13:8 — Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Just like His Father, “the Everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33), whose “ways are everlasting” (Hab. 3:6) and who says, “I do not change” (Mal. 3:6), so Jesus remains the same forever.
Steadfastness in the Faith
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited. (13:7–9)
I believe the primary appeal of this passage is for Jews who had heard and professed the gospel not to return to legalism. The New Covenant in Jesus Christ has standards, very high standards, but they do not involve ceremonies, rituals, holy days, and formalities. They are internal, not external.
Just as those who led [us] who spoke the word of God, and just as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, so we should be in our doctrine and practices. We are not to be carried away by varied and strange teachings. One of Satan’s most subtle approaches to the Christian is to move him away from sound doctrine, to get him wrapped up in beliefs that are unfounded, uncertain, and changing. Bad doctrine results in bad living.
purity of doctrine
One of the saddest things in the world is for a Christian to get drawn into false doctrine and be rendered ineffective, to lose his joy, reward, and testimony. Yet such has been happening since the earliest days of the church. Paul was amazed that some of the Galatian believers were “so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6–7). Sometimes false teachers are kind, likable, and perhaps even sincere. It is often difficult to believe they would teach anything false or misleading. But we are to judge doctrine by God’s Word, not by the appearance or personality of the person who holds it. “Even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (v. 8). In other words, even if Paul changed his teaching from the revealed truths he had been preaching, he should not be followed. Even an angel is not to be believed above God’s Word. The point is so important that Paul repeats it in the next verse: “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
These Galatians had started out in grace but were falling back under the law. They had begun in the Spirit, but were now trying to continue in the flesh. The Jews being addressed in Hebrews 13 were in danger of doing the same thing. The varied and strange teachings were not necessarily new teachings. They are not named, but it is likely that many, if not most, of the teachings were traditional Jewish beliefs. But they were strange to the gospel of grace.
Paul also warned the Ephesian elders of this danger. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30). The apostle commended them to God’s Word, the only resource they had for staying true to the faith (v. 32). The closing appeal of the book of Romans is, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Rom. 16:17).
The worst false teachers are those who go under the guise of orthodoxy. An avowed liberal, cultist, or atheist is easily seen for what he is. Satan’s best workers are the deceptive ones, who know they will get a better hearing from God’s people if their heresy is coated with biblical ideas. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13–14). Satan’s primary target is the church. He does not need to pervert the world, because it is already perverted, already in his camp. This is why the New Testament is so filled with warnings for Christians to beware of false teaching. Satan does wish to destroy the power of the truth in the church.
God knows that the greatest battle His church faces is purity of doctrine, because that is the basis of everything else. Every bad practice, every bad act, every bad standard of conduct, can be traced to bad belief. The end result of the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and of believers becoming unified in the faith and maturing in Christ, is that “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). A church that is not sound in doctrine is unstable and vulnerable.
One of the marks of small children is lack of discernment. They have no way of telling what is good or bad for themselves. They judge only by feeling and whim. If something looks attractive, they may try to pick it up, even if it were a poisonous snake. If something looks remotely like food, they try to eat it. A child of three left to select his own diet would never live to four. He would either sweeten or poison himself to death.
Some Christians, unfortunately, show little more discernment than this in the spiritual realm. They have been so little exposed to sound doctrine, or so long removed from it, that they judge entirely by appearance and feeling. Consequently, the church is filled with babes, who swallow almost any teaching that is put before them, as long as it is not blatant heresy and the teacher claims to be evangelical. As a body, and as individual Christians, we cannot be steadfast in Christ unless we are “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). As long as believers are immature, false doctrine is a major danger (cf. Eph. 4:11–16).
rejection of legalism
Jews were used to having religious regulations for everything, and it was hard for them to adjust to freedom in Christ. It was difficult for them to accept the truth Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 8:8, that “food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” All their lives they had been taught and had believed that what you ate and did not eat was extremely important to God. Even how it was prepared and eaten was important. Now they are told that those who were thus occupied were not benefited. Spirituality comes not by foods.
