Hebrews 1 – 2

Doctrinal: The Superiority of Christ and His Priesthood
Hebrews 1:1 – 10:18
Christ is Superior to Israel’s Messengers: Prophets and Angels
Hebrews 1 – 2
Hebrews 1 – 2. It is fitting that the epistle addressed to the Hebrews should begin by setting forth Christ in His supreme glory. After all, Christ is the fulfillment of all the hopes of Israel, although they could not see it without the eyes of faith. But these chapters, and the epistle as a whole, do not present Christ as a Messiah on earth, but as He is now: glorified in heaven! Nevertheless, the manhood of Christ is not left out. In ch.1 we have the glories of Christ as Son of God, in which His deity is emphasized. In ch.2 we have the glories of Christ as Son of Man, in which His manhood is addressed. But in both cases, it is the glorified Person in heaven that is presented to the soul as the object of faith.

God’s Revelation through the Son vs. Israel’s Prophets (1:1-3)

God having spoken in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets, v.1 God’s Revelation Through the Prophets. This epistle begins as abruptly and majestically as the Jews’ own scriptures began; “in the beginning, God…”. The first verse briefly describes the communications of God in the Old Testament to Israel; “to the fathers in the prophets”. The expression “in many parts and in many ways” shows that the revelation of God in the Old Testament was fragmented and partial. He spoke directly to individuals at times, and in dreams or visions at other times (Hosea 12:10, 13). It was never intended to be complete or final. No epistle has more complete reference to the Old Testament scriptures as the epistle to the Hebrews, and this epistle shows that those revelations fell far short of the fullness of the revelation of God in His Son. 
2 at the end of these days has spoken to us in the person of the Son, whom he has established heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 who being the effulgence of his glory and the expression of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, having made by himself the purification of sins, set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high, vv.2-3 The Son & Seven of His Glories That Set Him Above the Prophets. Our God is the same God who spoke by prophets in the Old Testament, but there has been a tremendous change in His dealings with man on earth! When the Lord Jesus came, God was speaking to Israel – notice that the writer associates himself with Israel – “in the person of the Son”. It isn’t the idea that God gave words to the Son to speak, although that is true. But here it is God Himself speaking, in the Person of the Son. How much greater! The expression “at the end of these days” means the end of the days of Israel under law, when the prophetic communications were given. After many long years with only a partial revelation, God at the very end spoke to Israel face to face, in the Person of His Son. Only the Son was competent to reveal God fully. This “speaking” of course began when Christ was on earth, but Hebrews shows us that through His servants He continued to speak from heaven (Heb. 12:25). How much greater the word of Christ than the word of the prophets! The mention of the glorious Person of the Son leads into a seven-fold declaration of His divine glory:
  1. The Heir of All Things. All things in heaven and on earth belong to the Son in three ways: as Creator (v.2), as Redeemer (Heb. 2:9), and also as Heir of all things. This last way is special because it has nothing to do with what Christ has done, and everything to do with Who He is. It is God’s eternal purpose to head up all things in the One whose right it is (Eph. 1:10).
  2. The Creator of the Universe. We find that all three Persons of the God head were involved in creation, but the Son is the special agent to whom the magnificent accomplishment of creation is attributed; “by whom also he made the worlds”. This brings out the Divine wisdom and power of the Son, that he would bring the ordered universe into existence out of nothing! See also John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. It is an infinite power which can only be connected with His deity.
  3. The Effulgence of God’s Glory. The Son is the “effulgence” or shining out “of his glory”. This indicates that the Person of the Son is the visible manifestation of the glory of God. We see all the attributes of God reflected in the Person of the Son. This was true always, but visibly to man when the Word became flesh. Nothing less than a Divine Person could do this. As to the question of who wrote the epistle, we might ask who among the apostles and prophets saw the Lord Jesus in the condition described in v.3? Only Paul.
  4. The Expression of God’s Substance. This phrase brings out most clearly the deity of Christ! For the Son to be the expression of God’s substance, He had to be fully Divine. The “expression of his substance” is broader than a Person. In John it is the Word expressing the Person of the Father, but here it is the Son expressing (exactly) the substance of the whole Godhead. This is what is meant by ‘homoousios’; that the three Persons of the Godhead are of one essential substance.1 
  5. The Upholder of All Things. The Son is not only the Creator of all things, but the one who sustains all things too. Things continue as they are because He said it (Psa. 33:9)! We have a related expression in Colossians, “all things subsist together by him” (Col. 1:17), meaning they continue in virtue of Him. It is amazing to think that the very One who lay in swaddling clothes in a manger, the One who was crucified through weakness, was in those very moments “upholding all things by the word of his power”!
  6. The Purifier of Sins. When it comes to sin-bearing it is specific to “Himself”. It emphasizes that He alone completed the work, and the glory of that completed works rests on Him alone.23 The work of purifying sins is a far greater work than creation, and it is here linked to Christ’s divine glory. This shows that Christ, in that one finished work, settled for ever the issue of sins in the sight of God, whether it be those of Old or New Testament saints. This was something that no number of sacrifices under the law could ever do (Heb. 10)!
  7. The One Seated at God’s Right Hand. The word “himself” is emphasized in connection with sin-bearing and with being seated at God’s right hand. The “right hand” is the seat of privilege, honor, and authority. In v.13 we have a different side of things, where the Son is invited to sit at God’s right hand, but v.3 is a different thought; He “set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high”. It was His right to sit down there, and He took it. It was a place He won Himself. Clearly, there is no inferiority in the Son!
Set Himself Down. It helps to thing of a prince who says to his father the king, “I am going to enter the kingdom as a commoner”. As a commoner, the prince enters the military and wins great honors. He becomes a great conqueror, delivering his people once-and-for-all from their enemies. He then returns to the palace. The prince now takes his seat in two ways: (1) because of who He is as the king’s son, and (2) because of what he has done. In the same way, the Son of God came from heaven, became man, made purgation for sin by the sacrifice of Himself, returned to heaven, and there sat Himself down (1) in the dignity of His Person, and (2) in the full rights of the finished work of Calvary.

