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By G.Campbell Morgan.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day,
and for ever” (Heb. 13 v8).
The closing chapter of the letter to the Hebrews contains instructions based upon all the teaching that has come before. Faith in God, shown in obedience to His revelation, is seen to be the secret of life. God has spoken. People have heard and when they have believed what God has had to say, whether in times past through the prophets, or now in His final statement in His Son, they have found the secret of life when they have believed and obeyed.
Then comes this great declaration, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever”, or slightly to change the wording, “and unto the ages”.
This is the final great statement in the book of what God is saying to us in His Son. There can be no change, because He is changeless. While referring to Him in the present today, the writer links the statement with the past, yesterday, and unto the ages to come. The reference to yesterday includes not merely the period of God’s word to men, but the far-flung mystery of which we can only speak of as ages past. The reference to the future shows that in Him all life is to be fulfilled not here and now alone, but unto the ages.
Jesus is a human name, yet full of great meaning. The name Joshua (Jesus) was given by Moses to the man who was to succeed him. It is a name in which certain parts of the Divine name, Yahweh, and certain parts of this man’s original name Hoshea, were linked together. Its meaning is salvation by Jehovah. The angel said to Joseph, “You are to give him the name JESUS, because He will save His people from their sins”.
When we use the name Jesus our attention is focussed upon the human. We have the whole of the introduction in Hebrews 1 centering our attention upon the glory of the Person of the Son. Then, says the writer, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2 v9).
When we turn to the title Christ, we find that it is first used in this book in chapter three and verse six, “Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house. And we are His house”.
Now, says the writer, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day and unto the ages”. This Person is deﬁned for us by a name that identifies Him closely to our human nature, but the name which nevertheless has meaning concerning the purpose of His incarnation, "You are to give Him the name JESUS, for He shall save”.
He is also the “Christ”, the Messiah, the One who is at once King and Priest. This is the One concerning whom the writer makes the declaration that He is “the same yesterday, to-day and unto the ages”.
The Person introduced is according to the opening of the letter a Son, the Heir of all things, through whom God made the universe. He has radiant glory, is the very Image of the Divine, He upholds all things by the word of His power and made purification for sins. This is Jesus, whom people saw, heard speak with a human voice, and He is the Christ.
The Eternal God revealed Himself in Jesus. The Inﬁnite Word of God came to the level where it was possible for ﬁnite eyes to see Him, and in this way to be introduced to the inﬁnite.
It was not the teaching of Jesus that appealed to people but His humanity. He was irresistible. It is impossible to read the narratives without hearing the tramp of the crowds following Him. People found in Him a merging of grace and truth, sweetness and strength, meekness and majesty, light and love. Yesterday, then, He appealed to people by His sheer humanity.
In the title Christ we have a recognition of how He appealed to humanity in its need. Humanity's need is revealed in the two words, sin and sorrow. Sorrow is the result of sin. We watch Him then in the world where sin and sorrow abound.
With regard to sin we see that He never excused it. We speak to-day of necessary evils. Such a thought never occupied His mind. It is indeed a contradiction of terms according to Him. What is necessary cannot be evil. What is evil can never be necessary.
He never excused sin, but He never abandoned the sinner. We sometimes have heard the phrase, a hopeless case. That phrase had no place in His thinking. There were no hopeless cases as He looked at people. The story of His dealings with men and women reveals His optimism in the presence of all human failure and sin. However evil a man might be, however low a woman might have sunk, He treated them as saveable.
With regard to sorrow, He was Himself a “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief”, and in His dealing with others He never ignored sorrow, but neither for Himself nor for others did He submit to it. He never treated it as something which should fill us with despair.
Thus we see Him ‘yesterday’ appealing to humanity by His own humanity, and facing the conditions of sin and sorrow, never excusing the sin or abandoning the sinner, never ignoring sorrow or admitting that it was the final word. We see that He was ever creating new surprises in the minds of those about Him.
The writer affirms that He is the same to-day, that is, the same in these essential matters. We realise that there is a difference between to-day and yesterday. In the days of His flesh He was limited by time and space. Knowing this, before He left His disciples, He said to them, "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you”. He is no longer with us as He was with those early disciples in bodily form, but, in all the essential things that He demonstrated then, He is with us still. We know Him through the Gospels, and all our thinking must for ever be conditioned by their revelation.
He still appeals to humanity. When Jesus is revealed He remains as attractive to human nature now as He was then. Let the simple story be told, and, whether they believe or not, people see the beauty of the Person.
He remains the same in His attitude towards sin, He never excuses it, and hypocrisy is impossible in His presence. Perhaps the chief and most radiant glory is the fact that He is the same in that He does not abandon us if we have sinned. He is still the same in His attitude towards sorrow. He never ignores it. If Mary is weeping at His feet for her dead brother, He will weep with her, even though He is Master of life and death.
I prefer the more literal translation “unto the ages” because it attempts no mathematical measurement. It is poetically suggestive. The ages come and pass, each having its own nature, its own period of duration, its own peculiar forces and values. The writer seems to see them all generated in succession, and encompassed into one age. This is the phrase employed by the writer, when looking into the future he declares that Jesus Christ is the same. At the beginning of the letter he had declared the ages were fashioned through the Son. He now affirms that through them all He remains the same. Whatever the future may have in store He will ever be the Revealer of truth, and the Source of grace.
Through Him God has spoken to us, and we need to understand what He said in the Son more perfectly, and so grow up into Him in all things in knowledge and experience.
We are all conscious of change. It is at once the salt and the poison of life. As salt, it prevents corruption. If we knew nothing of change along the level of our human experience it would indeed be a terrible thing. But it is also the very poison of life, as it interferes with our arrangements, and our progress. It is because of this that the hymn writer said, "Change and decay in all around I see”. But observe carefully that this statement was made to lead to the great appeal, ‘'O Thou who changes not, abide with me”.
In all human life we need a centre of permanence, that to which we can fasten our lives, and know that it abides. We need also a secret of perennial freshness. Both are found in Him. I change, He changes not. Moreover, He is the Secret of perennial freshness. There is never a day in the loneliness of our own situation when, if we abide in Him, He does not come to us with some new glory, some new beauty.
Thus the final word of God to us all is spoken in a Son, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, to-day and unto the ages.
From: “God’s Last Word to Man”.
* * * * * * * * *
THE EDITOR”S LETTER.
Another year is drawing to a close and the return of the King is ever nearer. He has said, “Yes, I am coming soon” and our response is “Amen, come Lord Jesus”. The years come and pass and it is all too easy to become complacent about the promise of His return and like the ‘foolish virgins’ be unprepared.
The Lord Jesus has promised to return, God has spoken, and we wait for His promise to be fulfilled.
All may seem in tumult and so few want anything to do with the Lord Jesus, so it is all the more important that we walk closely with Him and seek to make Him known.
Lift up your hearts, the day is at hand.
In the expectation of His return,