Lesson 4b: Hebrews 2:10 – 18

David H. Linden  ~~ Action International Ministries

 

This section dwells heavily on the humanity of Christ. To be the priest with ability to do all that is necessary for our salvation the Mediator must be God – Who else could bear the load of sin and endure fully in time the eternal punishment sin deserves?  Only the Infinite Eternal God could bear this burden.  But priests must represent people before God as one of the people in order to be their representative. Thus the Mediator must be man. Since sin’s reward is death, our Mediator must die. God cannot die!  But, to our great surprise, God could take on a nature He did not have; He could become man. Jesus Christ is one Person with two natures, divine and human. With the Incarnation of Christ, we now have a situation in which a Person Who is fully God can die since He is also human.  He is the Man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47-49).

 

Christ is presented as a Deliverer Who steps into the fight and delivers His people from a powerful enemy by destroying the devil.  Christ is also presented here as a Priest. This role for Jesus is the major emphasis of the book. But in both cases, as the Fighter Who defeats the devil, and also as our high priest, He must die for His people to accomplish His saving purpose.  As both hero and priest He represents His people and takes their place. To do this he had to become a man, specifically one of the covenant people, so He took on the seed of Abraham.  The language to describe His death is not vague; this death is a propitiation. In both roles – Destroyer of Satan and Priest of His people – Jesus the Savior acts alone, He acts as an individual for us. He does for us, His people, what we cannot do for ourselves. He delivers us from our slavery and sin by His sacrifice. In all of this, there is great glory for Christ and glory brought to His children; however, in His case and ours the glory is preceded by suffering.

 

2:5-9   The previous passage spoke of man’s rule over creation and his loss of glory, but Jesus brings many sons to their former glory. He suffered for them and has been crowned with glory and honor ahead of them.   (See in the notes of chapter 9, Appendix H:   For Whom Did Christ Die?)

 

2:10   The question is about what is appropriate to accomplish this. God had threatened death for sin; man disobeyed, so death is appropriate for man. Since this is so, it is also fitting that the Savior of man, in taking the sinner’s place, should die for them. He cannot be the perfect Author of salvation who represents them fully if the Father’s assignment to Him avoids the suffering brought on them by sin. 

 

Substitution   This doctrine cannot be denied without destroying the gospel. It was fitting that God should make the Substitute suffer (2:9).In His humiliation, Christ has identified with us in lost glory. Bringing sons to glory was not done by avoiding suffering but by enduring it with no half measures. Jesus did not merely notice what sin did to others; He experienced what their sin brought on mankind.

 

To be a perfect Savior required that Jesus become human. This involved more than assuming our biology; He did take on our flesh and blood (2:14); He also suffered temptation (2:18). As the Lord, He did not need to be made perfect in holiness, but as a man, God made Him perfect in the comprehensive experience of human life, learning obedience by what He suffered (5:8). God cannot be tempted (James 1:13), but the Holy Spirit led Jesus as a man into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Mark 1:12). God was perfecting Him into the obedient Man Who could represent us. In His tested righteousness He qualified as the ultimate Priest to represent His people. Hebrews 2 emphasizes the reality of His temptation and suffering; later Hebrews will insist that in temptation Jesus did not sin (4:15).

 

2:10  … For whom and through whom everything exists”  Like Romans 11:36, these words claim sovereign glory for God. Man was made for God’s glory; when he sinned he gave occasion for the grace of God to be glorified as the Lord forgave the enemies (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:6,12; 3:10,11) He called (9:15). God’s glory is complete when He restores man in the world to come (2:5). Because of Christ, Satan cannot rob God of His beautiful creation. God’s glory shows when He responds to sin, therefore multitudes have gone to hell without forgiveness. For His children, the Author of salvation must be made perfect through a life of suffering related to human sin. Had there been no sin by man, there would be no suffering by Christ. The suffering of Christ was fitting, since He came to represent His children suffering under God’s curse for sin. 

 

The Sovereign Freedom of God  for whom and through whom everything exists”    In bringing sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom all things exist, should perfect Jesus through suffering. In passing over those He never took in as sons, it was also fitting that God for whom all things exist, should not provide for them the salvation that comes through Christ. God is glorified in both salvation and judgment. This should humble us before God’s majesty and send a chill into us that sinners He has saved had no claim on His grace. Apart from His love for His chosen ones, He could have saved others and left us to die in our sins.

 

2:11   Salvation is expressed in terms of its ultimate goal: holiness. The identification of Christ with man is stated from two angles: He shares humanity, and He produces holiness. Jesus and His family have human life in common. The Greek does not say we are one “family”, but some word is needed here. It means we are of one stock or source. The text does use the word “one”. 

