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Your Bible probably has little subtitles above sections of chapters that act like road signs describing what happens next or the topics that follow. The wording is often different from one Bible to another and even the places that passages are divided. Even though chapter and verse divisions can sometimes seem arbitrary there is at least agreement about where they go. It is helpful to remember that the original text had no such divisions. Hebrews 2:1 begins with the word therefore so the writer is about to make a point that he’s been building up to. The language of verses 2 and 3 continue this case building rhetoric. To paraphrase: So let’s pay careful attention so what we have heard. The message of angels, described extensively in chapter 1, has been proven reliable. The proof is that those who did not heed their warnings received retribution. In that case (v. 3) how can we neglect so great a salvation? The message of salvation was declared by the Lord, confirmed by eye witness accounts, and further attested by signs and wonders shown by God and by gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 1 began with an exhortation of God’s Son. In times past God spoke through prophets but most recently by his own Son. In the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus shares a parable about wicked tenants. A man planted a vineyard and dug a winepress. He rented the vineyard to men to work in it. When he sent messengers to collect the rent these men treated the servant very badly and sent him away. This happened many times, some servants were beaten and others killed. Finally the man sent his son reasoning they would respect him, but these wicked men reasoned that if they killed the son they would receive his inheritance. Jesus asked his audience what would happen when the landlord returned. The Old Testament prophets, messengers sent by God to his people, had often been badly mistreated or even killed. Jesus is the Son of God and offered that parable before his arrest, trial and execution. The Pharisee leaders perceived he was telling it about them, they being the wicked tenants and what not. The vineyard will be taken from them and given to others more honorable. Jesus concludes by quoting Psalm 118 “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.” Jesus told this parable before his arrest, trial and execution. The work of the prophets and the ministry of Jesus is complete by the time of Hebrews as well as the testimony of the witnesses and the signs and wonders, including the arrival of the Holy Spirit, all of which Jesus told his followers would happen.
Verse 5 kind of goes back to the compare and contrast argument between angels and the Son of God but that is just a mechanism by which the case for God’s salvation through his Son is delivered. Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, and that is how he was seen during his earthly ministry, during his incarnation, so that he could be perfected through suffering. Perfection is often used in the Bible to indicate completion. A thing that is made whole, complete or finished is said to be perfect. Through suffering the Son is made perfect and crowned with honor and glory. Everything is put under his subjection. The appeal to reason continues in verse 10: For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. All the children of God share the same flesh and blood and it again reasonable that he should partake in the same things. Later in Hebrews 4 we see a great high priest than can empathize with our weakness because he was tempted as we are. Jesus has walked in our shoes so to speak, robed in flesh according to the scriptures, and has been not only tempted by sin but subject to hunger, thirst, physical pain, rejection, humiliation and ultimately death. Hebrews 2 2:14 says that by his death he took away the power of death.
Some modern translations have done away with the word propitiation. There is no single modern English word that means the same thing and sometimes it is good to learn the meaning of old words. The English Standard Version (ESV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB) retain that word in four New Testament occurancances, once in Romans, twice in 1st John, and once at the end of our text today. Because he is like his brothers he is fit to serve as high priest and to make propitiation for the sins of the people (2:17). Propitiation is an action taken that appeases the wrath of the gods. It’s what the high priests did in the Old Testament temple/tabernacle when they sprinkled the blood of atonement on the mercy seat. Propitiation is not a sacrifice. Propitiation is an action taken but the New Testament describes Jesus as becoming our propitiation.
Moses is perhaps the most significant type of Christ, and we’ll discuss what that means, in the Old Testament. Hebrews 3 outlines the ways in which Jesus is greater than Moses.