Jesus Christ the Fiery Serpent

Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

HEBREWS III

“THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS“

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Hebrews 2:5-18

Thus far in this series we have seen, from chapter 1 of the Epistle to the Hebrews that God has in these last days spoken to us in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, by quotations from the Old Testament Paul, in this chapter, has shown that Christ, being God, is superior to all the angels. In order to demonstrate this fact, he quoted from certain passages statements that prove the deity of Christ, His authority, and His functions. In contrast with them he has given different quotations from various sections of the Old Testament which show the position and duties of angels. In this way he has proved beyond peradventure that Christ the Son is superior to all created beings.

Verses 1 to 4 of chapter 2 constitute an exhortation to the Hebrew nation to accept Jesus as their long awaited Messiah. In 2:5-18 Paul sets forth the human side of our Lord's nature.

As we have already seen, God has spoken to us in His Son. In what sense was Christ the Son of God? No one will ever be able to fathom the depth of this mystery. The theologians speak of the “eternal generation of the Son.” This exression is so very indefinite that even those using it are unable to explain what is meant by this phraseology. Regardless of its import, we know from Psalm 2 that God the Father said to God the Son: “Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee” (Psalm 2:7). This verse is Hebrew poetry, the fundamental principle of which is “Hebrew parallelism.” The second statement of this verse is a commentary upon the first. Christ's being the Son of God is explained, therefore, by the statement that God had begotten Him. This declaration from Psalm 2 undoubtedly refers to the incarnation, as we have already seen in chapter 1. We are safe in concluding, therefore, that, regardless of the depth of the meaning of the terms Father and Son as applied to two of the personalities of the Holy Trinity, these terms have a very definite bearing upon the relationship existing between these two Personalities after the latter assumes human form.

The Lord has not subjected the inhabited earth to come to angels but has put it under man as is shown in Psalm 8. Since therefore the Son is the one to whom all authority in heaven and earth is given and since man, according to this prediction, is to rule the world, it was necessary that the Son take the form of man in order that He might carry out this purpose. Such is the reasoning of the Apostle as he passes from the discussion of the divine nature of the Son to the human side of His being. The writer tells us that God did not subject “the world to come” to angels. On the contrary, He has turned it over to man. As proof of this position, he quotes from Psalm 8 the following verses:

But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, And didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet ...” (Hebrews 2:6-8)

An examination of this passage and the Psalm from which it is taken shows that David was speaking of what we call the millennial reign of our Lord when God subjects the animal creation to man. Paul's applying this passage to “the inhabited earth to come” shows that this portion unquestionably refers to the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ.

According to Genesis 1, God gave man authority over the earth, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. By yielding to Satan's subtle temptation, man forfeited to him this delegated authority and power. God will not be outdone by the devil and his machinations. He therefore, through David in Psalm 8, foretold the time when He will come back to His original plan and purpose by placing men over the works of His hands. God has made His promise to mankind in general and will fulfill it at the proper time. At the present, however, we do not see this prophecy fulfilled. Has God's Word failed? Never! After giving this quotation from Psalm 8, the Apostle Paul asserted that all things have not as yet been subjected to man — the reason being that the time has not yet arrived for the fulfillment of the prophecy. But we do, as he asserted, see the prediction fulfilled in the case of one man — the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was every whit a man. He was the God-man.

Jesus tasted death for every man. No one will be lost because of Adam's sin. Those who are eternally rejected seal their doom by not accepting the full and free atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe (I Timothy 4:10). All were made sinners through the one act of disobedience of Adam. All are made righteous by the one act of obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Romans 5:12-21).

Christ took the form of man in order that He might by His sacrificial death make atonement for the human family. He was the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. His death was real, actual. He poured out His blood for the remission of the sins of the world. Since He has wrought redemption for every man and since He offers this salvation full and free to every one who believes, all who accept Him will be saved. On the other hand, those who will not avail themselves of His atoning death must suffer the consequences of their unbelief and rejection of His atonement.

Since Christ suffered for the redemption of the world and has commissioned us to proclaim this glad message of salvation to all nations, a grave responsibility rests upon us and, at the same time, a wonderful privilege of service is granted to us. May we, while we have time and opportunity, proclaim the truth from the housetop!

