Derek Prince - But We See Him
In our previous study we covered the material in Hebrews 1. It’s not possible to give a detailed recapitulation but let me just remind you briefly that this chapter opens with this sevenfold presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ in His eternal, divine nature and also in His redemptive work. After that, the main theme of the rest of the chapter is to establish out of Old Testament Scriptures the absolute uniqueness and supremacy of Jesus over all created beings and, in particular, in these verses, over all angels. There are seven successive quotations from the Old Testament, all of which in one way or another point out the supremacy of Jesus over angels.
Now we’re going on to chapter 2 and I’m going to proceed in the same way as I did before. That is, translating extemporaneously from the original Greek and comparing it when necessary with the New American Standard. Therefore, we’ll begin now. Hebrews 2 at the beginning of the outline, that’s number 2/1. We begin with what I call "the passage of solemn warning". In the introduction, amongst other things, I pointed out that there are in this epistle five successive passages of solemn warning of tremendous spiritual dangers that face Christians. I do not know of any other part of the New Testament, or even of the whole Bible, that contains such reiterated solemn warnings. And I trust that somehow tonight the Holy Spirit will make every one of these warnings very real and very personal to each one of us, myself included. I trust there will be nobody here who somehow has the attitude, "This really doesn’t apply to me and could not apply to me".
If you think that, you’re in a position of danger right there. So here then is the first passage of warning in chapter 2, verses 1–4: For this reason we ought to give the more serious attention to the things that we have heard, lest we drift away. There’s various possible ways of translating that word "drift away". This is the one that’s followed by most translators and dictionaries. You’ll notice that drifting away is something that can happen rather gradually and imperceptibly not by something that a person does but rather by something that a person doesn’t do. And later on in the sixth chapter of this epistle we find reference to an anchor of the soul. I think perhaps it would be helpful to put these two concepts together. There’s a danger of drifting away. That analogy is primarily from a boat. One of the great remedies against this danger is having the anchor in use which God has provided to hold us secure.
Now this first passage of warning is primarily against ignoring or neglecting God’s message in Jesus. It’s not against being openly wicked or rebellious; it’s rather against simply not paying sufficient attention to what God is saying. The more important the message, the greater the guilt of ignoring it. And in due course; the writer points out that even those who ignored the message given through Moses were punished with death. The implication which he brings out is that if we neglect this much more serious and important message, we cannot possibly hope to escape with a lesser penalty. In verses 3–4 the writer then goes on to give three reasons why the message is of such tremendous importance and urgency. I’ll translate those verses and then we’ll briefly look at the essence of what is said. For if the word spoken through angels was firm, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward of punishment.
Let me stop and point out that the word that I translated disobedience means literally "mishearing". I think it’s important. I’m sure that those of you that work in the capacity of giving oversight to others whether it’s spiritual oversight or oversight in business or in some manufacturing operation, I’m sure if you reflect you will realize that one of the biggest problems you have is that you give people instructions and they don’t really hear what you say. Consequently, they don’t do it. I think that’s what the writer is speaking about here. God says something and we don’t really hear what He says. Consequently, we don’t do it. By implication, in the Old Testament, hearing the voice of the Lord implies obedience. For instance, in Deuteronomy 28, which we do not need to turn to, it says, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God". But the modern translations render it, "If you will obey the LORD your God".
So there is a way in which "hearkening" or "listening" carries with it the implication of obedience. And you’ll find in a number of languages, for instance, in the Swahili language used in East Africa, a person would say, maybe to somebody who is reproving him for disobedience, "I didn’t hear you, bwana". Meaning, "I didn’t do what you told me". My conclusion from studying this theme all through the Bible is that ultimately our destiny is settled by how well we hear. If we do not learn to hear God, we will fail to obey God. So let me go back over that and give you the literal meaning. For if the word spoken through angels became firm, and every transgression. That means stepping over a known line. God lays down a line, you step over it: that’s a transgression. The word transgression comes from a Latin root which means "to step across something".
So a transgression is deliberately going against a known commandment or rule. But the other word that’s translated disobedience is really literally "mishearing". You don’t hear. Then you kind of justify yourself by saying, "God, I didn’t understand You". But I believe if you could hear God’s answer it would be, "That’s your problem! You haven’t learned to listen". every transgression and mishearing [or disobedience] received a just and appropriate reward of punishment. Let me point out to you that justice implies two things which is very, very little understood in contemporary society. Justice demands rewarding the righteous. And when we’re righteous, we certainly prepare to demand our rewards. But equally, justice demands punishing the wicked.
That’s something that we’re very silent about in contemporary society. In fact, the great part of "criminal" so-called "justice" today consists in treating the criminal better than the victim. That’s a complete misapplication of true justice. You leave your car keys in your car, the car gets stolen and the authorities are more severe on you for leaving your keys in the car than on the man that stole the car. That’s ridiculous. But that’s somehow the attitude we find today. All right. We’re going back to chapter 2 and we’re going to go to verse 3 which begins with a how. On the basis of what’s previously been said, how. How shall we escape if we have neglected so great a salvation? Now we’re shown why this salvation is so great. There are three reasons given, let me translate them and explain. Which at its inception [or when it received its beginning] was spoken through the Lord. I like to put in "Himself".
The message came initially through the Lord. Not through angels, not through a human servant, but through the Lord. and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. We don’t have third-hand testimony. We have firsthand testimony. God also bearing them witness, with signs and wonders and various miracles and divisions of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. Now the word "divisions of the Holy Spirit" obviously isn’t good English, so I think the translations tend to say "gifts divided according to God’s will". I just give you the basic literal meaning. Now we see the three reasons why this message is uniquely important. You’ll see them there on your page.
First of all, because it was first spoken by the Lord Himself. Second, because it was confirmed by actual witnesses who heard Him personally. Third, because it has been and is supernaturally attested by God through the Holy Spirit. So those are the three reasons which place it on a higher level than any other message of God. First, spoken by the Lord. Second, confirmed by people who were actual witnesses present at what was said and done. And third, God Himself bears supernatural testimony to its truth and its importance. Now we’re going on to chapter 2, verse 5: For it was not to angels that He [that is, God] subjected the world order to come, concerning which we are speaking. The word angels is put first and we’re still emphasizing the supremacy of Jesus over angels.
So it was not to angels that He [God] subjected the world order. That word is normally used for the civilized, or inhabited world. I suppose it still has the same meaning but it’s not of this age, it’s of the next age. "Concerning which we are speaking". You need to notice that the emphasis in Hebrews is forward, upward, into the future, into a new age. But it’s not "pie in the sky," as people tend to call it, because this age for us has already begun. We find later the phrase "those who have tasted the powers of the age to come". That, I believe, is made available to us through the Holy Spirit. So although we’re talking essentially about a future age, for us it’s not altogether future, we’ve already tasted its power. However, it’s important to see that the thrust of Hebrews is always forwards.
That brings us back to the key words such as heir, inheritance, perfection or completion or maturity. You won’t really understand Hebrews unless you see this consistent thrust all through the epistle. Also you need to bear in mind all the time that is concerned with an invisible heavenly realm which we can only know by revelation. There’s no other way that the human mind can know this but by revelation. So it’s important all through that we do not let unbelief rob us of the truth and let our carnal mind interfere with our receiving this revelation. You will see that this is one of the most serious warnings in the epistle, is the warning against unbelief.
Now, we’re going on to verses 6 to 8 and we come back now to another quotation from the Old Testament, Psalm 8. A part of that psalm we sung together tonight in the chorus taken from Psalm 8. I don’t know whether the brother who led the worship had looked ahead in chapter 2 but he chose two songs which were uniquely appropriate. The first one was "O Lord, Our Lord, How Excellent Is Thy Name," which is the opening verse of Psalm 8. But the next one was "I See the Lord". We’ll find in this chapter the statement, "But we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor".
