thus he may simply be saying that while his readers had not heard it directly from the Lord, they, along with the whole church, had nevertheless heard it from eyewitnesses, from those who were actually there and heard His words, without necessarily saying anything about himself. But it is not characteristic of Paul who tended to stress his own special reception of revelation.

For it was ‘the Lord’ Who spoke it, and reliable eyewitnesses confirmed it, as they all know, and the authority of it is therefore unquestioned, and its certainty assured. What hope then can there be for them if they neglect it, when it has such authority behind it?

‘The Lord.’ We become so used to using the term glibly that we can easily not notice its force. It was because it was spoken by the Lord of glory, God’s true Son, the Creator and Sustainer of the world, the One Who is higher than the angels, that it was to be heard.


Verse 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.’

And not only did the word come directly from the Son through impeccable witnesses, but God also Himself bore witness to it among them, through those very witnesses, providing a further witness which came by signs and miracles and by many revelations of power wrought by them and among them, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to those who heeded Him in accordance with His will.

The witness was both from without, in outward manifestations, and from within, through gifts of the Spirit (Romans 12:5-11; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 1 Corinthians 12:28-31; Ephesians 4:11-12). He had thus given them every opportunity to heed it, and it had been as He Himself had determined. It had been directly in accordance with His will. For He had wanted them to have full evidence of the truth that was being taught, and His assurance that He was behind it.

‘Both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit.’ Compare here Acts 2:22. Jesus had Himself given evidence of Who and What He was by ‘mighty works and wonders and signs’; by His control over nature, by turning water into wine, by stilling the storm, by multiplying bread, by raising the dead, by healing the sick, and by casting out evil spirits. And this had continued on with the Apostles, and in the early church (see Galatians 3:5).

Signs, wonders, and manifold powers as mentioned in this verse bring to mind the miracles by which God at certain points in history confirmed His message to man at crucial times. Moses appeared before Pharaoh in a series of amazing signs and wonders at the time of the deliverance from Egypt, followed by Joshua on entry into Canaan; Elijah, followed by Elisha, was involved in a number of signs and miracles at a time when belief in God was at its lowest, and the coming of Jesus, followed by His disciples, was a further time of signs and miracles as the Gospel first began to spread. There is a clear pattern. But outside of those times miracles have been rare.

We should not therefore be surprised that after the early church had been established miracles became a rarer phenomenon. It follows the pattern of history. And it was also in full keeping with that pattern that the new revelation preached to people through the Jesus and His Apostles should have been corroborated and confirmed in the beginning by certain signs and miracles.

The very birthday of the church at Pentecost saw the apostles speaking with known tongues so as to understood (Acts 2:1-11). The gift of prophetic foretelling was exercised by Agabus (Acts 11:28; Acts 21:10), and by Paul himself when he prophesied that all on board the shipwrecked vessel would be spared alive (Acts 27:34). The disciples rejoiced at their being able to cast out evil spirits and heal the sick while Jesus was on earth (Luke 10:17), and that continued with the disciples after Pentecost (Acts 3:1-10; Acts 4:33; Acts 5:12; Acts 6:12) and with Paul and the girl at Philippi (Acts 16:18), while the power to inflict divine punishment on 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), was a reminder that God was not to be dallied with. Thus the confirming miracles that established the word of the Apostles of Christ as being truly that of God Himself were numerous. But it is apparent that even then they died down to a lesser level, for they are rarely mentioned later, although see Galatians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, both comparatively early letters. By the time of the death of the Apostles they appear to have almost, but not completely, ceased.

Note the contrast between Sinai and Christ. At Sinai the voice of angels, the manifestations of power and glory, both coming from the mountain; here signs and wonders and manifold powers and gifts of the Holy Spirit directly present among them and revealed before their very eyes, and even manifested through them. At Sinai God before them in veiled glory as their sovereign Lord, compared with God among them here as their Saviour and within them as their ‘Helper’.

The Son Is Now Declared To Be Jesus Who Has Been Made Lower Than The Angels In Order To Be Crowned As True Man So That He Might Suffer For Mankind And Make Them His Brothers Through Saving Them From Sin And Bringing Them To Glory, Destroying The Fear of Death, And Becoming Their Effective High Priest (Hebrews 2:5-18).

Having revealed the glory of the Son and His superiority to angels, the writer now develops the theme of how low He stooped in order to help mankind and what the result will be for those who respond to Him. For God did not choose out angels to be His assistants, He decided to choose out sinful men, paying for them a huge price that He might deliver them. The angels indeed have no great part to play in His plan (see the repeated ‘not to angels’ - Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 2:16). While they do in their own way minister to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14), they are very much in the background. The central players are God, Jesus and redeemed men. (So is the importance of angels thrust into the background as far as men are concerned. For in the writer’s day too much emphasis was being laid on angels).


Verse 5

‘For not to angels did he subject the world to come, of which we speak.’

For let them consider that it was not to angels that God gave authority over ‘the world to come’, it was to the Lord and to these witnesses who received His word, those through whom these signs and wonders were done. When God decided to act it involved His Son and those men who were chosen by Him and had responded to Him. The angels had no part to play in it.

The word for ‘world’ is oikoumene. This can signify the inhabited world, or one section of the world subjected to order and discipline, in contrast to another. Thus the Greeks used it of their own ‘ordered world’ in contrast with the world of Barbarians, and it was used of ‘ordered world’ of the Roman Empire in contrast with the world outside. In this case therefore ‘the world to come’ means ‘that world forecast as coming in the Scriptures, and now here, which is under the control of God’, in contrast with the world in general, and thus signifies the coming and arrival of the Kingly Rule of God in Jesus, in contrast to the world outside that Rule. It refers to that sphere of Kingly Rule which was under the sway of the King and His followers (Colossians 1:13), and subject to the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:24), in Jewish terminology, to the coming days of the Messiah and His Kingdom.

Thus the ‘world to come’ here indicates ‘the world’ known from Scripture ‘to be coming’, and which had now arrived in the coming of Jesus and the establishing of the ‘worldwide’ Christian community, the sphere of the Kingly Rule of God, and is to be seen as including all that follows from it. It represents the new stage of God’s purposes in its totality. The old ‘world’ was passing. The new had come.

It had arrived at ‘the end of these days’ (Hebrews 1:2), that is, ‘in the last days’ (Acts 2:17), which are in Acts very closely connected with signs and wonders and gifts of the Spirit (Hebrews 2:4; Acts 2:17-20). For this use of ‘to come’ compare Hebrews 6:5; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:1. In other words it is speaking of the Christian presence on earth in these final days before the end (the days from the first coming of Christ to the rapture, and then to the end of time) as new creatures in Christ, living ordered lives under the King, followed by their continual existence in glory. It is the result of the presence in the world of the Kingly Rule of God as proclaimed by Jesus and manifested in power. Such an ‘ordered world’ was not subjected to angels, it was subjected to the Son and His followers. And they had come manifesting that kingship with all the outward and inward signs of God’s presence and power. Thus those in it are without excuse if they drift away to the world outside.

This is in contrast with the world in general. In Deuteronomy 32:8 (LXX) we read,

‘When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,

When he separated the children of men,

He set the bounds of the peoples,

According to the number of the angels of God.’

The idea is that once the nations were separated at Babel and languages became confused, angels took authority over the different sections into which the world of men was split. Man had lost his authority over creation. This is confirmed further in Daniel 10:20, which speaks of angelic beings such as "the prince of Persia" and "the prince of Greece," as having sway in those areas, and Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1 which speak of Michael as "the great prince" who champions the people of Israel. Man had lost his dominion through sin, and was swayed by heavenly powers, although God kept a special watch on His own.

