But We See Him, Crowned with Glory!
By his grace, God imparts gracious gifts to strengthen us for worship, love, and witness. One gift he uses to strengthen our worship is Gary compiling songs that artistically express the truth of the word preached.
Today is no different, especially as it relates to what we might call the already and not yet aspects of our redemption. You sang, “What grace, that You entered our brokenness / You came in the fullness of time / How far we had fallen from righteousness / But not from the mercies of Christ / Your cross is our door to redemption / Your death is our fullness of life.” We look back and celebrate what God already accomplished.
At the same time you also sang, “For the light beyond the darkness / When the reign of sin is done / When the storm has ceased its raging / And the haven has been won / For the joy beyond the sorrow / Joy of the eternal year / For the resurrection splendor / We are waiting, waiting here!” In one sense, redemption is accomplished. Yet in another sense, redemption’s fullness has yet to be realized.
That’s not far from the portrait of redemption in Hebrews 2:5-9. He wrestles with this tension between the already and the not-yet aspects to our redemption. We are waiting for the Lord to complete his work, to bring his kingdom. But this waiting is often painful. We experience brokenness and disorder. We experience suffering and injustice. We experience blows in our relationships that send us reeling. We’re frightened about what’s next perhaps. Waiting for the kingdom makes perseverance difficult.
Waiting seems to be making it difficult for these believers to keep going. They’ve grown weary of the persecution. But in the midst of waiting, God helps them persevere by reassuring them of the kingdom he already secured for them. No matter what pain we’re facing, Hebrews 2 helps us persevere likewise. While we’re waiting, Hebrews reassures us of the unshakable hope we have in Jesus Christ who already rules the world to come and who died to secure your place in it. Let’s read this hope. Verse 5,
5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we’re speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you’re mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you’ve crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we don’t yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 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.
Throughout chapter 1, the Son is superior to angels. He has a name more excellent than theirs. He created angels. He tells them what to do. Verse 5 carries this further in that God subjected the world to come, not to angels but to Jesus. In what way, though, does verse 5 advance his argument?[i] What’s the connection? He could be offering one further reason we ought to pay much closer attention. Reason one, judgment awaits those who don’t pay attention. Reason two, God subjected the world to come to Jesus. He’s further explaining why it’s such a great salvation. That’s certainly part of the overall thrust. But what else might’ve prompted this statement about Jesus’ rule over “the world to come”? I think it’s verse 4. It’s the signs and wonders and various miracles God performed, the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he heals the sick and raises the dead. He casts out demons and turns water into wine. He makes the lame leap like the deer and pours out his Spirit on all God’s people. He forgives sins. According to the Old Testament, these were signs of the age to come. They were foretastes of God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. The signs pointed to Jesus as the King bringing the new world.
Verse 5 takes that further. The fact that God authenticated his apostles with the same signs and wonders proves that God has already subjected that future world to Jesus. If we want to specify what “the world to come” is, later chapters put more skin on it. In 11:10, it includes “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” In 11:16, it’s the “better country…a heavenly one.” In 12:28, it’s the “kingdom that cannot be shaken.” It’s God’s future kingdom swallowing the earth.
Glimpses of that kingdom come with Jesus’ earthly ministry and continue in the church. But the emphasis is that something decisive occurred in Jesus’ work such that the world to come is already under the rule of Jesus. His reign makes it a reality even if we can’t yet see it fully. Why’s that significant? Well, he next develops the significance of Jesus already ruling the future world; and he does so using Psalm 8.
Dominion Entrusted and Celebrated in Creation
Turn with me then to Psalm 8. David begins the Psalm and ends it with the same words: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” He says, “You’ve set your glory above the heavens.” His glory is so great that even the heavens can’t contain its fullness. God’s majesty overwhelms David. He’s awestruck by the Lord’s imposing greatness—much like we feel at the base of towering mountains.
