Christianity 201

December 15, 2013

My Words Will Not Pass Away

heaven_and_earthJesus’ statement:

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.”

appears in all three synoptic gospels, in Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33.

Often at this point we will look at how different translations render a passage, but in this case the translation is uniform from the KJV all the way to (more or less) The Message. When the original text doesn’t afford any translation latitude, we can be sure the clarity of the text doesn’t leave room for any deviation from taking it at face value.

Matthew Henry writes:

The word of Christ is more sure and lasting than heaven and earth.

Hath he spoken? And shall he not do it? We may build with more assurance upon the word of Christ than we can upon the pillars of heaven, or the strong foundations of the earth; for, when they shall be made to tremble and totter, and shall be no more, the word of Christ shall remain, and be in full force, power, and virtue. See 1 Pet. 1:24, 25.

The reference in question is:

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than the word of Christ; so it is expressed, Luke 16:17.

It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned. (NLT)

Compare Isa. 54:10.

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the Lord who has compassion on you.

The accomplishment of these prophecies might seem to be delayed, and intervening events might seem to disagree with them, but do not think that therefore the word of Christ is fallen to the ground, for that shall never pass away: though it be not fulfilled, either in the time or in the way that we have prescribed; yet, in God’s time, which is the best time, and in God’s way, which is the best way, it shall certainly be fulfilled. Every word of Christ is very pure, and therefore very sure.

His commentary on the parallel passage in Mark is very short, but on the Luke passage there is this amplification:

Heaven and earth shall pass away sooner than any word of mine: nay, they certainly shall pass away, but my words shall not; whether they take hold or no, they will take effect, and not one of them fall to the ground,”

I love the line “whether they take hold or no, they will take effect.”

He concludes the Luke portion of the commentary with this verse from I Sam. 3:19:

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.

When I thought of ‘none of his words falling to the ground,’ I couldn’t help but be reminded of this passage from Isaiah 55:11:

[S]o is my word that comes from my mouth;
        it does not return to me empty.
        Instead, it does what I want,
        and accomplishes what I intend. (CEB)

So when is God speaking? Is this a reference to the audible voice of God, as was heard at Jesus’ baptism? (“This is my Son in whom I well pleased.”) No, this is a reference to the Word of God spoken primarily, at the time this was written, by the prophets.

Acts 3:21 states:

…whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

Today we have those words recorded in the collection of writings we call the Bible.

Does God speak similarly through prophets who are living today? The answer to that question depends on the doctrinal framework that you or your church holds to, and we’ll have to save that question for another day!

In the meantime, we know that the “my words” which “will not pass away” include the truth of Scripture.

(Unless indicated, passages cited are NIV.)