The immutable God

There are many things which distinguish our one true God from the plethora of false gods out there.  Whether his love, his mercy, his truth or anything else about him, the biggest distinction from other gods is his permanence.  He is the God who endures, and everything about him endures as well.  His precepts never change; his laws never go out of fashion.  This permanence gives us every reason to believe and trust in him, and it is an anchor to our faith.  Without it, there would be no reason or benefit to following the Lord.  It is so important to review the scriptures which tell us and remind us about the eternal quality of God because it keeps us going.  Our comfort rests in the fact that there is nothing temporary about our God.  We serve the One who does not change, and knowing that should help us to remain faithful.

Isa. 40:6-8

The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”

The world around us presents us with many facts and truths daily.  When we go outside and see a mountain in the distance or feel the grass beneath our feet, we are experiencing things which are real and true.  Putting aside the theoretical arguments regarding whether we live in a real world or some kind of illusion, our senses tell us plainly what is physically around us.  While we might see that mountain or that grass as something fixed and permanent simply because it is factually there, the truth is much different.  That grass appeared at some time, and it will wither away at another time.  Even that gargantuan mountain had a beginning and will have an end.  The oceans in which we swim and the heavens through which we fly are there now, but they were once nonexistent and one day will be made new.  We might be able to rely on these things temporarily, but we cannot rely on them permanently.  The word of God, however, is much different.

We cannot see or feel the word of God.  We can read his truths and hold them in our hearts, but we cannot experience that with our senses.  Yet, they are more real and more permanent than anything we can see or touch or taste in this world.  When He makes a promise, it is a promise which has no end.  It will be fulfilled, and it always was planned to be fulfilled.  The commandments which illustrate the character of God for us in words we can understand always will be true because the character exhibited in those words does not change.  Everything God has spoken about his love and mercy and faithfulness and holiness always has been true and will be true.  Every prophecy spoken through his prophets will be fulfilled.  Whether God has spoken mercy or judgment to come, it will come.  This enduring quality to God’s word should keep us on that narrow path because we see how so much of this already has proven itself to be true.  It shows us that our hope as He has spoken is sure to become real.

Tit. 3:4-7

[W]hen the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The pleasures of this world have an allure because they appeal to the sinful nature we all have within us.  Whether the aim is physical gratification or an inflation of pride, the pleasures we satisfy with the things of this world do not last. A simple illustration is that of the satisfied glutton.  We know that food can fill us one moment then leave us hungry the next.  There is no meal which lasts forever.  All the other pleasures we experience in this world have that same temporary quality, and the question is why we chase that at the expense of something eternal.  Riches and popularity are good only as long as one is alive.  Even when we experience these temporary pleasures, they are so often fleeting beyond a moment.  Take a breath, and the experience has passed, leaving us with only a memory.

God has waiting for those who are faithful a much greater experience than all the pleasures of this world combined and compounded exponentially.  There is an eternal life up ahead filled with things our limited minds cannot even imagine.  It would be more than enough for the Lord to give us only a short time in such a perfect place, but He gives us much more than that.  Perfect eternity with him is not about a momentary experience or the brief satisfaction of a desire.  Perfect eternity with the Lord is about experiencing a completely new existence which has a beginning for us but no end.  All the temporary worldly pleasures we satisfied will not compare to what is ahead in that life, and I wonder whether we ever would think about them there.  What place do mere memories of the temporary and truly unsatisfying pleasures of this life have in a place where we will be completely fulfilled?

Heb. 5:5-11

So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”  As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

I think it is rather interesting when we speak of Jesus becoming anything.  For example, we might say that He became our Savior when He died and rose again then ascended to heaven.  Referring to the above passage, we might say that He became a priest in the order of Melchizedek as his Father proclaimed.  This passage even tells us that He learned obedience, was perfected and became the author of salvation.  This kind of language seems to indicate that Jesus was incomplete at some point and then had to change to become what was necessary to complete his work.  Yet, we know that the Son had his beginning in the beginning and is as eternal as the Father.  We also know that Jesus did not become perfect as if He was imperfect at some point but then gained perfection.  Jesus is what He always has been and what He always will be even if we saw him become something over time.  He never has changed from who and what He always was, is and will be.

