5 “It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.
6 But there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.’ In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.
9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:5-9
Up till now the author of Hebrews has focused upon the exalted state of Jesus, but beginning in chapter 2:5-9 he shifts the focus to the incarnation. George Guthrie, in his commentary on Hebrews in the New Application Commentary Series, believes this section is a transitional passage that takes us smoothly from the Son’s heavenly position in chapter 1 to chapter 2:10-18, which presents Jesus solidarity with humanity. To get an idea of what I’m saying try reading Hebrews 1:5-14 followed immediately by 2:5-9.
Ancient Judaism believes that angels were placed by God over the nations of the world. (See Deuteronomy 32:8; Daniel 10:20-21; 12:1) However, 1:13 and 2:5 make it clear that angels will hold no position of government in the coming age. God makes it clear that it “is not to angels that He has subjected the world to come.” That is the role of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Ephesians 1:22; Philippians 2:10-11)
Verses 6-8a are quoted from Psalm 8 and as used here in chapter 2 refer to Jesus. These verses are often a favorite of people who wish to teach that Jesus is a created being and not on the same level with the Father. But, a close study of the verses see that the verses are talking of the incarnation or Jesus bringing Himself under subjection (v. 5) for the sake of the plan of salvation. The proof of this is found in verses 8b and 9 where we see Jesus “was made lower than the angels for a little while,” and is “now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
The role Jesus carried for the plan of salvation can be seen Christologically and not anthropologically. To confuse this is to end up with a Savior who is not really a Savior because He is thus only a man, a good man, but still only a man who has no power of and in Himself to redeem us. Salvation only comes from the God/Man.
Jesus being lower than the angels for a short time refers to His years here on Earth and is equated with His ability to identify with us in the reality of life.
A number of things I hope will be clear to us as we study this passage in relationship with chapter 1. First of all Hebrews 1:13 makes it clear that all things are subjected to Christ who sits at the right hand of God. We also see from Hebrews 2:8b that not all things at present are subjected to God. So do we have a contradiction between 1:13 and 2:8b or is something else going on here?
One of the great influences on me was George Eldon Ladd and his book The Kingdom of God. Through the writings of Ladd I was introduced for the first time to the concept of the “Now and not Yet,” or the Kingdom of God in the present and the Kingdom of God which is yet to come. What Ladd was getting at is simply that though the Kingdom of God is at hand (the yet) but is “not yet” fulfilled in power and glory until the end of the Age, (when Jesus returns). This is exactly what is going on here in Hebrews 1:13 and 2:8b. The writer of Hebrews is saying that the subjection of all things to Christ although a present reality will not be fully perceptible until the return of Christ.
Though the theology of 2:5-9 is interesting and will be helpful as we continue in Hebrews what really draws my attention to the passage is verse 9. The reason Jesus is crowned with glory and honor is because He suffered and died for us. By His “tasting death” for all of us we enter into the grace of God’s redemptive love.
Let me ask you, “do you see Jesus” in your daily walk with Him? Do you experience the joy of knowing and having the assurance of salvation in Christ? Do you see Jesus as the “incarnate sufferer” (Guthrie, p. 99), who is crowned with glory and honor because of all He has done for you? To see Jesus (v. 9) is much more than a physical thing, but rather a spiritual perception or a dwelling within the heart.
It is not easy to believe that everything is going to be fine when the world around us is falling in, but that is what the recipients of this sermon called Hebrews is all about. It is an admonition and word of encouragement to a persecuted and discouraged church to stand tall for Jesus as He stood tall for us at Calvary. It is a call for us to “see Jesus” through the storms of our life and to have the assurance and strength to not “drift away.”
Some of you don’t have spouses to support you in your walk, others have outright persecution and are mocked for your faith, but Hebrews reminds us over and over that Jesus knows us and walks with us. He tasted death for us that we might experience the glory of His grace and unconditional love. Yes, we live in the present evil age but spiritually we also live in the age to come. We live in the “now” physically but spiritually we live in the world of redemption.
It is true that we do not yet experience all the blessings of Heaven in a physical sense but it is also true that we do experience all the blessings of Heaven spiritually. And someday we will experience them in reality as well.