The result was that the ‘present world’ (compare 2 Timothy 4:10; Galatians 1:4) was seen as no longer under the sway of man but as under the sway of angelic forces, the majority of them seemingly evil. However, the ‘coming world’ (now come) is different. It is under the sway of the King and His disciples, and angels have no part in its rule. The kingdom of the Son of His love is in vivid contrast with the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13).

Others, however see ‘the world to come’ as indicating the afterlife when Christ will rule over all along with His own, and this is not to be excluded, but the idea is surely more immediate than that. For ‘the world to come’ is to be seen as that promised by the prophets, in contrast with ‘this present world’, the new world under the rule of the promised King, and is to be seen as beginning at Christ’s first coming with the advent of the Kingly Rule of God. Then there came a new world (oikoumene) within the world (kosmos). It covers the life and activity of God’s people under His Kingly Rule in this world, although it then moves on to embrace all God’s future purposes and plans for His people. In other words the ‘world to come’ is all embracing. It is the new God-ordered ‘world’ introduced in the coming of Christ. For that is central to the whole passage, that Jesus has come and established that new world for those who are His own.


Verses 6-8

‘But one has somewhere testified, saying,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him?

Or the son of man, that you visit him?”

You made him a little lower than the angels.

You crowned him with glory and honour,

And did set him over the works of your hands.

You put all things in subjection under his feet.”

The writer confirms his position by quoting Psalms 8:4-6 (LXX) which states that God’s original intention was that the world would be ruled by man, who was made ‘only a little lower than what was heavenly (the elohim)’, so that all on earth would be subjected to him. His plan was for great things for man. And he sees this as not only so in the past but as something yet to be realised.

‘But one has somewhere testified, saying.’ This did not mean that the writer did not know who had written it (the Psalmist), but was a way of stressing that what was spoken was of God. It was God Who in the final analysis was the author of Scripture, and the name or title of the testifier was of little importance.

‘What is man, that you are mindful of him? Or son of man, that you visit him?” This is spoken of mankind in general as descended from Adam. In the Hebrew it depicts mankind as weak and frail man (enosh) and as a ‘son of man (Adam)’ (ben-adam). In the Greek here it is ‘man (anthropos) and ‘son of man’ (huios anthropou) as in LXX. ‘Son of man’ was simply another way of saying ‘man’ (‘son of man’ is without the article). It could be a simple questioning of man’s status, ‘where does man stand in the order of priority?’, or hold within it the idea of man’s inferiority, ‘when you consider the heavens, what after all is man?’. But the overall emphasis is on the fact that God is mindful of man, and acts on his behalf even in his frailty, and intends for him rulership over creation.

‘Mindful -- visit--.’ God both has man in mind and acts on man’s behalf (visits him), as the coming of Jesus witnesses.

Man’s status is then declared. ‘Made a little lower than the angels (Hebrew: elohim)’, that is, of heavenly beings. So although frail man is the next step down from the heavenly, being lower than the angels, as regards earth, he is potentially ‘crowned with glory and honour’ and set over all living creation, so that all is to be in subjection under his feet. Man was made God’s crowning glory on earth. To be but a little lower than the angels was to be given great honour. It meant that in all creation as described in Genesis 1 man was supreme, first in line after the angels, after what was ‘heavenly’. He was thus, as regards the earth, the supreme lord of all. He was the one who was ‘crowned with glory and honour’, and, says the Psalmist, the one who will find all things put under his feet.

(To translate as ‘for a little while’, while possible in the Greek, is to overlook the whole context in the original. The thought of the Psalmist was not of a short while but of a position which was only a little short of the elohim, a position as man made in God’s spiritual image, heavenly as well as earthly. This whole passage is about status).

‘You crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of your hands. You put all things in subjection under his feet.’ Herein is confirmed man’s potential supremacy over all things on earth. Man was gloriously crowned with great honour. He was given total dominion on earth. He was set over all things, and especially all living creatures. Everything was subject to him. He was supreme (Genesis 1:28-30). So ‘crowned with glory and honour’ here indicates the triumphant rule of man as God intended him to be.

That the Psalmist is looking at a future hope based on what man had lost in Genesis 1-3 is clear. Seeing man as potentially this, for he must have been well aware that it was not so in his time, he looks to what will be when God has restored His people and established His true King.


Verse 8

‘For in that he subjected all things to him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to him.’

Indeed God did not intend to withhold anything from man. He intended to give him all, He would have omitted nothing. His purpose was to subject ‘all things’ to him. Man on earth was to be ‘lord of all’. Nothing was to be left which was not subject to him.

And that was how it was in the beginning. Man was lord over all creation. But through his folly man had lost much of what he had. ‘All things’ became no longer subject to him. The snake became his enemy. The earth was apportioned to angels (see on Hebrews 2:5). Man’s rule over living creatures, and over the fruit of the world that God gave him, was partially lost. So now we no longer ‘continually see’ all things subjected to him, even though there are still traces of his one time rule in that animals still cannot look him in the eye, some animals are domesticated and part of the earth is still cultivated.

But the writer sees a deeper significance in the words, in the light of what he knows. He notes that here in the Psalm ‘all things’ is not qualified in any way. And ‘all things’ can include both heaven and earth (Hebrews 2:10). So he writes that while God did subject all things on earth to man (Genesis 1:28-30), and left nothing that was not subject to him, He had not yet subjected ‘all things’ without exception to him, even when he was in innocence. For God’s purpose for man was greater than he knew. Man’s final triumph still awaits. There was not only to be a restoration, but an exaltation. His real destiny still lies before him. And this, he next points out, is to be through Jesus.


Verse 9

‘But we behold him who has been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, in order that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone.’

Before looking at this verse in detail we must consider the phrase ‘crowned with glory and honour’ for it helps to determine the meaning of the whole passage, and is regularly misunderstood. Now the temptation, if we ignore the context, is undoubtedly to see it as signifying Christ’s resurrection and exaltation and then to try to fit around it the other phrases, which in truth then fit rather strangely. And that is done by most commentators. But that is totally to ignore the context. Reference to His exaltation, except in a secondary, inclusive way, is out of place here. And the Greek in its obvious sense is against it.

For had this been its meaning we might have expected the whole sentence to be constructed differently (as commentators tend to confirm by constantly switching it around), especially by so consummate an author as we have here, for the natural reading here is to see ‘crowned with glory and honour’ as leading on into ‘in order that by the grace of God He should taste death for everyone’, as though the one resulted in the other, as though the crowning preceded the suffering and was necessary for it, and if that is so it bars us seeing in it simply a direct reference to the resurrection and exaltation. Is there then any alternative, which actually avoids the manipulation of the verse required for that view?

Firstly we should note that the same words are also cited in Hebrews 2:6. There they indicate that (as a result of his creation in ‘the image and likeness of the elohim (or ‘God’)’ (Genesis 1)) man was ‘crowned with glory and honour’ by being made the earthly lord of creation, so that all creation was subjected to him. This was what pinpointed what man was. He was placed there from the very beginning. He was ‘crowned with glory and honour’, with authority over all things. And it was from this exalted position that he fell, so that creation became no longer subject to him and only a small part, the domestic animals and the cultivated fields, still did his bidding. As fallen man he had become a king without a kingdom, He had been uncrowned as lord of creation.