Being spiritually concerned about food is unnecessary under the New Testament. In fact, insisting on dietary regulations for religious reasons is against the gospel. Paul uses the harshest possible words to describe those who propagate such ideas.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4:1–5)
God had a hard time convincing Peter that the dietary and ceremonial restrictions of Judaism were no longer valid. Peter even argued with God when He commanded him in a vision to kill and eat a variety of unclean animals. The Lord had to tell him three times, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (Acts 10:15). Christ has rendered all external observances invalid and useless. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). The Colossians were exhorted: “let no one act as your judge in regard to food” (2:16). As Christians, our hearts are only strengthened by grace.
8. Jesus Christ the same, &c. The only way by which we can persevere in the right faith is to hold to the foundation, and not in the smallest degree to depart from it; for he who holds not to Christ knows nothing but mere vanity, though he may comprehend heaven and earth; for in Christ are included all the treasures of celestial wisdom. This then is a remarkable passage, from which we learn that there is no other way of being truly wise than by fixing all our thoughts on Christ alone.
Now as he is dealing with the Jews, he teaches them that Christ had ever possessed the same sovereignty which he holds at this day; The same, he says, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. By which words he intimates that Christ, who was then made known in the world, had reigned from the beginning of the world, and that it is not possible to advance farther when we come to him. Yesterday then comprehends the whole time of the Old Testament; and that no one might expect a sudden change after a short time, as the promulgation of the Gospel was then but recent, he declares that Christ had been lately revealed for this very end, that the knowledge of him might continue the same for ever.
It hence appears that the Apostle is not speaking of the eternal existence of Christ, but of that knowledge of him which was possessed by the godly in all ages, and was the perpetual foundation of the Church. It is indeed certain that Christ existed before he manifested his power; but the question is, what is the subject of the Apostle. Then I say he refers to quality, so to speak, and not to essence; for it is not the question, whether he was from eternity with the Father, but what was the knowledge which men had of him. But the manifestation of Christ as to its external form and appearance, was indeed different under the Law from what it is now; yet there is no reason why the Apostle could not say truly and properly that Christ, as regarded by the faithful, is always the same.
8 This famous verse has neither verb nor immediate link with what precedes and follows to clarify what is its intention in context. Probably it is to be understood as summing up the faith of the church’s founders (its epigrammatic form suggests a well-memorized creedal “motto”), which the readers are now called to imitate. Following the mention of the “outcome” of these earlier leaders’ lives, it serves to reassure the readers that, whereas their founding fathers may have died, Jesus remains and always will remain a secure foundation for their faith. The unexpected word order that separates the first two time references from the last—“Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and forever”—is perhaps intended to emphasize that the fact that he has proved unchanged so far (“yesterday and today”) assures us he will remain the same for the future. Following the assurance of vv. 5–6, this verse thus locates the reliability of our unfailing God more specifically in the unchangeability of Jesus—and thus, as so often in this letter, places Jesus alongside God without distinction. (Cf. 1:12, where our author has quoted the description of God’s unchangeability in Ps 102:27 [using the same phrase “the same”] as though speaking of the Son; for the threefold division of time, cf. the doxologies of Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8.)
8 Yet they died; they lived on in the memory of those who had known them, but they were no longer available for consultation and wise guidance as they had once been. Jesus Christ, by contrast, was always available, unchanging from year to year, “the same yesterday and today and for ever.” In 1:12 the words of Ps. 102:27 (LXX 101:28) were applied to him: “thou art the same, and thy years have no end.” These words, we saw, in their original context were addressed to the God of Israel; but this is not the only instance in which we find such a spontaneous transition of reference from the Father to the Son. “I am He,” says God to his people in Isa. 48:12; “I am the first and I am the last”—language which in the New Testament is taken over and applied to Jesus without any sense of incongruity.45 Yesterday Jesus “offered up entreaties and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death” (Heb. 5:7); today he represents his people in the presence of God, a high priest who has a fellow-feeling with them in their weakness, because he “endured trial in all respects like” themselves, “while remaining free from sin” (4:15); for ever he lives, this same Jesus, “to intercede for them” (7:25). His help, his grace, his power, his guidance are permanently at his people’s disposal; why then should they lose heart? Others serve their generation by the will of God and pass on; “but this one, because he continues ‘for ever,’ has a priesthood which is untransferable” (7:24). He never needs to be replaced, and nothing can be added to his perfect work.
