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So Great A Salvation

Date: Feb. 26, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Hebrews 2:1-18

Key Verse: Hebrews 2:3

“how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”

So Great A Salvation.  So Great A Salvation.  The words bring a smile to my face, and fill my heart with hope and joy.  So Great A Salvation.  The concept of salvation is ingrained in every human heart.  There must be some truth to it.  Some of the most successful movies of all time deal with the subject of saving the world from an enemy.  The Avengers Movies, Superman, the Transformers, Star Wars, Avatar, and coming up: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Something about saving the world resonates within us – we all want to be saved, we all want to live, and in some cases, we also want to be like the Saviors, the heroes.  Now we know movies are fiction.  Outside of the movie theater, people look for salvation in other ways.  For Buddhists, the ultimate goal is nirvana – an “indescribable state of bliss reached with the complete cessation of suffering and of the process of rebirth” (Patheos.com).  But even among different Buddhist cultures the idea of heaven differs.  Muslims believe in a Paradise, which is a place of spiritual and physical pleasure, and can be attained by faith in their Allah, repentance of sins and good works (religionfacts.com).  Many cultures believe the soul goes to an afterlife, a spiritual realm on earth or elsewhere, though this isn’t necessarily salvation.  But with so many thoughts on salvation, how do you know what is true?  Today the Bible will show us a salvation that is so great a salvation.  It is not just another theory or idea of salvation, but it is the reality of salvation, and I hope I can prove that to you today.  What is amazing about it is that it is a salvation greater than any other salvation that you know, even greater than any salvation that you can imagine or make up.  It is greater than the salvation made up in movies, and the best part is, that it is real and you can, yes, you can partake in it.

Look at verse 1: “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”  We must pay the MOST careful attention.  Are you paying attention?  We must not give only half our minds, or half our ears, but we must give the most careful attention to what we have heard, namely, the gospel message, so that we do not drift away.  And notice it’s a drift – think slowly, little by little.  If we don’t dig into God’s word day by day, the everyday cares, worries or influences take us farther and farther off course.  As we have seen, there are many ideas of salvation, but the gospel is distinct.  Our natural inclinations are to drift away from the truth of the gospel, because our hearts are naturally sinful.  If we listen carefully, and pay attention, we will find the gospel to be the most reasonable of truths.  Do you remember the key verse from last week?  It contains a summary of the gospel.  Dan gave us a full in-depth teaching on it last week, but here I will summarize the verse.  Heb 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  When you pay attention to these words, you find that Jesus is God.  The world will never acknowledge this, but the Bible says Jesus is God.  You also see that he provided purification for sins.  You did not do it.  You cannot do it.  Jesus did it.  If you don’t pay careful attention to this, you may forget that Jesus alone purifies sin, and fall into despair, legalism or self-righteousness.  You also see that Jesus right now is reigning from heaven, seated at the right hand of the Majesty.

We pay careful attention so that we do not drift away, but verses 2-3 gives us another warning: “For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?”  The author here is referring to the Law Moses gave.  That Law was binding, meaning, it cannot be altered, changed or revoked (like a lot of the laws in our country today).  These Laws were not given by men, but by angels sent from God.  So see here, every violation and disobedience receives its just punishment.  The punishments are deserved, they are not unjust, because a violation of the Law represents a violation against the righteous demands of a holy God.  Here are some of those prescriptions in the book of Levitucus: “Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death (Lev 20:1).”  “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife – with the wife of his neighbor – both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death (Lev 20:10).”    “anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death (Lev 24:16).”  “Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.  The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. (Lev 24:20).”  “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.  Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head. (Lev 20:9).”  These are God’s laws, and even if people aren’t punished for these now, they will be punished for them later.  And I have just named 5, there are 613 Laws to follow. 

