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.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
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. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 2:5-18 ESV
The book of Ruth is a perpetual favorite in our home. It is a story of faithful people during the very unfaithful time when the judges ruled over Israel. Naomi and her husband Elimelech move to Moab with their two sons, who marry Moabite wives there. Soon, Elimelech and his two sons all die, and Naomi returns to her hometown of Bethlehem destitute. As she leaves, she urges her two daughters-in-law to return to their people and find new husbands for themselves. One does so, but the other, Ruth, vows to stay with her Naomi.
The central point of the story happens in Bethlehem, where Ruth meets a righteous man named Boaz who gives her grain and protection. Boaz also happens to be their kinsman-redeemer, a close relative of Elimelech, who could rightfully buy Elimelech’s property and marry Ruth so that Elimelech’s name would not be lost and that his family would have security. Being a worthy man and seeing that Ruth is a worthy woman, Boaz does indeed redeem Elimelech’s property, marries Ruth, and becomes the great grandfather of King David and ancestor of Jesus.
So far, the author of Hebrews has stressed the radiant, glorious, and absolute divinity of the Son. This emphasis has been at the forefront of his thought because he has endeavored to show that Jesus is the great and final revelation of God to humanity. The logic goes like this: since Jesus is God Himself, He is able to reveal God to us far better than prophets or even angels were ever able to do.
However, as marvelous as that truth is, it leaves us with yet another problem. If Jesus is perfectly divine and far more glorious than the angels who so often strike terror into the hearts of men, how can Jesus be known to us? This question brings us to the second half of the great mystery which we call Christ’s hypostatic union. Not only is Jesus eternally and fully God, but He also became fully and perfectly human. It is the necessity of Jesus’ humanity that the author of Hebrews addresses in our present passage. For just as Boaz was able to redeem Ruth because he was her deceased husband’s kinsman, Jesus became our kinsman in order to purchase our redemption.
WE DO NOT YET SEE // VERSES 5-8
These verses are subject to much discussion among theologians throughout church history principally because of the ambiguity of the subject. The two most common options are either Jesus or humanity as a whole. Those who argue that Jesus is the subject of these verses typically see the exhortation in 2:1-4 as being a sort of parenthetical aside. While I have previously presumed that to be the case, I am now convinced that these verses are referring to humanity as a whole. Here is why.
Verse 5 begins with the word for, which indicates the continuation of a previous thought. Most naturally, that would be the idea of verses 3-4, which were speaking about our great salvation in Christ that was proclaimed by Him, attest by His apostles, and verified by God through a variety of miraculous signs and gifts. With that context in mind, we read: For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. What is the world to come of which the author has been speaking? The most obvious answer would be these last days that have been inaugurated by the person and work of Christ and heralded by the Holy Spirit through the apostles. John Brown supports this thought saying:
“The world to come” is a Jewish phrase for the state of things under the Messiah: it seems nearly equivalent to, “the kingdom of heaven”—“the kingdom of God”—the kingdom of Christ.” All these are terms of very extensive meaning, embracing the whole divine administration in its bearing on the salvation of man. The Apostle fixes its meaning by adding, “of which we speak,” or, ‘concerning which we are discoursing.’ Now, it is plain that the whole of the Apostle’s discussions throughout the Epistle refer to the new order of things introduced by Jesus Christ. Some, by “the world to come,” understand the new heavens and earth wherein righteousness is to dwell; others understand by it the celestial state. I apprehend it includes both, but it is not confined to either; it is, generally, the order of things introduced by the Messiah.
Although angels had a significant role in the mediation of the old covenant, they are not rulers over this new and final age of history in which we are presently living. But who is?
In verses 6-8, the author cites Psalm 8:4-6. Since the psalm is only nine verses, it is worth reading in its entirety before we go on, especially since, as we said last time, the author of Hebrews is very often considering the entire context of the passages that he cites rather than simply the citations themselves.
[read Psalm 8]
In this psalm, David notes with wonder the great privilege of dominion that God has given to mankind, even though we are small and insignificant when considered in light of the vast cosmos that the LORD has made. Even from our creation, we were less glorious and less in might than the angels, and we have sunk lower still because of our fall into sin. Even so, God has granted dominion over the earth and its creatures to man.
But again, sin has marred even that reality, which is what verses 8b-9 indicate: 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. Although the world ought to be under the dominion of man, our rebellion against the Creator broke that glorious honor. Presently, we certainly do not see the earth as being fully under man’s dominion. Yes, animals are still our subjects, but it is largely through fear and dread. We are constantly at war with the elements around us, especially weather and disease. As God told Adam, the earth itself has been subjected to a curse because of the sin of its steward, and creation itself will not be liberated of its curse until man is redeemed and restored once and for all.
That is our present predicament. We have fallen short of the privilege and responsibility for which we were created. Who can redeem and restore we who were meant to image God but committed cosmic treason against Him instead?
JESUS OUR KINSMAN-REDEEMER // VERSES 9-18
Though we do not yet see all of creation under the dominion of man, we do now see Jesus.
