Hebrews 2:1-4-You Snooze…You Lose!
Notice that this section begins with the word "for (NASV), …therefore (NIV, KJV)". It would be helpful for us to be aware of the use of the words "therefore" and "wherefore" throughout the entire book of Hebrews. They are two different Greek words with similar meanings. They are both words that call for a change to be made based on the information that has just been given.
Our author is presenting Jesus as superior, greater, better than all others...angels, men, O.T. revelation...and is telling us that since this is true we must make adjustments in our lives that are in keeping with His greatness. He constantly, then, uses the words "therefore" and "wherefore", meaning..."since you now know these things make the appropriate changes". He uses the word "therefore" in this manner 9 times in Hebrews (KJV translation-2:1; 4:1, 11, 16; 6:1; 10:19, 35; 11:12; 13:13, 15) and the word "wherefore" 5 times (KJV translation-3:1, 7; 12:1, 12, 28).
This is a book of "therefores" and "wherefores"...a book calling us to change our lives to be symmetrically in keeping with the revelation which we have received concerning Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that we find within this book no less than 5 Distinct Warnings. Some are to Christians concerning their lives and decisions...some to unbelievers. Each of these 5 Warnings contains within its text a "therefore" or a "wherefore". The words of this book are not to be taken lightly. The author does not merely intend to educate us as in content...but to call us unto change. It is book of commitment. It is not a book for the casual Christian…who is satisfied with his “Get Out of Hell Free Card”…but has no interest in the ownership and Lordship of God over his life. It is not a book about the bare minimums of the Christian life…”What do I have to do to get by?” It is a book for the serious believer…the true follower…the disciplined disciple …the loving, appreciative, thankful, worshipping child of Jesus Christ.
We find the first of these 5 Warnings in Chapter 2, verses 1-4. This warning is directed to believers in Christ.
The Accountability to the Message of Salvation (2:1-3a)
• The Danger of a Slipping Believer (:1)
Having detailed the reasons why Jesus is greater than both the prophets and the angels, Paul now says, “For this reason" (because of Who Jesus is) we must pay close attention to what we have learned about Him (especially in regards to salvation, v. 3).
The expression "give the more earnest heed" (“must pay much closer attention”-NASV) is a nautical term. It is applied to sailors trying to bring a boat into harbor and safety. It is not a casual thing. It is hard, disciplined, strenuous work.
Hebrews: the Life that Pleases God, James T. Draper, p. 39
• The Danger of a Neglected Salvation (:2-3a)
Hebrews 2:1-Why must we pay close attention…"lest we drift away from it" (cf. 3:6,14). Since we cannot escape the consequences of neglecting the words which the angels speak...certainly, we cannot escape the consequences of neglecting the words of salvation which Jesus speaks.
There are 2 Perspectives of interpretation of this phrase. Here is the first perspective.
The phrase "let them slip" is also a nautical term. It means drifting. The point is obvious. If we do not give careful attention, and discipline to ourselves to listening to the Word of God, we will slowly, imperceptibly drift from the harbor. That word also describes a ring that slips off a finger, something that slips into a conversation, or something that is spoken and forgotten. It is used of snow falling off the body of a soldier--it just slips away. It describes carelessness. We will drift away from where we ought to be unless we give diligence to the matter at hand.
Drifting is a dangerous thing both physically and spiritually. Physically, when a boat drifts, you may not be aware that any movement is taking place. Sometimes a boat will drift past a point of safe return and be broken upon the rocks. It is the same way spiritually. The greatest danger to us spiritually is not that we are going to do some tremendously evil thing in a sudden burst of rebellion against God. The real danger most of us face is that imperceptible drifting away from God.
Not many people openly and flagrantly stand up and shake their fists in the face of God in defiance and rebellion. Most people slowly drift, little by little, bit by bit into the place where suddenly they are awakened to understand that they have broken someone's heart. They have gone too far, they have let things go too long, they have failed to stand for what they ought, and they have gotten away from God. That is what the writer is addressing.
The sad thing is that many times we drift and are never aware that we are drifting. Sometimes it takes a calamity or a catastrophe to remind us just how far we have gotten from God. What is the answer to that terrifying tendency all of us have to get away from God? The answer to that tendency to drift from God, to cease being what God wants us to be, is to give ourselves to more earnestly heed what he has said to us through his Word, Jesus Christ. We must discipline ourselves with diligence to the Word of God. We do not accidentally become strong Christians or spiritual giants. We do not spiritually mature by accident. It is a carefully plotted course of diligence. It is an adherence to duty, and now is the time for us to give attention to it.
