By John LaVier
(Written May 1953)
A verse that has been much misunderstood is Hebrews 13:8. There we read: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Along with this verse we ought to read the verse following, which says, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines,” for many divers and strange doctrines have been taught using Hebrews 13:8 as a proof text. There are those who say that since Jesus Christ is the same, we should expect Him to work in the same manner today as He did in the days of yore. They are trying to duplicate the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth and the result is confusion and fanaticism.
Jesus Christ is ever the same insofar as His essential character and deity are concerned. He is the unchanging One, reminding us of Psalm 102:25-27, “Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end.” Yes, He is ever the same, and He could truly say, “I am the Lord, I change not.” He is the Eternal Christ, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord God Almighty.
But though Christ is the same as to His Person, even the most casual study of the Word ought to convince us that His program for His people is not always the same. When Christ was here upon earth He was a minister of the circumcision (Rom. 15:8), sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). If He is still in this character today there is not much hope for the Gentiles. He was in the midst of Israel as their Messiah and King, and they were preaching the gospel of the kingdom and all the kingdom signs were being manifested. However, Israel would not receive Him as King, and so the kingdom program was postponed. After the death and resurrection of Christ, and after Israel refused the offer of repentance in the book of Acts, God turned away from the Jew and turned to the Gentile. Then He brought in the dispensation of grace, the Secret made known through Paul, and what He is doing today is something far different than what He was doing when the Lord Jesus Christ was here upon earth.
In Matthew 9:35 we read that Jesus went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Then in Matthew 10:5-7 He commissioned the disciples, commanding them not to go to the Gentiles, but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and they were to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Now this is certainly not God’s message for the present dispensation. Instead of preaching the gospel of the kingdom today we are to preach the gospel of the grace of God, and that is an entirely different thing. The gospel of the kingdom had to do with the establishment here upon earth of the visible, Messianic kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament Scriptures, with Israel in the place of supremacy as the head and not the tail. The gospel of the grace of God is God’s good news that while Israel is for a season set aside, He is reaching out to all mankind, and that today “there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him, and whosoever (Jew or Gentile) shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:12). God is willing to save by grace any sinner who will put their trust in His Son. We are saved by grace, apart from Israel’s law and apart from human works of any kind, and it is through faith, without sight or signs of any kind.
When the Lord was here on earth He was presented as King, the promised Messiah and Redeemer of Israel. When He came into Jerusalem in lowly humiliation, riding on an ass’s colt, the people went forth to meet Him, and cried, “Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). Now we see Him in a new position, in heavenly exaltation, at God’s right hand, and He is not there as King of Israel but as Head of the Church, His Body. Now those who are saved are likewise made to sit at God’s right hand, as members of Christ’s Body, with a heavenly hope and calling. There is assuredly a big difference between the kingdom to be established here on earth, and the Body of Christ completed and caught up in the rapture to meet the Lord in the air and to be forever with Him in glory.
Yes, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and He never changes, but He has surely changed His program for His people in this dispensation.