Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : September 23, 1897
The preceding studies in the first two chapters of Hebrews have shown us Jesus in His infinite power and glory, but nevertheless as Man, so that we might know that “the power of God and the wisdom of God” are given to men. In Hebrews 2.13-18 we have the same truth set forth for our comfort. After the statement that Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren, there are three quotations in proof of the fact, with the second of which we begin:—
“And again, I will put My trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given Me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2.13-18
• What statement of Christ has already been cited, to show that He is not ashamed to call sinful men His brethren?
o “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren?”
• What still further shows Him to be one with us in experience?
o “I will put My trust in Him.”
• How does He still further identify Himself with us?
o “Behold I and the children whom Thou hast given He.”
• Of what are “the children” partakers?
o “Of flesh and blood.”
• Of what did He therefore take part?
o “Of the same.”
o “That He might destroy him that had the power of death.”
• Who is he that had the power of death?
o “The devil.”
• And how is it that He destroy him?
o “Through death.”
• And what does He thereby do?
o “Deliver them, who . . . were a their lifetime subject to bondage.”
• What held them in this bondage?
o “The fear of death.”
• What did Christ not take on Himself?
o “The nature of angels.”
• What did He take on Himself?
o “He took on him the seed of Abraham.”
• What was therefore fitting and necessary for Him?
o “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren.”
o “That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God.”
• To do what?
o “To make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
• How has He Himself suffered'?
o “He Himself hath suffered being tempted.”
• What is He therefore able to do?
o “He is able to succour them that are tempted.”
“Flesh and Blood.”—What is the significance of the statement that the children are partakers of flesh and blood? The connection shows clearly, but we have also a hint in 1 Corinthians 15.50: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” Flesh and blood is corruptible; it has to do with death. The children are partakers of flesh and blood, that is, they are subject to death; therefore Christ took part of the same, and tasted death “for every man,” in order that He might deliver the children from death.
“Him that had the power of death.”—Who is it? —The devil. What then is the grave?—It is Satan’s stronghold, his prison house. How say some, then, that death is a friend? —That I know not, for the Scripture declares that it is an enemy. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15.26. The fact that death is the last enemy that is slain shows that it is the greatest and strongest of all enemies. It is a hard and cruel enemy, so much so that the Bible knows no darkened room, the black funeral train, or even if these be not present, the involuntary tears, the heaving sob, the aching heart, and the void that is left where the loved one was so rudely torn away, all testify that death is an enemy, no matter what people, misled by heathen, stoic philosophy, say of it. It is a cruel, bitter enemy, with not a single redeeming attractive feature.
Death Conquered.—On one occasion, when Jesus had cast a devil out of a man, He said: “How can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his house, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.” Matthew 12.29. The “strong man” is Satan, but Christ is the “stronger than he.” Luke 11.21-23. He came to deprive Satan of his power, yea, and to destroy the devil himself. The object of Christ’s coming is “to seek and to save that which was lost, those whom Satan had enticed away and bound. But first he must bind the strong man. This He did, as was demonstrated in His whole life. Wherever He went, the devils had no power; but this power over Satan was the power of His righteousness. Because there was no unrighteousness in Christ, because Satan could not influence Him in the slightest degree, “it was not possible that He should be held” by death, when He voluntarily suffered it. Acts 2.24. He went into the grave as a conqueror and therefore He came out a conqueror. He “spoiled principalities and powers,” and “made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” - in His cross. Colossians 2.15. Thus is Satan’s armor, in which he trusted, turned against himself, and when death has swallowed him up then shall death itself be destroyed.
Deliverance.—But for all practical purposes, death is already destroyed for God’s people; for if the grave had no power over Christ, so it has no power to retain those who are in Christ. Satan is the adversary, and the grave is his prison, but Christ holds the keys. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen. And I have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1.18. Who would fear the gloomiest dungeon, when his dearest friend, who is Almighty, holds the keys? Christ bore the curse that we might receive the blessing. Galatians 3.13, 14. So Christ received the sting of death in Himself that we might be delivered from its poison. Even over death “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Romans 8.35-37
Sin and Death.—“The sting of death is sin.” 1 Corinthians 15.56. Christ received the sting, because “Him who knew no sin” hath God made to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5.21. So the de¬liverance which Christ has won for “them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” is deliverance from sin. Sin is the only thing that can cause fear of death; the deliverance from sin frees from the fear of death. Christ’s power over death, and over him that had the power of death, is but the measure of His power to free the soul from sin. And this deliverance is proclaimed to all. Jesus came with the anointing of the Holy Spirit proclaiming to the captives, Liberty. Isaiah 61.1. To every captive soul, He cries, “You are free! The prison doors are open.” To all the prisoners He says, “Go forth.” Isaiah 49.9. Whoever therefore now remains in bondage is there because He loves bondage more than liberty, or else because he does not believe the message. But the glorious truth, which Christ commissions His servants to proclaim, is that Satan’s cruel power is broken, and that all have their liberty. This is true religious liberty, and the only thing that has a right to the name; and this liberty is found nowhere else but in Christ.