According to the tenth verse of this chapter it was proper and fitting that God should make Christ — the God-man — perfect through suffering in order that He might bring many sons into glory — the glory of the millennial kingdom and of eternal redemption. Was Christ imperfect in any part of His being? The suggestion that He was is repulsive to those who know the scriptural teaching regarding our blessed Lord. No! He was in no wise imperfect. Being God, He was perfection itself on the divine side of His nature; on the human side, He likewise was perfect. There was nothing the matter with His human nature. It was doubtless as perfect as was Adam's before he fell through transgression and disobedience. It is quite possible that even His human nature was in a more perfect state of condition than was that of Adam. On this point, one cannot be dogmatic since the evidence which we have is so very slight; but regardless of all considerations we are positively right in saying that Christ was absolutely perfect in both His human and divine natures. Notwithstanding this fact, He was made perfect through suffering. In ordinary usage the correlative to perfection is imperfection; but the idea that there was something lacking in our Lord's nature is contrary to the facts. Thus when Christ was made perfect, no imperfections were removed. He must have been made perfect in a sense different from that with which we are acquainted. We must conclude that the perfection of Christ here noted was His advancing to a higher state or condition. But since He was God, it was impossible for Him to advance to a higher plane as to His Deity; this development must therefore be connoted of His fleshly nature. A simple little illustration might set forth the truth that is asserted in this verse. The soot that is deposited on the chimney of an oil lamp when it is turned too high is of the same essential nature as the diamond. The chemists tell us that this precious gem is pure carbon. There is positively no difference, chemically speaking, in the two substances. Nevertheless there is a vast difference in their appearances: Carbon becomes a diamond when it has been subjected to intense heat and very great pressure. The atoms are thus forced together and appear as if they were a different substance. In the terms of the illustration, I would say that Christ's body and human nature were in the carbon state when He was upon the earth prior to the crucifixion. He was subjected to the fiery trials of sufferings and death. Thus the pressure of the sin of the world was laid upon Him. He passed through this ordeal and rose from the dead with a glorified, immortalized body, which we may compare to the diamond. Thus by His death, burial, and resurrection He passed out of the carbon state of His human existence into the diamond state of His glorification. Christ therefore reached the state of perfection, from the standpoint of His human nature, by the suffering which He underwent for our redemption.

In Paul's day incipient Gnosticism had arisen. Those holding to this philosophy were bothered about the human nature of our Lord. There were those who insisted that He simply appeared to have a human body whereas He did not. They were known as the Docetic Gnostics. It seems probable that Paul was refuting this type of false philosophy. In verses 11-13 of this chapter, he affirmed that Christ who sanctifies and His followers who are sanctified are all of one; that is, of one nature. Of course, he was speaking of the human side of our Lord's nature and asserted that He was of the same nature as we are. From this statement one is not to infer that Christ had what is known as “sin in the flesh,” for He did not. He knew no sin. He was apart from sin. He committed no sin. Being God He could not sin. Nevertheless from the human standpoint, He and we are of one nature.

In proving this point Paul quoted from Psalm 22 these words:

I will declare thy name unto my brethren. In the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise.”

When this verse is studied in the light of the context from which it is taken (Psalm 22), it will be seen that David was speaking of Christ's acknowledging His brethren — the redeemed — in the millennial kingdom when the nations are gathered together at Jerusalem to worship Jehovah of hosts, the great King. At that time Christ will acknowledge us as His own brethren. By so doing He will be identifying himself with us from the standpoint of His human nature.

Once more the Apostle showed the human side of Christ's nature by giving us a quotation from the oracles of God which is: “I will put my trust in him.” The speaker is Christ. He states that He will put His trust in God. Jesus lived by faith the same as the saints of God throughout the centuries. Once again our Lord's unity with mankind, from the human standpoint, was asserted by the Apostle when he quoted from Isaiah these words: “Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me.” An examination of the original text from which this quotation is taken will show that these words primarily referred to Isaiah and the children whom God gave him, for they were a sign to their own generation. The names of each of them had a spiritual significance and were given them in order to convey certain definite ideas. The prophet and his children were therefore for a sign to their generation; but they were also typical of Christ and the children whom God has given Him, that is, the believers. Again, by this quotation, the unity of Christ with His brethren is re-affirmed.

In recent years Christ's Jewish ancestry has been questioned in certain quarters. The universal testimony of the Scriptures is that He partook of the nature of Abraham. When God wanted Christ to come into the world, He selected a Jewish maiden, Mary, to become the mother of our Lord. This fact was foretold by Isaiah in chapter 7, verse 14, which speaks of His virgin birth.

Christ thus took the form of the seed of Abraham in order that, by His death, suffering, and resurrection from the dead, He might bring to naught him who had power of death, that is, the devil. Christ went to the lower regions, fought with Satan, and conquered him, thus delivering all who trust Him from the fear of death. Since His resurrection, our Lord constantly exhorts us, “Fear not.” He has conquered and we can be victors through Him.

Since our Lord partook of human nature in order to suffer and die for us, He is a merciful high priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He is therefore eminently qualified to be a high priest in things pertaining to God in order to make propitiation for our sins. Satan approached Him from every conceivable angle. The temptation of our Lord, of course, was from without and not from within. Jesus repelled every attempt of Satan and was triumphant in His fight against the devil. Having fought and won He is able to succor all those who are tempted. Let us therefore come with boldness to the throne of grace upon which Jesus is seated and obtain mercy and grace to help in every time of need.