2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
Verses 2-4 compare the Word brought by angels and that brought by the Son. Verse two speaks of the retribution imposed on those in the Old Testament who resisted God’s revelation.
2 For if [and it is true] the word spoken through angels
The “if” here indicates that the word spoken through angels was true. It can be counted upon. When they revealed Scripture as its agents, it was authoritative and accurate revelation from God’s viewpoint.
The “word spoken through angels” was when God gave the law at Sinai (Deut 33:2; Ps 68:17; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19). God revealed the Mosaic Law through angels. God gave the Law to define the conditions of blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience for the nation Israel (Deut 28-30).
proved steadfast [binding],
The word “steadfast” throughout the book of Hebrews expresses something that is sure or certain. In biblical parlance truth is something that is fixed (He 3:6, 14; 6:19; 9:17). The word “steadfast” means binding or firm. God’s Word is unyielding.
The word that God revealed through His angels was binding, that is, legally valid. This word occurs again in verse three (yet again in He 3:14; 6:19; 9:17). God’s Word has eternal validity. He does not change what He revealed. When God speaks it is always legally valid. Revelation in the Old Testament was binding in the sense that it is unchangeable. This is because revelation was spoken by God Himself.
and every transgression and disobedience
The terms “transgression” and “disobedience” refer to disregard of God’s revelation. “Transgression” means to violate a clear standard of Scripture. It carries the idea of stepping over a clear line. It is to do what the law prohibits. “Disobedience” refuses to take to heart what God has said. Disobedience is to neglect to do what the law requires. Both of these terms are explicit rejection of God’s will revealed in His Word.
received a just reward [retribution, penalty],
The law under Moses rendered a penalty for those who violated or transgressed it. The “just” retribution has nothing to do with initial salvation of the soul but with the loss of blessing for the nation Israel. “Reward” or retribution here does not refer to obtaining or losing salvation or eternal life. The penalty relates to loss of inheritance. God never takes sin lightly. He always prescribes the appropriate action for any infringement of His Word.
The first chapter argues for a deliverance that Jesus will provide. It is possible that some believers will lose part or all of their inheritance.
Hebrews was written to believers. Here are some indications:
Holy brothers (3:1)
Brethren (3:1, 12)
Share (or partakers) in the heavenly calling (3:1)
We are God’s house (3:6)
Share in Christ (3:14)
Ought to be teachers (5:12)
Tasted the heavenly gift (6:4)
Shared the Holy Spirit (6:4)
Tasted the goodness of the Word of God (6:5)
Tasted the powers of the age to come (6:5)
Love shown for the Lord’s name (6:10)
Sanctified (10:10, 29)
It is possible to lose the reward of our inheritance.
The retribution in this passage is not loss of salvation but loss of inheritance. Scripture clearly affirms that Christians will not lose their salvation (John 10:28-29; Eph. 1:11-14; 1 Pe 1:3-5). The writer of Hebrews could not lose his salvation. How can a writer of Scripture lose his salvation? Note the “we” in this verse: “how shall we escape?”
Rather, the issue is whether we will reign with Christ in His kingdom (He 2:8-9). The status of how we will jointly reign with Christ is at stake.