Hebrews: the Life that Pleases God, James T. Draper, p. 39
From this perspective, the believer slips away from the center of God's purpose, will and direction for his life. Through negligence, he is no longer experiencing the blessings of God's promises because He has failed to discipline his life according to God's principles.
Now, notice the difference of the second perspective. It says:
Without exception, all Bible translations give a picture of the believer here as drifting away from something. Of course in the life of a Christian there is the deadly danger of drifting, but here the verb translated "let them slip" has a variety of meanings. A crumb of bread slips down into your windpipe. A ring slips off your finger. If your husband gave you a ring and you carelessly let that ring slip off, you would become very concerned. You didn't lose him, but you lost something precious that he gave you. The writer may have been saying: Don't lose the preciousness of your salvation.
B. Our Duty (2:1)
The root of this word slip really means "to flow like a river." The verb was used by Jesus in John 7:38 when He said, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." Yet the verb is passive. So the picture in Hebrews 2:1 is not of a Christian drifting; it is a picture of a Christian being stationary and a river flowing or passing by. Let me read it this way: We must pay the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should be flowed by.
God's great salvation is like a mighty flowing river. A Christian can just get his feet wet in that river, or he can go beyond the shallow water to the depths of this salvation--to the fullness of it. The writer of Hebrews was saying: Don't miss out on the abundance of your salvation. Don't let it slip by you. Give the more earnest heed. Pay careful attention. Listen to the Word of God. Obey the commandments of Jesus.
The Believer's Guide to Hebrews, Jerry Vines, pp. 23-24
From this perspective that which is slipping away is the blessing of God. Again, through negligence, the believer is not appropriating the riches of God's blessings and promises. He has not immersed himself into the river of God's salvation...he simply dangles his toes along the bank...and misses out as the blessings go flowing by.
Whichever perspective you choose to follow there are two common elements:
1. negligence on the part of the believer concerning the things which he has heard and been taught concerning the Christian life; and,
2. the missing of God's blessings.
Paul is telling us that that is a sad situation for the believer to be in.
Hebrews 2:2-3a-But it is more than just missing out on God's blessings that is at stake here. You see, what we are actually speaking of here is disobedience to God. Negligence is not passive...it is not neutral. Negligence is disobedience. It is sin. It is treating the things of God with inappropriate indifference.
Here is a word that disturbs me...that bothers me...that worries me..."neglect". To "neglect" means to "ignore", to "disregard", to "not care for". In its form here in this passage it is a participle. So it would be most properly translated, "neglecting". We find it used elsewhere in the Scripture in Matthew 22:1-5, where verse 5 reads, "But they paid no attention..." Again we find it used in 1 Timothy 4:14-15. Verse 14 says, "Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you..."
We might paraphrase this verse, "There is no possible way that you can avoid the judgment of the sin of neglecting to be obedient to the Word of God."
We find this in verses 2-3a. In verse 1 we found that negligence meant that the believer would miss out on the blessings of God...and in verses 2-3a we find that negligence meant that the believer will not miss out on the punishment of God!
The Greatness of the Message of Salvation (2:3b-4)
The message of salvation is great…
• Because of its Origination—Spoken by Jesus (:3b)
• Because of its Communication—Confirmed by Believers (:3b)
• Because of its Substantiation—Witnessed by Miracles (:4)
God put His signature mark upon it with signs and wonders, divers miracles and gifts. The words "divers miracles" is the word "power"...meaning works of power, or demonstrations of power.
A sign is a divine intervention manifesting God’s nature and revealing his purpose, and a wonder is an extraordinary event the miraculous nature of which evokes awe and astonishment…Mighty works may be distinguished from wonders and signs in as much as they manifest God’s power rather than the miraculous nature or inner meaning of what he does.
The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 12, Hebrews, Charles A. Trentham, p. 23
• Because of its Authentication—Verified by the Holy Spirit (:4)
• Because of its Destination—Leads to Heaven (:4)
Dr. W.A. Criswell tells of a small New Testament that was taken from the breast-pocket of a fallen American soldier in Vietnam, a young boy from Georgia. When Mr. Pat Zondervan held up that New Testament before the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Dr. Criswell could see the light of a bullet hole through its middle. Later, when Dr. Criswell held it in his hands, he saw that the pages were stained with the blood of that fallen soldier. Flipping through it, he found an inscription in the back that had survived intact. It read, "On this date, I Wilton Thomas take Jesus Christ as my personal Savior." Then it was signed and dated by the hand of that young man. That is what the Bible is for. It is not to amaze us with its scientific accuracy or impress us with its historical integrity, but to lead us to a personal knowledge of God through Jesus Christ as Savior.
