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MEN ABOVE ANGELS IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
BY THE REV. J. TORREY SMITH, AMHERST, mass. The purpose of this paper is to gain, if possible, a definite conception of the mutual relations of redeemed men and angels in the kingdom of Christ, as developed in the argument embraced in Hebrews ii. 5 and following. To do this it is first of all necessary to inquire with some care what the scope of that argument is.
The popular and most generally accessible expositors of this epistle take, for the most part, one of the two following views of the meaning of the apostle. He begins by declaring that God has not given the dominion of the world to come, that is, headship, or supremacy in the Gospel kingdom, to angels. Even the Old Testament gives proof of this. David, in the eighth Psalm, declares that God made man, and a son of man, a little lower than the angels, crowned him with glory and honor, and put all things under his feet. But he continues, we see that this is not true of man as such, while we see that it is literally true of Jesus ; and therefore Jesus is, and must be the man and son of man of whom David speaks, and to him, and not angels, is this supremacy given, and even angels are subject to him. According to this view the eighth Psalm is strictly and solely Messianic. It speaks directly of Christ and no other.
Others modify this view so far as to make the eighth Psalm not properly Messianic, but understand its primary application to be to man as a race. But they say it can be only in a low and limited sense true of man as a race, and therefore must and its complete fulfillment in the man Christ Jesus. Christ is the realization of the highest ideal of humanity, and is exalted to headship over all things. Angels, principalities and powers are made subject to him.
Now that the essential points in this conclusion are clearly revealed, scripture truth can not be gainsayed. The question is, Is this the argument of the passage, and is this conclusion all the truth embraced in it?
VOL. V.-N0. XXV. 59
These two views, which we believe cover all the generally received expositions of the passage, are essentially one. The one makes the eighth Psalm avowedly Messianic, and the other essentially so. In the first the man and son of man of the Psalm is Christ directly, and in the other it is not the less Christ, since he alone is the realization of the ideal of humanity. Now every exposition which involves either of these views is open to this serious objection. It makes the apostle directly ! contradict the Psalm. The Psalm declares that God made man and a son of man, that is, Christ, a little lower than the angels, crowned him with glory and honor, and put all things in subjection under his feet. The apostle, having quoted this, makes the obvious deduction that if all things are put under him nothing could remain which was not put under him. "But now," he says, " we see not yet all things put under him.” Even if this personage be Christ only, or in the highest and fullest sense Christ, the apostle says that what the Psalm asserts as a fact, we see is not a fact.
But besides this obvious, and seemingly insurmountable difficulty, these views manifestly fall short of the apostle's argument. They lie in the right direction, but they fail of grasping the idea. As the most direct and concise method of gaining the apostle's thought we will examine as briefly as may be the verses expressing it.
" For unto the angels he did not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak.” In this fifth verse the combination η οικουμένη η μέλλουσα is employed in the New Testament to express the world to come no where but in this verse. The form commonly employed is ó alò ó néhwy. This latter form occurs in the sixth chapter of this epistle, and undoubtedly means the Gospel dispensation. * It also occurs in Eph. ii, with the same signification. In our present passage ý olxoupéyn is without doubt used instead of the more customary s alwy and with the same signification. Ebrard in Olshausen refers it to the new earth after the resurrection ; an idea of which he, in common with Olshausen, seems specially fond, and often finds in the New Testament. But as Olshausen applies the combination ó alwy o Méhawy in Ephesians to the Gospel dispensation, and Ebrard the same
*See a very full unfolding of this point in this Review for November, 1864, pp. 576–81.
expression in Heb. vi, in the same way, why should a different application be made of this expression which all must concede to be its equivalent? The expression "world to come” is, we believe, no where applied in the New Testament to the new earth. And here, most obviously, the apostle designates his own meaning. It was " the world to come, whereof we speak.” He was speaking of the Messianic dispensation under Christ its mediator, showing its glory in comparison with the legal dispensation which was introduced and sustained through the mediation of angels. It was the world to come in respect to that dispensation, and though actually begun when the apostle was writing, it is even now chiefly to come; including, as it does, not only the kingdom of Christ, as now set up in this world, but also its consummation in glory after the resurrection from the dead. This world to come whereof Paul spoke, this kingdom of grace and glory, God did not put into subjection unto the angels. Angels will not have the position of supremacy and headship in it. Angels will be inferior to the individual or the race which shall hold that position. What individual, or what race will hold it? The next verses shall answer.
