Hebrews 2:3 Commentary

Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Hebrews - Charles Swindoll - Chart on right 

The Epistle
to the Hebrews

Hebrews 1-10:18
Hebrews 10:19-13:25
Superior Person
of Christ
Hebrews 1:1-4:13
Superior Priest
in Christ
Hebrews 4:14-10:18
Superior Life
In Christ
Hebrews 10:19-13:25
Hebrews 1:1-4:13
Heb 4:14-7:28
Heb 8:1-13
Heb 9:1-10:18



ca. 64-68AD

Hebrews 2:3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: pos hemeis ekpheuxometha (1PFMI) telikautes amelesantes (AAPMPN) soterias etis archen labousa (AAPFSN) laleisthai (PPN) dia tou kuriou, hupo ton akousanton (AAPMPG) eis hemas ebebaiothe, (2SAPI)

Amplified: How shall we escape [appropriate retribution] if we neglect and refuse to pay attention to such a great salvation [as is now offered to us, letting it drift past us forever]? For it was declared at first by the Lord [Himself], and it was confirmed to us and proved to be real and genuine by those who personally heard [Him speak]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, a salvation of such a kind that it had its origin in the words of the Lord, and was then guaranteed to us by those who had heard it from his lips, (Westminster Press)

NLT: What makes us think that we can escape if we are indifferent to this great salvation that was announced by the Lord Jesus himself? It was passed on to us by those who heard him speak, (NLT - Tyndale House)

Phillips: how shall we escape if we refuse to pay proper attention to the salvation that is offered us today? (Phillips: Touchstone)

Weymouth: how shall we escape if we are indifferent to a salvation as great as that now offered to us? This, after having first of all been announced by the Lord Himself, had its truth made sure to us by those who heard Him

Wuest: how is it possible for us to escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which salvation is of such a character as to have begun to be spoken at the first by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 

Young's Literal: how shall we escape, having neglected so great salvation? which a beginning receiving --to be spoken through the Lord--by those having heard was confirmed to us

HOW SHALL WE ESCAPE: pôs hêmeis ekpheuxometha: FMI:

How shall we escape? - Rhetorical! We won't if we miss the "Ark" of His great salvation! How anxious we all become when we are running late to catch a flight! How much more unnerved should those be who are in danger of missing this glorious flight!

See comments by F B Meyer on this verse from The Way into the Holiest - click

The Amplified version accurately phrases this rhetorical question (a question asked merely for effect with no answer expected) as: "How shall we escape [appropriate retribution] if we neglect and refuse to pay attention to such a great salvation [as is now offered to us, letting it drift past us forever]?"

Spurgeon comments…

You see, dear friends, that we need not be great open sinners in order to perish; it is merely a matter of neglect. See how it is put here: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" You need not go to the trouble of despising it, or resisting it, or opposing it; you can be lost readily enough simply by neglecting it. In fact, the great mass of those who perish are those who neglect the great salvation

Let that question ring in our ears, How shall we escape? There will be no escape, there can be none if we refuse the Lord Jesus. Do we mean to be lost? Dare we continue to neglect the great salvation?

Hark: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Not if we resist it, reject it, despise it, oppose it; but if we neglect it. If a man is in business, it is not necessary that he should commit forgery in order to fail; he can fail by simply neglecting his business. If a man is sick, he need not commit suicide by taking poison; he can do it just as surely by neglecting to take proper medicines. So is it in the things of God, neglect is as ruinous as distinct and open opposition: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation: “

You see, dear friends, that we need not be great open sinners in order to perish; it is merely a matter of neglect. See how it is put here: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” You need not go to the trouble of despising it, or resisting it, or opposing it; you can be lost readily enough simply by neglecting it. In fact, the great mass of those who perish are those who neglect the great salvation, —

If we neglect that salvation, is there any other way by which we can be rescued from destruction? Is there any other door of escape if we pass that one by? No, there is none.

Kenneth Wuest notes that " “How” is from pos which means “how is it possible?” The rhetorical question expresses a denial. There would be no escape. The word “we” in the Greek text is emphatic. The pronoun refers here to the first-century readers of this letter, its Jewish recipients. It is “we” to whom God spoke in One who in character is His Son, and who therefore have much more reason for giving heed."

Adam Clarke - "If they who had fewer privileges than we have, to whom God spoke in divers manners by angels and prophets, fell under the displeasure of their Maker, and were often punished with a sore destruction; how shall we escape wrath to the uttermost if we neglect the salvation provided for us, and proclaimed to us by the Son of God? Their offense was high; ours, indescribably higher."

Albert Barnes - "How shall we escape the just recompense due to transgressors? What way is there of being saved from punishment, if we suffer the great salvation to be neglected, and do not embrace its offers? The sense is, that there is no other way of salvation, and the neglect of this will be followed by certain destruction."

Spurgeon exhorts us to "Let that question ring in our ears, "How shall we escape?" There will be no escape, there can be none if we refuse the Lord Jesus. Do we mean to be lost? Dare we continue to neglect the great salvation?

Escape (1628) (ekpheugo from ek = out, from + pheugo = move quickly from a point; flee; run) means literally to flee out and so to flee out of a place and to escape. To seek safety in flight (Acts 16:27). To become free from danger by avoiding some peril (1 Thess 5:3)

The writer says there is no escape from the terrible consequences. In fact, if we think the consequences were stern for disregarding the Law, how much more catastrophic will the punishment be for ignoring the gospel?

Below are the 8 NT uses of ekpheugo:

Luke 21:36 (from the preceding context Jesus is referring to His sudden, unexpected second coming) "But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape (ekpheugo) all these things that are about to take place (see Revelation 4-22 for "all these things"), and to stand before the Son of Man."

Acts 16:27 "And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped."

Acts 19:16 "And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded."

Romans 2:3 (note) And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?"

2 Corinthians 11:33 "and I (Paul describing his escape in Damascus) was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands."

1Thessalonians 5:3 (note) "While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."

Hebrews 2:3 (note) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,

Hebrews 12:25 (note) See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.

Ekpheugo is used 6 times in the LXX, the use in Proverbs paralleling the truth of Hebrews 2:3…

Proverbs 12:13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, But the righteous will escape from (LXX = ekpheugo) trouble.

We (hemeis) is an emphatic pronoun in this verse. Hemeis is used only 5x in Hebrews.

Vincent commenting on "we" writes that he refers to "We, to whom God has spoken by his Son, and who, therefore, have so much the more reason for giving heed."