Hebrews 2:5-8-What is Man?
At this point, you can almost see Paul stop for a moment as he contemplates what he has just written. Having stated the greatness of Jesus over all others, and having issued a warning against neglecting the salvation He provides…he seems to come to an abrupt halt as the thought enters his mind, “What is man…that God would go to such extremes on his behalf…to send His great Son and to provide a great salvation?” He then gives a brief spiritual history of all mankind. To do so, he begins with the end of man’s story…then goes to the beginning of man’s story…and finishes by going to middle of man’s story. Why does he do this? He begins with the end of the story so that we will not lose hope and despair. Then, he backs up to the beginning and tells how it was originally when God created man, but what went wrong and why everything changed.
Man’s Final State (2:5)
• Man’s Dominion (:5)…In Heaven, men will be part of God’s governing agency (1 Corinthians 6:3).
Man’s First State (2:6-8)
• God’s Intention for Man (:6). God “remembers” man. He had a plan, a purpose for him.
• God’s Interest in Man (:6). The word “concerned” means “to keep a close eye upon something in order to take care of it.”
• God’s Sovereignty over Man (:7). Notice the various words that describe how God has exhibited His absolute control over mankind…”made him”, “crowned him”, “appointed him”, “put all things in subjection under his feet” (:7-8).
• God’s Administration through Man (:6-8). These very words show that God had determined that man would be a part of God’s governing agency in Heaven. In the Garden of Eden, Adam was given the responsibility to oversee all things (cf. Genesis 1:28-30).
Man’s Fallen State (2:8)
• Men Fell Into Sin (:8). When Adam sinned it affected all of his descendants. They would not be born with the intimacy of relationship with God that Adam had when he was created. Instead, all of Adam’s descendants would be born with a fallen, sinful nature…a nature separated and independent of God. Though they would not be accountable for Adam’s sin, they would be affected by Adam’s sin.
• Men Fell From Dominion (:8). This fact also affected man’s relationship with the rest of creation. Previously, the creation (the world and its animal life) itself was under Adam’s control and responded to his authority. But once Adam sinned, though he would still have to depend upon creation for those things necessary for life…he would have to do so through toil, sweat, and labor (cf. Genesis 3:17-19).
Hebrews 2:9-18-But We See Jesus!
Having established man’s predicament due to sin…Paul now shows us the answer…Jesus. “We do see Him”, means that we know and understand Him.
The Purpose of His Ministry (2:9)
Jesus came to earth for the express purpose of giving His life in order to pay the price for our sins so that we might go to Heaven. He was “made for a little while lower than the angels”…meaning that for a time He left Heaven and came to earth…the Heavenly, spiritual realm being higher than the earthly realm.
The Perfection of His Sufferings (:10)
How could Jesus, being God, be made “perfect”? This does not mean that the perfection was a matter of quality…being better than He was before. But, it is speaking of a matter of qualification…being different than He was before. Before Jesus came to earth He knew man’s circumstances from His position of deity. After coming to earth He knew man’s circumstances from his position of humanity. Before, He could sympathize (feel from a distance, a theoretical understanding) for man. But after, He could empathize (feel from personal experience, a practical understanding) for man. He had suffered…as man suffers (cf. 4:15-16).
The Example of His Life (:11)
Since Jesus was willing to lay down His life for us…we should be willing to do the same for others. And, despite what someone has done…we should still love and care for him as our brother.
The Result of His Holiness (:12-13)
Christ, not angels, will rule in the coming Millenial Kingdom...along with the redeemed of mankind. God has determined that man will rule all of creation. It hasn't happened completely, yet. But, because Christ became man and paid the price for sin...redeemed mankind are His family and will rule with Him...thus fulfilling what was said about him.
The Victory Over the Devil (:14-18)
Jesus became human so that (:14)
1. He could die and rise again...and in this way destroy the power of death that the devil had over man (:14).
2. He could deliver man from the fear of death, itself (:15).
3. He could become a merciful and faithful High Priest who gives Himself as the payment for our sins, and who comes to our aid when we are tempted (:16-18).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for all that You have done for me. Thank You for becoming man. Thank You for living life and experiencing all that we face. Thank You for dying for my sin. Thank You for overcoming death. Thank You for interceding on my behalf. Thank You, Lord!