Hebrews Chapter 2: Why Jesus Was Made Little Lower Than the Angels

Jan 7th, 2010 | By | Category: Hebrews, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hebrews Chapter 2:  Why Jesus Was Made Little Lower Than the Angels

Heb. 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.

Why did Paul use the word “therefore”?

Comment: He was tying in the previous chapter, which ended with the statement that all of the holy angels minister to the “heirs of salvation.” Because the calling of the Church is so high and so important, special care is provided for the consecrated, who should give earnest heed and not let what they have learned slip.

Chapter 1 emphasized the primacy of Jesus. Then the last verse made the comprehensive statement that all of the holy angels of heaven have been given a guardianship over those who are called into the truth and respond. “Are they [the holy angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them [the Church class] who shall be heirs of salvation?” Therefore, the consecrated “ought to give the more earnest heed to the things” they have heard lest at any time they “should let them slip.”

When things “slip,” the transgression is slight at first, but one thing gradually leads to another and another. In other words, we can succumb to evil the way one is overcome by an odorless, invisible gas. Unless we are vigilant, the evil will sneak up on us, little by little. Therefore, diligent effort is involved in making sure that we conform ourselves in obedience to doing God’s will.

Heb. 2:2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;

The word spoken through the holy angels was steadfast (see Diaglott). Usually it is a spiritual angel who “communicates” with an earthly “angel” (messenger, Greek aggelos), so “the word” comes in sequence from God, Jesus, a guardian angel, and then through an earthly minister. When did “every transgression and disobedience” receive “a just recompence [or penalty] of reward”?

Comment: That happened under the Law of Moses. Acts 7:53 states that the Israelites “received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”

Reply: The word “angels,” which is plural, includes Moses, an earthly “angel.” In addition, there was a period of time before the Flood, of which we know little. During that time, the holy angels had the power, that is, until the unholy angels succumbed when they looked upon the daughters of men and saw that they were fair (Gen. 6:1,2). God allowed the first dispensation— the dispensation before the Flood—to be under the charge of the holy angels, and mankind was no match whatever for them. In time, however, some of the holy angels fell and became demons. Evidently, so many of the angels fell that the earlier effect and more rigidly controlled atmosphere became null and void. The point is that the statement of verse 2 applies in principle both before and after the Flood.

Another point is that under the Law of Moses, there were all kinds of offenses, and generally speaking, the Scriptures give the harsher penalties. For instance, if an Israelite worshipped another god, he was stoned to death. If he sinned willingly against a direct command of God, the penalty was death, but that was the ideal situation. After Moses and Joshua died, the Law was disobeyed for over a thousand years, and nobody specially died except in very unusual cases. When God first established the Law in purity, it was effectively carried out, but once Moses and Joshua were off the scene, conditions changed radically. In Jeremiah’s day, for instance, the great majority of the people were disobedient.

Of course those Israelites who were alive at the time judgment came on the Temple and the city of Jerusalem suffered accordingly. But immediate retribution did not occur as had happened when Moses was on the scene and, evidently, before the Flood until the unholy angels came into the picture. Take New York City, for example. A police force of, say, 50,000 controls millions of people, and thousands of individuals are imprisoned every year. But if there were a million criminals annually, the police force would be made null and void.

Therefore, when a large segment of the population changes its behavior and the proportion of disobedience and waywardness increases significantly, the Law becomes less and less effective.

In time after the Flood, a great majority, including kings, princes, priests, prophets, and common people, disobeyed.

The Law of Moses shows what God likes and dislikes; it reveals His thinking, which is very helpful in developing us while we are in earthen vessels. Without Jesus’ righteousness to cover our sins and shortcomings, the situation would be hopeless if we disobeyed in even one little offense. However, if we willfully depart from the way, there is no hope. Paul used the argument that under the Law, such died “without mercy” (Heb. 10:28).

In the Kingdom Age, people will be given the ability to withstand evil. Every time a person does something right, he will get a little stronger—just as our muscles develop when we exercise regularly. From that standpoint, moral laws are the same as physical laws.

Heb. 2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

The nominal Church teaches that one who does not accept Jesus neglects the great salvation, and there is no hope for him. With Scriptures like verse 3, we can see how easy it is to not understand the Bible, for without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to really discern the things of God. However, verse 3 is talking about instructed people.

Comment: The “great salvation” is the special privilege of consecration during the Gospel Age.

Reply: Yes, it is the hope of the divine nature and the invitation to the marriage of the Lamb.

When one who consecrates subsequently departs from the way, he is neglecting that “great salvation” through a lack of appreciation.

Comment: The Diaglott says, “Having disregarded so great a salvation.” Verse 3 is a strong text to refute the statement that a person’s consecration was not accepted. For one to turn away from a profession of consecration is to disregard it.

Reply: Yes, we must be very careful not to acquiesce to such a statement said in our presence.

Comment: Verse 3 certainly disproves the doctrine of “once in grace, always in grace.”