Christ Superior to the Angels (1:4)

4 taking a place by so much better than the angels, as he inherits a name more excellent than they. v.4 So Much Better Than the Angels. The more excellent name is “Son”, as v. 5 shows. He always had a better place as eternal Son, but He also inherited the name of “Son” as a man. Not that He became the Son in incarnation, but that He inherited the name of Son as a man, because that is what He was intrinsically. This name was never given to any angel, as v.5 shows us. The remainder of the chapter show the superiority of Christ to angels, not in His condition before incarnation, but now as a man!

Seven Old Testament Scriptures Showing Christ Superior to Angels (1:5-14)

Angels Figure Prominently in the Old Testament. Stephen pointed out that Israel “received the law by the disposition of angels” (Acts 7:53). It was an angelic form that appeared as a flame of fire to Moses, and so on, all through Israel’s history (Ex. 3:2). Angels figured prominently in the Old Testament as the greatest of God’s messengers, so much so that the Jews had a tendency to exalt angels. In fact, a sect of the Jews went so far as to worship angels, called the Essenes (Colossians 2:18-19). Read more…. Having already shown the greatness of Christ in contrast with the earthly messengers the prophets, the writer now shows the greatness of Christ in contrast with the heavenly messengers the angels!

As the Son: His Relationship and Preeminence (vv.5-6)

5 For to which of the angels said he ever, “”Thou” art my Son: this day have “I” begotten thee?” [Psa. 2:7] and again, “”I” will be to him for father, and “he” shall be to me for son?” [2 Samuel 7:14] v.5 A Unique Relationship. It is true that the angels are called “sons of God” (Job 1:6) in the sense that they are direct creations of God, but this is something far greater! God never said to any angel, “You are my Son”. Note the exclusiveness; “Thou art my Son”. It is a unique relationship, similar to how Jesus could say “My Father” (John 5:17), which the Jews rightly interpreted as a claim to an exclusive relationship. The quotation from Psalm 2 shows that the incarnation in no way lowered or annulled the Sonship of Christ.4 The expression “Thou art my Son” refers to the Sonship of Christ, which is eternal. “This day have I begotten thee” refers to the incarnation, when His sonship was carried forward into time! For the first time there was a man in this world who could call God His Father. Far from weakening the eternal sonship, this quotation strengthens it! We have the deity and the humanity of Christ joined in one verse. In the latter part of v.5 we have another quotation from 2 Samuel 7:14 or 1 Chronicles 17:13, which historically was Jehovah speaking to David about Solomon, but the Spirit of God at the same time applying it to Christ! This quotation shows that the father-son relationship was enjoyed by Christ as a man on earth!5 No angel ever had this. The beautiful epilogue to this is that in resurrection, Christ shares His relationship with His own (John 20:17)!
6 and again, when he brings in the firstborn into the habitable world, he says, “And let all God’s angels worship him.” [Psalm 97:7] v.6 The Place of Firstborn. Another thing that sets the Lord Jesus above the angels is that God calls on the angels to worship the Son! The Son is called “the firstborn”. Often we use the word ‘firstborn’ in connection with birth order in time, but it is often used in scripture in reference to preeminence (in Psa. 89:27 it is applied to Solomon, tenth son of David; in Ex. 4:22 it is applied to Israel, the least of all nations).6 Although Christ is “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15), He is not a creature. Rather, He is the Creator! It was on account of His greatness that when the Lord stepped into His own creation as a man, He became the firstborn of it all. Here the Son is God’s firstborn; the One who must have the highest place, even as a man on earth! This quotation is either from the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 32:43, which reads “Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him, etc.”, or from Psalm 97:7 which reads “Worship him, all ye gods”. We see the angels of God worshipping the Firstborn when He came into the world the first time, when they welcomed the newborn King (Luke 2:13). When the Son came into this world as a humble babe, the angels of God – the most exalted of Gods creatures – fell down and worshipped Him. How much greater He must be than the angels. But His first coming is but a foreshadow of the final fulfillment of this prophecy, which will take place when the Lord Jesus will be brought into the world the second time, at His appearing.7 It refers to the great shift in administration that will take place before the Millennium begins. Again, all the angels of God will worship Him! This is a place that no angel would ever take (Rev. 22:8-9).

As the God-Man: His Deity and Perfect Humanity (vv.7-9)

7 And as to the angels he says, “Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire;” [Psalm 104:4] 8 but as to the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is to the age of the age,” 8 and “a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hast hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy companions.” [Psalm 45:6-7] vv.7-9 His Deity and Holy Humanity. Angels are servants, but the Son is a Divine Person! Notice that Jehovah recognizes the Messiah as God, saying “O God”, and thus proving His deity. The angels, though exalted, are but created beings; God “makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire”. An example of angels appearing as a “flame of fire” would be the flaming sword in Eden (Gen. 3:24), and the burning bush that Moses saw (Ex. 3:2). The Son was never made. He is a co-equal Person in the Godhead, and He is eternal; “Thy throne, O God, is to the age of the age”. The Son’s throne, which symbolizes His power, is eternal too! The Psalm continues to speak of the character of Messiah’s kingdom; “a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom”. This is what will characterize the Millennial kingdom in a future day. But the character of the kingdom is in keeping with the character of the Man; “Thou hast loved righteousness and hast hated lawlessness”. This is a good definition of holiness: the love for what is right and the hatred of what is evil. This refers to the Messiah’s walk here on earth as a man. He was perfect in every way! Because of this, God marks Him out in a special way, distinguishing Christ from the rest of the faithful remnant of Israel; “therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy companions.” It is amazing that the quote begins “O God” and ends with “God, thy God”. It is His deity and perfect dependent humanity in one passage! The “oil of gladness” speaks of the joy of the rightful Messiah taking His place, which He will do when He comes a second time. There is something that took place at the Lord’s first coming that foreshadows this. As oil so often does in scripture, here it might be a picture of the Holy Spirit, which descended in the form of a dove upon the Lord Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry, marking Him out from the others as “my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). This One is lifted up above the greatest of men, like David anointed in the midst of His brethren (1 Sam. 16:13).