Therefore its occurrence here is significant. It probably means "we, in contrast to those who had only the law," though it may be taken to mean "we, with our privileged position." Notice that the disaster that threatens is brought on by nothing more than neglect. It is not necessary to disobey any specific injunction. For had we done nothing when we were offered salvation, we would not have received it. This is the first of a number of warnings to the readers not to surrender their Christian profession, but to make Him their possession (so great a salvation).

IF WE NEGLECT: amelêsantes (AAPMPN):

Wuest - The words “if we neglect” have their primary reference to the Jews of the period in which the writer lived, who had outwardly left the temple sacrifices, had made a profession of Messiah as High Priest, and who under stress of persecution from apostate Judaism, were neglecting attendance upon the means of grace (Heb 10:25), were allowing themselves to drift by New Testament truth, were leaning back towards the First Testament, and were in danger of returning to the temple sacrifices, an act that would constitute the sin known as apostasy, from which there would be no recovery. The writer is trying to keep them from committing that sin.

If we neglect - as someone has said "The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it." Here is a poem that originally was written by Gloria Pitzer (neglect has been substituted for procrastination)…

Neglect is my sin
It brings me naught but sorrow.
I know that I should stop it
In fact, I will… tomorrow!

Neglect (272) (ameleo from "a" = without + melo = to care for, to show concern, forethought or interest) means literally without care and thus showing no concern. To be careless. To be unconcerned about or to care nothing for something or someone.

The writer warns his readers against being careless, neglectful or unconcerned about the truths he is explaining

Ameleo describes the opposite attitude or response to the parallel verb prosecho (used in Hebrews 2:1) which calls for one to be in a continuous state of readiness to learn of a danger, need, error, etc, and to respond appropriately.

One of the two uses of ameleo in the OT Septuagint depicts Jehovah speaking of His promise of the New Covenant, declaring that it is "not according to the covenant (Mosaic) which I made with their fathers in the day when I took hold of their hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; for they abode not in my covenant, and I disregarded (ameleo) them, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:32) (This is the English translation of the Septuagint and is the translated almost verbatim in Hebrews 8:9 (see below).

Below are the 4 uses of ameleo in NT:

Matthew 22:5 "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,

1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect (present imperative - stop doing this) the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

Hebrews 2:3 (note) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,

Hebrews 8:9 (note) Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers On the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.

John MacArthur exhorts every reader "Let it not be said of you that you neglected Jesus Christ. History tells us that failure to shoot a rocket at the precise time of night caused the fall of Antwerp, and Holland’s deliverance was delayed for twenty years. Only three hours neglect cost Napoleon the battle of Waterloo. Neglect of Christ’s salvation will cost you eternal blessing, eternal joy, and will bring you damning judgment and eternal punishment. Do not drift past God’s grace. (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)

Spurgeon -Not if we resist it, reject it, despise it, oppose it; but if we neglect it. If a man is in business, it is not necessary that he should commit forgery in order to fail; he can fail by simply neglecting his business. If a man is sick, he need not commit suicide by taking poison; he can do it just as surely by neglecting to take proper medicines. So is it in the things of God, neglect is as ruinous as distinct and open opposition: How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation (Exposition on Hebrews 2-3) (Bolding added)

What is the problem if we neglect? Here are a few illustrative (and some very tragic) examples…

The devil and his cohorts were devising plans to get people to reject the Gospel. “Let’s go to them and say there is no God,” proposed one. Silence prevailed. Every devil knew that most people believe in a supreme being. “Let’s tell them there is no hell, no future punishment for the wicked.” offered another. That was turned down, because men obviously have consciences which tell them that sin must be punished. The concave was going to end in failure when there came a voice from the rear: “Tell them there is a God, there is a hell and that the Bible is the Word of God. But tell them there is plenty of time to decide the question. Let them ‘neglect’ the Gospel, until it is too late.” All hell erupted with ghoulish glee, for they knew that if a person procrastinated on Christ, they usually never accept Him. (10000 Sermon Illustrations. Dallas: Biblical Studies Press)

An incident from the American Revolution illustrates what tragedy can result from neglect. Colonel Rahl, commander of the British troops in Trenton, New Jersey, was playing cards when a courier brought an urgent message stating that General George Washington was crossing the Delaware River. Rahl put the letter in his pocket and didn't bother to read it until the game was finished. Then, realizing the seriousness of the situation, he hurriedly tried to rally his men to meet the coming attack, but his neglect was his undoing. He and many of his men were killed and the rest of the regiment were capture. Nolbert Quayle said, "Only a few minutes' delay cost him his life, his honor, and the liberty of his soldiers." Earth's history is strewn with the wrecks of half-finished plans and unexecuted resolutions. 'Tomorrow' is the excuse of the lazy and refuge of the incompetent. (Adapted from Our Daily Bread)

The Cost of Not Putting a Finger in the Dike - For most of the last decade, Chicagoans who worked in the Loop, the booming downtown business district, could easily ignore the city's budget crisis; Washington's cutback of aid to cities didn't seem to hurt business. Last week, they learned one price of neglecting the underpinnings of all that economic growth. A quarter billion gallons of murky Chicago River water gushed into a 60-mile network of turn-of-the-century freight tunnels under the Loop and brought nearly all businesses to a soggy halt. It turned out that a top city official had known about the leak, but, acting for a cash-strapped government, had delayed repairs costing only about $50,000. The final cost of the damage caused by this neglect was estimated to be more than $1 billion. (From U.S. News & World Report, April 27, 1992.)

We often fail to consider the gradual, cumulative effect of sin in our lives. In Saint Louis in 1984, an unemployed cleaning woman noticed a few bees buzzing around the attic of her home. Since there were only a few, she made no effort to deal with them. Over the summer the bees continued to fly in and out the attic vent while the woman remained unconcerned, unaware of the growing city of bees. The whole attic became a hive, and the ceiling of the second- floor bedroom finally caved in under the weight of hundreds of pounds of honey and thousands of angry bees. While the woman escaped serious injury, she was unable to repair the damage of her accumulated neglect. (Robert T Wenz)

A 64-year-old woman, whose decomposed body was found in her dilapidated Houston home recently, was discovered frozen to death for five months. She was forgotten (neglected) all winter and spring by neighbors and family members. Neighbors described her as someone who "didn't have anything to do with anybody, and nobody had anything to do with her." This occurred after her children had grown up and moved away, and then her husband's death. She had two children, one of whom lived about 10 miles from his mother's house.

