Hebrews 2:5-9 - Jesus Is Greater Than The Angels
Let me tell you about something that happened to me when I was in High School. I had heard that there was a group of girls that were going to have a sleepover and one of the things that they were going to do for fun was to come to my home and toilet paper my yard. When I heard this I invited some of my friends to my house and we decided that we would hide out in the yard and wait for the action to take place.
We had to wait longer than we wanted to for them to show up. In fact, we almost went inside but then we saw a car so we hid out of sight. The car stopped near my home and the young ladies got out with rolls of toilet paper in hand. Right before they began to start we came running out and foiled their mischievous plot.
All the guys were happy that we had spoiled their fun night. We celebrated in front of them for having outwitted them. After they drove off we went inside my house and bragged about how smart we were. The next morning, however, we came out and discovered that the girls had returned and finished the job that they had set out to do the first time. The yard was a mess and the young ladies had the last laugh.
I mention this story to make a point. In our text the author of Hebrews is going to make sure that his readers are not going to be misled, or continue to be confused, about how Jesus is superior to angels.
Even though the author has already spent quite a bit of time in Hebrews 1 making an argument that the Eternal Son of God is greater than the angels, he is not ready to pack up his pen and paper just yet. He knows that if he does not take time to say more about this then there would be an opportunity for the false teachers to come in and lead them away or for doctrinal confusion to persist within this congregation. If this were to happen these things would come back and make a mess of their lives.
In Hebrews 1 we saw that the author often asked questions to direct his argument and to make his points. He began in Hebrews 1:5 by asking two questions. He asks, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?” Then he asks to which of the angels did God ever say, “I will be to Him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? The clear answer to these questions is that the Father never said these things to the angels. The Father only said this to His Son.
Then at the end of Hebrews 1 he asks two more questions. He asks, “And to which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’” And he asked, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
In Hebrews 2:1-4 the author asked another question which also brought a warning that the hearers needed to respond too in obedient faith. He says, “We must pay 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?”
One might think that at this point the author had spoken enough about angels so we might expect him to pack up his pen and paper and move on to some other topic; but that is not what he does. He knows that there are some questions that could arise that may continue to cause these believers problems. He does not state these questions out loud like he has done previously but they are clearly on His mind as he continues this discussion.
He knows that they may ask, “How can Jesus be greater than angels if he was a man like us?” Therefore, in Hebrews 2:5-13 he argues that Jesus, when He appeared in the flesh was still greater than the angels.
He also knows that there are some who may wonder, “How Jesus can be greater than the angels when He was publicly humiliated and died on a Roman cross?” Therefore, in Hebrews 2:14-18 he defends Jesus in His suffering and death as being greater than the angels. In fact, when these things happened to Jesus He was redeeming His people, destroying death and delivering them from the power of the devil.
Only after addressing these things, that Jesus was the Son of God (1:2,5) and the Son of Man (2:6), can he then discuss how Jesus is a faithful apostle and high priest of our confession (3:1). And how Jesus Christ is our confidence, our boasting and our hope (3:6).
Today we will be looking at Hebrews 2: 5-9,
5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 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. 9 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.
It has been suggested that the people to whom this letter has come had been influenced by a teaching that was popular among those who lived at the Qumran Community. In the scrolls that were found in the cave at Qumran it was discovered that they believed that angels played a significant role in the coming kingdom of God. They were waiting for the arrival of two messianic angels. One of the angels would be kingly and the other would be priestly. At some point, both of these angels would become subordinate to Michael, the archangel. They believed that eventually the world would be put under the control and authority of angels.1
If this is true, that these believers had begun to believe these things then you can imagine why the author of Hebrews is not simply moving on to teaching other things. We know that this author is quite content to stop and take as much time to do this as he needs too (5:11-14)
The author begins by giving a clear factual statement concerning these things, “For it is not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.” (2:5) He has already made clear that angels serve those who will inherit salvation (1:14). Now he also is making it very clear that angels will not rule when God’s kingdom is fully consummated.
The truth is, God has never promised to give angels dominion over everything that He has created. Rather, God gave has given dominion over his creation to those He had created in His own image. In Genesis 1:26 we read, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after ur likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
To make his argument he quotes from Psalm 8:4-6, “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.”
In Psalm 8 David considers creation and he is moved to praise the LORD because he realizes that it is amazing that God even considers us. He says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” David looks at the size of God’s creation and he marvels that God cares for us at all.
Why does God care for us? David gives us the answer when he says, “You have made men a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; and put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”
Recently, I watched a documentary on the Hubble Telescope. With this telescope we have been able to see farther into space then ever before. Throughout the documentary the scientists would talk so pridefully about the things that they can now do. They spoke about how we are conquering space and looking at galaxies that we never knew existed. Yet for all of our peering behind the blackness of space none of these scientists sounded like David does in Psalm 8. None of them were moved to praise the. Lord. King David is only one of a small group of people who has been moved to praise God because of such things.
Like David, James the half brother of Jesus, is also moved to praise God when He considers the dominion that man has been granted within God’s creation. He says, “For every kind of beast and bird, reptile and sea creature, can be tamed by mankind…”. (James 3:7) However, James goes on to speak of something that reveals a problem that can now be seen within mankind. If we are honest and sincere we see that something has gone terribly wrong. We have dominion over so much but we have lost control and dominion in a very important way.
James says in James 3:8, “...but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” He continues in James 3: 9-12 by saying, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
James reminds us of some important truths in these verses. First, the LORD is worthy of everyone’s praise. All things have been created by Him and He sustains all things so He is worthy of everyone’s worship. He is the potter and we are the clay so who has the right to talk back to Him and question what and how He molds the clay. None of us do so we should give thanks to Him and praise Him.
