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field, Olshauseii, Tumor. — Ed.


Ver. 5. — The first words of the fifth verse, ov yap, " for," declare
that the apostle is in the pursuit of his former argument. Tap
" for," doth not always intimate the introduction of a reason in the
confirmation of what is past, hut sometimes a progression unto
somewhat else in the like kind with that which precedeth, and so
hath not respect unto any especial words or sayings going before, but
unto the whole matter in hand, especially that which doth ensue; as
"nam" also is used in Latin: "Nam quis tejuvenum confidentissime,
nostras jussit adire domes." A new argument, therefore, to the same
purpose with that before is intimated by this particle, " for."

The whole verse contains an assertion laid down in a negative
proposition, the assumption of the apostle's argument, or the proof of
it, supposed in a prosyllogism, consisting in the ensuing testimony,
with his explication of it. And it is to this purpose: ' The world to
come is not made subject unto angels; but it was made subject to
Jesus: and therefore he is exalted above them.' This he proves
from the testimony of the psalmist, to this purpose, ' All things
■were made subject to man, who for a little while was made lower
than the angels; but this man was Jesus.' And this assumption he
proves from the event: — First, On the part of man absolutely con-
sidered: 'We see that all things are not made subject unto him;'
therefore he cannot be intended. Secondly, On the part of Jesur
* All things in the event agree unto him ; first, he was made for a
little while lower than the angels,' (which he shows the reason of,
and thence takes occasion to discourse of his death and sufferings,
according to the method before declared;) 'and then he was crowned
with glory and dignity, all things being made subject unto him; —
from all which it appears, that it is he, and not angels, unto whom
the world to come is put in subjection.' This is the series of the
apostle's discourse, wherein are many things difficult and " hard to
be understood," which must be particularly considered.

The first verse, as was said, lays down the principal assertion in a
negative proposition: " The world to come is not made subject unto
angels." One proof hereof is included in the words themselves;
for that expression, " He hath not put in subjection," is the same
with our apostle as, ' It is nowhere written or recorded in the Scrip-
ture,' ' There is no testimony of it,' ' God is nowhere said to have
done it.' See chap. i. 5, with the exposition of it. And these nega-
tive arguments from the authority of the Old Testament he esteemed
in this matter cogent and sufficient.

In the proposition itself, 1. The subject of it, *' The world to
come;" with 2. Its limitation, "Whereof we treat;" and 3. The
'predicate, negatively expressed, "Is not put in subjection to angels,"
are to be considered.

The subject of the proposition is, "The world to come" (snn D7iy),
the new heavens and new earth (o/xou.aivjj), which God promised to


create, Isa. Ixv. 17, Ixvi. 22; which refers unto rfC^^n lo"*, " the days
of the Messiah." The later Jews sometimes call it IT)]} Dbiy, "the
future world," though usually by that expression they intend the
world of future bliss. But the world here intended is no other
but the promised state of the church under the gospel. This, with
the worsliip of God therein, with especial relation unto the Messiah,
the author and mediator of it, administering its heavenly things
before the throne of grace, thereby rendering it spiritual and
heavenly, and diverse from the state of the worship of the old tes-
tament, which was worldly and carnal, was "the world to come" that
the Jews looked for, and which in this place is intended by the
apostle. This we must further confirm, as the foundation of the
ensuing exposition. That this then, is the intendment of the
apostle appeareth, —

First, From the limitation annexed, 'Trsp! ^g XaXov/Mv, " concerning
which we treat." This is the world wiiereof he treats with the
Hebrews in this epistle, namely, the gospel state of the chijrch, the
worship whereof he had in the words immediately foregoing pressed
them unto the observation of; and not only so, but described it
also by that state wherein the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost
were g'.ven and enjoyed. And the mention of them in the words
directly preceding is that description of the world to come which
the apostle in these words refers unto, "concerning which we speak."
And the tradition of this new world, or the restoration of all things
under the Messiah, was one of the principal reports of truth received
among the Jews, which the apostle jiresseth them withal.