SO GREAT A SALVATION: têlikautês sôtêrias:


So great (5082) (telikoutos = a strengthened form of telíkos = so great) is a word that makes reference to the size or degree of something and can be translated as "so large" (referring more to size) or as in the current verse "so great" (referring to degree, grade or "rank").

Telikoutos is used only four times in the NT and not in the Septuagint (non-apocryphal):

2 Corinthians 1:10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,

Hebrews 2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great (referring to degree - there is none higher!) a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,

James 3:4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so great (referring to size) and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.

Revelation 16:18 (see note) (Context = the event described in this verse occurs at the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet, the midpoint of Daniel's Seventieth Week and beginning of the last 3.5 years Jesus called the "Great Tribulation") And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.

The tragic truth is that Hell is full of people who never actively opposed "the Way, the Truth and the Life", but who simply neglected the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The truth is that one may know the truth and even "believe" the truth, in the sense of intellectually acknowledging its truthfulness. They are aware of the good news of salvation provided in Jesus Christ, but are not willing to genuinely place their faith in Christ. Beloved, although some might argue this point, there is a merely intellectual belief that does not lead to salvation (e.g., read about those Jews who believed in Jesus in John 8:30ff but who were ready to stone Him by the end of this chapter, John 8:59! Was their belief unto salvation? Even Charles Ryrie says their belief was "likely only a profession". Their actions hardly demonstrate it and Jesus Himself said their "father" was the devil - John 8:44!). So they drift past the call of God into eternal damnation. This tragedy makes these verses extremely important and urgent.

Albert Barnes - "It is not merely if we commit great sins. Not, if we are murderers, adulterers, thieves, infidels, atheists, scoffers. It is, if we merely “neglect” this salvation - if we do not embrace it - if we suffer it to pass unimproved. “Neglect” is enough to ruin a man. A man who is in business need not commit forgery or robbery to ruin himself; he has only to “neglect” his business, and his ruin is certain. A man who is lying on a bed of sickness, need not cut his throat to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” the means of restoration, and he will be ruined. A man floating in a skiff above Niagara, need not move an oar or make an effort to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” using the oar at the proper time, and he will certainly be carried over the cataract. Most of the calamities of life are caused by simple “neglect.” By neglect of education children grow up in ignorance; by neglect a farm grows up to weeds and briars; by neglect a house goes to decay; by neglect of sowing, a man will have no harvest; by neglect of reaping, the harvest would rot in the fields. No worldly interest can prosper where there is neglect; and why may it not be so in religion? There is nothing in earthly affairs that is valuable that will not be ruined if it is not attended to - and why may it not be so with the concerns of the soul? Let no one infer, therefore, that because he is not a drunkard, or an adulterer, or a murderer, that, therefore, he will be saved. Such an inference would be as irrational as it would be for a man to infer that because he is not a murderer his farm will produce a harvest, or that because he is not an adulterer therefore his merchandise will take care of itself. Salvation would be worth nothing if it cost no effort - and there will be no salvation where no effort is put forth." (Barnes, A: Notes on the New Testament)

Wuest - The word “salvation” refers to salvation itself, not to the teaching concerning it.

Salvation (4991) (soteria from soter = Savior in turn from sozo = save, rescue, deliver) (Click here or here for in depth discussion of the related terms soter and sozo) describes the rescue or deliverance from danger, destruction and peril.

Salvation is a broader term in Greek than we often think of in English. Other concepts that are inherent in soteria include restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction.

Soteria is found 45 times in the NT (see all verses) (Luke 4x; John; Acts 6x; Romans 5x; 2 Corinthians 3x; Ephesians; Philippians 3x; 1 Thessalonians 2x; 2 Thessalonians; 2 Timothy 2x; Hebrews 7x; 1 Peter 4x; 2 Peter; Jude; Revelation 3x)

Soteria - 158x in 154v in the OT - Septuagint (Lxx) - (see all 154 verses)

NAS translates soteria as: deliverance, 2; preservation, 1; salvation, 42. Note that soteria “salvation” is found seven times in Hebrews, more than in any other New Testament book.


"So Great a Salvation" - Hebrews 2:3

(1) A physical deliverance - rescue from danger deliverance, preservation, safety. For example the writer of Hebrews records that…

"By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation (soteria) of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." (see note Hebrews 11:7)

Paul to all those on the ship bound for Rome "Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation (soteria) for not a hair from the head of any of you shall perish." (Acts 27:34)

Paul to the saints at Philippi "For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (see note Philippians 1:19)

(2) A religious technical term describing safety of the soul and so in a spiritual sense referring to salvation

"(The preaching of John the Baptist was) To give to His people the knowledge of salvation (soteria) by the forgiveness of their sins" (Luke 1:77)

"And Jesus said to him (Zacchaeus), "Today salvation (soteria) has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham." (Luke 19:9)

"And there is salvation (soteria) in no one else (other that Messiah); for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (sozo)." (Acts 4:12)

"Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the word of this salvation (soteria) ("the gospel") is sent out." (Acts 13:26)

"Following after Paul and us (Luke, et al), she ("a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination") kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." (Acts 16:17)

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation (soteria) to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (see note Romans 1:16)

"for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (see note Romans 10:10)

"The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation (soteria); but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2Corinthians 7:10)

"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation (soteria) with fear and trembling" (see note Philippians 2:12)

"For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation (soteria) which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." (see note 2 Timothy 2:10)

"from childhood you (Timothy) have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation (soteria) through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (see note 2 Timothy 3:15)

"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation (soteria) ?" (see note Hebrews 1:14)

"For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation (soteria) through sufferings." (see note Hebrews 2:10)

"And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (soteria) " (see note Hebrews 5:9)

"But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation (soteria) , though we are speaking in this way." (see note Hebrews 6:9)

(3) A Messianic deliverance at the end of this present age.

"Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation (soteria) without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." (see note Hebrews 9:28)

"And this do (do what? express agape love which is unconditional), knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation (soteria) is nearer to us than when we believed. (see note Romans 13:11) (cf 1Thess. 5:9; Hebrews 9:28; see notes 1 Peter 5:5; 5:10; see note Revelation 12:10)

"But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (soteria). For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation (soteria) through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Thess. 5:8-9)

(Those "born again to a living hope") are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation (soteria) ready to be revealed in the last time." (see note 1 Peter 1:5)

"And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation (soteria) , and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night." (see note Revelation 12:10)

"After these things I heard, as it were, a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation (soteria) and glory and power belong to our God." (see note Revelation 19:1)

The idea of salvation is that the power of God rescues people from the penalty of sin, which is spiritual death which is followed by eternal separation from the presence of His Glory. Salvation delivers the believer from the power of sin (see discussion on Romans 6-8 beginning at Romans 6:1-3)

Salvation carried tremendous meaning in Paul’s day, the most basic being “deliverance,” and it was applied to personal and national deliverance. The emperor was looked on as a "savior" as was the physician who healed you of illness.

