OUR PERFECT SAVIOR (2:9-18)
Jesus is the perfect and only Savior. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
BORN TO DIE
“But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (2:9)
Jews could not comprehend the idea that God would become man, die and been made “for a little while lower than the angels.” He accomplished what no angel ever could have accomplished. The cross was a serious stumbling block to them. Christ was born to die to remove the curse so that man could regain dominion. It was God’s ultimate plan for His Son and His ultimate gift for mankind.
There were actually five accomplishments in this one act.
1 OUR SUBSTITUTE
He died that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Christ humbled Himself, came to earth, and died in our place. To become lower than the angels is supreme humility and it done on our behalf. Apart from His dying, we have no escape from death.
All the punishment for all the sin of all time—that was the depth of His death. He was guilty of no sin, yet He suffered for all sin. It was grace—free, loving kindness. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The result of Christ’s humiliation was His exaltation. After He accomplished the work of His substitutionary death, He was crowned with glory and honor, exalted to the right hand of the Father.
2 OUR SALVATION AUTHOR
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” (2:10)
Jesus had to become a man and He had to suffer and die in order to be the perfect provider of salvation. The Greek word for author literally means a “pioneer” or “leader.” He is always before us, as perfect Leader and perfect Example.
He lived for us the pattern of perfect obedience. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:8-9). All we have to do is put our hand in His hand and He will lead us from one side of death to the other.
3 OUR SANCTIFIER
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.” (2:11-12)
He makes us holy. In thought and practice we are far from holy, but in the new nature we are perfectly holy before the Father. The righteousness of Christ has been applied and imputed in our behalf. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
The Sanctifier and the sanctified now have one Father, and the Sanctifier is not ashamed to call the sanctified His brothers. His holiness is now our holiness. Now that we are Christ’s brothers and God’s children, we should live like it. Yet how strange and sad that, though God is never ashamed to call us His, we are so often ashamed to call Him ours.
And again, “I will put My trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me.” (2:13)
Jesus is our Brother because of common righteousness and common faith in the Father. We are called to follow the path that Jesus walked.
4 OUR SATAN-CONQUEROR
“Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (2:14)
Jesus willingly took hold of something which did not naturally belong to Him, namely flesh and blood, that we might take hold of the divine nature that did not belong to us (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4).
Satan’s power over us had to be broken. His power and weapon over us is sin and death, because once we are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever. The only way to destroy Satan was to rob him of his weapon, death—physical death, spiritual death and eternal death.
The way to eternal life is through resurrection, but the way to resurrection is through death. So Jesus had to experience death before He could be resurrected and thereby give us life. “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Jesus shattered Satan’s dominion.
“And might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (2:15)
The thing that terrifies people more than anything else is death. Death no longer holds any fear, for it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord.
5 OUR SYMPATHIZER
“For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (2:16-18)
Jesus took on Himself the form of Abraham’s descendants and became a Jew. Jesus also came to help the reconciled when they are tempted. He wanted to feel everything we feel so that He could be a merciful and understanding, as well as a faithful, high priest. He came not only to save us but to sympathize with us.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He was hungry, He was thirsty, He slept, He was taught, He grew, He loved, He wept, He read the Scriptures, He prayed and above all, He was also tempted, but He never sinned.
THREE REASONS TO RECEIVE CHRIST
1 THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST
“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (2:1)
To reject Jesus, is to reject God. On the basis of who Christ is, we must give careful attention to what we have heard about Him in chapter 1. Most people do not deliberately, in a moment, turn their backs on God or curse Him. They just slowly, almost imperceptibly slip past the harbor of salvation into eternal hell.
By the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, countless Jews had heard the gospel and were even intrigued by it but were unwilling to change.
2 THE CERTAINTY OF JUDGMENT
“For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” (2:2-3)
Angels were instrumental in bringing the Ten Commandments, as is clear from Psalm 68:17: “The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness.” At Sinai, where Moses was given the law, the Lord was accompanied by a host of angels, as seen in Deuteronomy 33:2. If a person broke any of these laws, he was stoned as we see from the examples in Leviticus 24:14-16 and Numbers 15:30-36. In Jude 5 we read, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.”
The principle is this: the more you know, the greater the punishment for not abiding by what you know. We see this in Matthew 11:20-24, where Jesus warned Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin, that even the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah would be more tolerable than theirs, because they had the light of the Old Testament, aw well as the very light of God’s Messiah Himself.
Jesus said, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:47). “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy. . . . How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28-29).
3 THE CONFIRMATION OF GOD
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (2:3-4)
The gospel was confirmed by God Himself bearing witness. Jesus also said, “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38). When He claimed to be God and then did things that only God could do, He confirmed His divinity and, consequently, the truth of His message. On the Day of Pentecost Peter reminded his hearers that “Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22).
