In this section of scripture, we move to new theology. Hebrews 1 focused on the unique Son who is greater than the other sons of God, also known as angels. In Chapter 2:1–4, the author takes a break to emphasize that because Jesus is greater than angels, we should receive the salvation that Jesus offers as greater than the salvation/covenant put into place through Angels at Mt. Sinai.
Now the author moves his argument forward. Not only is Jesus the unique Son of God, greater than other spiritual beings, but he is the ultimate human who fulfilled everything humanity was supposed to be in Genesis 1.
Who Will Rule the World? (v. 5)
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.
— Hebrews 2:5 (ESV)
The way that this sentence is rendered in the ESV is pretty hard to parse, so I want to look at another translation:
For he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels.
— Hebrews 2:5 (NET 2nd Ed.)
This tells us two things: (1) We have been talking about the world to come, and (2) God did not put that future world under the control of angels.
How have we been talking about the world to come? If you’re not tracking with the author of Hebrews’ train of thought, it may come across as odd. But think about what we’ve seen: Jesus is the heir of all things (1:3), he is the inheritor of all things (1:4–6), angels are servants of the inheritors of salvation (1:14), and then we talked again about salvation (2:1–4). The author connects salvation to the world to come.
One way of thinking about salvation is that it’s all about a personal decision that decides whether we go to the "good place" or the "bad place", but the author of Hebrews has a more nuanced and expansive idea of salvation.
Salvation doesn’t merely include saving us from “the bad place,” it is the fulfillment of everything creation was supposed to be but that we have messed up with our sin and failure. Paul expands on this in Romans 8:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
— Romans 8:19–24 (ESV)
So as we’ve been talking about the hope of the future in Hebrews 1, and holding to the message that Jesus spoke. What was that message? That the king has come and the kingdom of heaven is arriving on earth. That kingdom that, had Adam and Eve passed the test, would already be here. The kingdom that, if any of us were to pass every test, would already be here. But we have all sinned, and we’ve all deserved death. Until Jesus. He passed every test, he paid the price, and he earned new creation for us. We see it now, in part, but the fulfillment is still to come.
Humans Were Supposed to Rule (vv. 6–8a)
But if God didn’t put the future world, the new creation, under the rule of angels, who did he put it under? The author of Hebrews anticipates this question and quotes Psalm 8 to answer it.
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.
— Hebrews 2:6–8a
The obvious question, one that still has great Christian thinkers on both sides, is, “Is Psalm 8 talking about mankind or Jesus?”
As an aside, if the translation you are reading capitalizes pronouns referring to God, you can see which side the translation takes. The NASB 1995 translation, for example, uses a lowercase “him” in verse 8, and uppercase “Him” in verse 9.
But which is correct? If you saw my video on 2 Samuel 7 covering the Davidic covenant, you might anticipate my answer: in a way, both. It’s talking about humanity as it was created by God. Everything was meant to be in subjection to us.
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 over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
— Genesis 1:28 (ESV)
Humanity was originally designed to be rulers of the earth, to spread the temple of Eden to the whole earth by “subduing” it. Psalm 8 looks back at the original promise from God to humanity and shows the awe we should have that God chose to partner with weak and frail humans. Sky, land, and sea, were all meant to be ours.
Jesus Succeeded Where Humans Failed (vv. 8b–9)
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 2:8b–9 (ESV)
But we failed, and the fulfillment of that original promise was lost until Jesus. He became human to fulfill that original promise by passing every test, dying, and allowing whoever will to share in his righteousness (John 4:14). In that sense, as the fulfillment of the original promise, Jesus is the one who fulfills Psalm 8 too.
We don’t see everything in subjection to humanity, yet. But we do see Jesus, the one who lowered himself from his exalted status as God to become human (Philippians 2:5–11). We have all failed (Romans 3:23), but through his actions as a human Jesus passed every test. Because he passed the test, he has become the ultimate human, the “last Adam,” the one who has opened the way for us to share in the fulfillment of creation. The consequence of failure to pass the test is capital-D Death, separation from God. But Jesus tasted that suffering so that we don’t have to. All who believe in what he has done for us and confess that he is Lord of all creation, who put their trust and core identity in him, will be saved (Romans 10:9).