Now if we consider that, in order for Jesus to be fitted to be a substitutionary and perfect sacrifice for man, it was necessary for Him to become ‘perfect man’, to become what man originally was, we will recognise that this required that He tooin His lifetimebe ‘crowned with glory and honour’ in relation to creation, so that as man He became overlord of creation, as man was, and man should be.

And that this was so is in fact evidenced in two ways. Firstly by the declaration at His baptism, ‘You are my Son’ (Mark 1:11), when He was endued with the Holy Spirit. For these words were probably used at the coronation of the kings of Israel/Judah, and certainly used in some way of the kings of the house of David in their special relationship to God (Psalms 2:7). By them Jesus was marked off as unique, and as representing God on earth in a unique and glorious way, fulfilling the destiny that man had failed to fulfil, and manifesting His rule. This was then confirmed at the transfiguration when His full glory was momentarily revealed, and God said of Him ‘This is my Son’, and He spoke of His coming death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31; Luke 9:35). Here His humanness was seen as veiling the divine glory of the representative Man.

And secondly by His life in which He demonstrated His lordship over creation and superiority to angels. He was ‘with the wild beasts’ and angels ministered to Him (Mark 1:13), the evil spirits obeyed Him and were cast out (Mark 1:25-26 and regularly), the water turned into wine at His will (John 2:1-11), the fish moved at His command (Luke 5:4-6; Matthew 17:27; John 21:6), the wind and waves did His bidding (Mark 4:39), the sea provided Him with a pathway through the storm (Mark 6:48), the storm ceased at His presence (Mark 6:51), the unbroken ass walked quietly into Jerusalem through noisy crowds, responsive to His hands (Mark 11:2; Mark 11:7-9), (which made a jockey cry out when he read it, “what hands He must have had”), the fig tree withered at His command (Mark 11:14; Mark 11:20). Indeed He could have commanded the mountain to fall into the sea and it would have obeyed Him because of His total faith in God (Mark 11:23). All this emphasised the restoration of the crowning with glory and honour.

And it was this overlordship of creation that revealed that He was perfect man as God had intended man to be, and it was this that made Him fitted to ‘taste death for everyone’, because it revealed that He was truly ‘the second man’, ‘the last Adam’, (1 Corinthians 15:45-47) man restored to what he should be. So was He seen as ‘crowned with glory and honour’ in His lifetime, as Man restored to his lost status, that status given by God from the beginning. And thus could it be that as perfect man He would offer Himself, the One for the many. (Neither in Genesis 1 as expanded in Psalms 8, nor here, is the crowning necessarily to be seen as literal. The point is that that was His status).

And in this lies explained the mystery of His suffering. When He came He was here as lord of creation, all of which obeyed Him. He was declared to be crowned with glory and honour as God’s Son. Creation was under His sway. It was only man who was in rebellion and was antagonistic, and opposed His rule. It was thus man, guilty rebellious man, out of tune with creation, who brought about His sufferings, and the sufferings of all who would follow Him, as they made clear their total rejection of what God is. From the world came glory (‘even the stones would cry out’ - Luke 19:40), from rebellious man, overwatched by sinister angels, came persecution and suffering.

So as Jesus walked the world as Lord of Creation, crowned with glory and honour, He called men to come under the Heavenly Rule of God, to submit to Him even as nature submitted. And in their refusal and rejection, apart from the few, was made clear the need for Him to die. They were in rebellion against God’s purpose in creation, and only through His death on their behalf could a way be made for them back to God.

Nor should we overlook the fact that, with the exception of the crown of thorns, Jesus is never elsewhere depicted as undergoing a process of being crowned. He is ever depicted as already being King (Matthew 2:2; Matthew 21:5; John 1:49), depicting Himself as such when He entered Jerusalem on an ass (John 12:13), depicting Himself as such to a cynical Pilate (John 18:37; Luke 23:3 compare Luke 23:38) and in His parables (Matthew 18:23; Matthew 22:2). His message was that the Kingly Rule of God was here, and the implication He gave was that He was here as the king. He was here as God’s anointed (Luke 4:18-21; Acts 10:38). If we wish to see a moment of crowning was it not at His baptism when God declared, ‘You are My Son’ and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit? What greater glory and honour could there be than that?

But there was also this physical crowning, a recognition that that overlordship was established and confirmed, as He went on to face His final sufferings. For a mock crown was placed on His head, and in that too He was in the eyes of Heaven crowned with glory and honour, and Pilate too confirmed in writing somewhat cynically that ‘this is the king of the Jews’ (Luke 19:38). For as He faced up to the suffering and death which was the direct result of man’s rebellion against God He faced it because He was the king, and because He was the true representative of what man should be, and because only man was rejecting Him as such. And He declared that He was to be glorified in that suffering too (John 12:23; John 12:27-28). He was to face His death as He had faced His life, as the One Who was crowned with glory and honour, and Who was Himself receiving great glory as he crushed all the forces that were against Him.

This is especially brought out in the fourth Gospel where one of John’s aims was to bring out that in all the events that took place He was sovereign. The soldiers, for example, fell back before Him until He again spoke; and they let the Apostles go free because He commanded it (John 18:6-8). He was in charge of events, and they proceeded at His will. And all the Gospels essentially agree on the same, for Matthew’s Gospel tells us that twelve legions of angels waited to do His will and could have prevented all that happened, but did not do so because it was not His will (Matthew 26:53).So the stress throughout this whole passage in Hebrews is not on His final exaltation, but on what He was when He came into the world lower than the angels, and on the necessity for His being prepared for what He had to face, and on the recognition that He was publicly acclaimed by God as the supreme Man Who did His will, and on the necessity for Him to face suffering as a result of man’s rebellion, because they no longer did His will, and then, following on that, on what the consequence would be for His own as they too faced a hostile world. And part of that preparation was in His being ‘crowned with glory and honour’ in God’s eyes (and in the eyes of angels and evil spirits) so as to be truly what man should be and so fitted to suffer on man’s behalf. Indeed by itself the idea of the exaltation fits oddly here. While what we have suggested fits completely adequately into the whole context.

Our problem is that we often overlook His earthly glory and concentrate on His humiliation. But while this picture is in accordance with Scripture from one point of view (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12; Philippians 2:6-11), we must remember that when He was made a servant it was as the Servant of Yahweh, and that while He walked in submission to God He was still a Colossus on earth, for He always prevailed until the time came for Him to die.

So that being how we might see his words here, let us then consider the passage as a whole.

‘But we behold him who has been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death.’ But look! says the writer. Here is One Who has been made man, and thus made a little lower than the angels, and Who has been declared to be God’s Son, and ‘crowned with glory and honour’ as man was at his first creation, as One Who has all things under Him. Here is One Who is even now true representative man.

And why was He made lower than the angels? It was because of the need for a sacrifice, ‘because of the suffering of death’, something that was required for man’s redemption. That is the very reason why He came as One ‘lower than the angels’, although in His case, because of Who He is, the ‘making lower’ was a humiliation, not a privilege to rejoice in. The Psalmist could proclaim that man had been privileged to be made a little lower than the angels, but for this One that was a humiliation not a privilege, for He was the outshining of the glory of God, the Lord over all. And the purpose of it was simply in order that He might be able to fully identify with those He had come to save, that as representative man He might suffer death on their behalf and in their place, that He might be able to become their saving sacrifice and their great High Priest. Without His lowering Himself to become man this could not have been.

