Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
"Heaven and earth shall pass away."
I. IT NEEDS SOME THOUGHTFULNESS TO APPREHEND THE TRANSIENT CHARACTER OF THESE GREAT OBJECTS OF OUR INTEREST.
1. The forms of life and activity with which we are familiar pass away. The morning light, buds, seasons, living creatures, soon die.
2. If we extend our vision and take within its sweep not only the life of the individual, but the course of the ages, and the history of the world. These pass away.
II. AND YET IN ALL THIS THERE IS PERMANENCE. The form passes, but the material remains. Perhaps even the material may be our name for the unknown nothing, and there remains only the law, only the type, only the order, which unceasingly lives. Thus the form of the living thing disappears, but life remains; and that vegetable life which we saw so busy and so plentiful in forms of flower and leaf and tree, shall next year bring forth new flowers and put out fresh leaves; and when the trees that to-day stand erect, monarchs of the forest, shall, fallen prone, be slowly turning into the fuel of future ages, that same life shall yet be lifting up new pillars of the forest, tall and stately, beautiful and strong, over which new generations of branches and leaves shall wave beneath the sunshine and be swayed by the breezes of the future years. And so is it with the life of the animal and man. This animal, this man, may perish, but man remain. And the human race has not vanished. Babylon, Egypt, and ancient Greece and Rome have disappeared, but man remains, in his essential nature unchanged. The moods of the sensitive nature pass away and follow each other like the shadows on the mountain-side when the fleecy clouds are floating o'er the sky on a summer noon. And yet there is something that remains. There is the subject of these sensations; there is that element which is always present in these conscious states which knows itself and them, and the differences between each state, and the resemblances and the differences between itself and them, and the combination of all into one homogeneous whole. There is something permanent, something that lasts. You cannot destroy, you cannot waste it, you cannot, indeed, change it. It is itself — itself always — eternal, I believe, as the eternal God. Or we might illustrate it again in relation to thoughts, to ideas, to concepts; to those class cognitions of the mind which result from the comparison and the abstract classification of states of sensation, of memory, of judgment. We thus gain ideas — the good, the beautiful, the true, the evil, the human, the Divine. The individual states, the individual acts, the individual persons who, by these acts, produce these states — all these may vanish. They may be only a memory; or even grow in memory dim, and at last fade away from the last reminiscence of the soul; but the ideas we have formed — that abstract beauty, goodness, humanity, or divineness — these remain. Their light will play about other forms; their relations dwell within the caverns of our nature and fill them with music, or make them hideous with discord.
III. THUS THE WORDS OF CHRIST SEEM ONLY TO BE THE FOLLOWING, ACCOMPANIMENT OF WHAT WE SAW ON ALL SIDES OF OUR QUEST — THAT THERE IS A PERMANENT, AND THAT THERE IS A TRANSIENT. He goes down to the very base of the nature, and declares that a man must be born from above if he is to see the kingdom of God. The spiritual only can behold the things of that kingdom, which are wholly spiritual. The worship of God is to be in spirit and in truth. His own very words are to be interpreted in the sphere of the spiritual and the true, and the work He came to do for men was not to make their lot here easy or hard, not to spread life's path with flowers or with thorns; it had no respect to these mere circumstances and conditions of outer life. But it went to the very centre of being, to the inner personality of the man. And, as Christ Himself gave up all that He had that was external, material, physical, letting it all go in death, and living only in His living union with the eternal God, so must man live only in that living personality, letting all else die with Christ, and even when living, not living except as Christ lived in him.
(L. D. Bevan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.