So we often remind ourselves that, when we became a Christian, we did not board a cruise ship; we boarded a battleship. The New Testament simply does not describe the Christian life as a life of health, wealth and prosperity. Jesus couldn’t have been more clear, “Count the cost; it’s going to be hard.” We live out our Christian faith on a sin-cursed world. The most common metaphors in the New Testament to describe the Christian faith are military metaphors. It is a battle and we feel it deeply. But it’s also good to remind ourselves that it’s also true that one day the battle will be over. The victory will be won—the battleship will be parked in the harbor and we will disembark—and we will finally board the cruise ship, and it will be everything our soul longs for today! So it’s good to remember that when Christians are mistakenly wanting to board the cruise ship today, we shouldn’t say, “No;” we should properly say, “It’s just not yet.” But that does raise a legitimate question: How do we know that’s true? In other words, how do we know it’s not just wishful thinking to give us some sort of a psychological lift in difficult times? Is there some reason that’s more rooted in history to believe that’s actually true?
Well, that’s what we want to talk now. If you have a Bible, turn with us to Hebrews, Chapter 2. Last time we learned that Jesus is the final word from God. He is the creator, sustainer of the universe, fully God in every way, that took on human flesh to make purification for sin and that Jesus reigns superior over creation and is superior over the angels, which is where we left the conversation. So chapter 2, verse 1:
For this reason… Well, what reason? Because of who Jesus is and because of what He has done...For this reason, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” (*NASB, Hebrews 2:1)
The Greek word used to describe this drift is like a ship out on the ocean in the midst of a storm, and the anchor pulls loose and it begins to drift. At that point it is in peril and subject to the wind and the waves. So the idea is we need to be anchored down so that we don’t drift. How do we do that? By paying much closer attention to what we have heard about Jesus, in other words to the truth.
So there are a couple of different ways we can go adrift. Sometimes I think we drift away when everything’s okay. You know, life may be just kind of routine—no real crisis—and in some ways we’re bored and we get careless and reckless and we kind of drift away. The frightening thing is if that’s true, then you are completely ill-equipped to hold on in the most difficult moments of life. You can’t just suddenly in that moment, all of a sudden, conjure it up. That’s the whole point: you’re adrift; you’re not anchored—and that is going to be a problem! But more relevant to the book of Hebrews, the writer is talking about drifting away because of heartache, because of pain, because of suffering, because of persecution. Oftentimes when we go through the most difficult experiences of life, we tend to think more with our emotions than with our head. And when we think with our emotions, we certainly go adrift. The anchor pulls up and then we’re just kind of subject to the wind and the storms of life and typically find ourselves in a bad place. So in our most difficult moments of life, we pay closer attention to what’s true and we anchor down to it. Verse 2:
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable (or binding), and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty…
Now what’s he talking about there? In Chapter 1, when we talked about why this discussion about Jesus being superior to the angels, and the problem was that the Judaizers (Jewish converts to Christianity) were seeking to influence the new believers back into the old covenant. Perhaps the logic was that if God was in this, this wouldn’t be happening so, “Come back to the old ways”—the temple, the sacrificial system, the Sabbath—all those things that defined the old covenant. The logic, was that because the old covenant was mediated through angels to Moses, the Judaizers were saying, “Jesus is just another prophet; therefore He doesn’t have the authority to do away with the old covenant and start something new. Therefore come back to the old covenant delivered by the angels.” And that’s why chapter 1 talked about Jesus is not just another prophet; He is the Son of God. He’s not just the word from God; He’s the final word from God. He’s the creator, sustainer of the universe, fully God in every way, who came to take on human flesh to make purification for sin. He sits superior over the angels; therefore He does have the authority and the power to be the fulfillment of the old covenant and usher in a spectacular New Covenant. So the writer is kind of using that logic to say, “If you believe that a covenant mediated or delivered by angels is so binding that, by disobeying or transgressing it there are consequences, the logic is going to be: ‘How much more is that true if this is a New Covenant delivered by the Son of God himself?’” In other words, “If you’re now going to ignore the New Covenant delivered by the Son of God himself, how serious are these consequences if you drift away from it? By the way the law delivered to Moses is not just the ceremonial law, but the entire law (moral, ceremonial, civil laws) God gave through Moses, which had consequences, penalties for breaking.
So Verse 3:
…how shall we escape? (escape the consequences, the penalty) if we neglect so great a salvation?
Again they’re not rejecting it; they’re not apostate; they’re not saying, “I’m out.” They’re just neglecting it; they’re just drifting; they’re just not paying enough attention to it and perhaps being influenced to go back to their former ways. And the argument is, “What are the consequences going to be if you drift away from the truth of this New Covenant that’s been ushered in?” So how was the message of the New Covenant delivered? Continuing in Verse 3:
After it was at the first spoken through the Lord [Jesus]…
So it was not delivered through angels or Moses (Old testament); it was delivered by God Himself who took on human flesh and spoke the message directly to the people.
