Let us take our Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 2, make sure you are looking at the text yourself in your Bibles, on your phones, or whatever else you have. Look at the text yourself so you can see what it says.
This morning we are looking at the strong warning that comes about four or five times in the book of Hebrews. This is the first of the warnings that he gives. It is almost a parentheses based on what he said before. He wants to give it to the hearers, these recipients of this letter, so they can be assured that they are heading in the right direction, and that they are believing the right things. We just came out of a section of Scripture that spoke of the excelling greatness of God’s Son and that Christ has inherited a more excellent name than the angels. He receives their worship, He uses them as messengers and servants. Jesus is anointed above all of them, above all others. He is God the Creator, God eternal, God unchangeable. He is given the highest place in the universe. That should be our view of Christ.
That view should never be diminished by anything, any teaching, or anyone. We cannot move from having a high view of God, a high view of Christ, and a total sufficiency in God’s Word, with the belief that what God’s Word says is true and that it is worthy to be believed. It is worthy to develop deep convictions in your heart so you can stand firm. So if persecution and suffering and a change in the way we know the world now happens, it will not move us around too much. We will quickly return to balance, evaluate our situation, and continue to do what we have to do to continue to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ.
All of this was given in Hebrews to inform the author’s readers that Christ, the object of God’s final revelation, is vastly superior to all spiritual, angelic beings as well as all others. Now the author pauses and injects a word of strong warning. Why? He understands that his readers are troubled by the possibility of being ostracized, troubled by impending suffering, or suffering they have already gone through, or even the loss of their lives for believing in Jesus Christ.
He senses that his readers are discouraged and are being tempted to be pulled back from their commitment to Christ. Have you ever been there? Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt that, being around family and friends, that somehow and in some way you were a little bit ashamed of being a Christian? A little bit ashamed of knowing Christ as your Savior, and stepped back a bit? And that is nothing compared with what they were going through in this epistle.
They are at a crisis point, and we in our lives may come from time to time, move in and out at different levels, in this same crisis point. But at this crisis point there is great danger. I do not believe it is danger whether a person can lose their salvation. And we will see this in greater clarity when we get to chapters 6 and 10, where people use these passages to say you can lose your salvation.
I believe the author of Hebrews is confident that his readers would endure and would remain faithful to their commitment to Christ until the end. Why do I believe that? Well look over to Hebrews 3:6, because he says this about his readers:
But Christ was faithful as a Son over His houseÑwhose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
He uses “we” there to include himself with those who are listening. These are believers, mostly Jewish, in this passage and he is telling them that this trouble has come but not to lose grip. He says, “hold on to the end! Your salvation is real.”
He is also careful to warn those that had been exposed to the truth of the gospel, and the supremacy of Christ and His saving work. Up until that point in which he was writing this epistle, they had given evidence of a true Christian experience. They have experienced what it means to be a believer. They have had the Holy Spirit, they have had the Word of God, an opportunity to witness, to see and hear what God has been doing.
He admonishes them to continue in the faith and obedience. This is key to the Christian life. He is talking about the perseverance of the saints. What God began in you, He will continue in you.
Look at Hebrews 3:14, where he says:
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.
He is talking about perseverance, not only just the profession of faith, not only a few Sunday School attendances, but being relentless on continuing. Not listening to your flesh or your feelings. Often we have to do that, but just following the truth and being faithful. When you do that, God strengthens you, He makes you firm in the faith, and He gives you the ability to see farther than anyone else.
But when there is no perseverance, when someone makes a profession of faith but gives no indication that from that point there is any fruit of the Spirit in their life, then maybe they did not have faith in the beginning and did not have real salvation in the beginning.
So what they need and what we would need if we were found in a situation like this, is a strong exhortation, a spiritual kick in the pants. We would need some strong words of warning so it would help us to see clearly again, so it would give the needed assurance that we all need to press on in our commitment to Christ and give greater attention to the person of the Son, to the person of Jesus Christ. We need to keep our eyes upon Him.
Let us look at our text this morning and let us look at the exhortation and take seriously the exhortation and the warning for ourselves, as we look at this passage of Scripture.
Here is the exhortation in Hebrews 2:1:
For this reason, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.
He is saying, “pay attention to what you have heard!” And do this in view of the preeminent status of the Son. God has spoken in the Son about His saving purpose that came to full expression in Him. The Son’s message should have a paramount claim upon our attention, our beliefs, our obedience, and upon our continuing in the faith. That is the exhortation.