Reply: The nominal system is confusion. Various teachings directly contradict scriptural laws. The “great salvation … at the first began to be spoken by the Lord [Jesus], and was confirmed unto us by them [the other apostles] that heard him.” We get a little insight here that one of the first things Paul did after he consecrated was to go to Jerusalem to see Peter and James of Alphaeus to get a lot of information about the birth of Jesus and his childhood (Gal. 1:18,19). That way Luke, the amanuensis of Paul, could write these details in his Gospel. Paul wanted to learn everything he could about Jesus from both the Old Testament prophecies and the circumstances of his earlier years and earthly ministry.

Heb. 2:4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

The supplied word “them” should be omitted. “God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit”; that is, in addition to Jesus’ preaching, God bore witness with signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts done through the apostles (compare verse 3). The signs, wonders, etc., were needed for the survival of the early Church, for otherwise, Jesus would have been regarded as simply a great teacher and leader, and not as the Son of God, who came down here bearing witness to his Father’s truth.

The early Church got various mechanical gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as healing, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpreting tongues, prophecy, and the word of knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8-10).

That same principle operates today but in a much subtler way. The miraculous gifts brought the early Christians together. Paul had more gifts than anyone else, including the other apostles, but he did not use the gift of healing on either himself or Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23). Of course he would not have been averse to God doing the healing, for he asked three times to have his poor eyesight healed. When the answer was no, he accepted the Father’s will. We, too, can ask and would probably do so a dozen times before recognizing a negative response. Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect [manifested] in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

“According to his [God’s] own will.” Although there is a distinction between a talent and a miraculous gift, sometimes the Holy Spirit merges with a talent, giving a “talent gift,” as it were, and sometimes it is completely separate.

Heb. 2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.

Verse 5 suggests that the first dispensation, the “world” prior to the Flood, was put in subjection unto the holy angels. However, God will not put in subjection to the holy angels the “world to come” because the “world” before the Flood was a failure. Back there many of the holy angels became unholy, for instead of coming to earth and acting on their instructions, they became enamored of the women and left their first estate (heaven), preferring to stay down here in human form (Jude 6). There are many things about spirit nature that we do not know, but it is certain that the angels have tremendous capabilities which are not possible with human beings. Humans are very limited in comparison. For instance, angels can travel with the speed of thought. But in regard to reason and the ability to worship God, there is an equality.

How remarkable that man—this little creature down here—can worship God and obey His principles when so many of these great spirit beings, who could even see God, failed to get the lesson! What an indictment of those angels, for even with Jehovah, “familiarity breeds contempt”! Therefore, in order to know and love God, we have to know how He thinks and what He loves and hates. We read earlier that Jesus was anointed “with the oil of gladness” above his fellows because he “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” (Heb. 1:9). How can we love righteousness and hate iniquity unless we are steeped in thinking about these principles and their disruption and abuse in the history of the human race?

How marvelous that mankind down here, with all the limitations of the flesh and a puny brain, is enabled by the Holy Spirit to think on the things of God! The great Jehovah has condescended to come down to our level! Paul wrote to the Corinthians (paraphrased), “Who has the mind of God?” Then he answered his own question: “We [the consecrated] have the mind of God because He has revealed Himself and His thinking to us.” Hence we are in a better position than those of mankind who are natural-minded and can only understand “carnal” (physical, practical) things.

In the next age, God will put the world in subjection to Jesus, the “man whom he [God] hath ordained” to “judge the world in righteousness,” and the Church, who are called to be “kings and priests” (Acts 17:31; Rev. 5:10). The Christ will have more power than the holy angels of the past, and they will exercise that extreme power in a harnessed situation. Jesus and the Church will be merciful, but when one does not make progress, at least outwardly, a penalty will have to be paid—immediately for the very willful, at the 100-year trial, and finally in the trial of the Little Season at the end of the Kingdom (Acts 3:23; Isa. 65:20; Rev. 20:3).

Heb. 2:6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Paul again began to quote from the Old Testament. The text is usually explained another way, but we can ascertain the true intent by going back to the Eighth Psalm. “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psa. 8:4). The usual explanation is as follows: “What is man [Adam], that thou [God] art mindful of him? or the son of man [Jesus], that thou visitest him?” However, the Eighth Psalm is talking about Adam and his children, not about Jesus. Adam sinned, and the human race was condemned through him on this tiny planet, which is like dust on the balances of God (Isa. 40:12). In fact, the universe is so insignificant to the Creator that He blows it like dust off the scales. To us, however, the universe is mind-boggling—as is even our own little sun when we think of its size in relationship to the earth in our own little galaxy.

Notice that Paul did not mention David but just said, “One in a certain place testified.” Paul was speaking emotionally but with great thought. For him to stop to mention the Psalm specifically would have been distracting. Moreover, the Hebrews should have known that he was quoting from the Eighth Psalm, for from youth up, they had been instructed in the Scriptures. The entire Psalm reads as follows:

“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

“All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

“The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

In the first and last verses, David was talking about Jehovah, whose name is excellent in all the earth. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings,” He has “ordained strength [perfected praise—Matt. 21:16].” In quoting this verse, Paul and our Lord himself concentrated more on the explanation in order to shame the wise, the proud, and the strong of mankind, who think Christians are bibliolaters, worshippers of the Bible. When faithful Christians are elevated to prominence in the next age and their true merit is understood, the worldly-wise will  be ashamed. It will then be apparent how God viewed those who were properly exercised by His providences and leadings.