And the context supports this. For it was only through such humiliation, suffering and death, which followed His crowning with glory and honour as true man, that He could become the author, the source and worker out, of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10; Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45), leading many sons to glory. It could only be through His becoming truly man and suffering as man, that, as the One Who in Himself represented all mankind, He could be ‘the second man’ and ‘the last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45-47), The One Who could as man’s representative and substitute offer Himself as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), making many to be accounted righteous (see Romans 5:12-21; Isaiah 53:11). The emphasis all through is on Christ’s perfect manhood, resulting from His choosing to humble Himself below the angels.

And so as Adam had been the first man, representing all mankind, and had been ‘crowned with glory and honour’ but had then brought sin into the world, and had dragged man down from his status, so was Jesus also ‘crowned with glory and honour’ in His life on earth, as the second man, the sinless man, so that as such He might live triumphantly in this world as lord over creation, remaining free from sin, and thus be in a position to endure death for the sin of ‘everyone’, and restore all who would come to Him.

Here then was the full explanation of why the Lord of glory became man, why He was seen in His humiliation as lower than the angels. It was not because He was so in Himself, but because He had in eternity chosen to humble Himself and become man, so that He could be in a position to die for us (Philippians 2:6-8). And it was as the sinless and representative man who had come into the world, that He was ‘crowned with glory and honour’, that is, was reinstated into the place that man had forfeited as lord of creation (Hebrews 2:7), so that He could as their accepted representative, as lord of creation, die on man’s behalf. And as we have seen, the fact that He was indeed, as man, lord of creation came out in His being with the wild beasts without being harmed, in His turning water into wine, in His lordship over fish, in His stilling of the storm, in His riding of an untrained ass amid a frenzied crowd, and in the withering of a tree at His command. Wild beasts, domestic animals and fish, and even inanimate nature, all did His bidding. Only man rebelled.

‘Because of (through) the suffering of death.’ Why then was He made lower than the angels? It was in order that He might become truly mortal, as God made man, ‘because of the suffering of death’. That was why He had to do it. It was because of the necessity for a death for sin that would satisfy the requirements of a holy Law. There had to be a sufficient death, and there therefore had to be a humiliation of One Who could die that death and yet be sufficient to save the world. For the presence of sin in the world demanded death, and it had to be either the death of all of us, or the death of Another sufficient to bear it for us.

This then was why it was necessary for Him to die, indeed, came in order to die. And the stress on His death in the Gospels emphasises the truth of this. In other men’s biographies their life is stressed, and death is but the end, but in the case of Jesus it is His death that takes the prime place. There had to be a death, and that necessity for death is emphasised. But it was only because He was truly made man, and that as man restored, that He could thus die, and so offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

In their superior existence angels are not mortal, and will not and cannot die, for they are heavenly beings. No angel or above could fulfil this requirement to die, even had they been sufficient for it. There was only One Who was supreme enough to become lower than the angels and Who could do so. So, for Jesus, although He was the outshining of the glory of God and the express ‘stamped out’ image of His substance, being made ‘lower than the angels’ was essential in order that He might be made truly mortal and suffer. And this was also why He had to receive on earth the ‘crowning with glory and honour’ which was man’s right through creation, but which had been previously forfeited, constituting Himself thus as ‘reinstated man’, able to suffer for mankind.

So here we ‘behold’ Him as ‘crowned with glory and honour’, firstly as representative, sinless, and reinstated man, revealing His lordship as man over creation, and fitted by what He was for the task of salvation, and secondly as triumphant, victorious man, defeating even the angels in achieving His victory through suffering. In His manhood He is truly established as lord over ‘all things’. And the purpose behind this humiliation and glorification through suffering was so that He might be fitted to ‘taste’ (experience to the full) death for everyone. That is, as restored Man He was to experience death to the full, to absorb it to the full, so that we who are His might not have to finally die, and He could only do this because He was ‘crowned with glory and honour’ as the last Adam. So central to His humiliation and exaltation as man was that as true representative man He would thus truly die. For it was finally through His death that He was able to become the perfect means of salvation.

‘We behold Him.’ That is, we behold Him as described by eyewitnesses, we behold Him in our hearts by faith, and we behold Him in the testimony by the Spirit through chosen men of God (including this writer), as they speak of what He accomplished. We behold Him as we take heed and consider Him and receive Him within out hearts in responsive faith. As John said of those who walked with Him, ‘we behold His glory’ (John 1:14)

‘Who has been made a little lower than the angels.’ We behold that He Who was in the form of God, humbled Himself to become a servant and to be made in the likeness of men, thus being made for a time lower than the angels (Philippians 2:5-8). The Son of Man came down from Heaven, He Who is in Heaven (John 3:13), and became Man. And so we behold Him.

‘Even Jesus, because of the suffering of death.’ And to Whom did this happen? We behold what happened to ‘Jesus’, to the One born of Mary by the Holy Spirit, to Him Who walked as a man among men in order that He might truly suffer death. Without such humiliation, death as a human being would have been impossible, as would also the resulting accomplishment of men’s salvation. It was by becoming a human being that He became qualified to die for the sins of the world.

‘Crowned with glory and honour.’ And we behold that in His coming as sinless man He had to be ‘crowned with glory and honour’ as man had originally been in order to be true man. He had, as sinless and truly obedient Man, firstly to be reinstated into man’s destiny (Hebrews 2:7) as lord of creation, and secondly, He had to be accepted as a sufficient sacrifice, so that He could suffer, in order that all who respond to Him might be reinstated. And God confirmed this at His baptism, and at the mount of transfiguration, and through His signs and wonders, and through His power over creation.

And in the end we behold that God had openly declared His status, although in a partly hidden way known only to His elect, through the mockery of men. For He was literally at this time given a crown. It was a crown of glory, even though a crown of suffering; it was a crown of honour, even though a crown of thorns. No greater glory and honour could have been suggested than by this crown of thorns, the crown that revealed that the Creator was offering Himself up to suffer for His creatures, that the Lord was offering Himself up to suffer for His servants, that the Son was offering Himself up to suffer for His slaves, so that they might be redeemed. It laid bare the very heart of God. And were not the thorns in themselves a reminder that Jesus was bearing man’s curse on Himself? For thorns were a part of man’s curse. How symbolic was this, that perfect man, the Lord of creation, was crowned with thorns.

For this crown of thorns, and what it portrayed, revealed that sacrificial, self-giving love lay at the very heart of the Universe. It revealed that true morality (part of what God is in Himself) was fully and permanently established as a prime concern within it. No more could morality be passed over as unimportant, for it was established as vital through the suffering and the death for sin of this perfect Man. By it was revealed that He Who is love is also light, and that He Who is light is also love. That He is both light and love (1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16). For His light shines and necessarily condemns mankind, and in that light mankind are revealed for what they are, while His love seeks to win mankind to Himself and makes provision for that purpose, and for their sin, through His own Son’s suffering. And because His crowning is ‘over all things’ it is finally also over the angels. As the Man, crowned with thorns, He would be made Lord of all, rising triumphantly from the dead and taking His seat on His Father’s throne because of Who He was, the One Who was already crowned with glory and honour. Compare the ‘Lamb as it had been slain’ Who ruled in Heaven (Revelation 5:6).

