Do you remember how the book of Hebrews began? In the past, God spoke to our forefathers in the faith through the prophets at many times and in various ways. So, God’s revelation came to his people in many pieces. It came to them bit by bit through this prophet and through that prophet. Not all at once, but bit by bit. But in these last days, God has spoken to us in the one who is Son. And the Son is greater than the prophets, because the Son is heir of all things; and all things were made through him; and the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his being. And so, the Son is the repetition of the Father. And the Son sustains all things by his powerful word; and the Son has provided purification for our sins; and the Son has sat down at God’s right hand in heaven. The Son is far, far, far greater than the prophets, because the Son is God. He is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, of the same substance with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. That’s what verses 1 to 4 were about.
And in the past God spoke through the angels, because didn’t he reveal his law to his people through the angels? But the one who is Son is far, far, far greater than the angels. He’s greater than the angels because he is the Only Begotten Son of the Father, the one to whom God the Father declared: ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’ And he’s greater than the angels because the angels were made to worship and serve the Son. And he’s greater than the angels because he is the Eternal Son whose years will never end. That’s what verses 5 to 14 were about.
So, in the past, God spoke through the prophets and the angels. But in these last days he has spoken his final and decisive word in the one who is Son. And who better to tell us about God than God himself. And that’s who the Son is. He is God, God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
In view of all that, what should we do? That’s what verses 1 to 4 of chapter 2 are about. What should we do in view of the fact that God has spoken his final and decisive word in the one who is Son? What does our author say in verse 1? He says: ‘Therefore, we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard.’ That is, we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard from God by the Son. Since God has now spoken his final and decisive word by the Son, then we must pay more careful attention to what he has said. The word translated ‘more’ can also mean ‘superabundant’. Isn’t that a great word? How much attention should we pay to what God has said? We must pay superabundant attention to it. We must give it more and more and more attention. We cannot give it enough attention. We must keep attending to it, keeping listening to it, keeping believing it, keeping obeying it. We must be devoted to it.
And why must we give so much attention to what God has said by the Son? We must pay superabundant attention to it because, of course, it is the revelation of God. God has spoken to us, he has revealed himself to us, in the person of his Son. And therefore we ought to receive, believe and obey it, because the one who is speaking to us is God who made us. That’s obvious. It’s so obvious that our writer did not even mention it. But he gives us another reason. Why should we pay superabundant attention to what God has said to us by his Son? It’s so that we don’t drift away from the faith.
From time to time you hear about a woman who has lost her engagement ring. She was walking along a beach or she was walking through the countryside and she was distracted. And the ring, which was new and perhaps wasn’t quite the right fit, slipped off her finger. And she didn’t notice until it was too late. She got back to the car, and it’s gone. Where is it? When did it come off? She doesn’t know. Or think of a boat which someone tied up to the jetty and went off to do a message on shore. But the knot wasn’t tight enough and the boat slipped its mooring and drifted away. And the owner comes back and the boat has gone. Where did it go? A ring slips off a finger. A boat drifts from its mooring. And a believer drifts from the faith, because he or she wasn’t paying attention to what they had heard from God.
I was listening to another preacher preach on this passage and in his application he directed what he said to those who don’t yet believe. ‘Don’t ignore the message’, he said. ‘Don’t disregard the good news.’ ‘You must pay attention and believe.’ And that’s true. Those who don’t believe must pay attention to the message. They must not disregard it. They must hear and believe. But the writer of this book is not directing this warning to unbelievers. He’s directing this warning to believers. All the way through the book, he’s referring to people who already believe. To those who possess faith. For instance, look at verse 1 of chapter 3. He calls his readers ‘holy brothers’ or ‘holy brothers and sisters’. He’s writing to Christians. And he’s warning Christians to pay superabundant attention to what God has said by his Son so that Christians do not drift away from the faith.
