Made Like His Brethren
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.
The argument the apostle follows that Jesus is greater than the angels would have raised a question in the mind of his readers. They would have heard what the writer was saying about Jesus being greater than the angels and would be thinking; ‘How can that be? He was merely a carpenter from Nazareth?’ And then they would consider the manner by which he suffered on the cross as a common criminal. How then is it that Jesus is greater than the angels? After all, the angelic manifestation on Mount Sinai was much more glorious than what we see in Jesus.
The apostle anticipates and now answers this objection that Jesus is somehow greater than the angels. He already demonstrated in chapter one that Jesus is greater than the angels as a Son. He must now answer the question why Jesus, if greater than the angles, died such a horrible death. It certainly didn’t appear that this was a greater glory than the angels, especially when viewed against the institution of the Sinaitic covenant.
This portion begins with a reference to the “world to come”, a standard Hebraic way of talking about the Messianic age. When Messiah comes He introduces an entirely new world; a world not subjected to angels but as he is about to show, subject to man. He establishes this by quoting from Psalm 8, a great Davidic Psalm in which David gazes into the heavens and wonders how God can be so concerned with sinful man (Psalm 8:6-8). The heart of the author’s quotation is the phrase, “You made him a little lower than the angels” (vs. 7). It tells us that human beings were made a little lower than the angels. Some versions such as the ESV include the phrase “for a little while lower than the angels.” The phrase is ambiguous in Greek; it can mean either ‘by a small degree’ or ‘for a short time.’
‘Small degree’ fits well the meaning in the Psalm; God created man just a small degree lower than the angels. But ‘for a short time’ fits well the application to Jesus and the Incarnation. Man was created a little lower than the angels, yet God crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.
Because of the Fall, we do not yet see everything under man’s feet. Due to the entrance of sin into the world, mankind lost the ability to reign over the earth. Yet what we do see is that Jesus was made for a little while, a little lower than the angels, and then was glorified through suffering. Jesus is now presented as Representative Man who tasted death for every man and then was glorified. The author uses this language to describe the whole cross, resurrection, and glorification experience of Jesus. The Psalm is now fulfilled in Him as the Last Adam. The fact that we now see Jesus crowned with glory and honor with all things made subject to Him guarantees that the other sons will reach there. First, the Cross, then the Crown; the humiliation of Jesus was the prelude to His glory.
In this way, the author demonstrates the need for the Incarnation and the Crucifixion. It was God Himself who entered the human race, taking upon Himself the nature of our humanity. It is impossible to fully comprehend how God could take on human form but the Scriptures make it clear that he did. In his humanity he was made a ‘little lower than the angels.’ The Psalm is now fulfilled in Him as the Last Adam. In the next blog, we will focus on how through suffering, the Incarnate Messiah is “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10).
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.