‘Crowned with glory and honour, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone.’ We should note carefully how this ‘crowned with glory and honour’ is sandwiched between two references to His sacrificial death, and intimately connected with them, which must in our view, as we have seen, suggest that we are to see His crowning, not as being the result of, but as being the essential groundwork for, and included within, His suffering. He was crowned that He should be fitted to be a sacrifice, as on a par with first-created man, and even above him. That He should be revealed as ‘the second man’, the One Who replaced and followed the first. He was crowned that He might taste death for those who had ‘lost’ their crown, and admitted it, that is, ‘for everyone’, men of all races, who would hear and respond. And it was His suffering that was His triumph, the revelation of the fullness of His glory and honour, as by it He defeated sin and death and the forces of darkness who held sway in the world.

Just as hidden behind the living earthly Man was the glory of the transfiguration, unseen, so hidden behind the suffering Man was the glory of the triumphant King, unseen. This comes out in the use in John’s Gospel of the words ‘being glorified’ as including His being glorified in death (John 12:23-24 compare John 7:39). It was when the crown of thorns was placed on His head that the first stage in His glorification by suffering began (Matthew 27:28-29; Mark 15:17), that He entered into His glorification. It was then paradoxically that He was revealed by the crown of thorns as crowned with glory and honour, as being the suffering Servant and Messiah, Who could ‘taste death for everyone’. (For the son of man who entered into triumph in Daniel 7:13-14; Daniel 7:27, had first been ‘perfected’ in suffering (Daniel 7:21-22; Daniel 7:25)).

While the soldiers mocked, and the angels worshipped, standing by for God’s command and perplexed that it never came, for even they did not understand, it was God Who, unknown to all, put that crown upon His head. He overruled man’s mockery. It was the next stage in His victory. It was a crown of honour. The One Who had been crowned with glory and honour in life was now crowned with glory and honour in facing death. For in the final analysis that crown was the declaration that the King was here, and was highly honoured, and was entering into the battle that would determine the destiny of the world, mocked it is true by man, but honoured by God (see Isaiah 50:5-8; John 18:37). It was the declaration of the way that victory and salvation would be achieved, through suffering (see Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12).

By that crown He was crowned with glory and honour, even while the ‘royal’ robe was put upon Him, and the ‘royal’ sceptre placed in His hand. Even while He turned His back to the smiters, and to those who plucked off the hair, and did not hide His face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 50:6). The world intended it to symbolise His humiliation. But God intended that it should symbolise His path through suffering to glory. It was a crown declaring the victory to be achieved through suffering. It symbolised the fact that the crowned Messiah was on the way to His heavenly throne, initially to face His destiny and win the victory in triumphant suffering (Isaiah 53:3-10), after which He would be lifted up and be ‘very high’ (Isaiah 52:13), seated at God’s right hand.

For while His death seemed to much of the world to be a pointless tragedy, in reality it was a triumph which brought Him great glory even while it was in process. For a brief while the powers of darkness thought that they had won. Angels shook their heads in perplexity. Disciples wept and felt ashamed. But the crown of thorns was the perfect revelation of what He was about to do. It was Messiah’s crown, and it led on to the cross and victory. It was the crown of His glory and honour which was now being manifested. Through His royal suffering He thrust off the principalities and powers of evil, making an open show of them and triumphing over them in the cross (Colossians 2:15), defeating them for ever so that although they retired to carry out their activities from ambush, they knew that their power was broken. For even in His death He was revealed as superior to the angels. Through it also He broke the power of sin to destroy men. Through it He took away the fear of death for those who are His own. And through it, as the crowned One, He bore the sin of many and was raised in the glory and honour with which He had been crowned.

In many ancient festivals men were selected out to be brought to the gods in one way or another, and in preparation were crowned and robed. And thus was Jesus crowned and robed by God in preparation for that moment when He would offer Himself to God. And by it He was glorified. It was through the cross that He triumphed and was made glorious and received the ultimate honour. Now was the judgment of this world. Now was the prince of this world cast out (John 12:31). And while the resurrection was its firstfruit (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23), and the final proof of victory, it occurred because the victory had already been won, and the crowning had already taken place on the victorious field of action, in the glorious but persecuted life of the Son of Man, and on the battleground of the cross.

‘That by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone.’ And His life, and His suffering, and His crowning and His triumph at the cross were so that by the grace of God, the unmerited love and favour of God active on our behalf, He should be fitted for and finally taste fully of death ‘for everyone’, that is, potentially for all, and effectually for all those who believe. He offered Himself as the Saviour of all men, but He was essentially so only for those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). The idea behind ‘tasting death’ is not of simply having a sample, it is of tasting it to the full. None but One Who was perfect, the crowned Lord of creation, could truly taste of death to the full, because for no other could it be so awful and so real. Only One Who enjoyed full and perfect life and was crowned with glory and honour could then move on to appreciate the awfulness of death.

‘By the grace of God.’ And this was by the compassion and love of God reaching out through Him to the undeserving, to those who merited nothing. It was all of grace. Who can ever begin to measure the depths and height of that grace? In this was love, not that we loved God but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10; John 3:16). Was ever love like that?

(The alternative choris theou - ‘apart from God’ - found in some few witnesses has little early support in manuscripts, although some see it as original because of its unusualness, often seeing it as a marginal note incorporated by a copyist. But in view of the widespread and overwhelming nature of the early manuscript evidence against it this seems unlikely. It may equally well have been an emendation in order to separate God from the possibility of being directly associated with Jesus’ dying, although some do see it as referring to His sense of forsakenness from God as depicted in Mark 15:34. It is even possible that someone who was thinking in those terms, while they were copying, ‘saw’ choris even though it was not there. It would not be the first time that someone read a different word than was actually there because that was the way in which their minds were working).

So when He rose from the dead, and ascended to God, and took His place on God’s throne, He was not being ‘glorified’, He was not being crowned with glory and honour, He was rather manifesting the glory and honour (as the transfiguration had previously done) that was already His through His anointing by God, His glory as Lord of creation, and finally through the cross, the glory and honour which He had already achieved when He cried out ‘it is finished’ on the battlefield. His receiving of dominion (Daniel 7:13-14) was but the confirmation of His crowning during His life of warfare. No other crowning of Jesus is ever described in Scripture than the crowning of Jesus in mockery by the world. And that was the greatest possible symbol of His triumph achieved through suffering. No other crown would fit His brow. The crown of thorns, like the living ‘slain Lamb’ (Revelation 5:7), is the symbol of all that He is. All His other crowns arise from that (Revelation 14:14; Revelation 19:12).

Note on ‘Crowned with glory and honour.’

To summarise briefly. As we have seen, in the passage this phrase has a number of facets, each of which is important.

1) It described what happened when man was created and given dominion over creation (a position which he went on to partly forfeit) - he was ‘crowned with glory and honour’, he was made lord of creation - Hebrews 2:7.

2) It described the position taken up by Jesus coming as representative and sinless man, as He Himself took the place that man had forfeited, receiving man’s crown of glory and honour as representative man because of His holiness and purity (Hebrews 7:26; Hebrews 9:14; becoming ‘the second man’ and ‘the last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47). He came as ‘He Who knew no sin’ (2 Corinthians 5:21), to Whom God said ‘You are My Son’ (Mark 1:11), and of Whom He said ‘This is my Son, my chosen’ when He was transfigured before God and spoke of His ‘exodus’ which He would accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:35; Luke 9:31). And He revealed Himself, as man, as lord over creation, both over the animal creation and over nature. And when He stood before Pilate, and Pilate asked Him if He was a king, He basically assented, and it was then that He received and appeared before men as wearing the crown of thorns and the ‘royal’ robe (John 18:37; John 19:5). And it was because He had been ‘crowned with glory and honour’ as representative, sinless man, thus being ‘reinstated man’, and becoming ‘the second man’, and in His humanity the lord of creation, that He was able to suffer on man’s behalf - Hebrews 2:9.

