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The Necessity of the Incarnation: Why God Drew Near to Mankind – Part I (Hebrews 2:5-9)

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13 But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14)

5 For he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels. 6 Instead someone testified somewhere: “What is man that you think of him or the son of man that you care for him? 7 You made him lower than the angels for a little while. You crowned him with glory and honor. 8 You put all things under his control.” For when he put all things under his control, he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see all things under his control, 9 but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone.1

Introduction

We live in the age of “self-esteem.” Criminals do the bad things they do, we are told, because they have poor self-esteem. It isn’t just criminals who are the alleged “victims” of poor self-esteem – it is nearly all of us. And so the books on healthy self-esteem keep rolling off the presses. And we have (at least some of us did) television’s Mr. Rogers to tell us that we are all so very special, so special that a generation of students grew up thinking they didn’t have to perform in order to get a passing grade, earn scholarships, or even graduate from college. I recently saw a soap commercial, assuring the viewers that they were conducting programs to convince young girls that they were all beautiful persons. What about those of us who could scrub our faces with that stuff till the cows come home and we’re still less than beautiful?

The Bible’s assessment of the human condition is, once again, very different. In our text, we will find that the Son of God came to earth and took on humanity, not because we are so loveable, but because we are so desperately wicked.2 And if there is any reason to feel good about ourselves, it is because Jesus did something about our fallen condition to restore us to wholeness, to the destiny for which man was originally created.

This is our fifth lesson in the Book of Hebrews, and as we draw near to the end of chapter 2, we approach the end of the first major section. This first section can be summarized in this way:

The Son is Superior to the Angels

God has spoken finally and fully through His Son, who is higher than the angels (1:1-14).

Exhortation: We must more carefully listen to Him, lest we drift away (2:1-4).

The Son became lower than the angels to save sinners, and to restore them to their original destiny (2:5-18).

God spoke through the prophets in the past, at various times and in various ways. Now, in these last days He has spoken to us finally and fully through His Son. This Son is vastly higher than the angels (as evidenced by seven statements in 1:2-4). To these seven statements the author adds seven citations from Scripture (1:5-14). Next, leaving his exposition for a moment, the author pauses for a word of exhortation: His readers need to give more careful attention to what God has revealed through the Son, for neglect will result in drifting away and its consequences. In verse 5 of chapter 2, the author returns to his exposition, taking up where he left off at the end of chapter 1. Only now he will show the supremacy of the Son in a different way. He will show how the Son is superior to the angels in a very different way – by taking on humanity (the incarnation) in order to save lost men and women, and restore them to the place of dignity and authority for which they were originally created. Verses 5 through 9 are crucial transition verses, which turn our attention to this new theme of the incarnation in which Jesus became, for a little while, lower than the angels.

A Few Initial Observations Regarding our Text

5 For he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels. 6 Instead someone testified somewhere: “What is man that you think of him or the son of man that you care for him? 7 You made him lower than the angels for a little while. You crowned him with glory and honor. 8 You put all things under his control.” For when he put all things under his feet,3 he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see all things under his control, 9 but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone (Hebrews 2:5-9).

Our text begins with the word “For,” which indicates that there is a connection to what has been said earlier, not so much in 2:1-4, but in 1:13-14. Because 2:1-4 is almost parenthetical, 2:5 takes up where the author left off at the end of chapter 1. You will also note from the bold and italicized text that the author of Hebrews cites Psalm 8:4-6 here. He then returns to particular portions of the text cited to further expound on the meaning of that portion of Psalm 8. The expression “lower than the angels” follows the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. In Psalm 8:5, the Hebrew term rendered “angels” by the Septuagint is Elohim, which could either be rendered “God” (as we see in the NASB) or “angels” (as we see in the Septuagint and the author’s citation in the Book of Hebrews. Our author assumes that “angels” is the correct rendering.

