Studies in Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter
4. Hebrews 2:14-18 - Freed From the Fear of Death
Hebrews quotes from Isaiah 8:17: “I will put my trust in him.” (Isaiah 8 is also a messianic passage; verse 14 is about the stone of stumbling.) The Messiah had to trust in God. He depended on God to take care of him after death.
The next verse that’s quoted, Isaiah 8:18, also says that we are in Christ’s family. “And again, ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given me.’” The image has changed from siblings to children, but the point is still the same: Christ is a human, just as we are. We should not be embarrassed by the fact that Jesus was a human, even to the point of death. Instead, we should be encouraged, because it is appropriate for our Savior to be one of us, to lead us into glory.
“Since…the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Jesus became human so his death would be effective for us. The devil and death can no longer keep us captive: they have been conquered. We can be confident that Jesus conquered death because he came back from death, which was possible only if he was mortal.
Jesus did this to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.” Death still strikes us, and it is still an enemy, but it cannot hold us permanently. Jesus gives us courage in the face of death.
Summary (verses 16-18)
“For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham” (verse 16). Jesus wanted to save us, so he became one of us. Although he was higher than the angels from the beginning, he became temporarily less than an angel. “Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people” (verse 17).
Here the author has come to the end of a section, and he begins to lay a foundation for later parts of the letter. He summarizes by saying that Jesus was fully human so he could save us. He will write more about the atonement in later chapters, and more about Jesus’ mercy and faithfulness. But now he just mentions them as hints of things yet to be discussed. He mentions Jesus as high priest, too, which he will also develop.
But after these hints, he goes back to wrap up this section: “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (verse 18). The readers were facing suffering and temptation. They were afraid of death, and the author is saying, Jesus has been there. He can help, because he was one of us. His role as Savior was made complete by these sufferings.
Jesus is not just a heavenly being—he was made flesh so he could suffer and die for us, and pave the way for our exaltation into glory. We are his family, and he will bring us through. On the other side of death is tremendous glory.
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD