Sermon #154 Luke Sermons
Title: that which shall pass away
and that which
shall not pass away
Text: Luke 21:33
Subject: The Permanence of Christ’s Words
Date: Sunday Evening — July 17, 2005
Tape # Y-74a
Readings: Bob Pruitt and Ron Wood
About seventeen years ago a young wife and mother in Wichita Falls, TX, Penny Wilson, was converted after listening to some of our messages on cassette tape. She and her young husband, Jim, had been in religion all their lives. Penny was anxious for Jim to hear the gospel; but he was not interested in hearing anything I had to say. So, every time she got a chance, Penny “accidentally” left a tape in Jim’s truck, hoping he might listen. One day, driving down the road, out of sheer boredom, he popped a tape into the player. I got a call from Jim the next day. The Lord had him!
All these years, they have been listening to our tapes, meeting on Sundays with a few other believers, watching our video tapes and worshipping with us God. I have gone down to preach to them every few months for more than seventeen years.
Recently, one of the couples they met with, being influenced by a nearby pastor, has begun to slander your pastor and a few others, accusing me of preaching works, and even asserting that I do not believe that the blood of Christ was necessary for our salvation! Of course, I have been aware of what this preacher has been doing for more than two years. I have chosen to simply ignore him. His opinions are meaningless to me. I tell you about all of this now, only to share with you a statement Bro. Jim Wilson made to one of my lying slanderers. When I read this statement, I was overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility and the burden of that responsibility, as a preacher of the Gospel.
Bro. Jim wrote, “I believe with all my heart the Gospel that Don Fortner, Milton Howard, Todd Nibert, Jack Shanks, David Pledger, Henry Mahan, Donnie Bell and others preach. I’m staking my soul on it.”
When I read that statement, I immediately recalled something Bro. Henry Mahan said to me when I was a young man. — “Bro. Don, when you get up to preach, make sure that you know that what you are saying is God’s message for his people. Somebody will be listening to you and believe what you tell them.”
I also remembered what one of Bro. E. W. Johnson’s members said to him on his deathbed. Bro. Johnson went to see his dying friend. He had been his pastor for a long, long time. Before he left, Bro. Johnson said to his dying friend, “Is everything well with your soul?” The old man answered his pastor with these words, “If you’ve told me the truth it is.”
Knowing that I stand before you tonight as God’s messenger to eternity bound sinners, I carry in my soul “the burden of the word of the Lord.” I come to you with a Word from the lips of Christ himself, a word by which God has spoken to me and by which I hope he will speak to you. My text is Luke 21:33. I want to talk to you about that which shall pass away and that which shall not pass away.
(Luke 21:33) "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."
Heaven and Earth
First, our Savior tells us that — “Heaven and earth shall pass away.” What a startling statement! All that comprises this material, created universe, all the earth and all the material, atmospheric heaven, all that is seen with the eye, shall pass away! — Everything!
To most people, and probably to some of you, that declaration is startling, if not looked upon as inconceivable. Multitudes seem to think that this world is immortal and eternal, that it has a life of its own. Even to those who are not so foolish as to worship “mother earth,” as they call this ball of clay, the thought of God actually destroying the earth seems almost incredible.
Really, we should not be startled by this at all. Our Lord once destroyed the earth by a flood; and he has told us plainly that he will, at the hour appointed, consume the present heaven and earth in the fire of his wrath in the last day (Deut. 32:21-22; 2 Pet. 3:9-14).
(Deuteronomy 32:21-22) "They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. (22) For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains."
(2 Peter 3:9-14) "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (10) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (11) Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, (12) Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (13) Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (14) Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
Why should anyone be startled by the fact that God shall soon destroy heaven and earth? All of us throw things away every day for which we no longer have use. — This universe was made only as a stage upon which the triune God might display the riches of his glory in redeeming and saving a great multitude of chosen sinners. When he has finished that for which he made it, God will burn it to ashes.
· Is it unreasonable to think that, in the infinite wisdom and goodness of the eternal God, one world should be destroyed that a better might take it’s place?
· Is it unreasonable that God almighty, all-wise, and infinite, sovereign and self-sufficient, should as a mere manifestation of power, to show the might of his hand, the independence of his will, and his sovereign dominion over all things will, dash in pieces and utterly consume by the breath of his nostrils that which he made for his own pleasure?
· The elements out of which heaven and earth are made, are not living things, with thoughts and feelings. They are incapable of thought, or feeling, pain, or pleasure. It matters not to the elements whether they continue or do not continue.
· And, this earth is cursed of God. — “Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” — It has upon it the slime of the serpent and must be purged. — This world has been the house of every crime against God and man and must be destroyed. That which God gave man to use for his glory, man has used to blaspheme and mock him; and the instrument of evil must be destroyed, that no memorial be left in God’s creation of the crimes of humanity.
A Hateful Acknowledgement
That which makes our Lord’s declaration startling to men, and causes them to draw back from it, that which causes all men and women to crave the preservation of the planet is the fact that once we are confronted with the fact that “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” it must be acknowledged that everything connected with this present heaven and earth shall also pass away. What a hateful acknowledgement this is to fallen men!