3) It described what He accomplished at the cross, as He was ‘crowned with glory and honour’ as a result of being glorified through His sufferings as expressed in the symbol of His crown of thorns, given to Him in the course of His victorious self-sacrifice and triumph - Hebrews 2:9 - that He might taste death for everyone, defeating both angels and sin.

4) It does, of course, finally within it include His final resulting position as Lord of Glory, but this was itself accomplished through His being sinless man and suffering man and, on the cross, victorious man. It was that which resulted in His final resurrection and exaltation and His thus being openly revealed as the One Who had been ‘crowned with glory and honour’. But that is the consequence of His crowning with glory and honour, not the basis of His sacrifice on behalf of man, whereas Hebrews 2:9 depicts a crowning which is the basis of His suffering. And in Heaven it is as ‘the Lamb as it had been slain’ in the midst of the throne (Revelation 5:6), as the King Who wears the crown of thorns, that in glory and honour He rules and works out man’s destiny in the opening of the seals.


Verse 10

‘For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.’

The continual stress on the preparation of Jesus for His supreme task now continues. His crowning with the crown of glory and honour, received during His lifetime as He was ‘anointed’ and took His place as ‘the second man’ and received all the privileges of the first man before he fell, and was manifested at the transfiguration, and which He lived out in the midst of His suffering and endurance during His lifetime, and especially so in His last hours, was all part of the process of making Him ‘perfect through suffering’, perfect that is for what He had to achieve.

And it was that which enabled Him to accomplish the victory, and which depicted His fitness to be the Saviour. For this way of suffering was the way which was ‘becoming’ to God, ‘becoming’, that is, in the eyes of men and angels once they recognise the significance of it all, and ‘becoming’ in terms of the requirements of the Law and of morality. For once men see the truth they recognise that there was no other way. It was through living and suffering at the hands of rebellious man as the true Man that He was made fit to be the perfect sacrifice, and to lead His own to glory through suffering, and it was through suffering that He bore our sins (Isaiah 53:3). And this tied in with what the Scriptures had said must be (Psalms 22; Isaiah 50; Isaiah 53).

So when God ‘for Whom are all things’, as the Goal of Creation, and ‘through Whom are all things’, as the Architect and Upholder of Creation, sent forth Jesus as the ‘Author and Trek Leader of men’s salvation’, in order that through Him He might bring many sons to glory, He made Him perfect for His task through suffering, because He was taking the place of rebellious man. It was ‘becoming’, because it was necessary in the nature of things. For He must be both the victor and the victim. The victor because He had to triumph in life over adversity and walk the pathway of obedience in order to be fitted to be the victim, and the victim because He then bore in Himself the sins of others, dying in their place, while at the same time still being the victor because through the offering of Himself He triumphed. Triumph could not result until the sacrifice was made fit, and the price of sin was paid. And this will be explained in more detail throughout the chapters to come.

So in order to bring about salvation for men it was necessary for Him to be equipped and made suitable (‘made perfect’), it was necessary for Him to take on Himself the qualities required. And this was accomplished by Him being made fully man and by Him suffering as a man. As He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself (Hebrews 12:3), as He was tempted in all points just as we are (Hebrews 4:15), as He was reviled (1 Peter 2:23) and persecuted (John 5:16; John 15:20), so was He being prepared as the perfect sacrifice. And, as the final battle approached, so the sufferings multiplied. For only thus could He become the ‘author and trek leader’ of salvation, the One Who produced it, and researched it, and brought it about, and bestowed it, and would Himself lead us on to final salvation.

‘In bringing (leading) many sons to glory.’ For God’s aim in all this was to bring ‘many sons’ to share in the glory that Jesus Himself had received, to restore them to what they once were, and more. As in one man many had sinned (Romans 5:12), so from One Man would come the many who would be righteous (Romans 5:19), many sons. And as in one man sonship with God was lost (Luke 3:38; Genesis 5:3), so from One only Son would come ‘many (adopted) sons’. And they, who had once been ‘crowned with glory and honour’ and had sadly forfeited it, would once again be crowned with glory and honour, sharing in His glory (John 17:22), and being reinstated, not only as lords of creation but as lords of all creations, and being enhanced as those who are more fully ‘crowned with glory and honour’ in Him. They would become His ‘brothers’, those whom He called to share with Him, Who was Himself the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), in those all things.

There is here a slight play on words, for the writer tells us that in ‘leading’ (agagonta) many sons to glory He made their ‘Leader’ (archegon) perfect through sufferings. The ‘ One Who led’ provided the perfect Leader.

‘‘In bringing (leading)’. The aorist active participle sees the whole of salvation as one completed process.

‘Many sons.’ This is the wonder of the Gospel, not only that Jesus humbled Himself to become man, but that He, through His sacrifice, exalted men who believed, so that they might become ‘sons’ of God, so that they might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-7; Romans 8:15), a position which He had foreordained for them from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:29) . Thus do they become God’s grown up sons, a part of His family. And we rejoice and wonder in the fact that it was for ‘many’ (compare Isaiah 53:11-12). His work was not in vain or receiving of miserly reward.

‘The author of their salvation.’ ‘The author’ is ton archêgon, a compound of archê and agô. It means one controlling an enterprise, one leading off, a trek-leader, a file-leader or a prince (Acts 5:31), one blazing the way, a pioneer in faith (Hebrews 12:2), an author or source (Acts 3:15). Any of the senses suit here, and while ‘author’ might be seen as most suitable because the idea seems to be of Him as the initiator, the play on words with God’s ‘leading’ of them points to ‘Leader’. Thus Jesus is both the author of our salvation, and our file leader in the process (so arose the translation ‘captain’) so that we may see a wider meaning as included. We need not limit it. A caravan or trek leader can fulfil all these functions both of initiating, making ready and seeing through the whole of the trek. He can be the one in overall control from start to finish.

‘Perfect through suffering.’ This is not referring to being made morally perfect, as though suffering had purged Him, for He was already that. It refers to His being made perfect and complete for the task that lay ahead, by being made truly man, by facing up to all that man had to face up to and overcoming it, by being crowned with glory and honour in His reinstatement as the lord of creation as man was originally intended to be, and by being ‘crowned with glory and honour’ with a crown of thorns and suffering as He faced up in death to all the power of sin and of the Enemy and his forces. Thus was He fitted for the task that was His.


Verse 11

‘For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all of one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren.’

For the wonderful fact is that the One Who was to be their Sanctifier, setting them apart for God and making them holy, had Himself become one with those who were to be sanctified, had necessarily taken on like nature and had suffered along with them, and was therefore ready to call them brothers and sisters.

And as the Author of their salvation He is their Sanctifier (the ‘One Who is sanctifying’ - present participle - a continuing process of sanctifying more and more people to God as time goes on). He it is Who through His death ‘sets them apart’ to God, and marks them off as His, providing for their ‘cleansing’ and fitness (Hebrews 1:3), so that they are presented as perfect before Him, perfecting for ever those who ‘have been and therefore are sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). ‘Those who are being sanctified.’ Again a present participle recognising that He is choosing more and more, a growing number, to be sanctified as time goes on.