As natural-born sinners, we cannot keep these laws.  We cannot even keep the laws we make up for ourselves.  We are natural-born law breakers.  And you see this play out in the Muslim world, for example when blasphemers are punished.  Why are the punishments for blasphemy or conversion so severe?  Family members are killed, people are gunned down, heads and hands are cut.  Because they are carrying out their own punishments by their laws, even though some of them are in violation of God’s laws.  How much more will God punish those who violate his Laws, no matter what religion you follow.  How can we escape?  This is why we have so great a salvation.  This is a salvation that Muslims do not have – it is salvation through Jesus Christ.  It is the escape from the punishment of God’s Law.  This is great, because without Christ, there is no escape.  Now if we ignore this salvation, how much more deserved will our punishment be!  Do not neglect or brush aside this good news.  Some people don’t care for it, their lives are too busy to learn more about the gospel.  Some people forget about, stop reminding themselves of it, or they set it aside and put it away.  Such were some of the people the author was writing to.  They were being persecuted, tempted to live again by the Law of Moses, and throwing away all that Christ has done for them.  It’s like being freed from prison, then going back into the jail cell, locking yourself back in with the key, and throwing the key away.  The gospel is our escape, it is our so-great salvation.

What makes the salvation of the Bible the only true salvation?  How do we know that it’s real, and that it’s different from all of the other ideas of salvation out there?  Let’s look at v.3-4, can we all please read v.3-4 “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”  How do we know that the salvation as defined in the Bible is the only true salvation?  Because 1) God himself announced it, and 2) there is eyewitness, real historical evidence, and 3) the Bible confirms it.  Notice that the Law was given by angels, but the gospel was announced directly by God, by the Lord Jesus Christ himself.  “In these last days, [God] has spoken to us by his Son (Heb 1:2).”  In Matthew 4:17 when he begins his ministry, he began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  The Law was announced by angels, salvation was announced by Jesus.  The consequences are dire when you ignore what angels have said, but how much more dreadful will it be to ignore what God has said.  The author tells us that this message of salvation was confirmed by those who heard him: primary sources who heard from Jesus communicated this message.  This may have been the apostles, or some of the 500 disciples of Jesus who saw him after he had risen from the dead.  But these were real people who testified.  And from verse 4 we see that God confirmed their testimony, a double-confirmation from God – by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.  On the day of Pentecost the apostles spoke in tongues, in foreign languages they did not study, declaring the glory of God (Acts 2).  Peter and John healed a paralytic in the name of Jesus (Acts 3).  God miraculously opened the prison doors when Paul and Silas were arrested in Philippi (Acts 16:26).  The Living God has shown himself to us. 

The Bible itself is also proof of the message of salvation.  What distinguishes it from any other literature?  Let’s compare it with the book of another major religion.  The Quran is traditionally believed to be given verbally to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over the course of 23 years.  The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years, by over 40 authors from all different walks of life, in 3 different continents, in 3 different languages, in several different types of places and several different circumstances.  Archaeological evidence validates the historical books of the Bible as accurate.  The Bible can validate itself.  Scripture interprets Scripture. All of the 66 books contain the same message.  The Bible was written by men, inspired by God, which shows how close God is working with mankind on the earth.  I don’t know much more about the history of the Quran, though it contradicts the Bible on at least 2 major points: that Jesus is the Son of God and that his death atoned for our sins.  But even if we give it the benefit of the doubt, the Bible is clearly the superior book in reliable authenticity.  All of this is to say that you can trust in what the Bible says, and that the message of salvation within its pages is absolutely true, and it is something you can take a hold of.  Why is this salvation so great?  Because it’s real.

And there’s more!  It is no ordinary salvation, but greater.  Look at v.5-6, “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 mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?’”  There is something wonderful in store for us.  Unlike Buddhist teachings, that have a very inconsistent and uncertain view of the afterlife depending on the practicing culture, the Bible is clear about the future.  There will be a world to come.  This is the new heavens and the new earth.  And if it is not angels who will rule the world, who will it be?  Verse 6 seems to suggest that it is us!  Us mortal human beings.  This is an amazing honor – that we will rule and reign with Christ one day over the new heavens and earth.  Who are we, and what did we do to deserve this?  We are so small, compared to the vast universe.  When you go up high enough in space you don’t even see people any more on the earth.  But God has given us every good thing.  He has given us life to live, air to breathe, he has given us our friends, our families, food to eat and weather to enjoy.  King David wrote that beautiful expression of praise to God: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?”  Who are we, that we have been given life.