If the earth that now is shall be utterly destroyed, it is manifest that our present life, and cares, and pleasures, and occupations, all of that in which men and women seek to find happiness and satisfaction, all for which people live, and work, and plan, will soon brought to nothing! Be wise.
· Do not build your nest in any of the trees of this dark forest. They are all marked to be cut down and burned.
· Set your affection on things above (Col. 3:1-3).
(2 Corinthians 4:18) "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
(2 Corinthians 5:1) "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
(Colossians 3:1-3) "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (2) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (3) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
· Live not for time, but for eternity!
A Better World
Once heaven and earth have passed away, they will not be missed. Our God will make a better world, a world that will suit us exactly, a new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17-19; 2 Pet. 3:13-14; Rev. 21:1-6).
(Isaiah 65:17-19) "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. (18) But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (19) And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying."
(2 Peter 3:13-14) "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (14) Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
(Revelation 21:1-6) "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (2) And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (4) And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (5) And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (6) And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely."
Our Lord first told us of that which shall pass away. — “Heaven and earth shall pass away.” Then, in the next line of our text he tells us of that which shall never pass away. — “But my words shall not pass away.” I take that to mean that every word of Christ is permanent and must be fulfilled, the words of Jesus must stand, come what may, that everything he who is the Word of God has spoken shall come to pass, that his every word shall stand forever (Isa. 40:8; 51:6).
Why must his words abide forever? Why shall they not pass away?
1. I answer, first, because they are his words. They are divine.
That which is divine will endure forever. He will never retract anything he has said. Even Baalam had light enough to declare, — “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
God never has to “eat his own words,” like we do. Christ never has to retract anything he has uttered. All his life long, he had not even once to make an apology, and say, “I spoke too fast, or too rashly, or a little inaccurately.” Everything he said stood, and shall stand, because the divinity that is in it makes it everlasting.
2. Again, the words of Christ must stand because they are the revelation of the inmost heart of God.
This world around us, the sun, the moon, and the stars, reveal his eternal power and godhead. Christ reveals his fulness and his glory as God in his person and work, in the salvation of our souls, and in the gospel of his grace (John 1:14-18; Rom. 3:24-26).
(John 1:14-18) "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (15) John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. (16) And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. (17) For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (18) No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."
(Romans 3:24-26) "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
3. Again, the words of Christ must abide, even when heaven and earth have passed away, because they are pure truth.
Everything that is absolutely and purely true must abide and endure. You know long pure silver lasts. You may buy silver-plated things because they look pretty; but soon the plating wears off and the base metal starts to show. But if you have real silver, it will last a lifetime, many lifetimes. So it is with the words of our Lord (Ps. 12:6).
(Psalms 12:6) "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."
Their surface does not wear off, and reveal the dross beneath, for there is none; all is pure throughout. Impurity breeds decay; error is corruption; every evil thing carries within it the seeds of its own death; but God’s truth has no corruption in it; it is the living and incorruptible seed which, therefore, “liveth and abideth forever.”
4. And that Christ’s words shall abide eternally, we do believe, again, because no power can prevent it (Ps. 2:1-12; Isa. 55:11).
(Psalms 2:1-7) "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? (2) The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, (3) Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. (4) He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. (5) Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. (6) Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. (7) I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee."
(Psalms 2:9-12) "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. (10) Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. (11) Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (12) Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."
(Isaiah 55:11) "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
But what does our Savior mean for us to understand by his “words”? Certainly, he means the words he spoke, the words he has caused to be written in the Bible by divine inspiration, the words of his doctrine, his words of promise, his words of grace, all his words. But might he refer to more than what we normally associate with words? I think so. Let’s look at other passages in Holy Scripture that are similar to this, passages our Lord obviously had in mind when he spoke the words of our text. — “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”
Christ himself, our eternal Surety and Mediator, who is the Word of God is immutable and shall never pass away. He shall one day deliver up the kingdom to the Father, but he shall abide forever as the Word, our Divine Mediator. It is he, the Word, our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom David sang in Psalm 102 (vv. 25-27).
(Psalms 102:25-27) "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. (26) They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: (27) But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end."
His Written Word
When our Savior declares, “My words shall not pass away,” certainly he would have us to understand that all the written Word of God, all of Holy Scripture stands forever (Isa. 40:8; Ps. 138:2).
(Psalms 138:2) "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."
(Isaiah 40:8) "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
Multitudes have tried to erase God’s name from this Book, hoping to prove it a mere fabrication of men. When I hear or read what such fools say and do, I am reminded of a little street urchin in London who had stolen a brass plate. The poor thief was seen trying to rub off the name engraved on the plate, never realizing that the more he rubbed the clearer the name shone.
Let me tell you a story Mr. Spurgeon once related in his monthly magazine, “The Sword and Trowel.” — There was an infidel in London whose wife was a believer. She read the Scriptures regularly, though her husband was greatly annoyed by it and often threatened to throw her Bible into the fire. One day he did. He grabbed his wife’s Bible and threw it into the fire place. In a little while he took his poker and stirred the ashes, hoping to make sure that he had completely burned the Book of God. He almost succeeded; (This is a true story. He did not know it at the time, but at that very hour his sister, whose husband was a London pastor, was at that impressed of God to pray for him.) but as he stirred the ashes, he turned up a portion of one page and found these words staring him in the face, — “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away.” Soon the old hardened infidel was converted, and found it true to his soul’s everlasting delight — “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away!”
