Nearly ten years ago, I did graduate studies in theology in the United Kingdom. During my travels to the U.K., I not only attended classes but had some time on the weekends to visit many local sights. One Saturday evening, I went with some friends to a local restaurant to enjoy some fish and chips, and during our meal I discovered that the building that housed the restaurant was about four hundred years old. Since I have lived my entire life in Florida, where it can be hard enough to find a building more than fifty years old, I was amazed that something built so long ago could still be in use. But in the U.K., which has a much longer history of settlement than my home state, it is not unusual to visit buildings that have stood for centuries.
Only a building designed and built with exceptional skill will continue to stand centuries after it is first erected. Yet, even the most well-constructed structures will not last forever. We have all seen pictures of or visited the ruins of long-crumbled houses, castles, theaters, and marketplaces. Even a wonder of the ancient world such as the Great Pyramid of Giza shows the signs of erosion and wear, though it remains largely intact. It will not endure forever, no matter how hard we try to preserve it.
The decay and destruction of old buildings reminds us of the maxim that the only constant is change. Our world is ever in flux. Empires rise and fall. Civilizations come and go. The accepted standards and laws that governed a culture yesterday can be set aside today by a court decision. The vigor of youth slowly but perceptively declines. In the light of these realities, it can be difficult to find hope, to locate a sure foundation that will stand.
We want to know and be guided by the Word because only the Word will last forever.
But we are not without an anchor for our souls, an everlasting revelation of the good, the true, and the beautiful that guides us today and will be fulfilled in its entirety in the age to come. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8).
We have devoted many pages in this issue of Tabletalk to looking at the nature of the Word of God and how we are to rightly understand it. In so doing, we have also thought about the reason why we engage the Scriptures. The simplest answer is that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself, so it deserves our most careful attention. And yet there is another practical reason for understanding and living by the Word of God that we dare not forget. We want to know and be guided by the Word because only the Word will last forever.
If the Scriptures are merely the reflections of some desert nomads and ancient warlords, then honestly, the Bible is not worth our time. It is then only a historical curiosity, a step in our evolution to a more enlightened state. But if the Word of God will last forever, its teaching and wisdom can never be outgrown. It will keep us secure yesterday, today, and for all time.
Because the Word of God will stand forever, we hold fast to the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) when the culture wants to convince us that we stand on the wrong side of history. We know that this Word is the measure of the right side of history and that this right side has already been chosen. The Lord and His will define the right side of history, this will is revealed to us in Scripture, and in the long run we end up on the right side by aligning ourselves with God, turning from our sin and trusting in Christ, the Word made flesh. Despite appearances to the contrary, we will be victorious, just as Jesus emerged from the grave a victor after seemingly being defeated by death.
Because the Word of God will stand forever, we look not to the present for our hope and security but to the future and to the fulfillment of God’s promises. We are confident that everything in His Word that has yet to come to pass will be accomplished in His perfect timing. After all, God kept the promise—given in His Word—to send the Messiah to defeat sin and Satan, so we know He will keep His promise—given in His Word—to renew all things (Rom. 8). We may receive many blessings from the Lord on this side of glory, but our trust, security, and hope are never in this present era. “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). If we hold on to this life too firmly, we will lose it, but if we do the will of God—if we trust in Christ alone for salvation and demonstrate that trust by following Him in a life of discipleship—we will live for all eternity.
Finally, because the Word of God will stand forever, we can commit ourselves fearlessly and unreservedly to the Author of this Word. I don’t know if we will have the Scriptures in book form in the new heaven and earth, but I do know that there is no chance that the One who has given us this Word will fail to keep it. It is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18), and everything that the Word promises will have come to pass when that final day arrives. That is what it means that the Word of God will stand forever—all that He has said He will do. And if we commit ourselves to His Word, all of the disappointments of this present life will not compare to the glory to be revealed in us.
Robert Rothwell is associate editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior writer for Ligonier Ministries, and resident adjunct professor for Reformation Bible College.