#HeIsGreater Series
  • What was once a time to celebrate the birth of God's gracious rescue of this world has become a frantic few months of consumerism, depression, conflict and stress. Sadly, we're often so busy with what Christmas has become that we've forgotten what it truly is. We've forgotten the story. The book of Hebrews points its readers, both in the 1st century as well as in the 21st century, towards Jesus. He is the reason for the season. He truly is greater than anything we imagine!
3. Greater Than Our Destiny [Hebrews 2:5-9]
  • The fate of mankind is to die, but the hope for the believer is eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • The world (and the world to come) is not subjected to angels. (Hebrews 2:5)
  • Mankind is “for a little while lower than angels,” yet is the crown of God’s creation though caught in the web of sin. (Hebrews 2:6-8)
  • Jesus became a man in order to defeat sin through tasting death and bringing about a “great salvation” and in that way is greater than angels. (Hebrews 2:9)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What position and role do angels play in God’s economy if they do not rule in some way over the “world to come?”
  • In what ways are humans the crown of God’s creation?
  • Why does Jesus’ death solve the problem of sin, and how does that make Him greater than angels? (Hebrews 2:9)
Talk It Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – what is the text telling/showing us?
  • What is the “world to come?” (Hebrews 2:5)
  • To whom did God subject the world to come? Is that subjection in place now?
  • In what ways does mankind rule over the earth now? In what ways does that rule fail?
  • What is mankind’s problem on earth that forces us to look elsewhere for the solution?
  • What does it mean to say that “we do not see everything in subjection to him” in verse 8b?
  • What does it mean to say that Jesus was “for a little while made lower than the angels?”
  • What does verse 9 mean by saying Jesus “might taste death for everyone?”
  • Implementation – What should the listener's response be?
  • What is the created “rank” of angels as compared to mankind?
  • How is God “mindful” of mankind?
  • What does it mean to say that you are crowned with “glory and honor?” DO you feel that way?
  • Describe your own need for salvation. Why do you need Jesus, the One who is greater than angels?
  • How did Jesus make salvation possible, and therefore, why is He greater?
  • How was Jesus crowned with “glory and honor?”
  • What does God’s grace have to do with Jesus’ suffering death?
  • In what way(s) is Jesus greater in your own view?
Sermon Teaching Notes (As prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)

Having set out the case that Jesus is equal with God, and that He is greater than the angels, and having exhorted his readers to “pay much closer attention” to what they had heard (the gospel message) and not “drift away” from it, the author returns in chapter 2, verse 5, to the argument that Jesus is greater than angels, and furthers it along to include the meaning and effect of His being greater than angels as it relates to human beings who have placed their faith in Jesus. Remember, the author has already begun his sermon with the truth that “Jesus is God’s final and decisive Word to the world.” (so writes John Piper, in a sermon entitled “Who Rules the World to Come?”), and that He is not just some super angel. No! Jesus is God the Son, is worshiped by angels, and they do His bidding; and Jesus is the One through whom God has made possible this “great salvation.” (Hebrews 2:3) But just what does this have to do with man?

