In chapter one the writer
of Hebrews has just demonstrated the superiority of
Jesus over the prophets and angels. God has declared
His final, decisive Word in His Son Jesus Christ.
All the fullness of God is in Jesus.
Now he puts theology into
practice by use of warning messages (Heb.
2:1-4;3:12-4:3; 4:14-16; 5:11-6:8; 10:32-39;
12:3-17; 12:25-29). Because of who Jesus is we must
pay thoughtful attention to what He says and put it
into practice. He is serious about applying the
truth to everyday life situations. Biblical truth
motivates and governs the whole life of the
"For this reason we must
pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so
that we do not drift away from it. For if the word
spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every
transgression and disobedience received a just
penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a
salvation? After it was at the first spoken through
the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,
God also testifying with them, both by signs and
wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the
Holy Spirit according to His own will" (Hebrews
2:1-4, NASB95). (Unless otherwise noted all
Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible,
It is like the author of
Hebrews shouts: STOP, LOOK LISTEN!
In this passage the
writer of Hebrews uses a standard Jewish method
stating his argument from the lesser to the greater.
He moves from the Mosaic Law to the greater which is
the danger of neglecting the good news of salvation
through Jesus Christ.
PAY CLOSER ATTENTION
TO GOD'S REVEALED TRUTH
"Therefore" or "for this
reason," connects us with what has been discussed in
chapter one regarding the revelation of God through
the prophets and the angels to a the superior
revelation through His Son. Jesus is superior to the
angels and His revelation of God is therefore far
Therefore, "We must pay
much closer attention" to the superior revelation we
have received from God through Jesus Christ. The
original word for "pay much closer attention," "to
hold" the mind to, is almost the sense of to
hold "with extreme care." They must hold their minds
with much closer attention to this great truth.
attention to your salvation.
The salvation is so great
because of the greatness of the Savior who provides
it. The writer of Hebrews tells us the greatness of
this salvation was first proclaimed by Christ
Himself, confirmed by eyewitnesses and authenticated
by God through a variety of signs. "The Son of Man
did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
It is a great salvation
because we have been saved from the penalty of sin,
and in another sense we are still being saved from
the power of sin, and thank God one day we will be
saved from the presence of sin (cf. Heb. 1:14; 2:3,
10, 14-15, 18; 4:1-3; 5:9; 6:4, 12; 9:14; 10:22).
The consummation of this great salvation will come
in the future. It is a present reality, but we will
come into the full possession of it when Christ
returns. "Christ also, having been offered once to
bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for
salvation without reference to sin, to those who
eagerly await Him" (Hebrews 9:28).
How many people do you
know who give serious attention to their salvation?
How many people do you know who love Jesus Christ?
How many people do you know who think about,
meditate, feel continual gratitude for the gift of
eternal life? How many people do you know who drift
into sin? How many do you know who day by day drift
farther and farther away from Jesus Christ?
We must pay our closest
attention to the saving gospel. Eternal consequences
are the utmost concern. Nothing demands our greatest
attention than our relationship with Jesus Christ.
See what length God went to send His own Son to die
for our sins on the cross and raise Him from the
The message of
"salvation" is the gospel of salvation proclaimed by
Jesus Christ. It is the redemption God has provided
in Christ. Jesus declared the full redemptive
revelation of God.
"For this reason we must
pay closer attention to what we have heard" (Hebrews
2:1b). The idea is "to keep holding the mind to
something," "to give heed to." It is exceedingly
necessary that we give close attention to Jesus the
Word of God. The author pleads with his readers to
continue to keep on holding in the mind the things
that they have heard about the saving gospel of
Christ. The greater attention is due to the greater
revelation we have received.
What is it that "we have
heard"? (Heb. 2:1b) Jesus Christ is greater than the
prophets and the angels because of His person and
saving work (Heb. 1:1-4). He is the final word of
revelation to lost mankind. The opening verses give
evidence to the absolute supremacy of the unique,
one of a kind Son of God as the savior of the world.
