The World to Come

The supremacy of Christ over the angels continues as the theme in the early portion of Hebrews, but with an important development in the text. Christ is not only supreme over the angels, He holds this position now as the Incarnate One — the God/man.

For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone

(Heb. 2:5-9).

The book of Hebrews is profoundly future-oriented. Because of who Jesus is, we may talk about the world to come with great confidence. Note what he says here — “the world to come, of which we speak.” This is not a reference to heaven; it is a reference to the coming Christian aeon. The word here for world is oikoumene — the inhabited earth. The Judaic aeon was coming to a close and was fading away. There would be a cataclysmic finish to that age in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. But in the world to come, the authority which angelic beings had in the Old Testament was transferred to Christ, and, as we will see to all of mankind considered in Christ.

In defense of this idea, the author of Hebrews cites the eighth psalm. Now two great truths emerge from this psalm. The first is the greatness of God over all things, and the obvious insignificance of man. “What is man that You are mindful of him . . .” The second is the fact that this great God has bestowed mind-boggling greatness on insignificant man. “You have crowned him with glory and honor . . .” How was this done? The biblical answer is that it was done in and through Christ.

When we consider the eighth psalm, it is clear that David is speaking clearly about mankind. The psalm is not directly messianic (although it should be clear that the entire psalter is messianic at some level). At the same time, the author of Hebrews clearly connects it with Christ. Man is given universal dominion over all things, but this dominion does not come to fruition apart from Christ. Because of our sin in Adam, we were crippled in our ability to exercise that dominion. This inability, this impotence, is healed in Christ.

Now the Christian faith is an historical faith. Above we saw that we are talking about the “world to come.” We do not yet see everything subject to man. But we know that bringing man to maturity is a central part of God’s plan for us. And as man is brought to maturity in Christ, his relationship to the world around him will be gradually transformed.

Although the author of Hebrews did not see mankind’s dominion over all things with his eyes, he did see it in the promises of God. And all God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. In Christ, all the promises are yea and amen. We do not yet see everything in subjection to mankind. But, in the gospel, we see Christ by faith. These are some of the things we must consider by faith.

“But we see Jesus . . .”

This is not mysticism, but faith. Consider the phrase “who was made a little lower than the angels.” This is a reference to the Incarnation. In Christ God was enfleshed. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Who is the antiChrist, and who has a spirit of falsehood? The one who denies that Jesus is come in the flesh (1 John 4:2).

for the suffering of death . . .” Christ died on the cross as a perfect substitute for his people. This is the heart of the gospel. The cross is the glory of Christianity — it is there that Christ redeemed His people and conquered His enemies.

crowned with glory and honor . . .” After Christ’s death, God raised Him from the dead, and crowned Him with glory and all honor. All authority has been given to Him. Notice that this is the phrase used earlier of mankind in the eighth psalm. Man is crowned with glory and honor which we do not yet see. But we do see Jesus crowned with glory and honor on our behalf. Christ has been raised, exalted, enthroned, and made ruler and sovereign. In faith, we should think about Him in this position, and as we do, we will come to understand the future nature of man. Christ is the future nature of man.

that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Christ’s redemption was not for a tiny handful of people. The elect are not a tiny trickle of forgiven sinners barely making it into heaven. Remember, we are speaking of “the world to come. The world to come, in the Christian aeon, is not subject to angels, but rather to mankind in Christ. Christ tasting death for everyone does not mean that He tried to save Judas and Pharaoh in His dying, but failed at it. But still less can it mean that He died for fifteen or sixteen people. God sent His Son into the world to save the world (John 3:17).

As we grow in our understanding of the gospel, and grow in our knowledge of what it was that Jesus came to do, we will grow up into that image. As we look at Christ in faith, we are transformed from one degree of glory to another. And this means that we learn to restore the created order around us. This is not a promise concerning the nature of heaven after we die. This is a promise about the future history of our world, the world we are currently living in. As we grow up into Christ, and as Christ grows in us, we see more and more of the disordered world coming back into order, more and more fractures mended. The only disorder in the world that will not be dealt with this way, prior to the second coming of Christ, will be death itself. That enemy will fall at the word of Christ Himself. But all other enemies will be subdued, and the instrument for doing this will be the gospel proclaimed by mankind in Christ to that ever-decreasing portion of mankind outside of Christ. So death will not be destroyed until the second coming. But prior to that, the child will play with cobras.

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