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” The “visiting” is usually explained as pertaining to Jesus because he used the title “the Son of [the] man [Adam]” and “the Son of God” (Matt. 8:20; John 5:25). There is nothing wrong or disrespectful with that interpretation, but David was originally a shepherd. When he watched the sheep, he usually slept in the field at night, and before going off to sleep, he observed the heavens. Accordingly, he said, “When I consider the heavens.” By day, he considered the sun, and by night, he considered the moon and the stars.

God condescended to visit man. When God created Adam, He crowned him with glory, honor, and beauty and made him lord of the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea. Only recently, through the news media, do we see people playing with whales and dolphins and even sharks, and some individuals seem to be gifted in taming birds. But originally Adam was lord of the animal kingdom.

In time, Adam sinned and fell, so now “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy,” condescends to come down to visit fallen mankind; that is, He speaks to those who are lowly and contrite of heart (Isa. 57:15). Even after Adam fell from that crowning position and his progeny were also fallen, God’s mercy began to manifest itself in such ways as clothing Adam and Eve with animal skins to cover their nakedness, providing for different sacrifices, and giving the Law to Moses. Thus there was a means of getting forgiveness for sins by going through a procedure that had a typical significance and provided typical justification. (Of course substantive justification comes only by the exercise of faith, Abraham being an example. We thank God for Jesus and his robe of righteousness, which we so sorely need.)

Heb. 2:7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

Several years ago we suggested that this verse should read, “Thou madest him [man] little, lower than the angels.” When the holy angels witnessed the creation of man and how small he was, they sang for joy (Job 38:7). It is startling how the mind of God can filter through into the mind of these tiny beings so that they can worship Him. Hence we can be happy while the whole world dreads the future, not knowing what will happen. So many questions are answered for us through the Word, yet that Word has been the most published book in existence over the past 400 years or so.

Comment: David was in awe of the greatness of creation, and the angels were in awe of the smallness of creation here on planet Earth.

Reply: Yes, that is what was so startling.

Comment: The inhabitants of earth are compared to “grasshoppers” in size (Isa. 40:22).

Reply: Actually, man is even smaller than the grasshopper in comparison to Almighty God.

The reality is that man is tiny, yet he was originally crowned with glory and honor and given dominion over the beasts, fowl, and fish, which were obedient and playful. Adam even gave them all names, but he not only lost control of himself in keeping the standard of God but also lost dominion over the soil, which subsequently brought forth thorns and thistles. David first thought of Adam, and then he thought, “Here I am down here. I can enjoy and marvel at the heavens as created by God.” David truly appreciated how the heavens declare the glory of God. He felt that he was being visited by God as he viewed the heavens—even though he was a sinner and not perfect like Adam before the fall.

Comment: One problem seems to be that the translators could not follow the line of David’s reasoning. In verse 5, Paul wrote, “For unto the angels hath he [God] not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” Since the translators did not know how to translate verse 7 appropriately, they added the word “a” in “a little lower than the angels” with a marginal alternate translation of “a little while inferior to.” Paul was trying to show the size and greatness of the angels, but in the future, God will take the little man and put “all things in subjection under his feet” (verse 8).

Years ago Bro. Krebbs said that if a miner digs coal for many hours of the day and then comes up out of the mine before nightfall, he is blinded by the brilliance of the light. He likened that situation to the fact that we, as Christians, have been translated from a world of darkness into marvelous light. With the whole globe being the dark continent of sin, when we come into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, the contrast is like the miner who comes up out of the mine in daylight hours and finds the light overwhelmingly powerful and glaring.

Heb. 2:8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet…. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” Verse 8 is a prophecy of the future, for at present, we do not see this subjection, which was lost when Adam sinned. This lordship will be restored in due time as one feature of the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). That due time will be the age beyond the Kingdom. First, man has much work to do inwardly. Not only will those who are “accounted worthy” not die anymore, but also they will become kings when they enter the portal of the age beyond the Millennium (Luke 20:35,36).

The question some would ask is, Does the putting of all things “under his feet” refer to Jesus or to mankind? Both interpretations are profitable thoughts, but to understand verse 8, we will have to return to the Eighth Psalm, the original prophecy, which provides certain clues. Of course in being a perfect man, Jesus was a representation of the potential for humans who, when they are perfect, will be endowed with several capabilities. Those who believe verse 8 refers to Jesus would be thinking of the New Testament text “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). However, in Psalm 8:6, the “all things” put under the feet are not enemies: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” The “all things” are the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea (Psa. 8:7,8).

