“At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 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” (vv. 8–9).
After pausing to give a practical application regarding the superiority of Christ to the angels—that we must not abandon the gospel (Heb. 2:1–4; see 1:1–14)—the author of Hebrews returns to the greatness of Jesus over the angels. He asserts that God has not subjected “the world to come” to the angels (2:5), and we are to infer that He has subjected the world to come to Jesus. The world to come is the new heaven and earth, where God’s kingdom will be consummated, the presence of sin removed from creation, and the lordship of Christ made evident to all (Rev. 21).
The greatness of the world to come testifies to the greatness of its King, Jesus Christ. But Jesus became King of this new creation in a particular way. To explain how Jesus was crowned King, Hebrews 2:5–9 turns to Psalm 8, which celebrates the place of mankind in God’s creation. The psalm teaches that God made human beings a little lower—with lesser power and evident glory—than the angels but that the Lord nonetheless gave men and women dominion or rule over the earth (Ps. 8:4–6). This harks back to the Lord’s original commission to humanity in Genesis 1:26–28. We know, of course, that Adam and Eve did not continue in their original state but fell into sin, with the consequence that mankind ceded their place as ruler of this world to the devil (Gen. 3; John 14:30).
We failed our original commission, so what Psalm 8 says about humanity must be fulfilled in one who did not fail. What Psalm 8 says of mankind is even truer of Jesus, who was for a time made lower than the angels, so much lower that He actually suffered death (Heb. 2:5–9). Here we have a reference to the incarnation and work of Jesus. The Son of God, being God Himself, humbled Himself by taking on a human nature, adding to Himself that which is lower than the angels in power and evident glory without sacrificing His divine attributes. But having completed the work of atonement, Jesus was raised from the dead and His humanity was glorified so that now our Savior, in both His deity and humanity, enjoys a glory greater than that of the angels (see Phil. 2:5–11). He became the God-man, the divine-human Mediator of salvation, perfect in glory and might. Some might have questioned Jesus’ superiority to the angels because of His humanity, but the author of Hebrews tells us that in taking on our humanity and succeeding where we failed, He has made redeemed humanity greater than the angels.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
We can hardly imagine it, but there is a sense in which redeemed human beings are greater than the angels. We will, after all, “judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3). We must therefore understand the dignity of redeemed human beings, creatures who will be more exalted than the angels. This should motivate us to treat other people, particularly other believers, with honor and respect.