Some suppose that "KaXoZiMiv, " we speak," is put for sXaX^tfa/nv,
" we have spoken," and would have it refer unto chap. i. 6. But
what the apostle there intendeth by "the world" we have sufficiently
evinced and declared. The " world" there, by a usual synecdoche,
is put for the habitable earth, the ra 'I'dia, which the Son of God
made and came unto, John i. 11. Here, a certain state and condi-
tion of things in the world, about which he treated with the Hebrews,
is intended.

Besides, they who would thus change the word (Grotius, Crellius,
Schlichtingius), by the world, chap. i. 6, understand heaven itself,
the state of glory, which is not here insisted on by the apostle; for, —

Secondly, He treats of that which was already done, in the crown-
ing of Jesus with glory and honour, as the words following do
manifest. This crowning of him was upon his ascension, as we have
before proved at large. Then was not the state of glory made sub-
ject unto him, because it was not then nor is yet in being. And,
therefore, they who turn "we speak" into "we have before spoken,"
are forced also to pervert the following words, and to interpret, "He
hath made all things subject uuto him," " He hath purposed or de-


creed so to do;" both without cause or reason. The world whereof
the apostle treats was immediately made subject to Jesus, — that is,
the church of the new testament, — when God anointed him knig
upon his holy hill of Zion; and therefore in the psalm is there
mention made of those other parts of the creation, to be joined in
this subjection, that have no relation unto heaven.

Thirdly, The apostle doth not treat directly anywhere in this
epistle concerning heaven, or the world of the blessed to come. He
frequently mentions heaven, not absolutely, indeed, but as it be-
longs imto the gospel world, as being the place of the constant
residence of the high priest of the church, and wherein also the
worship of it is through faith celebrated.

Fourthly, The apostle in these words insists on the antithesis
■which he pursueth in his whole discourse between the Judaical and
evangelical church-state; for whatever power angels might have in
and over things formerly, this world to come, saith he, is not made
subject unto them. Now, it is not heaven and glory that he oppo-
seth to the Judaical church-state and worship, but that of the gospel,
as we shall find in the progress of the epistle; which is therefore
necessarily here intended.

Fifthly, If by " the world to come," the eternal, blessed state of
glory be designed, to begin at or after the general judgment, then
here is a promise that that blessed estate shall " de novo " be put in
subjection to Jesus Christ as mediator ; but this is directly con-
trary unto what is elsewhere revealed by the same apostle, con-
cerning the transactions between the Father and the Son as
mediator at that day, 1 Cor. xv. 28 : " And when all shall be sub-
dued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him
who put all things under him, that God may be all in all;" — which
words, if they do not absolutely assert the ceasing of the kingdom
of the mediator, but only the order of all things unto eternity in
their subjection unto God by Christ, yet they are plainly exclusive
of the grant of a new power or authority unto him, or of a new
making subject of all things unto him. Add unto all this, that
the apostle proves the subjection of this world unto the Lord Christ,
and not unto angels, by a testimony expressing directly the present
things of this world, antecedent unto the day of judgment.

From what hath been discoursed, we conclude that " the world to
come," here expressed, is the state and worship of the church under
the Messiah, called so by the apostle, according to the usual appella-
tion which then it had obtained among the Jews, and allowed by
him until the Mosaical church-state was utterly removed. And he
afterwards declares how tins comprised heaven itself also, because
of the residence of our high priest in the holiest not made with
hands, and the continual admission of the worshippers unto the


throne of grace. This is the subject of the apostle's proposition,
that concerning which he treats.

Concerning this world the apostle first declares negatively, that
it is not made subject unto angels. The subjecting of this world
to come unto any, is such a disposal of it as that he or they unto
whom it is put in subjection should, as the lord of it, erect, institute,
or set it up, rule and dispose of it being erected, and judge and
reward it in the end of its course and time. This is denied con-
cerning angels, and the denial proved tacitly,— because no such thing
is testified in the Scripture. And herein the apostle either pre-
venteth an objection that might arise from the power of the angels
in and over the church of old, as some think, or rather proceeds in
his design of exalting the Lord Jesus above them, and thereby pre-
fers the worship of the gospel before that prescribed by the law of
Moses: for he seems to grant that the old cliurch and worship were
in a sore made subject unto angels; this of the world to come
being solely and immediately in his power who in all things was to
have the pre-eminence. And this will further appear if we consider
the instances before mentioned wherein the subjection of this world
to come unto any doth consist.