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.
This is a thesis verse for the remaining verses in this chapter, though particularly of verses 10-15 while verses 16-18 introduces the theme of Jesus being our great high priest, which will be explored much more fully later in Hebrews. Here the author introduces us to the necessity of Christ’s humanity: He has united Himself to humanity, lowering Himself below the angels for a little while in order to deliver us from the curse of our sin. He suffered death in order to take the curse of death upon Himself. This was done so that God’s grace may come to us, while God’s justice is still preserved. Through Jesus vicarious death, the righteous wrath of God against our sin has been satisfied. But though He lowered Himself for a little while, He is now crowned with glory and honor. Of course, as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, He is eternally worthy of glory and honor, but how much more now that we consider how far He descended into humiliation for our sake!
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. The word for indicates that this verse is an explanation of the previous verse. The author is clearly addressing why Jesus’ incarnation, suffering, and brutal death were necessary for our salvation, and his answer is that it was fitting… R. Kent Hughes helps explain, writing:
In other words, the way of salvation is not arbitrary but rather befits the character of the God we know, the God “for whom and by whom all things exist.” God is the goal and author of all that exists, and correspondingly Jesus is the author and goal of salvation. As the work of creation, is totally of God, so also is the work of salvation. Just as God poured himself into the work of creation, even so the author of salvation poured himself into it through suffering. Everything is of him!
Indeed, this is why elsewhere our salvation is called the beginning of the new creation. In Christ, we are being remade into the glorious position that Adam led us into forsaking, and on the day of our full glorification, the cosmos will also be remade and set free from the curse that our sin has laid upon it.
The final phrase in verse 10, that Jesus was made perfect through suffering, can be a bit perplexing because we would tend to assume that perfection refers to moral perfection. However, that is clearly not what the author of Hebrews means here, since in two short chapters (4:15) he will affirm that Jesus was entirely sinless. Thus, he is not saying here that Jesus was a regular man who became perfect through suffering. Rather, he “means that God made him a complete Savior by means of suffering, or the word may refer to the completion of his full course of suffering on earth in order to his being a captain of our salvation.” Or as Dennis Johnson notes:
Perfection is a prominent theme in Hebrews (5: 9; 7: 11, 19, 28; 9: 9, 11; 10: 1, 14; 11: 40; 12: 23); the perfecting of Christ himself is mentioned again in 5: 9 and 7: 28. Jesus was and is undefiled by sin (4: 15; 7: 26), so with respect to Jesus the concept of progress or moral growth from sinfulness to holiness is unthinkable. Rather, when Hebrews speaks of Jesus’ being “made perfect,” it is employing the LXX sense of consecration and ordination to priestly office (Ex. 29: 9, 29, 33, 35; Lev. 4: 5; 8: 33; 16: 32; 21: 10; Num. 3: 3; etc.). As Hebrews 2: 17– 18 and 5: 8– 10 show, Jesus underwent this induction to his priesthood not through external rituals of washing and anointing but through his lifelong obedience to the will of God amid trial and suffering, climaxing in his death.
Notice also how the salvation of which Christ is the founder or captain is described in this verse: bringing many sons to glory. Jesus the everlasting Son, who after enduring death has been crowned with glory and honor, is now bringing many sons to glory with Him. Of course, the author already hinted at this marvelous work in chapter 1 where he spoke of the Son being the heir of all things (v. 2) and then of us as being those who inherit salvation (v. 14). Now he wants us to see Jesus as our captain single-handedly winning the victory for us and now leading us into the spoils of war. Jesus is leading His redeemed people into reclaiming and restoring the great purpose from which we had fallen. But in order to lead us to glory as our victorious captain, He had to be one of us, which is the thesis of verses 11-13:
For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
Jesus, he who sanctifies, and God’s people, those who are sanctified, all have one source. Because that one source is not explicitly stated, commentators debate what exactly the author had in mind. I believe it is God the Father. At key points throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry and then most notably through the resurrection, the Father publicly declared Jesus to be His beloved Son. Likewise, it is also the Father who calls us to become His sons and daughters as well. As Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
Nevertheless, the point that the author is making is clearly the connection between Jesus and us: that is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers. He then lists three Old Testament citations to affirm this thought from Scripture, as any preacher ought to do. The first is from Psalm 22, which is stands alongside Isaiah 53 as one of the most vivid prophesies of Jesus’ crucifixion. Since Jesus suffering the pangs of death in our place is part of the author’s point, it is fitting that he cites this refers that particular psalm. “Here,” writes Dennis Johnson, “our preacher calls us to marvel that, in the words of Psalm 22, the gloriously divine and messianic Son identifies himself without embarrassment with his sinful, struggling siblings.”
Of the other two citations, Richard Phillips notes:
Verse 13 presents two verses from the eighth chapter of Isaiah (17-18). The prophet had exhorted the people to trust the Lord but had been rejected by his own evil generation. However, God had promised him sons who would follow in the faith, pointing ultimately to a virgin who would be with child. In light of those promises, Isaiah cried out, “I will put my trust in him… I and the children God has given me.” By putting these words in the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is telling us that like Isaiah’s children we are the testimony to God’s faithfulness in this present generation. We are children of God given to Jesus Christ, called to testify among this present generation to the reality of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.