When one stops listening to God’s Word, they are in great danger of misunderstanding God’s Word. What I am saying is not that you are not present, but that you are not listening to what it says or applying it to yourselves or your lives.
There is great danger when you are present but not paying attention to God’s Word. You are truly allowing it to sink in your mind and get down in you heart to move you emotions, understanding, and will. That is what the Bible means when it talks about paying closer attention to what has been already written and given to us.
What we will misunderstand if we do not pay attention is God’s so great a salvation that was given by the Father through the Son. The question is, do we understand the salvation that has been given? There are things that always resonate with people who think that they are somehow outside the message contained in the Word of God and that it does not really apply to them. You may like to read the Bible, and that it has something to do with you and your interest, but it really does not apply directly to your life.
Therefore, they may start to think that they do not need anything. They begin to resent the fact that the implication of the gospel for them is that they are being condemned by God for their sin, and they are under His wrath. They might think that there is not anything wrong with their life.
Someone who would actually fail to hear the gospel, to hear the truth, and to read the Word of God, yet fail to understand what is really written or what they really believe. This has eternal consequences for us. Do we understand the truth? We need to take heed that we do not develop a hearing problem and stop truly listening to God’s Word.
Now the writer of Hebrews admonishes his audience again. Look at Hebrews 5:11 because a group of them are developing that problem. He says to them:
Concerning him, we have much to say and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing.
In other words, he has something really hard to explain to them but he cannot go deeper in his explanation of the truth because they have not been paying attention to the basics. They have not looked at what the Bible says about the basics.
If they do not get the basics, how can they be taught more from the Word of God. Hebrews 5:12 says:
By this time you ought to be teachers, you have become again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God. You have come to need milk and not solid food.
Milk is for babies. It is time to grow up! Look at verse 13:
For everyone who partakes only in milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice they are trained to discern good and evil.
In other words, they have been paying attention. They have been applying in their lives the things they have been learning. They loathe the fact that somehow they reek of being a baby. They do not want to be a baby, but want to be mature. That is why the Bible talks about babes in Christ, or young men in Christ as it says in 1 John, who are able to take the Word of God and fight against Satan.
He attacks them with an unbiblical twist of lies and truth together. They are able to discern all of that and fight against him. Spiritual fathers learn to mature and walk steady and become firm in the faith. The author here wants them to grow. He is pushing them not to be satisfied where they are at, especially in the midst of persecution and trouble where it could be the point that they throw in the towel.
Here is the exhortation in Hebrews 2:1:
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
The word means to turn one’s mind to something. Believers are to leave and cling to God’s message that Christ is so much better than any previous revelation that has been given, that our minds should give them the closest attention. Pay more attention to Christ, to the Son, to all that is wrapped up in Him in what He has done.
Not it also means this, all the more attention to what? Well it means all the more attention than the Old Testament revelation had given about Him. Even though it was grand revelation, and that is how God laid it out, that is only part of the revelation of God. Remember what happened in Hebrews 1:1, look at what it says again:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.
So His Son becomes the final revelation so He is saying, listen more closely to God’s message, mediated via the Son. It becomes the central point of our paying attention. Why is this? Because with the exhortation comes a warning, and what is the warning? Look at Hebrews 2:1, it says at the end of the verse:
So that we do not drift away from it.
He is warning against drifting or flowing past it. It gives the sense here of the gradual, even an indiscernible movement away from something. You do not even know it is happening, but you got involved with this and that but you are not paying attention to the eternal things that God has given us. Believers can get wrapped up in this, they can get pulled away and can drift away. One time they were faithful to the Word of God, to church, to attendance, to study, and now they are coasting on what they know.
They are in great danger of slipping away from all of it! It could be spiritual apathy, it could be spiritual regression, it could be spiritually naivety to the truth, especially concerning what you believe about the Son. Now anybody who knows anything about working out, and if you are pumping the steel or are on the treadmill, you know that your muscles are firm and strong.
But just take off a few months and it all starts turning to jello, right? The muscle you had there starts turning soft. That also happens spiritually. We need to keep firm muscles in the faith, and discipline ourselves. There is no room to step off and take a break. We do not have that privilege or luxury, and the author is warning them in this passage.
The metaphor in mind here seems to be allowing the current to carry one away from a fixed point, through carelessness and unconcern. Instead of keeping a firm grip on the truth, they begin to drift away from what they already know.