It should probably be noted that in our text, the name “Jesus” appears for the first time in the Book of Hebrews. Up until now, the author has wanted us to think of Him as the Son, God’s Son. Finally, the term “little” in verse 7 can either mean “a little while” (a short period of time) or, “a little bit lower” than the angels. I think that the meaning must be temporal here (“for a little while”) in order for the citation to make sense.

A Brief Look at Psalm 8

      1 For the choir director; on the Gittith.

      A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord,

      How majestic is Your name in all the earth,

      Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

      2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes

      You have established strength Because of Your adversaries,

      To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

      3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

      The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

      4 What is man that You take thought of him,

      And the son of man that You care for him?

      5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

      And You crown him with glory and majesty!

      6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;

      You have put all things under his feet,

      7 All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,

      8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,

      Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

      9 O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9, NASB95)

Psalm 8, as seen above, is the English translation of the Hebrew text and not a rendering of the Septuagint (which is the translation cited by the author of Hebrews). First, this means that the author’s citation of Psalm 8:4-6 (from the Septuagint) in Hebrews 2:6-8 may not exactly match our English translation of Psalm 8. Second, observe that Psalm 8 is framed by the expression: “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth” (verses 1 and 9). The fact that the opening and closing expressions are the same and that they praise the name of the Lord would surely have caught the attention of the author of Hebrews, for it was he who said in chapter 1: “He has inherited a more excellent name than the angels” (Hebrews 1:4).

Here’s the way I understand the flow of the argument of Psalm 8. The author (David) begins with a word of praise: “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth.” The majesty to which David refers can be seen in the splendor of the heavens, which is but a reflection of the splendor of the Creator of the heavens (verse 1b). One can easily think of David’s recollection of his days as a young shepherd boy, lying out at night with his father’s flock, gazing into the heavens and marveling at the majesty of it all.

Verse 2 commences the theme of the relationship of greatness and insignificance. God has chosen to use the utterances which come from the mouths of babes to silence the “weighty and profound” protests and accusations of His adversaries. The seemingly insignificant utterances of children silence the protests of the great. This theme is picked up by our Lord in Matthew 21 (as we will soon see).

David continues the same theme (of greatness and seeming insignificance) in verses 3-8. When David looks up at the heavens and contemplates their magnitude and majesty, he realizes how small and apparently insignificant he is. How can God take an interest in man, who is so small in the grand scheme of things (verse 4)? But just as God uses the utterances of little children to silence His foes, God has chosen to use men to rule over His majestic creation. His words in verses 5-8 are a poetic expansion of Genesis 1:26.

Psalm 8 and Genesis 1:26

      3When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

      The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

      4What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! 6You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, 8The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. 9O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9, NASB95; emphasis mine)

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis mine).

It is difficult to miss the connection between Psalm 8:7 and Genesis 1:26. In Genesis 1, we see that when God created the world, He placed it under man’s authority. Man was created in God’s image to rule over all of creation, including the animals, birds, and sea life. Insignificant “man” (as he would appear when compared with the heavens) is very significant because God decreed it so.

The fact that our author interprets Psalm 8 Christologically (in the light of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ) should come as no surprise because this Psalm was interpreted this way by our Lord and the Apostle Paul. Let’s take a look at some of those passages where Psalm 8 is cited.

Psalm 8 in Matthew 21:16

      1 O Lord, our Lord,

      How majestic is Your name in all the earth,

      Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

      2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes

      You have established strength Because of Your adversaries,

      To make the enemy and the revengeful cease (Psalm 8:1b-2, NASB95; emphasis mine).

15 But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourself?” (Matthew 21:15-16, underscoring mine)

Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (after having raised Lazarus from the dead – compare John 11). The Jewish religious leaders are greatly upset by our Lord’s appearance in Jerusalem at this time, and especially by the popular acclaim He receives from the crowds. He is doing many wonderful things, and the little children are crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” They insist that Jesus silence them, but in response the Lord Jesus reminds His opponents of Psalm 8:2. God will silence them – His enemies – by the praise He established out of the mouths of babes. Psalm 8:2 is thus fulfilled Christologically.

