In this epistle everything, so to speak, passes away but Christ. Before the glories of His person and offices all else fades and disappears. Whether angels, Moses, Joshua, or Aaron, they are all alike eclipsed by Him who is the brightness of the glory, and the express image of God's person. Everything, moreover, for the believers to whom the epistle was written was in transition. Even the temple ceremonial and the sacrificial services, which had been divinely given and ordered, were now to be surrendered, connected as they were with the first covenant which was made old by the new; and "that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Chap. 8:13.) In a word, God, according to His promise, was shaking, morally, both the earth and the heaven; "and this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken . . . that those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (chap. 12:26, 27); and the things that remain are all connected with "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Chap. 13:8.) It is indeed one of the characteristics of this epistle, that every thing which is introduced in connection with Christ and His finished work of redemption is eternal. We have thus eternal salvation, eternal redemption, the eternal Spirit, eternal inheritance, and the eternal (everlasting) covenant. The eternity of His person attaches to all that He secures through His death and resurrection. In the passage at the head of this paper, His eternal being as Creator is presented in contrast with creation; but whether here or in the other scriptures cited the abidingness of Christ is ministered as a sure foundation for souls to repose upon in the midst of mutation and change. The immutable Christ is the unshaken confidence of the soul, while passing through a scene of unrest, decay, and death.
It may be a difficulty with some that, while all redemptive blessings are unchangeable, the works of Christ in creation should be but transitory. Why is it, it may be enquired, if the eternal nature of His being characterises His redemptive work, that His creation work is not more permanent? The answer is found in the fact that the old creation is connected with the first man. Nothing imperfect could come from the hand of the Eternal Word; but Adam, who was constituted head of this creation, fell through disobedience, and the creation in the midst of which he was placed has come under the consequences of his sin. God bore long with man after he was a sinner; for while He revealed, even in the garden of Eden, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, and thus showed that Christ was ever the Man of His counsels, He yet patiently, and with much long-suffering, tested Adam and his race in every possible way. He tried him without law, and under law, in the wilderness, and in the land, as a pilgrim, and in the splendours of the kingdom, through Moses, Joshua, the judges and the prophets; and last of all He sent His beloved Son. The issue was one and the same under every form of trial.
With ever augmenting intensity man proved the wickedness and rebellion of his own evil heart, culminating in the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. Therein it was demonstrated, in the face of the whole universe, that the carnal mind was enmity, and nothing but enmity, against God. But even this incurable evil was used, in the grace of God, for the accomplishment of His purposes; for through the death and resurrection of Christ the righteous basis was laid for the salvation of every poor sinner who should receive God's testimony concerning His beloved Son.
On this very account, however, the cross of Christ was the end of God's trial of man; for He therein passed judgment upon all that man is, and has consequently set him aside for ever. Adam, using the name as expressive of his race, is gone for ever under judgment from the eye of God (though it is blessedly true that God still waits upon him with His messages of grace); and Christ as the second Man is now God's object, the Head of a new race, every one of whom will be conformed to the image of the Head. For Christ and His redeemed there is a new creation; and just as Christ has for ever displaced Adam, the new creation will displace the old. So true is this, that the apostle can say of believers even now, "If any man be in Christ [there is] a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17.) This is for faith; but when the Lord returns He will take His people actually out from the old things, and introduce them into the new, to which they already belong.
This will explain to us the striking language of our scripture: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands; they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail." For if it be true that Christ will return to this creation, establish His kingdom, and reign until all enemies are put under His feet, in order to make good God's character in government, and to bless His earthly people, this creation, defiled as it has been and is through man's sin, is no longer suited to Him who is the second Man out of heaven, the divine and heavenly Man. He never made these heavens and this earth for His eternal abode, but simply as a scene for the revelation of God, in and through His own person and work, for the accomplishment of His eternal purposes of grace and blessing in redemption.
The transitory character of the heavens and the earth is, however, stated here, as before said, in order to enhance the eternity of Christ's own being. This will be even more strikingly seen if we turn for a moment to the 102nd Psalm, whence the citation is made. Leaving the reader to pursue the details of this wonderful psalm for himself, we only call attention to the fact that Messiah is here looked at as rejected by those to whom He had been sent. In verses 8 - 10 He says, "Mine enemies reproach Me all the day; and they that are mad against Me are sworn against Me. For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled My drink with weeping, because of Thine indignation and Thy wrath; for Thou hast lifted Me up, and cast Me down." Then, after the expression of entire confidence in Jehovah's purposes of blessing for Zion, He adds, as concerning Himself in His rejection, "He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I said, O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days: Thy years are throughout all generations." It is in response to this cry that God addresses the Messiah, His own beloved Son, in the sorrow of His humiliation and rejection, and says, in the language of our Scripture, "Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands," etc. What a sublime contrast! Messiah is seen as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as pouring out His grief in His cry to God; and then, on the other hand, God addresses Him as Creator, and says, "Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end." It is the mystery of His person; for, as has been often noticed, the Hebrew words which are translated "Thou art the same," are in reality a divine title, indicating the unchangeable character of the divine existence. Faith alone can embrace the apparent contradiction, that the One who said in Gethsemane, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death," is really the unchangeable God; but as faith receives the revelation thus made, the heart bows in His presence with adoring gratitude and praise.
A twofold application may be made from this scripture. The Hebrew believers, as pointed out, were in a painful period of transition. Like Peter, they were called to leave the earthly accommodation of the boat - their visible ceremonials - and to walk on the water to go to Jesus - to go to Him, in other words, outside the camp. What wonder that they shrunk from the prospect! Unless, indeed, faith were in activity, they might well be daunted, for they had now no visible thing to sustain them - nothing but Christ and His word, though that was everything. It was to meet this state of soul that the apostle ministered to them of the all-sufficiency of Christ in the eternity of His being, the immutable rock on which they might safely repose, though the earth should be removed, and though the mountains should be carried into the midst of the sea. And this ministry is needed by us no less than it was by them. In another sense we are also in a time of transition, and surrounded by transitory things, and if we are not building upon Him, the Unchanging One, outside of this scene of dissolution and death, we may easily be overwhelmed by our circumstances - our wilderness circumstances. Other aspects of the ministry of Christ will be found in the succeeding chapters; but in whatever way He is presented, whether as to His person, His priesthood, His sacrifice, or His example, it is all associated with the fact that He is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Surely then our souls may rest in Him without a single fear or anxiety!
The second application may perhaps reveal the hindrance to this unspeakable blessing. The tendency of our hearts is ever to cling to what is seen; yea, it may be added, to what God has done with. These Hebrew believers, for instance, were tempted to cleave to the Jewish rites and forms - shadows of that which is realised in Christ. Even the apostles, including Paul himself, were not free from this tendency. It is the same with ourselves, both in respect of religious forms and of the things of this creation. The delivering power will be found in communion with God's thoughts concerning both the one and the other. Receiving first His thoughts concerning Christ, we shall then estimate at its proper value everything that is not of, and not suited to, Him. Christ remains ever unchangeable, and He, by the grace of God, is our indestructible foundation and our eternal portion. Knowing this in our souls, we shall not be affected either by the rapid revolution of the seasons or by the knowledge that the heavens and the earth are soon to perish and disappear. We shall rather, if Christ Himself possess our hearts, be all the more drawn up to the place where He is; and, "in spirit there already," we shall dwell before Him amidst His unchangeable things.