The first part of verse 14 summarizes the point of verses 11-13: since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things. The second part of verse 14 and through verse 15 describes the first of two great reasons why Christ united Himself to us: 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.
We should note that the author is not ascribing to the devil the power to deliver death to whomever he wills, as if he were the real grim reaper. Rather, from the book of Job, we know that every action that Satan takes is limited by the constraints of the LORD. The devil has the power of death in the sense that he leverages it as the curse of our sin to our ruin. Throughout the Old Testament, we find that Israel was invincible so long as they were obedient and devoted to Yahweh, but they fell into destruction as soon as they turned from Him to worship the idols of the Canaanites. Thus, at one point in the book of Numbers, Balaam counseled the king of Moab to woo the Israelites away from God with their idols, which led to God destroying twenty-four thousand people in a plague. That is the tactic that Satan employs against us. He tempts us into sin and accuses us of sin, lording our rightful death under God’s judgment over us.
By His death, Jesus destroyed the devil and delivered us from his snare. Because Christ was entirely sinless, He alone was undeserving of death but submitted to it willingly to offer Himself as a sacrifice in our place, paying the penalty for our sins and granting us His righteousness instead. Now notice how Paul in Colossians 2:13-15 ties our forgiveness through Jesus’ death to Jesus’ triumphant victory over the Satan and his demonic hoard:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
This is also why Revelation 12:11 says of God’s saints in their wrestling against Satan: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” The forgiveness of sin that Christ has brought to us silences the devil’s accusations and robs him of holding death before our eyes as a thing of despair. If Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of Majesty on high ruling over all things, is my Kinsman-Redeemer, is not ashamed to call me His brother, and has conquered sin, death, and the devil in order to ransom me from my justly deserved damnation, what more can anyone else say against me? If the Judge of all the earth has acquitted me according to the merits of Christ my Lord, what accusation remains? Furthermore, upon death, He promises not to leave my body in the grave but to resurrect me as He Himself was resurrected. Indeed, how can I be a slave to the fear of death whenever the Captain of my salvation, who is leading me with Him into glory, says to me: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)?
To make his point clear that the Son of God truly did all of this for us, the author writes in verse 16: For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. By the offspring of Abraham, we can safely assume that the author holds the same meaning as the Apostle Paul, who wrote in Galatians 3:7 that all “those of faith are sons of Abraham.” Christ did not become one of the angels but became for a little while lower than them in order to help us. Notice also that while Christ is bringing man back to his original design as ruler over the Father’s creation, He is not redeeming all of humanity but only the offspring of Abraham, those of faith, which is why it is possible to neglect this great salvation. But for those who do believe in Him by faith, He is our Kinsman-Redeemer, the Captain of our salvation, and also our merciful and faithful high priest:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
I have not left much time here to discuss these final verses because in many ways this is the author’s introduction of the main point of his sermon, and as such it will be more fully explained throughout Hebrews. Let us, then, briefly say that just as a prophet spoke to people on the behalf of God, a priest had the duty of representing people before God. Thus, in calling Jesus our high priest, the author is noting that Jesus is the perfect Mediator between us and God, especially since He offered Himself as a once for all sacrifice to make propitiation (a word which means to make atonement for) our sins.
But again, the author of Hebrews will expand and explain verse 17 in much greater detail further on in his sermon. In our present passage, he longs for us to understand the beauty of verse 18: For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Though Jesus was without sin, He endured temptation far greater than we could ever comprehend. Those who live every day in a slum would not notice the filth around them nearly so much as man in perfectly white suit or a woman in a wedding dress. Such was Jesus’ daily life here on earth. Not to mention that Jesus was personally tempted by Satan. Because He was tempted, Jesus understands experientially our plight, but because He triumphed over temptation, He is actually able to help us as we are being tempted.
As we come to the Table set before us, the only question of any importance is: have you seen this Jesus? He is the divine Son of God who also became the Son of Man to redeem us and restore us back to our communion with God. He is the founder and captain of our salvation, our kinsman who is not ashamed to call us His family, and our high priest who is merciful and faithfulness to represent us to God and to help us when tempted. He worked this great salvation through the suffering of which the bread and cup before us testifies. And these symbols now speak to us the same warning that we heard at the beginning of chapter two. Shall we consider Christ’s broken body and shed blood for the forgiveness of our sins and fail to obtain that salvation through simply neglecting to come to Him? No, let us draw near to Him whose blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (12:24).
 John Brown, Hebrews, 88-89.
 R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews, xx.
 Charles Hodge, Hebrews, 16.
 ESV Expository Commentary Vol 12 (Hebrews-Revelation) (Kindle Locations 1123-1132). Kindle Edition.
 ESV Expository Commentary Vol 12 (Hebrews-Revelation) (Kindle Locations 1144-1145). Kindle Edition.