But what also informs his praise of God’s majesty is the willingness of this same God to condescend to man. Verses 2-8 take an unexpected turn. This majestic God chooses to humiliate his enemies with the praise of babies and infants. Not what you’d expect a mighty warrior to take into battle. Yet he says, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you’ve established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” God uses the totally helpless to shame those who think they’re strong.
What’s also unexpected, though, is this: given the vastness of God’s universe, God nevertheless shows great concern for man. Verse 3, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you’ve set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You’ve given him dominion over the works of your hands; you’ve put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”
David can’t believe it! This majestic God who flung the universe into existence—he created man to rule it under him. He entrusted man with this incredible responsibility to rule the created order. And if you caught the wording of verses 6-8, it’s a reflection on what we learn about mankind’s purpose from Genesis 1.
Genesis 1:26—go there with me. Verse 26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion…” A better translation reveals a purpose statement in verse 26: “Let us make man in our image…so that they may rule…” We see it again in verses 27-28: “So God created man in his own image in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and so on…’
Notice, “be fruitful and multiply” connects with “male and female he created them;” “have dominion” connects with “in the image of God he created them.” Ruling creation rightly is one way we image God. People get glimpses of God’s glory when we rule in ways that reflect his righteousness, his love, how he orders creation, how he provides for his people, how he leads and protects. We might say this: God is the true King; but he created us to reflect his rule as lesser kings.
David celebrates this in Psalm 8. It’s how God made us. It’s part of bearing God’s image. David is just floored that he gets to participate in such a grand purpose of imaging the Maker’s rule. This a glory of humanity.
Dominion Lost in Adam/Sin
Only there’s a tension, isn’t there? The tension comes with our present experience. Psalm 8 sounds way too optimistic, doesn’t it? Our experience tells us something is wrong. Something is warped here with our dominion. Leaders abuse their authority. Families are full of strife. Husbands dominate their wives. Fathers neglect their children or rule them with an iron fist. People can’t rule their tongues. Instead of ruling creation, creation rules people as they turn created things into idols. People even destroy the earth itself instead of caring for it. What do you mean? God put everything in subjection to man? Really? There’s a tension.
The writer of Hebrews feels the same tension. Hebrews 2:8—he says, “at present we don’t yet see everything in subjection to him.” And I take that to mean, “everything in subjection to mankind.” In the original creation, God left nothing outside man’s control. But we don’t see that now. Why? Because now we see man functioning as he was cursed, not as he was created.
Adam forfeited dominion. He failed to rule the serpent and crush his head. Sin entered the world through this man. We’re born with the same sin nature. Sin warps us such that our rule hardly images God’s rule. Even when we try to rule creation as we ought, our rule is tainted with mixed motives. Moreover, we find that no matter how hard we try to subdue creation, to establish order, to make peace, death puts a swift end to our efforts. Cancer takes its toll. Old age wears us out. The grave swallows.
Dominion Restored in Jesus Christ
But that’s not where Hebrews leaves us. Or better, that’s not where God’s grace leaves us. Hebrews recognizes the tension between mankind as he ought to be and our experience of mankind under the curse. Then he gives the answer. Let’s read him working through the tension on to Christ. Verse 8, “Now in putting everything in subjection to him [i.e., to mankind], he left nothing outside his control. At present, we don’t yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him [i.e., another man, the Man] 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.” What’s his answer to the tension?
His answer is that Jesus restores to man what Adam lost. “We don’t yet see everything in subjection to him”—that’s the tension. And here’s his answer: “But we do see him.” That is, we do see Jesus crowned with glory and honor. Not with our physical eyes yet; but with the eyes of our heart we see him. We do see Jesus reigning over the world to come at God’s right hand. He’s already seated there.
Why did God seat him there and nobody else? Because of the death he suffered. He died a death that no one else could die. God the Father entrusted the Son with a mission. Rather than exercising his right to be seen as glorious, the Son took the position of a man. For a little while, he was made lower than the angels. Why would this God, who sets his glory above the heavens according to Psalm 8—why would this God choose a position lower than the angels and become man?