“The Seed of Abraham.”—Christ did not take on Himself the nature of angels. Why not? Because unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come. Christ’s manifestation to this earth has nothing to do with angels, because they never had any claim on it. “But He took on Him the seed of Abraham.” “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but a of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Galatians 3.16. Thus we see that the expression, “He took on Him the seed of Abraham” means literally that He became the seed of Abraham; that is, He became man in the fullest sense, as much man in every particular as was Isaac; for “in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” In this lies the comfort of the Gospel.
The Necessary Consequence.—“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like unto His brethren.” Otherwise He would not be the seed of Abraham “In all things,” without exception, He is associated with His brethren. He is one with them. The Lord says, “I have exalted One chosen out of the people.” Psalm 89.19. And again, speaking to Moses, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee.” Deuteronomy 18.18. The Romish Church, following the tendency of human nature, has made a great gulf between Christ and man. Instead of presenting Him as He is, one of the people, it separates Him so far from them that people are made to think that some one is needed to present their petitions to Him, and to make Him willing to save them. But the Bible presents Him as the loving Companion, who is burdened with all our weaknesses and temptations, and who thus has sympathy with us, but who at the same time has all might, so that He can show us how to overcome; nay, more, who is our Salvation.
How He Suffered.—“He suffered, being tempted.” It was no play with Him. He did not come to earth merely to act out a part. Temptations did not come to Him as to one who was insensible to their attractions and power, so that they were not in reality temptations. No; He suffered. He was made to be sin for us. He took the nature of Abraham, with all its weaknesses, so that the temptation to sin was a real experience. But “He did no sin,” and therefore He suffered the more. He verily “resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Sin was as much a reality in His flesh as in that of His brethren, for He was “born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them which were under the law.” Galatians 4.4, 5. In Christ as Man there is everything that is common to “man that is born of woman.” But He conquered. The sinful human nature, which He took upon Himself, which He became, never was allowed to get the ascendancy. He was always a conqueror, and a conqueror for our sakes, so that we might say, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2.14
He Can Succour.—Why can He succour us?—Because “He Himself hath suffered being tempted.” Not simply because He was not overcome, but because He had a struggle. If there had been no struggle; if He had, so to speak, been insured beforehand against sin, so that its assaults on Him and His resistance were only a show,—a sham battle,—then He could not aid us, for our conflicts are real. But the fact that in every encounter He conquered completely, together with the fact that His temptations were as real as ours, because in all things He was made like unto His brethren, is everlasting comfort. Because He overcame, our victory is assured, nay, is already gained; for our faith is the victory “that hath overcome the world.” 1 John 5.4; John 16.33. He suffered in our flesh. He took on Him the seed of Abraham, and if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3.29. He suffered in the flesh (1 Peter 4.1), in our flesh; therefore when we suffer temptation we suffer with Him, and if we but realize that we are really suffering with Him, and only with Him, then we are as sure of victory as we are that He has overcome. Romans 8.17
The Source of His Strength.—It was this: “I will put My trust in Him.” “He trusted in the Lord that He would deliver Him.” Christ said: “Thou didst make Me trust when I was upon My mother’s breasts.” Psalm 22.9. Again: “For the Lord God will help Me; therefore shall I not be confounded.” Isaiah 50.7. “I can of Mine own self do nothing.” John 5.30. No man call be any more helpless than that. But He trusted in God, and was not put to shame. For what did He trust the Lord? —For everything; for wisdom and strength for every emergency; for He is “the wisdom of God and the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1.24. “As He is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4.17. The only trouble with us is that we are not as willing as He to confess that we are nothing—“without strength.” Although as the only begotten Son who was in glory with the Father before the world was, even “from the days of eternity,” He possessed all power in Himself as Creator, He “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2.7, R.V.), so that He was on this earth nothing except what He allowed the Father to put in Him. And it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell (Colossians 1.19), because He put His trust in Him. And “you hath He quickened with Christ, giving us the same Spirit in equal measure with the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4.7) that being strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, Christ might dwell in the heart by faith, so that we also “might be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3.16-19. This is the comfort of the Gospel; therefore “Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3.20, 21