Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.
It is important to remember leaders. But they come and go, Zec 1:5. Just as God promised to Joshua, “I will never fail you nor forsake you” (cf. v5), so Jesus Christ is ever the same. Cf. Heb 1:8-12. The language here is reminiscent of Ps 102:27 and Isa 48:12: that such qualities are applied without any sense of incongruity to Jesus says much for the biblical doctrine of the Person of Christ. See Rev 1:18.
In context, this verse teaches that ‘he who yesterday was the source and object of the triumphant faith of those leaders who instructed them in the word of God…is still today the same all-sufficient and all-powerful Redeemer and Lord, and will continue so for ever.’ (Hughes, who quotes Herveus: ‘The same Christ who was with them is with you, and will be with those who come after us, even to the end of the age. Yesterday he was with the fathers; today he is with you; and he will be with your posterity for evermore.’)
‘The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has just been recalling memories of the first apostles of the gospel. Many of them were dead. Those who had seen Christ, and who had listened to him, became day by day fewer in number. The flux of time, and the ravages of persecution, had done their work in thinning out the illustrious band. More than one soul had been dismayed and discouraged, and therefore it was necessary to recall to the minds of all that, though men may come and men may go, the cause of Christ is immortal.’ (Biblical Illustrator)
This verse, although a first sight appearing out of the blue, is relevant in its succeeding as well as its preceding context. ‘If Jesus Christ is unchanging, so also is the truth concerning him.’ (Hughes)
In the original, there is no verb in this verse. The ‘is’ is implied.
Jesus Christ – The first is Lord’s personal name; the equivalent of ‘Joshua’, meaning ‘Saviour’, ‘Deliverer’, Mt 1:21. The second is not really a name at all, but rather a title, meaning ‘the anointed one; the Messiah’. See Mt 16:16 Lk 4:18. ‘Jesus was the name by which he was known from the day of his incarnation, while Christ was the name by which he was called from the day of his resurrection.’ (Loane)
The same – unchangeable in his person, his power, his purposes, his promises, and his presence.
Jesus Christ is immutable in his teaching, Mt 24:35. Not only has his teaching been faithfully preserved for posterity, but that teaching has timeless authority.
He is immutable in his person. “Before Abraham was, I am.” Many have sought immortality, but Jesus lives for ever. Look at photographs taken of yourself over the years. How you have changed! But Jesus changes not.
He is immutable in his power. Yesterday he made the world. Today he governs it. Tomorrow he will judge it.
He is immutable in his promises. Many are the broken promises in this life. But ‘all the promises of God find their “Yes” in him’. He has promised, “I am with you, to the end of the age.”
He is immutable in his presence. He is the same yesterday, to our fathers, today, to ourselves, and tomorrow, to our children.
He is immutable in his work. Heb 7:24. For three short years he worked on earth. Yet his achievement stands for ever.
This is in contrast to our changeableness and fickleness. ‘What seems more permanent than the everlasting hills or the never-ending skies? But he laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of his hands. ‘They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’ Psa 102:26f.
‘Jesus Christ is timeless. Though born into a first-century Palestinian culture, he belongs to every culture. He is not dated. He speaks to all people in their vernacular. Christ is our contemporary.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 66)
If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, then give no hearing to ‘new Christs’ and ‘new gospels’. Because Jesus does not change, the religion of Jesus does not change in its essentials either, v9.
If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever, then don’t put you confidence in the changing and decaying things of this world.
Yesterday – from eternity past, Jn 8:58, and in the days of his flesh, 2:9; 5:7f.
Today – as our High Priest in heaven, 4:15f. The resurrection did not rob him of his humanity, Lk 24:39. Eternity past is gone; eternity future is yet to come. But today, now, at this very moment we can put our faith in the one who is unchangeable in his person, unshakeable in his purposes, unswerving in his promises. Note the emphasis on today in Heb 3:7.
For ever – to secure our final salvation, 7:25; 9:28. It is ‘this same Jesus’ who ascended to heaven who will rise from his throne and return in glory, Acts 1:11
‘We may enquire whether the idea of changelessness exhausts the meaning here. If yesterday refers to the immediate past of our high priest, the whole statement may, in fact, be referrring to the sequence of his acts for men, a past sacrifice, a present intercession and a future consummation. In that case it would stress that Jesus Christ need never be replaced.’ (Guthrie) As Raymond Brown puts it, ‘in the great yesterday of world history he died for them as the unique sacrifice. Today he is the forerunner who has already entered heaven and is even now interceding at God’s right hand. The future is known fully to him. He lives for ever, the Lord of history who will certainly return, 10:37, for thos “who are eagerly waiting for him,” 9:28.’
