“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” Hebrews 2:8.
“Seeing Jesus now crowned with glory and honour, yet not seeing all things put under Him, but the world lying in wickedness,—the lawless one giving law to the nations, and Satan inspiring the false religions of earth,—we should feel like disappointed men, and be tempted to ask, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ did we not remember that the Church’s posture in the Bridegroom’s absence is that of patient waiting; and that it is God Himself who has taught us this song of hope: ‘Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth.’
This interval or break the apostle designates by the word ‘Now,’—‘Now we see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour.’ In reference to this interval, he elsewhere uses the same word, in various aspects: ‘Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us’ (Heb. 9:24). ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. 6:2). ‘The whole creation greaneth and travaileth in pain together until now’ (Rom. 8:22). ‘The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2). ‘Even now are there many antichrists’ (1 John 2:18). Of the length of this ‘now,’ little is said; but of its bearings on us, and of its momentous character as the womb of infinite events and eternal issues, much has been written by the Spirit of God. Again and again, for warning, persuasion, instruction, consolation, has He held up to us this interval, so unique in its character, and so marvellous in its results; and made that word ‘now’ to ring in our ears.
An interval so long and gloomy, filled up during so many centuries with revolt, and defiance, and blasphemy, is not what we should have expected. Seeing that all power, on earth as well as in heaven, was given Him as the risen Christ; seeing that He fought the fight, and won the victory upon the cross; we wonder that He should not at once reap the harvest; that He should still be the rejected of men, His Church a minority, His cause upon the losing side, Himself defied by that world which He overcame, that Satan whom He led captive, that death over which He triumphed, that curse, for the enduring of which He took flesh and died.
Under this sore perplexity and disappointment we take refuge where He did, when men turned away from His words: ‘Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.’ The purpose of God, as we read it in the light of ages, assumes the necessity for the development of evil, and error, and unbelief, and rebellion; so as to bring out, not merely what the fall did, the frailty of creaturehood, but the depths of Satan and the depths of sin,—the abysses of evil that are to be found in every corner of a human heart. In the sight of God, this development of creature fallibility and evil is a thing of vast moment, and has a far larger space assigned to it in the history of men and devils than our philosophy would deem safe, or our theology account for. The revelation of evil upon earth before Messiah came was fearful; but it was explicable on the fact that the Destroyer of evil had not yet descended. But its far wider range and more malignant type since He came; nay, since He finished His sin-bearing work; nay, since He sat down upon the throne, is more perplexing, and no less appalling. Terrible are these words of His, ‘I came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword.’
O sin, sin, what an infinite evil art thou! How exceeding sinful, and how prolific in thy sinfulness; how tenacious of life; how expansive in thy potency; how remorseless in thy cruelty; how all-pervading in thy dominion over creaturehood; one seed of thine, dropt in Paradise, covering earth for six thousand years with its hellish harvest! O heart of man, what a pit, what a sea of wickedness, and lawlessness, and atheism art thou! O Satan, Satan, god of this world, and ruler of its darkness, how vast thy resources of strength, and skill, and cunning; defeated, yet gathering power from defeat; wounded with a deadly wound eighteen hundred years ago, yet still surviving, and mustering thy hosts for battle; still multiplying thy subtle wiles, and seducing sophistries, and strong delusions, and dazzling falsehoods, to deceive if possible the very elect; still forging thy fiery darts and wounding men to death, or leading them captive at will; still warring against truth, hiding the gospel, raging against the Lamb, assailing His cross, His throne, and His saints; still vitalizing the old and sapless idolatries of earth, inventing new infidelities, sending forth new blasphemies, making, not heathendom, nor Moslemdom, but Christendom, thy chief seat and chosen citadel; and exercising a power everywhere that both alarms and perplexes us, as if the Christ of God had not been really crowned, or as if the reins of the universe had snapped asunder in His hands!
This, then, is the fact to which we ask your attention, ‘Now we see not yet all things put under Him.’
The word translated ‘put under’ does not merely intimate abstract right, but actual surrender and obedience. That Christ is Prince of the kings of the earth, and Head over all things, as well as Head of His body the Church, is part of every Christian creed; but to how few,—individuals, Churches, nations,—is it aught beyond a mere abstraction! The recognition of the dogma is accompanied with no acknowledgment of the laws in which it declares itself, and with no subjection, personal, political, or ecclesiastical, to Him for whom the Father claims absolute obedience: ‘Kiss ye the Son.’
The abstract right or prerogative is that which the apostle demonstrates from the eighth psalm: ‘Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak; but one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the work of Thy hands.’ Thus this psalm, which carries us back to the first chapter of Genesis, and embodies God’s original grant of authority over creation to the first Adam, is accepted by the apostle as a proof of God’s purpose to confer on Christ, as the last Adam, the lapsed sovereignty and forfeited sceptre of the first; to perpetuate in the line and dynasty of that race which Adam represented the lordship of His handiwork; not to alienate the inheritance because of the transgression of the first proprietor, but to continue it in the same stock and family; to place, not upon an angelic, but a human brow, creation’s diadem; to confide, not to angelic, but to human hands, the sceptre of the universe.
