FEBRUARY 11, 2018
Quite often, I will attend a funeral where someone, the pastor or someone talking about the deceased, will suggest everything is okay because the departed is now an angel in heaven. God needed another angel and so He took our loved one away. They are now watching over us as some kind of guardian angel. Now I get the idea – the loved one was so special, sweet and kind, he or she must now be an angel, because of our touched by an angel view of angels.
Or, maybe we have this mental picture of becoming angels ourselves – complete with white robes, wings, halos and harps – floating around on clouds when we get to heaven. I have several significant problems with the idea that people become angels. First, to state the obvious, it is clearly unbiblical. Nowhere does the Bible suggest people become angels upon their deaths and ascent to heaven. The corresponding truth would be if they don’t go to heaven, they must become little demons – fallen angels.
Second, listen carefully, for a person to become an angel would be a demotion. What do I mean? When humanity was created, as we saw last week, they were for a little while made lower than the angels. And the truth is when we die, we don’t become angels, equal to angels. No, remember, angels are simply servants – we saw ministering spirits sent to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation. Further, we, through the gospel, have become children of God. So if we become angels, we go from being children to servants. A demotion.
Now why, you ask, do you get so bothered about this? Because, I believe this false, unbiblical thinking horribly diminishes and demeans the work of Christ on His cross. Christ did not humble Himself in the incarnation to become a man, to die for sinners, to make us servants. He died for sinners, created in God’s image, to make us sons and daughters of the living God.
Which brings me to a third objection. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for people, not angels. Listen, there were angels, like people, who rebelled against God, and were cast out of heaven. No hope of redemption for them. II Peter 2 says that God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell, reserved for judgment. You see, angels were not created in the image of God, and the Gospel is not for them. Listen to I Peter 1:
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,
11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
And the implication is, they cannot. Angels cannot look into this gospel, because it was not for them. They can only view it from afar, but not experience it. The gospel is for humanity – people created in the image of God.
So, for those reasons, and more, I want to correct this idea that at death, people are demoted to being servants – angels. No, rather, we receive glory in His presence as sons and daughters of God. That’s where we are headed – to the glory reserved for children of God. The author of Hebrews makes this point abundantly clear in our continuing study of this great book.
Remember the context of the overall book and chapters 1 and 2. There were believers being persecuted, opposed for their new Christian faith. Martyrdom was right around the corner. So they were understandably concerned, even disillusioned. This new faith isn’t working very well. Some were considering quitting and going back to their old way of life, their old religion – Judaism. Others had already quit. So the author of Hebrews writes to both encourage and warn them. His warnings are quite severe – don’t drift, don’t go back – there’s nothing to go back to. His encouragements are quite strong – Jesus is better. He’ll spend the book demonstrating Jesus and the New Covenant – the gospel He came to bring – is greater, better, superior to the Old Covenant.
He started chapter 1 saying God spoke to our fathers in the past through the prophets. But now, He has spoken to us, most fully, completely and gloriously through His own Son. And then He spent the rest of chapter 1 proving the Son is superior to angels. Jesus is sovereign, Creator, ruler, and savior – angels therefore worship Him. Further, angels are sent to be ministers to those who would inherit salvation – that is, to people. Angels are servants, why would you want to become an angel?
We got to chapter 2 and the author launched into his first warning. Because Jesus and His gospel are superior, don’t drift. How will we escape judgment if we neglect, drift away from so great a salvation? Don’t drift, brothers and sisters – endure, persevere, it’s eternally worth it.
Then, last week the author returned to the superiority of Jesus over angels. God did not subject the world to come to angels. No, God appointed humans to rule over His creation. But, we have a problem – we blew it. We strayed from God’s original commands, and so we don’t see all things subject to humanity. But, good news, we do see Jesus – and the promise to humanity to rule over God’s creation is ultimately and perfectly fulfilled in Him. And we, as children of God, are to be crowned with glory and honor with Him. But, it took the work of Christ to make that happen. We see Jesus, made for a little while lower than the angels, so that He might taste death for everyone – and become the solution to our collective problem.
I review all that to remind you of the critical context. Jesus is superior to angels. He was made lower than the angels for a little while, to redeem those created in the image of God – to bring many sons and daughters to glory, for which they were intended. Because, you see, they share the same source as the Son – namely, the Father. And the Son is in the process of redeeming and sanctifying them. Not to become angels – but God glorifying, glory-reflecting children of God. That’s the context of our passage today – read it with me – Hebrews 2:10-13. Start in verse 9.
This passage is a bit challenging and requires a careful look. But through it, we see the truth that Jesus suffered in order to bring many sons and daughters to glory. And with them, He shares the same paternity, and is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. And then the author quotes some OT passages, of course, to support his position. At the outset, let me encourage you with this truth – Jesus paid an enormous price to save us, and make us, not servants, not angels, but brothers and sisters, children of God. So this idea that we become angels when we die is not only wrong, it’s dreadfully wrong. His whole point is the superiority of Jesus over angels, and the New Covenant over the Old which makes us children – not servants – children of God. Let me outline the text for you:
- The Pioneer of our Salvation (10)
- The Purpose of our Salvation (11)
- The Proof of our Paternity (12-13) – namely, through OT quotations.