And, of course, that’s the great danger we face, especially because of this coronavirus crisis which we’ve been going through and our normal routines have been disrupted and we’ve had other things on our mind and we’ve been thinking about the virus and about staying safe and well and virus-free. And we’re right to think about those things. But it’s so easy — isn’t it? — for us to get distracted like the woman on the beach who loses her ring or the man who didn’t notice that his boat had drifted away. We’re thinking of other things and we’re not paying attention to what God has said; and one day we realise we’ve drifted from the faith. Think of a bucket with a small hole in it. The water leaks out of it slowly, drop by drop. You may not notice, because it’s happening so slowly. But an hour goes by and where has the water gone? That’s how we drift from the faith. Not all at once, but little by little, bit by bit. Slowly, so that we don’t notice. But a year goes by, two years go by, three years go by and where did our faith go?
And so, we must pay superabundant attention to what we have heard from God by his Son. And what has God revealed to us by his Son? He has revealed to us the good news of salvation and God’s willingness to pardon our sins and to give eternal life to all who believe in the Son. That’s the message God has spoken to us in the person of his Son, because the Son is the Saviour, who, in obedience to the Father, gave up his life to pay for our sins and who shed his blood to cleanse us and who gives us his Spirit as the deposit to guarantee what is yet to come. That’s the message to which we must pay superabundant attention. And whoever pays superabundant attention to that message will not drift away from the faith, because, by paying superabundant attention to that message, our faith will remain strong.
Verses 2 to 4
And the writer goes on to say that the message spoken by angels was binding. He’s referring to the law, because God put his law into effect through the angels. That’s what Paul says in Galatians 3. And the law was legally binding so that every violation of it received its just punishment. Think of what happened immediately after God gave the law to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Do you remember? Aaron and the people broke the very first commandment by bowing down and worshipping the golden calf instead of bowing down and worshipping the Lord their God. And afterwards, three thousand of the people died because they had sinned against the Lord. And later God revealed that he would send blessings on the people if they obeyed his law but he would also send curses upon them if they disobeyed his law. And we know from our studies in the Old Testament that because of their persistent disobedience and their refusal to listen to the prophets, the people were sent away into exile because of their sins. The law, which was revealed through angels, was binding and every violation of it received its just punishment. And so, the people had to pay close attention to it, because the consequences of not paying attention to it were serious. And yet, how much more serious will it be for those who ignore the great salvation which God has now revealed to us by his Son. Disregarding the law was serious; but disregarding the message of salvation is even more serious. That’s the writer’s point. If we do not pay superabundant attention to what God has said to us by his Son about the gospel, and if we drift away from the faith, and if we drift away from the Saviour, what hope is there for us? The climber who lets go off the cliff-face will surely fall and perish; and the person who lets go of Christ will surely fall away from salvation and they will perish eternally.
And the writer goes on to make clear that the message of salvation — which we must pay more careful attention to — was first announced by the Lord. He’s referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, who came preaching the good news of salvation and he called on sinners to repent and believe the good news. So, he announced the message of salvation by what he said. But he also announced it by his death and resurrection, because his death and resurrection speak to us of God’s willingness to pardon our sins and to give eternal life to all who believe in the Son.
And the message of salvation was confirmed to us by those who heard Christ. So, the writer is referring to the apostles, who were the official eye- and ear-witnesses of everything the Lord said and did. And why should anyone believe what the apostles said? We should believe what they said because God testified to the truth of their message by accompanying their preaching with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Spirit. Not everyone was able to perform miracles in the early days of the church. But the apostles were enabled by God to perform mighty miracles, because those mighty miracles were signs which confirmed that they had indeed been sent by God and their message was true.
And so, in the first part of today’s passage, the writer warns us to pay superabundant attention to what we have heard from God who has spoken to us in the Person of his Son. Pay the closest attention to the message of salvation, which has been confirmed by God in various ways, so that you do not drift away from the faith, because what hope does anyone have who ignores this great salvation which God has made known to us in the Person of his Son who is the only Saviour of the world? So, cling to him by faith. And keep clinging to him by faith. Do not let go of him. Do not let yourself drift. It can happen so easily. We get distracted. Other things take up our time and attention. We stop making diligent use of the means of grace, which are the preaching of God’s word and the sacraments and prayer. And little by little, bit by bit, without even noticing it, we begin to drift further and further away from the only Saviour of the world. A year goes by. Two years go by. Three years go by. And what happened to our faith? It’s gone. Don’t let it happen to you. Pay more careful attention to what God has been saying to you in the one who is Son, who is greater than the prophets and greater than the angels, because he is God the Son.