The warning tells us not to slip away from the teaching concerning the Messiah’s future deliverance and Kingdom, and to have a Biblical view of God’s Son and salvation that He has accomplished and offers to you. If you have received it, it is yours. Do you think that just because you became a Christian you know everything? That your journey to understand God has ended? That is foolish, God is so vast and there is so much to know about Him. What He has given us is contained in one book that we can carry around, well sixty-six books to be exact.
The Bible is a big book and there is a lot to know about God. There is a lot to know about God so you know what? Do not ever think that you can take a break on the sidelines. The warning is that you do not want to drift away from what you already have, you want to keep it. We want to keep the spiritual muscle strong and firm, so that when somebody comes to attack me spiritually, when Satan comes with his fiery missiles, I am going to be able to stand. If suffering comes into my life, if loss of health comes into my life, if family problems come into my life, I am not going to lose my firm faith in Christ.
It is a strong warning and he has not even made his case yet. You will find that it is a blow to the forehead, but it is a needed one. Let us look at the motivations he gives them to keep the warning and exhortation.
Hebrews 2:2, he begins the motivation to keep the warning and the exhortation, and look at what he says:
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty.
This motivation that he talks about comes from past Jewish history, within the Sinai wilderness community. But I want you to notice this tiny word, if. That word could be taken a couple of ways, that is what you have to decide when you interpret Scripture. It could mean cause and effect, it is an if, then statement. Like, if you put your hand in the fire, then you will get burned.
If I do something, I will suffer the consequences. There is a cause and an effect. There is another way to look at this word, it is what they call the evidence inference. In other words, he is developing evidence so we can make an inference on something. For example, if she has a ringer on her left hand, then she is married. Do I know she is married? Maybe not, but I am inferring by good evidence.
This is what the author does, this is how he uses the if here. He stacks up the evidence and then the audience can infer. Let us see if there is any evidence that would bring someone to make an inference based on the evidence. Hebrews 2:2 says it like this. He is saying here for your information. A Jewish interpreter really respects thirteen rules of interpretation. One of these rules is called a qal wahomer, and this rule states that what applies in a less important case, a past era, the past wilderness experience, will apply to a more important, present case. This is the era in which God’s full revelation is spoken through the Son. The argument would be the lesser to the greater. Those who are aware of grammar, this is also called a tor tiari. A simple way of referring to this goes back to Matthew 10:29-31 when Jesus says:
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
So He is saying that if the sparrows are valuable, how much more valuable do you think you are who is created in the image of God? It is the lesser to the greater argument. In other words the argument in Scripture is, if God was steadfast on how He held people responsible to the law, that was mediated by angels. If God was firm that when in the past what He spoke through angels proved unalterable how much more would it be His message given through the Son? That you think that you can get away with something just because we are in the age of mercy and grace. That somehow God’s justice does not mean anything and that He has laid it aside, and there is a difference between how God acted in the Old Testament and how Jesus acts in the gospel. He is the same God. He has already proven that in Scripture.
Now we see that Moses was given living words, the law, for the people to live by, mediated by angels. Now let us go back to a few passages in Acts, and I want you to see where the Bible refers to angels mediating truth to God’s people. I want you to follow this because this is some complicated stuff, but it is really simple and is making one point. He is making one point but He is building an argument and He is building the evidence.
Look at Acts 7:38, it says:
This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.
Now move down to Acts 7:53. I want you to see what the Sinai community did with the law that they received. Were they privileged people to receive the law of God when none of the other nations received it? Yes! Look at this verse:
You who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.
Now does God overlook this? If you go back to the Old Testament, did God overlook when they did not keep His word? They received the binding law at Mount Sinai through angelic beings and they refused to pay attention. They slipped away, they lost sight of what God was saying, and they just plain forgot.
Now remember that under the Mosaic system, blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience was built in. You find all that in Deuteronomy 28-30.
Disobedience to the law brought a just penalty. God clearly wrote in the Old Testament that if you do this, and you break this law, you will serve a just penalty for that crime, for that offense. That is definitely going to take place and that is what you find in the Old Testament. God never negotiated His law; He never negotiated with anybody about His law. That is why His law is written in stone, it does not change.
In thinking of that, why then the law? Paul answers in Galatians 3:19. It says this:
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
Who is the seed that would come according to the promise that has been made? Jesus. So the law was given because of the people’s transgressions. What does this word mean? A transgression is a violation of what God has said, a violation of the law.
What is disobedience? This is in a person’s heart and will, and it is a refusal to obey what God has already said.
Now look back at Hebrews 2:2 and look at what is written:
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty.