It is interesting that Collin's (secular) dictionary defines "salvation" as

"the act of preserving or the state of being preserved from harm… deliverance by redemption from the power of sin and from the penalties ensuing from it."!

In short, this "so great a salvation" is not just escape from the penalty of sin but includes the ideas of safety, deliverance from slavery and preservation from danger or destruction.

In addition, this "so great a salvation" includes the idea of what is often referred to as the Three Tenses of Salvation (justification = past tense salvation = deliverance from sin's penalty, sanctification = present tense salvation = deliverance from sin's power and glorification = future tense salvation = deliverance from sin's presence). It follows that the discerning student will check the context to determine which of the three "tenses" a given use of soteria is referring to.

Mankind has continually looked for salvation of one kind or another. Greek philosophy had turned inward and begun to focus on changing man’s inner life through moral reform and self-discipline. The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus called his lecture room “the hospital for sick souls.” Epicurus called his teaching “the medicine of salvation.” Seneca taught that all men were looking ad salutem (“toward salvation”) and that men are overwhelmingly conscious of their weakness and insufficiency in necessary things and that we therefore need “a hand let down to lift us up”. Seneca was not far from the truth as Scripture testifies

"(Jehovah speaking) Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver?… Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save… (Jeremiah speaking) 'Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee" (Isa 50:2… Isaiah 59:1… Jeremiah 32:17)

Salvation through Christ is God’s powerful hand extended down to lost souls to lift them up.

In context of Hebrews 1, this great salvation has first of all such a great Savior, Who has completed the purification for our sins (which deserved death) & has furnished us with His ministering angels to help those who will inherit salvation. This salvation was first spoken thru the Lord Jesus (it not so clearly spoken in the OT)

Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament entry has the following interesting description of the word group ("salvation") as it was used in secular Greek. As you read through these various uses, see if you can identify any spiritual parallels (you will be intrigued I think)…

1. Saving. These terms first refer to salvation (human or divine) from serious peril. Curing from illness is another sense. Horses may save in battle, or night may save an army from destruction, good counsel may save ships, etc. Cities, castles, ships, etc. may be saved as well as people. At times protection may be the meaning, and soteria can have the sense of a “safe return.”

2. Keeping. The meaning at times may be that of keeping alive, e.g., pardoning, protecting, keeping from want, keeping a fire going.

3. Benefiting. The idea of rescuing from peril disappears when the idea is that of keeping in good health, or benefiting, or when the noun means “well-being,” i.e., of a city, country, family, etc.

4. Preserving the Inner Being. A special nuance is when the terms refer to preserving the inner being or nature. In philosophy inner health may be the point or the preservation of one’s humanity.

5. Religious Usage. All the nuances occur in religious usage. Thus the gods rescue from the perils of life. Philosophy discusses the preservation of all things from perishing. A demand arises for the preservation of life beyond death. In the Gnostic sphere gnósis supposedly saves from death as it is imparted by revelation (Paul's epistle to the Colossians refutes this heresy) In the mysteries initiates share in the salvation of a mythical divine being from death and thereby attain to a blissful life in the hereafter (a clear counterfeit!). A special Syrian belief mentioned in Origen Against Celsus 7.9 is that there is salvation from eternal punishment by worship of a divine envoy and faith in him.

AFTER IT WAS AT FIRST SPOKEN THROUGH THE LORD: hetis arche labousa (AAPFSN) laleisthai (PPN) dia tou kuriou:

Spurgeon - They could not trifle with the angels’ message without receiving just punishment from God. Much less, then, can we trifle with Christ’s gospel. We have not au angelic saviour; but God himself, in the person of his Son, has deigned to be the Mediator of the new covenant. Therefore, let us see to it that we do not trifle with these things.

This Greek sentence is difficult to translate into intelligible English but reads literally something like "having received a beginning to be spoken" or "having begun to be spoken." Apparently this was a common Greek (Koiné) idiom (or language peculiar to the first century Greeks but difficult to translate into another language).

John Calvin writes a pithy note reminding us that…

It is not only the rejecting of the Gospel, but even the neglecting of it that deserves the severest penalty in view of the greatness of the grace which is offered in it… God wishes His gifts to be valued by us at their proper worth. The more precious they are, the baser is our ingratitude if they do not have their proper value for us. In accordance with the greatness of Christ, so will be the severity of God’s vengeance on all despisers of the Gospel. (Hebrews 2)

Lord (kurios) Jesus is Lord and He is superior to angels. The Lord Jesus Christ was and is God's full revelation and He is the source of this new and superior revelation.

IT WAS CONFIRMED TO US: hupo ton akousanton eis hemas ebebaiothe (3SAPI):

  • Mark 16:15-19; Luke 1:2; 24:47,48; John 15:27; Acts 1:22; 10:40-42

Confirmed (950) (bebaioo from bébaios = sure, fixed, standing firm on the feet, steadfast, maintaining firmness or solidity. In classical Greek from the 5th cent. B.C. bebaios acquires the meaning of firm, durable, unshakeable, sure, reliable, certain; and in the legal sphere, valid, legal <> bebaios is derived from baino = fit to tread on = having a firm foundation) is a verb which means to make sure or certain, to prove valid or reliable or to verify and (in legal language) to guarantee.

The writer is saying that the word of this great salvation is put beyond doubt. It is guaranteed. It has been made firm and reliable so as to warrant security and inspire confidence. It produces an inner solidity.

One of the two LXX uses of bebaioo in a prayer by the psalmist parallels the use in Hebrews 2:3:

My soul weeps because of grief. Strengthen (bebaioo) me according to Thy Word." (Psalm 119:28 read Spurgeon's excellent note)

Bebaioo was used in secular Greek as a legal technical term meaning "to designate properly guaranteed security". Its use in a legal sense therefore gives it great force here, indicating that there cannot be the slightest doubt about the salvation offered. The main point then is that this is truth that can be trusted without hesitation or reservation.

The 8 NT uses of bebaioo

Mark 16:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

Romans 15:8 (note) For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,

1 Corinthians 1:6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you,

8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,

Colossians 2:7 (note) having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Hebrews 2:3 (note) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,

Hebrews 13:9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited.

