Christianity is about Jesus. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is sent on a mission by Jesus. The book of Hebrews tells much of Him and the mission He has assigned to those who believe. Our study today centers on Hebrews 2:5-9 NASB:
For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,
"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, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET."
For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, 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.
To begin to grasp how far Jesus descends to save us, we want to understand origins better. Today then, a review of verses 5-8 and the divine design for humans. Then, a concluding look at verse nine and its description of the work of Jesus.
The human race fell from its original estate. Adam and Eve were removed from Eden. They had rebelled against their Maker. If they would eat from the fruit of that garden sin would be immortalized. That must not be. Now the human race faced either destruction or reformation. And so, they were exiled. Even while Jesus would join in their exile. Our Maker, committed Himself to remaking us if we would only be willing to be remade. He set humanity's steps upon the path of restoration.
The Divine Design for Humans
Consider verse five: The Scriptures tell God's restoration plan. There is a "world to come." "In the beginning, God" points to "in the end, God." When humans went off the rails, He did not assign the future management of this world to angels. Jesus is Alpha and Omega, start and conclusion. And the divine response is that Jesus will not become an angel; He will become human.
God's plan deals with all. It is not a bandage. The Creator will recreate. The Healer will restore. He made this world to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). Angels existed before earth; earth was planned to be the home of humans. God never changed that plan.
Consider verses six and seven. Paul hearkens back to the Psalms, calling up the eighth Psalm. There, David looks out at the creation awed by the work of its Creator. He sees these mighty wonders and works, and, in relation to them, humans. How small we seem to be--pale, tiny, odorous dots in comparison to the canvas of all creation!
And yet, in our eighth Psalm David sees the high dignity of man. From the beginning, God has placed all these created wonders under the authority of man. Humans are placed here to manage the creation. Made only a little lower than the angels, He placed our race over the created world; we were designated its masters.
God's name is majestic in the earth not only because of the majesty and beauty of the creation. That is all a byproduct. His name is majestic because of how He has ordered His world. Humans were appointed to the top of that ordering. The majesty of God is not only in the beautiful mountains and seas He paints but in His beautiful humans--creatures designed to be holy.
Ellen White viewed these same creation scenes. Consider what she was shown concerning Adam and Eve, before they sinned:
[M]an was formed in the likeness of God. His nature was in harmony with the will of God. His mind was capable of comprehending divine things. His affections were pure; his appetites and passions were under the control of reason. He was holy and happy in bearing the image of God and in perfect obedience to His will (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 45).
God made man upright; He gave him noble traits of character, with no bias toward evil (Ibid., p. 49).
This is how our affections, appetites and passions were intended to be. We were designed with a nobility.
In the eighth Psalm David shows that in the divine ordering everything has been placed under man. And yet, looking round ourselves what do we see? The opposite. Upheaval, instability, and unpredictability mark our world. Things are out of sync, out of order, out of control. Diseases range across the planet. Cures are elusive.
Something is dramatically wrong. We look in awe at towering mountains, flashing seas, the Milky Way Galaxy, a white, glowing stripe bisecting the velvet blackness. We think, What is man that You, God, are mindful of him? But if we read the Bible, we understand that even one sad little human is of greater value to Him than any wonder in nature. Stars shine but cannot worship, cannot be holy, cannot know God. We are creatures of enormous dignity. But the very highest source of our dignity comes to light in the next verse. . .
But we see Jesus
All eyes turn at the ninth. The first portion of our study showed us ANTHROPOS, man in general, "What is man that you remember him?" The Bible writer now points to one man, one person in the specific. "But we do see Him, who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely Jesus." All men but now one man--the ultimate revelation of God the Father--Jesus!
God made Adam and Eve and the human family. He placed us over all His creation, the earth and all its creatures in subjection under us. But now, after humans sinned, God the Father sent Jesus to live in our human situation. The Bible places Jesus immediately longside' us, as one of us. This is the movement: first, we are shown humans in general and their high destiny as stewards over God's creation. Then, Jesus.
Jesus shares the high destiny of humans as originally created. He--our, Creator--makes humans for holiness. He places us over all that He has made. He gives us dominion over His land and His creatures. Yet Adam and Eve transgressed. Sovereign Adam, God's manager for planet earth, obeyed the enemy. Adam's choice cracks the door and Satan slithers through, distorting the divine design. He launches his rebel kingdom on planet earth.
Our text does not directly address the Fall. But it does remind us that everything made on earth was placed under man. Yet all things are not in subjection to us. When Adam sinned, the world was warped, bent out of its appointed order. Sin entered and death through sin. The universe had never seen a pimple, a gray hair, a wrinkle, dementia, cancer, stroke, or paralysis. Now it would see all this and more. The Great Controversy War was in progress.
The ninth verse says, "But we do see Him, who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely Jesus." No need of salvation before, but there was now. So Jesus, Yeshua, salvation, comes. God enters His creation. For the only time in eternity, the Creator steps all the way down into His creation, and Immanuel, God, is with us. He doesn't become God Junior; He's still God. But now He takes humanity, distorted, in common with us. Now He is a God who can bleed. Now, in this form, He can die. Now He walks the earth not in possession of almighty power. This He has laid aside.
