“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. 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.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. (Hebrews 2:5-11 ESV)
If God has spoken to mankind in many different ways and at different times … and if He has spoken the final word through His own Son who is much greater than angels being heir of all things, the radiant glory of God and the exact imprint … and if His Son, Jesus Christ made purification for sins and is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high as Lord and King then why…?
Why does it appear as if evil has won the day? Why do so many non-Christians still mock the name of our precious Lord? Why do many so-called Christians forsake the gospel returning to the vomit and dead ways of their former life? Why do all genuine believers continue to wrestle against their flesh in a desperate fight for victory? And if Jesus really cares for His Church, why hasn’t He returned?
All of these are legitimate (and difficult) questions to answer. Doubters and pessimists at this point will echo each other in one sarcastic voice, “This is some salvation!” False religions and cults shut down tough questions and tell their followers to keep quiet and get back in line. However, God does not leave His children totally in the dark— without any answer or any hope.
If we can cut to the chase from what is stated here in Hebrews 2, the short answer to these burning questions is that the Kingdom is AND is yet to come. Christ has been seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high after having made purification for sins. And yet not everything is in subjection to Him. God is bringing everything to that point—the point at which the angel announces, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Until that day, we have a Kingdom that is and yet is to come.
While the Church longs and waits for that day, our great God directs our attention to the suffering Servant, His Son Jesus Christ. He serves as our example. The Lord also reveals that the suffering of His children is an integral part of the proclamation of the gospel, their sanctification and the vindication and glorification of His Name and His Church. We don’t have every answer to the painful riddles of life, but we do have a strong encouragement that serves as an anchor to the soul. Therefore, we press on.
Jesus Christ, not angels, reigns as King, and everything has been placed under his rule. Although we do not yet “see” everything in submission to Him, we do “see” (by faith) Him crowned with honor and glory. To Christ alone, God has subjected the world to come; in other words, the consummated Kingdom. There is nothing that is ultimately outside of His control. The Lord is sovereign and He is faithfully, and forcefully, carrying out the extension of His kingdom.
The rightful position held by “King Jesus” was obtained not only by who He is, but also because of the fact that He tasted death for everyone (people from every tribe, language and nation) on the cross of Calvary. Because of this great accomplishment, no child of God will “taste death” (see John 8:52) … no child of God will now ever experience hell—separation from God and the just punishment for sin—because Christ was punished and separated from His Father as He bore our sins in His body. It was fitting for Jesus to do this. There is no other way for our salvation to be accomplished, therefore, it is said that it is fitting, appropriate, God-ordained, and necessary. As we read in Luke 24:26 – “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
The writer to the Hebrews now inserts something very profound. He writes that the founder of our salvation was perfected through suffering. There are two important points that need to be understood. First, founder equates to forerunner or pioneer. As Richard Phillips writes: “This idea of a pioneer is appropriate to the work of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Like those stalwart settlers who followed Lewis and Clark into the fertile West, we follow a path blazed only by Jesus Christ, who leads us into the promised land of salvation and eternal life. He has gone where we could not go; by his own resources of righteousness and truth and an all-conquering life, he has opened up the way to heaven for us. This is what he explained to his first disciples just before leaving them to take up the cross: ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going’ (John 14:2-4).”
Secondly, saying that Jesus was perfected through suffering is not saying that at one point Jesus was sinful. Instead, it was through those sufferings that Jesus “was fully equipped for his office. God qualified Jesus to come before him in priestly action. He perfected him as a priest of his people through his sufferings, which permitted him to accomplish his redemptive mission” (William Lane).
So what is the takeaway from all of this? Christ went on ahead of us in this suffering by blazing a trail through which we can safely walk. He was perfected through suffering … he completely experienced everything this evil world could throw at Him and was prepared for the role of High Priest which He fulfilled by shedding His blood for the forgiveness of sins. In all of this, our older Brother (Hebrews 2:11-12) in suffering has not only accomplished our great salvation, but He has also left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:19-21).
And why is it that we have been called to suffering? This is not a complete answer, just a start. Suffering serves a God-ordained purpose. It is not random, not meaningless. The pain, trials and persecution of the Church is for the proclamation of the gospel and declaration to the world that judgment is coming. Philippians 1:27-30 declares that it has been granted to us for the sake of Christ to not only believe but also to suffer for His sake. The suffering exalts Christ and His gospel and is a “clear sign” of the destruction of those who oppose and persecute the Church.
Suffering is also used by God in the consecrating / sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit. Notice what we read in Psalm 119.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word (v. 67).
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (v. 71).
I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me (v. 75).
There is nothing meritorious or of any intrinsic value in the suffering itself. People everywhere are suffering and most do not benefit from their pain in light of eternity. So how does this pain differ? Godly suffering does this:
- it burns away all other distractions
- it breaks us of our pride and self-reliance so that we run to the Lord for shelter, strength and healing
- it resets our value system (Christ = Infinite Worth; Everything Else = A Manure Pile) and
- it is when the Word of God is injected into the undistracted, submissive, quieted, listening heart, God does a powerful work in that heart to conform it to the image of Christ.
So in returning to our question, “If Jesus Christ was victorious over sin, Satan, death and the grave, why does it really seem like it was only half a victory? Or really no victory at all?” Things appear and are what they are because God has ordained them this way. Christ’s kingdom is and is yet to come. So during this in-between period of trial and affliction, we don’t run from the pain and confusion. Rather, we embrace the cross, looking “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).