So… verse 3:
…first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us through those who heard.
Now a couple of things there: if you look at the pronouns, the writer is saying it was confirmed to us—he’s including himself in that—by those, somebody else who heard. That almost for sure eliminates the Apostle Paul as a potential author of the book of Hebrews. He makes the argument in the book of Galatians that he got the gospel directly from Jesus Himself. So having made that argument, this seems to be a clear indication Paul is not the writer of Hebrews. But what he’s saying is it was confirmed. That’s a legal term; it was authenticated by those who heard it and delivered the message. How do we know it was true? Verse 4:
God also testifying with them, (again a legal term, authenticating) both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
Now this is very helpful language. There is no place where the Bible says that we as Christians should expect to experience signs and wonders to somehow authenticate our Christian faith. Signs and wonders were strategically intended to authenticate those delivering the message of the New Covenant to clearly indicate that they were speaking this new message demonstrated by these miraculous signs and wonders. Throughout history, from Genesis to Revelation, you have three periods of time where there was significant activity of signs and wonders—during the time of Moses, during the time of the prophets and during the time of Jesus and the apostles. It’s equally true throughout history there have been three periods where God gave revelation—during the time of Moses, during the time of the prophets and during the time of Jesus and the apostles. This is a very consistent message, that in this case Jesus gave the message directly to the apostles; they took it and spoke forth, and to authenticate they were messages from God, they experienced signs and wonders and miracles. The idea of the gifts of the Holy Spirit eludes to what we call the sign-gifts at Pentecost, in order to celebrate the ushering in of this new miraculous covenant. According to the book of Acts, it happened three places that we know of. It was a supernatural demonstration of the ushering in of the New Covenant. So all of that is a way of saying the message came from Jesus to His apostles, and their message was authenticated by miracles and signs and wonders. In our most difficult moments we anchor down, and we believe. Verse 5 then begins, and explains what makes this salvation so great? Verse 5:
For He (God) did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.
So basically he’s saying God did not subject the world to come to angels. In other words, angels aren’t going to rule and reign with Jesus one day. There’s nowhere in the Bible that says that, which raises the question, “Well then, who is going to rule and reign with Him?” Verse 6:
But one has testified (again legal terminology) somewhere, saying,
Now that’s a very interesting way of phrasing it; it seems very odd to us. He’s about to quote from Psalm 8 but he says, “Someone, somewhere in the Bible said this.” Now we say that, but for a different reason. We say it, and we’re like, “I know someone in the Bible says…I just can’t remember where.” Then we Google it up and we find it. That’s not what’s happening here. It actually was like a formula commonly used by the rabbis and the teachers when they quoted Old Testament Scripture and wanted to avoid focusing on the human messenger and focus on the message itself. So in this case it’s Psalm 8, and the writer doesn’t want the people focusing on David; he wants them focusing on what David said, which is revelation from God. So that’s kind of their formula for doing that. Psalm 8 is a magnificent psalm. David is blown away by the wonder of God’s creation when he considers the moon and the stars and the sun and the universe, and he’s wrestling with this question, “How could God possibly know about me or care about me? I’m so seemingly insignificant compared to God.” So he asks the question,
“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM?
OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?
“YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, (Vs. 6 and 7a)
So, God…angels…man, at least for now. But you have crowned man (men/women) made in the image of God; you have crowned them with glory and honor which is a reference to the image. God did not make angels in the image of God, and angels won’t rule and reign with God over all creation at the end of the story. But we, as people, have been made in the image of God, seemingly so insignificant and yet crowned with this glory and honor.
AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;
YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”(Vs. 7b and 8)
…basically saying that Psalm 8 is a reminder of Genesis 1 and 2—that we as people are made in the image of God, and immediately in the Genesis text when we are told that, the very next thing is we are to rule and reign over creation. God gave us both the ability and the responsibility to represent, or image God over creation—to rule and reign with Him. It’s an absolutely magnificent statement! So He says in verse 8:
For in subjecting all things to him, (meaning mankind) He left nothing that is not subject to him.