Secondly, mankind was made in the likeness of God and every person is to be shown honor and respect. Every person has the breath of God in them ought to be given dignity and respect. However, because of our sinful condition we now curse others who were made in His image. We treat the poor with contempt and the rich man with honor even though both have been created by God. If we accepted this truth we would not be quick to judge others since it is before their own master that they will either stand or fall.
Thirdly, James says that our mouths should not bless God and then curse His creation. James is not teaching a moralistic principle that men can do in their fallen condition. No, it is because of our fallen condition that we do this. Because of our sinful nature we curse those whom God has made. This ought not be so, but in order for this to change we must be given a new nature.
Therefore, James’ fourth point is that a new nature should produce appropriate things. A new nature should not produce the same fruit as the old nature once did. James asks if a spring can produce fresh and salt water? No. He asks, can a fig tree bear olives or a grape vine produce figs? No. Finally, can a salt pond produce fresh water? No.
In Hebrews 2:8we begin to see that the way we were created to be, and the way that we are, reveals that something has gone wrong. We read, “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.” This verse reveals how God had given men authority and dominion over His creation, but it also admits that this dominion has been lost.
James says that even our tongues reveal this, but we also see it in how this world now operates. We see that sin rules from within us and it is ruling out in the world. Because of sin we are not in control any longer.
Consider that we cannot add a single minute to our lives. We are not in control.
We cannot confidently sat what we will do tomorrow. We are not in control.
We live each day fearing death and we are subjected to lifelong slavery. We are not in control.
Every day we prove Jesus right when He said that whoever sins has become a slave to sin and it rules over them. Every day we prove that we are not able to control sin.
All mankind is trapped in sin. Is there any help for us?
We are given this answer in Hebrews 2:9, “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.”
Angels cannot help to redeem us because they are not divine; nor are they made of flesh and blood. And no other sinful person can save us because all men are born dead in their trespasses and sins. Jesus is the only person who can rescue us. Our savior must be fully divine (1:5-14) and fully man (2:5-18). For a time, Jesus was made lower than the angels, but He is now enthroned in heaven having received glory and honor because He made the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross for you and I (Romans 5:6-11; John 3:16-21; Galatians 3:1).
The first Adam sinned against the LORD while he was in the Garden of Eden. By that one transgression Adam and his offspring would experience the consequences of that sin from that point on. But Jesus, the second Adam, has now come. While He was in the garden on the night that He was betrayed He said, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I opened this sermon with the story about when my friends and I fled into my home thinking that we had foiled a deceptive plot to TP my house. That night we neglected to realize the plot still continued to play out. When Jesus was arrested the disciples fled, each to their own homes, but He willingly laid down His life so that salvation could be obtained for everyone. He died for all of those who fled at the first sign of trouble. In that moment, Jesus stayed to clean up the mess that sin had made all the way back in Genesis 3.
Jesus was obedient to His Father, and in that moment the Father was with Him. We are told in Hebrews2:9 that Jesus suffered, “so that by the grace of God He might tasted death for everyone”.
What does it mean “that by the grace of God” Jesus tasted death for everyone?
In that moment, when these things were happening to Jesus, the kindness of God towards us can be seen in the giving up of His Son into the hands of sinful men. When Jesus was suffering and dying on the cross God’s favor towards sinners is made known as Jesus paid our debt. God was offering us a gift and giving us a blessing because of what He allowed Jesus to do in that moment.
What is this blessing and gift that God offers?
Jesus speaks of this in John 17:1-5 when he said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
The gift and the blessing is eternal life and a personal relationship with the only true God and Jesus Christ.
Application and Opportunities to stir our thankfulness and praise to God.
Appreciate the need to spend time on certain texts and topics. Like the author of Hebrews, spend appropriate time on certain foundational truths to keep from stumbling or falling away. Pray that God will do two things:
“That God will teach your feelings and affections as well as our brains, your heart as well as our head, these lessons are all in love.”2
Appreciate that we live in a world where there is tribulation but at the same time Christ has overcome the world. Do we need to focus more on Resurrected Christ and His enthronement and glory; rather than, this world and its chaos. We are exiles and long to inherit our salvation.
Be encouraged by the words of Thomas Brooks, “In the Old Testament, the Jews being babes and infants in grace and holiness, had a world of temporal promises, and very few spiritual ones; but now in the days of the Gospel the Lord is pleased to double and triple His Spirit upon His people, and we meet with very few temporal promises in the Gospel, it is full of spiritual blessings.”3
Contemplate how Jesus, who has been given all authority, grants eternal life and reconciles us to the Father by His grace.
There is nothing that God is so tender of as He is of His glory, and nothing that His heart is so much set upon as His glory; therefore He will visit His children in a prison, and feast them in a dungeon, and walk with them in a fiery furnace, and show kindness to them in a lion’s den; that every one may shout and cry, ‘Grace, Grace’”4
Contemplate the fact that it is by the grace of God that Christ tasted death for us. God offered up His Son to redeem us while we were yet sinners. If the grace of God has been already active in our lives to save us, how much more will the grace of God do in our sanctification (Hebrews 13:9)? Therefore stay away from fruitless things which are a counterfeit for grace. Do all things by the grace that God gives to you.
“The Spirit of the Lord will not suffer His choicest jewel, grace, to be always buried under the straw and stubble of parts and gifts.”5
1The Message of Hebrews, Raymond Brown, 53-54
2Smooth Stones From Ancient Streams, Thomas Brooks, p. 88
3Thomas Brooks, Smooth Stones Taken From Ancient Brooks, p. 88
5 Ibid, p. 89