Matthew ends his Gospel account with some of the most reassuring words Jesus spoke: “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). What should that mean to us, in practical terms, in our own lives, in our own struggles, failures, and disappointments, and even when we feel that God has let us down?
It is interesting that Matthew commences his Gospel with similar words. After listing all the forebearers, and the account of an angel visiting first Mary then Joseph, Matthew explains that the baby to be born would be Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23).
God made the promise, “I will be with you,” a number of times in Scripture. He promised to be with Isaac (Gen. 26:24), with Jacob (Gen. 28:15), with Jeremiah (Jer. 1:8, Jer 1:19), and with the children of Israel (Isa. 41:10, Isa 43:5). The context of many of these references is during times of hardship and duress, when God’s words would be most relevant.
A parallel verse uses similar words: “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5, NKJV). Just a few verses later it adds, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8, NKJV). This promise, too, is repeated a number of times. It actually comes from the occasion when Moses hands leadership over to Joshua (Deut. 31:6, 8), and God repeats the phrase to Joshua after the death of Moses, “‘I will not leave you nor forsake you'” (Josh. 1:5, NKJV). When David passes on the kingdom to Solomon, he likewise tells Solomon that God will not leave nor forsake Solomon (1 Chron. 28:20).
Jesus, who never changes, who is always with us, gave strong assurance to our forefathers of the faith. They faced hardship and trial, or were about to embark on the greatest challenge of their life; yet, they were assured of God’s continued presence.
To the church of Christ at the end of time, these assurances are significant. Jesus’ promise of being with us to the very end is in the context of making disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. So, that is where the focus is-on the joy of rescuing people from ending up on the losing side in the great controversy.