 

We are also very different. He is the Man Who makes men holy; we are the ones being made holy. Just as we have not yet come to glory (2:10), we have not come to complete holiness, though it is never absent (12:14) in His children. As family, He calls us “brothers”. Jesus can call us brothers and Himself as our God without shame (11:16 and Luke 9:26) because He produces holiness in us (12:10,11).  

 

Can a Christian Live in Sin?    those who are made holy   When Christ makes men holy, it does not mean He makes holy those who are not His. It does mean He makes holy each and every person Who is His.  There is no room for the notion of a “carnal Christian,” i.e., a person who is supposedly saved but lives in sin without sanctification. If a person is in Christ, the power of sin in His life has been broken (Romans 6:22 ); he is led by the Spirit (Romans 8:9-11), and has become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); He has been perfected in one sense (10:14) and is being made holy in another (10:14; see notes related to Hebrews 10). He does not live in sin (1 John 3:6), but has been born of God (Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 3:9) and loves his neighbor (1 John 3:14). The question is not whether a Christian can sin, but can he sin as he once did when not in Christ?  For his sin the believer has godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). In Hebrews 2:11, Christians are described as those who are being made holy. If such a description has no relation to some person, that person is not a believer in Christ, because His people are “those who are made holy”. No one who continues to sin, has either seen Him or known Him! (1 John 3:6). By describing Christ as the One Who makes God’s people holy, it infers His deity, since the Lord says  “I, the LORD, sanctify you”  (Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 20:7,8).

 

Jesus calls us brothers; there is no example in Scripture of us calling Him “Brother”. When He speaks this way of us, He refers to our humanity. We must not speak of Christ, even though He became one of us, as if He were our peer.  He is always our Lord.

 

Translators differ on “the author of their salvation”. The word is unusual in the NT, found only in Acts 3:15 (Author of life), Acts 5:31 (Prince), Hebrews 2:10 & 12:2. In 12:2 it may have the idea of Founder or the One Who begins, as in Acts 3:15. The remainder of Hebrews 2 (vv.14,15,16) carries the idea of a champion/deliverer who comes to rescue those captive to a powerful enemy. Hebrews’ chief theme is of Christ as a priest, but chapter 2 shows that that is not the only way this book presents Him.

 

2:12,13  The Three Quotations:      

 

1.   The first (Psalm 22) has Christ leading His brothers in worship as one standing among them. He calls them “brothers,” which fits the theme of the 2:5-18 of a shared humanity. This choice of Psalm 22 is resurrection speech with Christ vindicated in glory after His suffering and death. His prayer “My God, My God Why have You forsaken Me, why are You so far from helping Me?” has the Father’s answer in v.22 with Christ alive and leading His brothers in worship. It was fitting that Christ, Who was obedient in suffering, should have life for Himself and His brothers.

 

2.  From Isaiah 8:17, Jesus again speaks as one of us. As a man He too trusts the Lord. The humanity of Christ is not partial; it is so complete that the way men should worship and obey God is the way He did. The readers of Hebrews have Christ as a model in His life of trust in adversity (12:3-13; 1 Peter 2: 21)  His sequence of suffering and glory is common to all (1 Peter 1:11). 

 

3.  From Isaiah 8:18 – Isaiah was caring for his children in a time of apostasy, a situation much like those receiving this letter.  Isaiah was part of a small remnant in dark days. This is language the Holy Spirit uses of  Christ caring for His persecuted family.   

 

2:14,15   The children Christ will help, are flesh and blood.  He too shared in our humanity. The past tense refers to the event when the Son became a man. The “so that” is important. The Lord Jesus did not share our humanity so that He could just be one of us. Some make the incarnation itself to be all that is needed for man’s salvation. 2:14 shows that He shared our humanity so that He might die as a man. Our salvation depends on what Christ did in our humanity. God cannot die; only by becoming a man is God able as a Human Person to die.  Even then, though Jesus is one Person and not two, it was only in His human nature that He died. 

 

The purpose of Jesus’ death was to destroy the devil as promised in Genesis 3:15. That word was not given as a promise to man, though I think the man was there to hear it. That word was to the devil, a declaration that Satan would not win, and his success in capturing man by sin will not prevail. The oldest gospel promise in the Bible is about the destruction of the devil.

 

 

The Destruction of Satan   Satan wanted Jesus dead. He entered into Judas (John 13:27) but he had no hold on Christ (John 14:30). The Son would do the will of His Father by drinking the cup of wrath (Isaiah 51:22, Luke 22:41,42).  He would lay down His life and take it up again (John 10:17,18; the devil did not take it from Him. Christ would go to the cross as it was determined by God (Luke 22:22; Acts 4:28), not as decided by Satan. The Lord used the devil and others to accomplish His purpose. The devil wounded Jesus’ heel (Genesis 3:15), but death could not hold the Son of God (Acts 2:24). Jesus rose victorious over all that Satan could do to Him. Neither Satan nor Death can hold any person Christ sets free. Jesus has assured us that because He lives, we too will live (John 14:19). 

