“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). “The heavens shall pass away . . . the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
In these Scriptures, God brings before us the temporality of “things seen.” The verse in 2 Corinthians, especially applicable to the Lord’s people in the midst of trying circumstances, and in the possibility of physical death, embraces much more than is seen in the immediate context. The “things seen” are summed up by Peter as, “the heavens” and “the earth” — God’s creation; “and the works that are therein” — man’s addition to God’s creation. God’s creation has been marred by man’s sin, which resulted in the curse. Since the Fall, man has been trying to build a character from a depraved nature, and a paradise out of a cursed earth. Nevertheless the Divine edict still stands, “The things which are seen are temporal.”
The question may arise: How can things not seen be seen? The answer is through faith as described in Hebrews 11. This chapter opens with FAITH’S DEFINITION: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In order to see the things not seen, we must be convinced that they exist. Faith is a confident assurance and a firm conviction of their reality. Faith primarily believes in the existence of invisible things.
Next in the chapter, we have FAITH’S APPREHENSION, for “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,” (v. 3). It is known that the natural man will not receive Divine truth because to him it contains absurdities, and “Neither can he know them” (1 Cor. 2:14). Man’s wisdom results in mere human speculation, but faith has no difficulty in apprehending God’s Divine revelation, for faith not only gives assurance, but results in intelligence as well.
Beginning at verse 4, we see FAITH’S OPERATION. “By faith Abel offered . . . a more excellent sacrifice.” Operative faith takes God at His word, and acts accordingly. In this chapter we see faith manifested by the deeds recorded.
This brings us to FAITH’S APPROPRIATION. In Hebrews 10:39, the believer is spoken of as being “of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Surely this is appropriating salvation by faith. In 2 Timothy 3:15, the foundation and the appropriation of faith result in salvation, for we read, “The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Faith that rests upon God’s Word, and lays hold of the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, appropriates salvation. The faith that avails must have the Bible as its basis, Christ as its object, and salvation as its first result.
Finally, we have FAITH’S VISION: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” (v. 13). The promises had not been fulfilled in their time, but faith has keen vision, for they saw them at a distance, and as a result, they “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (vv. 11-13). Though in the world, they were not of it, for of them we read, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly” (v. 16). What Jeremiah said of himself was true of them and should be true of each one of us, “Mine eye affecteth mine heart” (Lam. 3:51). The more that we see of the heavenly, the less shall we be like the earthly.
How appropriate it is that four of the “things which are eternal,” should be found in the epistle to the Hebrews, all of them being inseparably linked to the Eternal Son of God. In Hebrews the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed as the substance of that which, in the law, was a “shadow of good things to come” (10:1). Therefore it presents Him as being superior to the law. The law being typical was likewise temporal, and as the type must give way to the antitype, even so the shadow yields to the substance. The law had its beginning. In Galatians 3:19 we read, “It was added.” The same verse also suggests it was temporal, for it continues, “till the Seed should come.” “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). Since the law was temporal, that which was accomplished under it also must be temporal. In contrast, our Lord is set forth as the Eternal One, the Creator, who remains after creation has perished. “They perish; but Thou remainest.” Consequently, that which is accomplished by Him is eternal. We suggest four of these eternal things for our present enjoyment, and for further consideration.
This could not be known under the law, for what the law demanded, man could not accomplish. Instead of being a means of salvation, it became “the ministration of condemnation.” Our Lord, in contrast, after keeping its precepts for us, bore its curse, and thus became the Author of eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9).
That which all the blood of all the sacrifices under the law could not do, Christ did, “by His own blood . . . obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). The price can never diminish or be devalued.
Such perfection in man could never be produced by the law “for the law . . . can never with those sacrifices . . . make the comers thereunto perfect” (Heb. 10:1). Now that which could not be secured by the many sacrificies has been provided by the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ: “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
The children of Israel under the law did not fully possess their inheritance, for they were later dispossessed. The possessing and the retaining of their inheritance were dependent upon their obedience. How different all this is for the believer in this age, for we read, “That . . . they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15).
Surely the faith that can open our eyes to see these eternal things can also loosen our tongue to sing His praises:
I’m going to the better land,
By faith long since possessed,
The glory shines before me,
For this is not my rest.