Starting with the Pioneer of our Salvation. Your translations may have it author or leader – most agree the best translation is pioneer – trailblazer. The idea is Jesus blazed a trail – pioneered a trail which others may follow – namely, in bringing many sons and daughters to glory.
The author starts with a conjunction again – For – tying it to what he’d just said in verse 9. We see Jesus who was made for a little while lower than the angels, that by the grace of God through His suffering of death, He might taste death – experience death, for everyone. Why?
For, it was fitting for Him – who is Him? The one for whom are all things and through whom are all things. That’s interesting – that’s obviously talking about God the Father. But earlier, the author suggested Jesus was the one through whom all things are made. You see, it’s not problem for the authors of Scripture to recognize the Triune God was involved in creation. God, the Triune God – created, and Jesus was the agent of creation – the One through whom all was created. But to say the same thing of the Father was also true – because we serve a Triune God.
Well, it was fitting for the Father in bringing many sons to glory. Stop right there. This whole thing – creation, Fall, redemption, recreation – was for the purpose of God’s glory in bringing many people – sons and daughters – to glory. To share in His glory by rejoicing in and reflecting His glory. Again, not to be servants, but sons and daughters. That’s what was promised back in Psalm 8. But, we don’t see it – yet. But God’s not finished – yet.
So, since this was the plan from before foundation of the world, that God’s people would be crowned with glory and honor, ruling over the works of His hand, resulting in God’s glory and our own, it was fitting, proper, appropriate to perfect the pioneer of their salvation through sufferings. That’s a mouthful, and challenging. Let’s break it down.
What does the author mean when he suggests Jesus was perfected. That seems like a problem – wasn’t He already perfect as God in the flesh? Aren’t there other passages in Hebrews which say Jesus was sinless, and therefore the perfect sacrifice for us? Yes. But in His humanity, Jesus became the perfect Savior and High Priest through His sufferings. He will be the One, because of His sufferings, who will become the perfect intercessor and priest – mediator – for those who also suffer. Remember, the author is trying to encourage his readers – to include us – in the midst of our sufferings. We have a great high priest who is able to sympathize with us – He was perfected – made the perfect High Priest though those sufferings. The last verse of this chapter will say, “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” Are you struggling right now? Jesus knows, and there it walk with you through it – because He did.
So, indeed, it was fitting for God to perfect His Son, that is, make His Son complete, the perfect High Priest through His sufferings, for those who would likewise suffer. Which brings us to our second point – the Purpose of our Salvation in verse 11 – “For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father (Father, family, source, humanity), for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers.”
The word sanctify simply means to make holy. It is the process by which believers, having been justified, are then sanctified. That is, having been declared righteous – having sins removed and receiving the very righteousness of Christ – we are given the Spirit and begin a process of becoming more holy – more like Jesus. We are declared holy, now we are to become holy.
Now, the one who sanctifies is obviously Jesus since He is from one Father. Those who are sanctified are us – those who have believed in Jesus. And since we are all from the same Father – stop right there. What does that mean? A couple of thoughts:
First, it is true there is a sense in which, since God is God – the creator and ruler of all, He is the source of all. But, Jesus made clear in His conversation with some Pharisees in John 8 that as unbelievers, they were of their father the devil. So also here, God is the Father of the Son, and those who believe and are being sanctified. In other words, there is a sense in which it is wrong to say that we are all children of God. We aren’t – it is only those who believe.
Which leads to a second idea. Having believed, we who are not children of God are adopted into the family, whereby we can call God, Abba, or Father. Now, why are we adopted? Because of God’s great love for us, through His Son. Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” It is because of Jesus and His work, we are adopted. One said it this way, “We are not His brothers and sisters because we are children of God; rather, we are children of God because we are His brothers and sisters.” Do you see the difference?
Another author says it this way, “We find sonship in Him, for He is the Son. The adopted sons have this privilege in the eternal Son. To bring saved men into a family relation to God required a Savior standing in that relationship Himself. Hence when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son that we might obtain the adoption of sons.” (Hugh Martin, Christ for Us)
So, when this author suggests the one who sanctifies, that is Jesus, and those who are being sanctified because they have been saved or justified, we together are all from one Father.
For which reason – and this is his point – for which reason He – that is, Jesus, is not ashamed to call them brothers. That is an incredible statement. Jesus, in the incarnation, took on human flesh to die for the sins of His people. And in doing so, He becomes the pioneer – the trailblazer of our salvation, through incredible suffering. But, since we now share the same Father, He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. The God of the universe has done His work to redeem us, to call us into family such that we can actually call Jesus, our Lord, and our elder brother. That is unbelievable.
To be clear – we are sons and daughters of God in verse 10. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters in verse 11. Meaning, we don’t become angels. We don’t become servants of God. That would be a demotion. No, we become family members. The author’s point? So why would you leave? Why would you drift? Why would you neglect so great a salvation? You would be leaving this incredible family relationship.