We see here that God is not fudging on anything. Just for your information, I have many passages but I just want to look at a couple of them. One of them is found in Numbers 16:26, but before we look at that verse, I want to give you some examples from the Old Testament Sinai community. God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt, they went into the wilderness, and God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. God gave them the tabernacle and the law there, they saw the presence of God there, He gave them community and built them up into a nation there, and yet how did the people respond?
In Exodus they were punished for idolatry, remember when they made the golden calf and God punished them right on the spot. Later on when God developed the priesthood, Aaron had two sons Nadab and Abihu. They decided to offer strange incense on the altar which God never required or permitted. They did it and God took their lives on the spot.
At Kibroth Hattaavah, they were punished with fire by complaining. Miriam and Aaron, who envied their brother Moses, were struck with leprosy by God. The people were smitten by Amalek for going into battle without asking God first. They presumed that God was with them when He was not, and they got slaughtered by them in that battle.
Sabbath breakers were stoned to death, adulterers were stoned to death, and whoever misused the sexual union between a man and a woman was stoned to death. And all of these regulations are given by God and every one that was broken, God instituted His justice and punishment. Without fail, that is what you see in the Old Testament.
Now we come to the passage of Scripture in Numbers 16. And here is Korah punished by God where God opens the earth and swallows them up. He punished the 250 that were the instigators of this issue and He pours out His wrath upon them. Look at Numbers 16:26-27, 30-32, which says:
And he spoke to the congregation, saying, "Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, or you will be swept away in all their sin.” 27 So they got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents, along with their wives and their sons and their little ones. 30 But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord. 31 As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, "The earth may swallow us up!” 35 Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.
Now what these people did was they disobeyed what God said to do and they came up against Moses, God’s leader, and God decided to hold justice on them and take them out. That is pretty severe, which means that God does not fudge on what He says. He does not compromise or negotiate.
There is another situation when the fiery serpents were sent in Numbers 21 among the people for murmuring. The serpents bit the people and the people were ready to die, and Moses was instructed by God to lift up a bronze serpent in the wilderness and when the people looked at it, they would be healed. What are all these pointing to? They are pointing to Christ.
He is saying not to get stuck on the elementary things, but go on to where that type or picture is fulfilled. We know that this is one of them where it is found in the gospel of John when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus who was supposed to be a teacher. He finally said to Nicodemus, after talking about being born again and being born of the Spirit, in John 3:13-15:
No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
What happened in the Old Testament pointed to Christ, and Christ became the One who was lifted up and who took the load of sin. When you look to Him and believe by faith, you will have eternal life, be forgiven of your sins and be made right with Him.
Is there enough evidence to make an inference that if God in the past era did not fudge on His justice and came down hard on the people who received the Word of God, mediated by angels, Moses and prophets, then He will not do so now? How much more will God hold people responsible who shrink from Christ and willingly and willfully repudiate the only way of salvation!
Since Jesus is a greater mediator than angels, His message is even more vital than the covenantal message given at Sinai and all the regulations and laws given there for the people to obey. The message in the Old Testament was cloudy and obscure in all past revelations. But the great salvation that was made in Christ Jesus and became clear in the revelation of the Son is without a doubt God’s final message to us. If we neglect that, will God not hold someone responsible for that? We are not done yet, look back at Hebrews because I just gave you the past mediators which were the angels and prophets. Now look at the present mediators of God’s message of salvation in Hebrews 2:3, where he says:
How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.
The message was first spoken by the Lord Himself. He is the One who brings the clear message of all that was revealed in the Old Testament. “To us” were those that received the letters and “those who heard” refers to the apostles. They were the early disciples who got the original account of what happened. They received it, proclaimed it, and then wrote it down. They sealed it in writing.
So, it was the Lord who first witnessed it and brought the message. Then it was the apostles called by God to do this task, to hear it, to write it down accurately, and then to give it to the church. Notice in Hebrews 2:4, where it says:
God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
Those who are testifying with God include the apostles, with those who received the message. And it was done by signs and wonders and by various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. All these gifts testify the message of God’s Son, who came from God with power. In the gospels, and the book of Acts, we read that the apostles healed the sick, cast out demons, and displayed all kinds of other supernatural power that only can come from God and which substantiated that they were from God and that the message they proclaimed was from God. It is sealed and set, God gave them the ability to perform miracles in order to bear witness of the truth of the gospel.