It should be noted here that in Hebrews ‘sanctification’ (setting apart to God and making holy and acceptable to Him) is partially parallel to ‘justification’ elsewhere. It is in one sense a once-for-all event that makes a man continually acceptable with God (Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 10:29). By it the blood of Christ effectively cleanses so that all that is contrary to God is removed (see 1 John 1:7 where it then continues also as a process). Christ becomes their sanctification ‘by one offering for ever’ so that they may be presented perfect before God, and then continues to sanctify them (Hebrews 10:14).

But in view of the context it is possible that we should also see the use of the present tense here as signifying the continuation of that sanctifying process throughout out lives as, being our Trek leader, ‘He is leading many sons to glory’. He sanctifies once for all, and then works out the process within us and for us continually.

‘Are all of one.’ And He is able to sanctify them through His sacrifice of Himself because He has Himself been made one with them through becoming man, and what is more, representative man. Thus could He incorporate into Himself those who believed. They are in Christ, and He is in them. They are all, as it were, of one ‘piece’, of one close-knit, united family conjoined in Him. They are one in Him. And this is why He is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers and sisters’. For they are united with Him in the unity of His perfection and of His death and resurrection. (It should be noted that the word for ‘brothers’ includes sisters as well, just as the word ‘man’ can mean all ‘man and womankind’). That is why we can sing quite truthfully, ‘the love wherewith He loved His Son, such is His love for me’.

Alternately we might translate ‘are all of one origin’ in God, the Father of the Messiah. And the result of that one origin is that we have been united with Him and share His life. The final significance is the same.


Verse 12

‘Saying, “I will declare your name to my brethren, In the midst of the congregation will I sing your praise.”

And this can clearly be demonstrated from Scripture, says the writer. See Psalms 22:22. For is the Psalm not said to be referring to the scion of the house of David? And does it not speak of the Messiah gathering with His brothers and sisters as co-worshippers, to whom He reveals the fullness of God (His Name) and testifies about God and His worthiness, and sings His praise, seeing those gathered as His brothers and sisters? So are they acknowledged as the brothers and sisters of the coming triumphant Davidic King, gathered in triumph.

The Psalm is very apposite as the original person in mind was probably seen as a scion of the Davidic house who underwent, or envisaged undergoing, suffering of the kind described, possibly as he defended the nation against is enemies. Some of the vivid language was probably what he envisioned the enemy would do to him on his being defeated, described in morbid anticipation. Resulting victory then resulted in rejoicing and the declaration of the certainty of God’s future worldwide rule.

Thus did Jesus see it as portraying His own battle against the Enemy as he fought to bring in the everlasting kingdom and the inflictions envisaged were remarkably prophetic and fulfilled in His death. Compare Mark 15:34 where words from the Psalm are made personal by Jesus in His hour of need. The reference to the establishing of God’s world rule gives the Psalm Messianic status, as does Midrash Pesikta Rabbata Piska Psalms 36:1-2, which also identifies the individual spoken of in this Psalm as the Messiah.

A similar idea of such a relationship, for those who have been chosen by God, to Jesus Christ, is found in Romans 8:29 where we are told that He has ‘foreordained’ us ‘to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters’.


Verse 13

‘And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given me.” ’

This further quotation from Isaiah 8:18 relates back to the Hebrews 2:13 a, demonstrating that the trust there is both by the Messiah and His ‘family’. Note the link in context with ‘signs and wonders’ of the future. The ‘and again’ here separating two successive verses in Isaiah is to bring out the double points of ‘trust’ in God and ‘close family relationship’.


Verse 14

‘Since then the children are sharers in (partake of in common - kekoinoneken)) blood and flesh, he also himself in the same way partook (meteschen) of the same, that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil,’

So as these ‘children’ were/are all ‘blood and flesh’, sharing human nature in common, it was necessary that He Who would be their Messiah-Deliverer should also become, voluntarily and deliberately, blood and flesh. He fully partook by choice of what they essentially were in their original state of innocence. He had to become fully man for the purpose. ‘Blood and flesh’ (compare ‘flesh and blood’ Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50 (which cannot inherit the future Kingly Rule of God); Galatians 1:16) simply describes being a true human, as being made up of those constituents. Sin was not included for it was foreign to man in his perfect state. And His final purpose in this was in order that through death He might ‘bring to nought’, render powerless, the one who had the power of death, that is, the Devil.

But how did the Devil have ‘the power of death’? One explanation is that death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23), and in true Pauline fashion here means eternal death. The power of death was thus effected by bringing men into sin. Once man sinned he became liable to death, permanent death. The Devil used this power when he tempted Eve to sin and dragged down Adam along with her (for the idea in Jewish thinking compare Wisdom of Solomon 2:24, ‘by the envy of the Devil death entered into the world’). He continues to use the power of death by blinding men’s eyes to the truth of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4), and by constantly keeping men in trespasses and sins, and in the lusts of the flesh and of the mind (Ephesians 2:1-3). Those who are not in Christ ‘live in death’ (1 John 3:14).

But its power is brought to naught ‘through (His) death’, by means of Christ’s perfect sacrifice and provision of the means of forgiveness and sanctification before God. Once the benefit of that is received, man’s conscience for past ‘dead works’ is clear (Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:22). They have been borne by and put aside in Christ. He is delivered from eternal death which has become but ‘sleep’. Thus is the Devil rendered powerless for those who are in Christ (compare John 12:31; Colossians 2:15). He can deceive them no longer.

Another explanation is that ‘the power of death’ should be seen as a similar expression to ‘the power of darkness’ (Colossians 1:13). In Colossians 1,13 ‘the power of darkness parallels ‘the kingdom of His beloved Son’. In other words ‘power’ is almost equivalent to ‘kingdom’, but with a greater emphasis on the force applied to keep its subjects within that kingdom. They are held in darkness by his power. So here we may see it as referring to the ‘kingdom of death’ in which the Devil holds mankind. They are held prisoner in the sphere of ‘death’, kept away from light and life. They live in death (1 John 3:14). They lie in the arms of the Evil One (1 John 5:19). Thus as he is brought to naught, so are men released from his kingdom of death and darkness, through receiving the light of life.

‘Blood and flesh.’ This is the reading of the best witnesses. ‘Blood’ may well be put first because of the emphasis on His death in this passage. He came to shed blood.


Verse 15

‘And might deliver all those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’

And the result is that for those ‘in Christ’ death is no longer fearful. It is the way to life, and no longer the way to eternal loss. Men are perpetually held in bondage by the fear of death, but those who are in Christ are freed from that fear because of their certain hope of eternal life. For those who are His, life can be lived freely. Death’s tyranny has gone. But, for those who are not in Christ, death is something to be avoided and feared. All men at one stage or another fear death.


Verse 16

‘For truly not of angels does he lay hold with help, but he lays hold with help of the seed of Abraham.’

He now stresses the ones to whom help is given, who ‘are laid hold of in order to give them help’. The idea of the ‘help’ given is strong, as revealed by the word ‘laid hold with help’. He gives saving help, leading many sons to glory. And it is not angels that He thus seeks to help, it is the seed of Abraham (compare Isaiah 41:8).

(The basic meaning of the verb is ‘to lay hold of’, but it developed into also meaning ‘to lay hold of in order to help’, and therefore came to mean ‘to help’).

‘For truly not of angels does he lay hold with help.’ ‘Not to/of angels’ is a theme of the passage. Compare Hebrews 2:5. Having demonstrated that the Son was superior to the angels, he is now stressing His graciousness in stooping below the angels in order to ‘lay hold with help’ of men, and redeemed man’s new superiority over the angels. He stooped low that redeemed man might be exalted above the angels.

