The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Exegetical Compilation: Hebrews 2:1-3a

This is part of my Exegetical Compilation Project, which I am verrrry slowwwlly posting up here.

Heb 2:1-3a; (counter-evidence against universalism)(warning against non-universalism): (NASB) “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to the things that have been heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which was at the first spoken through the Lord?” (And confirmed by those who heard, and by God in various miraculous ways.)

Non-universalists tend to read this as though it is saying the just repayment or recompense is hopelessly final; but obviously it doesn’t say that. This doesn’t mean non-universalists are necessarily cheating here, only that they’re reading into the meaning what they think is supremely established elsewhere, and that would be a proper procedure. By the same token, of course, if God’s punishment is supremely established elsewhere as being successfully remedial, then universalists are just as proper to read a hopeful punishment here.

Less trivially, non-universalists sometimes cite this against universal salvation in principle as being itself not only damnable but hopelessly damnable after some point, per Arminianism. Per Calvinism the details of the damnation don’t really matter, for God never intended to save the non-elect from sin anyway, but will eventually bring the elect to salvation regardless of any errors of belief. But then the non-elect can never be in a position to “drift away” into damnation! – so strictly speaking a Calvinist can only consistently read this warning as applying to the elect and thus to a hopeful punishment (though still one to be avoided.)

This naturally leads to the question of what the so-great salvation is, from which we (the Christian audience of the Hebraist) may drift away by neglecting it.

This so-great salvation, {têlikautês sôtêrias}, evidently has something to do with a word being talked or being spoken by angels being confirmed, and {pasa parabasis kai parakoê} every transgression and disobedience getting or obtaining an in-just reward (or {misthapodosian}, hire-from-giving), which we shall consequently not be escaping if we neglect salvation of such proportions.

Now, there was an old Jewish tradition based, sort of, on Deuteronomy 33:2, where YHWH comes forth from a thousand holy ones to give the Law to the people; and the Lord is certainly the one, in the next verse of Heb 2, Who has spoken the original salvation, the salvation from the beginning, that anyone is getting or obtaining. But considering that the Hebraist started his epistle in chapter 1 emphasizing how much vastly greater the Son is than angels, by virtue of being God Most High, even called {ho theos} “the God” by the Father, it’s a little odd that he would talk about the Torah or Law being spoken by angels. Of course, in giving the Law, YHWH was acting as the Angel of YHWH – which led to major controversies between Jewish scholars in the 1st Christian centuries even aside from how Christians were interpreting such things – so possibly the Hebraist is using a divine plural for angels here and referring to the Visible Presence of YHWH, the Angel of the Face.

But another title for this visible presence of YHWH in the New Testament, is {ho logos}, the Word; mostly by John, but also at least once each by Paul (Romans 10, where the Word originally referring to the Law in Deuteronomy, is interpreted as Christ descending from heaven and ascending from the swirling depths of the abyss) and Luke (GosLuke 1, where Luke has been not only checking previously written accounts but also interviewing eyewitnesses and deputies of the Word).

That could mean the Hebraist is talking about Christ being spoken or talked about by angels, and being confirmed; certainly elsewhere Christ (as YHWH) is Who comes to pay every transgression and obedience with a just reward!

Beyond that, in Hebrews 1:6, the author says God has prophesied in Psalm 97:7 that all pagan gods shall worship the Son, using an expression that indicates genuine servitude (like a dog licking the hand). This isn’t always used for a divine object, but only rarely is it used for a mocking or insincere worship (such as when the Roman soldiers mocked Christ before the crucifixion), and the context definitely excludes this since the Psalmist says the rebel gods doing this shall thus embarrass those who worship them now, while the Hebraist calls them “angels of God”.

How great is God’s salvation then? So great that even rebel angels shall repent and return to loyally proclaiming the Logos!

Consequently, if we neglect a salvation so great (per the greatness of Christ in chapter 1) that even rebel angels shall reconcile with God, how shall we escape the coming just payment by this same Logos for every sin and transgression?

The rhetorical answer is that those who neglect a salvation which even rebel angels can and will accept, are sinning even worse than them, and shall not escape the coming just payment for their sins and transgressions.

Similarly, as the Hebraist will go on to talk about in much greater detail, if we insist on lesser judges, we neglect the greatest judge and the greatest salvation provided by the same judge Who both condemns and saves, the Living Word of God Who is active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the divisions of soul and spirit, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, from Whose sight no creature can hide, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him (4:12-13).

Relatedly, though, if we insistently deny that the greatest Savior saves even rebel angels, then we are neglecting, or in the Greek, {amelêsantes} actively not-caring, the salvation of such a proportion.

As with several other such warnings (and with more to come in this epistle), it actually rebounds against and judges the one who judges such judgment to be hopelessly final.

As always, members are invited to discuss interpretations of these verses below, and to link to discussions either here on the forum or elsewhere.

If you find my compilations helpful, feel free to tip me $5 here at Amazon, near or at the top of the list. You can tip me for multiple articles of course. (I get $2.50 of each single $5 tip.)