Meditations in Hebrews 2: 17. Who is this ruler
Heb 2:5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.
It seems, as we continue in this chapter, that the writer, having used various Old Testament verses to highlight just who Jesus is, realises that he is talking about the eternal future in these verses, hence now he refers to “the world to come”. We need to look back into chapter 1 to clarify that. Remember the main point he was making, that Jesus is eternal: “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.” (1:10,11) The world is not infinite, it has a limited life-span. Thus, he carried on, “You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (1:12)
Yes, there will come a time when Jesus returns and brings everything in subjection to him (Rev 19) and then later will wind up all we know and there will be a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21). As we see in Revelation 5 all of this end time history is given into the hands of the Son of God to oversee. As we have noted before, the apostle Paul had this revelation: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” (1 Cor 15:20-24) It is important to understand this: Christ demonstrated resurrection and all his followers who die at the end of their natural lives will one day be resurrected to be with him as he conquers all his enemies and hands back the kingdom, the control of everything, to his Father.
That is what is behind the verses we are now looking at, a period and end that had been referred to in the quote back in 1:13 – “To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”? That is what he is referring to when he says, “It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.” (v.5) But, yes, he is back comparing Jesus to the angels and when he does so, he is not afraid of confronting the human element of the work of the Christ. Again he cites from the Old Testament: “But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (v.6 quoting Psa 8:4) It is a strange wording – “someone” – but he is obviously referring to David writing Psa 8 for the next two verses fill out the whole of the quote that is almost word for word Psa 8:4-6) “You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.” (v.7,8 quoting Psa 8:5,6)
But what is the point of using this quotation? What does it say that he wants to apply to Jesus? Verse 6 in the Message version puts it well: “What is man and woman that you bother with them; why take a second look their way?” i.e. it is amazing that God actually bothers with these tiny figures on this tiny planet in this massive galaxy in this incredibly big existence. But the Message version continues, “You made them not quite as high as angels, bright with Eden’s dawn light; Then you put them in charge of your entire handcrafted world.” That’s lovely isn’t it! The fact is that when God made mankind they didn’t appear to have the glory of the angels and yet – amazingly – God put them in charge of the whole world (Gen 1:28) back in Eden, everything was put under the feet of mankind. That is how much God thinks of mankind, part of His creation that in the very beginning were ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31).
That’s how it had been at the very beginning, but it didn’t continue like that so the writer is now able to say, “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.” (v.8b) We might reasonably assume this is an indirect reference to the Fall. Because of the Fall we did not reach our potential and are not reigning in the way God originally instructed.
So take note of this: God designed mankind to rule, but we threw it away. That was mankind as a whole. Now see what follows: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (v.9) Note first the ‘BUT’. That was mankind but now see the contrast in Jesus who, yes, came in human form. Yes, in human form he too appears lower than the angels BUT now he is “crowned with glory and honour” as he is seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven, as we have seen before. And why is he there like this? “because he suffered death.” The Son of God came down and experienced in human form all that we experience, and that included death, but it wasn’t just any death, it was “for everyone”. Awesome! Having completed the work given him by the Godhead before the foundation of the world, he returned to heaven and is seated beside the Father ruling over all of existence.
We won’t push on; all that follows needs careful reading, but let’s just take in again what these verses have told us. In continuing the argument that Jesus is greater than the angels, the writer acknowledges that he has apparently been made in human form which is lower than the glory of the angels, but through his work, the Son has achieved a glory that is greater than any other except his Father, a glory that comes through having died as the Saviour of mankind. Now he has returned to his place in heaven where he oversees all of the end time history until the time when he will return, bring all his enemies into subjection, and then hand the completed kingdom back to the Father for a new heaven and new earth to be brought forth. Could all this be said of any angels? No way!