As Jehovah: The Eternal, Unchanging, Self-existing One (vv.10-12)

10 And, “”Thou” in the beginning, Lord, hast founded the earth, and works of thy hands are the heavens. 11 They shall perish, but “thou” continuest still; and they all shall grow old as a garment, 12 and as a covering shalt thou roll them up, and they shall be changed; but “thou” art the Same, and thy years shall not fail.” [Psalm 102:25-27] vv.10-12 His Eternity and Immutability. The Spirit of God brings in another Psalm to highlight other glories of the Son, which set Him far above angels. Psalm 102 gives the expressions of the suffering Christ in His extremity; anticipating the cross fast approaching. The Lord felt His natural strength waning, and His time drawing shorter. Though Christ was Divine, His deity in no way made Him immune to suffering as a man. In Psa. 102:24 He prays to God (singular), “My God, take me not away in the midst of my days!” In this prayer, Christ “poured out his soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12). The Lord felt that natural repulsion to death; especially a premature death, and all that it meant for His rights as Messiah. This prayer breaks off, and from the middle of v.24 we have the answer. Jehovah, addressing His Son as a man on earth, assures Him of His Godhead glory. The quotation is from the Septuagint translation, which adds the words “O Jehovah”, which were omitted in the Masoretic text. In other words, we have Jehovah the Father addressing Jehovah the Son!8 All that Christ suffered as man – including death – did not rob Him one iota of His glory as God! He was the Creator, who made heaven and earth. The heavens and earth pass away (Revelation 21:1), but Christ will remain. He is Jehovah “the Same”, a Divine name (Heb. 13:7). None of the angels were ever spoken to this way! What a wonderful assurance for Christ to receive in that time of His agony. Hebrews 5:7 tells us Christ was answered because of His piety; “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear”. The creation itself is perishable. One day, when the purpose for which it was made is accomplished, like a worn-out garment the heavens and earth will be rolled up, and changed – not because they self-destruct, but by the sovereign will of their Creator. This refers to the introduction of the new heavens and earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), which will exist in the eternal state. But when the things that appear most permanent to our human minds have passed away, Jehovah the Son, the eternal self-existing I AM, the One whose name is “the Same” will continue forever!
The Psalms & the Person of Christ. The Psalms in general, and this one in particular, really bring out the perfection of Christ as a man. He was so fully a man, and so fully suffered all these things, including death, that this “encouragement” from God to His Son was “warranted”. The Son was so fully human that these words, assuring Him of His Divine glory, were appropriate. This underscores the amazing mystery of the Person of Christ!

As the Glorified Man: His Place and Prospect (vv.13-14)

13 But as to which of the angels said he ever, “Sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet?” [Psalm 110:1] 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out for service on account of those who shall inherit salvation? vv.13-14 The Glorification of Christ. A final quotation and scene are brought before us. It is fitting that a quotation from a Psalm of the suffering Messiah on earth (Psa. 102) should be followed by a Psalm of the glorified Messiah in heaven (Psa. 110). The scene that is now brought before us is that which followed the ascension of Christ, when He entered heaven as a glorified man, having been utterly rejected and cast out from the earth and having accomplished all the work of atonement and all the will of God. In Psalm 109 we have the sufferings of Christ as rejected and despised, yet committing Himself to God who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23). Psalm 110 is the beautiful answer to that prayer! It is what Jehovah said unto “my Adonai” (David’s Lord; i.e. Christ personally, the Divine Son of God, Matt. 22:43-46). We have Jehovah as God the Father, speaking to His Son. Psalm 110 takes up in thrilling poetry the glorification of Christ, from the moment of His ascension until the moment when He returns in power and glory to this earth, and is victorious over all His enemies. The scene that greets us is the welcome that the royal Son received on entering those courts of glory. The coronations of earthly monarchs, splendid as they may be, pale in comparison to this scene. Greeted by His Father, Christ is told “Sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet”. It isn’t the Son seating Himself as in v.3, but as invited to sit by the Father. Later Hebrews takes up the address or salute that accompanied this scene, when Jehovah greeted Him not only as His Son and the Heir of all things, saluted Christ as high priest after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 5:9-10). Where are the angels in this majestic scene? Do they take the center stage? No. That seat at God’s right hand is never offered to any angel. They are just “ministering spirits, sent out for service”. Powerful, exalted though they may be, in this scene they are just like ushers at a wedding, like coachmen at a ball, or like attendants at a coronation. If angels are great, how much greater the Son! We find here too the specific office of the angels, as servants sent by God to serve “those who shall inherit salvation”. The angels serve in the capacity of guardians for the saints, and this protection begins even before a person is converted! There in royal glory, He thinks of our needs. What grace! The amazing epilogue to this scripture is what Christ offers to His own; “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21). Christ will share His future throne with His friends and co-heirs, but the place where He sits now is never shared with any other, even the Church; it is His alone.