Let me take an important aside here. One author I have suggests we, as Christians, start seeing ourselves differently. We are children of God – brothers and sisters in Christ. People have always identified themselves by their ethnicity, their nationality, their skin color, their social status, their economic stability or instability, their occupations – on and on the racism and prejudice goes.
But we are children of God, and those things no longer matter. The author writes, “You are not foremost a white person or a black person or a brown person, but a new creature in the new humanity created by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is why it is the Christian community that is best able to transcend the barriers of human existence, for we are one in Christ and no longer what we were before.” (Richard Phillips – Reformed Expository Commentary) God has created a new humanity, breaking the barriers that once divided us. Our identity in Christ as brothers and sisters is infinitely more important that what the world holds onto, to divide us. We are united in Christ as members of one family.
Well, the author then goes on, as he usually does, to prove His point by quoting OT scripture – which brings us to our third point – the Proof of our Paternity or our new family relationship. He quotes Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8.
He quotes Psalm 22 first, in verse 12. Now, Psalm 22 was clearly seen as a Messianic Psalm. Jesus quotes the first verse from the cross in Matthew and Mark, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” In the Psalm, David then goes on to talk about his personal suffering. But, it reads like a newspaper account of the crucifixion. As such, there are several verses quoted in the New Testament referring to the crucifixion account. Clearly, it is a Messianic Psalm, talking about Jesus’ suffering from the cross.
But, the Psalm gets to verse 22 and makes a switch – and that’s the verse that’s quoted here. “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” At the end of his suffering, confident God will deliver him, David says, I will praise You, God, before my brothers. Here, in Hebrews 2, Jesus is speaker, and at the end of His suffering, having accomplished His divine purposes of redeeming people, Jesus says, I will proclaim Your name to My brethren – that’s us. Interestingly, He goes on, “in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” Remember, the author is quoting the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and the word for congregation is ekklesia, or church. In the midst of the church I will sing Your praise.
Confident of God’s deliverance – that is, through the resurrection and subsequent exaltation to the Father’s right hand, crowned with glory and honor, in the midst of the church, the Son will lead His family in praise to the Triune God who has affected our deliverance – our salvation.
I had never noticed this verse in that way before. This was shocking to me this week. Have you ever stopped to think that Jesus is leading His church in worship of the Triune God, of which He is a part? Have you ever stopped to think that our worship is much more significant than what we like and what pleases us? It is about the great God we worship, even led by the great God we worship. Charles Spurgeon said of this verse:
“When we pray on earth, our prayers are not alone, but our great High Priest is there to offer our petitions with His own. When we sing on earth, it is the same. Is not Jesus Christ in the midst of the congregation, gathering up all the notes which come from our sincere lips, to put them into the golden censure, and to make them rise as precious incense before the throne of the infinite Majesty?”
It seems to me that brings a whole new perspective on our corporate worship. Perhaps our worship should not be as self-centered and blasé as it often is. Jesus leads His church.
The next two verses are quoted in verse 13, and come from Isaiah 8, which interestingly come between two clear Messianic chapters. In Isaiah 7, we read of the prophecy of the virgin to give birth to a son. In chapter 9, we read that son’s name will Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
This chapter is sandwiched between, found in Isaiah 8:17 and 18. But what’s the context of these chapters, and more specifically, these verses? Judah was facing challenge from the Northern Kingdom of Israel and from Syria. Things were dire. But God promises deliverance. And the assurance of that deliverance will come in the birth of a son to Isaiah. In fact, he has two sons – which are signs of God’s faithfulness and the promise of deliverance in the midst of opposition.
Therefore, Isaiah says, I will put my trust in Him, and not just me, but the children God has given me. In Hebrews, the author quotes these verses and puts them on the lips of Jesus. In the midst of His suffering, He says, I will trust in God. Not only Me – but so will the children God has given Me.
You should know, this is the only place in the NT where believers are called children of Jesus – usually, it’s brothers and sisters. The point is, we are family members with Jesus. And just as He trusted in God in the midst of opposition and suffering, so can we.
Do you see the point? Follow the flow in these chapters. Jesus is infinitely superior to angels, so don’t drift from or neglect this great salvation He brought – don’t go back to the Old Covenant mediated by angels. The Old Covenant pointed to the necessity and fulfillment of the New Covenant in Jesus. After all, God didn’t subject the world to come to angels. No, He subjected it to humanity. But, there’s a problem, namely our sin, such that we don’t see all things subjected to humanity. So, it took Jesus to be made one like us – so that He could accomplish what we failed to accomplish. And by tasting death for everyone, He will bring many sons and daughters to glory – where we were intended to be. That requires our justification, and our ongoing sanctification – that is, the process of being made holy. One said, sanctification is glory begun; glory is sanctification complete. And since the one who sanctifies and the ones sanctified are of one Father, He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. That’s what He came to do – to brings sons and daughters to glory.
Through the gospel, He proclaims God’s name – that is His character – to His brothers and sisters in the congregation, the church. In the midst of dire opposition, He will lead us in trust of God. Do you see how much better Christ is than angels? Do you see how much better your eternal hope is than angels? Brothers, sisters, we are children of the living God.