 

It is not Satan but Christ Who has the keys of death and hell, i.e., with the power and authority to use them (Revelation 1:17,18). Satan has the power of death and the fear that goes with it only by turning us from the Lord in Whom is life.  Satan gives nothing; he only destroys. He is a murderer and a liar (John 8:44). When man is in sin and believes Satan’s word; he is in bondage to a terrible master, the evil prince ruling this world (John 14:30; Ephesians 2:1,2; 1 John 5:19).  The Lord Jesus is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). Anyone coming under His power has been set free from the devil by believing the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8-10). The eventual imprisonment of Satan is in the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:10). At the cross, Christ crushed Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). He overpowered “the strong man” (Luke 11:21,22) and destroyed him by His own death!  The Lord went to war with the oppressor (Isaiah 49:24-26). For all the devil’s fury, he cannot hold one soul from Christ, cannot fulfill his dream of domination of either heaven or earth. He knows already that he has lost. Daily the kingdom of Christ spreads to all nations.     

 

 

2:16   The interest in angels continues to affect this chapter. The world to come is not subject to them; it is not their world.  Angels sinned and God helped not one of them. There are no forgiven angels and no humans in heaven but those who have been forgiven. They marvel at our salvation (1 Peter 1:12). Instead of saying it is man, it says Abraham’s descendents. This is a powerful indication that God’s salvation is not a worldwide intervention, but one God has channeled by covenant through one man, Abraham the father of all who believe (Romans 4:16-18). The promise is guaranteed to Abraham’s descendents. Christ as the Seed of Abraham, (Galatians 3:16-20) is the only door of entry into that flock, the covenant people of God (John 10:7-16). All who believe in Christ are Abraham’s children and heirs (9:15) of the promise made to him (Galatians 3:29).

 

2:17,18   If Jesus is going to help (i.e., save) us, He cannot do so as an outsider. What we need is a man to go to God as our priest. A priest must come from the people he represents (5:1).  To speak for us concerning our sin, our Priest must be without sin, but not immune to its impact on us. He did not commit sin but he had to suffer the results of ours. So, He had to be made like His brothers in every way. Simply sharing our physical life is not enough; He did more than eat and sleep as other men. In human weakness Jesus faced the full range of temptation we have (2 Corinthians 13:4; Romans 8:3). All of this was so that He might become our Priest. In that role He was faithful to God; having lived in our circumstances He is merciful to us.  

 

This Priest must go to face the Lord for us. Our sin is our problem. No relationship with God is possible if we have sin. On the cross as a Man, Jesus experienced completely all that our sins deserve, all that the justice of God required, and all that the grace of God provided. His service as Priest was for us but it was a service to God.  (See notes re 9:14, “The Godward Aspect of the Death of Christ”.) 

 

 

Propitiation  Jesus was the Priest Whose awesome task was to represent His people before the Lord God Whose holy anger (or wrath) was against us. He had to provide the reason for God’s favor to be shown to sinners.  Guilty man is helpless to win a favorable decision from God. The penalty of death was announced prior to the first human sin.  We had no argument we could make for ourselves. Jesus our Advocate (1 John 2:2) never denied the reality of our sin.  Instead He took our guilt on Himself, thus it would be necessary for Him to receive sin’s penalty. He would need to die for us to bring about reconciliation with God. The removal of sin is not all there is in Jesus’ priestly work. There remains the weighty matter of the wrath of God. Many think that when sin was removed the wrath of God had somehow vanished without ever coming upon anyone.

 

The wrath of God against us was absorbed by Christ.  God’s eternal wrath is what fuels hell, and Jesus was the ultimate burnt offering! Punishment for sin is never the function of an impersonal karma, (i.e., evil things somehow bring evil consequences). Sin is personal rebellion, and wrath for sin is personally delivered by God Himself (Ezekiel 14:7,8). In Hebrews 10:27 the raging fire that will consume the enemies of God is from the Lord (12:29). He avenges Himself  (10:30) when sinners fall into His hands (10:31), a description that could not be more direct and personal.  Revenge for sin is never ours; it is always God’s (Romans 12:19).