There is none other like Him. Therefore, we can have
complete confidence when He says that He is "way,
and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the
Father but through Me" (John 14:6). The apostle
Peter summed up this great truth in his invitation
at the end of a sermon in Acts 4:12. "And there is
salvation in no one else; for there is no other name
under heaven that has been given among men by which
we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Evangelicals through
out the history of the church have proclaimed this
great truth because Jesus Christ alone "made
purification of sins." He alone has dealt with our
sin problem. "For the wages of sin is death, but the
free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our
Lord" (Romans 6:23).
The Word of God
God is the source of the
saving gospel. It is His saving word. "In these last
days God spoke to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:2a.
In an interesting comment
the writer speaks of the "message spoken through the
angels" (Heb. 2:2. cf. Deut. 33:2; Acts 7:38, 53;
Gal. 3:19). The first-century Judaism commonly
believed that the law was given through angelic
mediators which was based on the Greek Septuagint
(LXX) translation of the Deuteronomy 33:2 and Psalm
68:18), but the Bible is just not clear as to how
the angels were involved in the giving of the law to
Moses. The angelic mediation of the law of Moses is
not recorded in the Old Testament. The references
are to the Old Testament law where God is the
primary speaker. "Ten thousand holy ones" is
probably a reference to angels surrounding the
mountain in Deuteronomy 33:2 when God gave the law.
The Psalmist is also referring to this event. "The
chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon
thousands; The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in
holiness" (Psalm 68:17). We will have a clear
understanding when we get to heaven. The text
indicates that God was the actual speaker, even
though He made use of his messengers the angels in
some way. However, there is no speculation about how
the LORD God has provided salvation by means of the
atoning sacrifice of His Son for our sins.
God's Word is
steadfast and unalterable.
"For if the word spoken
through angels proved unalterable, and every
transgression and disobedience received a just
penalty" (Hebrews 2:2). This is not a hypothetical
case, this is a fulfilled condition. The idea is "in
view of the fact that" we have a sure word from God
in which we can put our confidence. The apostle Paul
wrote to his young friend and colleague Timothy
"from childhood you have known the sacred writings
which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to
salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training
in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:15-16). "But know
this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is
a matter of one's own interpretation, for no
prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but
men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2
It is payback time. There
are eternal consequences if we disobey such a firm
word. "Every transgression and disobedience received
a just penalty." "Transgression" (parabasis)
is the overstepping, crossing over the line. God
drew a line in the sand and said do not cross it. To
go beyond it is to transgress. "Disobedience" (parakoe)
is the unwillingness to hear, therefore
disobedience. This requires a "just penalty."
"Just penalty" (misthapodosia)
is the giving back with payment, a paying back,
recompense or retribution. It is literally payment
of wages. A full punishment is in store. Look at the
history of Israel wandering around in the desert for
40 years, and their exile to Babylon. "The wages of
sin is death . . ." "The soul that sins will surely
die," wrote the prophet Ezekiel. The message proved
to be so firm that every violation or disobedience
received its just penalty. Denying it or
rationalizing it away will not remove the
consequences of disobedience. Truth will not just go
away. To treat the gospel lightly is to have no
excuse when you face the judgment of God when you
die physically. We are without excuse. There can be
no escape if we neglect, deny, reject the good news
We need to pay much
closer attention because the revelation we have
received is much greater than that given to Moses in
the law. The gospel was mediated by the incarnate
Son of God. Calvin said correctly, "In accordance
with the greatness of Christ, so will be the
severity of God's vengeance on all despisers of the
Gospel." The glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ
surpasses the glory of the law of Moses. That in no
way disparages the law which is a gracious
manifestation of the will of God.
God is the source
of the revelation.
The authority of the
gospel is the authority of Jesus Christ who is the
Son of God. "It was at the first spoken through the
Lord" (Heb. 2:3). As Moses was the mediator of the
Law, Jesus is the mediator and embodiment of our
great salvation. "For the Law was given through
Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus
Christ" (John 1:17). The "Lord" is the divine,
incarnate Son of God recorded for us in Hebrews
1:1-4. He is the God-man. He is God with us. Because
He is greater than the angels He is infinitely
qualified to be the mediator between God and man. He
has first spoken the good news of salvation. "Now
after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came
into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God" (Mark
1:14). What greater source can there possibly be?