The Psalm continues in v.7-8, “You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”  We were created with some limitations, with flesh; we have no where near the power of an angel.  But the author quotes this Psalm to show us that we who are saved, not angels, will have dominion in the world to come.  We will be crowned with glory.  We will either be resurrected, or changed when he comes again, and will be transformed into the same condition as Christ.  On that day we will be like him.  We will also be crowned with honor, our rank will be, and indeed has already been elevated to children of God.  People may be honored with a Nobel Prize, but those who are saved are honored as children of God.  And God will put everything under our feet.  And I believe that means everything in the world to come.  Jesus will still be our head, and God the Father over him.  But we will once again have dominion over all the earth.  He has restored the original purpose we lost when Adam and Eve fell.  In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  No other salvation story gets better than this.  The Avengers may save the world, but it’s still a fallen world.  The church of Christ will inherit a renewed, perfect world and live life to the full eternally.

Verse 8 continues, that at that present we do not see everything subject to man.  It is still a fallen world we live in today, so how do we know that these promises are true?  Look at v.9, “But we do see Jesus, who was made a little lower than angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  We can know these promises are true when we look at Jesus.  In many ways Jesus has partaken of the life we live, so that we can partake in the life he lives.  It’s like we were lost in the ocean, storms raging, and Jesus jumps out of the helicopter with a lifesaver to take hold of us and rescue us.  The rest of this chapter explains this unity we have with Christ.  There is some sharing going on.  He shares what he has with us, and we share what we have with him.  Not that he needs anything we have, but he comes to unite with us, to save us.  We need him.  Look again at v.9 to see again how wonderful this salvation is – first, it is by the grace of God.  It is impossible for us to save ourselves, but by his grace he came to save us.  And how did he do it?  Jesus died for us.  That’s how we were saved.  Jesus tasted death for everyone.  To taste means to experience death.  Jesus, who is the immortal Creator God, took on a human body so that he could die.  Not just physically, but he tasted eternal death.  No angel could take on this wrath, but only Jesus, the Son of God.  He experiencedf eternal death for us, so that we do not have to go through it ourselves.  That is our escape, it is so great a salvation from eternal death.

In order for us to partake in everlasting glory, Jesus had to partake in suffering and death.  Look at v.10, “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.”  Jesus could not be our Savior if he did not suffer.  The whole universe exists for the glory of God.  That is why we exist.  We do not live for ourselves, but for God and for his glory.  But we are unable to do this because we are sinners.  God then, if he is to maintain his glory, his justice and his righteousness, cannot simply overlook our sin.  Wrongdoing must be punished.  So it was fitting, that is, it is in accordance with God’s graciousness, it is in accordance with his love, that he take the punishment on our behalf.  So he provided us with a Savior.  Jesus became our Savior when he suffered and died.  Now, Jesus was already sinless and perfect before he came to earth, but after his suffering and death, he was now perfect as our Savior.  Through the atoning death of Christ, God can forgive our sins, and at the same time maintain his perfect justice and holiness.

Jesus partook in our nature, so that we may partake in his.  Look at v.11, “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”  Every year at Christmas my family has a Christmas party.  My dad had 7 brothers and sisters, most of them are in Chicago, and all of them have 3-4 kids, so I have a lot of cousins.  It’s great every year to see my family.  In the same way, all of here are family (“Hey! Welcome to the Family!”)  Our Christmas parties are like family parties. Our gatherings are family gatherings.  We are brothers and sisters, and all of us brothers and sisters of the Son of God as well.  We were once sinners, like ex-convicts, but by the grace of God Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.  The author of Hebrews proves this fact to us, by quoting 3 Old Testament Scriptures.  He quotes these as if Jesus himself said them, in verses 12-13.  Indeed these verses were considered Messianic.  These verses were written at least hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, but you can see again how the Bible is the very word of God, which he speaks through to us.  Jesus’ mind has not changed, as he is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Verse 12 is from Psalm 22:22, Jesus says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”  Jesus openly declares the name of God to all of us.  God is One, and He does exist.  And Jesus is in our midst.  He is in our assembly.  And what does he do?  He sings the praises of God!  This is what brothers and sisters of Christ do.  This is what Jesus and all who are like him do: they sing the praises of God.  We exist for the glory of God.  Verse 13 is from Isaiah 8, verses 17 and 18.  Jesus says, “I will put my trust in him.”  In heaven, Jesus had the same glory as God.  But when he came to earth, he was made a little lower than angels.  He was fully human, and experienced the same temptations.  Just like us, he put his trust fully in God and depended on him.  This verse shows he was just like us, and is an example to us.  The last reference says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”  Here is the picture: we are all together, as a family, and Jesus presents himself and us to God.  He literally brings us to glory.