He takes on the form of a servant. Adam was by nature a servant of God. But now God takes the form of the servant. Still Deity, He takes the form of a creature. Not a shining angel, not Seraph or Cherub; He comes as no glowing space-alien, no bulging-biceped Zeus; even the form He takes is lower than the angels.
He comes as a human like you and I. Who says this better than Mrs. White? "Turning from all lesser representations, we behold God in Jesus" (The Desire of Ages, p. 21). "God's glory was subdued, and His majesty veiled, that the weak vision of finite men might behold it" (Ibid., p. 23). Paul says that Jesus came in "the body of our humiliation" (Philippians 3:21 RV), "in the likeness of men."
Because of the Suffering of Death
Why does Jesus come? "Because of the suffering of death." God is immortal; He cannot die. A man in fallen flesh can die. Jesus is still God. Now He comes as a man in human flesh.
The passage screams with irony.
Psalm eight speaks of the original destiny, Genesis one. Man is given dominion over creeping things, flying things, fishes. We remember these from days five and six of sinless creation week. God made this world and at the end of its beginning pronounced all not merely "good," but "very good." The text is emphatic. No booby-traps or landmines marred the original creation. Only holiness, beauty, free will, only choice prevailed; only goodness.
Man was given dominion over all these, crowned with glory and majesty and honor. His free choice was to live in holiness, serve God, be His friend, and, be right with Him. He was crowned by opportunity to reflect the glory of God. That was man unfallen.
But Jesus is crowned with the glory and honor of dying for the rebel race. He comes all this way down "for the suffering of death." Jesus dies on the cross. The crown He wears is made of thorns. Sin-impacted, distorted creation is on the way to recreation. Jesus buys it all back and suffers in it in order to heal it. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 67 says a great deal in one sentence, "All that was lost by the first Adam will be restored by the second."
Yes, we see Jesus. Isaiah sees Him too. He identifies Him as a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). He was "wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities." All this is encompassed in Hebrews 2:9: "But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, 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."
Here God's grace is seen in action. But there are those who knowingly or not would take away the cross. They present variations on a theme called the "moral influence theory." The idea is that God would not actually do anything as crude as be a sacrifice on the cross, or stoop to employ blood and death. And so, it is said that the actual theme of the cross is that God is good and that when His goodness is seen there we are moved by that goodness and desire to serve Him. But that really does not go far enough. It does not reach to "death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).
Jesus didn't die as the climax to a Shakespearian play. Something key is missing. God has a law. That law was broken, violated. God's character was rejected, spat upon, affronted. Man was lost--wholly, completely, absolutely, lost. Unless One could be found to meet this penalty--one equal to the law--there was no hope at all. These creatures--crowned with glory and honor--were doomed.
But One equal to the broken law was found. The law represents God's character. Only three persons in the universe could do this: Father, Jesus, or Holy Spirit.
Jesus did it. He suffered. Not His expiration but the suffering of death met the penalty. Jesus suffered for us. Precisely in this He restored to us our original high privilege. In Jesus we are restored to glory and honor, restored to Eden. In Him we die and in Him we rise in newness of life. In Jesus the resurrected One we are alive to God (Romans 6:11).
And here, the looming question, How many people did Jesus die for? How many has He tasted death for? The Bible answers.
Not just for Jews; not just for the premium Protestants; not even for the most faithful of Seventh-day Adventists only. Jesus died for everyone. All have the opportunity to embrace Him, know Him, be transformed. Everyone can exchange their weakness for His strength, their sin for His righteousness. Everyone can be made right with God through Jesus.
So, we come finally to you and I. We see a glimpse of this redemption. What are we called to do?
We are on a mission. Our Father sent Jesus and Jesus sends us. He calls us. Jesus' task was unpleasant. Ours is going to be, too. Jesus lived an uncomfortable truth. So do we. He was counter-cultural. So are we. He tasted death for us. So we will also experience persecution. What they have done to our Master they will do to us.
In creating the Seventh-day Adventist Church, God's plan was to create a "persecutable" people. Not noodles; not people who bend when culture bends. Our calling is higher. We are to follow Jesus. We are to come up to the test on every point. Every one of us needs more help and power from God. Are we ready for what Heaven longs to do next for us?
Jesus knows your personal, specific need. He knows your master difficulty. He has help for you. He will build this church and not because of strength or goodness in us, but in Him. He will crown His congregation with His glory and honor. Then He will take every blood-bought, Holy Spirit transformed believer home.
Jesus was only "for a little while" made lower than the angels. Because of the suffering of Jesus' death we are raised up with Him to sit with Him in His throne. Soon Earth will be remade. God's full rulership will be restored. Already It has begun in your heart and in mine. But we do not stand alone. We are not His person, we are His people. This is His family. His church is His house. What will we allow Jesus to do in His house?
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