Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Consider everything in this life which changes and the uncertainty and stress those changes bring. Families change. Governments change. Jobs change. The economy changes. Our health and the health of those whom we love changes. Sometimes even Christians change and lose their love for God (cf. Revelation 2:4-5).
Yet Jesus the Christ – the Anointed of God, the Messiah, our Savior, Lord and King – never changes. That’s basically the theme of the whole book of Hebrews. The Law of Moses changed in that it was replaced by the New Covenant. And with it the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the way to worship God…all of that changed. Yet Hebrews brings out that it was all part of God’s unchanging, eternal plan. Jesus never changes.
It is for this reason that the Hebrew author writes the directives which surround this powerful statement. For example, he wrote in the previous verse: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (v. 7). He will reiterate this a few verses later in verse 17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” A etymological study of the New Testament shows that the church offices of pastor, bishop, and elder are interchangeable; they actually refer to one office which had specific qualifications and requirements (Acts 20:17, 28-31; 1 Peter 5:1-4; cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Older Christians (elders) who met these requirements served as shepherds (pastors) and overseers (bishops) of each local congregation. They led the church through biblical instruction (“who spoke to you the word of God”), example (“Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith”), and shepherded each church (“they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account”). Christians are to “remember,” “obey,” and “submit” to them in a way that would not be a thorn in their side.
One reason for this is because these shepherds were to watch out for and rebuke heretics (cf. Titus 1:9; Acts 20:29-31). False teachers do not recognize that Christ and his teaching do not change (cf. Romans 16:17-18; 2 Peter 2:1-22). Thus, immediately after stating the unchanging nature of Jesus, the Hebrew author warns: “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them” (v. 9). Apparently, part of the pressure put on these Hebrew Christians by the Jews were to return to the dietary restriction of the Law of Moses (cf. Colossians 3:20-23). False teachers would have told these Christians that God wouldn’t mind them doing this. Thus, the Hebrew writer warns against this, as well as the pressure to return to the Old Testament edicts about sacrifice:
“We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (vs. 10-12). Christians’ “altar” – Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – is far superior to the altars of animal sacrifices under Moses (cf. Hebrews 10:1-4), and those who would promote following the Law of Moses (“those who serve the tent,” i.e., the Old Testament tabernacle) would receive no benefit from Christ’s death (cf. Galatians 5:4). These heretics who were encouraging these Christians to go back to the Old Law were doing them no favors.
Just as the corpses of the sacrificed animals were “burned outside the camp,” so Jesus also “suffered outside the gate” of Jerusalem on Calvary. The Hebrew author thus exhorted these persecuted Christians, “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we see the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (vs. 13-15). Christians, this world is not our home. Heaven is our home. Here we will always encounter reproach and hardship for our faith and commitment to Jesus. Regardless, let us continue to praise him and acknowledge his holy name…no matter what. Why?
Because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”