We differed many years ago on the interpretation of verse 8 here in Hebrews, even though we felt the thought of Jesus was profitable, for he was crowned with glory and honor in the perfection of manhood, growing in wisdom and stature from a babe up to an adult. The nearest incident we can see in the ministry of Christ about animals being put under his feet was when he rode into Jerusalem on an unbroken colt, the foal of an ass. Before a spirited horse can be ridden, it has to be broken in and trained to obey man, but our Lord calmly rode on a colt that had not previously carried a human rider. This dominion was like a microcosm of what mankind will have, and we believe the Eighth Psalm is saying that ultimately all mankind will become kings. Interestingly, that time corresponds to the time after Jesus has put all enemies under his feet, the last enemy being death (1 Cor. 15:25,26). At that time, mankind will have been tried and proven faithful and will have the perfection of manhood. Having passed the test of obedience in the Little Season, they will enter into the ages beyond the Kingdom, when the animals, birds, and fish will be very friendly. For example, the wolf and the lamb will lie down together, and nothing will hurt or destroy in all God’s “holy mountain” (Isa. 11:6,9). Many such prophecies will be fulfilled in the age beyond the Kingdom, but we have been so accustomed to thinking of the times of restitution that we tend to believe everything will take place when the Kingdom Age opens. That is not the case in several pictures.

Not only is Jesus the best example to Christians in the Gospel Age, but also he is the example of what the world will inherit as perfect men in the future.

Comment: Jesus will be the instrument for achieving that goal at the end of the Kingdom Age.

Reply: Yes, he is a leader in every respect; he is both a Savior and an exemplar of what to aspire to. Jesus is the example of the potential for mankind.

Incidentally, when God said that Adam needed a helpmate, that helpmate could just as well have been a man as a woman. Like the holy angels, they would have been friends and associates. However, God created a woman because He knew that ultimately man would sin and that the permission of evil would be a good object lesson for all future creations.

Heb. 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

The fact that Jesus tasted death for “every man” suggests two things. Not only will mankind be redeemed from sin, but also the obedient will be raised to the glorious liberty of sons of God on the human plane in the fullness of perfect human beings.

Again we will correct the translation and read the first part of verse 9 as follows: “But we see Jesus, who was made little, lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour.” In a comparison of size, man is little.

Q: With regard to this change, what words are actually in the original Greek text in verses 7 and 9?

A: The word “lower” is omitted. Although Jesus was made man, he was crowned with glory and honor. With the mind, there is sort of an equality between angels and men, but in size and in capabilities of traveling through space, man is small and limited. To state the matter another way, when Jesus was in the flesh, he was far superior to any of the angels—in honor, character, etc. Even though he was limited down here in the flesh and was little, he was greater.

Comment: The thought, starting in verse 7, is that man was made little, but he was perfect. Then he sinned. Jesus subsequently came, and he was made little and perfect to take Adam’s place. So the comparison would be the miniaturization.

Reply: Yes. Even though Jesus was on the human plane, he was higher in rank than the angels in heaven. Therefore, verse 9 is saying that Jesus was made little.

Verse 9 says that Jesus tasted death by God’s grace. In other words, the Father sacrificed in the sending of His Son. Throughout the New Testament, Paul consistently showed that the Father was vastly superior to Jesus, yet the tendency has been for Christians in hymns, prayers, and conversation to emphasize Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and to say very little about God. The emphasis should be the other way around. As imperfect humans, we lack a sensibility in our thinking. Speaking from the natural standpoint of our flesh, we are dead; our senses are blunted. We do not know what the sensitive nature of a perfect man would be because we view everything from our imperfect state. Paul presented Jesus’ death from the standpoint that God’s grace and mercy brought our salvation. It was God, who “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” but we say, “The Son died on the Cross” (John 3:16). Our brains need to be adjusted to God’s thinking, for we tend to be emotional. God has a serenity and a nobility; He is a God of all patience. People want things to be done quickly, but the Scriptures tell us not to be too hasty, especially in talking. It is easy to talk—even a fool tells all he knows—but we should honor those who think before they speak (Prov. 29:11).

The Father does not mind that great emphasis is placed on Jesus, for He is so pleased with His Son’s character and obedience that the honor given is a pleasure for Him. However, as Emperor of the universe, God will never give His glory to another being (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).

We do not think that those who are called in the Gospel Age but decline to consecrate will be given preferential honor in the Kingdom Age, no matter what kind of life they live, for they turned down the privilege of suffering. Jesus did not turn down that privilege. When the Father explained the plan to him, showing that a corresponding price was needed to release mankind from death, Jesus saw the matter in the proper light—that it was a privilege to die. In contrast, the tendency of humans is to feel that they are noble and that they do the sacrificing and the suffering. They do not see the distinction of honor of being on the right hand of God and having the divine nature—they do not see that all of the promises are a privilege.

The holy angels admired Jesus because in their honesty of heart, they could see that he was noble and that he had the right priorities. Jesus felt honored to have the privilege of dying for Adam and paying the ransom price. Crucifixion is a terrible death, and no doubt when Jesus came nearer and nearer to that date, he trembled. But that is the way he was humbled under the mighty hand of God, and so those of the Little Flock must also be humbled if they are to be like Jesus in a very small sense (1 Pet. 5:6). Of course Jesus is the “chiefest of ten thousand,” and he overwhelms his brethren in stature and height (Song 5:10). But such humbling is a necessity for the Little Flock. To our understanding, not every Christian will be tested that way, for we are not tested above what we are able. Those who are of Great Company caliber could not stand the test of a true Little Flock member, and God does not want to bruise a reed to crush it and snuff out a life. The Little Flock is tested severely in one way or another—if not according to the flesh, then according to the mind—and mental suffering can be very, very intense and trying, an example being decision making.