After Christ, God bore His apostles witness by giving them the ability to do the same things that Jesus had done—signs, wonders, and miracles. God also gave the apostles special gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were additional confirmation by God of their message and ministry and were miraculous gifts, not promised to believers in general, as the ones in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14.
These special works, therefore, belonged exclusively to the apostolic age and they are not for today. Even in New Testament times these confirmations were given solely for the benefit of unbelievers. “So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers” (1 Cor. 14:22).
RECOVERY OF MAN’S LOST DESTINY (2:5-9)
God alone will be Sovereign of the world to come, another indication of His superiority to angels. In addition, this passage deals with man’s destiny. These verses teach us what man’s intended destiny is, how and why it was lost, and how it can be recovered in the exalted Savior.
MAN’S DESTINY REVEALED BY GOD
“For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.” (2:5)
In Hebrews 1:14 we saw that in the world to come, angels will not be rulers but servants to the heirs of salvation. The word “world” in this passage is the great millennial Kingdom. The present world is ruled by fallen angels, of which Satan is chief and prince (John 12:31; 14:30). We also know from Ephesians that this world is under tremendous demonic influence. Demons are fallen angels and they are called rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). But, even the holy angels now have a kind of sovereignty and there is a continuous battle going on between the two groups.
Man is lower than the angels only for a little while. He will one day again be above them and will, in fact, even judge the angels who have fallen (1 Cor. 6:3).
But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.” (2:6-8)
The quotes from Psalm 8 refers to mankind, not to the Messiah. It reflects God’s planned destiny for mankind in general. God made man to be king. Such is man’s destiny. No doubt both David and the writer of Hebrews were thinking of Genesis 1:26-31.
“Son of man” is often used in the Old Testament to mean mankind. Several times, for example, Ezekiel is called “the son of man.” God has an involved, active concern for humanity. Man is lower than angels only in that he is physical and they are spiritual, as angels are heavenly creatures, while man is earth-bound. Angels have continual access to the throne of God. Angels are spirit beings; man is made out of the dust of the earth.
But the present chain of command is temporary. In the coming new earth, things will be much different. Redeemed men not only will inherit a perfect kingdom but an eternal kingdom, in which they, not angels, will rule. Revelation 3:21 says believers will sit with Christ on His throne and rule with Him. Ephesians 1:20 says He will reign over principalities and powers, that is, angels. Man will be crowned in Christ.
The king’s throne was always elevated, and everyone who came into his presence bowed down before him and sometimes even kissed his feet. When man is one day given the right to rule the earth, all God’s creation will be put under man’s feet.
MAN’S DESTINY RESTRICTED BY SIN
“But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” (2:8b)
Man’s revealed destiny was restricted by Adam’s and Eve’s sin. Because all mankind fell in Adam, because he lost his kingdom and his crown, we do not now see the earth subject to man. Man fell to the bottom, and the earth, under the evil one, now rules man. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Virtually everything God had given for man’s good and blessing became his enemy, and man has been fighting a losing battle ever since.
Even nature groans but God did not intend it to be this way and it will continue this way only for a little while, in God’s timetable. When the new kingdom begins, “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:21-22).
A day is coming when, in the wonderful plan of God, the dominion that man lost will be given to him again. God’s redeemed ones, His children, will never again be subject to death. They will be like the angels (Luke 20:36). In the kingdom they will, in fact, reign over the angels.
MAN’S DESTINY RECOVERED BY CHRIST
“But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:9)
The ultimate curse of man’s lost destiny is death. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Man’s revealed destiny, restricted by sin, has however been recovered by Christ. To accomplish this great work on our behalf, Jesus had to become a man. He Himself had to be made for a little while lower than the angels. The cross conquered the curse. The kingdom will be restored, and man will be given the crown again.
The moment that we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we die with Him on the cross. We do not inherit our dominion yet, but the crown is restored. We are crucified and buried with Him, and He raises us up to a new life.
Our bodies will die, but even they will one day be resurrected in a new and eternal form. We will be immediately liberated to go into the presence of Jesus. Or, if He comes again before that happens to us, He will take us with Him into the kingdom. Obviously, if we are going to reign on earth as kings, there will have to be a kingdom, as we read in Revelation 20.
ENTERING GOD’S REST (4:1-13)
Hebrews 4 continues the warning that unbelief forfeits rest.
THE MEANING OF REST
God’s perfect rest is a rest in free grace. It means to be free from guilt and freedom from worry about sin, because sin is forgiven. God’s rest is the end of legalistic works and the experience of peace in the total forgiveness of God.
In God’s rest we are forever established in Christ. We are freed from running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from lifestyle to lifestyle. We are freed from being tossed about by every doctrinal wind, every idea or fad, that blows our way.