Now let’s look at this quotation from Psalm 8. You may wish to turn back to Psalm 8, keeping your finger in both passages. People have complained that when I teach the Bible they need more fingers than they have. I am not responsible for that. Alright. Psalm 8: For somebody testified somewhere saying. I think it’s rather nice that the writer to the Hebrews kind of indicates he can’t remember the exact reference but he knows it’s there somewhere! So if you’re ever in that situation, others have been there before you. Somebody testified somewhere. Bear in mind that these people could not carry their Bibles around with them in a pocket edition! So they had to rely much more on memory than we do. "Somebody testified somewhere".
The somebody was David, and the somewhere was in Psalm 8. This is the translation in Hebrews. As I pointed out, the writer of Hebrews, generally speaking, takes his Old Testament Scriptures not from the original Hebrew but from the translation of the original Hebrew into Greek known as the Septuagint. Sometimes there are quite significant differences. It’s not possible to go into all the reasons for that. In fact, I’m sure that some of them I don’t know, I just point that out. This is now the quotation from Psalm 8:4–6. What is man, that You remember him [or are mindful of him]? Or the son of man, that You visit him? Now visit is Old English, King James, but it says it better than any modern word I can find. It’s that you look into his life, you check on him, you find out what he’s doing. God keeps a very careful check on us.
If you were to find a modern word, I think "to check on him," but that’s obviously not the kind of phrase you want to use in Bible translation. It isn’t my business to give you a translation, it’s just to kind of give you the thoughts contained. Beginning at verse 7: You made him a little lower than angels. Or it can equally well be translated "You made him for a little while lower than angels". You can take your choice. You crowned him with glory and honor, You put all things in subjection under his feet. Now, we probably better turn to Psalm 8, I’m taking the New American Standard. There are various different ways of legitimately translating Psalm 8. Psalm 8, we’ll only look at the verses actually quoted in Hebrews. Verse 4, reading now from The New American Standard. "What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty"!
Now, where the writer of Hebrews says "Thou hast made him a little lower than angels," the translator of the New American Standard in Psalm 8 says, "Thou hast made him a little lower than God". Now that may puzzle you, but there’s a good reason if I can communicate it to you. The word there translated from Hebrew is Elohim. How many of you have heard that word somewhere before? Elohim is plural in form. It’s the basic biblical word in Hebrew for the one true God. It occurs in Genesis 1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". And there right at the beginning in Genesis 1:1 we have this paradox that Elohim is plural but the next word that follows, "created," is singular.
So you have already a hint of the mystery of the Godhead, that it contains both unity and plurality. In the Old Testament the same word Elohim is used both for angels and for judges. You’ll find various places where it’s translated "judges" and other places where it’s translated "angels". The root meaning of the word is "power and authority". And judges have power and authority because they’re God’s representatives interpreting God’s law. In a way, it should give us a sense of awe at what’s implied in being a judge. In a certain sense, it’s taking God’s place. And woe to you if you take God’s place without being invited, which is what James says. Don’t judge one another because the judge is at the door. When he comes into the courtroom, don’t be found sitting in his chair because you’ll be thrown out. But, a judge, if he’s acting on divine authority, he’s actually sitting in God’s seat.
So that’s why sometimes the word Elohim is used of human judges. It’s also used of angels because they have supernatural power and they are the messengers and agents of God’s authority. So, it’s legitimate to translate it in verse 5 of Psalm 8, "Thou hast made him a little lower than God". However, it’s obvious that the writer of Hebrews didn’t understand it that way. And he says "angels". Most translations say "angels". The New International Version in Psalm 8:5 says "heavenly beings," which is really the same as angels. So my personal opinion is that you probably get nearest to the meaning if you say "angels" or "heavenly beings". Certainly that’s what it says in Hebrews 2. There’s no question about the meaning of that word. The Greek word is aggelos, which means primarily "a messenger," secondly "an angel," because angels are God’s messengers.