As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). When we, as humans in the flesh, are trying to serve God, we get thoughts according to the flesh because we are in an earthen vessel, but the new creature breaks out of that vessel by crucifying the old man. That is the good fight of faith. As one grows in character, he should be more successful in the mind because that is where everything starts.

“That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” When we appreciate this expression fully, we will see that it was grace on the Father’s part—not only grace for us, who are sinners, but also grace for Jesus, who was already perfect as an archangel. It was grace that Jesus had that opportunity.

Addendum on Hebrews 2:7,9 and “Little”

We do not want to belabor the point on verses 7 and 9, but the word “little” is the Greek brachu ti, used two other places in Scripture. The second word, ti, intensifies the previous word, and Young’s Analytical Concordance puts the two words together and gives the definition “short” or “small.” John 6:7 reads, “Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little [brachu ti, inferring quantity].” Acts 27:28 states, “And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little [brachu ti] further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.” In other words, brachu ti means “little” whether it refers to time, distance, quantity, or something else. Therefore, the added word that follows “little” is whatever fits to make the context clear. However, in verses 7 and 9, it is not necessary to clarify the meaning. Only when brachu ti is used in places where “short” and “small” do not fit in the normal sense does a word need to be supplied. The Diaglott interlinear has the expression “a little while,” but the basic meaning is just “short” and “small.” The problem with verses 7 and 9 is that the concept Paul presented is so foreign to the thinking of Bible scholars that they did not insert a word to convey what we think was truly being said.

The Diaglott shows that the Greek verb elattoo is used for “decrease” where John the Baptist said, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). In verses 7 and 9, that same verb is used in the sense of “to make less,” that is, “to shrink.” Hence the thought of verse 7 is, “Thou [God] madest [did make to shrink, or decrease] him a little [that is, a little man].” Verse 9 means, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little [who was made to shrink little].”

We have given only one line of reasoning, but there are perhaps six different reasons why the thought in verses 7 and 9 is not “a short time” or “a little while,” both of which are foreign to the text and do not fit the meaning of the quoted Psalm. When we go back to Psalm 8, we find several related verses rather than the sentence that is quoted in Hebrews and then repeated, the first time pertaining to man and the second time applying to Jesus. In summary, the evidence of “little” meaning “little in size” is overwhelming in verses 7 and 9.

Incidentally, Job, Moses, and David had great minds that were much different than all of the other prophets. They were very deep thinkers. We skim over their unusual writings without giving proper thought. The writings are sacred and holy and fraught with meaning, but we just read through them quickly.

Heb. 2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

“For it became him [God], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons [the Church] unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation [Jesus] perfect through sufferings.” What is the thought of “perfect” in this context? Jesus was already perfect and without sin. Just as the Passover lamb had to be perfect and without blemish, so did the antitypical Lamb of God. Therefore, “perfect” in verse 10 means to be qualified for office, to be not only the Captain of a brotherhood but also the High Priest among other priests. To be born morally perfect and sinless was not enough because if God so desired, He could make any one of us a perfect and sinless robot, but He does not tamper with our will, our freedom of choice. Our free moral agency is like sacred ground. God wants those who worship Him to do so in spirit and in truth of their own initiative, as a freewill offering; He wants the worship to be spontaneous, wholehearted, and cheerful, rather than to be done through pressure (John 4:24).

In the past, some who were familiar with Bro. Russell at the Bethel supper table said that he was very serious on these issues. On one occasion, he asked, “Will any of us match up to this wonderful honor?” When we think from a human standpoint, we begin to quail. The Father’s relationship becomes very important, as we read in the first chapter. “Unto which of the angels said he [God] at any time, This is my Son,” putting His arm around Jesus’ shoulder (Heb. 1:5 paraphrase). This statement was not made to any other angel or being—even though they are sons of God. To say, “This is my Son,” is quite different than just being a son of God.

Heb. 2:11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

“He [Jesus] that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one [brotherhood]: for which cause he [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brethren.” When Jesus came down here, he grew in wisdom and stature from his perfection in childhood to an adult. At 12 years of age, he was so advanced in his thinking that he astonished the Jewish doctors of the Law at the Temple in Jerusalem. It would have been very easy for Jesus to regard the religious leaders as slow, ignorant inferiors, but instead he always had the proper character structure. He condemned sin but not the sinner. Although he strongly criticized the scribes and Pharisees, calling them whited sepulchers and vipers, he spoke of them as a class and did not single out one individual.

