Question: "What does it mean that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)?"
Answer: Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Our God is immutable; that is, He is unchanging.
In Hebrews 13 the writer is encouraging readers to conduct themselves in a way that reflects a recognition of the superiority of Jesus Christ. The writer has already challenged readers to fix their eyes on Jesus and run the race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1–2). As long as believers are fixing their eyes on Him, they can run without losing heart (Hebrews 12:3). Believers can be encouraged that He will never forsake them or leave them (Hebrews 13:5), and believers should imitate the examples of those who have had faith in Him (Hebrews 13:6). But all this encouragement and direction is only helpful if it is truth that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If God arbitrarily changes His character, then how can we have confidence that what He has said He will do? If we can’t rely on Him to do what He has said, then we cannot have confidence and certainty, and it is impossible to run the race with endurance.
Hebrews 13:8 gives us wonderful assurance that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This statement helps us look backward and forward so that we can know He is reliable today and that the things He has said are reliable. Jesus wasn’t some trendy preacher who rose in popularity and then faded into oblivion. Jesus had always existed as God (John 1:1; 8:58), He came in the flesh as a man in order to pay the human price owed to God for sin on behalf of all humanity (Philippians 2:5–8; 1 Corinthians 15:1–4), and He is in heaven working and interceding until He returns for His people to take them home (John 14:1–3; Romans 8:34). One day He will return in glory for all to see (Colossians 3:4), He will rule as King, and He will dwell with humanity forever (Revelation 22). He has had a consistent plan from the start and has been faithfully executing that plan, always keeping His word, and always completely trustworthy. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The writer of Psalm 102 communicates beautifully that God existed always (Psalm 102:24), that He created the heavens and the earth (Psalm 102:25), and that, even though the creation changes (Psalm 102:26), God does not (Psalm 102:27). Because of those universal truths, the writer can be confident that God will keep His promises (Psalm 102:28). As Samuel once put it, “The Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind. He is not a man that He should change His mind” (1 Samuel 15:29). Even when the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, became a man, He did not lie or change His mind about those things that had been spoken. Jesus remained faithful to His word, even modeling by example that the means to withstand temptation and testing is by holding fast to the Word of God (Matthew 4:1–11). This is further evidence that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Even in passages of Scripture in which we read that God “changed His mind,” those instances do not reflect a change of character or a rewriting of promises. They typically relate to conditions that changed. In Genesis 6:6–7 God was grieved at what mankind had become, and, though He would judge humanity through the flood, He would not violate His promise of redemption, and humanity would subsist. In Exodus 32:10 God tests Moses, saying that God would destroy Israel and start again with Moses. Moses remembered that God had promised to work through a specific lineage and that He couldn’t “start over” with Moses and still keep His word. When Moses appealed to God to “change His mind,” God did. It was a key lesson in the life of Moses, that God keeps His word. In Jeremiah 26:13 God would “change His mind” about judging Israel because their judgment would be complete. In Amos 7:2–6 Amos sees visions in which God was about to destroy Israel, but God “changed His mind” when Amos interceded. This was a lesson for Amos that God keeps His word and would not allow Israel to be completely destroyed. These are a few examples of how God uses teaching tools and that He “changes His mind” only in agreement with what He has already committed to.
Being the same yesterday and today and forever, Jesus Christ is unchanging and unchangeable. No sin, distress, or complication will cause Him to abandon us. His love is constant and “as strong as death” (Song of Solomon 8:6). We can therefore have full confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6).