(If You Listened to Angels in the Past, Listen to the Son Speaking Now) (2:1-4)

Warnings Against Apostasy. What we have in the following four verses is the first of five warnings about apostasy in the book of Hebrews. Each warning is like a parentheses in which the writer addresses those among the Hebrews who had made a profession without reality, and were in danger of abandoning their profession. As ch.6 shows us, this would put such a person in a hopeless condition. The five warnings are Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7–4:11, 5:11–6:20, 10:26-39, and 12:16-27. These warnings have been twisted by some to support the false doctrine of conditional security; that a person can be saved then lost again. It is important to understand what apostasy is, and how these passages relate.

For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should slip away. v.1 The Danger of Slipping Away. Based on all the scriptures rehearsed, it was imperative for these Hebrews to hold fast and be true to the gospel; “the things we have heard”. It would be the things they had heard from the Son, in these last days. They had already known the Old Testament scriptures well under Judaism, and now they had professed to believe the gospel of Christ. The danger was of letting go of Christ, and thereby to “slip away”. This is what we refer to as apostasy.

Apostasy is abandoning a belief once professed, especially in the context of renouncing the profession of faith in Christ. Apostasy is different from backsliding. A backslider is one who has truly believed on the Son of God, but has fallen into systematic failure, and is in need of restoration. An apostate is one who once made a profession of Christ, even partook of the outward blessings of Christianity, entertained the truth of it in their thoughts, yet never truly believed it, and ultimately turned away from it (1 Tim. 4:1). An apostate for a time is part of "the faith", but then abandons it, having never truly possessed "saving faith". For for such a person there is no possibility of restoration.

Read more… In a certain way, it is easier to slip away from Christianity than Judaism, because Christianity concerns what is heavenly, spiritual, and laid hold of by faith.
2 For if the word which was spoken by angels was firm, and every transgression and disobedience received just retribution, 3 how shall “we” escape if we have been negligent of so great salvation, which, having had its commencement in being spoken of by the Lord, has been confirmed to us by those who have heard; 4 God bearing, besides, witness with them to it, both by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will? vv.2-4 Neglecting Great Salvation. The “word spoken by angels” refers to the law of Moses, which was “by the disposition of angels” (Acts 7:53, see also Deut. 33:2, critical translations). If the word that was spoken through angels was slighted in any way, there was a judgment that would fall on that person according to the law, under the Old Testament economy. The word of a greater Person, Christ the Son compared to angels, warrants a greater judgment if that word is despised. Note that this is a follow-on to the truth of Heb. 1. The Person of Christ is infinitely superior to the angels! How much greater the “recompense of reward” of judgment on those who despise the gospel? It is eminently more serious to despise grace than law.
What “salvation” is being referred to here? It is the salvation of the Messiah, prophesied about in the Old Testament, but only commenced when the Lord appeared. We read of it in the words of Simeon as he blessed the young Jesus; “mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Luke 2:30-32). Again, when Jesus began His public ministry He announced that the salvation was come (Luke 4:16-21). In summary, the salvation that began to be preached by the Lord had to do with saving Israel from their sins (Matt. 1:21). The literal deliverance of the nation of Israel from the consequences of their sins will not take place until the second coming of Christ, but the foundation for it was laid at the cross. The people wanted the external deliverance immediately (Matt. 21:15), not understanding that Christ must first be rejected, and then suffer for the sins of the people.
This same message, of governmental forgiveness of sins for Israel, was “confirmed to us by those who have heard”, i.e. the apostles. We read for example of Peter preaching this in Acts; “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). Peter was referring to a judgment that was coming on the nation of Israel, and the means whereby a person could be saved from that governmental judgment. It is helpful to see that this message is different from the gospel Paul preached, although not inconsistent with it. Paul preached “the gospel of the grace of God” and “the gospel of the glory of God”, which is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, His exaltation at God’s right hand, and God’s heart of love flowing out to sinners in need of eternal salvation. The message that Christ began to preach speaks nothing of the Church, and it will be taken up again when the Church is taken out in preparation for the kingdom, the “world to come” (v.5).9
God confirmed the message Christ spoke of “great salvation” by outward signs; ” by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will”. The book of Acts records these signs, and we know they were given primarily for a witness to the unbelieving nation of Israel (1 Cor. 1:22). How could the Hebrews expect to escape that deserved judgment if they rejected the “great salvation” that was preached by the Messiah Himself, confirmed again by those who heard Him, and again by signs, etc. of the Holy Spirit? In a very literal way, judgment was coming on the Hebrews of Judea who refused to abandon Judaism. This judgment fell in A.D. 70 through the siege of Titus (Matt. 22:7). Those who received the word of Christ heeded the warning of Luke 21:20-21; “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, etc.” But those of the Hebrews who “slipped away” from Christ did not escape that horrible judgment, nor will they escape the still-worse judgment of hell.

Christ as Man in Suffering and Exaltation (2:5-9)