Let’s go on with Psalm 8:5 and then go back to Hebrews 2. We’re now going to Psalm 8:6: Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou has put all things under his feet. We don’t need to go any further. Now, going back to Hebrews 2 and our outline, first of all, we take note of the phrase "the son of man," which is actually the title that Jesus most often applied to Himself in the gospels. I think it occurs more than forty times in the gospels as the way Jesus referred to Himself. Then it unfolds three successive phases of God’s dealing with the Lord Jesus. They’re listed for you in the outline. Number one, He was made a little lower than angels. Number two, He was crowned with glory and honor. And number three, all things were put under His feet.
Now going on in Hebrews 2:8–9, I’m going to read the New American Standard for a moment because you’ll get confused if I don’t. 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. [Verse 9:] But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for every one. So in those verses the writer of Hebrews points out that phases one, and two are already fulfilled. Already Jesus has been made a little lower than the angels, and already He’s been crowned after death and resurrection with glory and honor. But phase three is not yet completely fulfilled. We do not yet see all things put in subjection under His feet. But you remember that God said to Him, "Sit at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool".
Going on now in verse 10, and I’m going back to my reading from the Greek. For it was appropriate for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things. Let me pause there and point out that in the Greek there there’s no verb is or are. Now that is not really permitted in Greek, but it is permitted in Hebrew. Hebrew doesn’t have a verb for is or are. It’s just understood. For instance, "I am a teacher in Hebrew," is just, "I a teacher". You don’t put in the word am. "He is a teacher" is "He a teacher". What this indicates is that the writer wrote in Greek and thought in Hebrew. You see that? There’s many such examples. Also in the writings of Paul.
So the writers of these epistles, though they used Greek, were still, when you got to the back of their minds, they were still thinking in Hebrew. For it was appropriate for Him, for whom were all things, and through who were all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation [the leader, the commander, what does it say here, the "author" of their salvation] perfect through sufferings. I point out now that there is the first occurrence of one of our theme words which is the word perfect: perfection, mature, and maturity. Bearing in mind the same word has all meanings. And notice that it is linked with suffering. He was made perfect through sufferings. I want to suggest to you there is no path to perfection or maturity that bypasses suffering. Anybody who tries to persuade you of that is misleading you. I’m sure our natural mind would wish it were otherwise but it isn’t.
Now in that verse we have three parties. First of all, the One for whom were all things and through whom were all things. That’s God the Father. Secondly, we have the captain (the commander, the author) of our salvation, who is Jesus Christ the Son. And then we have "many sons". They are the sons who come to God the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. Now I want to point out there that this word that’s translated author is-let me give it to you in Greek, it’s archegos. It comes from that root that means "beginning" or "rule" or "authority". The two are not finally separated because the one who is in the beginning is the one who rules and has authority. However, you’ll see that it’s difficult to find one word in English to translate it. I think the King James says "captain," I think this version says "author".
However, let me point out to you two places in the book of Acts where it’s translated differently. Let’s look for a moment in Acts 3:15. Acts 3:15. I'm looking for verse 15, but my page won't open there Peter is speaking to the Jewish people in Jerusalem and he says: You put to death the Prince of life. The same word: "the prince": the author, the commander. And in Acts 5:31, again I think it’s Peter who is speaking. He says: He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior. Same word. Now I felt prompted to put in that rather cryptic phrase "compare the Israeli tank commander," commander being the corresponding word.
One of the things that is said about an Israeli tank commander: He does not say to his troops, "Advance," He says, "Follow me". He’s the leader, the author and the captain. I think that’s a beautiful picture of Jesus. He didn’t say to us, "Advance, go in and handle the devil". He said, "Follow Me. I’ve gone first, you can follow Me". In this way He became a pattern for us. Let’s look also in 1 Peter 2:21. This is one of those verses that the natural mind sometimes wishes wasn’t in the Bible. 1 Peter 2:21. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. Follow in what? Suffering, that’s right. That’s part of what our calling is. Not all of our calling, but if you leave that out, sooner or later you’re going to be very frustrated and disappointed because you’ll be starting out with a false picture of what it requires to come to maturity or perfection. That was the road for Jesus and it’s the road for you and me.