 

The OT refers to the wrath of God more than 500 times. The NT teaches that God’s wrath is personally deserved by the sinner (Romans 1: 32) and personally handed out by the Lord (Romans 2:5-11) to him. Into the face of such retribution Jesus entered as our Priest to make propitiation (2:17). (See this term also in Romans 3:25, I John 2:2; 4:10).[1] In Matthew 26:39-42 the Lord Jesus drank the cup of wrath; this should be viewed in light of what the cup means in Isaiah 51:17-23, Jeremiah 25:15-29, and Habakkuk 2:16. Christ did not merely cancel sin; He turned the wrath against our sin away from us by absorbing it Himself. It is true that the wrath of God is against sin (Roman 1:18); it is also against the sinner. God does not punish murder by punishing a concept; He sends murderers to hell.  The sinner-sin connection is unbreakable in His judgment.  So when Christ “became sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), He personally endured the wrath our sins deserved. Thereby God was true to Himself; He had actively responded with the holy repugnance our sin provoked. In God’s grace that holy reaction to sin fell on our Substitute Who, as God’s wise Servant (Isaiah 52:13), knew exactly what to do for our justification (Isaiah 53:11). So did the Father when He gave the Son the cup of wrath.  He crushed Jesus when our Lord as a sin offering bore the sin of many (Isaiah 53:10-12).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix B  The Issue of Persecution

 

The first hint of persecution appears in Hebrews 2. Something brought great pressure on the readers of Hebrews.  There was a danger they might shrink back (10:38,39) or “turn away” (3:12) or fail to confess (3:1) or fail to hold firmly to the High Priest they had at one time confessed (4:14). This is a double problem. On one side it is doctrinal and Hebrews meets that directly. On the other, something dangerous tempts them to drift (2:1) conveniently from their early profession, one that provoked insults (10:33) from their own people. Some might not enter into what God has promised His people because of the unbelief (3:18,19) which makes disobedience (4:6) and apostasy (6:4-6) inevitable. Unbelief will repudiate Christ (6:6; 10:29), and that is eternally fatal (10:39). It is a horrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God Who is a consuming fire (10:30,31; 12:29).

 

The answer of Hebrews to their need:

 

1.) It provides a vigorous detailed defense of OT teaching of Christ. This includes very careful exposition that a replacement Priest and a replacement covenant are predicted. It shows the law and its required offerings could never take away sin, but God in the Psalms had spoken of another Priest, His Son (5:5,6), Who is now seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly sanctuary. Hebrews is very doctrinal.

 

2.) It does not ignore their suffering and temptation (10:32-39). Faith must be based on truth.  People also need encouragement. This abounds in Hebrews with examples of faith in Hebrews 6 (Abraham) and the many in Hebrews 11, plus persons they know (13:7). These were people like them; they had promises yet still waited for the full enjoyment of all God promised. There are six sober warnings, but not all the exhortation was warning. There is prodding to continue in the good works that are evidence of salvation (6:9-12). Hebrews connects their temptation with the personal temptation of Christ (2:18; 4:15,16). It informs of Jesus’ growth in obedience through suffering throughout His life (5:7-10) culminating in the cross (12:2,3). His experience is compared with their struggles against sin (12:4). There is even an explanation of the benefits of chastening (12:5-11) and of their need for fellowship with each other (3:13; 6:10,11; 10:23-25; 13:17). It turns their hearts to the Second Coming of Christ (9:28; 11:39,40; 13:14), a constant encouragement to those who are persecuted. It shows the present calling they have in Christ, and the unshakeable kingdom of which they are part (12:22-24) provided they really do believe. All this blessing is because of the High Priest “we have” (8:1). Simple trust is encouraged (13:6) in our Savior Shepherd along with purity of life (13:1-6) and faithful confession (13:15).  All blessing comes only through the blood of Christ.  

 

Thus it is most clear that this very doctrinal book is very pastoral; it addresses their needs, vulnerabilities and the current threat to their faith. It is impossible to detach exposition from the multiple words of encouragement based on every strand of truth it gives. The beginning of such combining happens in chapter 2. Chapter 1 gives a storehouse of truth about Christ; chapter 2 begins to apply it. After it warns, chapter 2 links salvation and suffering. This is the fitting way Christ would enter our trouble.  Man has been deprived of glory; even in salvation we have not yet come fully into glory. Hebrews never gives comfort by denying reality. It loves to present the Scriptures. The three texts quoted in 2:12,13 come from the sufferings of Christ and Isaiah; in these examples others were associated with them. In all three the family context is of the relevance of personal faith during adversity. That Christ has defeated our Enemy Satan is a comfort only those with an easy life could miss.  It speaks of that unique suffering in which we do NOT participate – Christ propitiating God by Himself. Then it affirms that Christ who has suffered helps those who are tempted. In Chapter 2 Hebrews just begins to present Christ as One Who has not forsaken His persecuted people. We can suffer many things if we have a clear sense that we are not alone. Hebrews 2 shows us that we have His help (2:18).

 

 



[1] Unfortunately the NIV never translates these four texts using the word propitiation.  The KJV does for all except Hebrews 2:17. The ESV and the NKJV both use propitiation in all four.