Remember also that the author is giving this sermon in written form to encourage his readers in their faith (and to bring to faith those who believe but have not yet submitted their will to the Lordship of Jesus), and in so doing wants them to understand truly how great is their salvation from this great, superior Jesus. So, his argument that Jesus is greater than angels and is for the benefit of man, continues and basically goes as follows:
  • Angels were not placed over the world by God (Hebrews 2:5), but rather mankind was, created by God to rule over and have administrative care for the world (meaning the created world; the earth); and before the fall, that’s the way it was (cf. Genesis 1:26-31a; 2:15).
  • But there is now a problem, namely sin, and with sin, death. Because of the fall through which sin entered the world, mankind no longer rules the world no matter what he thinks but is subject to creation; mankind may come up with the greatest of inventions, of art and poetry, of building and technology; but in the end, all die, and there is no rule of the world to come much less the present world.
  • To “solve” this problem, Jesus, God’s very Son, became a man, and brought mankind back into proper position through His defeat of death by having tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).
  • And now Jesus, having defeated death, is “crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9), and mankind is now able to be put back to the rightful position of ruling (with Jesus) in the “world to come.” (Hebrews 2:7 & 8).
  • Therefore, Jesus is greater than angels, because what He did is for mankind, and receiving salvation in Him not only brings a person into relationship with God the Father, but places that person into the position of sharing in His rule over all creation when He comes back in His glory.
  • So the implication is that if you believe in Jesus, keep on keeping on with Him, and if you don’t believe in Jesus, come to Him, because the best of salvation is yet to come!
To make his argument, the author quotes from verses 4 through 6 of Psalm 8, a Psalm which concerns the smallness of mankind compared to the glory and majesty of God, and yet still speaks of man as made “a little lower than the heavenly beings,” of being crowned “with glory and honor,” and of having been given “dominion over the works” of His hands. In the “ranking” of created beings, then, for a while, man is lower than angels, yet has been appointed to a high position in terms of rule over God’s creation, God having put “everything in subjection under his feet.” (Hebrews 2:8)1 That truth alone should be an encouragement to the readers of this sermon; but the author reminds them that at present, things are different as man does not rule (Hebrews 2:8b), a reality known only too well to his readers (and to us!). John Piper puts it this way in his sermon referenced above:

Death is not subject to man. And therefore nothing is ultimately subject to us, because it is only a matter of time till it will all be taken away from us, and what we thought we had mastered will be ripped out of our hands.... But the reality is we are not conquerors now; we are carcasses – all of us.

So where does the author of Hebrews go for encouragement to his readers after that thought? He goes right to Jesus, the One who is greater. He writes, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9) He is saying that in the midst of mankind’s greatest problem and downfall, God in the Person of Jesus became a man (Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”), and voluntarily suffered death so that the curse of sin and death would be taken away and man (i.e., believing man) re-elevated to a position of rule (actually, co-rule with Jesus. See Philippians 3:20 21; Colossians 3:4; Revelation 20:4).

So, angels are not in the orbit of salvation; they are amazing beings, but they are servants, and they are not subject to salvation. Man, the crown of God’s creation, needs salvation because of sin.
And Jesus, by becoming a man and tasting death for everyone, has made salvation available and “great.” (cf. Hebrews 2:3) Do we have problems on earth now? Yes. The Hebrews who were reading this sermon had their problems, and indeed were tempted to drift away or, in the case of those close to putting their faith in Jesus, to stopping in their tracks short of confessing Him as Lord. But in Christ, God has provided salvation for us. Jesus, who is fully God Himself, has made the way for us to live victoriously no matter our circumstances. He is crowned with glory and honor, and by His grace, upon putting our faith in Him, we can join Him in that. John Piper puts it this way in the aforementioned sermon:

What shall we do? Put your faith in the promise of this great future grace – that what you see in Christ today will someday be your portion. Fix your eyes on Christ, not on the pain and futility and frustration and sickness and death of this age. They will not have the last word. Christ has conquered death and all the sin and pain that leads to death. Think on Him. Consider Him. Look to Him.

To that we say “Amen!” Jesus is greater than angels! He is greater indeed!

1 Some commentators take the position that the author of Hebrews intends chapter 2, verses 6 through 8 to refer to Jesus, and not to mankind. Thus, they suggest, Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for a time (i.e., when He was on the earth), and that in His death, He was crowned with glory and honor, having taken these back after having set them aside in His coming to earth. Everything is not now subject to Him in the sense that sin still reigns on earth. But He has defeated death and, ultimately, will rule over everything again after His second coming. This approach, it seems, by-passes the understanding the readers of Hebrews would have had of Psalm 8, namely, that it was about man in comparison to the majesty of God. These readers would have taken the author’s quotation to mean the same thing. In any case, the eventual conclusion is the same, namely that Jesus, in becoming a man and thus lower than angels for a while, tasted death so that salvation would be available to all who come to Him, and in that way He is greater than the angels to be sure.