Marvin Vincent says that this means that "it was confirmed, proved to be real, by the testimony of ear-witnesses."

Spurgeon was fully convinced of the truth of God's word writing that "I hold one single sentence out of God's Word to be of more certainty and of more power than all the discoveries of all the learned men of all the ages… The Bible is a harbor where I can drop down my anchor, feeling certain that it will hold. Here is a place where I can find sure foot­ing; and, by the grace of God, from this confidence I shall never be moved."

The writer conveys to his readers the truth that one can stake their eternal destiny on the Word spoken through Jesus.

Have you dear reader received the Word of truth implanted which is able to save your soul from eternal destruction? If not, then please do not be careless and neglect this great salvation another day. It is as true today as when Paul spoke it to the Philippian jailer that if you

"Believe in the Lord Jesus…
you shall be saved."

(Acts 16:31)

BY THOSE WHO HEARD: hupo tôn akousantôn:

Heard (191) (akouo) means not just to hear sounds per se but implies hearing with attention or hearing so to speak with the "ear of one's mind". “To hear” implies “to obey.”

The words of the gospel of salvation were first spoken by Christ, then confirmed in writing by His apostles and thus there was only one generation between Jesus and the writer.

Paul for example got his message directly from Christ as he recorded in his letter to the Galatians writing that…

"I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12)

Hebrews 1:3-4 can be depicted as follows:

Spoken thru the Lord

                |      Signs, Wonders, Various Miracles

               V     Gifts of Holy Spirit

   Those who heard

               |     Confirmed = guarantee

              V    ~Spirit (Eph 1:14-note

         To Us

The writer perceives that under the pressure some were “going with the flow”—they were drifting away. They had not rejected Christ outright, but they were, in fact, ignoring Him. Their anchors, so to speak, were up, and they did not even realize they were moving away on the deceptive tides.

Ryrie feels that Hebrews 2:2-4 presents a contrast between law and grace (Hebrews 2:2 referring to the Mosaic Law): "The revelation of grace in contrast to law came through the Lord ("For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." John 1:17) and was confirmed to the writer and readers of Hebrews by those who heard Him and by God, Who authenticated it by signs and wonders." (The Ryrie Study Bible)

R A Torrey has the following message from Hebrews 2:3

A Question that Should Startle Every Man Who is Not a Christian

“How shall we escape,
if we neglect so great salvation?”

— Hebrews, 2:3.

I have a text to-night which I believe God has given me for this hour, a text that ought to startle every man and woman in this building who has not accepted the Gospel of Christ. You will find it in Hebrews 2:3: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” I wish that that text would burn itself into the heart of every man and woman in this house who is out of Christ, “How shall I escape if I neglect so great salvation?” I wish that every man and woman that may go away from this place to-night without definitely having received Christ as their Saviour and Lord and Master would hear it ringing in their ears as they go down the street, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” I wish that every one that may lie down to sleep to-night without a definite assurance of sins forgiven through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and of acceptance before God in Him, would hear it all through the night, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Our text sets forth the folly and guilt of neglecting the salvation that God has sent to us in and through His Son Jesus Christ, and that is my subject to-night. My sermon is all in the text—the folly and guilt of neglecting the salvation that God the Father has sent through His Son and in His Son Jesus Christ.

You notice I say not merely the folly but the guilt. There is many a man who thinks that perhaps it may be a foolish thing not to accept Christ, and admits the folly of it, but he has never realized the guilt of it. But I shall endeavour to show you to-night in the unfolding of this text that it is not merely an egregiously foolish thing, but that it is an appalling wicked thing to neglect this salvation.

I. The Greatness of the Salvation

We see the folly and guilt of neglecting this salvation, in the first place, by a consideration of the greatness of the salvation. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”

1. We see the greatness of the salvation first of all in the way in which the salvation was given.

God sent His Son, His only Son, down into the world to proclaim this salvation. As we read in the preceding chapter, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who, being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Have you ever thought of it in the light of the context, that when God, in infinite condescension, the great and infinitely holy God, sent down His own Son to proclaim pardon to the vilest sinner, if you and I neglect this salvation we are pouring contempt upon the Son of God, and upon the Father that sent Him? If God had spoken this salvation by the lips only of inspired prophets, it would have a right to demand our attention. If God had gone above prophets, and had spoken this salvation by the lips of angels sent down from Heaven, it would have a still greater right to demand our attention. But when God, in His infinite condescension, sent not merely prophets or angels, but sent His own Son, the only begotten one, the express image of His person, God manifest in the flesh, to proclaim this salvation, and you and I do not heed it, we are guilty of the most appalling presumption and defiance of God. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses,” but how much sorer punishment you and I shall receive if we neglect this greater salvation.

2. In the second place, the greatness of this salvation is seen in the way in which it was purchased.

This is a costly salvation. It was purchased by the shed blood, by the outpoured life of the incarnate Son of God. Ah, friends, when God in wondrous love went to that extent that He sacrificed His very best, when God went to that extent that He gave His own and only Son to die on the cross at Calvary, that He might purchase your salvation and mine, if you and I neglect so great salvation we are pouring contempt on the precious blood of the Son of God. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses,” but how much greater punishment shall he merit who tramples under foot the Son of God, and counts the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified an unholy thing, and insults the Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:28, 29).

3. Again, the greatness of this salvation is seen in the third place by a consideration of what it brings.

It brings pardon for all our sins, it brings deliverance from sin, it brings union with the Son of God in His resurrection life, it brings adoption into the family of God, it brings an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, laid up in store in Heaven for us, who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. When you think that God has put at our disposal in Jesus Christ all His wealth, and is ready to make us heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, who can measure the guilt of neglecting and of turning a deaf ear to this wonderful salvation? Suppose that on his coronation day King Edward had ridden down to the East End of London, and seeing some wretched little boy on the street, clad in rags, with filthy face and hands, his great heart of love had gone out to that wretched boy, and he had stopped the royal carriage and said, “Bring that boy here,” and they had brought the boy, and he had said, “I want to take you out of your poverty, out of your squalor and rags and wretched home; I am going to take you to the royal palace and adopt you as my son.” Then suppose the boy had turned and said, “Go along, I don’t want to be adopted as your son; I would rather have my wretched crust of bread, I would rather have my rags and filthy home than live in your old palace; I don’t want to go to be your son.”