Note first the inference that He might theoretically have given help to the angels. Thus they are inferior to Him. We do not know whether he means the good or the evil angels. Perhaps he means both according to their need. But the former need no saving help, and for the latter Scripture offers no hope.

‘But he gives help to the seed of Abraham.’ These words are pregnant with significance. They define those to whom His saving help comes. Abraham was the one called by God to leave the world for a land that He would give him, dwelling in tents because he looked for his permanent inheritance from God (Hebrews 11:8-10). Out of fallen mankind he was especially chosen in order to bring ‘blessing’ to that world which he had left (Genesis 12:3), a blessing which would come through his true seed (Genesis 22:18). Thus are separated out to be given His help those who are to be blessed, those who are called out of the world and chosen by God to be the true seed of Abraham, His elect. It is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham (Galatians 3:7 in the context of the whole chapter; Romans 4:1-22). So the seed of Abraham indicates all who have responded to, and are faithful to, God, those who are truly like Abraham and have left the world in order to seek God’s inheritance (Hebrews 11:8-10).

(It should be noted that the Old Testament salvation history makes abundantly clear that no nation is simply blessed as a nation, regardless of response and behaviour. At Sinai Israel were potentially blessed, but they soon discovered that if they were faithless and disobedient their blessing turned into a curse. The same was true throughout their history, as is also true that those who desired to come within the covenant from the world outside were welcome to do so on the same terms as those already within the covenant.

Thus the seed of Abraham were at all times seen as those who responded fully to the covenant, whether true born Israelite, or adopted covenanter, the latter of whom, if we think of a true born Israelite as being directly descended from Jacob/Israel, actually outnumbered the former, consisting of the servants of Abraham and their descendants who remained faithful to the patriarchs, the mixed multitude of Exodus 12:38, others who joined with them when they were settled in the land who were not Canaanites but belonged to related groups, and many witnessed to by their names as coming from a foreign source, and so on. Paul sees this as occurring also when Gentiles who become Christians are grafted into the olive tree - Romans 11).


Verse 17

‘For that reason it was an obligation to him in all things to be made like to his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (reconciliation through sacrifice) for the sins of the people.’

And because He would help the sons of Abraham He felt the obligation (the literal meaning of the verb) of being made like them, like ‘His brothers and sisters’, so that He might perform for them the most important of all functions, that of, as a true human being, acting on their behalf as High Priest so as to remove the barrier between them and God, the barrier which consisted of the sin that condemned them. Compare here Hebrews 1:3 where He is said to have made purification for sins so satisfactorily that He was able to sit down, His priestly work accomplished.

The term ‘obligation’ speaks powerfully. His obligation was not to us but to His own nature and to God. It was a divine necessity driving Him on to the fulfilling of God’s purposes, a necessity to be true to Himself. Hebrews never speaks of the love of God, but it makes it quite clear here.

There is no more important function conceivable for the One Who would benefit mankind than that of acting as a successful mediator between man and God, and then of achieving the means by which what causes God’s aversion to man could be removed. For this function reaches to the centre of man’s very deepest need. And both these are achieved by One Who acts to remove the consequences of sin and their effect on man’s relationship with God, so as to bring men back to God and within His covenant.

Propitiation involves the bringing about of the cessation of anger by the removal of its cause, that is, by the removal of the sin which is an essential part of fallen man, but which causes God’s aversion to man in his sin, an aversion revealed towards those who are still in their iniquity. And that is the duty of a High Priest. Yet none on earth could properly fulfil that function, for they are not sufficient, both because of their own sins, and because of what they are in themselves. They were therefore defective as mediators (as we will be shown later - e.g. Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:23; Hebrews 7:27). They can function in a symbolic way but not in a genuinely effective way. Thus was it necessary to produce One Who Himself was perfect, and Who was without sin Who could function fully effectively.

‘A merciful and faithful High Priest.’ The idea of Jesus as High Priest was briefly signified in Hebrews 1:3 (having made purification for sins) where it goes along with His royal authority. It now suddenly comes in and is emphasised (see Hebrews 3:1). And the foundation laid here is of the fact that it is as Man that He becomes High Priest. This was necessary for His ability to function successfully. Although this will later be expanded to include the idea of His eternal High Priesthood.

The One Who would fulfil this task must be both merciful and faithful. ‘Merciful’ because He has compassion on, and feels, on behalf of His people, and sympathises deeply with their weakness and failure, and ‘faithful’ because of the necessity of His faithfully carrying out His function on their behalf. Alternately it might be describing the general qualification for a High Priest, being merciful and faithful in all his ways before God and man so that He is fit to be High Priest. Both are true. But the former may be seen as all important.

What a contrast with the High Priests of Jesus’ time. The Sadducean High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas, were political and ecclesiastical tools and puppets out of sympathy with the people. They ruled on the basis of expediency (John 11:50). But this One is merciful and faithful in things pertaining to God.


Verse 18

‘For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succour those who are tempted.’

The reason that He can adequately fulfil this role is because as a human being He knows and has experienced the powers of temptation to human flesh, and the awfulness of being tested by intense persecution and the many troubles of life. He has suffered, being tempted and tested. Every day he felt the disturbances to the spirit caused by living in a sinful world, he knew its disappointments and sorrows, its physical pains and the frustrations of life.

He grew weary and sore, hungry and thirsty, and often longed for rest and comfort. He was argued with, lied to, falsely reproved, disliked and deceived by others. He knew to excess the temptations of the Devil, and constantly faced the opposition of men (compare Hebrews 12:3), including sometimes even that of his own disciples. He was tested to the full. Thus He is able to bring to men succour and help when they too are tested in the fires of persecution, or facing the desires of flesh and mind or the problems of a sinful world.

‘He is able to succour.’ Let this be our confidence, that He is able to provide all the help, sustenance and enablement that we will ever need as we seek to serve Him.

So we may summarise the activity of the Son in exalting men above the angels as follows;

1) He was by His own consent made lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9), emptying Himself of His heavenly status of equality with God (Philippians 2:6-7), so that He might be truly man.

2) He was ‘crowned with glory and honour’, a way of saying that He, as the ‘second (representative) man’ and ‘the last Adam’ was given the status which had originally been Adam’s as lord of creation thus making Him a suitable sacrifice for sin for mankind (Hebrews 2:9).

3) As such He ‘tasted death for every one’ who would believe, making purification for sins (Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 1:3).

4) He was made the perfect trek leader through His sufferings so that He might lead many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

5) He did this partly by becoming the sanctifier of those many sons, through His sacrifice of Himself making them separate to God for a holy purpose, and pure before Him, uniting Himself with them so that He could call them ‘brothers and sisters’ (Hebrews 2:10).

6) In the course of all this He became truly human that through His death He might bring Satan, the death dealer, to naught, delivering His own from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14).

7) He laid hold of the true seed of Abraham, those who believe and are accounted righteous, in order to be their Helper (Hebrews 2:16).

8) And thus, having by His own choice become truly human like His ‘brothers’, He became a merciful and faithful High Priest on their behalf in order to ‘help’ them, enabling Him to make reconciliation for the sins of His people, to restore them to God, and to deal once and for all for ever with the consequences of their sins (Hebrews 2:17).

9) Thus did He, by becoming human and facing all men’s temptations and testings, become the One Who could come to the assistance of those who are tested in whatever way and under whatever circumstances (Hebrews 2:18).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Hebrews 2:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/hebrews-2.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, June 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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