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Hebrews 2:2

ESV For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,
NIV For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment,
NASB For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every violation and act of disobedience received a just punishment,
CSB For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment,
NLT For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.
KJV For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;

What does Hebrews 2:2 mean?

In verse 1, the writer of Hebrews described the most basic means of holding to the truth without "drifting," which is to pay close attention. In particular, the readers of this letter need to be concentrating more on truth than they have been. This is part of the first warning given in this book, and the gentlest. Later cautions will be more strident and involve higher consequences. The second warning, for example, occupies the entire third and fourth chapters of this book.

The consequence of drifting from truth into error is described in verses 2 and 3. If the message from God is true, and those who violate that message are punished, then those who fail to pay attention to the message are guaranteed trouble. God has spoken to His people (Hebrews 1:1), most recently through Christ (Hebrews 1:2). Those who broke God's commandments in the past were given exactly what they deserved. Verse 3 will point out that those who ignore the message of Christ have no real hope of avoiding the same fate.

The two words used here, referring to the behavior which is penalized, are important to understand. These are parabasis, translated as "transgression," and parakoē, translated as "disobedience." The Greek word for disobedience implies a deliberate, willful act. However, the term for "transgression" relates to the idea of "crossing a line." This term, in other words, includes unintentional mistakes as well as purposeful sins. This is part of the reality we live in: defying the truth, on purpose or not, will always result in consequences. Sincere or not, if we drift from the truth, we're going to get ourselves into trouble.
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