FOREVER!

Arthur Pink, June, 1950
 

The term "forever" and its variants occur very frequently in the Bible one of the many marks by which it is distinguished from the writings of men. Necessarily and obviously so. Man is but of yesterday, a creature of time; and though he is endowed with an immortal soul, his interests are confined to temporal things, and his energies are devoted almost entirely to the acquirement and enjoyment of the same. With very rare exceptions, until he is quickened by the gracious power of God, the outlook of man is limited to the present. Hence, it is that his writings are confined to those subjects pertaining unto things of time and sense; and if he should turn his thoughts unto "the great beyond" it is but to dream or indulge in idle speculations.

But not so of the One who gave us being: of Him it has to be said, "From everlasting to everlasting, you are God" (Psalm 90:2). He is the unchanging I am, "The One who is and who was and who is to come!" (Rev 11:17). This excellency of His being is clearly reflected in His Word, for it reveals to us those counsels which He made before the foundation of the world, and acquaints us with things after it is finished. The Bible treats of everlasting realities, and makes known to us our eternal interests and destinies.

The certainty of the DIVINE DECREES: "The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11). There is no if or but, perhaps or perhaps, about them: all the divine counsels are inviolable and infallibly sure. At the close of time, it will be clearly demonstrated before an assembled universe, that the whole of God's will was fully accomplished: "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand" (Pro 19:21).

Man's purposes are like himself fallible and fickle: but God's are firmer than a rock, for they are formed by infinite and immutable wisdom. It cannot be otherwise, for "he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desires, even that he does" (Job 23:13). With Him there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jam 1:17). None can bribe or induce Him to alter one detail of His eternal plan. No unforeseen contingency can arise, for "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Act 15:18). His power is invincible, and therefore, it is impossible for any to thwart Him. He "works all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph 1:11), so that none of the devices of His enemies can prevent Him if they could, He would not be the supreme and universal LORD of all.

The perfection of the DIVINE WORKMANSHIP: "I know that, whatever God does, it shall be forever nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God does it, that men should fear before him" (Ecc 3:14). God's works are like Himself incapable of improvement, perfect. "O LORD, how great are your works!" (Psalm 92:5). The execution of them may be opposed (as Saul "kicked against the goads" Act 26:14), but they cannot be obstructed by any created power. Since there be no deficiency in them, nothing needs adding; since there be no excess, nothing needs to be taken away.

"And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing" (Psalm 64:9). While the immediate reference in Psalm 33:11 was to God's decrees, this one is to the execution of them. His covenant is "ordered in all things, and sure" (2 Samuel 23:5). The work of Christ is a "finished" one, so that none can add to or diminish from it. God's promises are all "Yes" and "Amen." His sentence of justification will never be reversed. Pardoned sins will never be remembered by Him. The miracle of regeneration is durable. The graces which God works in us "abides" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Well may we exclaim, "Marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well" (Psalm 139:14).

The IMMUTABILITY OF THE SAINTS' STANDING: "For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified" (Heb 10:14). That is a wondrous and blessed statement, yet one which the faith of few of God's people lays hold of. It makes known the present and perpetual acceptance of the Church unto God. It tells of what the efficacious sacrifice of Christ has secured for all His people: not merely the putting away of their sins, not only obtaining for them immediate access to God, but also securing such a perfect standing before Him that they may draw near in full confidence. All the excellence of Christ's sin-atoning sacrifice, is upon them. His infinite merits have been imputed to them, and therefore, does God view them with the utmost satisfaction and delight.

The word "perfect" here means "completed or consummated" and refers not to anything subjective, but objective. Likewise, "sanctified" here signifies not an experiential but a relative one, having the force of "hallowed." As another has said, "The sanctification of Hebrews 10 is as complete and permanent, as the justification of Romans 5, admitting of neither addition nor diminution." This sacrificial "perfection" of Christians is irrevocable and cannot be lost, for it rests on something outside of themselves.

"Perfected forever": contrary to all our sense of unworthiness and unfitness for such blessing and glory, it must be believed if our hearts are to be kept in peace. Yet, while rejoicing in the same, we shall be forever humbled by the remembrance that it is all of grace and gift, and that we have no part in it except as the objects of God's love and the recipients of His favor. Let us rest on the finished work of Christ, and express our gratitude in lives which honor Him.

The permanency of the MEDIATORIAL OFFICE: "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4). Only in the God-man, is the chasm between the creature and the Creator bridged; and therefore, His mediatorial office is to be exercised not only throughout this time-state, but eternally.

That office is threefold: prophetical, priestly, and kingly. No doubt, there will be a great change of method in the exercise of that office in Heaven; yet exercised it will be. Though the knowledge of His glorified saints will be vastly increased, they will not be infallible, but in need of teaching still; and as Revelation 7:17 assures us: "For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters."

Though sinless, perfectly holy, yet the merits of Christ are the foundation of their eternal standing before God; and they will still need the great High Priest to present their praises unto God.

As for His kingship and government of them, even on the new earth, it is "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1): "God is supreme, but the Lamb administers the power and authority of the throne" Walter Scott (1796- 1861). "Christ shall be the means and way of communications between God and His glorified saints forever" John Owen (1616-1683).

The durability of the DIVINE CLEMENCY: "O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures forever" (Psalm 136:1). This injunction is repeated in the two following verses, so that we have therein a call to laud the Triune Jehovah; and in each instance, for the same reason. Special thanks are due unto Him for His perpetual benignity unto them, for even at the Redeemer's return, this characteristic will be exercised by Him "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude :21); "The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day" (2 Timothy 1:18). No less than twenty-six times in this psalm occurs the refrain, "For his mercy endures forever." Numerous examples of the same are cited: in putting forth His power in cleaving a way through formidable obstacles for the deliverance of His people, in providing for them in their wilderness journey, and in giving them a rich heritage.

The utter hopelessness of the lost: "To whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 13). This in no way clashes with the foregoing, but rather supplies a confirmation, for the separation and banishing of the wicked unto their own place is an act of mercy unto the saints. Equally so is it an act of divine justice on the wicked: since they "loved darkness rather than light" (John 3:19), it is fitting that the darkness should be their final and dismal abode. This "blackness of darkness" seems to be a parallel expression with the "outer darkness" of Matthew 8:12 remotest from God, who is the Fountain of light.

Thus, it expresses first their eternal exile from God "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

Second, as "light" is a figure of life and blessing, so is darkness of wretchedness and woe.

Third, the utter remedilessness of their condition unrelieved by a single ray of hope: after millions of years, their suffering no nearer an end than it was at the outset. "This is the Hell of Hell, that, as the torments thereof are without measure so they are without end!" Thomas Manton (1620-1677).

The perpetuity of the saints' bliss: "I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Psalm 23:6). This is in marked and blessed antithesis from the "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:9), which constitutes the doom of the lost.

Their respective eternal portions are contrasted at every point:

The wicked enjoy "the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb 11:25); we shall participate in those "pleasures at God's right hand," which are "for evermore" (Psalm 16:11).

Agents of Satan seize their souls at death; ours are carried to Heaven by the angels.

They shall be raised "to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan 12:2); we in "honor and glory" (1 Peter 1:7).

To them it shall be said, "Depart from me, you cursed" (Mat 25:41); to us, "Come, you blessed of my Father" (Mat 25:34).

They "shall be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev 20:10); we shall "ever be forever with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17; Rev 22:5).