Verses 5 to 9
We come now to the second half of today’s passage, which is connected to the first half because once again the writer refers to the angels. Take a look at verse 5 where he says that it is not to angels that God has subjected ‘the world to come’. When he refers to ‘the world to come’, he’s referring to the new and better world to come where all who trust in Christ will one day come. Right now we’re living in the last days. And what will happen after the last days are over? Christ will come again and he will bring his people — all who trusted in him and who kept trusting in him — into the new heavens and the new earth, where we will live in perfect peace and rest forever. And God has not subjected the world to come to the angels. So, who has he subjected the world to come? He’s going to tell us in a moment, but let me give you a spoiler: he’s subjected the world to come to his Son. He has been exalted to rule over all in that world to come. And in the world to come, not only will the Son rule over all, but so will we, because God will fulfil his plans for us through his Son. Let me explain.
In the beginning, when God made the heavens and the earth, and the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve, he blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ That is, rule over it. God was the Great King, the Maker and Ruler of all. But when he made us, he made us to rule the world on his behalf. And the writer to the Hebrews refers to that by quoting from Psalm 8.
Are you familiar with Psalm 8? It’s a psalm of praise to God who made all things. And the psalmist marvels at the fact that the Lord who made all things cares for us. So, the psalm begins with the psalmist praising God and saying: ‘How majestic is your name in all the earth!’ And the psalmist goes on to think about the heavens and the moon and the stars which God has set in place and which display God’s glory and power for all to see. And the psalmist looks up at the night sky and he feels his own smallness and insignificance, because we’re so small compared to the heavens above. And yet, how wonderful that God is mindful of us and cares for us. How wonderful that he cares for us when we are so small. And, in fact, he has bestowed great honour on us by making us just a little lower than the angels and he has given to us the right to rule over the rest of creation. And so, the psalmist goes on to say that God has put everything under our feet: all flocks and herds and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. God made us to be like him and to rule over creation on his behalf.
That’s what Psalm 8 is about and the writer to the Hebrews quotes from the psalm in these verses. And after quoting the psalm, the writer stresses the astounding truth that God has put everything under us. ‘In putting everything under him’, he says, ‘God left nothing that is not subject to him.’ Now some of the commentators think that when the writer refers in verse 8 to ‘him’, he’s referring to the Lord Jesus. But others think he’s referring, not to the Lord Jesus, but to man in general. And that’s what I think. He’s referring to humanity. God has put everything under us.
But then the writer mentions the elephant in the room. What’s the elephant in the room? It’s the fact that, at present, we do not see everything subject to us. We don’t see everything subject to us because, in the beginning, Adam disobeyed God and sin came into the world and now, nothing is the way it was supposed to be. We were meant to fill the earth; but Eve was told that producing children would become painful. And men and women were to cooperate with one another in ruling the world; but Eve was told that men and women would be in conflict with one another. And we were meant to subdue the earth by cultivating it; but Adam was told that cultivating the earth would become hard and difficult and frustrating. Thorns and thistles will grow up to oppose our efforts to produce food. And after a lifetime of toil and trouble, death will overtake us and we’ll return to the ground, because dust we are and to dust we will return.
So, while we were made to rule the earth, we’re not able to rule the earth, because of the fall into sin. And you can just think about your life and you know that you control so little of it and things are always happening to us which we were not expecting and did not want. So, we can’t control the circumstances of our life. And we can’t even control ourselves, because we’re ruled by sinful thoughts and desires and inclinations. And we’re put under pressure by a sinful world to conform to its wicked ways. And there’s the Devil who tempts us to do evil. We were made to rule the world, but since the fall, we do not see everything subject to us.
But we see Jesus. And have you noticed this is the first time the writer has mentioned the name of Jesus? Until now, he’s being referring to the Son. But the Son, the Only Begotten Son of God, came into the world as one of us and he was given the name Jesus. And so, for a little while, the Son was made lower than the angels. The word for ‘a little’ can be translated ‘a little lower’ or ‘a little while’. The writer probably means ‘for a little while’. So, not for ever and not for a long time, but he was made lower than the angels for just a little while. So, by nature, and from all eternity, he is superior to the angels, because he is God. He’s of the same substance with the Father and the Spirit and the angels were made to worship and serve him. But for a little while, he was made lower than the angels, when he came into the world as one of us and when he lived among us for a time.
