Recently, I’ve been trying to teach my son Jonah to discern the difference between what matters and what doesn’t. For example, there’s no sense getting worked up when his younger brother Jude “steals” his favorite toy truck, because we have lots of trucks (and Jude tends to move on to a new toy every five minutes or so). Or, when we’re working on his reading skills, if he doesn’t know a word, that’s okay; we can sound it out together and keep trying till he figures it out.
More importantly, I have also been trying to instill in Jonah the unbreakable fact that no matter what happens in his four-year-old world, his mother and I love him to the moon and back. Nothing he can do has the power to change that. In the long run, that truth matters, while so many others do not.
There is a marked difference between what matters for today and what matters for eternity, and one day, the two will be sorted out. Jesus made this point as He and His disciples were observing the temple. As large and beautiful as the complex was, Jesus told His friends, “not one stone will be left on another” (Luke 21:6).
This statement got the attention of the disciples, and they asked Jesus when this stone-toppling destruction day would be and what signs would mark its coming. In true prophetic fashion, Jesus’s response is both specific (“Those in Judea must flee to the mountains” [v.21]), and somewhat vague (“When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed” [v.9]). There’s also a sense in which His words apply to the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the year AD 70 (see vv.20–24,32 especially), and another sense in which they apply to the end of history as we know it (see vv.25–28,34–36).
Writing about this discourse and its parallel passages in Matthew and Mark, Bible scholars and theologians have emptied countless fountain pens in their attempts to unpack the myriad opinions on how we should understand Jesus’s words. And while the discussion is a fascinating one, in my opinion the most important principle to be found in this chapter is among the most straightforward of Jesus’s statements: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (v.33).
What matters most—and what will last for eternity—are those things we do in response to the words spoken by God, whether they came from the lips of Jesus or were inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded for us in Scripture. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away.” That means we won’t be able to hold onto anything we’ve built for ourselves. However, the author of Hebrews tells us, “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). Our task until that kingdom comes in its fullness is to be obedient to His Word.
God speaks because He loves us. We can trust His Word, no matter what comes.
Written by John Greco