But when the great King of Glory, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the great Eternal Son of God comes to you and me, in our filth and rags and sin, and wants to take us out of our filth and sin and rags of unrighteousness, and says, “I want to adopt you into my family and make you an heir of God and a joint-heir with Me,” there are some of you men and women in this building to-night who, by your actions, are saying, “Go away with your salvation, go away with your adoption into the family of God; I would rather have the crust of the world’s pleasure and the rags of my sin than all the royal apparel of righteousness and glory which you offer me.” Oh, the daring, damning guilt of any man or woman who neglects so great salvation!

II. The Only Salvation

A second thought which the text suggests is that our folly is great in neglecting this great salvation because it is the only salvation that is open to us. As Peter puts it in Acts 4:12: “There is none other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” It is salvation in Christ, or it is no salvation at all. A man is in a burning building. If there were one way of escape by a fire-escape, and another by a great broad stairway, he would have a perfect right to neglect the fire-escape for the easier escape by the stairway. But suppose there was no way of escape but the fire-escape, how great would be his folly in neglecting it. Men and women, you are in a burning building, in a doomed world. There is just one way of escape; that is by Christ. In Christ any one can be saved; out of Christ no one shall be saved. By Christ, or not at all. There is a class of men to-day who say, “Give up your Bible, give up your Christ of the Bible,” and we turn to them and say, “What have you got to give us in place of our Bible; what have you got to give us in place of the Christ of our Bible?” Now we know by personal experience that the Bible and Christ bring forgiveness of sins and peace of heart, for they have brought them to us. We know that they bring deliverance from sin’s power, for they have brought it to us. We know that they bring joy unspeakable and full of glory, for they have brought it to us. We know that they bring pardon and a firm assurance of eternal life, for they have brought them to us. We know that Christ makes us sons of God, and if sons, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Himself. What have you got that will bring us the same, that will bring us pardon and peace and set us free from the power of sin? What have you got that will bring us joy unspeakable and full of glory? What have you got that will bring us the assurance of eternal life? Have you anything? No, you have not. Well, then, please, we are not quite so great fools as to give up a book and a Saviour that bring us all these for nothing. Salvation in Christ, or salvation not at all. Point me to one saved man in London that was not saved by Christ. I have been away round this round earth. I have been in every latitude and almost every longitude, north and south; I have talked with all kinds of people, of all races and all classes, but I have never yet found a saved man, who had a glad assurance of salvation and practical deliverance from sin’s power, that was not saved by Jesus Christ; neither has anybody else.

III. To Miss Salvation All that is Necessary is Merely to Neglect It

In the third place, this text teaches us that to miss this salvation, and to bring upon ourselves the just and awful displeasure of a holy God for our light and contemptuous treatment of a salvation so wonderful, given and purchased at so great a cost, all that is necessary is simply to neglect it. “How shall we escape if we neglect—just neglect, so great salvation?” In order to bring upon your head the awful displeasure of God, and to be lost forever, it is not necessary that you go into any outrageous immoralities; it is not necessary that you should be an arrant and blatant blasphemer; it is not necessary that you should abuse churches and preachers of the Gospel; it is not necessary that you should even positively refuse to accept Jesus Christ; all that is necessary is that you simply neglect. More people are lost in Christian lands by neglecting than in any other way. There are millions in England to-day who are going through life neglecting, drifting into their graves neglecting, drifting into eternity neglecting, drifting into hell neglecting. That is all that is necessary to be lost. Here is a dying man, there stands a table by the dying man’s bedside, within easy reach, and standing on that table there is a tumbler in which there is a medicine that has power to save the dying man’s life. The man has strength enough to put out his hand and take the tumbler and drink the medicine. Now what is all that is necessary for that man to be saved? All that is necessary is simply for him to put out his hand and take the tumbler and drink the medicine. What is all that is necessary for that man to be lost and die? It is not necessary that he should cut his throat or blow out his brains; it is not necessary that he should throw the medicine out of the window; it is not necessary that he should assault or insult the doctor or the nurse; it is not necessary that he should positively refuse to take the medicine; all that is necessary for that man to die is to neglect to take the medicine.

Men and women out of Christ, you are dying. Eternal death is at work in your souls to-night, but on that table, in that Book, in the Christ of that Book, there is a medicine that will save you, and save you to-night if you will take it. The medicine is within the reach of anybody in this building. Christ is nearer to you than the man or woman that sits next to you in that pew. All you have to do to-night to be saved is to put out your hand and take Christ. “To as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” What is all that is necessary to you to perish eternally? Not to commit moral suicide; not to commit to-night some awful act of immorality; not to get up and curse Christ and the Bible; not loudly to proclaim that you are an infidel; not to refuse blatantly to take Christ; all that is necessary for you to be lost is simply to neglect. Here is a boat on the Niagara River, away above the Falls, towards Lake Erie, where there is scarcely any current. A man sits in the boat, being carried on very slowly by the gentle current. There is a good pair of oars in the boat, and the man could take them and pull up the river towards the lake, or to either bank, if he liked; but the man sits there and is carried on, almost imperceptibly at first, and then faster and faster, until, before he knows it, he is in the swift current just upon the rapids, and he is being carried on towards the Falls. The oars are no good to him now, the current is too swift; he could not save himself if he would—but on the shore there are men who have seen his peril; they have run along the bank and have thrown a line good and strong. It falls right into the boat, at the man’s very feet. What is all that the man has to do to be saved? All he has to do is to lay hold of the rope and they will pull him ashore, as has been done more than once on that river. What is all that he has to do to be lost? It is not necessary that he should take up the oars and pull with the current; it is not necessary that he should throw the oars overboard; it is not necessary that he himself should jump into the river; all that is necessary is simply for him to neglect to lay hold of the rope that lies before him, and the swift current of the river will carry him on to absolutely certain death over the cataract.

Men and women, that is a picture of every man and woman in this building out of Christ. You are in a boat in a perilous stream, being carried towards the cataract of eternal perdition. There is no man who has the power to take the oars in his own strength and pull against that awful current; there is no man on earth who can save himself; but God has seen your peril, and, in the Gospel of His Son, has thrown out a rope. It has fallen at your feet to-night; all you have to do is to lay hold, and He will pull you safely on to the glorious shore. But what is all that you have to do to be lost? It is not necessary that you should jump into the current or pull with the stream, or refuse to accept Christ. All that is necessary is that you simply neglect and that awful current that you are already in will sweep you over the cataract to eternal death and ruin.