First, It was not put in subjection unto angels in its erection or
institution. That work was not committed unto them, as the
apostle declares in the entrance of this epistle. They did not reveal
the will of God concerning it, nor were intrusted with authority to
erect it. Some of them, indeed, were employed in messages about
its preparatory work, but they were not employed either to reveal
the mysteries of it, wherewith they were unacquainted, nor autho-
ritatively in the name of God to erect it. For the wisdom of God iu
the nature and mystery of this work, they knew not but by the
effects in the work itself, Eph. iii. 9, 1 0, which they looked and in-
quired into, to learn and admire, 1 Pet. i. 12; and therefore could
not be intrusted with authority for its revelation, and the building
of the church thereon. But things were otherwise of old. The
law, which was the foundation of the Judaical church-state, was
given " by the disposition of angels," Acts vii. 53, Gal. iii. 19; and
our apostle here calls it " the word spoken by angels," Tliey were
therefore intrusted by God to give the law and the ordinances of it
unto the people in his name and authority; which bemg the founda-
tion of the Mosaical church-state, it was so far put in subjection
unto them.

Secondly, It is not put in subjection unto angels as to the rule
and disposal of it being erected. Their office in this world is a
ministry, Heb. i. 14, not a rule or dominion. Rule in or over the
church they have none, but are brought into a co-ordination of ser-
vice with them that have the testimony of Jesus, Rev. xix. 10, xxii. 9 ;


being equally with us subjected unto him, in whom they anrl we are
gathered into one head, Eph. i. 10. And from their ministerial
presence in the congregations of believers doth our apostle press
women unto modesty and sobriety in their habit and deportment,
1 Cor. xi. 10. And the church of old had an apprehension of this
trutli, of the presence of an angel or angels in their assemblies, but
so as to preside in them. Hence is that caution relating to the wor-
ship of God, Eccles. v. 5,6: "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow,
than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Sufi'er not thy mouth
to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel that it
was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and de-
stroy the work of thine hands?" By vowing and not paying, a man
brought upon his flesh, that is, himself and his posterity, a guilt not
to be taken away with excuses of haste or precipitation made unto
the angel presiding in their worship, to take an account of its due
performance. It is true, the absolute sovereign power over the
church of old was in the Son of God alone; but an especial, imme-
diate power over it was committed unto angels. And hence was
the name of '^"''T'^^, "god," "judge," "-mighty one," communicated
unto them, namely, from their autiiority over the church; that name
expressing the authority of God when unto him ascribed. And be-
cause of this, their acting in tlie name and representing the autho-
rity of God, the saints of old had an apprehension that upon their
seeing of an angel they should die, from that saying of God, that
none should see his face and live, Exod. xxxiii. 20. So Manoah ex-
pressly, Judg. xiii. 22. He knew that it was an angel which ap-
peared unto him, and yet says to his wife, " We shall surely die,
because we have seen '^"'0''^," — an angel vested with the authority
of God. And hence it is not unlikely but that there might be a re-
spect or worship due unto the'angels under the old testament, winch
themselves declare not to be meet for them under the new, Rev. xix. ;
not that they are degraded from any excellency or privilege which
btfore they enjoyed, but that the worshippers under the new testa-
ment, through their relation unto Christ, and the exaltation of their
nature in his person, are delivered from that under-age estate, wherein
they differed not from servants, Gal. iv. 1, and are advanced into an
equality of liberty with the angels themselves, Heb. xii. 22-24, Eph.
i. 10, iii. 14, 15; as amongst men there may be a respect due from
an inferior to a superior, which may cease when he is advanced into
the same condition with the other, though the superior be not at all
abased. And to this day the Jews contend that angels are to be
adored with some kind of adoration, though they expressly deny
that they are to be invocated or prayed unto. Furthermore, about
their power and authority in the disposal of the outward concern-
ments of the church of old, much more might be declared from


tlie visions of Zecliariab and Daniel, with their works in the two great
typical deliverances of it fi'om Egypt and Babylon. But we must
not here msist on particulars.

