What does Hebrews 2:3 mean?
ESV: 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,
NIV: how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
NASB: how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,
CSB: how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? This salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
NLT: So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?
KJV: How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
NKJV: 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,
Verse Commentary:
Verse 1 through 4 are words of caution. Those who are shallow or casual in their approach to the faith are prone to "drifting" from truth into error. According to the writer of Hebrews, this is not a small problem. God's message has always proven itself true (Hebrews 2:2), and that message currently comes through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1–2). In the past those who moved away from God's will suffered the consequences (Hebrews 2:3). With that in mind, what hope would a person have of avoiding disaster if they don't pay close attention to the truth (Hebrews 2:1)?

Verse 1 admonished the reader to pay close attention to the gospel message. This verse emphasizes this by using the Greek word amelēsantes. This means "to make light of, ignore, treat carelessly, or neglect." The image is that of carelessness and apathy, as opposed to diligence. Verse 2 used two distinct Greek words for violations of God's message, including both deliberate and accidental offenses. Errors made "by mistake," as a result of negligence, are still violations of the will of God.

There is sometimes debate over whether this verse is a reference to trouble in our earthly lives or eternal damnation. Clearly, the writer of Hebrews is speaking to fellow Christians. Verse 1 of this chapter, for instance, repeatedly uses the concept of "we." And yet, there are certainly ways in which ignoring the gospel can lead to eternal death, for those who are not saved. In short, this means that this warning is both about earthly and eternal consequences.

For the saved believer, salvation is secure. It cannot be lost (John 10:28–29; Jude 1:24). However, Christians still live in a world of cause and effect. "Neglecting" the truths of the faith and falling into sin will always have consequences, from earthly problems to the loss of eternal rewards. For the unsaved person, neglecting Jesus Christ—treating Him with apathy or carelessness—means certain and eternal death (John 3:36).

This message of salvation was proclaimed not only by Jesus, but also passed along by those who personally witnessed His ministry (Luke 1:1–4; 2 Peter 1:16).
Verse Context:
Hebrews 2:1–4 is the first of five warnings against spiritual error found in this book. Since Jesus is God's message to mankind, ignoring Him will bring disaster. The writer of Hebrews points out that those who violated the Old Covenant suffered punishment. Therefore, those who violate the New Covenant can expect consequences. This gospel has been confirmed by witnesses and miracles, and needs to be given closer attention by the reader. Whether by accident, or on purpose, breaking God's laws always results in disaster.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 2 begins with a strong warning about the dangers of apostasy. Chapter 1 opened by explaining that Jesus Christ is the message of God. This chapter points out that those who have faith in Christ, but drift from that truth, will face dire consequences. The rest of the passage continues a series of proofs begun in Chapter 1. These are quotes from the Old Testament, used to prove that the Messiah is not an angel, but is superior to any created being. He is, in fact, identical to God. And yet, He became fully human in order to serve as our perfect high priest.
Chapter Context:
The first two chapters of Hebrews are meant to prove that Jesus Christ is superior to angels. Rather than seeing Jesus as a created being, or some form of exalted angel, He should be viewed as what He is: identical with God. These two chapters use extensive Old Testament quotes to prove this point. The first few verses of chapter 2 feature the first of several warnings within the book about the dangers of apostasy. Later chapters will demonstrate that Christ is also superior to other prophets, spiritual leaders, and priests.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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