The written Word, this holy, divinely inspired Book is the Book of God, the only textbook there is in the school of grace, the only creed book there is in the Church of God, the only law book there is in the Kingdom of heaven, and the words of this blessed Book shall not pass away.
· Every word of doctrine taught in this Book shall stand forever, unaltered by time. — In all matters of doctrine, you can be sure of this, there is nothing new that is true, and nothing true that is new.
· The words of God with regard to orderly worship (Prayer, Preaching, and Praise) shall never pass away. The ordinances of Christ are simple, unadorned ordinances of divine worship. They are not sacraments. They are not means of grace. They are ordinances of divine worship, observed by faithful people today just as our Lord gave them. — By our immersion in water, believers confess their faith in Christ. — By eaing the unleavened bread and drinking the wine of the Lord’s Supper, we remember our Redeemer.
When our Savior declares, “My words shall not pass away,” we are assured by him that his every word of eternal predestination shall be accomplished. — His every word of oath as our covenant Surety shall be performed (A Bride for Isaac — Judah for Benjamin). — His every word of submission as Jehovah’s Servant shall be fulfilled (Heb. 10:5-14). But I cannot dwell on all these things. I will have to pass over them. I mention them only that you might call them to mind later and study them out more fully in your private worship. Every time you read in the Scriptures that our blessed Christ uttered a word about anything, to any purpose, mark it down, his words shall not pass away.
The Gospel Word
But, let me show you one more word of our God and Savior that shall not pass away. Again, we will look at a passage our Savior must have had in his mind as he spoke the words recorded in Luke 21:33. — "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away." Turn with me to Isaiah 51. I want you to see that his Gospel word abides forever and shall not pass away. As Bro. Jim Wilson said, “I believe it with all my heart. I’m staking my soul on it.”
· In verse 1 the Lord calls for us to look to and remember the rock from which we were hewn and the hole of the pit from which we are dug.
· In verse 2 he reminds us that he is sovereign, in the exercise of his grace and in the bestowing of his mercies.
· In verse 3 he gives us reasons for comfort and joy, assuring us that he will fill his people with joy and gladness by his grace.
· In verses 4 and 5 the Lord declares that he will save his elect out of every nation, causing his justice satisfied by Christ’s blood to rest upon his people and give them light.
Now, read verse 6 with me.
(Isaiah 51:6) "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished."
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens.” — Man has neck muscles, unlike those of brute beasts, to turn his eyes heavenward.
“And look upon the earth beneath.” — How fast and firm it seems to stand. Yet, it shall perish and the heavens shall vanish away.
“But my salvation shall be for ever.” — His Gospel word, his word of grace, by which we are saved, with the benefits and blessings of his rich, boundless grace thereby, shall be forever! That salvation that Christ wrought for us, by judgment, justice, righteousness, and grace is an everlasting salvation (Heb. 5:9; 9:12).
(Hebrews 5:9) "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;"
(Hebrews 9:12) "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."
“My righteousness shall not be abolished.” — The righteousness that Christ brought in for us and bestows upon us, by which we are justified and sanctified is an everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24). It shall never be destroyed or broken.
· This certainly refers to the righteousness of Christ imputed to us for justification.
It is a righteousness that answers all the demands of God’s holy law and justice. It withstands all the accusations and charges laid against us by men and by Satan himself. It shall not fail. Its justifying virtue continues forever. It will answer for us at the bar of God.
· It is equally certain that this refers to the righteousness of Christ imputed to us in the new birth, by which we are sanctified and made holy.
The righteousness of Christ imparted to us in the new birth is the very nature of Christ (2 Pet. 1:4), that holy seed created in us by the Spirit of God (1 John 3:9), that by which we are caused to become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
· It is upon the basis of this word of Christ our God and Savior that he speaks this next word of grace to us (Isa. 51:7-8).
(Isaiah 51:7-8) "Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. (8) For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation."
· Because his Gospel word abides forever, all the promises he gives in the Gospel word are yea and amen. They are never yea and nay, but always yea and amen (Isa. 41:10-14; 43:1-4, 25-26; John 10:28-30; John 3:36; 6:37; Matt. 11:28-30).
(Isaiah 41:10-14) "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (11) Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. (12) Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. (13) For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (14) Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
(Isaiah 43:1-4) "But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (2) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. (4) Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life."
(Isaiah 43:25-26) "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. (26) Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified."
(John 10:28-30) "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (29) My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (30) I and my Father are one."
(John 3:36) "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
(John 6:37) "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
(Matthew 11:28-30) "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Take this word from the Son of God home with you. Stake your soul upon it, and rejoice! — “Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away!”
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude:
Jesus only, Jesus only
Can do helpless sinners good!
(1 Peter 1:18-25) "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; (19) But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (21) Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (22) Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: (23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (25) But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."