Absolutely magnificent! There’s only one problem, and it seems to be a rather large problem. The message just doesn’t ring true. Is there anyone that actually thinks you are ruling and reigning over creation? Does anybody really feel like that’s the case? You see all these natural disasters, completely out of our control. You add another dimension. You look at all the suffering and disease in the world; it seems to me the disease is winning. It feels like nature’s winning; we’re not winning. And so the message just doesn’t ring true. To which the writer says,
But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. (8b)
So what the writer just said is this is the promise of Psalm 8. This is what God always wanted for people made in His image. This is someday the way it will be in the new heaven and the new earth, but now it’s a not yet! It’s critically important to understand that right now we live out our faith on a sin-cursed world with all of the chaos and the heartache that’s part of the story. Right now is not the cruise ship. It’s not a never; it’s just a not yet. We live in the reality, “Yes, it’s coming;” that is the hope of the gospel. Remember when the New Testament talks about salvation, it talks about it in three tenses: past tense and present tense and future tense. We have a tendency to talk about it most in the past tense, “I was saved ten years ago.” But the New Testament talks about it the most in the future tense—because that’s the hope of the gospel! We’re living in the not yet. We’re living in the pain; we’re living in the suffering; we’re living in the heartache; we’re living in all these ways we’re reminded we’re not ruling. It feels like we’re being ruled over. But the hope of the gospel is one day we will live in the fulfillment of Psalm 8 and we will rule and reign with Christ. Is it today? No! It’s not today, not yet. But again it raises the question, “Well, how do we know this? How do we know that this isn’t just wishful thinking, to give us some sort of psychological boost in difficult times?” Excellent question! Verse 9:
But we do see Him (Christ) who was made for a little while lower than the angels,
So this is Philippians 2; this is remembering from chapter 1: the creator, sustainer of the universe, at a point in time actually took on human flesh—fully man in every way—took on the form of a man, a little lower than the angels for a little while, namely Jesus. It’s worth noting this is the only time he finally names Him. There are nine times in the book of Hebrews where Jesus is named, and all nine times have something to do withJesus’ humanity, remembering this is part of the story. He became a man in order to make purification for sin, in order to make a way to the new heaven and the new earth. So he says,
…namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. (9b)
It’s worth noting that he says His death was for everyone—not just limited to the elect—for everyone. But only those who by faith receive it, experience His salvation. Basically Jesus fulfilled the story of Psalm 8. He became a little lower than the angels; He became fully human in order to experience death; He died our death on the cross in order to make purification for sin, was buried, rose again, and because He completed the assignment, He is seated at the right hand of God, indicating work is over, mission accomplished, victory won! So He sits reigning supreme today over all powers, over all authority, over the universe! Jesus has already fulfilled Psalm 8—mission accomplished for Christ!
When Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 15, he talks about the idea, “Oh death, where is your victory; Oh death, where is your sting?” What Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 15 is that with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, He has conquered sin and death once and for all. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 talks about Adam. Adam biffed it, and as a result of that he plunged the human race into sin with all of the heartache and brokenness and chaos that we experience. But along comes a second Adam—Paul refers to Jesus as the final Adam—that ushers in a new story. He becomes the first fruit, the prototype of one who has conquered sin and death and is seated at the right hand of the Father in all glory and honor! And because He has accomplished the mission, because He has already completed Psalm 8, He sits at the right hand of the Father and He promises He has made a way, and one day we will join Him there. This isn’t just religious talk. We’re talking about something rooted in history. God became human flesh; He actually walked on the earth; He was crucified for the sins of the world—Hebrews said made purification for sin—He was buried; He rose again; He appeared to over five hundred people! There is a reason why over ten thousand people believed in the resurrected Christ in Jerusalem alone in just months after the resurrection: because they knew it was true! Jesus then is seated at the right hand of the Father and has already completed the journey.
So we live in this very odd dynamic of: Already but Not Yet. Have we completed the journey of Psalm 8? Not yet; we feel it every day. But do we have reason for hope? Yes, because the Son of God has already won the victory. He has already completed the assignment. He is already seated at the right hand of the Father. He’s there; it’s already done! We’re not waiting for anything more that He needs to do, other than come back to get us. Jesus is the already. We live in the not yet. It’s critically important that we understand that Jesus has completed the mission. He’s already there! In the most difficult moments of life, when the bottom drops out of your world, you can’t drift away from the truth! Where else do you turn? What else do you have? You anchor down to this belief that Jesus is already there. He’s already completed the mission and He’s promised to get me there. Do I live in the fulfillment of Psalm 8? Not yet! So I live in the reality of Already, but Not Yet. In my most difficult moments, I anchor down and believe that is the future—that is my hope! It will be everything my soul longs for, but for now, all I can do is anchor down and believe with all my heart that for now Christ is enough!
Our Father, we are so thankful that when we were without hope, lost in our sin, the Son of God took on human flesh, to suffer our death on a cross, to accomplish salvation, that we might have hope. God, we celebrate today that He has already accomplished the mission but we live with the reality of the pain and the suffering that is right here for us now, is because we live in the not yet, and all we can do is trust You and believe with all our hearts that Christ is enough! In whose name we pray, Amen.