"It is not angels who will control (rule over) the future world we are talking about" (Heb 2:5 NLT). The writer of Hebrews continues his argument that Jesus is superior to angels (which some OT saints exalted above Christ) and in his argument shows us three profound truths: 1) Man's destiny and dignity revealed by God; 2) Man's destiny and dignity lost and restricted by sin; and 3) Man's destiny and dignity recovered and restored by Jesus. Lost man has no understanding of the meaning of his life and thus the purpose for which God created him (to rule over His creation) is twisted and distorted into sinful domination/manipulation of people (James 4:1-5) and even God's creation. And even believers fall into this mindset when we walk in the flesh and fail to renew our minds to know and live out God's will and purpose for which He created us. (Note: Man is called to a Biblical stewardship of God's creation; not to rape the earth for sinful purposes but neither worship the earth and place it above the need of human beings.) Hebrews 2:5-18 reminds us of God's high calling for man and shows us how He will bring it about. (I am following the outline from John MacArthur; Grace to You.Org – Hebrews).
1) Man's destiny and dignity revealed by God – "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food." And it was so." (Gen. 1:26-30)
According to some commentators the word "image" (of God) means "a physical manifestation of a Divine essence (God) that bears the function of that which it represents." (John Walton – NIV Application Commentary on Genesis p. 131) Jesus is said to be "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (highest rank) of all creation (including the material world which God created; Col. 1:15; also see Heb. 1:3). God is spirit and man is an embodied spirit (angels are spirit beings except when they "appear" as man) and can make manifest the invisible God even as Jesus did perfectly as a Man in His incarnation and now does in heaven. This is an important point which is expanded on later in point three. (John Milton implies in Paradise Lost that when Satan (possibly the highest ranking angel) realized that the destiny and dignity of man was greater than that of the angels, it prompted his rebellion.)
2) Man's destiny and dignity lost and restricted by sin – "So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Gen. 3:14-19) "The whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). Satan, a fallen angel, rules over fallen man and even creation- nature, animals, plants, etc. is at enmity with man, from earthquakes to bacteria. In one "stroke" a man can go from thinking he is in charge of his world to being a gibbering imbecile. He builds his houses and cities and overnight a tornado or bomb levels them to the ground. This is "normal" for man in a fallen world and the best of lives is always trumped by death. Yet man stubbornly hopes in and invests great energy in this temporal world and essentially ignores eternity, the very opposite of what God tells us to do. (Matt. 6:19-21)
3) Man's destiny and dignity recovered and restored by Jesus – "It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect (fully mature) through suffering. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants" (Heb. 2:5-10; 14-15).
Yet these Jewish believers might argue that since Jesus became a man, and men suffer and die and angels don't suffer or die, how can Jesus be better than angels? So the writer reminds them that man is superior to angels in his original state and through and in Christ will be restored to that state and "reign" with Christ in the world to come. "Do you not know that we (man) will judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:3) "It is not angels who will control (rule over) the future world we are talking about" (Heb. 2:5 NLT)."I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years" (Rev. 20:4-6).
"While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' " Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities" ( Luke 19:11-19). Notice that Jesus gave the same amount of minas (money) to each servant and commended the first servant ("Well done, my good servant") and put him over 10 cities. Yet he did not commend the second servant and put him over fewer cities. From the lesson here in Luke and many other passages it seems that a believer's capacity and privilege to rule with Christ in heaven is based on our faithful obedience to the opportunities given to us by the Lord. He determines the number of opportunities we have through the time, talents, treasures and truth He chooses to give to each one of us but then we are accountable and rewarded accordingly for the use of them.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) Man's destiny and dignity revealed by God – Read the Genesis account of man's calling to rule over and subdue the earth. Does this strike you to be impossible and why?
2) Man's destiny and dignity lost and restricted by sin – In one "stroke" a man can go from thinking he is in charge of his world to being a gibbering imbecile. He builds his houses and cities and overnight a tornado or bomb levels them to the ground. This is "normal" for man in a fallen world and the best of lives is always trumped by death. Yet man stubbornly hopes in and invests great energy in this temporal world and essentially ignores eternity, the very opposite of what God tells us to do. (Matt. 6:19-21) How does this statement relate to the "lostness" of man? How does this relate to the false prosperity gospel taught by many today? 3) Man's destiny and dignity recovered and restored by Jesus – "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect (full maturity) through suffering." How does our suffering relate to maturing spiritually? See Hebrews 12:5-11.
4) "Put this money (time, talents and truth too) to work,' he said, 'until I come back." To what degree are you motivated by eternal versus temporal "rewards"? How can you evaluate yourself in this area?