Thirdly, As to the power of judging and rewarding at the last
day, it is openly manifest that God hath not put this world to come
in subjection unto angels, but unto Jesus alone.

This, then, is the main proposition that the apostle proceeds upon
in his present argument. The most glorious eti'ect of the wisdom,
power, and grace of God, and that wherein all our spiritual concern-
ments here are enwrapped, consists in that blessed church-state, with
the eternal consequences of it, which, having been promised from
the foundation of the world, was now to be erected in the days of the
Messiah. ' That you may,' saith he, * no more cleave unto your old
institutions, because given out unto you by angels, nor hanker after
such works of wonder and terror as attended their disposition of the
law in the wilderness, consider that this world, so long expected and
desired, this blessed estate, is not on any account made subject unto
angels, or committed unto their disposal, the honour thereof being
entirely reserved for another.'

Having tlius fixed the true and proper sense of this verse, we may-
stop here a little, to consult the observations that it offers for our
own instruction. Many things in particular might be hence educed,
but I shall insist on one only, which is comprehensive of the design
of the apostle, and it is, —

That this is the great privilege of the church of the gospel, that,
in the things of the worship of God, it is made subject unto and im-
mediately depends upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and not on any other,
angels or men.

That this is the privilege thereof, and that it is a great and blessed
privilege, will appear both in our consideration of what it is and
wherein it doth consist. And, among many other things, these en-
suing are contained therein : — •

]. That the Lord Christ is our head. So it was promised of old
that "their king should pass before them, and the Lord on the head
of them," Mic. ii. 13. He shall be their king, head, and ruler. God
hath now gathered all things, all the things of his church, into a
head in Christ, Eph. i. 10. They were all scattered and disordered
by sin, but are now all re-collected and brought into order under one
head. Him hath he " c^iven to be head over all things to the
church," verse 22. The whole sovereignty over all the whole crea-
tion, tliat is committed unto him, is only for this end, that he may
be the more perfect and glorious head to the church. He is that
head on which the whole body hath its orderly and regular depend-
ence, Eph. iv. 15, 16; " The head of the body, the church," Col. i.
IS; " The head of every man," that is, of every believer, 1 Cor. xi. 3,


Eph. V. 23. And tliis is everywhere proposed both as our great
honour and our great advantage. To be united unto him, subjected
unto him as our head, gives us both honour and safety. What
greater honour can Ave have, than to be freemen of that corporation
whereof he is the head, than to be subjects of his kingdom? what
greater safety, than to be united unto him inseparably who is in
glory invested with all power and authority over the whole creation
of God, every thing that may do us good or evil?

2. That he is our only head. The church is so put in subjection
unto the Lord Christ as not to be subject unto any other. It is
true, the members of the church, as men on the earth, have other
relations, in respect whereof they are or may be subject one to
anothei', — children unto parents, servants unto masters, people unto
rulers ; but as they are members of the church, they are subject unto
Christ, and none other. If any other were or might be a head
unto them, they must be angels or men. As for angels, we have it
here plainly testified that the church is not made subject in any
thing unto them. And amongst men, the apostles of all others
might seem to lay the justest claim to this privilege and honour;
but they openly disclaim any pretence thereunto. So doth Paul,
2 Cor. i. 24, " We have no dominion," rule, lordship, headship,
'' over your faith," — any tiling that concerns your obedience to God,
and your worship; " but are helpers of your joy." And again saith
he, " We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord," the only
Lord ; "and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake," 2 Cor. iv. 5, And
Peter, as it should seem, foreseeing that some who should come
after would pretend unto such pre-eminence, warns the elders that
they should not think themselves " lords over God's heritage," ] Pet.
V. 3. And this they did in pursuit of the instructions and charge
which their Lord and Master gave them, Matt. xx. 25-27, where
he warns them that they should neither think of dignity nor do-
minion over the church, but apply themselves with all humility unto
the service of it; for which he elsewhere adds his reason, namely,
that all his disciples have one Lord and Master, and no more, John
xiii. 13, Matt, xxiii, 8, 10. And it is a woful confusion that the Papists
run themselves into in this matter; for, first, they put the whole
church into subjection unto a man, whom they call the Pope, the
common father and master of Christians, the head of the church
and then subject both him and it unto angels, in the adoration and
invocation of them, — the greatest subjection possible ; when the Scrip-
ture assigneth one only head of the church expressly, even the Lord
Jesus, and fully declares that it is not put in subjection unto angels
at all. But to pass them by, the Lord Christ is not only thus the
only head in general unto the whole church, but also unto every in-
dividual believer in the church: " The head of every man is Christ,"


