I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14 KJV) and St. John writes: And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. (Revelation 14:6 KJV)
That’s one of God’s fundamental attributes: Eternity. It’s a characteristic of the divine creator. It’s way beyond our human comprehension really, because it remains out of reach for our logic, which is bound by the categories of space and time. Yet the triune God himself is not limited by our knowledge and perception. Instead he has formed and made us this way, that we should be subject to these rational boundaries beyond which he is and was and will be – one God now and forever.
Now God has also revealed that eternity is not just his own essence, but rather that he grants this to his works too. That was one of Luther’s groundbreaking insights, that he realised that the righteous God is not just righteous for himself, but rather that he is righteous because he pronounces, declares, makes and gives righteousness to – when and where it pleases him. It would seem that this passage from Ecclesiastes underlines this reformational discovery. God is not just eternal, but grants and gifts eternity to whom he likes when and where he prefers – even to us, whose lives would otherwise just be short, limited and vain toil all along.
This mind boggling attribute of eternity makes up the divine gospel too. The gospel that our Lord and God, who has created all that is visible and invisible out of pure fatherly goodness and mercy, who has redeemed his people through the vicarious sacrifice of his only begotten son Jesus Christ, our Lord there on Golgotha and still sanctifies his holy Christian Church through daily forgiving all sins of his people richly and freely, is truly an everlasting gospel too. It held true for Adam and Eve, whom he did not punish with death as they had rightly deserved, but kept and preserved them even through the expulsion from paradise by his grace and mercy, that they could live and see the first of that long line of descendants born from whom he would eventually bring for the one, who would crush the head of the serpent and restore forgiveness, life and salvation. It held true for the faithful saints in the temple Simeon and Hanna, who were waiting for the redemption of Israel and beheld the promised one, when he was brought to the temple to start fulfilling all the righteousness required of him for us and our salvation. It holds true for that large cloud of witnesses, who were not put off by the temporal persecution, discrimination and suffering they underwent, but put all their trust in him, who had called, elected and predestined them before the beginning of time to finally be with him in the eternal dwellings of his father in heaven. It holds true for all people, the people from up north, from down south, from east and west no matter what language they speak and think in. There is no discrimination of race, heritage, statues, works or merits. The gospel is free for all – thanks to the exuberant grace and goodness of our God.
That eternal gospel is preached throughout the world towards its very ends and outposts, its corners and hidden parts and it is the very gospel that will serve as criteria and faithful standard at the end of days. That is why we don’t give up, but rather persevere. We know, trust and believe that our Lord is gracious to us, forgiving all our sins for Christ’s sake and thus opening up heaven and paradise for us – even though we ourselves lost it over and over again. We do not deserve this free gift, but rather have earned eternal condemnation. Yet God does not deal with us according to our sins and iniquities, but according to his grace and mercy. That is why nobody will stand ashamed, who trust in God and puts his faith in him. He is faithful, he will surely do the work of salvation – now and forever. To him be praise and thanks now and forever more. Amen.
Lord heavenly Father, we give thanks and praise to you for being so merciful and gracious to us sinful people. We laud and magnify your name, because you are like this and you act accordingly not just once off, but continuously, consistently and absolutely trustworthily. This your eternal faithfulness is the foundation of our hope, trust and faith. You have assured us of our salvation and we are confident, that you will see this through even though heaven and earth pass away, our strengths and assets disappear and we ourselves die and pass on. We know, that nothing can separate us from you – our Lord and God in life and death, always, eternally. We pray that you would strengthen our weak faith daily and that you would let your eternal gospel be carried out into all the world and its many people by angels, missionaries, evangelists, teachers, bishop and pastors so that many more will come to the knowledge of truth and to eternal salvation, which is only in your son Jesus Christ – our Lord and God. Amen.
God loved the world so that He gave
His only Son the lost to save
That all who would in Him believe
Should everlasting life receive.
Christ Jesus is the Ground of faith,
Who was made flesh and suffered death;
All that confide in Him alone
Are built on this chief Cornerstone.
God would not have the sinner die,
His Son with saving grace is nigh,
His Spirit in the Word doth teach
How man the blessèd goal may reach.
Be of good cheer, for God’s own Son
Forgives all sins which thou hast done,
And, justified by Jesus’ blood,
Thy baptism grants the highest good.
If thou be sick, if death draw near
This truth thy troubled heart can cheer:
Christ Jesus saves my soul from death;
That is the firmest ground of faith.
Glory to God the Father, Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One!
To Thee, O blessèd Trinity,
Be praise now and eternally!
LSB 571 from Stettin 1778 translated by August Crull 1845-1923