Centrality of the Son in the Kingdom of God is a 5-part series. You can find others here:
- Introduction, Summary, and Promulgation of the Kingdom (8/27/18)
- Enthronement of Son (9/3/18)
- Qualities of the Kingdom of God – Heb 2:1-4:13 (9/10/18)
- The Restoration Ministry of Jesus (9/17/18)
- Kingdom and Covenant Relationship & Hebrews as God’s People (9/24/18)
- Promise & Oath: First Covenant Incomplete (10/1/18)
- New Covenant Complete, Summary & Conclusion (10/8/18)
The Restoration Ministry of Jesus
Dominion Restored (Heb 2:9-13)
At Hebrews 2:9-13 we note the first mention of the name of Jesus and we see the restoration ministry of Jesus outlined in its three major divisions; that is, restored dominion, restored hope, and restored rest. This first section outlines the cosmic implications of Jesus’s death. The Word of God who is called Son in 1:2 “for a little while was made lower than the angels….” Now he is called Jesus. In this condition of humanity, he experienced death for Adam’s race. His death was a gift of God’s grace so that the bondage of humankind to the devil might be broken.
Crux of Argument – Heb. 2:10
By grace God provided the way through which Jesus could accomplish his goal. That is, through suffering as a man and dying, Jesus achieved that for which he came. He returned many to the glory of the kingdom for which they were created. Hebrews 2:10 is the crux of the entire argument presented in Hebrews: (1) Jesus was made man. (2) He suffered and died. (3) He restored man to his former glory. Just how his death accomplished this is briefly recorded in 2:14-15. But what is more important, salvation through the death and resurrection of Messiah is the theme of the whole New Testament, even of the entire Bible. This salvation means nothing less than the full restoration of the Kingdom of God.
Return to Origin
Hebrews 2:11 clearly argues that humans are not being brought along to a new point in their relationship with God. But rather, we see humans being returned to their former relationship. The Word and humankind have one source who is none other than God. Jesus is not ashamed to call them brethren for he is restoring what was always the will of God for humankind.
Hope Restored (Heb. 2:14-3:6)
In this passage we see an implication of restored dominion. The Kingdom of God restores the hope of eternal life. Jesus became man and experienced death because he intended to defeat death. Through his death and resurrection Jesus “destroyed” the devil. The Greek translated “destroyed” is καταργήσῃ which does not mean only to obliterate or annihilate. I agree with Wuest 1 when he says the thrust of the word is to bind or make ineffective. See also John Owen 2
Fear of Death Removed
Hebrews 2:14 tells us the devil had power over death and thus when Jesus broke that power, he made the devil ineffective in holding humankind in death. By defeating the devil, Jesus restored hope to humankind that they also could experience freedom from the bondage of death and thereby freedom also from the fear of death. This hope is mentioned in Hebrews 3:6, 6:11, 6:18-19 and 7:19. Perhaps the New Testament passage most familiar in this context is Colossians 1:27 which speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Faithful High Priest of New Covenant
In taking the nature of humankind to “make expiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17) Jesus showed himself to be a faithful high priest. The priesthood function links Jesus to the Jewish understanding of covenant. Hebrews 3:1-6 describes how Jesus’s superiority to Moses correlates to the advantage of the new covenant over the old. The faithfulness of the Son exceeds that of everyone else. The former covenant could not restore hope because it did not deal with death. Jesus overcomes death and restores hope. Those sharing in “a heavenly call” (3:1) become part of “God’s house” (3:6). These verses speak of those who enter the Kingdom and experience the eternal hope. “We are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope” (3:6).
Rest Restored (Heb. 3:7-4:13)
Hope speaks of faith. Those who do not “hold fast” will not experience the restored rest which Christ provides. Psalms 95 (quoted in Heb 3:7-11) highlights the importance of belief. Those who harden their hearts suffer the consequences. This passage echoes Hebrews 2:1-4 in reminding the reader that the first covenant required faith. A lack of obedience resulted in punishment. And that punishment is mentioned in v.11: “they shall never enter my rest” (Heb 3:18). For the believer there is a promise of rest.
As we see in Hebrews 4:6-10, the rest spoken of in Psalms 95 is not just the rest gained by entering the Promised Land. Through David, God indicated another day (Heb 4:7) in which believers would enter a rest. There can be little doubt the author of Hebrews associated the day of rest mentioned in Psalms 95 with the day of Messiah. As Joshua guided Israel to rest in Canaan, so Jesus gives a “sabbath rest” (v.9). The faithful Christ spoken of in Hebrews 3:6, who incorporates believers into God’s house, also gives them the rest connected with it. All of these relate to the Kingdom of God. Jesus restores dominion, hope and rest. These are the qualities of the Kingdom.
Necessity of Faith
Hebrews 3:12-4:2 reiterates the necessity of faith to inherit God’s promises. Just as there were some who were unfaithful to the first covenant, in the same way an “evil, unbelieving heart” can cause the hearer to turn away from the new covenant. It is possible for some who have heard the proclamation of the Kingdom to reject that blessing of recovered dominion. (This is made clearer in Hebrews 6:4-8). Faith holds “our first confidence firm to the end” (3:14) but unbelief causes sin and prevents us from entering his rest (3:18). The role of faith in Kingdom living is highlighted in chapter eleven.
Rest Available in Christ
Hebrews 4:3 states plainly “we who have believed enter that rest.” So the rest spoken of in this passage is one entered when we believe. The context of “believe,” of course, cannot be in doubt. The author speaks of Jesus and his work from the first verse of chapter one until this point. The remainder of Hebrews likewise focuses on Christ. “Believe” here refers to faith in Jesus and his work. There is rest for those who are part of God’s house (3:6), who are sanctified (2:11) by Christ. “The rest here intended is that rest which believers have an entrance into by Jesus Christ in this world.” 3
Hebrews 4:3-4 also indicates that rest was originally established by God from the foundation of the world and that God himself participates in that rest. “God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” F.F. Bruce points out that “my rest” of Heb. 4: 3 “which God promises to His people is a share in that rest which He Himself enjoys.” 4This rest was available to all creation and was enjoyed by Adam and Eve. However, when dominion was surrendered to Satan, rest (as well as hope) was lost. This does not mean rest disappeared. As F.F. Bruce points out, God still experiences it. But this spiritual rest was lost to humankind.
Hebrews 4:7 points out the fact that God has appointed a day when the possibility of entering that rest would be restored. The author of Hebrews believes the day referred to was the “day of salvation” which was ushered in by Christ. Man lost this rest through disobedience, through sin. Rest is recovered through the obedience of Christ. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). The Kingdom of God comes into human existence in Jesus and restoration occurs. Humankind recovers dominion, hope and rest.