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Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4 ESV)

The author appears to be arguing in the past tense, as if to say that every transgression or disobedience has already received a just retribution, but considering the fact that the day of judgment has not yet taken place, it doesn't seem like that is possible.

What does the author of Hebrews mean?

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Are you asking how could capital punishment be a 'just retribution" for sin when we know that only eternal punishment is really the proper punishment? –  Mike Feb 18 '13 at 13:25
    
The meat of the question is how, specifically, can it be said that every transgression did receive a just retribution when it appears that there are yet some transgressions which have not. –  Ben Mordecai Feb 18 '13 at 23:37

3 Answers 3

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The note in NAB explains this:

The author now makes a transition into exhortation, using an a fortiori argument (as at Heb 7:21–22; 9:13–14; 10:28–29; 12:25). The word announced through angels (Heb 2:2), the Mosaic law, is contrasted with the more powerful word that Christians have received (Heb 2:3–4). Christ’s supremacy strengthens Christians against being carried away from their faith.

There is also a reference to Acts 7:38, 53; Gal 3:19.

Acts 7:38 It was he who, in the assembly in the desert, was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our ancestors, and he received living utterances to hand on to us. 39 “Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will be our leaders. As for that Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ 41 So they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. ...

The letter to the Hebrews is directed to an audience familiar with the Old Testament. The author is calling to mind all the past retributions for transgressions against the Mosaic law. "If then it was so, when God announced it through angels, will it not be all the more so now, since it has been announced through Christ Himself?"

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In what way does the author of Hebrews argue that every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution?

First What you have to know what you are transgressing, understand are you transgressing the word of God? You will be judged by every word that comes out of your mouth. That is the seed you planted and that will be you harvest. A just retribution. How else could God be true to his word. I will sow that my retribution will be righteous not unrighteous. God does not watch every body like you think he watches over his word so If his word is coming out of your mouth love, joy, peace, healing, Good things, God's will, then retribution can be a good thing, That is what his point was. Not that your bad, but you are saying out your mouth is make the power God useless in your life. The author of Hebrews is saying You can do this, look at the people who went before you and they had less than you have. Point is you have a greater covenant with God than they had, and they will expect more out of you. again sow wisely Know what you are Mark-4

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The קל וחומר argument commenced by the author in Hebrews 1 and continuing into Hebrews 2 is intended to distinguish the superiority of the Son from the angels.

Regarding the Son, he mentions that:

  • he became "so much better than the angels" becuase "he inherited a more distinguished name than them" (Heb. 1:4)
  • "all the angels of God worship him" (Heb. 1:6)
  • the angels are created spirits and ministers (Heb. 1:7, 1:14), while the Son is God (Heb. 1:8-9)
  • The Son is the Creator and is immutable (Heb. 1:10-12)

"The word having been spoken by angels" (ὁ δι᾽ ἀγγέλων λαληθεὶς λόγος) refers to the Torah of Moshe (cp. Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19).

If the Torah of Moshe was given by angels, and the Son is superior to the angels, then the word spoken by the Son (Heb. 1:2) is likewise superior to the Torah of Moshe. Therefore, the people should pay more attention to the word spoken by the Son (Heb. 2:1). He reasons that if the Israelites received a just punishment for transgressions under the Torah of Moshe, then how much more shall they receive punishment under the Law of Christ, for Christ is superior to Moshe and his word was confirmed by signs, miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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