The writer to the Hebrews has just established the superiority of Jesus: his preexistence, deity and messianic significance. In our passage for study, our author uses Psalm 8:4-9 to explain that Jesus was indeed lower than angels for that time when he took upon himself human flesh to suffer and die on behalf of broken humanity, but as the representative of glorified man, he now reigns over everything. In the age to come we will reign with Christ.
v5. As a traditional Jew, the author of the book of Hebrews gave angels an important place in God's dispensation; they are "spirits in divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation," 2:1. It was commonly held that angels actually played an important part in human affairs, even assisting in government, but irrespective of what may, or may not have been commonly believed, our writer makes the point that in the age to come, in the heavenly kingdom, angels do not reign.
v6-8a. The writer to the Hebrews now quotes Psalm 8:4-6. He quotes the Septuagint (Greek) version which states, "a little (while) lower than the angels," rather than the Hebrew text which states, "a little lower than God." The psalm refers to humanity as a whole. We humans were created with a godlike status a little lower than heavenly beings, and yet with a future even more glorious and powerful. Our writer links the "man," "son of man," or better, "human beings," "mortals," NRSV, with Christ. The Psalm is used to refer to Jesus, the "last Adam," the representative man. Jesus was, for a time, lower than angels, when he took on our humanity, but as the glorified man he now reigns. We may not yet reign, but Christ does. So yes, Jesus was made "lower than the angels," yet God "crowned him with glory and honor" and has now "put everything under his feet."
v8b. Although we humans were created a little lower than heavenly beings, our future heavenly reign is assured. In fact, if it weren't for sin we would be reigning now. So, although "everything" should be under our control, in this age, "everything" is certainly not under our control.
v9. Yet, there is one man, a representative man, the last Adam, who is reigning far above all heavenly powers. He took upon himself human flesh and so, like us, was, for a time, "a little lower than the angels." Yet, this humiliated man was crowned in glory and honour, and this through his suffering and death. He undertook this path to glory so that we might share in his glory, that we might reign with him. He died that we might not die. Calvin put it this way in his Commentary on Hebrews, "Christ died for us, and that by taking on Himself what was due to us, He redeemed us from the curse of death."
Our passage for study reminds us of the present glorious reign of Christ. A number of great truths about this reign are revealed to us in this passage:
i] Christ now reigns in eternity, in "the world to come."
ii] All authority rests with Christ in his reign; everything is under his feet.
iii] Christ reigns on our behalf, on behalf of those who have failed to reign.
iv] Christ's authority came through humiliation, suffering and death; he tasted death on our behalf.
v] The reason for the path of humiliation is so that broken humanity might ultimately share in Christ's reign in glory.
One of the reasons why Biblical Christians find themselves able to sit within the limitations, compromises, and often corruption of this world, is because Christ's reign is eternal and complete.
I am constantly distressed by my failure to reign over my own feelings, while on the other hand, I am constantly distressed by the failure of governments to reign over the excessive greed and avarice that oppresses the poor and subjugates peoples. I am able to live with this horror, the horror of my own failings and of the jingoism of powerful states, because the human failure to reign pales into insignificance before the eternal reign of Christ. Central to the book of Revelation is the proclamation that Christ reigns supreme. It is this truth that lifts us up beyond the horror of a world in chaos.
Yet, although there is little evidence that our control over human affairs comes close to that which is "good," Christ's eternal reign over all things is something that we will one day share. We are set to reign with Christ. God has planned to crown us with glory and honour that we may share with Christ in his eternal reign. What an amazing idea!
So, the world runs out of control, but Christ reigns and the day will soon come when we too will reign with Christ.
1. What is meant by the statement that Christ tasted death for everyone?
2. Discuss what it may mean for a believer in Christ to exercise authority over "everything."