1 Cor. xi. S. He is so to every believer respectively and seve-
rally; and that in both those senses wherein he is a head, — that
is, according to the natural and metaphorical use of the word.
For, —

(1.) He is the only head of vital influence to the whole church
and every member thereof. As from the natural head all influences
of life, for subsistence, motion, acting, guidance, and direction, are
communicated unto the whole body and to every member thereof;
so from the Lord Christ alone, as he is the spiritually vital head of
the church, in whom are the springs of life and all quickening grace,
there are communicated unto the whole church, and every believer
therein, both the first quickening vital principle of life itself and all
succeeding supplies and influences of grace, for the enlivening,
strengthening, acting, guiding, and directinaj of them. This himself
declares, by comparing the relation of all believers unto him unto
that of branches unto the vine, John xv, 2, 4; which have no life
but by virtue of their union unto the vine, nor sap for fruitfulness
but what is derived therefrom; which he teacheth expressly, verse
5, " Without me," saith he, " ye can do nothing." And this the
apostle lively sets out unto us in the similitude of the natural body,
Col. ii. 19. And this placing of all fulness in the Lord Christ, as the
head of the church, that thence the whole and every member of it
might derive needful supplies to themselves, is fully taught us in the
gospel. Hence the church is called " the fulness of Christ," Eph. i.
2o; or that whereunto Christ communicates of his all-fulness of
grace, until it come unto the measure or degree of growth and per-
fection which he hath graciously assigned unto it. And none, I
suppose, will contend but that the Lord Christ is the alone and only
head of the church in this sense. It hath not a spiritual depend-
ence on any other for grace. There is, indeed, I know not what
monster lies in the opinion of them who take upon themselves to
confer grace upon others, by virtue of such things as they do unto
tliem or for them; but this we do not now consider. If any man
think he may have grace from any but Christ alone, be they angels
or men, let him turn himself unto them, but withal know assuredly
that he "forsakes the fountain of living waters" for "broken cis-
terns," which will yield him no relief,

(2.) He is the only head of rule and government unto the whole
church, and every member thereof This rule or government of the
church concerneth all that obedience which it yields unto God in
liis worship. And unto a head herein it is required that he give
perfect rules and laws for all things necessarily belonging thereunto,
and take care that they be observed. And here a great contest
ariseth in the world. The Papists, in behalf of their pope and otliers
under him, contend to be sharers with the Lord Christ in this his


headship; and fain they would persuade us that he himself hath
appointed that so it should be. The Scripture tells us that he was
faitliful in the whole house of God, as was Moses, and tljat as a lord
over his own house, to erect, rule, and establish it. And himself,
Avhen he gives commission unto his apostles, bids them to teach
men to do and observe all that he had commanded them ; and ac-
cordingly they tell us that they delivered unto us what they received
from the Lord, and command us not to be wise above what is written.
But I know not how it is come to pass that these men think that
tlie Lord Christ is not a complete head in this matter, that he hath
not instituted all rules and laws that are needful and convenient
for the right discharge of the worship of God and obedience of the

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 40 of 70)