“But one in a certain place testified, saying, what is man that thou art mindful of him? or a son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him for a little time lower than the angels, thou crownedst him with glory and honor, thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet.” Vv. 6, 7.
Here we see the apostle first affirming that God has not given supremacy in the Gospel kingdom to angels, as he did in the former dispensation, and then quoting from the eighth Psalm to show that he has given it to man; he has crowned man with glory and honor, and put all things in subjection under his feet. But who are expressed by the terms man and son of man? Is it a particular man, or the race in general ? If a particular man, it would seem that it must have been ó ūvOpwros and ó vlós TOÙ àYOpórov. It is not; it is ãOpwros and vlós Toù àv@púrou. The article is wanting both in the Hebrew and the Greek. The passage quoted from the Psalm most evidently describes man as a race. And this is the impression which probably nearly every reader of the Psalm would receive. Let us recur for a moment to the Psalm. "O Jehovah our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, to still the enemy and the avenger.” Here perhaps we may remark, that it is not at all certain that the Psalmist had any reference to angels, the most exalted of God's creatures, when, as if by contrast, he speaks of babes and sucklings, the weakest, most helpless, and most dependent form of humanity. Still it is an interesting fact, that though God employs the might and energy of those glorious ones in working his will, in all that relates to human salvation he has ever directed the expectation of men, not to angelic agency, but to come babe and suckling; and upon these have human hopes ever rested. Immediately upon the fall faith was directed to a promised seed of the woman. Lamech looked for comfort to his babe Noah. The faith of Abraham hinged upon his babe Isaac, promised and expected for a quarter of a century before he appeared. At a later period all the hope of Israel and the world depended upon a babe sleeping in a basket among the flags in the Nile. And, to pass all other illustrations, the ancient church is pointed to a babe, Immanuel, conceived and born of a virgin ; and beholding the promised blessing, as if already realized, prophecy exults, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, ... and his name shall be called Wonderful.” And finally, upon the sight of the newly born babe, sleeping by his virgin mother, even angels fill terrestrial ether with their chorus, " Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will to men !” The Psalm continues : " When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou shouldest remember him, and a son oỉ man that thou shouldest visit him, and make him to want God for a little time, and crown bim with honor and glory, and make him have dominion over the works of thy hands ? Thou has put all things under his feet.” The expression of David, " made to want divinity," or "God,” the LXX translate "made lower than the angels," and Paul quotes their translation. If it must be admitted that the Hebrew text does not justify this as a translation, still it may be naturally enough drawn from it as an inference. The privilege of angels is to stand in the presence and enjoy the vision of God. Man, who is separated from God by sin, and
therefore is in justice made to want God, does not have that angelic privilege, and therefore is lower than the angels. But the prophecy is, it is for " a little time.” Not as in our version, a little in degree; certainly man is not a little but very far below the angels; both the Hebrew and the Greek adverbs are used of time as well as space. See Ps. xxxvii. 10; Acts v. 34. For a little time, comparatively speaking, man shall be without an immediate intercourse with God. But the Psalm points to a period when man is to come into such relations with God that he shall no longer want God, but shall enjoy his presence and his vision. When that is, he will be crowned with glory and honor, and all things be put under his feet. Now when we say that this Psalm is manifestly a prophecy of man in his restored, gracious and glorified state in the kingdom of Christ, we do not say that Christ has no connection with it. He has an important connection with it, as we shall see. But though Christ has an important connection with it, still David did not refer specifically to Christ when he spoke of man and a son of man, nor did Paul when he quoted those words. That he could not have intended to express Christ by using those terms άνθρωπος and υιός του ανθρώπου is plain from the next step in his argument. After quoting the prophecy of the Psalm, "Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet,” he makes the obvious deduction, " For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” Paul could not have said that all things are not put under Christ. Christ himself had said, " All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Mat. xxviii. 18. Paul had said to the Ephesians that Christ was exalted to be "head over all things,” and to the Philippians, "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name.” And the next verse declares that Christ is crowned with glory and honor, precisely the expression of the Psalm, parallel with putting all things under his feet, and directly opposed to the negation of this to the angels in the fifth verse. All this makes it clear that it was the intention of Paul as well as of David to affirm that the race of man is appointed to supremacy and headship over "all things," all creatures of God, without any exception; even without