As I mentioned last week, the author of Hebrews begins chapter 2 with the word “therefore”. It builds on the idea from chapter 1 that Jesus is superior to all things. It is this uniqueness and superiority that causes the writer to say “Therefore we must pay much closer attention …”. The text of chapter 2 naturally divides into two parts, so I’ll focus on each part separately. Here is Hebrews 2:1-4.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
This is the end of the opening statement the author began in chapter 1, proposing the primary tenet that Jesus is superior to all of creation. If indeed Jesus is superior to everything, the author asserts that it would behoove us to pay very close attention to what we know about Jesus, lest we “drift away” or become callous or indifferent to the truth. What truth? The author says
- The message declared by angels proved to be reliable. This is a reference to the entirety of the Old Testament and its reliability in predicting and describing Jesus. Jesus said to the disbelieving Pharisees in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.“
- Every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution. Jesus’s life served one single purpose – to provide the necessary perfect atoning sacrifice to meet the requirements of the law of God to provide payment for all the sins of unholy people. Because he didn’t veer from the course and completed this work through his death, burial, and resurrection, the required penalty was paid for all sin for all time.
- How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Even though the sins of humanity have been paid for, we must accept that payment as substitution for our own death penalty. Hence the author emphasizes that there is NO escape for anyone who neglects (refuses) to allow God to apply this payment to on their behalf.
The author concludes with the list of attestations to these three facts in the words of Jesus himself (the Lord), the testimonies of those who accompanied Jesus during his ministry (those who heard), God’s own testimony (through Jesus’ signs and wonders and various miracles), and through the testimony of the gifts of the Holy Spirit since Jesus’ ascension to heaven (including the writing of the New Testament Scriptures, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the church, and the various miracles continuing in the church).
The next section of Chapter 2 begins another statement Jesus, specifically focusing on the nature and process through which God provided salvation to us through Jesus’ work. Here’s Chapter 2:5-18.
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
The author begins by quoting Psalm 8:5-8, showing that these verses apply directly to Jesus. He points out that though Jesus has dominion over all things, God has not yet made everything visibly subject to him (e.g. sin still exists and tarnishes the world, even though Jesus has defeated sin on our behalf). The rest of the passage emphasizes the necessity (by God’s design and choice) to make Jesus (God Incarnate) of the same substance as those he came to save so that he can be a true and faithful high priest, making the atonement offering for the sins of his people. The author will develop this thought a bit later in the book.
The author will continue to develop the idea that Jesus is worth consideration. Remember, this book is written specifically to the Jews of the first century to encourage them to reconsider this man who they had rejected as their Messiah. However, it is not only a book for them, but a book for all who would be willing to consider Jesus. As Paul states in Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as one trespass [Adam’s] let to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness [Jesus’] leads to justification and life for all men.”