8 The faithfulness of the community’s past leaders was a response to and a verification of the faithfulness of “Jesus Christ,” who is “yesterday and today the same, and forever.” This truth about “Jesus Christ” is the message they preached and the antithesis of the false teachings described in v. 9. The initial, emphatic “Jesus Christ” encompasses the fullness of who Christ is.6 He is the eternal Son who became incarnate, lived an obedient human life, offered himself in obedience to God, and has now taken his seat at God’s right hand (8:1–2). Thus, he has full authority to cleanse his people from sin and bring them into God’s presence. The phrase “yesterday and today the same, and forever” echoes descriptions of God’s eternity, and thus recalls both the direct (1:10–12; 7:16, 25) and indirect (7:3, 8) application of such language to the eternal Son of God. The pastor intends his hearers to recall these earlier passages and thus to know that the constancy of “Jesus Christ” rests on the eternity of the Son of God.8 Yet the way the Greek text joins “yesterday and today” and sets them off from “forever” suggests several further implications. First, the pastor would emphasize that the Jesus Christ who was available to the leaders of “yesterday” is just as adequate for his hearers “today.” Second, this structure puts “the same” at the very center of the verse. Jesus’ perpetual effectiveness is both the expression and guarantee of God’s faithfulness, so eloquently affirmed in vv. 5–6. “We” must imitate the faith of those leaders because “we” can depend on God’s faithfulness, made effective in Christ’s High Priesthood, just as much as they could.11 The pastor concludes with “and forever” in order to turn the eyes of his hearers ever forward to the “enduring City” (v. 14) guaranteed by “Jesus Christ.” By joining the eternal Christ and the “enduring City” the pastor erects the strongest barrier against disobedience or pursuit of some alternate way of life. “Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and forever,” is an apt summary of God’s word, received from their previous leaders and expounded by the pastor in this sermon. It is, therefore, the antithesis of the “diverse and strange” teachings mentioned in v. 9.
13:8 / This remarkable verse does not intend to represent Jesus in the abstract and timeless categories of Platonic thought. It is not meant as a description of the transcendent and eternal nature of Jesus Christ. The main point of the verse is that because of his past and present work Jesus Christ is sufficient to meet all needs that Christians have. This is apparent not only from the context but also from the actual structure of the verse, which reads, literally, “Jesus Christ yesterday and today is the same, and until the ages.” His work of yesterday, the sacrificial and atoning work as high priest, has been expounded at length by our author. That is the very basis of Christianity. Today his work continues in the intercession he makes for us at the right hand of God (7:25; cf. 4:14–16). It is also true, as a kind of surplus, that the future of the readers remains secure. The faithfulness of Christ in the past and present will find its counterpart in the future when he returns to consummate the saving purposes of God (9:28). The faithfulness of Jesus Christ is unchanging (cf. 7:24) and is thus something upon which the readers may depend in living the life of faith.
8. This verse is not, as some read it, in apposition with “the end of their conversation” (Heb 13:7), but forms the transition. “Jesus Christ, yesterday and to-day (is) the same, and (shall be the same) unto the ages (that is, unto all ages).” The Jesus Christ (the full name being given, to mark with affectionate solemnity both His person and His office) who supported your spiritual rulers through life even unto their end “yesterday” (in times past), being at once “the Author and the Finisher of their faith” (Heb 12:2), remains still the same Jesus Christ “to-day,” ready to help you also, if like them you walk by “faith” in Him. Compare “this same Jesus,” Ac 1:11. He who yesterday (proverbial for the past time) suffered and died, is to-day in glory (Rev 1:18). “As night comes between yesterday and to-day, and yet night itself is swallowed up by yesterday and to-day, so the “suffering” did not so interrupt the glory of Jesus Christ which was of yesterday, and that which is to-day, as not to continue to be the same. He is the same yesterday, before He came into the world, and to-day, in heaven. Yesterday in the time of our predecessors, and to-day in our age” [Bengel]. So the doctrine is the same, not variable: this verse thus forms the transition between Heb 13:7 and Heb 13:9. He is always “the same” (Heb 1:12). The same in the Old and in the New Testament.