So we see that Jesus partook in our humanity so we can partake in his glory.  He also partook in our humanity to destroy and defeat our greatest enemies: death and the devil.  Now this, no man can do.  This, not even any angel could do.  Satan is an angel, the highest of all God’s angels, who had fallen.  Who could defeat him in a decisive victory?  Only the Son of God.  Look at v.14-15: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”  Jesus entered into our humanity so he could enter into our death, and there, he defeated the devil.  Here’s how a kid might boast in the Lord: “Jesus is so powerful, that he can even kill you when he’s dead.”  In his death, he declawed the hands of the devil, filed down all his teeth, and put him in a leash.  He broke the devil’s power, he rendered him powerless and deprived him of his influence.  The devil can no longer harm the saints.  He cannot accuse them, he cannot slander them, he can try but will fail to entice them to sin.  He can no longer bound them or give the saints over to a fear of death.  Death is no longer Satan’s servant, but God’s.  Death is no longer a source of fear, but becomes the entryway into eternal life and blessing in God’s kingdom.  Just as Paul said in Php 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  This is part of the so great salvation: that not only are we spared from righteous judgment, but we are also saved from death, the devil and the power of death.  We are partakers in his victory over death.

This salvation that we receive is not just for some time in the future when we die, but this salvation begins now.  And we are not on our own.  We don’t have to work out our salvation on our own.  In other religions it’s all up to you.  You have to do this, you have to do that.  But we have Jesus, he is the biggest difference, he is the only key to salvation, and he is what other religions deny or do not have.  With Jesus, we have help from a divine source, and the best part is that he truly understands and knows how to help, because he has been where you are.  Jesus shared in our nature in order to help us.  Look at v.16-17, “For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”  Some angels don’t need salvation, they are sinless.  Some angels have fallen, and they are lost.  There is no salvation for them.  Salvation was given to mankind, and that is because of God’s grace.  Jesus took on the nature of a man, not of an angel.  He took on the nature of a descendant of Abraham, fully in every way, so that he might become the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sin of mankind.  Ultimately, that is why Jesus came, and that is how he saved us.  The High Priests on earth offer sacrifices to God to atone for sins, but earthly sacrifices like lambs and bulls could never satisfy the wrath of God.  Jesus offered himself, and gave his life by shedding his blood on the cross.  God accepted this as payment for the sins of all the world, and Jesus is now our High Priest who is our advocate before God.  If God does not listen to us, he will surely listen to his Son.  And because Christ shed his blood for you, you know that he loves you.

We are reminded that Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest.  He is merciful because he was made fully human in every way, and experienced all our suffering.  He experienced pain, hunger, loneliness, rejection, and even death.  Usually we want to run from suffering, but Jesus went through it so that he could help us.  He resisted temptation, even to the point of shedding his own blood.  He knows full well how hard it is for you and me to resist temptation.  When we experience the same suffering as someone else, we can be merciful to them, because we’ve been there.  After we have been saved, we will face trials and temptations.  The world is at enmity with God.  We also still live in a corrupt flesh.  We may be tempted to sin.  We may be tempted to fall away, because of persecution, maybe due to some views we hold that are unpopular.  We may struggle with our sinful natures.  Suffering might even come to purify you, or cause you to depend less on yourself and more on God.  Also in a way, because Christ suffered, godly suffering is one of the ways God has sanctified to go to glory.  That was the path Jesus took.  That is why in other places in the Bible Christians are told, “Rejoice in your sufferings for Christ.”  Verse 18 says, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” He knows, he understands, and we can take our cares, our worries and our burdens to Jesus in prayer, and he will help.  He desires to help, and he is able to, and he is merciful, gracious and compassionate.  He will help us always to the very end.  We can take heart, because he has overcome the world, and in Him, we will too.

There is only one salvation that is true, but thank God that it is not an ordinary salvation, but in every way it is so great a salvation.  It is a salvation into eternal life, eternal glory, eternal honor, it is a salvation over death and the devil, and it is a salvation from the wrath of God, because so great a Savior came from heaven, was made a little lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.  When you put your faith and trust in Christ, you not only are just saved, but you have so great a salvation, greater than any salvation you can imagine.

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