Under the law, transgression received an adequate punishment. The adequate punishment of the neglector of the gospel must be a more severe punishment than the adequate punishment of the violators of the law. Those in the new era, the era in which the full revelation of God is given, who ignore God’s message made clear by His Son, which was bore as a witness by Jesus and His followers, will not escape future judgment. They will receive a harsher punishment than those in the Old Testament. In our pluralistic society it is not really right to say that another person is wrong. But it is altogether foolish and deadly if we know of the true teaching, we must communicate it. And if the true teaching reveals that their teaching is wrong, then we must say it.
The gospel is definable. It is no difficult matter to find out what the Bible says about the gospel. What is the message of the gospel anyway? It is really the whole message of the Bible. The gospel starts with the creation of the world and of human beings. It includes preaching about the fall of man and why they need salvation. It teaches about the practice of the priests of the Old Testament, the offering of a lamb sacrificed morning and evening, which was only foreshadowing looking forward to the great act of God. He offered up Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who was delivered for His people and for their sins. All the Old Testament types and shadows were only a preparation for what was coming in the Savior Jesus Christ.
The gospel tells all the message of redemption, God buying us by His blood from the slave market of sin. It is a message of the effectual call of God and the purpose of God in salvation. But it is also a message of final judgment. There is a day when God has set with certainty that God will judge the world. All those who have not repented will receive God’s justice. All those who have repented and trusted in the Son will receive mercy and will escape the wrath of God.
Finally in the gospel, there is the restoration of all things in Christ Jesus. We are not to pick and choose from the final analysis, but instead we are to receive it just as it is and by an act of faith in our weakness and our helplessness. We must simply believe and eternal life is given by God. That is the message of the gospel.
Back in Hebrews 2:3, there is a warning question that asks:
How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Salvation here is the deliverance of man, of people through the mediation of Jesus Christ. It is expressed in a way that gives the highest importance. How will we run away or escape if we do not pay attention to the fullness of this message? If God now, through His Son, provided a greater salvation and you neglect His final revelation, and means of salvation, how will you escape?
What will you not escape from is the justice of God. If God did it that way in the Old Testament and He did not fudge on it, He is not going to fudge on it if someone has not trusted Christ when they were given the message. It is just a matter of not paying attention. You do not have to be hostile to a message, you can just be indifferent to it. You may be thinking that you do not feel the justice of God in your life right now, or that you are just not interested in Christ.
Please do not let your feelings dictate to you this most important truth. But let God’s Word be the guide here. It is a matter of eternal importance. Here is where the exhortation and warning should claim our attention. If you neglect the only great means of salvation to escape God’s wrath, then you will have to stand alone to face God’s justice.
It will not be a matter of how can you escape, but the cold firm reality will be that there is no escape. You cannot escape God’s justice. The only way to escape it is through Jesus Christ, God’s final revelation to man. If you neglect Him, fudge on Him, ignore Him, indifferent to Him, you will stand and everyone else will stand before God’s justice, and there will be no escape. That is the point! If you get that, you have got it! If you get that, then you can look at your life right now and ask yourself, “where do I stand before God?”
And if you do not know where you stand before God, run to Jesus Christ, your only hope and Savior, and the final revelation of God on how to get saved. On the other hand, the Christian who is firm in their faith can stand and declare that they have been saved! “My whole position has been changed, from one of being unsaved to one of being saved. From one of being condemned to one of being freed from God’s condemnation.”
In other words, you have moved from one place to another, from the place of not being a Christian to the place of becoming a real Christian who perseveres to the end because I know what I have. That is where you want to be. If you are there in your mind, heart, and convictions, nothing will move you. Understand? You will not repudiate Christ or ignore the message of Jesus Christ. You will persevere until the last day of your life when you close your eyes and you enter into glory. That is what the motivation of Hebrews is, to bring you to that place. And when you do, the possession of life, the glittering gold that is flashed before us will not mean very much because you cannot take any of that with you.
But I can die and close my eyes no matter what situation I am in socially or politically, or any other way, and enter glory because Christ saved me. Please take this message seriously. It is the most important, let us pray.
Lord, thank You this morning that You have done such a great thing. I pray that we would never think of our salvation as anything else but great. Mostly Lord because of who provided it. You are the great God and Savior. There is no one like You. You are the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. You are the Creator of the universe, You are the One who has authority over angels, who created them. You are the One who gave the law and did not fudge on it. You are the One who is giving the final revelation of Your Son, and those who do not believe in You will come under Your justice. I pray this morning, Lord, that You would save us from that, anyone who does not know You. Those who do know You, I pray that we would bask in the seriousness of what it means to pay attention to the Word of God, so we do not drift away. Lord, help us to persevere in Christ, for the great glory of Your Name. And I pray this in the precious, in the glorious, and in the final Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.