To a certain extent on certain occasions, we can do similarly depending on the circumstances. For Paul to write that Jesus and his followers are all “one” reminds us of his prayer en route to the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). And he said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God” (John 17:3). There are two ways of knowing God. (1) It would take an eternity to know God, for the knowing is an ever-learning process. God is so great that He is illimitable and unfathomable from a human standpoint, just like His universe. As the ages go on, spirit beings will learn more and more about God, but they will not know Him fully. Since eternity never ends, they will never be able to say, “I know the Father perfectly in everything.” (2) Now let us turn the reasoning around. Those who know, love, appreciate, and serve God with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength are guaranteed eternal life. They will truly worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23,24).

Heb. 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

Heb. 2:13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

The words of Jesus in verse 12 were prophetically recorded by David in Psalm 22:22.

Comment: This Scripture would have come to Jesus’ mind on the Cross, strengthening him and assuring him he would be faithful.

Reply: Yes, and other verses of that Psalm would have helped too.

Some Christians get a glorious moment of assurance before they die. However, others may think they have attained the Little Flock when they have not. Just saying and thinking we have been faithful does not make it so, for we might overestimate our own being and think of ourselves too highly.

“Children” (verse 13) are contrasted with “brethren” (verse 12). We are brethren of Christ and children of God. When did or will Jesus say, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren”?

During his earthly ministry, Jesus said that he had come to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so he came to his own, to fellow Jews. From the Day of Pentecost until the conversion of Cornelius in AD 36, which took place 3 1/2 years later, only Jews became Christians. However, Jesus was looking for the pearl of great price, the entire Church class, as his brethren (Matt. 13:46).

Q: Then is the declaration of verse 12 future, when the Church is complete and Jesus is with them in heaven, singing praises to God in the midst of his brethren?

A: The declaration is past, present, and future, starting with Jesus’ earthly ministry at the First Advent.

Comment: The word “church” is “congregation” in the Diaglott and also in Psalm 22:22.

“I [Jesus] will put my trust in him [God].” Again Jesus quoted Scripture. We notice, too, how frequently he quoted from the Psalms. The only Scriptures that he quoted more often during his earthly ministry seem to be from Moses.

Q: The marginal reference for verse 13 is Isaiah 8:17, “And I will wait upon the LORD.” Is “wait” the same as “trust”?

A: Yes, waiting is synonymous with trust. Patience is trust too: “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19). Two of the devil’s tools are discouragement and fear. Trust, the opposite, is an anchor. A large ingredient of hope is faith. It is as if trust in God grows to the status of hope, and hope, if obeyed faithfully, leads to love. In other words, love, which has faith and hope in it, is like stairs, for the three are related. There are different degrees, but love is more embracive in that it includes faith and hope, and love endures until it becomes a part of the being for eternity.

“Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” Here Jesus quoted part of Isaiah 8:18, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.” In quoting only parts of Scripture, Jesus assumed his Jewish hearers were familiar with the text. The Jews are very intense in their study as far as the letter of the Word is concerned. The meaning of the Word is another matter. Real understanding is not possible except with the endowment of the Holy Spirit. One who has a wonderful memory plus the Holy Spirit has a marvelous opportunity to serve the Lord.

How can one believe in the Trinity with this Scripture? “Behold I [Jesus] and the children which God hath given me.” Moreover, Jesus calls the Church “brethren.” Truly Satan has blinded the minds of men lest they should see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). He is very successful, and one does not really get out from under his control until the step of consecration is taken. And even then, he is always there, ready, willing, and able to see the downfall of any of the Lord’s saints.

Heb. 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

Comment: Satan has the power of death. Both Satan and death will be destroyed at the end of the Kingdom Age. They seem to be intertwined.

Reply: With mankind being fallen in mind, flesh, and morals, Satan sinks his fangs into their weaknesses to control them. He caters to the flesh, and people become so enamored of this reward that they do not see living a life of sin as being so terrible. Satan successfully takes advantage of desires such as power, influence, fame, or pleasure of all kinds. Adam, in his perfection, knew when he had sinned, whereas Eve, in her innocence and guilelessness, did not see through the strategy of Satan. We believe the Pastor was correct in saying that Adam felt he could not live without Eve, so he more or less committed suicide, as it were, in eating of the fruit of the tree. Paul had insight into this matter.

Incidentally, some of the things Paul had insight into, he must have received in his visions. He had visions more than any of the others and conversations, which informed him on some of these points. As he grew in the ministry and was more and more faithful to the Lord, he increased in wisdom and stature as a new creature.

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he [Jesus] also himself likewise took part of the same.” Jesus needed the experience of contact not only with fallen humanity but also with those whom God called, who were imperfect according to the flesh but justified through his robe of righteousness according to the spirit. As a result, Jesus grew to be a sympathetic High Priest for us; that is, he is our High Priest now. After the Gospel Age is over, he will become the world’s High Priest.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood so “that through [sacrificial] death [the death of the Cross] he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Just as a blind person can be steered the wrong way without his knowing it, so Satan has blinded the minds of men, and he is taking them down a dangerous path of death. The disobedience of Adam and the subsequent fall have crippled mankind so that everything—their eyesight, hearing, taste, etc.—is defiled, and Satan takes advantage of the situation. We believe that Satan, according to his nature, is still perfect. In other words, he still has uncanny wisdom like a serpent and great power. If he can be the “god of this world” from his imprisonment in tartaroo, we get an inkling of the power he had as an archangel when he was free to roam. As the Logos, Jesus also had great power, and now he has power more abundantly because he was raised far above the level of archangel (Eph. 1:20,21).

