Hebrews 2:1-4 ‘A Call To Witnesses To Hear And Testify’.
As indicated in the introduction, it is the thesis of this writer that this letter to the Hebrews is both a document new covenant renewal, and old covenant lawsuit. The lawsuit structure is found within the larger renewal structure, paralleling the same areas. Both structures also follow a biblical pattern in content and structure. In the verses at hand we find the first item in the covenant lawsuit structure, embedded in the first item in the covenant renewal structure. As already noted, with regard to the latter the writer of this letter is concerned with the Preamble of the covenant renewal structure. With these verses, we find the first item in the covenant lawsuit structure-‘A Call To Witnesses To Hear And Testify’.
The place of witnesses in matters of jurisprudence, and life and death, is something that was laid down in the law. “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Dt. 19:15 Cf. 17:6; Nu. 35:30). Since Jesus made clear that he did not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them (Mt. 5:17-20), he also reiterated this principle (Mt. 18:16). Furthermore, in a clear defence of the Trinity, Jesus maintained that he and the Father were two separate witnesses (Jn. 8:17-18). The Spirit is a third witness (Jn. 1:33). Furthermore, God’s sovereign will is what is determinative (v. 4).
Paul also saw this principle as being applicable to ecclesiastical jurisprudence (I Tim. 5:19). However, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews also saw this witness principle at work in the formation of the canon, and the proper interpretation of the Scriptures. Paul even saw in his third visit to the Corinthians, an application of this witness bearing principle-because his witness, and those with him, came three different times, urging the readers and listeners to accept the apostolic testimony (II Cor. 13:1). However, what is of pertinent application in this letter, is the author taking this principle and applying it to the establishment of the canon, and the proper interpretation of the Scriptures.
In the fourth section of the covenant renewal structure, which deals with ‘Sentence And Warning or Sanctions,’ our author states the following. “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (10:28-29)?” Given everything our author has laid out in the first chapter, with the Preamble of the new covenant renewal, he warns his readers and hearers to “give the more earnest heed to the things” they had heard, lest they drift away (v. 1).
In that Preamble, our author set out the witnesses who testified that the Son had come, to whom the inheritance of this covenant headship belonged. He presented the Son as the LORD of the covenant in his transcendence and immanence in his humiliation and exaltation, his presentation, and the enthronement. The Son was anointed to this role and the threefold office of his reign. Since the Son has come, to whom all the old covenant administrations pointed to, and there is no redemption to come from any other, it requires this earnestness to take heed to this closing message of the new covenant administration, and close of the new testament canon. Those who do not heed this word will drift away (vv. 2-3a).
It is important to note that those who drift away, are drifting away from the message of the law and the prophets when they reject the new covenant renewal, because it is to the latter that the former pointed to as fulfillment. This message of new covenant renewal “first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (v. 3b Cf. Mt. 4:17; Mk. 16:20; Lk. 1:2; I Jn. 1:1). The law indeed came accompanied by angels (Dt. 33:2), as did the prophets (Dan. 7:10). Stephen testified to this angelic accompaniment, as he had a vision of the glory throne, which we know is surrounded by the angelic hosts of heaven (Acts 6:8; 7:53; Rev. 5:11-12), as did Paul (II Cor. 12:2; Gal. 3:19).
We must again remember, that this first section of the covenant lawsuit structure, was a call to witnesses to hear and testify to the suit brought forward by the plaintiff. The author has here called to the law and the prophets, he then called to the Son’s words while in the flesh, and with all these there was the accompanying angelic witness. However, it is the Son’s testimony in particular, and the fact that it is the last of the covenant renewals and close of the canon, that makes the lawsuit against those who reject his testimony, and that which others give of him, that makes their judgment all the more severe. There is now no other hope or opportunity for anyone to get right with God.
To all of this, our author then adds the apostolic witness, and the “signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His will,” which were given with the specific purpose of also bearing witness to final new covenant renewal and the completion of the canon of Holy Scripture (v. 4 Cf. Mk. 16:20; Acts 2:22, 43; 14:3; Rom. 15:19). To be “cut off” under the old covenant was the same as saying one had been convicted of violating the covenant, being convicted on the basis of witnesses (Cf. Nu. 15:30-31). That is what our author is laying out here-old covenant lawsuit against those under the old covenant who were rejecting the new covenant witness.