There are arguably few passages in Scripture more important than Psalm 8:4–6 and its fulfillment in Hebrews 2:6–8. In these few verses are the sum of God’s design for humanity, his plan for the exercise of his reign, and the fulfillment of all this in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In one shot, these verses give us the scope of redemptive history and are a nutshell of the Biblical theology contained in the Scriptures. From the vantage of these two passages, we can peer back to the foundations of creation and see what God created human beings for and at the same time peer forward in from creation to see the eschatological fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Psalm 8 and Humanity
Psalm 8 is a passage that essentially interprets and is grounded upon Genesis 1:26–28. Why did God create humanity and what does it mean to for humanity to be made in the image of God? Biblical scholars are in large agreement that Genesis 1:26–28 is a picture of human beings being installed as royal vice-regents to govern and rule creation on behalf of God in heaven. God is the high king in heaven and he has installed humanity like a governor or lower king over all creation. In fact, Psalm 8:5 tells us that humanity has been made a little lower than Elohim, which is either translated as G/god or heavenly beings. The Greek translation of the Old Testament translates it with an interpretive gloss: ‘angels.’
Humanity is made in God’s image which entails being crowned with glory and honor. They are installed in the garden like kings. It would not be lost to an original reader from the ancient near east that the great and mighty kings of old would have tended gardens like the famous hanging gardens of Babylon. Thus, humanity is established as royal. They are above all other created things but under the great and mighty king.
When Pharaoh installed Joseph over his kingdom he said “You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you” (Genesis 41:40). Pharaoh places Joseph as one who is right below his own throne. No one in the kingdom is higher the Joseph. Similarly, God installs humanity in the garden and install them with royal glory. They are to subdue the earth by tending and caring for it on God’s behest.
Humanity in the Garden
In the garden, as image bearers, humanity in the exercise of their dominion is to mirror the dominion of God. This is one way we know the passage is pointing us today to creation care not creation exploitation: God’s rule is just, peaceable, and righteous. God cares for even the littlest of sparrows. So should the dominion of humanity be. Furthermore, human beings are not without accountability for all their actions and tending of creation precisely because there remains a king yet higher than their rank. Their rank is a gift from the King of Kings.
In the garden, as image bearers, humanity in the exercise of their dominion is to mirror the dominion of God. This is one way we know the passage is pointing us today to creation care not creation exploitation: God’s rule is just, peaceable, and righteous.
Of course, we know how the story goes. Adam and Eve are not satisfied with their royal rank and decide they want to ascend higher and be like God. They rebel. God, in turn, banishes them from the garden. Now, all humanity is plunged into sin. As Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” the later statement being pregnant with the royal imagery from the garden of a humanity. But humanity is exalted no longer. True glory eludes us. As mirrors of God, we are marred and corrupted at best—our best days only giving faint glimpses of what could have been. Yes, human beings still bear the image of God—but we are far from this exalted status of glory and honor as originally designed. Now when humanity exercise rule and dominion it is full of corruption and devoid of true and perfect benevolence. Humans create war and violence rather than establishing peace and righteousness. We need redemption and salvation from all that we have become.
Hebrews 2 and Christ
Enter the Lord Jesus Christ. As Hebrews 2 tells us, the Lord Jesus becomes like us in every way except without sin (Heb. 2:17). Since we are children of flesh and blood, the Lord Jesus becomes flesh and blood so that he can pay the penalty for our sin (Heb. 2:14). Through his death on our behalf, he will deliver us from sin, death, and the devil (Heb. 2:14–15). As if this was not enough, the Lord Jesus Christ does still more.
Hebrews 2:6–8 shows us that the Lord Jesus Christ not only takes away sin and its punishment, he goes further and in his humanity fulfills the destiny for which God had originally created human beings. The death of Christ is not some cosmic reset button from which humanity is to try and start over again. No, the resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us that Jesus is the human who has started it for us. He triumphed where Adam failed.
Jesus is called the “firstborn” (Heb. 1:6; Col. 1:15,18), because in his humanity he is the first of the new creation in his resurrection from the dead. In his humanity, he is the highest of all the kings of the earth. In his humanity, he takes on the mantel that originally rested on the human beings in the Garden of Eden. While he had eternal glory as God’s radiance (Heb. 1:3), now his human nature is crowned with glory and honor as he is appointed our human king. He is the new and greater Adam. He is the king promised from the line of David who succeeds beyond David as David’s great Lord (Ps. 2). Jesus is God’s promised Messiah—a king over all creation but especially the king for the people of God.
This is why Hebrews combines Psalm 2:6, Psalm 110:1, and Psalm 8:4–6 all within the span of less than two chapters. God has taken the greater Son of David and set him on the royal throne (Ps. 2:6,7; Psalm 110:1). The Son has ascended up into heaven and sits at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3//Ps. 110:1). He is putting the enemies of God under the Son’s feet (Ps. 110:1) and has put all the creation under the rulership of Jesus (i.e. ‘in subjection under his feet;’ Heb. 2:8//Ps. 8:6).
Humanity in Christ
Humanity only realizes who it was always intended to be in the Lord Jesus Christ. God created human beings with an end or goal (the Greek word is telos). The goal held for us is purpose, position, and perfection. God made us with immeasurable value. We are literally the crowning achievement of his created world. But now, only in Jesus Christ is this end or telos of humanity brought to completion. God made man to exercise his reign and carry forth his rule. Now, it is in the man—who is the eternal Son of God become flesh — Jesus Christ in whom that reign is carried out. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.
Humanity only realizes who it was always intended to be in the Lord Jesus Christ. God created human beings with an end or goal (the Greek word is telos). The goal held for us is purpose, position, and perfection.
May we rejoice and sing as in the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah:
The kingdom of this world Is become the kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ …
And He shall reign for ever and ever.