In Hebrews 1:1-14 we have seen that the Son, i.e. Jesus Christ, has sent forth his ministering Spirits “to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation”. They are none other than His human “fellows” above whom He had been anointed with the oil of gladness (1:9). Hebrews 2:1-4 commentary. Warnings to Those Called to Salvation.
Hebrews 2:1 - Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
What the author, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has explained in the previous chapter, is not to be considered lightly by those destined for salvation. I’m sure that he also had in mind the rest of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which the apostles have been preaching: That Jesus Christ, Himself God who had taken on the human form of His fellows had come to suffer and die in their stead.
Not only is He called “My Son”, but also “Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah.9:6). Yet He did not consider it a shame to take on the form of man in order to make propitiation for them.
This, indeed, places a great responsibility on those so immensely privileged – even that He would receive them as His brothers (Matthew.12:49). All these graces are so precious that we dare not let the awareness of them slip from our mind and everyday living. We should hold on to what we have heard and learned so that it does not slip out of our grip and we drift away from it.
Hebrews 2:2 - For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and if every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,
We see here that the word spoken by angels was steadfast because they were God’s messengers, speaking His commands (Hebrews 1:1-14), and every transgression thereof and disobedience thereto received a just recompense of reward.
In Numbers 15:30-31 the punishment for blaspheming God is to be cut off utterly from among his people. All those who acted in contempt of God and his commands were punished accordingly (Heb.10:28; Num.15:36; Dt.13:6-10; Act.5:3-5; etc.).
But all these disobediences and contempt of God were under the Law given by angels. Now we have here something much more serious in the light of God offering Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who gave His everything towards propitiation of man’s sins.
Hebrews 2:3 - how shall we [then] escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by those who heard Him;
Let us weigh these two aspects against each other: V.2 holds forth the disobedience of divine commands - which was severely punished. Over against this stands the supremely gracious offer of love, propitiation, and salvation – a vastly more serious and weighty matter.
How shall we escape if we should neglect such a great salvation? It is obvious that we are here warned that the consequences of such a neglect will not be merely a physical punishment or a stoning. God’s Word would lead us here to remember that there is something unthinkably more severe, namely the eternal fire of hell.
Indeed, many in the world would scoff at such a possibility. Others would object that our God is a God of love and will never think of such an eternal punishment. But they forget two things: Firstly: God is not only love, but He is also a righteous God. If He says so, it will be so. Secondly: God cannot lie and never will.
Jesus Himself warned that there is an eternal, unquenchable hell as punishment (Matthew.5:22; Mark.9:47). He confronted the Scribes and Pharisees and said: “Serpents! Offspring of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” 2Peter.2:4 even warns that even angels that sinned, were cast into hell and bound in chains of darkness. While foretelling the coming of Jesus the Christ, John the Baptist also warned that He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.
If those people of old did not escape the consequences of disobedience to the Law, how shall we then escape if we hold such a great salvation as offered by Jesus Christ, in contempt?
In the beginning, the author remarks, this great salvation (“The Good News”) was announced by Jesus Himself. His first words, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, were: “Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Mat.4:17; Mark.1:15). And, Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew.4:23).
For three long years, Jesus went about teaching, preaching and living the Good News of salvation. He gathered apostles around Him and taught them the Gospel, and in the end gave His last command: “Go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to all the creation”(Mark.16:15). He even promised that He would send the Holy Spirit, and “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.”
That was the beginning of the Gospel, taught by Jesus Christ. That is why the author can claim that everything Jesus had taught them, “was confirmed unto us by those who heard Him”.
Hebrews 2:4 - God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders and with different kinds of miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
Here is the latter part of the question started in v.3: “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…” if God has even deemed it fitting to confirm and impress the greatness, the truth and the importance of the Gospel of salvation with signs and wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit? Therefore our taking the Gospel seriously so that we do not let it drift past unheeded, is a matter of crucial urgency.
One of the first miracles whereby God bore witness to the Gospel after Jesus’ earthly ministry is that He rose from the dead and many witnesses testified thereto (Act.2:32-33; 3:15). When the apostles went out and proclaimed the Gospel everywhere, the Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word by miraculous signs (Mark.16:20). Please read also Acts.5:1-16.
The day of Pentecost was a peculiar providence of God by which He intended to spread the Gospel. It requires special attention in order to understand this unique miracle by which God (as v.4 states) bore witness to the truth of the Gospel “with signs and wonders, and with different kinds of miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will”.
I will try to explain the significance of Passover and Pentecost as briefly as possible, and it must necessarily be done in conjunction with each other in order to best understand the miracles by which God bore witness.
The feasts of the Passover and Pentecost have its roots in the Old Testament. The Passover was the first festival in the Jewish year, in remembrance of the Passover lamb slaughtered on the eve of their salvation from their Egyptian slavery (Exodus.12). This was also a pointer to Jesus and His crucifixion in propitiation (1Cor.5:7).
Exactly after fifty days later (seven weeks) the feast of the Pentecost (first fruits) was to be observed (Lev.23:16-17; Num.28:26). This “feast of the first fruits” was a prophetic pointer to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, even though the early Jews did not realize this significance.
Now we know that the Passover was held in remembrance of the Passover lamb slaughtered and its blood applied to doorposts so that the angel of death would “pass over” the Israelites so that they would not die like the first-borns of the Egyptians who held them in slavery.
Many thousands of Jews who had previously been dispersed to various countries, were now in Jerusalem (Act.2:5) for the feasts of the Passover and Pentecost. Act.2:7-12 mentions the countries from where they had gathered. So it happened that many thousands of Jews gathered and heard the (approximately 120) disciples “speaking in tongues” – in various languages delivering the message of the Gospel – according to God’s own will (v.4).
Now here is the real miracle: 1,500 years before this, God had ordained the keeping of the Passover feast and the slaughter of the Passover lamb, as well as the keeping of the festival of the Pentecost. Now, 1,500 years later, Jesus, our Passover Lamb (1Cor.5:7) was crucified during the feast of the Passover, fulfilling same. Fifty days later, on the festival of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was for the first time poured out on the disciples of Jesus, fulfilling the festival of the First Fruits.
I believe that Jesus had this event of Pentecost in mind when He told His disciples: “And behold, I send the promise of My father on you. But you remain in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high.”
As I remarked at the beginning of this series: the author of this letter in a remarkable way painted the close relationship between the Old and New Testament. God willing, we will in time see how he makes the two Testaments flow into each other, and how the “foreshadows” were fulfilled and became the “real reality”.
Continue reading commentary on Hebrews 2:5-18
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Part of the series – Letter to the Hebrews
Hebrews 2:1-4 commentary by Gideon Aggenbag
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