Not only has the God of peace promised the Church that Satan will be bruised, or put to death, under their feet, but also Jesus is mentioned here (Rom. 16:20). Therefore, Satan’s bruising will occur under the feet of The Christ, Head and body members. Jesus alone will bind Satan, but the Church will share in the destruction.

Comment: Satan’s demise at the hands of The Christ proves that the Little Season will take place before the eighth day.

Heb. 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Verse 15 applies to the Great Company. Paul had just talked about “brethren” and “children” in connection with the calling of the Church. Therefore, he was now speaking of a consecrated class “who through fear of [sacrificial] death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” This trait is shown by the scapegoat class of Leviticus 16:21. The scapegoat was taken live into the wilderness to die, whereas the Lord’s goat, the one chosen to be a sin offering, was put to death and sacrificed on the altar. The fear of death is a wobbly part of the character of the Great Company class, but eventually they will be saved. Jesus will deliver not only mankind, who are under the power of the Adversary, but also those of the consecrated who do not make the grade of the Little Flock because of this holding back. The interesting thing is that all of us originally consecrated wholeheartedly. Bro. Magnuson said, “The Lord put a scroll in front of us, and He unfurled it and said, ‘Sign here.’” In the curled-up section is God’s will, but we must have faith that consecration is a privilege and sign our name. Then, as we live our life of consecration, the scroll starts to unroll with the words “This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).

Heb. 2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

Without the supplied italicized words, verse 16 reads, “For verily he took not on angels; but he took on the seed of Abraham.” Because the Hebrew language is relatively limited in vocabulary, many Jews gesticulate a great deal when they speak. They make motions, or gestures, that help to bring out what they are saying, and to another Jew, who has been under the same culture, there is no problem. Similarly, as natives of the United States, we are familiar with English and English slang. In verse 16, the supplied words make sense, for Jesus took not upon him the nature of angels but (by inference) the nature of man. Perhaps 90 percent or more of the italicized words in the King James Version are helpful, but nevertheless, we should always have a little reserve until we make sure they are the correct thought.

Comment: Jesus took on the “seed of Abraham,” a specific seed, for in Abraham and his seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Jesus took on (1) the size, (2) the nature, and (3) the seed of man. As stated earlier, there are about six different ways of approaching this subject. Jesus was made little, but he was not made a little angel—he was made a little human of Abrahamic stock. He had to be both a Jew and a child of Abraham because the seed is in Isaac. (Ishmael was also of the seed of Abraham, but he was not a Jew.) To state the matter more fully, Jesus had to be a Jew of Isaac and of Abraham, as well as of Shem, who was both Arabic and Jewish, for they are the Semitic races. Paul tackled this subject from an emotional, a mathematical, a scriptural, and a common-sense standpoint.

Heb. 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

“Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren.” This statement is true as long as it is not carried to the extent of saying he was a sinner, a fallen man. Jesus had to take on the seed of Abraham and be perfect; otherwise, he could not have redeemed the human race. A proof text is Psalm 49:7, “None of them [that is, no one of the fallen human race] can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” A perfect outsider had to come and take on the human nature in order to redeem man.

The purpose of Jesus’ being “made like unto his brethren” was “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God.” In other words, not only did Jesus have to be perfect and like Adam before he sinned, but God had other motives in mind, one of which was that Jesus might be “a merciful and faithful high priest.” This purpose had nothing to do with Jesus’ paying the Ransom, in being a corresponding price. Rather, through his experience and association with imperfect mankind, he became a merciful and faithful High Priest and would not be too strict. Still another reason was that when God would elevate Jesus to His own right hand, the other angels would see the sterling merit of Jesus in having volunteered to come down here to be crucified on a Cross and die for the human race. The angelic cry would be, “Worthy is the Lamb … to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). No doubt God had additional reasons as well. A lot of thought was involved in Jesus’ coming down here.

Comment: Prior to the Flood, the angels had made an attempt to recover fallen man and failed. Therefore, the holy angels were firsthand viewers of the angels who deflected by coming down here, materializing, and taking human wives.

Reply: Yes, sin is highly contagious. One of the reasons Moses is an Ancient Worthy is that he was not interested in the “pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25).

Jesus made “reconciliation [atonement] for the sins of the people.” “At-one-ment” means not only expiation of sin but also bringing two disparate parties back into harmony. When expiation takes place, the two can be one in spirit and thinking. When atonement takes place, the obedient of the world of mankind will become “sons” of God. The prefix “re” in “reconciliation” means restitution and being back in agreement as conditions were when Adam was perfect. Adam was created perfect, he fell, and he will be redeemed and brought back to perfection. Thus the little prefix “re” contains three thoughts: (1) once in good standing, (2) not now in good standing, and (3) hopefully in good standing in the future. The translators got the gist of the thought by using the word “re-conciliation.”