Four Reasons Christ Became Man. In Hebrews 2 the manhood of Christ is taken up, and there are a number of reasons given for Christ becoming man.10
  1. To make atonement for sins (v.17). The sins of mankind, and the whole issue of sin, is a terrible outrage against the glory of God. Christ became a man first and foremost to glorify God with respect to the issue of sin (John 13:31-32). This work of propitiation was done on the cross, but incarnation was necessary in order for Him to accomplish it. The same can be said of the substitutionary aspect of the cross; “who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). In order to accomplish substitutionary atonement, the Son had to come in incarnation, with a human spirit, soul, and body, in which He bore our sins on the cross.
  2. To fulfill the counsels of God with respect to man (vv.7-8). The purpose for which God created man will be fulfilled to His ultimate satisfaction and glory. The first man failed in his place, but the Son became man to accomplish that purpose. In the glorious reign of the Son of man, that purpose will be accomplished. It could not happen without the incarnation!
  3. To annul the devil by death (v.14). The defeat of Satan required that a righteous man would enter into death and then rise again! Angels cannot die, so the Son had to become a man to offer Himself in death.
  4. To be able to sympathize with us (v.10, v.18). Another great reason for the incarnation is that manhood fitted the Son of God to be our merciful and faithful high priest. In His pathway here on earth Christ passed through every experience necessary to make Him able to sympathize with us perfectly as our great High Priest, making Him a perfect Leader! We could not have this without the incarnation.
5 For he has not subjected to angels the habitable world which is to come, of which we speak; v.5 Angels and the World to Come. Scripture speaks of a great coming change in this world, in which the entire system of God’s dealings with the earth will be transformed. Ephesians speaks of that new economy as “the dispensation of the fulness of times” (Eph. 1:10), but Hebrews refers the earth at that time as “the habitable world which is to come”. We know the creation of Genesis 1:1 was at some point placed under the dominion of angels, Satan being the chief before his fall (Ezek. 28). But God always had a purpose to put the universe under the headship of a man. Satan tempted Eve who led Adam into transgression. No doubt this was the effort of Satan to usurp the inheritance of the Son of man. In the years after Adam’s failure, we see the activity of apostate angels to corrupt the creation, until God intervened with a flood (Gen. 6). After the flood, God gave man the institution of government, which – like everything committed to man – became corrupted. But God had His angels work in hidden ways, moving behind those institutions, as Daniel 10 so remarkably reveals. The administration of the world today is accomplished by God through His angels. But His purpose is still the same: for the administration of the world to be given over to a man (vv.6-9). This transfer of administration is seen in Revelation 4 – 5, when the Lamb takes the seven-sealed book from the hand of God. Read more…
6 but one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man [‘Enosh’ – frail man], that thou rememberest him, or son of man [‘Adam’ – manhood] that thou visitest him? 7 Thou hast made him some little inferior to the angels; thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and hast set him over the works of thy hands; 8a thou hast subjected all things under his feet.” [Psalm 8:4-6] vv.6-8a The Son of Man in the Counsels of God. Continuing the theme of Christ’s superiority, the writer shows that the manhood of Christ (far from diminishing His glory) was necessary for Him to fulfill God’s purpose for man, and filling the place that God intended for man, to become head over all created things, including the angels! It was foretold in Psalm 8 that at some future time (the Millennium, the “world to come”) the created universe would be subjected under the feet of a Man. In considering the creation, especially the “heavens”, the Psalmist (David) was struck with the grace of God to man. Surely, a God who could create such majestic beauty is far above puny man (‘Enosh’). David exclaimed at the grace of God, that He should even take notice of man, much less to visit him and give him a place over the creation; “What is man, that thou rememberest him, or son of man that thou visitest him?” Man is not even the highest of created intelligence, “Thou hast made him some little inferior to the angels” and yet, in the counsels of God, He purposed for man to be placed over all creation; “thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and hast set him over the works of thy hands; thou hast subjected all things under his feet”. Was this an established fact at the time of David? No, although we have the type in Adam. The creation was placed into the hands of Adam, “to till and keep the garden”. But in transgressing the commandment of God, Adam failed in that headship. What then? has God’s purpose been frustrated? No. The second man succeeds where the first man has failed. Here in Hebrews, the writer shows that the “Son of man” is Christ Himself, who has been “crowned with glory and honor” now in heaven at God’s right hand, and “all things” put under His feet! The Psalm begins with a view of man as very small compared to the universe, but it ends with the universe very small compared to the Son of man! “Son of man” is a title Christ took when rejected as Messiah, and it brings out a wider sphere of glory than His glory as Messiah, and this was very applicable to the Hebrews! Read more…
8b For in subjecting all things to him, he has left nothing unsubject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to “him”, 9 but we see Jesus, who was made some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; so that by the grace of God he should taste death for every thing. vv.8b-9 Christ as a Man in Suffering and Exaltation. The writer emphasizes the superlative “all”; when God subjects all things to Christ as exalted Son of Man, “he has left nothing unsubject to him”. That’s right, nothing. That is obviously except for God, who subjected all things to Christ (1 Cor. 15:27). Today Christ is glorified in heaven, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-21). The Son of God left the courts of glory to become a man, and in so doing “was made some little inferior to angels”. Angels are above mere men in their order in creation, and yet the Son became a man. What a tremendous stoop that was! This touches on the mystery of the Person of Christ. There was a man in this world who was fully Divine and therefore “so much better than the angels” as far as His Divine Person is concerned (Heb. 1:4), but at the same time fully man and therefore “some little inferior to angels” as far as His order in creation is concerned. In resurrection Christ is the beginning of a new creation, and a new race of men that is superior to angels! The order now is: glorified humanity, angels, humans, then animals. Although it does not yet appear so visibly, we are a part of that race (1 Cor. 15:49; 1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:21).
Christ had to take that lower place “on account of the suffering of death”. Psalm 8 says nothing about the death of the Son of man, but here we find that was necessary for its fulfillment. We know from Luke 20:36 that angels cannot die, so Christ had to become a man to offer Himself in death. Yet it goes on to say, “we see not yet all things put under him”. We have only seen a partial fulfillment of Psalm 8, and that only by faith; “crowned with glory and honour”. This refers to His coronation at God’s right hand, as a glorified man (John 13:32). But the partial fulfillment is a guarantee to us of the complete fulfillment! His coronation assures Him of the throne. We are still waiting to see the manifestation of His glory as the Son of man, which will be fully displayed in the Millennium. The rest of Psalm 8 expounds the extent of the dominion of the Son of man; i.e. “everything”.11 By “the grace of God”, Christ tasted death “for every thing”. The work of Christ did not only deal with the sins of believers, but with the issue of sin in general, covering the havoc that the outbreak of sin has caused in the creation. This is the broadest aspect of the work of the cross (Col. 1:20), and it is connected with the thought of purchase (Matt. 13:44). Through Satan’s subtilty and man’s disobedience the inheritance fell under the curse of sin. Before Christ takes the inheritance, He must purchase the right to it by vindicating the rights of God concerning the question of sin. He holds the title to everything now as Redeemer as well as Creator. Notice the connection between “all things” and “every thing”. The Son of man’s future dominion is as wide as the scope of His past sufferings; universal! Where are the angels in all of this? Nowhere.
We See Jesus. This is really the “view” that Hebrews gives us into the opened heavens. We see Jesus, having suffered and died, but then raised and glorified, now crowned in heaven at God’s right hand, awaiting the inheritance. He is there as the author and captain of our salvation, as our great high priest, as our forerunner, as the author and completer of our faith. All of this we “see” with the eyes of faith.

