Vol. 1 - No. 7
The Same Yesterday, And Today,
by Bill Crews
Hebrews 13:8 reads: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and forever.” (ASV; the KJV omits the emphasized words.)
No passage in the entire Bible is appealed to as much as this one in support of miraculous healing today. In books, tracts, magazine articles, sermons, debates and conversations it keeps surfacing as if it clearly and forever settles the matter. The argument based upon the passage goes something like this: “The Bible teaches in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Since yesterday, in the first century according to the New Testament, He healed many who were sick, He will do the same for people today, in the twentieth century, who are sick.” Does this passage teach what it is being used to teach? What is its context? I doubt that one in a thousand who thus use the verse can answer that last question. Can you? Please open your Bible and read Hebrews 13:1‑14.
What is the meaning of Hebrews 13:8? Why are those words spoken by the inspired writer? There is an obvious and direct connection with the words of the previous verse (7): “Remember them that had the rule over you, men that spake unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith.” The Hebrew saints, to whom the epistle was initially written, were to remember (keep in mind) those godly men who had the rule over them and who spoke unto them the word of God. Considering “the issue of their life,” (ASV) “the end of their conversation,” (KJV) “the outcome of their way of life.” (NASB) they are to imitate or follow their faith. BUT THEIR FAITH WAS IN JESUS CHRIST WHO DOES NOT CHANGE.
There seems to be a connection also with the ensuing verse (9): “Be not carried away by divers and strange teachings: for it is good that the heart be established by grace; not by meats, wherein they that occupied themselves were not profited.” The Hebrew saints are warned against being carried away by divers (various) and strange (alien, foreign) doctrines. They are of men, they change, and they are profitless, but Jesus Christ changes not and is of great profit.
The Hebrew saints were in danger of turning from Jesus Christ back to Judaism, especially in view of the physical appeal of that religion and their unjust suffering as Christians. The principal theme of the letter to them is the supremacy of Christ, His covenant, and His sacrifice. They are reminded that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah promised the Hebrews in the Old Covenant) and that He is unchanging and all‑sufficient. In Hebrews 13:9 “is” is not in the Greek text, but it is implied, and the ASV supplies it after “Christ.” Some writers (e.g., Marvin Vincent and Kenneth Wuest) believe it should read: “Jesus is the Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
The Hebrew saints, who had previously endured a great conflict of sufferings (read Hebrews 10:32‑39) and were sustained by their Savior, will also be sustained by that same Savior in their present conflicts. He has not changed! He is the same! Hear the writer's prayer for them in 13:20‑21: “Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well‑pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
What God has spoken through the Son does not change. “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds.” (1:1‑2) “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them. For if the word spoken through angels proved stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.” (2:1‑4) The Son is superior to the prophets, and what God has spoken through the Son is superior to what God spoke through the prophets. There is no greater law to take its place.
The Son through whom God has spoken does not change. To show the superiority of the Son over angels, several quotations are given in 1:5‑13. Among them: “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of thy hands: They shall perish; but thou continuest: And they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a mantle shalt thou roll them up. As a garment, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, And thy years shall not fail,” 1:10‑12, underlining mine, BC) Compare Micah 5:2 and John 1:1‑2, 14. Both Hebrews 1:12 and Hebrews 13:8 refer to the fact that He is not fickle, vacillating, unpredictable, unreliable, ever‑changing. He is eternal; he means what he says; He keeps His word; He is able to save and to keep; He is no respecter of persons. But all of this refers to His character or nature, and not to His administration. What is said of the Son is also said of the Father. (see Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6 and James 1:27)
“What proves too much, proves nothing” is still a very fine rule. If Hebrews 13:8 demands a repetition of some first century miracles of healing for people of the twentieth century, (most people have lost sight of the real purpose‑‑confirmation of the word‑‑of those first century miracles) then why not a repetition of these miracles? In the Old Testament: the destruction of the world by a flood; (Genesis 67) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone; (Genesis 19) the ten plagues in Egypt, (Exodus 7‑12) the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River; (Exodus 14; Joshua 3) the feeding of the Israelites with manna and quail; (Exodus 16) the preservation of their shoes and clothes for forty years; (Deuteronomy 29:5) the healing of those bitten by the vipers by looking upon the brazen serpent; (Numbers 21) the cleansing of Naaman's leprosy by dipping seven times in the Jordan; (2 Kings 5) the translation of Enoch (Genesis 5) and of Elijah; (2 Kings 2) Joshua's long day (Joshua 10) and that in Hezekiah's time; (2 Kings 20) the giving of fifteen additional years to Hezekiah; (2 Kings 20) the miraculous extension of the widow's oil and meal during a famine. (1 Kings 17) In the New Testament: the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish; (Matthew 14) the feeding of the four thousand with seven loaves and a few small fish; (Matthew 15) the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:1‑7 and in John 21:6; the half‑shekel tax paid for Peter and Jesus with a coin miraculously supplied; (Matthew 17:24‑27) the water turned to wine; (John 2) the tempest stilled; (Matthew 8:23‑26) the ear of Malchus restored; (Luke 22:50‑51) the blind made to see, the deaf made to hear, the lame made to walk, the lepers cleansed, the dead raised (the widow's son in Luke 7, the daughter of Jairus in Luke 8, Lazarus in John 11, Dorcas in Acts 9, Eutychus in Acts 20); the punitive death of Ananias and Sapphira; (Acts 5) the temporary blindness of Elymas; (Acts 13) the miracles in connection with the conversion of Cornelius, (Acts 10) and the Philippian jailor, (Acts 16) and the Ethiopian eunuch. (Acts 8)
The real lesson in Hebrews 13:8 has to do with the eternal and unchanging nature and character of Jesus, the Christ. What great comfort that is to those who would serve Him by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) more than 1900 years after His life on earth and the writing of the Hebrew epistle.