Some one put a little card into my hand one day, a short, narrow card, and on the one side were these words, “What must I do to be saved?” Underneath was written God’s answer in Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Then it said “Over,” and I turned it over. On the other side of the card was this question, “What must I do to be lost?” and there was the answer in just one word: “Nothing.” “Nothing!” You don’t have to do anything to be lost. You are lost already; if you do not do something, and do it quickly, you will be lost forever. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” To sum it all up, friends, all that is necessary to be lost to-night, all that is necessary to bring upon our heads the awful wrath of God for our light and contemptuous treatment of a Gospel proclaimed by the lips of His own Son and purchased by the atoning death of His own Son, all that is necessary is simply to neglect.

Years ago in Minneapolis, the leading paper was the Minneapolis Tribune, published in a magnificent six or seven-story building, the finest newspaper building at that time in the Northwest. I had occasion very frequently to go into the upper stories of that building to see editorial friends. There was one great defect in that great building which I had never noticed. The defect was this, that the stairway went right round the elevator shaft, so that if a fire broke out in the elevator shaft escape by the stairway was cut off as well. There was, however, a fire-escape outside. That very thing happened. There broke out a fire in the elevator shaft, and it commenced to sweep up the shaft, story by story, cutting off escape by the elevator and cutting off escape by the stairway as well. But they had a brave elevator boy, who went up a number of times until he got a large number of men down from the upper stories, and almost all the rest escaped by the fire-escape outside the building. But away up in the sixth story there was a man, a despatcher for the Associated Press, which is the largest news-gathering agency in the United States. He was urged to escape, but he refused to move. There he sat by his instrument, telegraphing to all parts of the country that the building was on fire. He could have gone out of the building by the fire-escape, and across the road to an instrument there, and could have done just as well; but, like a typical newspaper man, he wanted to do something sensational, and so there he sat telegraphing the news. There had been a similar case above Johnstown in the time of the Johnstown flood, when the dam of the river was breaking. A woman sat in a telegraph office at the bottom of the dam telegraphing down to the people at Johnstown that the dam was breaking and that they had better flee for their lives. But she sat there, because duty required her, until the dam burst, and she was swept down in the flood. This man, however, sat there quite unnecessarily, merely because of his desire for notoriety. “I am in the Tribune building,” he telegraphed, “in the sixth story, and the building is on fire. The fire has now reached the second story; I am in the sixth.” In a little while he sent another message: “The fire has now reached the third story.” Soon he telegraphed: “The fire has reached the fourth story; I am in the sixth.” Soon again the message went over the wires: “The fire has reached the fifth story; I am in the sixth.” Then he thought it was about time to leave; but, in order to do this, he had to cross the hallway to a window to reach the fire-escape. He went to his door and opened it, and, to his dismay, found that the fire had not only reached the fifth story, but the sixth story, and that the hallway was full of smoke and flame, which, the moment he opened the door, swept into the room. He shut the door quickly. What was he to do? The stairway, the elevator and the fire-escape were all cut off; but he was a brave man, and he went to the window and threw it up. Down below stood a great crowd, six stories down. There was no means of catching him if he jumped, and he stood there on the window sill, not knowing what to do. But presently he looked up. Above his head was a long wire guy-rope that passed from the Tribune building to the roof of a building across an opening. Below him was a chasm six stories deep, but he caught hold of the guy-rope and began to go hand-over-hand across that chasm. The people down in the street looked on in breathless suspense. On and on he went, and then he stopped. The people below could hardly breathe. Would he let go? No. On and on he went, and again he stopped, and again the crowd below gasped, but only for a moment. His strength was gone; he was now obliged to let go, and down he came tumbling through those six stories of space, crushed into a shapeless mass below. All through mere unnecessary neglect!

Men and women, you are in a burning building to-night, you are in a doomed world; but, thank God, there is a way of escape, and one way only, in Christ Jesus. No one knows how long that way will be left open. But, I beg of you, do not neglect it, and then when it is too late lay hold on some poor guy-rope of human philosophy, and go a little way, and then let go and plunge, not six stories down, but on and on and on through the awful unfathomable depths of the gulf of eternal despair. Men and women, turn to Christ to-night! “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”

How Shall We Escape, If We Neglect So Great Salvation?
W A Criswell

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? — Hebrews 2:3

Related Resources

THE FIFTH GREAT QUESTION of the Bible is found in a book written toward the close of the years in which the Holy Spirit guided faithful men in writing down the Word of God. The plan of salvation is finished; the gospel message is complete; atonement has been made for our sins, and the Lord has returned to Heaven. The offer of salvation is now made to all men. There is a way of escape from judgment and from hell. It is after this completion of God's final gospel handiwork that the vital question is asked: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"

   All the previous questions have had a sure and certain answer: "Am I my brother's keeper?" — "If a man die, shall he live again?" — "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" — "What must I do to be saved?" But this final and fifth question has no answer. I cannot find an answer. It is not answerable. When God has done His best and we spurn it, refuse it, pass it by, there is no other way, no other hope, no other recourse, no other appeal.


   This question of Hebrews 2:3 is like the question raised in that awesome and terrible seal described in the sixth chapter of the Revelation of John. "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon become as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:12-17). Having spurned the overtures of grace, having done despite to the blood of the covenant, having refused the proffered mercies of the love of Jesus, where could there be further hope? In the awful hour of judgment and condemnation, who shall be able to stand?

   At the turn of this century, the only connection between the island of Galveston and the mainland of Texas was an iron bridge. On a fateful day in 1900, the United States government sent warning after warning to the citizens of the city that a terrible hurricane was coming their way, and that they should escape for their lives. Over that iron causeway to the mainland went trains and trolleys and vehicles to safety; but the citizens of the city looked at the blue of the sky and the quiet of the sea and, heedless of the terrible warnings, in a false peace went to bed and to sleep. In the dark and terror of that frightful night, the gentle breeze turned into a wind, and the wind turned into a hurricane, and the hurricane turned into a torrential rain, and the torrential rain turned into a tidal wave, and the tidal wave went over the island, destroying the bridge like a match stem. When the one way of hope and escape is spurned, there remains no other avenue of salvation. Nothing remains but judgment and death.

   The author of Hebrews, who voiced this soul-searching question, has described the terrible alternative of turning away from Christ in the tenth chapter of his book, verses 26 through 31: "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

   American people pride themselves on their realism. They like to "face the facts." In all of the relationships of life, they choose to "put all the cards on the table." They say to the preacher and to the doctor, "Tell it to me straight; no beating around the bush." Let us then look straight and openly into the face of the facts of the brief life we possess in this world. If we lived forever, then there would be an abundance of time to settle this matter of salvation. If we were promised a second chance in the world to come, then it would not greatly matter what choice we made in this life. If, when we could finally repent and turn and be saved, we could undo and recall and remake all we had done in the days of our rebellion and rejection, then we could still have hope of nullifying any wrong decision made in former years. But the eternal fact of time and life and experience is this: when we have sinned away our day of grace, we find no place for repentance though we seek it carefully with tears. "Lest there be . . . any person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears" (Hebrews 12:16-17).