Jesus lived a human life which had a beginning and an end.  He started that life as a helpless babe and had to learn obedience in his time here.  He learned it so well that He obeyed unto death, and that showed the perfection of that life.  Once He passed through this life having suffered through every temptation yet never sinning, we can say that He became perfect, but He really just showed his perfection.  We experienced in time a period before Christ gained eternal salvation for us and a period after that moment.  This is what we see in time, but the plan of salvation sits outside time.  That plan existed before the foundations of the earth were laid, and it is not subject to time.  Christ’s work on the cross was set in motion well before the earth in which the cross was staked ever existed.  Eternal salvation means that those who are saved will be saved forever, but that plan of salvation is just as eternal as is the guarantee of its success. 

Psa. 145:10-13

All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, and Your saints shall bless You.  They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

For those who study world history, the writing is on the wall for every earthly kingdom in existence.  Each one has had a beginning, and many already have seen their end.  Some kingdoms which appeared to be so powerful and advanced compared to the rest of the world might have been expected to last forever.  Ancient Egypt and ancient Rome quickly come to mind.  At their height, these kingdoms truly were conquering their known world and acquiring vast lands beyond what most governments or peoples could dream.  Yet, these kingdoms today are only found in books and artifacts.  While some of their citizens might have expected their rule to be eternal, we might see such a thought as laughable today.  The national and governmental structures in the world at this moment might last a lifetime or more, but we have seen too many changes to think any kingdom here can operate in perpetuity.

There are people today who live in fear of being overtaken by others.  There are wars and invasions happening right now.  Whether one will be victorious always is a question until that conflict meets its certain end.  In the meantime, there will be apprehension regarding whether that small world as you know it will remain.  With God, we have no such concerns.  Even when his Son was hanging dead and breathless on a cross, there was no question about the eternal quality of God’s kingdom.  We can rest assured that his reign will be forever.  This does not merely speak about the eternal years to come in that perfect kingdom, but it also speaks about the battles we fight today in this temporary and imperfect world.  We know that we will win, and that should give us confidence to continue the fight.  Our God is the only commander who can say without a doubt that his will be the victory each and every time.

Rev. 22:1-5

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.  There shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light.  And they shall reign forever and ever.

This small and incomplete picture of the life waiting ahead for those who love the Lord gives us a glimpse at what we will have then.  We might focus on the fact that we will reign with the Lord forever because that is an incredible thing. We might focus on the tree which never fails to bear fruit or the river which runs eternally with the waters of life.  We see that God himself will be our light in that place, reliable and perfectly bright.  It is expected for us to look forward to all of the things awaiting us there.  Even Jesus spoke of preparing a dwelling place for those who love him, and many scriptures describe the rewards awaiting the faithful.  There is so much for us to see and touch and gain and experience there, but eternity is not just about what will be there.  When we review the condition of this world and of humanity in the here and now, we begin to realize that eternity is just as much about what will not be there.

This world is corrupted, and we are corrupted as well.  We might long for things which we do not have here, but I know that we also wish much of this world would be gone.  Our perfect eternity will be devoid of disease.  There will be no depression and no cancer.  We will not experience conflict or war.  Even the minor pains and inconveniences of this life will be gone.  More than that, there will be no need for hope.  This might seem counterintuitive, but our hope rests in the promise of that eternity.  This means that arriving there and attaining that fulfills our hope.  No one hopes for that which he has, and we will have everything there.  There will be no reason to hope for anything more in the future because we will have completion in the present and forever.  When all the darknesses of this world are taken away, all that will remain is every perfect light of God’s love.

The immutable nature of God is a characteristic on which our faith relies.  If his word can change, then we cannot trust it.  If our future hope is no less temporary than this world, then it is no more valuable.  If our Lord is fickle, then we never know who He will be when we approach.  If God’s kingdom can fall, then we might be fighting a losing battle.  If any modicum of imperfection from this world is awaiting us in that eternal life, we are no better off.  It is God’s eternal quality which allows us to rely on such an incredibly seemingly impossible hope.  The gods whose words are temporary and untrue, and whose existence is a mere invention of man, will be shown for what they are.  Likewise, the God we serve will be shown for who He is and for all to see and proclaim it.  He will be praised and worshiped forever, and no creature will be able to deny his great immutable nature.