Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : August 12, 1897
In our last study, beginning the second chapter of Hebrews, we learned that the word of salvation, “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord,” has been committed to men. Whosoever hears the message is commissioned to give it to others, telling what he has seen and heard with the Lord. This work, although committed to man, is God’s work, “for he whom God hath sent, speaks the words of God;” and therefore God bears them witness, or, rather, God bears witness with them, “both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.”
But why is this work committed to men, instead of to the angels, those messengers of God, whom He sends with the speed of the lightnings and the strength of the mighty winds? —The scripture before us in our present lesson gives us the answer: —
“For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou made him a little lower (or, “for a little while lower”) than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands; Thou best hut 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.” Hebrews 2.5-8
“The World to Come.”—What is “the world to come, whereof we speak?” and where has the writer of this Epistle spoken of it? —The answer to the first question is found in 2 Peter 3.13: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and anew earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” And again: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” “And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” “He that over cometh shall inherit all things.” Revelation 21.1, 5, 7. The world to come is the new earth, and we have already found a reference to it in Hebrews 1.10-12, where we read that the heavens and the earth shall wax old as doth a garment, and like a vesture shall be folded up and changed, that is, replaced by new. Thus we see that “the world to come, whereof we speak,” is the new heaven and the new earth, wherein the righteous shall dwell.
To Whom Made Subject?—“Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” But has God put the world to come in subjection to anyone?—If not, there would be no significance in specifying the angels, as those to whom it has not been made subject. Notice, however, the connection: The apostle is talking about the preaching of the Gospel, the word of salvation; it at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and is committed to those who heard Him, that is to men, because unto the angels He hath not put in subjection the world to come. Thus we see it clearly indicated that the reason why the preaching of the Gospel is committed to men is that unto men the world to come has been put in subjection. But we are not left to draw conclusions about this matter, for we are told, even in the text before us, just when it was done.
When It Was Done.—“One in a certain place [namely in the eighth Psalm] 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 hast 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.” Hebrews 2.6-8. In the beginning, when God made the heavens and the earth, when they were wholly new, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1.26. And God did just as He said, as we read in verse 23, and also in Psalm 8, from which the Apostle quotes: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.” What was it that was thus so completely put in subjection to man?—It was “the world to come, whereof we speak,” that is, the new heavens and the new earth, wherein only righteousness dwells.
Perfect Dominion, Perfect Subjection.—It is not for curiosity’s sake, but in order that we may know more of the power of the Gospel, and the power with which God wishes all to proclaim it, that we dwell upon the dominion which God in the beginning gave to man. Dominion was given to him; that is, he was made king, and his kingdom was the heavens and the earth that God had just made. Moreover, he was crowned with glory and honor. A crown signifies kingship, and the nature of the crown indicates the nature of the kingdom; therefore man was crowned king of glory. He was made glorious, and was set over a glorious kingdom.
The birds, the beasts, and the fishes, yea, the very earth itself was made subject to man. It is not so now, but traces of it are seen from time to time, and especially do we see it in Christ. He was alone in the desert with the wild beasts (Mark 1.13), yet they did Him no harm. The winds and the waters obeyed Him. Matthew 8.27. The fig-tree was also obedient. Mark 11.13, 14, 20. The unbroken colt bore Him through the crowd that shouted and waved palm-branches, as steadily as the oldest and best-trained beast could have done. Mark 11.1-9. Elijah commanded, and the heavens withheld rain and dew, and again at his word the heavens gave abundance of rain. 1 Kings 17.1; James 5.17, 18. God gave the ravens commandment concerning Elijah, that they should feed him, and twice a day for many days they brought the man of God food, obeying their orders as faithfully as any man could have done. 1 Kings 17.1-6. God spoke to a great fish, and it came and swallowed the truant Jonah, and again at the word of the Lord it set him on the dry land. Jonah 1.17; 2.10. Daniel in the den of lions was as safe as in his own house. Daniel 6.16-22. In these things we see traces of the perfect dominion that man had in the beginning.
