Summary: The message is a study of the permanence of God’s Word.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Among the many comforting words spoken by the Master for the encouragement of His people, the words of this text must assuredly rank among the most precious. Many Christians consider them seminal assurance. The comfort derived from these words may prove false, however. What I mean is that whereas we focus on the need to be comforted through the immediate words of Him in whom we have believed, the context dictates something different, though equally important.
There is great comfort in our Lord’s glorious promise that His people have not been forgotten. “‘If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” [JOHN 14:3-6]. The promise is iterated in another form when the Lord promised that He would not leave us as orphans [JOHN 14:18].
One other, especially comforting, promise has been recorded in JOHN 10:27-30. That promise, beloved as it is and familiar to the people of God, testifies, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Surely, you will agree with me that these are comforting words. They give believers confidence in the world and courage to stand when every foundation seems to turn to dust.
Recognise that each of these statements expressing Christ’s concern for His people is an eschatological statement. His promise that we cannot be snatched from the Father’s hand is a statement of the eternal power of the Father, even throughout eternity. His promise that we will not be left as orphans is an eschatological statement that during His physical absence His Spirit is with us. His promise that He is “the way, the truth and the life” is an eschatological statement based upon the promise that He is coming again. Just so, the promise of the certainty of His words is an eschatological statement.
THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE WILL NOT ENDURE — “Heaven and earth will pass away.” Even were true the material universe to continue indefinitely, it is certain that none of us will endure in this present condition. However, the Second Law of Thermodynamics dictates that this present material universe, of necessity, must end. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a universal law with application to every facet of the material world. Though the Law does not predict when the end of all things will occur, it does point to the certainty of the end of all things. Every indicator received through the five senses warns of the impermanence of this material universe; and our own inexorable march toward eternity testifies to the dissolution of all that we know and now observe.
Peter testified to that truth when he wrote, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” [2 PETER 3:10].
Speaking through Isaiah, God makes a similar affirmation.
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and they who dwell in it will die in like manner.”
The Psalmist, in the 102nd PSALM, addresses God, saying:
“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe,
and they will pass away.”
[PSALM 102:25, 26]
Likewise, God asserts that the heavens will be destroyed.
“All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall,
as leaves fall from the vine,
like leaves falling from the fig tree.”
The Word of God identifies created things—the universe and all that is in it—as the “things that are shaken” [see HEBREWS 12:27], and by implication, “the things that cannot be shaken” are those things that are eternal—God and Heaven itself. This imagery helps to sift through what is valued by man and what should be valued. Anything you can handle, taste, see or smell, everything that creates a sound, is doomed for dust. Only that which is of the Spirit is eternal. Of course, the things that are created, that which can be shaken, may be used for God’s purpose—for His glory—but we must be cautious not to become too attached to the things of this dying earth. Christians must learn this valuable lesson to distinguish between permanent and transient.