Time and the Gospel

The well worn axiom, “All things change with time,” is applicable to many things in life: the physical aspects of the lives of human beings; the temporal configuration of the terrain, weather, etc. of the Earth; countries, kings, and customs; even the emotional dispositions of men.

However, change is not relevant to all things that exist. To the point – God does not change, “For I am the LORD, I change not;therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). James also speaks of God immutability, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

To be more precise, God does not change is in His Divine attributes. God does not vary or change concerning His: omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, or immutability. Change is, however, involved in God’s circumstantial will – hence the record of Genesis chapter six.

A circumstance of Biblical history that vividly illustrates the type of change which exists with God (His circumstantial will) is found recorded in the book of Jonah. The barbaric Assyrian people were hideously wicked. Their great evil brought the wrathful justice of God against their capital city of Nineveh (Jonah 1:2). Consequently, God determined to destroy Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). When God’s message of destruction was delivered by the prophet Jonah, the Ninevites heard the Word of God and repented (Jonah 3:4-9). The repentance, or change of mind, of Nineveh changed the mind of God, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:10). God had determined to destroy Nineveh – but that determination was based upon the reaction of the Ninevites to God’s Word: God’s will was circumstantial or conditional, in that, if Nineveh repented they would be saved – if not, they would be destroyed.

One should notice what did not change: God’s Word. His Word was the standard of determination. God’s decree went forth to Nineveh, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” and the Ninevites reaction to that Word determined God’s further actions.

At the dedication of the temple, which Solomon built, God said, “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel” (I Kings 9:4-5). If Israel remained obedient to God’s Word they would prosper – if not; they would perish: “But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people” (I Kings 9:6-7). Israel sinned greatly and God turned from blessing Israel, as He had before, and brought great wrath upon them (cf. II Kings 17:1-23; 24:1-4).

Throughout the times of the kings of Israel, God’s Word was the standard by which Israel was judged (such is also true of all of man’s history), “Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God” (II Kings 17:13-14). When men rejected God’s Word, God rejected them (II Kings 17:18).

God’s Word remained constant, unchanging. Man changed – God did not (His attributes and His Word which is a product of His attributes). So it has always been with God’s Word. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The immutability of the Word of God qualifies It to be the basis for God’s judgment on that final day, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

The final conclusion, therefore, is: times change and men change but every man’s obligation to be obedient to God’s unchanging Word remains the same.

John Rose