Verse 9 tells us: “that he might taste death for everyone.” You can’t participate in the world to come, if death is in your bones. Death means that you’ve got a sin problem. Death isn’t just the natural end to life among some fixed chain of events—like our evolutionist neighbors might suggest. Death is God’s judgment against sin. Death is a curse that rests on humanity, and nobody can beat it. That is, nobody except Jesus.
He is the new and greater Adam. He obeyed where the first Adam failed. Then he entered death not due to sins that were his own. He entered death for our sake. He endured the consequences we deserved for our sins. That’s what verse 9 means when it speaks of God sending his Son to taste death for/on behalf of everyone.
Some have said, everyone here could mean everything, the whole cosmos. Others that it means everyone without exception. But all we need to do is keep reading. He identifies the “everyone” for us. It’s the “many sons to glory” in verse 10; it’s the “children of God” in verse 13. He says it’s not the angels in verse 16; it’s the offspring of Abraham. Jesus tasted death for them—all of them without distinction from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. He suffered for our sins unto death to secure our place in glory, to secure our place in the world to come.
Humiliation, propitiation, exaltation—that’s God’s answer to the tension. That’s the only hope for humanity. Jesus is the new and greater Adam. He obeys where Adam failed. He dies to remove Adam’s sin from you. He restores to man what Adam lost. For the Christian, Jesus is our representative head. He is our forerunner. He’s the only one truly crowned with glory and honor. He’s the only King able to subdue all things beneath his feet. And he secures our place in the world to come. He represents the new humanity that will one day inhabit the new world with him. That’s good news!
Only those in Christ participate in the world to come.
It’s not good news, if you reject Christ’s cross. It’s not good news, if you reject Christ’s kingship. For all who reject Jesus—you will not participate in the world to come. You will not belong to Jesus’ kingdom. You’ll be cast outside the kingdom, the Bible says. And your only experience will be death on top of death on top of death. It’s an eternal death filled with only punishment and no mercy.
That’s why he doesn’t want them to abandon such a great salvation back in verse 3. With Jesus’ great salvation you gain the world to come. Don’t let go of him! Don’t neglect those riches, that glory. When you belong to Jesus, you get the new world order with him. Friends, give your lives to Jesus and never let him go. For all who do—you will gain the world to come and all its blessings in the presence of God.
Those in Christ can rule as we were made to rule.
More than that, even now you will be changed. Jesus’ rule over the world to come isn’t just hope for the future; it’s power to live rightly in the here and now. Hebrews 2 is part of a bigger theme we see in the gospel elsewhere. Did you know that those in Christ can rule as we were made to rule? Yes, God raised Jesus from the dead to renew God’s image in us. That’s why it says in Romans 8 that we were predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Or in 2 Corinthians 3 that by beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. When united to Christ, you start becoming like him in ruling.
Even right now! Get this. Ephesians 2 says that you were once dead; but God made you alive with Christ and seated you with him in the heavenly places. In some real sense, you’re already seated with Christ in the world to come. And that means, he goes on to say, that we can now do the good works he created beforehand for us to do. You can now rule as you were made to rule. Yes, that rule will be incomplete until Jesus returns. But that reign has already begun in some sense for those in Christ. We’re seated with him in the heavenly places. Dominion restored! Revelation 1 calls us a kingdom of priests already. We’re already that in Christ; and it affects everything.
Ruling with Christ means you’re not a helpless victim of Satan’s temptations. You don’t have to obey the snake, when he offers you false intimacy, or more fame for your ego, or bitterness over circumstances, or makes you fearful of death. You’re seated with Christ over the evil one. His lies don’t rule you anymore.
Ruling with Christ means that your fleshly passions don’t rule you anymore; rather, you rule them. Paul says, “I will not be dominated by anything.” Sex, food, drink, money, nicotine, caffeine, Facebook, iPhone notifications, work, studies, sports, man-made political ideologies—“I will not be dominated by anything!” Why? Why can you say that? Because we now rule with Christ. Those things can’t rule us anymore; we must rule them. And we can, because the Christian is seated with Christ.