What Christ Has Done for Believers (2:10-18)

A Summary of What Christ Has Done to Fulfill the Purpose and Counsels of God. God’s eternal purpose and counsel was for the creation to be placed under the dominion of man, and to have a race of sanctified men (“sons”) who share His life and nature, to subsist in full fellowship with Himself. When sin came in, man’s nature entered a fallen condition and he was put at a distance from God. The creation too fell under a curse. From those eternal counsels, Divine love flowed into action. The Son was willing to descend lower than angels to accomplish the purpose of God. He took manhood into union with Himself, and as a perfect, dependent man tasted death for everything. He took the issue of man’s responsibility on Himself, and discharged the issue of sin forever, such that God’s nature has been fully vindicated and glorified. He more than restored the honor God had been robbed of! Christ, in resurrection has shared His risen life with the children of God, making them “one kind” with Himself, and “bringing many sons to glory”. Further, in satisfying the righteous claims of a holy God, Christ purchased the rights to the inheritance, which He will shortly begin to possess. Thus, Christ has fulfilled the purpose of God, although the full effects of it are yet to be seen!
10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make perfect the leader of their salvation through sufferings. v.10 A Perfect Leader. Having just unfolded what Christ has done for God, in accomplishing the purpose of God in the creation of man, we find that God has been pleased to bring believers into special association with His Son, to share with them His life and nature, so that He might bring “many sons to glory”! The use of the word “sons” here is different from the Pauline truth of adoption, like we have in Ephesians. It is actually closer to the way the Jesus used the term “sons of God” in the sermon on the mount; “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). They are called sons of God because they resemble God in their character (Judges 8:18). God is so pleased with His Son that He wanted to make many more like Him! “That he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).
The “him” in v.10 is God; “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things”. He is the source, means, and goal of all things! It “became” or was fitting to the character of this sovereign God, to give these “many sons” a perfect Leader! God passed the captain or “leader” or our salvation through every experience necessary to make Him a perfect leader for us. The word “perfect” is used here is the sense of completeness, rather than moral perfection. God gave Christ in manhood every experience necessary for a full resume. Because of this, our Leader is a seasoned veteran of suffering (v.18). He knows what pain, shame, betrayal, slander, etc. are! He felt the experiences of the pathway more perfectly than we do, because He did so without the flesh. There is no circumstance that we might find ourselves in that Christ is insufficient to lead us through it. An example of this would be David, who learned experimentally what rejection and reproach were when he fled from Saul, and this fitted David to be a captain for the outcasts in Israel (1 Sam. 22:2). We find in Heb. 5:8-9 that Christ is the “author of eternal salvation” which has more to do with salvation in the ultimate sense, but here He is the “captain of our salvation” which is present, ongoing salvation that culminates in the appearing of Christ. Read more… Moses delivering Israel from Egypt is a type of Christ as “author”, and Joshua leading Israel into Canaan is a type of Christ as “leader”. What angel could bring sons to glory, or be a perfect leader for them? Only Christ as a perfect man.
11 For both he that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, “I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I sing thy praises.” [Psalm 22:22] 13 And again, “I will trust in him.” [Isaiah 8:17 (LXX), Psalm 91:2] And again, “Behold, I and the children which God has given me.” [Isaiah 8:18] vv.11-13 Of One Kind with Us, His Brethren. We find that there is a oneness between the Lord Jesus and the “many sons”, and to support this a number of quotations from the Old Testament are given. The fact that these quotations are from the Old Testament indicate the that truth of this oneness is not limited to the Church, but actually began with the disciples after the resurrection, and it will continue to the Millennium when these scriptures are fulfilled.
In scripture there are different onenesses that characterize our association with Christ. There is one body, one plant, one family, one testimony. Here it is “oneness of kind”, which is lower than the oneness of the body of Christ, but a necessary prerequisite for it. It does not say we “are one” but that we “are of one”. A helpful example is that of Adam in Genesis 2. When all the animals were brought to Adam to be named, “but as for Adam, he found no helpmate, his like”. There was no creature on earth that was of the same kind as Adam. When Eve was formed from Adam’s rib and presented to him, “Man said, This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: this shall be called Woman, because this was taken out of a man” (Gen. 2:20, 23). You could say that Adam and Eve were “of one”, but they were not “one” until she became his wife (compare v.23 and v.24 of Gen. 2). The truth of the Church and her union with Christ is not taken up in Hebrews as it is in Ephesians, but the truth of new creation is (in both), and that is necessary to the oneness of Christ and the Church. The oneness here is that of compatibility. It has been compared to the way the priesthood is spoken of in the Old Testament where “Aaron and his sons” are referred to as a set. So with the new creation race! It is a serious mistake to limit this association to Christ’s taking on manhood in incarnation, as this would make Christ “all of one” with the whole human race. Incarnation was necessary for the work of atonement, but Christ becoming a man did not produce the oneness we have here. This compatibility is made possible through the work of the cross, and proclaimed only in resurrection (v.12). Christ is “he that sanctifies” and we are “those sanctified”. We are “all of one” as men totally set apart for God. Christ set Himself apart (although not in the moral sense, John 17:19), and He has set us apart too (Heb.10:14).
