How often have you used the word “stress” this week? A generation ago people called it “anxiety.” Two generations ago it was called “worry.” The Bible does not speak to being stressed out, but there are passages about worry, recognizing our human tendency to be anxious, to feel overwhelmed, to make ourselves responsible for people and events we actually do not have power over, and yet to abrogate our responsibility in those areas where we actually do have power.
All of these terms describe something opposite of entering God’s rest, or God’s peace. The kind of peace portrayed in God is the opposite of being stressed. But you and I are not able to enter into God’s rest until we understand the nature of God and of God the Son.
Getting our doctrine straight—what we know and believe about God, creation, and humanity—gives us the ability to navigate our stress and enter into God’s rest.
In the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer carefully proved the superiority of Jesus over angels. The next natural question, though, would have been about Jesus’ humanity. How could Jesus be superior to angels, if He became a human being?
After all, angels can navigate both the spiritual and physical realms, they see God in all God’s fullness, they occupy God’s heavenly throne room, they are far more powerful than human beings, and though created, the impression is they never die.
In our natural world today, it may seem that angels are superior to humans, but evidently it was never intended to be that way, nor will it be in the new earth and heavens to come.
Now God did not [subject] the coming [world], about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,Hebrews 2:5-8 (NRSV) [Quoting Psalm 8:4-6]
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
[subjecting] all things under their feet.”
It is not for angels that God has prepared the coming earth to support.
The word subject, found in verses 5 and 8, is ὑποτάσσω | hupotasso, a richly nuanced verb that—in a nonmilitary context—means “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”
The apostles, who leaned into the freedom Jesus grants, invariably used the verb hupotasso to mean a willing cooperation for the Lord’s sake and in the divine strength of the Holy Spirit.
The writer was conveying the sense of willing support, a responsiveness of all creation to the now perfected humankind, made holy and mature through Christ.
The world to come refers to the new earth, and the kingdom of God. A sense of that new realm begins in the hearts of all those who put their faith Jesus, who are born anew, from above. A process of restoration has already begun and will come to full fruition at the return of Christ. God intended, from the beginning, that humankind would be God’s ultimate creation, and there would be a glorious communion between all creation and humanity, together with God.
Under their feet depicts a ruler resting their feet on a footstool as they sit on their throne. The image is one of support.
But, we can see it another way, too.
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them . . .Hebrews 2:8 (NRSV)
Currently, we can see a crushing subjection, where the earth is not honored, where it is used without thought, where much is taken but nothing given back, where there is careless waste and avaricious looting. We can see that footstool become frayed and dented, uncared-for, and discarded.
That is, in many respects, the truth about human subjection of the earth today. Pollution, forced extinction, climate change, and wasteful use of nonrenewable resources reflect humankind’s rapacious rule.
All we have to do is look around and we see death and decay. We see humankind suffering as God described in Genesis 3, ruptured relationships between people and all creation, between each other, and most notably between humankind and God.
But this is not a permanent condition, nor God’s original intention.
The Perfect Man
. . . but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.Hebrews 2:9 (NRSV)
In contrast to humankind’s failure, Jesus is displayed,
For a little while Jesus was made just like us, fully human, a little lower than the angels, so that He suffered death—and some Greek scholars cite ancient texts that indicate the writer of Hebrews meant “suffered the penalty of death”—and provided the redemption that God desires for all creation.
Jesus’ death lifts us, with Him, above angels
Another translation says it this way, this was so that he would experience death on behalf of everyone, because of God’s favor to everyone. (Dr. Nyland, The Source).
Now Jesus is crowned with glory and honor, seated by the majesty of God, and along with Jesus are all those who have joined with Him as part of His Body.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you
—a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,
—so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,
—what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,
—and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe,
according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.Apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:17-23 (NRSV)
Living Into Perfection
You and I live where our minds are.
The saying goes “Your home is where your heart is,” meaning, I suppose, that regardless of what space we occupy on the planet, home is going to be where who or what we love is. It is a good saying, but not complete. We also live where our thoughts live.
As you and I think about Jesus, we live joyfully expectant of the redemption of things. Of seeing our world’s design as supportive of us. Yes, Genesis 3 is, in many ways, still in effect in the physical world. Toil is often sorrowful, making a living is often desperately difficult. Many struggle and struggle . . . and struggle.
But through Christ, two of the three ruptures have already been restored! Relationship between God and humankind, and relationship between people. No longer must we labor under the onerous burden of guilt and shame. The lies and power battles, the envy and tearing down that the serpent sowed into humanity have all been reversed in the death and resurrection of Christ.
We do not have to live into that anymore, but rather have been set free by Jesus to live as though seated in the heavenlies in Him as His body.
We can love each other without having to set up hierarchical power structures to rule each other. We can love God and live in step with God’s Spirit.
We can embrace the spirit of ὑποτάσσω | hupotasso with God and with each other in eager expectation of the kingdom of God established in the new earth and new heavens.