Ruling with Christ means that you also take up your cross. What sort of King was Jesus? What sort of man was he? One that served the good of his people by giving himself for them. He gladly took up sacrificial responsibility. Ruling well isn’t about making demands on your wife, always getting your way, keeping people in their place, pushing your weight around, manipulating the situation. It’s about being the first to offer yourself for their joy in God.
There’s a scene in C. S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy. King Lune of Archenland summarizes kingship like this: “This is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”[ii] Why does such a story resonate? Because God made us to be like that—first into the battle, proactive, taking initiative, protecting the weak; last one out swinging the sword, making sure the people are safe. And making this your joy in life.
Ruling like Christ also affects relationships in the church. For instance, Paul gets frustrated with the Corinthians. They’re taking each other to court; and he’s just baffled by it all because these are the same people who will judge angels one day! “Goodness gracious!” he’s saying. In Christ, there’s enough wisdom to rule angels in heaven and you can’t even get your petty disputes straight on earth! How about that?! Does that give you a different perspective? The more we’re conformed to the way Christ rules, the more we’ll image God’s glorious rule in our relationships with others.
And when we do, you know what we become? We become a reflection of the world to come. We become a concrete, earthly picture of that world Christ has already subdued. That’s what the church is. The rest of the world is enslaved to the old world order, the order subdued by Adam’s sin. But we are a living testimony of the world to come, the world our Savior already rules with resurrection power.
Those in Christ have hope in the world to come.
That world is our hope. This world is not our hope, beloved. It’s on its way out. That’s why Hebrews 13 says, “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” We’re experiencing a lot of pain, beloved. Friday morning I was praying through the next section in my membership prayer guide; and I started listing the various pains our body has suffered recently or is suffering currently.
Parents doing what they can but aching over unruly children. Doctors unable to determine what’s wrong, unable to subdue certain illnesses. A beloved sister taken by cancer. A dad in the hospital growing weaker by the day. Marriages disordered by wayward spouses or that just lack good communication to get somewhere. Mistakes have led to long-term consequences that are scary. You’re trying to lead the family well, but unforeseen circumstances keep frustrating your plans. You strive to educate students, but their difficult home situation seemingly undermines your efforts. A corrupt boss makes navigating decisions at work super stressful. Injustice saddens you and you doubt things will ever get any better—people just won’t listen. Despite efforts to point them out, false ideas keep spreading and leaders rule in foolish ways that grieve you. You’ve done all you can to establish your family, raise your children peacefully, but new circumstances outside your control threaten that peace…
Man we need this hope today! “At present we don’t yet see everything in subjection to man…” “Yes! We feel that! It’s killing me over here. I’m dying inside. Give my feet something solid, because I’m sinking over here! I’m scared!” And here’s God’s answer to you this morning: “But we do see him.” He’s there beloved! Jesus Christ, reigning over the world to come. He’s already there; his reign is more real than the person sitting next to you.
As Wes put it some time ago, “Your hope is not found in the circumstances of this world. It is found in the world to come. In a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” When Wes preached on Psalm 8 a few years back, he also said, “The blessings of this life can be good gifts that God gives us to enjoy. But they’re not a secure enough investment to set your hopes on. And they’re not worth enough to cling to too tightly. The most solid investment you can make, the richest treasure you can gain…is in knowing the humble majesty of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”
His kingdom is certain, beloved. It’s not yet fully realized here and now. But the King is already reigning over it; and when he brings its fullness Revelation describes it this way: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
May that be our hope in the days ahead. May that become our prayer in the midst of pain. And may that be our celebration now as we come to the Lord’s Supper.
[i] The ESV begins verse 5 with “now it was not to angels…” The NASB is represents the Greek better, beginning with “for”: “For it was not to angels…”
[ii]The idea for this illustration came from Joe Rigney, “Masculinity Handed Down,” in Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice, eds. Jonathan Parnell and Owen Strachan (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 35.