As “of one” in this sense, Christ is “not ashamed” to call us His “brethren”! The Son calls us His brethren, because the work He has accomplished has brought us into a new race, and made new relationships possible. Note that He never asks us to call Him “brother”, but He calls us “my brethren”. Remember, He is the Firstborn (Rom. 8:29). The quotation from Psalm 22:22 has a beautiful connection the sufferings in the earlier part of the Psalm, seen in the transition of v.21; “Yea, from the horns of the buffaloes hast thou answered me.” The “horns of the buffaloes” refers to one who is pierced by horns; i.e. when death is imminent, almost the moment of death. It would seem that the suffering Christ was given assurance just prior to death that His prayer was heard, and it would be answered. But the full answer to the cry of the suffering Christ is seen in resurrection! Christ would declare Jehovah’s name to His brethren, the faithful remnant. We know this was fulfilled at least partially in John 20, when Christ declared the Father’s name to the disciples; “go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”. There is a day yet coming when the Lord will make Jehovah’s name known in a special way to the faithful remnant. Then we find Christ leading the praises of Jehovah in the congregation of His brethren, which is not only true today in the Church period but also goes on to include the whole resurrected company in a future day. As Christ is leading home God’s many sons, He leads them in song from His place “in the midst”.
The next quotation is from Isaiah 8:17, the Septuagint translation; “I will trust in him.” Though Lord of all, the Son is still the dependent man, and will remain so for all eternity! That we are thus associated together with Him becomes the foundation of our praise. Then in a quotation from the following verse in Isaiah 8:18, we find that God’s children are entrusted to Christs care; “Behold, I and the children which God has given me” (Isaiah 8:18). Not that we are Christ’s children, but that He associates us with Himself in a special way. In the context of the prophecy, it is Messiah’s disciples (the Jewish remnant) set for signs and wonders to the unbelieving nation of Israel. It is extraordinarily applicable to the Hebrews, who were a witness against the nation.
14 Since therefore the children partake of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same, that through death he might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage. vv.14-15 Annulled the Devil and Freed Us. Here we have the incarnation and the reason for it. Surely, the compassion of God for the whole human race was a motivation for the giving of the Son (John 3:16), but here it is put another way. The reason Christ took part of flesh and blood was because the children; i.e. the saints. We were in His heart then! He “took part of the same”, meaning He took part in something He wasn’t before. We are “partakers” because that is what we were. He became a man, and so He deity is carefully guarded. In Philippians 2:7 it says that Christ “emptied himself”, but it doesn’t say how far that goes. We can see from other scriptures that Jesus was both fully man and fully God (1 Tim. 2:5; Col. 2:9). He did not ever empty Himself of deity. He became a man in every way; spirit, soul and body. But we must see that He relinquished nothing, as far as His Person is concerned, in becoming man. The inscrutable union of the divine and human natures of Christ involved addition only, not subtraction. The specific reason given here for the incarnation was that the children were in bondage to the devil, who wielded “the power of death”, and Christ came to deliver them. The power of death in this context seems to be Satan’s power to press upon the soul “the fear of death”, which is not only the fear of judgment after death, but the issue of sin as the “wages of death” weighing on the conscience (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 6:23). In Job 18:14 Bildad referred to death as “the king of terrors”. Just as Israel was terrified of Goliath’s sword, so we would still be if our David had not gone into the valley of death for us. Earlier we have the death of Christ “for every thing”, but here we have the death of Christ for believers specifically. What is it that gives death its “sting”? It is sin (1 Cor. 15:56). Death is that solemn reminder to man that he is a sinner. When a man faces death, he comes face to face with the wages of his sin.
As Jesus approached the cross a tremendous battle was unfolding. In John 14:30, just before the Lord and His disciples rose up to go to the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord said, “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”. In the garden Luke speaks of the Lord as “being in conflict” (Luke 22:44), and in His own words, the sorrow that Jesus felt in the garden was “unto death”. Immediately after the garden, Jesus said “this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). From these scriptures we gather that conflict centered around the imminent death of the cross. Satan came to Jesus as a man, and tried to leverage the power of death over Him. As a man, Jesus felt the terror of death – although not because He had sin in Him personally – and was exceeding sorrowful in anticipation of it. He did not retreat into His deity to escape this suffering. Satan was there at the cross too, for we hear prophetically the voice of Jesus on the cross, “Save me from the lion’s mouth” (Psa. 22:21), “the torrents of Belial made me afraid” (Psa. 18:4). But the Savior completely undermined the Devil’s plans by His perfect submission. He did take the cup of judgment, but not from Satan’s hand. As the only perfect Man Jesus took it from the Father’s hand; “not my will, but thine be done”, and “the cup which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). So, by going into death, not as a sinful man cowering under Satan’s power, but as a perfect Man in obedience to His Father’s will (Luke 23:46), Jesus broke the chains of death! Just as David slew Goliath with the giant’s own sword, so Christ annulled the Devil with his own favorite weapon, by going into death itself under the sentence of our sins, and sealed it by rising victorious over the grave. The claims of sin upon the believer are gone, and death no longer holds any terrors for those who belong to Christ (2 Tim. 1:10). The tables have been completely turned! The Devil was annulled or rendered powerless in the death of Christ, but the Devil is still allowed by God to function according to God’s sovereign will. Satan will go on this way until he is restricted to earth, bound in the abyss, and loosed again before his final abode in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10).
