Something has gone wrong. We know in our hearts that things are not right. There is an emptiness that we cannot fill. We know that there is a sadness that cannot be escaped. We know that there is an anxiety that cannot be stilled. We are drinking from the cup of chaos and confusion that our forefathers have handed down to us and the water is bitter.
We find the sweetheart we’ve longed for only to find out that he is not so sweet. We find the job that we’ve prayed for only to find out, after the new has worn off, that it is just another job. We have the children we’ve always dreamed of holding in our arms only to find out that they no longer want us to hold us. We finally get the toys and trinkets that we’ve always known would bring us happiness only to find out that they don’t satisfy for long.
What is the problem? Why are we so restless? Why are we still longing after all of these years of searching and striving for just a little more? Why do our hearts continue to sing that old song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for?” when we have so much that we can’t take care of it all?
John Milton knew the longing and restlessness that so many of us feel this morning. He was born in 1609 in an age that many of us idealize. Yet, Milton knew the woes of life like those of us living in the year 2000. His father, who was a prosperous merchant and composer, gave John Milton the best that life had to offer. He gave John the best education that money could buy. After John graduated from college with a Master’s degree He was allowed to take over the family’s estate near Windsor and pursue a quiet life of study. He spent six years doing nothing more than reading the classics. That is a leisurely lifestyle that sounds appealing to many of us doesn’t it? Relaxing and reading. Reading and relaxing. Can you imagine the thoughts that raced through Milton’s mind each morning? “What will I do today? Should I read or should I relax?” Wow! What a life.
Even though John was given a life of leisure by his father, he could not shield John from heartache and sorrow. His best college buddy died shortly after the two of them graduated from college. His grief was great, but he clung to his faith as he wrote about his hope in the resurrection in what he called, Lycidas.
John fell in love and was married to his sweetheart, Mary Powell. He had hopes of a long marriage and many children, but Mary left him and John’s heart was broken. In reaction to these events, Milton wrote a series of pamphlets calling for more leniency in the church’s position on divorce. This brought him much notoriety and angry criticism from throughout the religious establishment in England.
When the Second Civil War ended in 1648, with King Charles dethroned and executed, Milton welcomed the new parliament and wrote pamphlets in its support. After serving for a few years in a civil position, he retired briefly to his house in Westminster, for his eyesight was failing. By 1652 he was completely blind.
Despite his disability, Milton reentered civil service under the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, the military general who ruled the British Isles from 1653 to 1658. Two years after Cromwell’s death, Milton’s worst fears were realized–the Restoration brought Charles II back to the throne, and the poet had to go into hiding to escape execution. He had served his country faithfully, but now he was an outlaw, hiding for his life.
Milton was a man of great faith and yet he saw his church splintering and acting in ways that made him bitter. In Milton’s time, the Anglican Church (or Church of England) had split into the high Anglican, moderate Anglican, and Puritan (Presbyterian) sects. Milton was a Presbyterian, but differences with the Presbyterians brought about his break with his church in 1650.
After experiencing the demise of his eyesight, dejection from his wife, dishonor as a civil servant, and the discord of his church Milton wrote his greatest work Paradise Lost. The opening lines of Paradise Lost share with us the deep sense of loss, sorrow, and pain that Milton and all of humanity share in common. Milton writes,
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe…
Milton’s epic poem is a long story about the Fall, the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, that brought about the loss of Paradise for all of humanity and the battle that Satan and his angels wage against the people of God. The long poem is hard to read for those of us whose language is much more in line with modern American slang than the King’s English, but regardless of whether we can understand Milton’s words or not, we can certainly understand his sorrow and the restlessness of his soul.
The lesson of Milton’s Paradise Lost is a tragic, hopeless story that leaves us empty and wondering if we will ever be able to get back to Paradise. I have come today to tell you that Paradise can be regained! You won’t regain it through education, as important as education may be. You can’t regain it through technology, as wonderful has technology is. You won’t regain Paradise through some medical breakthrough, as marvelous as medicine may be. You can’t even regain Paradise by finding the right person to make you happy. The regaining of Paradise for you and for me is not brought about by gaining happiness, but by becoming holy. The only way that you and I can walk through the gates of Paradise and begin to experience the joy, unspeakable joy, the peace, perfect peace, and the sweet salvation that brings lasting hope to our longing hearts is to know Jesus, God’s gatekeeper, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for our today found in Hebrews 2:5-9. Read along with me.