I believe that verse 2 establishes a theme which runs throughout Psalm 8, the theme that God takes that which is small and insignificant and makes it great, while He makes the great small and insignificant. This will play itself out in verses 3-7. Incidentally, this is a theme of Hannah’s praise (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and later of Mary’s Magnificat, which echoes Hannah’s words and thoughts (Luke 1:51-53).

Psalm 8 in Ephesians 1:22

4 What is man that You take thought of him,

And the son of man that You care for him?

5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;

You have put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:4-6, NASB95; emphasis mine).

20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms 21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And God putall things under Christ’s feet, and he gave him to the church as head over all things. 23 Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23, emphasis mine).4

The Apostle Paul understood Psalm 8 Christologically, which is evident when he cites verse 6 in Ephesians 1:22. God put all things under Christ’s feet at the time of His ascension to His right hand. Based upon Ephesians 1:20-23, we might even say that Paul sees both Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:6 to have been fulfilled in Jesus, much like the author of Hebrews. The important thing for us to see here is that these texts are viewed as fulfilled at the time of our Lord’s ascension, and as a result of His resurrection. God put all things under Christ’s feet when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand.

The Use of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:5-9

1 For the choir director; on the Gittith.

A Psalm of David.

      O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth,

      Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

      2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength

      Because of Your adversaries,

      To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

      3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

      The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

      4 What is man that You take thought of him,

      And the son of man that You care for him?

      5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

      And You crown him with glory and majesty!

      6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;

      You have put all things under his feet,

      7 All sheep and oxen,

      And also the beasts of the field,

      8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,

      Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

      9 O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9, NASB95, emphasis mine)

It is not difficult to see how our author would make a connection between what he is saying and Psalm 8. In Hebrews 1:4, we are told that the Son has a more excellent name than the angels. Psalm 8 begins and ends with praise to the Lord for His majestic name. In Hebrews 1, the Son is described as the heir of all things and as the Creator (Hebrews 1:2, 10). In Psalm 8, all creation is seen as the handiwork of God. Man was appointed to rule over creation because he was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8:6-8). Our Lord has been designated as the One who is to rule on behalf of the Father (Hebrews 1:5, 8-9, 13).

The author of Hebrews chose to focus on verses 4-6 (Psalm 8:3-6) in order to buttress his statement that God did not subject the world to come to the angels, but to men. This authority to rule over creation is consistent with God’s statements at creation (Genesis 1:26), as well as later statements such as those cited from Psalm 8. And so we must conclude with the author of Hebrews that God did not purpose for angels to rule in the age to come,5 but man.

How skillfully the author has brought about a convergence of Psalm 110:1 (cited in verse 13 of chapter 1) and Psalm 8:3-6 (cited in Hebrews 2:6-8). In verses 13-14 of chapter 1, the author has shown that the Son has been appointed to rule over creation, while the angels are merely servants, servants of those who will inherit salvation. In verses 6-8 of chapter 2, we find that man has been appointed to rule over creation. How can the author say that Christ has been appointed to rule in chapter 1, and yet he shows us that man was created to rule in chapter 2? The solution is to be found in our text:

5 For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that You remember him? Or the son of man,6 that You are concerned about him? 7 “You have made him for a little while lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And have appointed him over the works of Your hands; 8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. 9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:5-9, NASB95; emphasis mine).

In the NASB, when an Old Testament text is cited in the New, the quoted text is put in caps, as you can see above. Thus, they also capitalize any pronouns that refer to God (for example: “You,” “He,” “Him”) as well as any pronouns that refer to mere man. Because all the pronouns are capitalized in the citation from Psalm 8, we don’t have a clear indication as to whom the translators believed the pronouns refer to. But that becomes clear to us in verses 8 and 9. The NASB does not capitalize “him” at the end of verse 8, indicating that in verses 6-8, the author is referring to man, not the Son. But when we come to verse 9, the reference is now to our Lord Jesus, and thus the capitalized “Him” and “He.”