Jesus Christ is the
prophet spoken of by Moses. The LORD God said to
Moses, "I will raise up a prophet from among their
countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his
mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command
him. It shall come about that whoever will not
listen to My words which he shall speak in My name,
I Myself will require it of him" (Deuteronomy
18:18-19). We have a record of His teaching and
prophetic ministry in the four Gospels. John Owen
wrote, "He who spake on Mount Sinai in the name of
God was none other than God Himself, the second
Person in the Trinity."
Jesus Christ, His
teaching, death, resurrection and ascension is a
clear testimony of God's saving message to lost
mankind. We have the last and final word of divine
revelation from God. It was completed by the end of
the first century A.D. We do not need the latest
religious fad, or the cults to bring us their new
revelation of Jesus Christ. We do not need another
testament or a second gospel of Jesus Christ. God
spoke and He did not stutter when He moved over
men's minds to reveal Himself as they wrote. The
complete final and perfect written revelation of God
to a lost mankind and the church in found in the 66
books of the Bible. Any other so called inspired
books or revelations added to it are clear
indications they are false religions of the world.
"It was confirmed to us
by those who heard" (Heb. 2:3). Someone was a
missionary to these Jewish Christians. The apostles
or other disciples of Christ brought the good news
of Jesus Christ to them. The message these believers
received came from those who had been in the
presence of Christ and heard Him. The writer of
Hebrews and his readers had not received the gospel
of salvation directly from Christ. Remember the
opening words of Luke in his Gospel? The testimony
and teachings "were handed down to us by those who
from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of
the word" (Luke 1:2). It is interesting to contrast
the Apostle Paul's testimony in Galatians 1:11-12.
"For I would have you know, brethren, that the
gospel which was preached by me is not according to
man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I
taught it, but I received it through a revelation of
Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). Christ is the
source of the saving Gospel for these believers as
well as Paul. "For there is one God, and one
mediator also between God and men, the man Christ
Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the
testimony given at the proper time. For this I was
appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling
the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the
Gentiles in faith and truth" (1 Timothy 2:5-7).
God confirmed His
Note how God "confirmed"
the message of salvation. It was made firm,
established, secure. The emphasis is on the accuracy
and trustworthiness of the message of salvation. He
used "signs" and the working of the Holy Spirit in
the heart creating the new man in Christ. What
greater confirmation can there be than a changed
man? "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new
creature; the old things passed away; behold, new
things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
"God also testifying with
them, both by signs and wonders and by various
miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according
to His own will" (Hebrews 2:4). In the original the
present active participle implies continued action.
God continues to testify.
God gave His testimony in
three ways: signs and wonders, manifold powers, and
the giving of the Holy Spirit. The "signs" were the
miracles that signified a greater message behind the
event. It points beyond itself to the authenticity
of the mighty hand of God in the events. The
"wonders" were rare and unusual with an astonishing
character about them that aroused interest. The word
is never used alone, but always to describe the
character of something. The "signs" do not always
need to be a wonder. The pagan religions had wonders
but were never true signs. The miracles were works
of divine or superhuman power." The omnipotent hand
of God is involved. Moreover, God has given His
Spirit to every believer according to His will.
God has given His
testimony. It is found in His written Word. He has
confirmed it by the "signs and wonders and by
various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit." "Men
of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the
Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles
and wonders and signs which God performed through
Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know"
The book of Acts is full
of testimony and confirmation of God's perfect and
final revelation of Himself to man. These "signs"
point beyond themselves to the sovereign hand of God
behind them. There was a variety of powerful
manifestations of the presence of God in the early
church. They demonstrated that something new had
come from God. The New Testament writers would not
have referred to these miraculous manifestations if
their readers would have said they had never heard
of these things. They were common knowledge.
"Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many
wonders and signs were taking place through the
apostles" (Acts 2:43). "And now, Lord, take note of
their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may
speak Your word with all confidence, while You
extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take
place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus"
(Acts 4:29-30). "At the hands of the apostles
many signs and wonders were taking place among the
people; and they were all with one accord in
Solomon's portico" (Acts 5:12). "And Stephen, full
of grace and power, was performing great wonders and
signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). "Therefore they
spent a long time there speaking boldly with
reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the
word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders
be done by their hands" (Acts 14:3). "All the people
kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and
Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders
God had done through them among the Gentiles" (Acts
15:12). God bore witness through these signs (cf.
Acts 3:6-8; 5:18-20; 8:6; 9:33-34, 40-41, etc). The
miracles and signs were never produced at the will
of the apostles, but only when, where and how God
willed to use them. God used these divine powers
"for the distinct purpose of sealing the truth of
the Gospel," wrote Calvin.
These evidences of God at
work were supplemented by "gifts of the Holy Spirit
according to His own will" (Heb. 2:4c). The
"distributions of the Holy Spirit" is the energizing
power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
He sovereignly distributes His gifts to His people
to accomplish His eternal purpose. "Now there are
varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there
are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
There are varieties of effects, but the same God who
works all things in all persons. But to each one is
given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common
good" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). In the first century
God bore witness by supernatural signs, wonders and
spiritual gifts. Signs, wonders and various miracles
were performed only by Jesus and His apostles during
the establishment of the church. However, God is
still bearing witness to salvation through His
divine presence in the believer. The gifts of the
Spirit are still at work in the church today. The
Holy Spirit produces evidences in believer's lives
of His saving grace.
DO NOT DRIFT FROM THE
The writer's concern is
"so that we do not drift away (pararuomen)
from it" (Heb. 2:1c). In contrast "to pay much close
attention" there is the danger that we "drift away"
from the saving truth of the Gospel. Instead of
absolute seriousness there is a "so what" attitude.
The writer of Hebrews uses a word meaning "to flow
past" or "slip away." The idea is a piece of wood
being carried along by the current of a stream of
water or a ship that has lost its anchor in strong
winds that causes it to drift past its harbor and
fails to reach its destination. It can also convey
the idea of allowing the wedding ring to slip off
the finger and losing it or food going down the
wrong way. It is used of something slipping from
their memory. The passive voice signifies to get or
to find one's self in a state of flowing or passing
by when it requires close attention. How careless it
is to not be anchored to the saving truth of the
Gospel and drift own down the stream of life
eternally lost. We need to anchor our soul in the
Word of God and not drift from it. Because "it is
impossible for God to lie," and we have a "high
priest forever" the writer will say later, "This
hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both
sure and steadfast and one which enters within the
veil" (Hebrews 6:19). The apostle Paul wrote, "As a
result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here
and there by waves and carried about by every wind
of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness
in deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14). Strong
politically correct storm winds were threatening to
carry these Jewish Christians away from their true
spiritual harbor. The anchor that holds is to keep
the mind centered on the things you have heard in
true Biblical Christianity. The author does not say
they are rejecting so great salvation, but are
neglecting it, just letting it pass by through
indifference. It is important to note the author
does not say they are actually drifting away, but
the danger lies before them and may at once overtake
cause us to drift from the Word.
How tragic that the
attractions of the world can carry a person away
from the great truths of God. The author of Hebrews
sounds like the apostle John in 1 John 2:15-17. "Do
not love the world nor the things in the world. If
anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is
not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust
of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the
boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but
is from the world. The world is passing away, and
also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God
lives forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
Jesus gave a picture of
what it means to be distracted by the world and
"neglect so great a salvation" in Luke 14:16-20.
Jesus said to a man who reclined eating at the
banquet: “A man was giving a big dinner, and he
invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his
slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come;
for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike
began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I
have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and
look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one
said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am
going to try them out; please consider me excused.’
Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for
that reason I cannot come’" (Luke 14:16-20).
OF OUR CHOICES
"How will we escape if we
neglect so great a salvation? (Heb. 2:3a). How shall
we flee from to escape the punishment if we neglect
so great a salvation? Obviously we shall not escape.