We have absolute trust and confidence in God’s power and care. In the new relationship with God, we can depend on Him for everything and in everything—for support, for health, for strength, for all we need.
THE AVAILABILITY OF REST
“Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it.” (4:1)
To be lost and face eternal separation from God is cause for the most extreme fear. Few, however, who are lost feel such fear.
As long as a promise remains, there is opportunity to be saved and to enter God’s rest. Some followers of amillennialism argue that, because of what the Jews did in the Old Testament in unbelief, and even more importantly because of what they did to Jesus Christ, as a nation and as a distinct people Israel forfeited every promise of God. But God’s promise to Israel still stands.
As long as a person can hear God’s call, he has time to be saved. God’s rest is still available, but only God knows how long that is for each person.
THE ELEMENTS OF REST
1 PERSONAL FAITH
“For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (4:2-3)
The ancient Israelites heard God’s good news of rest, but it did them no good since they did not accept it. Jews prided themselves on the fact that they had God’s law and God’s ordinances and God’s rituals. They were especially proud to be descendants of Abraham. But Jesus warned that true children of Abraham believe and act as Abraham did (John 8:39). Knowing the law is an advantage only if we obey it. “For indeed circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law,” Paul says, “but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision” (Rom. 2:25).
Hearing the good news of the rest of God is of no benefit, no profit, to any person at any time unless the hearing is united by faith. Being a true Christian under the New Covenant is not a matter of knowing the gospel but of trusting in it. The gospel is good news only for those who accept it with all their hearts.
God’s “works were finished from the foundation of the world.” When He finished the creation, He basically said, “It’s done. I’ve given them everything earthly they need, including each other, for a complete and beautiful and satisfying life. Even more importantly, they have perfect, unbroken, unmarred fellowship with Me. I can now rest; and they can rest in Me.”
“For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” (4:4)
Sabbath rest was instituted as a symbol of the true rest to come in Christ. “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17).
Adam and Eve were completely righteous when they were created. They basically had all they needed but only needed His fellowship, because they were made for Him. This was their “rest” in God. God completed His perfect work and He rested. They were His perfect work and they rested in Him.
But sadly, they trusted Satan rather than God and when they lost their trust in God, they lost His rest. God therefore sent His Son to remove the barrier which separated man from God, and to provide again for man’s rest in His Creator.
2 DIVINE DECREE
“And again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience.” (4:5-6)
When man lost God’s rest, God immediately began a recovery process. There has always been a remnant of believers, even among mostly disbelieving Israel. “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Rom. 11:5). By sovereign decree He designed a rest for mankind and some, therefore, are going to enter it.
That is predestination, or election. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” and, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:44, 65). Personal faith is necessary before God can apply His redemption to us. Yet our personal faith is effective because the Father has first drawn us to the Son. Because God wants us to be saved, we can be saved. Only disobedience keeps us out.
3 IMMEDIATE ACTION
“He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (4:7)
God fixes a certain day, “Today.” For each individual it will end before or with death; and for all mankind it will end in the Last Day. The age of grace is not forever. This is why Paul said, “Now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’ ” (2 Cor. 6:2).
THE NATURE OF REST
“For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (4:8-10)
IT IS SPIRITUAL
The rest spoken of here is not the physical rest of Canaan. God’s true rest comes not through a Moses or a Joshua or a David. It comes through Jesus Christ. Whatever physical or earthly benefits the Lord may give us, His basic promise is to give us spiritual rest and spiritual blessing. Many cults promise their followers happiness, wealth, and health in this life. The Bible does not.
IT IS FOR ISRAEL
The term people of God may refer generally to anyone who knows God; but here it specifically refers to Israel. His spiritual rest is promised first to Israel, and He will not be through with her until she comes into His rest.
IT IS FUTURE
“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (4:10)
This verse probably anticipates that final day when we cease from all effort and all work and enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.
THE URGENCY OF REST
“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (4:11-13)
In the immediate context this verse means that the readers who are hesitating in trusting Christ, who are even considering falling back into Judaism, had better be urgent and diligent in seeking to enter God’s rest, because the Word of God is alive. It can pierce right down into the innermost part of the heart to see if belief is real or not.
The Word of God is not only saving and comforting, it is also a tool of judgment and execution. On judgement day, only the thoughts and intentions of the heart will count. The sword of His Word will make no mistakes in judgment or execution. All disguises will be ripped off, all hypocrisy will be revealed and only the real person will be seen. When an unbeliever comes under the scrutiny of God’s Word, he will be unavoidably face-to-face with the perfect truth about God and about himself.
(MAIN SOURCE: MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY – JOHN MACARTHUR)