An Eternal “Now”

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The Old Testament speaks of a land which God had promised to Abraham. This promise was reiterated to both Abraham’s son Isaac and to his grandson Jacob. After a period of bondage in Egypt, Abraham’s descendants (by this time numbering in the millions) were led by Moses out of captivity, into the wilderness, and right up to the borders of that Promised Land.

And yet, even after having God’s promise and even after seeing the abundance of the land, they failed to enter in.1 The book of Hebrews explains why:

Hebrews 3:19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

As a result of their unbelief, the children of Israel spent nearly forty more years in the wilderness. Multitudes who could have spent the remainder of their lives enjoying a land “flowing with milk and honey” instead died in a bleak and sterile desert.2

However, God is a faithful God. His promises cannot be negated by the faithlessness of man. He is also an exceedingly merciful God: His promise remained valid and was graciously extended to the next generation of Israelites. They did enter in, triumphantly, under the leadership of faithful Joshua. And – most importantly – under the banner of our faithful God.

All of God’s promises are “yea and amen.”3 If He has promised it, He is both willing and able to fulfill that promise right now, and He would have His people believe Him right now.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (New International Version)For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Romans 13:11–12 (English Standard Version)Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Having this exhortation from a God Who will never – indeed, can never fail, why would any child of God hesitate to take Him at His Word and believe Him right now? For the same reason that those recently-liberated Israelites failed: our eyes tell us that it is impossible, our flesh tells us that God cannot be that good, and our thoughts call us back to an unsatisfying yet familiar servitude.

Amazingly, when we wake from our slumber, God is still there, ready not to punish or to gloat, but to once again keep His never-changing promise to us.

This can be seen vividly in the book of Judges. For hundreds of years, Israel was helped by God and then quickly forgot their need for Him. This choice was soon followed by conquest and subsequent enslavement. Yet, when the burden became unbearable, they would cry out to God and receive full deliverance, only to soon forget Him again. This pattern continued over and over, yet God’s faithfulness and mercy remained reliable.

Yes, it is almost unbelievable, but God is truly that good. Consider a record in the gospel of Luke:

Luke 8:43–48 And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,

Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.

And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.

And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

This record is notable on several levels. To begin with, the immediate healing of such a severe and longstanding malady is indeed remarkable. In addition, this healing came in a unique way: by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment.

It should be noted that the healing of this woman was not “psychosomatic,” nor should this record be taken as a suggestion that healing can be gained from relics, “holy” artifacts, or other items – Jesus clearly told the woman, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”4

However, perhaps the most telling detail of this entire record is the fact that she had faith only after first exhausting all of her resources on medical options. She came to Jesus as a last resort, and yet she was healed!

And – rather than rebuking her – Jesus told her to go in peace, calling her “daughter.”5

Christian, is not this cause for rejoicing? Yes, we know that every promise of God is ours the moment we first hear it. We know that God desires us to embrace those promises immediately. But sometimes we fail to do that.

Perhaps you once wholeheartedly embraced every promise, but over time the pressures of life and the distractions of the world have eroded your enthusiasm. Perhaps you have heard God’s Word for years, for decades even, and have never fully believed it. Perhaps you have tried everything but God’s provision, and you remain unfulfilled. Or perhaps there are just one or two of those promises that you have skillfully avoided thus far.

Whatever the case, His promise remains and His willingness to work with you is unchanged. God’s Word is an eternal “now.” Like those laborers who did not arrive until the eleventh hour, we need not fear receiving anything less than those who have been present from the very beginning.6

However, for those who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ, there is one promise that is indeed time-limited: the promise of eternal life. At this moment, all who believe on him have an ironclad promise:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This promise is invaluable, yet it is only available to you as long as you are able to believe – in other words, until death closes your ears and terminates your ability to respond.7

In addition, the fullness of this promise will only be available to the world until Christ returns to gather his saints unto himself.8 To those of us who have believed on him, this should be a continual motivation. We have a message that is the power of God unto salvation. Those who hear that message and believe will be brought from death to life. They will immediately become our brothers and sisters, fellow members of the Body of Christ, forever. But today may be the last day that you and I are here to deliver this message.

Let us rejoice in the faithfulness of God and revel in His mercy. Let us rise up and fully embrace all of His promises without hesitation. And, having done so, let us deliver the message of this faithful, merciful God to all those who are still lost in the wilderness.

 

[1] The full record of this failure (and its consequences) can be found in Numbers 13 and 14.

[2] The reader should note that this time of exile was not a heavenly punishment towards Israel for their unbelief. The land was there, vast, bountiful, and ready for them to occupy it, but as Hebrews 3:19 relates without faith they could not enter it. By their own efforts, apart from the help of Almighty God, any efforts at occupying and holding the land would have failed.

[3] See 2 Corinthians 1:20.

[4] Most readers will be aware that faith does not come from emotion or mental discipline. Faith comes by hearing what God has promised, and subsequently trusting that promise (see Romans 10:17). Regarding this healing, a parallel record in the Gospel of Mark informs us that before coming to Jesus, this woman had heard of him, and, presumably, of the healing which he had performed (see Mark 5:25–27).

[5] The phrase “Be of good comfort” does not appear in the more reliable texts.

[6] See Matthew 20:1–16.

[7] An illuminating and sobering parable can be found in Luke 12:16–21.

[8] See 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18.