Vers. 7, 8.—Remember your leaders (τῶν ἡγουμένων ὐμῶν, wrongly rendered in the A.V., “them that have the rule over you;” for the reference is to departed chiefs. The word is similarly used by St. Luke (see Luke 22:26; Acts 15:22; also below, ver. 17 and ver. 24). St. Paul, with a like meaning, calls the rulers of the Church of προιστάμενοι: see Rom. 12:8; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17), who spake to you the Word of God; of whose conversation (i.e. course of life, ἀναστροφῆς), considering the end (or issue, ̓́κκβασιν), imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is yesterday and to-day the same, and for ever. This allusion to departed leaders shows the comparatively late date of the Epistle. Those who had died as martyrs, and hence, having a peculiar halo round them in the issue of their lives, may be supposed to be especially referred to; such as Stephen the protomartyr at Jerusalem, James the son of Zebedee, and possibly James the Just, the acknowledged leader of the Jewish Christians. It may be that Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, had also suffered before the writing of the Epistle. This supposition, however, which would involve a date for the Epistle after St. Paul’s death also, is by no means necessary. Others, too, may be alluded to of whom we have no record, but whose memory would be fresh in the minds of the readers. But it does not follow that martyrs only are intended. Others also who had died in peace, and whose end had been blessed, might be pointed to as models for the imitation of survivors. Ver. 8 must be taken as a distinct appended sentence, the watchword on which the preceding exhortation is based. Its drift is that, though successive generations pass away, Jesus Christ remains the same—the Saviour of the living as well as of the departed, and the Saviour of all to the end of time. It may be here observed that, though his eternal Deity is not distinctly expressed—for “yesterday” does not of necessity reach back to past eternity—yet the sentence can hardly be taken as not implying it. For his unchangeableness is contrasted with the changing generations of men, as is that of Jehovah in the Old Testament (e.g. in Ps. 90:2–4), and surely such language would not have been used of any but a Divine Being.
7. Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
The author of Hebrews employs the verb Paul uses when he writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David” (2 Tim. 2:8). The verb means “call back to mind that which you know about a person.” The writer exhorts his people to think of those leaders whom death has taken away. The expression leader is rather broad and somewhat vague, so that it fails to contribute anything to our understanding of the historical background of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The word itself gives no assurance that the author had apostles in mind. That probability, however, is not excluded. Whether the author referred to Paul and Peter is speculation. What we do know is that the leaders “spoke the word of God” to the people. They were, then, preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ and had been instrumental in building the church, that is, the body of Christ. These founding fathers had passed away, but the readers still remembered their labors.
The next command is to “consider the outcome of their way of life.” The verb consider actually means to “look at again and again,” to “observe carefully.” The author urges the people to look attentively at the lives these leaders lived and at the totality, that is, the result, of their lives. “Observe how they closed a well-spent life” (MLB). Look at their lives from beginning to end!
And the third command follows: “Imitate their faith.” The writer wishes to leave the impression that these leaders were to be considered heroes of faith, similar to those listed in chapter 11. Follow in their footsteps; perform deeds of faith, and speak words of faith. We are not told whether these leaders suffered martyrdom. That is not the point. The readers of the epistle must imitate their faith. Faith is all-important. “We more easily contemplate and admire the happy death of godly men than imitate the faith by which they have attained to it.”
In this fast-changing world, nothing seems dependable and permanent. Leaders come, and leaders go. One leader, however, is unchangeable: Jesus Christ. Says the author, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” More sermons have been preached on this text than on any other verse from Hebrews, so that this verse almost has attained confessional status in the church.
First, note that the writer uses both names, “Jesus” and “Christ.” The name Jesus embraces the work and word of God’s Son on earth. He has come to save his people from their sin. The name Christ is the official title that expresses the divinity of the Son. The double name occurs only three times in Hebrews (10:10; 13:8, 21).
Next, not only Christ’s divinity but also his changelessness the author explains in the first chapter of his epistle. For instance, quoting Psalm 102:27, he says, “But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (1:12; and see 7:24).
Furthermore, note the sequence of time: past, present, and future. The term yesterday relates to the mediatorial work of Jesus on earth, proclaimed and confirmed to the readers by those who heard him (2:3). The expression today refers to the intercessory work Jesus performs in heaven, where he represents the believer in God’s presence (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24). And the word forever pertains to the priesthood of Christ. He is priest forever (5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28).
For the readers of the epistle, Jesus is the same. That implies faith on the part of the believers, for they can depend on him because he remains true to himself. He is the first and the last, the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Heb 13:8). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (p. 345). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 480). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.