‘The Jesus Christ (the full name being given, to mark with affectionate solemnity both his person and his office) who supported your spiritual rulers through life even unto their end “yesterday” (in times past), being at once “the Author and the Finisher of their faith,” (Heb 12:2) remains still the same Jesus Christ “to-day,” ready to help you also, if like them you walk by “faith” in him. Compare “this same Jesus,” Acts 1:11. He who yesterday (proverbial for the past time) suffered and died, is to-day in glory. (Rev 1:18) “As night comes between yesterday and to-day, and yet night itself is swallowed up by yesterday and to-day, so the”suffering”did not so interrupt the glory of Jesus Christ which was of yesterday, and that which is to-day, as not to continue to be the same. He is the same yesterday, before he came into the world, and to-day, in heaven. Yesterday in the time of our predecessors, and to-day in our age” BENGEL. So the doctrine is the same, not variable: this verse thus forms the transition between Heb 13:7 and Heb 13:9. He is always “the same.” (Heb 1:12) The same in the Old and in the New Testament.’ (JFB)
‘The evident design of this independent proposition here is, to encourage them to persevere by showing that their Saviour was always the same; that he who had sustained his people in former times was the same still, and would be the same for ever. The argument here, therefore, for perseverance is founded on the immutability of the Redeemer. If he were fickle, vacillating, changing in his character and plans; if to-day he aids his people, and to-morrow will forsake them; if at one time he loves the virtuous, and at another equally loves the vicious; if he formed a plan yesterday which he has abandoned today; or if he is ever to be a different being from what he is now, there would be no encouragement to effort. Who would know what to depend on? Who would know what to expect tomorrow? For who could have any certainty that he could ever please a capricious or a vacillating being? Who could know how to shape his conduct if the principles of the Divine administration were not always the same? At the same time, also, that this passage furnishes the strongest argument for fidelity and perseverance, it is an irrefragable proof of the divinity of the Saviour. It asserts immutability-sameness in the past, the present, and to all eternity-but of whom can this be affirmed but God? It would not be possible to conceive of a declaration which would more strongly assert immutability than this.’ (Barnes)
Writing of Jesus as a friend, J.C. Ryle says, ‘The Lord Jesus is “a friend who never changes.” There is no fickleness about him: those whom he loves, he loves to the end. Husbands have been known to forsake their wives; parents have been known to cast off their children; human vows and promises of faithfulness have often been forgotten. Thousands have been neglected in their poverty and old age, who were honored by all when they were rich and young. But Christ never changed his feelings towards one of his friends. He is “the same yesterday and today and forever.”‘
‘The beauty and loveliness of all other things is fading and perishing; but the loveliness of Christ is fresh to all eternity: the sweetness of the best creatures is a fading flower; if not before, yet certainly at death it must fade away. Job 4:21 “Does not their excellency, which is in them, go away?” Yes, yes, whether natural excellencies of the body, or acquired endowments of the mind, lovely features, amiable qualities, attracting excellencies; all these like pleasant flowers are withered, faded, and destroyed by death; “but Christ is still the same, yesterday, today, and for ever.”‘ (Flavel)
‘See the excellence of the divine nature in its immutability. This is the glory of the Godhead. Mutableness denotes weakness, and is not in God, who is ‘the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ Heb 13:8. Men are fickle and mutable, like Reuben, ‘unstable as water.’ Gen 49:4. They are changeable in their principles. If their faces altered as fast as their opinions, we should not know them. Changeable in their resolutions; as the wind that blows in the east, presently turns about to the west. They resolve to be virtuous, but quickly repent of their resolutions. Their minds are like a sick man’s pulse, which alters every half hour. An apostle compares them to waves of the sea, and wandering stars. Jude 12. They are not pillars in God’s temple, but reeds. Others are changeable in their friendship. They quickly love and quickly hate. Sometimes they will put you in their bosom, then excommunicate you out of their favour. They change as the chameleon, into several colours, but God is immutable.’ (Thomas Watson)
By the way, this verse does not teach that God has no interest in time.