Do Not Drift Away

The first chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the supremacy of the High Priest who now sits at the “right hand of the Majesty on High.” In the chapter’s second half, the eternal sovereignty of God is described (“Your throne, O God, is to times everlasting”), then the qualifications of the Son for the priesthood are stated (“You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness”). This leads to the exhortation at the beginning of Chapter 2.

Considering the excellency of the Son, any failure to heed his Word would result in horrific consequences. Because of his qualifications and excellency, God exalted the Son to reign from His Throne, and from there, to mediate for his people as their High Priest.

Ship Aground - Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
[Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash]

Here, God and Son are addressed separately. The purpose is not to engage in metaphysical speculation about their natures, but to stress the excellency and obedience of Jesus, as well as the supremacy of his priesthood.

  • But regarding the Son, Your throne, O God, is everlasting, and a scepter of equity is the scepter of his kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. For this cause, has God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation beyond your partners. And you, by way of beginning, Lord, the earth founded, and the works of your hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but you abide still, and all as a mantle shall be worn out. And as if a robe will you fold them up as a mantle, and they shall be changed. But you are the same, and your years shall not fail. But to which of the angels has he ever said, Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool? Are they not all spirits doing public service, for ministry sent forth for the sake of those who are going to inherit salvation?” - (Hebrews 1:8-14 – Citing Psalm 45:6-7, 102:25-38, 110:1. The better Greek manuscripts read “his kingdom,” not “your kingdom”).

The One who “anointed” the Son is the God who “founded the earth” and the “heavens.” Though the creation itself might “perish,” He “remains forever,” and because the Son inherits His Throne, his authority and status are supreme and everlasting.

As for the angels, at no point did God ever say to any of them, “Sit at my right hand.” Angels do not rule over the Cosmos or function as priests on behalf of the saints. They are servants “sent forth for the sake of them who are about to inherit salvation,” in this case, the Assembly.

FIRST ADMONISHMENT


The comparison with the angels concludes with the first warning of the consequences for failing to heed the “word” of the Son:

  • For this cause, it behooves us with unwonted firmness to be holding fast to the things that have been heard, lest at any time we drift away. For if the word through angels spoken became firm and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if so great a salvation as this we neglected? Which, indeed, having received a beginning of being spoken through the Lord, by them who heard to us was confirmed, God jointly witnessing also both with signs and wonders and manifold mighty works, and with impartations of Holy Spirit, according to his own will?” - (Hebrews 2:1-4).

This paragraph presents two themes repeated in later chapters. First, believers must “hear” the "word" that God has provided in His Son. Second, warnings are accompanied by descriptions of the grave consequences that would result from any failure to obey or otherwise dishonor Jesus - (Hebrews 4:1-11, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, 12:25-26).

Because of his surpassing excellence, it is vital to adhere to his Word. If disregarding the word mediated by angels resulted in the severe punishment of the Israelites, how much more so would the refusal to heed his vastly superior word mean disaster for the disobedient?

The clause, “spoken through angels,” reflects the Jewish tradition that the Law was delivered to Israel through angels. The statement does not disparage Moses or the Torah. Angels mediated the Law, but its source was God. It was His “word” regardless of the intermediary used to deliver it, and every transgression of the Law received a just recompense - (Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19).

With that being so, how shall disciples of Jesus escape far greater punishment if they now abandon the supreme Word of the Son? As dangerous as it was to disobey the legal code given through angels, how much more serious is the danger when men ignore the superior “word of salvation” that God now speaks through His “Son”?

The Letter argues from the LESSER TO THE GREATER. Angels are God’s ministers and glorious beings. The goal is to encourage struggling disciples to cleave to the teachings they received from the Apostolic Tradition.

Lighthouse Storm - Photo by Anthony Cantin on Unsplash
[Photo by Anthony Cantin on Unsplash]

The point is the grave danger in which believers place themselves when they abandon the vastly superior revelation provided by God in one who is a “
Son.” Anyone who abandons him to return to the old Levitical order risks the loss of everything and everlasting destruction.

Whether anyone “drifts away” from the Son of God to non-Christian Judaism, another religion, or an irreligious life, he can expect to receive a “much sorer punishment” than any transgressors ever received under the Mosaic Law. The Letter views apostasy as a most serious offense, one with everlasting consequences. To whom much is given, much is required.



RELATED POSTS:
  • God has Spoken - (God is speaking His definitive word in His Son. All previous words spoken by the prophets were preparatory, promissory, and partial)
  • These Last Days - (The era of the Levitical priesthood terminated with the arrival of the word in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our High Priest forevermore)
  • His Distinguished Name - (Having achieved the Purification of Sins, Jesus sat down and inherited a more distinguished name than the angels; namely, Son)

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