Today’s reading for study: Hebrews 2
The 2nd Chapter of Hebrews lays out some of the foundations for the book's internal arguments. There are things to be learned if you look at the verses carefully.
The first verse starts by indicating that since Jesus is greater than the angels (established in Chapter 1) then the new covenant, mediated by him, is greater than the old covenant, mediated by the angels. Notice, however, that the New Covenant, although established by Jesus, is CONFIRMED by the Apostles.
... how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Heb 2:3-4
This is a familiar theme of the rest of the Chapter: that because Jesus became the man, we have access to the supernatural in ways we previously did not. Further, notice that the author establishes the validity of the New Covenant by appealing to the “signs and wonders and various miracles” done by the Lord, BUT ALSO by the “gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will”. This is most likely a second reference to the Apostles who, we are aware, often performed miracles to establish the validity of their authority and the truth of the faith.
Verse 10 offers us a more high-level theology that we must tease out carefully. Here is the verse with my notes added in:
For it was fitting that he [God the Father], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons [man] to glory, should make the founder of their salvation [Jesus] perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies [Jesus] and those who are sanctified [man] all have one source [God the Father]. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers ...
Notice, this says that Jesus was made, “perfect through suffering”. This idea will be repeated elsewhere in the book. It is a difficult concept for us, who know Jesus is God and therefore already perfect, to conceptualize what this verse means. The easiest way to understand it is that Jesus, possessing a human nature could become “more perfect” by having his human nature glorified. That is most completely done through suffering. It fits well with another verse we have seen from Paul. Recall:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. Col 1:24
You might remember in this discussion that Paul could make up what is lacking in Christ sufferings through his own because as members of the Body of Christ we are so radically joined to the Lord that our sufferings are taken by him to the Cross. This radical connection to Jesus is confirmed by the author of Hebrews when he says, “he who sanctifies [Jesus] and those who are sanctified [man] all have one source [God the Father]. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers…”. Thus, by becoming man Jesus is of the same nature as us and truly our brother and since we are radically united to him our suffering is united to his suffering and aides in our sanctification.
Finally, verse 14 offers us important insights into the eternal v. temporal nature of Christ’s sacrifice.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Would anyone say that right now, at this moment, the devil has been completely destroyed? Of course not, we would all agree that the devil operates in this world to try and bring men to ruin. This verse is therefore and an excellent example of how scripture needs to be interpreted with the proper perspective in mind.
Because God is eternal and operates outside of time and knows all things, we know that from an eternal perspective the devil has been destroyed and death defeated through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But from a temporal perspective this is a process that is ongoing, that plays out in each one of our lives and will only have its final completion at the end of time. We have seen many such similar statements in the Bible like this over the last year. But this example helps make clear, we must take statements like this literally, but at the same time not interpret them literalistically. In other words, we should take such a statement at true, accepting it at face value, but also harmonizing it with the larger context of scripture.
For us persons, stuck in time, it is often difficult to set outside of time and imagine who God must deal with events. What’s important to remember is that for God events don’t begin and end. For God every moment, every event – just is. For God, the fall of Adam, the sacrifice of Isaac, Calvary, the road to Emmaus, the building of St. Peters, your birth, my birth, your death, my death, and the end of time, all just IS. For God all these events all will still happen, are happening and have happened simultaneously.
Tomorrow: Hebrews 3