Out of Sight, But In Full Control

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
    or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned him with glory and honor,
    putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 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. – Hebrews 2:5-9 ESV

After His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, returning to His rightful place at His Father’s side. The old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” can be true, but so can the adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The longer Jesus, the resurrected Messiah, was gone from the face of the earth, the easier it became for the believers living when this letter was written to forget about Him.

Most, if not all of the recipients of this letter, would never have seen Jesus face to face. They would have come to faith in Him sometime after His death and resurrection. And it would appear, based on the author’s emphasis on drifting away, that there were those who were having second thoughts regarding either His deity or the exclusivity of the gospel message. They were running the risk of taking lightly what Jesus had done for them, which is why the author warned them not to “neglect such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3 ESV).

This entire letter is a defense of Jesus – His divinity, incarnation, mission, message, sacrifice, ascension, exaltation, and coming return. Using the Old Testament Scriptures to point the way, the writer presents Jesus as the divine agent of redemption for mankind. Quoting from Psalm 8:4-6, he writes, “You made him for a little while lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7 ESV). Jesus, the Son of God, the creator of the universe, left His place at the right hand of God the Father and took on human flesh. He humbled Himself by becoming a man in order that He might accomplish what no man had ever been able to do: Live in sinless, selfless obedience to the commands of God.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.  Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. – Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT

But the author of Hebrews wants his readers to understand that Jesus, while He was a man, was also fully divine. He was God in human flesh. He was the God-man. And after He had accomplished His Father’s will and given His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, He was raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit of God and returned to His rightful place at His Father’s side. His time on this earth, when He was made “a little lower than the angels,” was relatively short. Yet, as a result of having accomplished His Father’s will, God “crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet” (Hebrews 2:7-8 ESV). Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians:

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:6-11 ESV

Jesus may be out of sight, but He is far from out of control, and He should never be out of mind. We read that, “in putting everything in subjection to him, he [God] left nothing outside of his control” (Hebrews 2:8 ESV). Yes, it’s true that, from our perspective, it can sometimes appear that some things are outside of His control. The world does not appear to be living in submission and obedience to Christ. But we must never forget that God’s plan is not yet complete. Christ’s job is not yet finished. When He said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:20 ESV), He was speaking of His God-ordained mission to become the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He had accomplished that part of His assignment. But He was not done. He is still at work. And one day He is coming back to fully complete the assignment given to Him by His Father from before the foundation of the world.

One day, everything and everyone will be under His subjection. He will rule and reign over all. He will be King of kings and Lord of lords. But we must never grow cavalier or complacent regarding His subjection on our behalf. It was His suffering that led to His glorification.

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. – Hebrews 2:9 ESV

He suffered for our sake. Paul puts it this way, “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25 NLT). His resurrection and exaltation made possible our justification. We are right with God because Jesus satisfied the just demands of His heavenly Father. He fully paid the debt we owed with His own life, and God raised Him from the dead as proof of His acceptance of that payment. By the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for everyone, so that we might have life – eternal life.

The apostle Peter reminds us that Jesus’ current absence should make our hearts grow fonder because we know that He will return one day.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:8-9 NLT

Rather than allow doubt to cause us to drift away, we should rejoice in the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, will finish what He began. He will keep the promise He made to His disciples.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” – John 14:1-3 NLT

The Jewish Christians to whom this letter was written were having second thoughts. They had never met Jesus personally and the more time that passed caused them to wonder if He was ever going to return. Would they ever meet their Messiah? Would His kingdom ever come? And as their fears and doubts increased, they began to question whether they should return to their former lives as adherents to the Mosaic Law. Had they been wrong to abandon Judaism for this new movement called The Way? Were the hopes they had placed in Jesus misplaced?

For the author of Hebrews, the answer to all those questions was a simple, yet emphatic, “No!” He was going to exhaust every effort and argument to reinforce their belief in Jesus and their faith in the life-transforming power of the gospel. Jesus was enough. And while He was out of sight, He was anything but out of control.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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