“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35 NIV)
I never thought my introductory years to nursing would involve a pandemic of this scale. I was a hospital volunteer during SARS and worked in hospitals during MERS, but I think we can all agree that this time, it’s very different. We might show a brave face, but in the pockets of conversations between HCWs (health care workers), there is fear of the unknown, anxiety, anger at the situation (especially the lack of PPE and poor planning overall), and dread—lots of dread. We don’t know what’s coming; we have no idea how bad it will truly be. We all personally know someone or worked with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. As an HCW, the worst times are waiting for test results to come back. I swallow my feelings and do my job.
In a moment of tearful anxiety, a dear friend told me to read Matthew 24. If you don’t remember it off the top of your head, the first part is titled “The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times.” I’ll tell you now, it’s not a “fun” or “happy” read. Most of it sounds familiar, as we have seen wars, famines, earthquakes, etc. The world turns unpleasant, and “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (verse 21). Jesus tells of these signs that signal “of [his] coming and of the end of the age?” (verse 3). It does not sound very calming.
However, at the end of the first portion of Matthew 24 is the verse above: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” In that one sentence, we know that God is unchanging, everlasting, unshakeable. When I read that one line, all those verses I’ve learned by heart come flooding back…
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20)
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
—and many many more. Because of His attributes, we can cling to his words, knowing that they have power and meaning. We know such things will come to pass. And we have hope through God-given faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
It seemed counterintuitive to provide Matthew 24 in a time of crisis, until I thought about what the destruction and suffering signals: Jesus’s second, glorious coming. He suffered for us and paid the ultimate price. As we continue to celebrate his death and resurrection 2000 years later, we must remember Jesus is set to come again. We have been given God’s word not only as a warning, but ultimately as encouragement.
These are everlasting words that point to the Messiah, were fulfilled by the Messiah, and prophesy of what is to come by the return of the Messiah. This is the big picture, one that I cling to right now in these uncertain times, and one that propels me to meet each day knowing He is always in control. These are everlasting words: Jesus is risen!