   When we sell our birthright for a mess of pottage, there is no possibility that afterward we shall inherit the blessing. No day passed can ever be recalled; no deed done can ever be undone; no life born can ever be unborn; no human power can turn back the shadow on the dial. It is indeed a dark, stark tragedy of which Edward Fitzgerald writes in his translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on. Nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.

   Our helplessness to change the past is only exceeded by our helplessness to change the future beyond the grave. When death comes, character is forever fixed; eternity is forever settled. As we die, so shall we be forever and ever. "As the tree falls, so shall it lie" (Ecclesiastes 11:3). "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

   Men are dying every day with the desperate cry on their lips, "I must live, I must live; I cannot die." To sleep in youth is to sleep in a siege, to sleep in age is to sleep during an attack. The advance of the enemy, death, is inexorable. He assails alike the prince in his palace and the peasant in his cottage, and he comes to you, to me, to us all. Who is able to keep us from the abyss of the grave and the judgment of perdition? Where is such deliverance to be found?


   As a youth, reading ancient history, I frequently came across the word, "soter," after the names of the conquering princes. There would be Seleusius "Soter," Philadelphius "Soter," Ptolemy "Soter," Demetrius "Soter." When I began my study in Greek, the meaning of the word became apparent. The word, "soter," is the Greek word for "saviour." These men, each in his turn, presented themselves as "saviours" of the people. Riding war-horses, advancing to battle in iron chariots, commanding legions and armies, they arrogated to themselves the title of "saviour." But their deliverance was always cheap and unrewarding and disappointing. However the war or the battle raged or the government was changed, men still died in their sins, and the awful enemy of death wasted the population without hope, without promise, without light beyond the grave. But this man, Christ Jesus, the God-Man, offers to this world a real and everlasting deliverance. It is called by the author of Hebrews "so great salvation." Christ saves from sin and hell.

   The love and adoration and worship we owe to Christ as "Saviour" is the natural response of the human soul to the gospel message of Jesus. England's regard for the Iron Duke Wellington knew no bounds when he saved his people from the ravages of Napoleon. Our regard for Winston Churchill hardly knows any limit. He stood alone against the whole world threatened or conquered by Hitler. Our gratitude to the man who could find a deliverance from dreaded cancer would rise beyond what tongue could tell or song could sing. What shall we say, then, of this Man of God, this Man of sorrows, this Man of the cross, this Man of the resurrection, this Man of coming triumph, who is able to save us from judgment and death?

"Man of Sorrows," what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Lifted up was He to die,
"It is finished" was His cry:
Now in heaven, exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

When He comes our glorious king,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we'll sing,
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

   He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). He has begotten us who were in the bonds of death to a living hope through His own resurrection from the dead. He has brought to us an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us who are kept by the power of God unto this bountiful and ultimate deliverance. It is truly "so great salvation." It is mediated through the love and mercy of Jesus without money, without price, without merit, without any ableness of our own. We receive it through faith and trust and committal of our lives to Him. The feeblest, the humblest, the poorest may come, as well as the richest and the wisest and the greatest. The cost is nothing to us; it is ours for the asking because it was purchased by the blood of the crucified One, even our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus. A youth, who one time was pointed to Christ as the way of salvation, asked the preacher, "Is it that easy?" The preacher replied, "Easy for you, but not for Him."

   To create man was a display of the omnipotent power of God. God did it without struggle, without labor, by fiat. But to redeem the man, even the omnipotent arm of the Almighty was impotent without vicarious suffering. God Himself took upon Himself the sins of the man He had made and offered expiation for our guilt on the tree. Our Saviour was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. He is the Lamb upon whom God hath laid the iniquities of us all. He is the suffering Servant, wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, by whose stripes we are healed. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God, oppressed, afflicted, brought to the slaughter, taken from prison and from judgment, and cut off out of the land of the living. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, to put Him to grief, to make His soul an offering for sin.


   This is Friday, the day of the Cross. The solemnity and the deep seriousness of this vast throng of people filling this great theater is in itself a deep, unspoken recognition of the price and penalty our Saviour bore to deliver us from so great sin and death through so great salvation. The three crosses on that day of long, long ago were raised on the Hill of a Skull just outside the Damascus gate of the city of Jerusalem. The one hanging on the central cross is God manifest in the flesh. From nine o'clock in the morning until noon, He suffers and prays: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." In the agonies of death He speaks words of salvation to the thief crucified by His side: "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." He turns to His mother and commends her to the apostle John: "Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother." From twelve o'clock noon until three o'clock in the afternoon, darkness covers the face of the earth. He cries in loneliness: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Burning with fever, He exclaims: "I thirst." He utters the final cry of victory: "It is finished!" He bows His head and dismisses His spirit: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." Before sundown the soldiers break the legs of the first and the third to hasten their death; but the figure on the middle cross is so certainly dead that they break not his legs, but a soldier takes his spear and thrusts it into his heart. When he draws out the iron head of the long shaft, there follows it the fountain of blood and of water for cleansing, for healing, for saving. "That He might taste death for every man" — this "so great salvation."

   Count Zinzendorf, a rich, brilliant, carefree young prince, walking through the Dusseldorf art gallery, came upon an Ecce Homo, a picture of the suffering Christ. Transfixed, he gazed upon the crucified Son of God. The inscription beneath the picture fastened upon the young man's soul like a burning fire of God's Word in the heart of the ancient prophet:

Hoc feci pro te
Quid facis pro me.
This have I done for thee;
What hast thou done for me?

   He turned from the gallery a new man, a regenerated man, a saved man, God's man. The young count founded the new missionary endeavor that has swept through the civilization of modern times.

   Our one hope lies in the Saviour who died for our sins on the Cross. There is no other way. How shall we escape if we turn aside from God's one provision for our salvation?

There is no other plan; there is no other hope; there is no other Gospel.

What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

   Who can stand by me and deliver me in the awful and ultimate day of the dissolution of this world? Who can be my advocate and deliverer in the great judgment day of God? Who can save me in this life, save me in death, save me in the life that is to come, if I turn away from Jesus? "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" It is the unanswerable question. To turn from Christ is to die forever and ever and ever. God help us to lift up our eyes with the look of faith to Him who alone can redeem us from "so great death" through "so great salvation." (source)