Man, God’s Representative on Earth.—Some one may say that these cases that we have cited are instances of the power and dominion of the Lord. Exactly, but that does not mean that they have no application to our subject. “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God.” Psalm 62.11. “There is no power but of God.” Romans 13.1. Although dominion over the works of God’s hands was given to him, he could rule only by the power of God. God is king over all; He is “King of kings.” “The kingdom is the Lord’s” (Psalm 22.28), and our daily confession is to be, “Thine is the kingdom.” He did not withdraw from this portion of the universe when He gave dominion to Adam. Far from it. It was His purpose to rule the world through man. “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.” Isaiah 45.15. He is “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11.29), and delights more in the welfare of others than in His own. How wonderful! Think of the Maker of the universe, “in honor preferring another,” and therein finding His highest glory. And yet that is true of God” for He is everything that He expects of us. So God was pleased that in this part of His kingdom He should be represented by men. Not that man was by any means to take God’s place, for that is impossible, but that God in man would rule.
The Word Made Flesh.—Christ came to “restore all things.” It is impossible for us to realize the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” unless we consider “the first man Adam, to whose condition, and even better, we are to be restored in Christ, who came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” All things were made by the word of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “All things were made by Him.” John 1.1-3. “In Him were all things created;” “He is before all things and in Him all things consist.” Colossians 1.16, 17, R.V. All things come from Him and are upheld by His life, so that even the mountains are said to have been “brought forth'” (Psalm 90.2), that is born, as is given in other, more literal translations. The word is life; so when God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass,” it “was so;” the word became grass. And when by the same word man was made, “the word became flesh.” Thus Adam was “the son of God” (Luke 3.38), although only dust of the earth. God filled him with His spirit, and set him over the works of His hands, so that to him was all power given in heaven and earth; that is to say, all power in heaven that pertains especially to this earth. This we see in the fact that he was to rule over the fowls of the heaven. But the power was not inherent in man, for he was only dust; the power was the power of the word of God, and a glimpse of it is given us in Elijah’s control over rain. It is to this power and dominion that Christ will bring those who believe in Him; for “the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. Daniel 7.27. Unto Christ as '”the Son of man is all power in heaven and earth given, in order that He may give it to us; but this does not come within the scope of our present lesson.
“What Is Man?”—This is a question which we must not forget to answer, and the answer must be kept in mind. “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” Genesis 2.7. Literally, He “formed man, dust of the ground.” So that God could say to him, “Dust thou art.” God took dust, and set it over the works of His hands. In all his glory and honor, man was but dust. The power was God’s and so was the glory. How wonderful is God’s power! With a handful of dust He can rule a world! No wonder that He will not despise “a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51.17), that is, a heart that is but dust, —contrite: ground together, pulverized, —and which continually acknowledges that it is nothing. God will not despise it, because nothing is small or insignificant with Him, and He can do wonders with it. His glory is in doing the greatest things with the weakest instrument. The fact that God created man dust of the earth, and crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the work of His hands, is the joy and strength of the converted soul. In the facts of the creation of man, we learn what God can do with the contrite soul that is “a new creature” in Christ. Man is nothing, but God is everything. Whoever has learned this truth, has the key to the wisdom of the universe.
The Gospel the Power of God.—The Gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believeth. Romans 1.16. But the eternal power of God is seen in the things that He has made. Romans 1.20. In creation is the power of God seen, and therefore the Gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, makes new creatures, or “a new creation.” But “the Gospel of your salvation” is “the word of truth.” Ephesians 1.13. The power of the Gospel is therefore the power of the word, but it is the power of the word that created the heavens and the earth, and gave man dominion over them. Unto men, and not to angels, is the Gospel committed. That is, the word that is given to men to proclaim, is the word that creates. “The world to come” is the world over which God gave man dominion in the beginning. That dominion is to be completely restored by the Gospel. But the second glory will exceed the first, because when Satan attempts to thwart God’s plan, it only gives God opportunity to show His power in a more wonderful manner. In the beginning God ruled the world through the man who, although dust, was majestic in form, and perfect in every particular. Satan thought to show that God could not do it, and now God will show that He can do it with men who have fallen so low that they are tainted and marred and deformed so that they can scarcely be called men. “Whatsoever God does, it shall be for ever.” Ecclesiastes 3.14. Therefore since God gave man dominion over the earth, He has not taken back the gift, but in pursuance of His eternal purpose, has committed to man the work of the Gospel, through which all things are to be created new. This is why the Gospel is not committed to angels: Because unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come. Men talk of the power of the Gospel to convert souls, but while they talk of it they often forget that the power that it has over souls is the measure of the power which God has given to men to proclaim it. To man is the work committed, but the power is of God. Thus He says: “I have put My words in Thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My people.” Isaiah 51.16. Unto man was the dominion over the new earth given in the beginning; the Gospel is the power by which all things are to be made new; therefore to man is given the work of preaching the Gospel, and in giving it to him, God has given him” the power of the world to come.