And, according to verse 9, he has now been crowned with glory and honour. The writer is now referring to the Lord’s ascension to heaven after his resurrection from the dead and to how he was installed as King at God’s right hand. The writer referred to this same moment in chapter 1 when he quoted from Psalm 110 where God the Father is depicted as saying to God the Son, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’.
And so, the Only Begotten Son was made lower than the angels for a little while. But now he has been installed as King over all. And, according to verse 9, he was installed as King over all because he suffered death. Do you see that? Because he suffered death, he is now crowned with glory and honour. The writer of Hebrews is making the same point that Paul made in Philippians 2 where he said that the Lord humbled himself and became obedient to God the Father to the point of death — even to death on a cross. He came to do his Father’s will. And it was his Father’s will for him to give up his life on the cross. And therefore, because he was obedient to his Father’s will, God exalted him to the highest place. That’s what Paul wrote in Philippians 2; and the writer to the Hebrews is making the same point. The Son was made lower than the angels for a little while. And he suffered death. Therefore, because he suffered death, he has now been crowned with glory and honour.
And why was it the Father’s will for his Son to suffer death? Look at the end of verse 9 where it says: ‘so that, by the grace of God, he might taste death for everyone.’ In other words, he died for us. He died in our place. He suffered death on our behalf. And because he suffered death on our behalf, we are now freed from the curse of death. Believers still die, but death is not something for us to dread any more, because death has become for us the doorway into God’s presence which is better by far than anything else.
And so, the Only Begotten Son was made lower than the angels for a little while when he became one of us. And as one of us, and on our behalf, he suffered death on the cross. And after he suffered death on the cross, he was raised from the dead and he was exalted to God’s right hand where he now rules as King over all.
Now, he has always been King over all, because he is God who made all things and who rules over all things. But after his death and resurrection and ascension to heaven, he was installed as King over all as our Saviour. In fact, he was installed as King over all as one of us. And one day our Saviour will return to earth. But he won’t come in weakness this time. He won’t come to suffer and die. No, he will come in glory and with power as our Great King. And when he comes, he will defeat his enemies once and for all and will send them away to be punished forever. And he will gather together all of his people: everyone who trusted in him and who kept trusting in him. He will gather his people together and what will he do with us? He will lead us into the world to come, into the new heavens and earth, where he will sit on the throne of God as King and where we will live with him for ever. And there, in the world to come, in the new heavens and earth, we will not only live with him, but we will reign with him.
Isn’t that how the Bible ends, isn’t it? In Revelation 22, we read about the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, which is the church in glory. And in the new Jerusalem, we will drink from the river of the water of life and live for ever. And it says the throne of God and of the Lamb Jesus Christ will be in the city. So, the Lord Jesus will sit on the throne of God. And it says that his servants will serve him. But it then goes on to say that God’s servants will reign for ever and for ever. So, not only will we serve him, but we will reign with him.
When God made Adam and Eve, he commanded them to fill the earth and to subdue it. Rule over the world on his behalf. But sin came into the world so that instead of being rulers, we became enslaved to sin and Satan and death; and life on the earth became a struggle for us. But God the Son came into the world as one of us and he paid for our sins with his life and he was was exalted to heaven to rule over all as our Saviour. And when the time is right, he will bring us into the world to come where we will reign with him for ever.
Life in this world is a struggle, isn’t it? It’s hard and it’s difficult, because everything has been spoiled by sin. But this is our hope: everlasting life in the presence of God where we will reign with Christ for ever. Everything which makes life in this world a struggle will be removed and we ourselves will be glorified and made perfect. We’ll not be ruled over by sinful desires and inclinations. The devil will not be there to tempt us. Death will be destroyed. God’s curse on the earth will be removed. Everything will be perfect and we’ll do what we were meant to do, which is to rule the world on God’s behalf. That’s our great hope which Christ has secured for us by tasting death in our place to cleanse us from our sin. That’s our great hope. And so, we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away from it.