This grant of dominion to the last Adam the apostle shows to be as wide as God’s creation. For thus he interprets and expands the psalmist’s words, ‘in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him.’ So that as in person the last Adam is more glorious than the first, so is His throne more exalted, and His empire as much larger in compass as is His worthiness of honour and fitness to reign. In Him, as very God and very man, the crowns of heaven and earth are united; and the slain Lamb is He who alone is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and honour, and glory, and blessing, from every creature in heaven, and earth, and sea.
What then? Has God’s purpose failed or changed? Has the rebellion of this present evil world proved stronger than was reckoned on? For the right of dominion and the actual subjection have not been co-extensive. Christ is King of kings, yet Satan is still god of this world, and prince of the power of the air. It is to this point of divergency between the earthly and the heavenly, of conflict between the rightful and the actual, that the apostle brings us when he says, ‘But now we see not yet all things put under Him;’ just as our Lord Himself did in the parable of the nobleman who went into the far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return; but who, in the interval of absence, was but poorly served by some of his servants, and hated by his citizens. The divine meaning of this strange divergency between the upper and lower regions of Messiah’s domain is too large and too profound a subject for present discussion. The reasons for this delay in assimilating the terrestrial to the celestial; in transmuting the universal right into the universal fact; in following up the conferred sovereignty with the accomplished submission, would lead us into the mystery of sin’s first entrance and present sufferance, as well as into the question why a sinner at his conversion is not at once made perfect, and not at once translated into the heavenly glory. Our object is simply to call attention to the state of non-submission to Christ in which we find our world, and which is declared to he specially the characteristic of the interval, or ‘now,’ spoken of by Paul. Man and his world have not yet bent the knee to Him; and the Father has not yet interposed to bring about the submission. ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power,’ is still a futurity both for Israel and for the world.”
Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 193–201. [Italics original.]
“As King, Christ is Judge; but the world accepts not His judgment; it believes not in His acquittals and His condemnations, either now or hereafter. His sentences, as moral verdicts of approval or disapproval, they may receive; but as judicial decisions of the highest court of appeal, inferring irreversibly the recompense of a glorious heaven or an unquenchable hell, they repudiate them. In this sense Christ is not Judge, and there is no judgment-day, and no great white throne. All things are not yet put under Him as Judge!
As King, He is Avenger, but the day of recompense has not yet come, and ‘sentence against an evil work’ has not yet been executed. Therefore not only does the world reject Him as the Avenger, but a large section of modern Christianity disowns the very idea of vengeance, as incompatible with love, and the effeminate theologies of the age refuse to believe that the wrath of the Lamb is a reality, that the day of vengeance is in His heart, or the rod of iron in His hand. They have yet to learn the divine antipathy to sin, and the divine determination either to pardon or to punish eternally every sin, and every fragment of a sin, on whomsoever it shall be found. They have yet to understand the meaning of these awful words, ‘I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury.’
As King, He is the Conqueror; but though His great victory is won, His conquest is not yet complete. The routed host still rallies, disputes the field, nay, recovers ground so widely, that men ask, Where is the Conqueror, and where is His victory? Heathendom is as populous and as idolatrous as ever, and Christendom is yet more hostile to Christ and to Christianity than paganism of old. The sway of antichrist is vast; and Satan is not yet bound, but goes to and fro throughout the earth, the inspirer of its false religions, the instigator of its rebellions, the forger of its errors, the soul of antichrist, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
As King, He is Deliverer, the opener of all prisons, and the looser of all chains. But the gates of brass are not yet broken, nor the bars of iron cut asunder. The curse still poisons the soil and troubles its tillers,—the curse of barrenness, disease, pain, weariness, vanity, the sweating toil of man, and the travail-pangs of woman. The wilderness has not yet been glad, nor the desert blossomed as the rose.
As King, He is the Resurrection and the Life; but the dead have not yet risen, the grave has not refunded its ill-gotten treasure. The dust of saints, though precious in His sight, is undistinguishable from the mould of earth; and forms beloved of Him and beloved of us are still the prey of corruption. He has the keys of Hades and death, but He has not unlocked their two-leaved gates, nor said to the prisoners, Go forth. The churchyards of earth have not yet been emptied, nor has the sea delivered up its dead. The worm still feeds on bodies which are parts of Christ’s body, and the Head has not yet interposed. The shroud still wraps forms which are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and He who has the residue of the Spirit has not yet rescued one particle of that holy dust. Death still reigns, and ‘he who has the power of death’ still continues to slay. The tomb still holds the countless atoms of redeemed mortality, and this corruptible has not yet put on incorruption. Death, the last enemy, has not yet been destroyed, and the grave can still boast of its victory.
Now we see not yet all things put under Him; but we see Jesus on the Father’s throne, crowned with glory above, in anticipation of the like crown below. For earth’s long rebellion shall come to a ‘perpetual end.’ Each spoiler shall be spoiled, each conqueror conquered, each prison opened, each boaster silenced, each blasphemer confounded, each antichrist smitten, each rival throne overturned, when ‘the Christ’ shall take to Himself His great power and reign.”
Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 213–216. [Italics original.]