16 For he does not indeed take hold of angels by the hand, but he takes hold of the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like to his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people; 18 for, in that himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to help those that are being tempted. vv.16-18 Our Merciful and Faithful High Priest. The expression “take hold of” in v.16 is a peculiar one, and hard to translate. It doesn’t mean “take on the nature of” as the Authorized Version translates it, as that would limit the meaning to incarnation. In fact, the subject of incarnation has already been discussed in vv.14-15, and therefore what follows is no redundant statement. Instead, the meaning of v.16 is that Christ took up the cause of the seed of Abraham; i.e. the earthly people of God specifically in view here as those who were under the curse of a broken law (“seed” vs. “children”, John 8:37-39). Incarnation was a necessary part of this, but this goes far beyond. What we have in these verses is a parallel to the high priest. Christ is the fulfillment of the type of the high priest; “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest”. The normal function of the high priest was as an intercessor for the people, which was an on-going work. But on the day of atonement, Aaron functioned in a different way completely, in that He acted as a representative of the people toward God, and this was a once-a-year service. However, both of these functions of the high priest, fulfilled perfectly and surpassed by Christ the antitype, required that He be one of the people, “made like to his brethren”.
  1. Faithful towards God, “in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people”. This is the most important aspect, as it deals with the issue of God’s glory regarding our sins. Note the erroneous translation “reconciliation” could give the wrong idea that God will be reconciled with sin. We read of persons and the creation being reconciled, but never of sins. On the day of atonement, which occurred once a year, the high priest would put on a “holy linen coat” and make the offerings that the Lord required. When he did this, the high priest acted as the representative of the people, and in type offered that which was necessary for the satisfaction of the claims of God. All that God is as light and love has been fully manifested in the cross. This one-time sacrifice of Christ laid the foundation for His on-going intercession!
  2. Merciful towards man, “to help those that are being tempted”. After the day of atonement, the high priest would change back into his garments of “glory and beauty” and resume the role of intercessor. Christ could have partaken in humanity but chosen a privileged life, such as a noble or merchant family would have afforded Him. But “it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren”, in order that He could sympathize with us in every circumstance. Our Leader was made perfect through sufferings (v.10), and those sufferings also fortify Him to be a “merciful and faithful high priest”. He has suffered “being tempted”, not tempted of the flesh which He had not (Heb. 4:15), but by the trials of the path and the wiles of the Devil, etc. He was tempted beyond what we will ever experience, and He went through it without compromising or yielding. As such, He is able to help those that are being tempted, because we too will suffer if we do not give into temptation (1 Pet. 4:1).12
Whether it be making propitiation for our sins or sympathizing with us in our trials, we have a perfect High Priest in the Lord Jesus Christ. No angel could ever be what He is to us, nor do what He had done for us.
Summary. When we consider the scope that is before us in Hebrews 1 and 2, it is breathtaking. These chapters open up the view into the opened heavens, and set before us the glories of Christ. God has spoken in the Person of His Son. The Son is far above angels, seated at God’s right hand. This Son of God is also the Son of Man, the one who went a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that He might accomplish the purpose of God and glorify Him. At the cross, the Son tasted death for everything, and also annulled the Devil by taking his power. In His humiliation, Christ was made a perfect Leader of our salvation, and a merciful and faithful High Priest. Now He is leading many sons to glory, and meeting their every need along the way. It is this Person, and Him seen by faith, already crowned with glory and honor, that draws our souls away from earthly objects! “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1).
  1. This was the term put forward by the First Council of Nicaea (325) to resolve the controversy over Arianism, which taught that Christ was not fully divine. The Greek word homoousios means “of one substance”. The creed produced at the council was intended to put an end to the controversy.
  2. The Greek verb has here a peculiar form, which gives it a reflective sense, causing the thing done to return into the doer, throwing back the glory of the thing done upon the one who did it. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  3. There are a number of things the Lord does by Himself; He comes for the saints Himself (1 Thess. 4), He restores the discouraged soul Himself (Luke 24), and here we find He “made by himself the purification of sins”.
  4. The assumption of flesh in no way lowered His Sonship: Son of God eternally, He was still and no less Son of God when born of the Virgin, as He is in resurrection and evermore in glory… To partake of blood and flesh through and of His mother was in no way to forfeit His title. Son of God from everlasting to everlasting, in time also as man He has God declaring “I today have begotten thee.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  5. This is the assertion of the perfect and mutual affection that reigned between the Father and His Son, now a living man; not what became an accomplished fact as in Psalm 2:7 [incarnation], and what should subsist when He was born of woman, “Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  6. Some have erroneously taken the word “firstborn” to indicate that Christ came into being at the incarnation. However this denial of eternal existence of the Son is easily refuted by the earlier verse (v.2) which states that He created all things, and the following verses (vv.7-8) that show He was never created!
  7. At the same time it is frankly allowed that the fulfilment of Deut. 32 or of Psalm 97 as a whole awaits the Lord’s second advent. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  8. It is Jehovah from above who thus answers Jehovah below in the midst of His entire submission to sorrow and humiliation “crucified in weakness.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  9. It is the preaching of a great salvation made by the Lord Himself when on earth; not the gospel preached and the Church united after the death of Christ. This testimony, consequently, goes on to the Millennium without speaking of the Church, a fact to be noticed not only in these verses but in the whole epistle. – Darby, J.N. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Collected Writings, vol. 28, p. 4
  10. In Hebrews 2 four reasons are given why Christ took flesh and blood: first, to make atonement; second, for God’s glory and counsels; third, to destroy him that had the power of death; fourth, that He should go through every sorrow, and so have sympathy with us. – Darby, J.N. Brief Thoughts on Philippians.
  11. Note: Psalm 8 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and Hebrews 2.
  12. He sympathises with us in our holy, not in our unholy, temptations. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.