We are free to choose,
but we are not free to choose the consequences of
our actions and decisions. John Calvin observed,
"Not only the rejection of the gospel, but also its
neglect deserves the heaviest punishment, and that
on account of the greatness of the grace which it
Just like in the Old
Testament "every transgression and disobedience
received a just penalty," it is also true in the New
Testament revelation (Heb. 2:2b). Jesus said, "For
the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His
Father with His angels, and will then repay every
man according to his deeds" (Matthew 16:27). "For he
who does wrong will receive the consequences of the
wrong which he has done, and that without
partiality" (Colossians 3:25). "The threatening of
future penalties on the disobedient are far more
expressive in the gospel than in the law. The
punishment threatened in the gospel is as unto
degrees greater and more sore than that which was
annexed to the transgression of the first covenant,"
wrote John Owens.
There is no escape if you
"neglect so great a salvation" (Heb. 2:2a). The word
"neglect" (ameleo) means to be unconcerned,
ignore it; it denotes to be careless and
indifferent. It is the opposite of to pay close
"For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one
may be recompensed for his deeds in the body,
according to what he has done, whether good or bad"
(2 Corinthians 5:10). That is true of every
Christian. This judgment will deal with our rewards
based on how we have lived the Christian life. It is
not dealing with eternal life or salvation.
The writer does not tell
us what the punishment is; we know it cannot be the
loss of salvation because other passages make it
abundantly clear that we cannot lose our salvation
(John 10:27-30; Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 1:11-14;
Philippians 1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 John 5:11-13).
Moreover, there is also a
day of judgment for everyone who rejects Jesus
Christ as their savior.
The day of the "wrath of
the Lamb" is a terrible day of judgment for the
unbeliever. "He who believes in the Son has eternal
life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see
life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John
3:36). What we do with Jesus Christ today determines
what He will do with us when we stand before Him
after this life.
"Then I saw a great white
throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence
earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found
for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the
small, standing before the throne, and books were
opened; and another book was opened, which is the
book of life; and the dead were judged from the
things which were written in the books, according to
their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were
in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which
were in them; and they were judged, every one of
them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades
were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the
second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name
was not found written in the book of life, he was
thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11-15).
The crucial question is
what is your personal relationship with Jesus
ABIDING PRINCIPLES AND
Drifting is extremely
dangerous and deadly in the Christian life. To drift
is to perish.
There is no escape if we
neglect so great a salvation God has provided
through Jesus Christ.
The opposite of drifting
spiritually is a mindset that is constantly looking
to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Salvation.
A sure sign that you have
been born again and spiritual regeneration has taken
place is that if you are drifting you will not drift
long before you will repent and focus your eyes on
Christ. If the Holy Spirit is pricking your heart,
bringing conviction of unbelief and sin, you will
turn your eyes on Jesus and listen to Him and follow
Him daily. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will
keep My commandments."
A sure sign that you have
never been born again and regeneration has not taken
place is a spiritual deadness to the Word of God and
you have no desire to guard against drifting.
You are either saved or
not saved. If you are saved you will hear Him
speaking to you through the Scriptures, Biblical
preaching, the testimony of other Christians, and
the Holy Spirit will move you to repentance and
faith in Christ. If you are not saved, you have
probably turned me off and are determined to go your
own way being a religious person without Christ.
There are consequences
for our decisions when we reject the pleading of the
Holy Spirit. "For if the word spoken through angels
proved unalterable, and every transgression and
disobedience received a just penalty" (Hebrews 2:2).
Since that is true regarding the Old Testament
revelation, how much greater when we regard the
transgression and disobedience toward the Son of
God. God spoke through His Son in an even greater
revelation of Himself. If we neglect His Word we are
even guiltier than the Old Testament people who
disobeyed the Word of God.
We will perish if we
drift away from the Word o God and neglect so great
salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Salvation is found in
Jesus Christ alone. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ
and you shall be saved today.
2:1-4 Warning Against Drifting