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 7 You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet.” In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5-9 NIV)
In the section of Scripture we are studying this week we see both our dilemma and our destiny. As I mentioned in the beginning of our study, we know that there is something wrong. Most people in our society today can’t figure out what is wrong, but they know something is definitely wrong. We are not what we should be. Something inside of us continues to remind us that we are longing for something that is just out of our reach. Why? If you have been experiencing those feelings or you’ve had those questions rumbling around in your head then I am so glad that you are here. The writer of Hebrews is going to provide some much needed answers for us today. Let’s begin.
In verse 5, we read, 5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. We have already discussed Jesus’ superiority over the angels, but here in verse 5, the author of Hebrews goes back to talking about angels again. He tells us that angels are not to be the rulers over the world to come. Which world is he speaking about? That is a great question and many different people have had different opinions about this coming world. Let me just briefly share a few of the ideas Bible teachers have held throughout the ages. Some say that this “world to come” is life after death. The world to come is awaiting those who die having known Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life. Secondly, there are those who believe that this “world to come” is the future millennial kingdom of Christ here on the earth. This will be a one thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth, but it will be an earth that we are unfamiliar with at the present time. Thirdly, there are those who believe that the “world to come” is the new heavens and the new earth that John speaks about in Revelation 21. Which is it? Which of these three views is the writer of Hebrews intending to teach us about in this Scripture? I will tell you that unless we go back and study the Greek word that the writer uses for “world” there is absolutely no way for us to know which of the three he is intending. Let me show you what I mean.
The most prevalent word used in the New Testament for “world” is the Greek word “kosmos” which means “system” or “world affairs.” There is another word that is used less frequently and it is the word, “aion,” which means, “the ages.” The final word that biblical writers use to speak of the world is the word that is used here. The Greek word, “oikoumene,” means “the inhabited earth.” Understanding the word that is used leads us to understand that the “world to come” is the great millennial Kingdom of Jesus spoken of in Revelation 20.
After the Rapture, there will be a one thousand year reign of Jesus on the earth in which Satan is bound during this period. During Jesus’ one thousand-year reign upon the earth, before the new heavens and the new earth are brought into being, things are going to change. The earth itself will be changed and all of its inhabitants will be changed as well. The animals will be different, the plants will be different, and people will be different.
We live in a world today that is far different than the world that will be experienced during the thousand-year reign of Christ Jesus upon the earth after the gathering of the Body of Church, what some have called the Rapture. We can read about this thousand-year reign of Christ in Revelation 20. Take a look with me.
1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. 7When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth-Gog and Magog-to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:1-10 NIV)
Did you see any place in the Scripture we just read where angels were ruling with Christ Jesus? I didn’t think so. No, those who will rule and reign with Christ are you and me. This is the plan of God for His people. This is not the reality we experience today, but it will be the reality for those who trust in the Lord when Christ returns to reign and rule.
There are many folks in our society today who believe that Christianity is the great suppressor of human dignity and honor. There have been those throughout history who felt that Christianity didn’t do anything other than keep folks in their place. Today, in our day, you will find folks in the church who want preachers to stop preaching on sin because it damages people’s self-esteem. What we really need, according to New Age gurus like Shirley McClain, Marianne Williamson, James Redfield, and Deepak Chopra is to elevate humanity to the place of the Godhead while getting rid of the teachings of the Bible. We are our own gods. We do not need to be concerned with sin, because sin is only defined by how we define it. My friend, you need to know the truth of this matter. You need to know that God is not the suppressor of humanity. He is the Redeemer of the people who have willfully turned away from Him. He is not the robber of human dignity. He is the only source of dignity for humanity.
The writer of Hebrews shows us how much God loves you and me and how His love has placed us in a prominent position within His creation. We are people who have been created with a purpose and God has a plan for you and for me. Because of sin entering the world through Adam, we see that God’s plan for humanity has been postponed, but not canceled. Let’s read together from verses 6-8,
6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 7 You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet.” In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. (Hebrews 2:6-8 NIV)
Hebrews quotes from Psalm 8 here in our lesson for today. In Psalm 8 we read David’s thoughts as he considered how vast and awesome the works of God were as he sat and watched his flocks at night. Look at Psalm 8 with me,
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9 NIV)
Can you imagine? David sees the stars, the moon, the vastness of the heavens and he is overwhelmed that God would even give thought to man. God has made us a little lower than the angels for a little while. He has crowned us with glory and honor. He has made us His rulers over the works of His hands. He has put everything under our feet: the flocks and herds, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and everything that swims in the seas! God has made us ruler of them all!