God made man to rule over the creation. He made man a little “lower than the angels.” He crowned him with glory and honor, and “put all things under his feet.” All things have been subjected to him. “But wait a minute,” the author objects, “We don’t yet see all things subjected to man!” As Romans 8 indicates, this is something that is still future:

18 For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly but because of God who subjected it – in hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. 23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:18-23).

“True enough,” the author seems to say, “All things are not presently under man’s control, but we do see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels but is now crowned with glory and honor. This is because He suffered death in order to restore fallen man to his lost glory and honor.”7

Christ is the key to understanding Psalm 8. While the original meaning of the psalm concentrated on man, the secondary (Christological) interpretation of the psalm focuses on the “Son of Man,” the Lord Jesus. Man was created to rule, but his sin turned the world upside-down. Now we see chaos, sickness, suffering, and death, a world that is not subject to man. But then the perfect God-man came when the Second Person of the Trinity took on sinless humanity. When Jesus added sinless humanity to His undiminished deity, He became the perfect man, or as Paul puts it, the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). What Adam did by his act of disobedience, Christ undid, and more:

12 So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned – 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. 15 But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification. 17 For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous (Romans 5:12-19).

45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).

Those who “see Jesus . . . now crowned with glory and honor” are restored in their relationship with God and with creation. That is, those who recognize Jesus Christ as God’s only provision for salvation, and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of salvation, will reign with Him when He returns to establish His kingdom on earth:

28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).

Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).

Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:5).

Adam and Eve were created to rule over God’s creation, but when they sinned, they lost control of creation, and they died. Our Lord came to the earth in human flesh as the last Adam and lived a sinless life. He endured all the trials and temptations of mankind and prevailed victoriously – without sin. He then died in the sinner’s place, taking our punishment upon Himself. And because He rose from the dead, He defeated sin and death, and He restores fallen man to a glorious future. That is the message of our text.

Conclusion

The Superiority of the Son to Angels. As we have seen, all of chapter 1 and 2 are devoted to proving the superiority of the Son to the angels. And so we must ask at the conclusion of this message, “How does this text contribute to the author’s purpose of proving the superiority of the Son?” In the first place, we are taught that the Son took on human flesh, so that He might redeem fallen sinners to their original status. Angels cannot take on humanity, as our Lord did. They can appear as though they were men (Genesis 18 and 19), and some would say that they can even produce half-human offspring (Genesis 6). But they cannot become a perfect God-Man, as our Lord did. Neither can angels redeem fallen man from sin, deliver him from the pangs of death, or restore him to his former glory. Angels, whose mission is to serve those who have been saved (Hebrews 1:13), can do nothing to save him.8 Only the Son can do this, because of the incarnation.

The Necessity of the Incarnation.This message has been titled, “The Necessity of the Incarnation – Part I.” Why was the incarnation necessary, so far as our text is concerned? First of all, it was necessary in order for God to cleanse men from sin, and restore them their broken relationship with Him. Only a man – a perfect, sinless, divine, man – could die in the sinner’s place. It was therefore necessary for the Second Person of the Trinity to add sinless humanity to His undiminished deity, thereby qualifying him to die in man’s place, bearing the guilt and punishment of his sin. As such, He became the “last Adam,” who provided a reversal for Adam’s sin and its consequences.

In addition to this, the incarnation was necessary in order for God to restore fallen man to his former, original dignity and glorious destiny. It is through the work of the perfect man, Jesus Christ, that men can anticipate reigning over all creation. His victory is ours, as His reign will be shared with us as well. And so the incarnation and death of the Son not only saves sinners from the guilt and punishment of their sins, it produces the glorious hope of reigning with Him in His kingdom.

One can hardly overestimate the importance of the hope that this gives the Christian, especially in the dark days when we, like all of creation, suffer and groan because of the ravages of sin:

23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance (Romans 8:23-25).

25 I became a servant of the church according to the stewardship from God – given to me for you – in order to complete the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery that has been kept hidden from ages and generations, but has now been revealed to his saints. 27 God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:25-27).

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good (Titus 2:11-14).

