In our last blog on Hebrews, we looked at the first warning contained in this glorious letter (2:1-4). By this point, the readers of this letter might have a problem with his argument thus far. The writer, no doubt, anticipates a problem the readers might be having. They hear what the apostle has been saying about Jesus being superior to the angels and might be thinking, “how can Jesus be greater than the angels since He was a mere carpenter from Nazareth? Besides, look at the way He died, like a common criminal on a Roman cross! How then do we see Jesus as greater than the angels?”
It is not surprising that they thought this way. After all, the angelic manifestation on Sinai was much more glorious than what we see in Jesus. It is not difficult, therefore, to understand why they would have these questions. The apostle will now answer this objection that he anticipates they would have. He must now demonstrate that Jesus is by far greater than the angels. He has already demonstrated that He is greater than the angels as a Son. He still must answer the question of why Jesus, if greater than the angels, died such an ignoble death. It certainly didn’t appear that this was a greater glory than the angels, especially the institution of the Sinai covenant.
This section (2:5-18) begins with reference to the “world to come.” This is a standard Hebraic way of talking about Messianic age. When Messiah comes, He introduces an entire new world; a world not subjected to angels, but, as he is about to show, to man. To establish this, the writer now quotes, at length, from Psalm 8, the great Davidic Psalm, where David looks into the heavens and wonders how God can be concerned with sinful man.
The heart of the author’s quotation is that phrase, “you made him a little lower than the angels.”Some versions include the phrase “made for a little while lower than the angels.” That phrase “made for a little while” is ambiguous in the 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.“For a short time” fits well the application to Jesus as it alludes to the Incarnation.
The truth is, because of the Fall, we do not yet see everything under man’s feet. Yet what we do see is that Jesus was made for a short time a little lower than the angels and then was glorified through suffering. Jesus is now presented as the 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 eventually reach there. But first, he must endure the cross so he might receive the crown. The humiliation of Jesus was the prelude to His glory.
Bringing Many Sons to Glory
The writer of Hebrews now provides a reason for the sufferings of the Messiah: it was the only way the Father could bring many sons to glory. His plan was not merely to forgive men their sins, but “to bring many sons to glory.” This is the Father’s great plan conceived before eternity; to have an entire family of sons patterned after His lovely Son.
In order for this to occur, the Captain of their salvation had to be made perfect through suffering (2:10). He is the Captain, the One Who opened the way and now leads the other sons in. This is clearly an allusion to Joshua leading the sons of Israel into the land. Since both the Captain and those he sanctifies are all from the same family (the human family), they had to partake of the same nature. Thus, Jesus had to become a man and suffer an excruciating death in order to lead the sons to glory. This is a clear illusion to the doctrine of the Incarnation.
The author now shares three Old Testament texts in order to demonstrate that Messiah was a man sharing His humanity with the rest of the race:
This entire Psalm celebrates his death at Calvary. In this verse, the Messiah strikes a note of triumphant joy and gladness befitting his resurrection. Notice He now stands in the midst of His brethren and proclaims God’s name.
Reading the context of this verse, we see it is a great Messianic passage. Messiah becomes a “stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” In this passage, Messiah is put forward there, trusting in His Father. Trust is an attitude only found in creatures (humans).
This verse speaks of those the Father gave the Son to be his own.
These verses set forth the necessity for the incarnation in the plainest terms. They demonstrate clearly the reason for the Incarnation—that He might die! Nowhere does the NT promote the idea that the purpose of His Incarnation was that he might simply identify with us. He shared their humanity in order to destroy him who had the power of death.
The writer points out again that God’s salvation was not aimed at helping angels, but the descendants of Abraham (2:16). Why the mention of angels again at this point? Some believe that these Hebrews had been affected by an Essenic teaching, which taught that the Messianic age would be introduced by some great Angelic figure. The writer of Hebrews clearly states that it is not angels God is concerned with but human beings.