I know, you are thinking, “Where did David come up with that crazy idea?” David was a student of God’s Word and he read in Genesis 1:26-31,
26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31 NIV)
I want you to know, just in case you’ve missed it, our crowns are tarnished. We are aliens in our own kingdom. The subjects have revolted and chaos intends to bring about collapse. John MacArthur writes,
Because all mankind fell in Adam, because he lost his kingdom and his crown, we do not now see the earth subject to man. The earth originally was subject to man, and it supplied all his needs without his having to do anything. He had only to accept and enjoy the earth as it provided for him. Then, tempted by Satan, man sinned, and his tempter usurped the crown. There you see the change in the chain of command. Man fell to the bottom, and the earth, under the evil one, now rules man. If you pay much attention to ecology, you know that we do not rule this world; it rules us. With all of our modern technology, we must constantly fight against the earth for our survival. (MacArthur, Hebrews, p. 56)
We are not rulers at the present time. It is as if we are unwelcome visitors on the planet. This feeling is experienced by so many people today and in every age past. A poet named A.E. Housman, described the modern-day person in these terms:
I, a stranger and afraid,
In a world I never made.
Another great poet, T.S. Eliot, described modern-day people as “Lonely men, in a world without meanings.” In a world of 6 billion people how can anyone be alone? Why would so many people be afraid? That is great question and there is no logical answer that can be offered apart from God’s Word. Even though society can’t provide for us an answer, no one can deny the feelings of fear, feelings of loneliness, feeling like everything rules over us, and knowing that something is not right.
In a world that God created for us to rule, to take care of, the writer of Hebrews says, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.” We do not see everything subject to humanity. Boy, is that an understatement. How do we solve the problem? How do we alleviate the fear? How to gather a crowd so that we don’t feel so alone? How can we get the animals and fish to recognize our authority? Where we will find a Weatherman who can still the storms? Are there any answers?
There have been so many answers offered throughout history that it would take libraries to house them all, but evidently none of them have worked. Let me give you a few examples that have been offered.
Over 200 years ago there was a man named Thomas Payne who was highly respected in society. He was a reasonable man, a scholarly man, a man of letters. Thomas Payne wrote a book called The Age of Reason. He was an Englishman and he said the reason we have so many troubles is because of religion. Thomas Payne said all we need to right the wrongs and find peace is to be reasonable people. He wrote two books to teach everyone this wondrous insight, The Age of Reason and The Rights of Man. Over two hundred years ago Thomas Payne wrote, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again. ‘The birthday of a new world is at hand.” According to Thomas Payne, reason will bring us what we are longing for in life.
There are some folks here this morning who were around when President Wilson went to sign a peace treaty at the end of the War to end all Wars – World War I. President Wilson told the folks gathered that day in France, “I believe that men are beginning to see not perhaps the Golden Age itself, but an age that is brightening from decade to decade, and which will lead us some time to an elevation from which we can see the things for which the heart of mankind is longing.” That statement was made in 1918 my friend. Have we had any wars since then?
The fact of the matter is that we do not see man’s reign or rule over anything. Man cannot even rule himself, much less the animal kingdom or nature. Where do we turn? What can we do? Oh, you ask such good questions! The writer of Hebrews tells us in verse 9,
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
We do not see our authority leading and guiding God’s creation. We see the effects of our sin upon everything that our hands have ever touched. We see our inability to govern our own lives as well. With all of this it would be easy for us to absolutely give up hope. Many in our day have given up hope. Just listen to some of the young people play their music and listen to the despondency and despair. We do not have to be hopeless people because this very morning we can see Jesus! We see Him who was made a little lower than the angels for a little while so that He could become one of us. In becoming one of us Jesus was able to offer Himself, the Perfect and Holy Son of God, as a sacrifice for our sins. He has overcome death. He has paid the penalty for our sins. He has been exalted as Lord and King over all of God’s creation. He is crowned with glory and honor. And it is Jesus who alone can lead us back to Paradise, into the very presence of Almighty God.
I pray that today your eyes will be opened to Jesus’ love and grace. I pray that today you will surrender your life into His compassionate hands and allow Him to lead you back to the Father who loves you so. Won’t you invite Him into your heart?