5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation [hope] of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

17 In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, 18 so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:17-22).

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. . . . 13 Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. . . . 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you now trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:3-5, 13, 20-21).

Our hope should not be diminished by our difficulties, but rather should be strengthened as we see how God sustains us in trials, so that our strength and perseverance increase:

3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation (Romans 5:3-11).

Those who are currently undergoing testing and trials can be assured by the certainty of their hope that in the future they will reign with Christ.

There is a relationship between the “now” and the “not yet. The author speaks of man’s glorious future, but he also calls attention to the “not yet.”“We do not yet see all things subjected to man” (Hebrews 2:8). Some Christians seem to think that trusting in Jesus exempts them from the suffering and trials of life, but not the author of Hebrews. We have many difficulties to endure in this life; man’s great glory will come “in the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5). This is not to say that there is no victory and joy in this life, but it is not a life free from tribulation:

Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

What we must constantly keep in mind is that how we live in this age has a direct relationship to what we will experience in the next. Consider these texts:

19 “After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 25:19-23).

9 “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes. 10 “The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you haven’t been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will entrust you with the true riches? 12 And if you haven’t been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:9-13).

29 Then Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of God’s kingdom 30 who will not receive many times more in this age – and in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).

We can also say that what will take place in the next age should impact our conduct in the present age:

1 When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters! 4 So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians? 6 Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? (1 Corinthians 6:1-6, emphasis mine)

Paul’s argument goes like this: If saints are going to judge angels in the age to come. then surely they should be capable of judging petty disputes among themselves in the present age. Our conduct in the future thus dictates our conduct in the present.

The Incarnation Indicates the Exclusiveness of the Gospel.God has chosen to save men only through the incarnation of the Son and His substitutionary death on the cross of Calvary. There are those who would tell us that the gospel of Jesus Christ is but one of many ways that men can reach heaven. That is not what the author of Hebrews says (or any other biblical author). Man’s fallen condition can only be cured by a man, a perfect man. Only the incarnation provided such a man, the God-man, Jesus Christ. If God’s only provision for redeeming sinful men is the person and work of the Son, then how do you think He responds to those who choose some “other way”?

Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Have you trusted in Jesus as God’s only provision for your salvation? He alone can forgive your sins. He alone can restore you to the glory that God purposed for man.

Hebrews (like other Scriptures) Sets the Record Straight about Self-Esteem.Should we be telling people how wonderful they are and that they should love themselves? Man was created with greatness and glory, but that was a greatness given to him by God. And man lost that greatness because of sin. It is not we who are so great, but the Son. Hebrews is not written so that men will think more highly of themselves, but rather that we will think of Him who is superior to every created being – angels, leaders like Moses and Joshua, and priests like Aaron. Our problem is that we do not think highly enough of Him who took on humanity and became, for a time, “a little lower than the angels.” It is by seeing Jesus for who He is that we see ourselves as we should.


1 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.

Copyright © 2008 by Robert L. Deffinbaugh. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 5 in the series, Near to the Heart of God – A Study of the Book of Hebrews, prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on August 10, 2008. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit.

2 Jeremiah 17:9; see also Romans 3:10-18.

3 I modified the translation of the NET Bible because the Greek term found here is literally “feet,” as nearly all the other translations render it. I believe the term “feet” is essential because it is the link with Psalm 110:1 in Hebrews 1:13.

4 See also 1 Corinthians 15:25-28.

5 One will find some discussion in the commentaries about the role that angels play in the administration of this present age. See, for example, George H. Guthrie, Hebrews – The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), p. 97; also R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1993), vol. 1, p. 56.

6 While the term “son of man” is used in reference to the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, it appears from the parallel structure of verse 6 that “son of man” is simply another (poetic) way of referring to mere man, and not to our Lord Jesus.

7 The author does not take the time to explain the fall of man to his readers, who knew that story all too well. That would have been an unnecessary digression.

8 Let us not forget that it was an angel – a fallen one – who was instrumental in creating man’s fallen condition.


Related Topics: Incarnation