I have a longstanding concern that we do not take the message of Christmas seriously. That is why our Christmas letter is not maudlin or sloppy with sentimentalism or superficial.
The theme of Hebrews is that Jesus is “greater than.” He is greater than angels, Old Testament sacrifices, Melchizedek, among many other areas. He is greater than the Old Testament system of mediation with God. He is the perfect Mediator by whom believers are reconciled to God.
He is the “Son” through whom God spoke (He 1:1-3). The Son, who created time and space, condescended to become a human being (He 2:9, 14). He existed in every respect a man including subjection to temptation (He 2:17; 4:15; 5:8). There was no discontinuity between the eternal Son and the Son as a person. God’s essence did not die in the body of Jesus, but the God the son in person.
With that said, the Son was “the exact representation” of God’s being (He 1:3-4). He was the “very stamp” of God’s image. The Father spoke supremely through Him (He 1:2). This was a superior communication than earlier messages from the prophets. That is why the Father “prepared a body” for Jesus (He 10:5-7). His body was to be offered as a payment for sin (He 10:10).
We find the core reason for incarnation in Hebrews 2:14 —Christ must suffer death to free us from the power of death.
Inasmuch [since] then [therefore] as the children have partaken [share in common] of flesh and blood [human nature], He Himself likewise shared [become a member of a group] in the same,
This is a statement that Jesus shared in the experience of humanity in unequivocal terms. The Greek word for “likewise” comes from two words: alongside and nearby. Jesus by His incarnation took His place alongside humanity. His humanity was the same as any other human being. The Son was both undiminished deity and true humanity.
“Shared” is to become a member of or belong to a group. The Greek word is made up of two words: to have and with. The Lord has human nature with the rest of humanity. He did not have humanity in His past eternal state; He was incorporeal in eternity (Jn 4:24). He took possession of a body at His incarnation. He became a member of the group called humanity at His incarnation. The only way humans could be saved was that the Son become Jesus, a human. Jesus shared common humanity with the human race. Thus, the word “shared” indicates that Jesus took on human nature.
That through death He might destroy [render inoperative] him [the devil]
The “that” here indicates the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation. A primary purpose for the incarnation was that He would die to destroy the power of the devil. The Son could not have died without becoming a human being. Jesus defeated the devil by His death. The devil held the power of death, but Jesus defeated death with death.
“Destroy” carries the idea of annulment of the devil’s power. Jesus’ death defeated Satan’s power over believers. “Destroy” in the Greek means to render inoperative, not to annihilate. Jesus did not annihilate Satan at the cross, but his power was broken. Spiritual death has no more power over the person who believes that the cross saves his soul.
who had the power [dominion] of death, that is, the devil,
“The power of death” is the devil’s power over those who fear death (Mt 12:29). That fear enslaves them to his purposes. This Greek word for “power” means dominion. Satan had at one point dominion over death; he was sovereign in that realm. But Jesus broke that dominion.
The devil holds the power of death in a secondary and not in a primary sense. Death is the darkest event that anyone can face. Jesus conquered death by His death. There is no dualism in the world: God is sovereign; nothing operates without His control. Satan is no rival to an absolute God.
There has always been a link between sin and the power of death; death is the penalty for sin. Christ’s death paid that penalty; He removed eternal death for those who believe on Him. Christ’s death is the gateway to eternal life.
The devil is the power behind death; however, God holds the ultimate power over death. The death of Christ on the cross was the death that destroyed Satan. It was at the cross where the encounter between heaven and hell occurred. The cross rendered ineffective the power of the devil. Jesus defeated death with death.
Jesus by dying became sovereign over death. The reason Jesus became incarnate was to pay the penalty for our sins by death. He broke the power of eternal death on our souls. He broke the back of Satan in doing so. Jesus destroyed Satan by taking away his weapon of death. God required that someone pay the penalty of death. Since believers died in Christ, the devil lost his power over them.
The purpose of the incarnation was not a sentimental, saccharine attempt to identify with men in general. It was no attempt to give a tribute to the dignity of man. The Renaissance man was of no value to Him. The purpose of the incarnation was to die with a human body for the sins of man. He took our hell on the cross that we might have His heaven.