Heb. 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 is related: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” If the words “yet without sin” were not in this later text, one could misread both verses. In a question meeting in the past, a sister stated publicly that Christians who commit suicide can make their calling and election sure because they need that experience so that in the Kingdom Age, they will be able to deal with people who took their own life in the present age. But such reasoning does not make sense because in committing suicide, a Christian is taking his sacrifice off the altar.

Jesus was tempted in all points without sinning. The Pastor expressed that Jesus’ being without sin was from the standpoint of the new creature and that unlike mankind, he was not tempted with any impure thoughts. However, we think Jesus needed that experience without sinning, without yielding to impure thoughts. For instance, the angels were all holy and in harmony with God before some of them sinned. When those angels saw the daughters of men, thoughts came into their minds. Surely the holy angels, who did not succumb and leave their first estate, were also tempted. However, they knew that human females were off-limits, and they wanted to obey God. Therefore, in spite of the attractiveness of the daughters of men, the holy angels were faithful; they carried out their mission down here but did not leave their first estate. In other words, they adhered strictly to their instructions and did not allow the things to occur that went through their minds.

Now we will consider Jesus, the perfect one. Didn’t Satan enter his mind and, for example, tempt him to cast himself off a pinnacle of the Temple? But Jesus did not yield when he was tempted according to the deceitfulness of sin. Popularity is a subtle temptation. Moreover, Satan said, “Just kneel down and recognize me as your lord, and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world. You will not have to suffer and die on the Cross.” Wasn’t that another temptation along a fleshly desire? God temporarily allowed Satan to thus tempt Jesus.

Along another line, Jesus rebuked Satan in regard to the body of Moses. Satan wanted to show mankind where Moses was buried. This incident shows that the angels know the location—and wouldn’t the Jews love to have that information! If Moses’ rod with the serpent was held as a holy relic for a couple hundred years, how much more they would have venerated his body!

When Jesus was tempted to do something different from God’s way, he could have regarded the situation as providential. To receive the kingdoms of this world so easily would seem like a shortcut, but Jesus firmly resisted. Thus we can see how obedient he was to his Father.

A third temptation was hunger, or appetite, when Jesus was starving at the end of his 40 days in the wilderness. Satan suggested that Jesus turn stones into bread—a power Jesus had—but again he resisted. What happens, too, is that a little step of disobedience leads to a greater step.

If a foot is put in the open door, that little bit of intrusion makes it harder to close the door.

Thus Jesus went through three major temptations plus the braggadocio type of temptation when he was dying on the Cross. When those who passed by reviled and sneered at him, saying, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross,” the sarcastic implication was that then they would worship him (Matt. 27:40). Satan put that thought into their minds. As fallen beings with weaknesses, we fight the good fight of faith against illegitimate desires, words, and deeds.

Comment: After Jesus successfully resisted the three temptations, Satan left him, and “angels came and ministered unto him” (Matt. 4:11).

Reply: God has promised to provide bread and water for His little ones (Isa. 33:16).

Comment: When the devil departed from Jesus after the three temptations, Luke 4:13 says he departed “for a season.” The wording indicates that Satan came back at a later time for more temptations.

When, prior to the Flood, the angels came down here to see what they could do to uplift fallen man, there is no indication that the Logos came too. The angels commiserated with man’s fallen state. Upon seeing man’s wonderful creation, they had sung with joy. Subsequently, when they saw sin and disease afflict the human race, they probably asked for permission to come down here to try to help mankind. God granted the permission but set parameters as to what they could do; i.e., they were given some generalized instruction as to the confinements of their ministry. However, many of the angels went out of bounds, and in addition, they preferred to live down here instead of returning home to heaven. They left their first estate not just in the sense of sinning but also in liking to remain here, for living on earth was a new experience for them. And that is another point: the desire for novelty, for something new, can be dangerous. No matter what the problem, one can want more and more. For example, a miser wants more and more money, and those who sin want more and more delights along whatever line they are pursuing. Because it is very hard for the Christian to live the straight and narrow way, God appreciates those of His people who fight the good fight of faith. If they are fighting to the best of their ability, praying for forgiveness and trying to overcome, He sees the battle and determines who are of the Little Flock and who are of the Great Company. Of course those who are disloyal and go out of the truth are lost.

Being a faithful High Priest, Jesus “is able to succour them that are tempted.” How wonderful God’s foreknowledge is! He foresaw that in spite of all the credentials Jesus had before he came down here, he might have been too severe without first having this experience with man. Thus a few souls would have been lost that might have been saved. Stated another way, mercy will save more people than if judgment were done too severely and without compassion, sympathy, and empathy for the individual who is struggling. Accordingly, we, as Christians, are not measured strictly by the deed, even though the Apostle James said that the deed is the proof of the struggle, for the sincere intent in back of the struggle is the new creature.

Comment: The principle is that those who become eunuchs “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” and are faithful are rewarded more highly (Matt. 19:12).

(2000 Study)

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