“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: ‘What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.’ For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:1-9
Chapter two of Hebrews begins with the word “Therefore,” which tells us that what follows is based on what came before.
What came before is found in the first chapter which speaks of the superiority of the Lord Jesus over “the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1) who bore witness of Him in the Old Testament.
Furthermore, Jesus is also clearly “better than the angels” (1:4), who as created beings worshiped the Lord Jesus, who “obtained a more excellent name than they” (1:4). That more excellent name was inherited and was used by the Father when He called Jesus by a name that does not define the angels. At His baptism as well as on the Mount of Transfiguration the Father said of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, ‘Hear Him!’” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5)
The writer of Hebrews is not denigrating the angels nor diminishing the word “spoken through angels” (2:2) by whose direction the law was received (Acts 7:53). They served the Lord, so their testimony was valid, steadfast, and came to pass (“…every transgression and disobedience received a just reward…” Hebrews 2:2).
A previous installment in this study called attention to the fact that the word “better” is a key word in this epistle to the Hebrews; a listing of twelve different “better” passages was given. Another key thrust found in Hebrews are “lest” passages which warn against backsliding; the first of such passages is found in this month’s study. A listing follows:
1. “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (2:1).
2. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (3:12).
3. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13).
4. “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (4:1).
5. “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (4:11).
6. “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that [lest—KJV] what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather healed” (12:12-13).
7. “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God” (12:15).
8. “Lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (12:15).
9. “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” (12:16).
These warnings show that the Christian life is real and it is serious; yet at the same time our Hebrews studies underscore that the life in Christ is the better life, yes, the best.
Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). That designation itself sets Him apart from the angels. His word is of such importance that we cannot escape the judgment to come “if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord…” (2:3). The law is glorious, but the gospel is more glorious (2 Corinthians 3:9-11). “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard [the word of salvation], lest we drift away” (2:1).
The apostles and prophets who heard Jesus’ words witnessed to the truth of Jesus, God confirming the truth “through signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit…” (2:4). The Evangelist Mark tells us that those who had heard the Lord Jesus and were sent by Him to proclaim the gospel went, “the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (16:20).
The Pentecost experience is an outstanding example of what Mark wrote as a penman of the Holy Spirit. Note that the apostles did not speak the word of angels but the word of One greater than the angels—Jesus, the Son of God!
Therefore, give heed to the things that you have heard, and continue to listen as the Word of God is spoken to you by faithful witnesses of the Lord Jesus. The words of Jesus are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). What faithful witnesses bring in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus “are as valid and certain as if Christ, our dear Lord dealt with us Himself” (Ministry of the Keys, Luther’s Small Catechism).
There is a danger that we who through the gospel have enjoyed such great salvation—for it is ours even now—can be pulled away by doubt, temptation, and persecutions that grow increasingly harsh. But such doubt will disappear as we remember that the Word of salvation is spoken to us by the very Son of God, who understands our every weakness and who was tempted in every fashion as we are, though He was without sin. He knows the strength of our enemy. Why would anyone who recognizes the power of sin on the one hand—and on the other, the embracing love of Christ, neglect the Word which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16)?
The writer to the Hebrews tells us of another manifestation of Christ’s superiority to the angels. He quotes Psalm 8 which reminds us of the humiliation of Jesus in which He was made lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5, Hebrews 2:7). In fact, the angels ministered to Him in the Garden! We know from Scripture that Jesus bore this humiliation for us that He might elevate us to sons and daughters of the Father, having reconciled us to Him by His atonement. Even in His humiliation, Jesus accomplished more for us than did the angels!
Thereafter He was crowned with glory and honor and was set over the works of God, having all things made subject to Him (Psalm 8:6, Hebrews 2:7-9). He was exalted and now exercises authority at the right hand of God the Father, co-equal with the Father. This is not an authority given to or belonging to the angels.
The words of Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 are comfort and reassurance for us in every trial and affliction. It does not yet appear how things are, but it shall be made manifest. In Christ we are victorious, and as we are members of His body by faith in Him, all things are made subject to us. What is Christ’s is ours, ready to be revealed in the judgment!
Therefore, honor the Lord Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, mightier and more glorious than all things in heaven and on Earth.
Worship Him whom even the angels worship! Nothing or no one in heaven or on Earth is greater than He—our God!