Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (v.3a). There is no escape. Neglect shall be punished. This is best understood by realizing how great this salvation really is.
Heb. 2:3b-4 “… which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”
How great is the salvation provided for us? First, it is a priority for the Trinity. Jesus spoke it, The father confirmed it by the Spirit’s power. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost unite in their efforts to demonstrate the greatness of our salvation.
Second, the greatness of our salvation is seen in the fact that its future was too important to be left to chance. It was committed to the care of trustworthy men. We learn of salvation from men who learned of it directly from Jesus Himself.
By means of the Bible, we are never more than one generation “removed” from Jesus. Tradition and changing views of men cannot separate us from the unadulterated truth given by Jesus. No generation depends upon its former generation for information, but rather depends directly on those who knew Jesus Himself.
The testimony of these men carries weight and authority. They had nothing to gain of this work by their commitment. They exposed themselves to the wrath of this world, and sealed their testimony with their own blood.
Our Gospel is rooted in historic fact. It is not lack of evidence that turns men from Christianity. Unbelief is a result of refusing to face evidence.
Third, the greatness of our salvation is seen in its verification by supernatural deeds. Realizing the importance of His first spokesmen, God put His obvious stamp of approval on them. Their testimony was verified by overwhelming deeds. The miraculous adorned the first bearers of the Gospel.
Four words describe these supernatural phenomena. “Signs” refers to their purpose. They were not ends in themselves, but pointed men to something else. When going to the St. Louis Arch, you do not stop at signs that say, “Arch ahead.” You instead proceed in the direction which the sign points. The supernatural occurrences that followed the early believers were not “the main event.” There was a message behind them. They were telling men to look up and see God.
“Wonders,” mean they were rare and unusual, evoking wonder in the beholder, capturing people’s attention. These were not dull highway signs, black letter on white backgrounds. These signs were bright neon lights, flashing to arrest attention.
“Miracle” denotes their power source. These deeds were beyond man, humanly possible. Their power source had to be extraordinary, supernatural. They came from God, from whom also came the “gifts,” those special empowerings that enabled the believers to do their work.
Our writer mentioned these miracles because his readers knew of them. The supernatural was a matter of common knowledge among early believers. There was no need to try and prove the existence of these things. They were obvious to all.
One further word—the Gospel’s power is not only past tense. We no longer have as much of a concentration of miracles as the early believers did, but we still have power. The Gospel still heals the sick, and still causes us to see unexplainable things. Best of all, it continues to make bad men good, and that is the ultimate miracle.
It was God’s will that our faith have a sure footing. Our salvation is trustworthy. The Trinity provides it, faithful men convey it, and power accompanies it. Heed the message. Attach your life to it. You can tie your cable to the Gospel because it is a strong post. Our salvation is undeniable, and of supreme importance. As our author says, it is “so great salvation.”
Heb. 2:5a “For…”
Mentioning the diving power evident among believers reminds our author of something all men were originally meant to have. This “something” will help bolster his claim that Jesus is superior to angels.
Heb. 2:5b “… unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.”
The miracles displayed by early believers are a glimpse of the authority in the creation that mankind was meant to possess originally. Angels, though, never were given such dominion.
“World to Come” must be interpreted in light of what it meant to the original readers, the Jews. To them it meant the era of the Messiah. It was a way of referring to the New Covenant as opposed to the Old. The writer confirms this meaning by saying “whereof we speak.” In other words, we are still considering the age he spoke of in the previous verses.
Angels are not meant to reign in this new age. They are servants (1:14), not ruler or God-substitutes. Angels never were meant sovereignty.
Heb. 2:6-7a “But one in certain place testified, saying WHAT IS MAN, THAT THOU ARE MINDFUL OF HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT THOU VISITEST HIM? THOU MADEST HIM A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;”
This quotation from David (PS 8:4-5a) indicated that in some way angels are superior to man. The Jews would look at these words and say, “Angels are higher than men. No man could ever be lifted above angels.” Thus they would object to worshipping their fellow man, Jesus of Nazareth.
The Jews, for even another reason, would have trouble ascribing supremacy to One who was human. “God in flesh” was a stumbling block to them. They deemed God too holy, and flesh too vile, for the two to ever meet. The Jews felt that God appeared as an angel sometimes, but never took flesh upon himself.
God did, from time to time, temporarily don the form of an angel to appear to man. However, He could never permanently take on Himself the nature of an angel. Why? Because God is meant to rule, angels can only serve. If God ever did decide to take on permanently a nature other than His own, what would it be? What could God rightly become?
Our author obviously believed that God had become man. The Jews had made a serious error, in their understanding of the verse just quoted. The words, taken in their context, refer only to man’s position in the beauty or awesomeness of nature. Men obviously do not have the grandeur angels enjoy. Angels are definitely more glorious than humans. Fire outshines flesh.
However, the eighth Psalm goes on to tell of something men have that was never given to angels. Angels win the beauty contest easily, but humans take another valuable prize.
Heb. 2:7b-8a “THOU CROWNEDST HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND DIDST SET HIM OVER THE WORKS OF THY HANDS: THOU HAST PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”
These verses (PS 8:5b-6) reveal a great truth. Angels outshine us (7a), but they do not outrank us. God meant for man, not angels, to reign. Man was crowned as a conqueror, a ruler. Man was created to have dominion (GN 1:26,28), something which God gave to nothing else in His creation, including angels.
Man was meant to be God’s vice-regent. We were to rule in a palace filled with every pleasing thing imaginable: the sun to labor as our Hercules, flowers to scent our path, food to please our taste, birds to sing for us, animals to help us. Man stands in rank next to God himself. Angels do not rule over us. They are our servants. We have only one Superior, God.
Did God sometimes appear in the form of an angel? Yes, of course He did. All Jews believed that. Our author goes one step farther, and says God could also become man. In fact, he is saying it would be easier for God to be a man than an angel.
Since men, not angels, were meant to rule and have dominion, it is logical to believe that God, as Messiah, could come as a man. A Messiah was meant to rule, to subdue, to have dominion. These are all things meant originally for men. Thus, “God in flesh” is not as farfetched an idea as the Jews might think.
What does all this mean to me? What does it mean for you? If Jesus came as a man because it provided Him the right to rule over the creation, then our response must be to yield to His sovereignty. We must submit. We must obey.
Jesus is King. To reject His salvation yields an eternity in Hell. And how shall we believers escape, if we neglect so great salvation?