1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
therefore (v.1) — because of the superiority of Christ as the messenger — the Son of God through Whom God has spoken
give … heed (v.1) = hold to, turn attention to — in a practical way
drift away (v.1) = slip away, like a ring from a finger or a ship from a harbor — passing without regard
if (v.2) — fulfilled condition, not hypothetical case — “in view of the fact that”
word spoken through angels (v.2) — the Law (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19)
transgression (v.2) — the outward act of disobedience to the law — overstepping a line
disobedience (v.2) — the inward state that produces transgression — neglecting to hear
reward (v.2) = that which is due
This verse sets out a most important principle in connection with the governmental dealings of God: That principle is that the Judge of all the earth will be absolutely just in His dealings with the wicked. Though the direct reference be to His administration of the Law’s penalty in the past, yet, inasmuch as He changes not, it is strictly applicable to the great assize in the Day to come. There will be degrees of punishment, and those degrees, the sentence meted out to each rebel against God, will be on this basis, that every transgression and disobedience shall receive “a just recompense of reward.” In brief, we may say that punishment will be graded according to light and opportunity (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 12:47-48), according to the nature of the sins committed (John 19:11; Mark 12:38-40; Hebrews 10:29), according to the number of the sins committed (Romans 2:6). — An Exposition of Hebrews, by Arthur W. Pink, page 54.
we (v.3) — emphatic — we who heard the Lord speak — Jews
neglect (v.3) — not “reject,” but recognize and admit but fail to do — Used in Hebrews 8:9 of God’s response (“regarded them not”) to Israel when they forsook the Mosaic Covenant
The Greek word here rendered “neglect” is translated “made light of” in Matthew 22:5. In this latter passage the reference is to the King making a marriage for His Son, and then sending forth his servants to call them which were bidden to the wedding. But they “made light of “the King’s gracious overtures and “went their ways, one to his family, another to his merchandise.” The parable sets forth the very sin against which the apostle was here warning the Hebrews, namely, failure to give earnest heed to the things which were spoken by the Lord, and neglecting His great salvation. — Pink, page 56.
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 (Hebrews 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. — Hebrews in the Greek New Testament, by Kenneth S. Wuest, page 52.
Lord (v.3) = Jehovah
The First Testament was given by angels, the Second (New) was given by Jehovah Himself
those who heard Him (v.3) — the apostles
also bearing witness (v.4) — on word in the Greek = “joint-testimony,” “giving witness together”
gifts (v.4) = distributions, with the idea of “dividing among”
So, if the law firmly demanded obedience and justly punished disobedience, although given by inferior messengers (angels), how much more should we listen to the message given by the superior messenger, Christ?