We have, in these columns, given our attention to the various signs of the times—signs pointing to the nearness of Christ’s return on the clouds of heaven. Nor can there be any doubt in the mind of the discerning Christian that His return is at hand. The specific date none can say—Jesus Himself warned against attempts to determine the day and the hour.
In discussing the return of Christ, we do sometimes grow weary of the mention of this. We are not always that anxious for Christ to return—we do have it pretty good here on the earth. We might rather consider our interests and goals on this earth—than think constantly of that which is to come. Besides, does it not sometimes seem as though all things d continue as they always were? Are not many of the signs of Christ’s return, signs which were evident almost from. creation itself? Why then mention so often the return of Christ?
This time, instead of speaking of Christ’s return bodily on the clouds of heaven in the, last day, I would mention another sense in which we can speak of His coming. There is the day of our death when Christ comes to receive the souls of His people to bring them to glory. How much do we think of that?
Perhaps a minister is, more than many others in a congregation, aware of the reality of death. He is called upon when there is sickness and death in the families of his parishioners. He is personally aware of the many sorrows which befall one on this earth. Especially when one who dies, or is about to die, is very young, one begins to think seriously of the fact that each must die—I must die. Most do not know the time of their deaths. Some however do know—that is, they know that within a few days or weeks they must die.
If I were to know that I would die tomorrow, if I were of the few that have an advance warning, how would this affect my life? My goals? My thoughts and attitudes? And if my position would be radically altered, in the light of such knowledge of impending death, ought not that same spiritual attitude be seen NOW?
Were we certain of our death tomorrow, we would surely make necessary arrangements concerning our possessions and perhaps concerning funeral, burial, etc. Normally, we are inclined to ignore this because we refuse to face the possibility and reality of our own impending death. But if we knew the day, we would make plans accordingly.
But if Christ were to return to take one of us tomorrow, and we knew this, there are spiritual matters in which we would surely involve ourselves today. What wouldyou do and say were you to have such knowledge?
I suppose one would be inclined first to reflect upon the past—and not without regret. The years quickly went by. And what did we really accomplish? How many did not we waste—assuming that we had many more to come? What could not we have done differently—if we had known the brevity of the days given us! How much more time would not we have spent with God’s Word and in prayer! How much more instruction we would have given our children! How much more we would have sought God’s people and the coming of His kingdom! But the time is past—beyond recall.
But what would my thoughts and attitudes be in this last day God has given? First, I would doubtlessly have a far different perspective on time which God allotted to me. When there would be one or but a few days remaining, I would surely make careful use .of every last second. There would be no time to “waste.” There would be far too many things to do and to say. There would be no time for idleness; no time for foolish things. Each moment would be regarded as a precious gift to be used carefully to accomplish what must be done.
One’s attitude toward the world and its entertainments would certainly be altered if there were but a few hours of time remaining in this life. I am rather sure that the child of God would not while away the time in front of his television set. He would not find pleasure in the entertainments which the world provides. He would not be found going to one last movie. He would find no pleasure in the dance. He would not sing one last worldly song or rejoice in the rock music of this world. Conscious of the fact that Jesus would soon be taking him home, he would also know that shortly he would be giving account of all that he had done on this earth.
Without doubt, there would be a different attitude toward one’s work in this case. Oftentimes, work can become the means of establishment and advancement in this world. That job may have been all-important. One might be willing to sacrifice his church connections, at least with the church where he believed the Word to be most purely preached, in order to advance himself. He might put all of his time into that work—having no time for family, for church, for school. But were there one day remaining, interest in work and job would suddenly abate. Even if part of this last day were to be put into one’s job, it would not be in order to earn enough to have a good life here on this earth. That work would mean nothing anymore—at least nothing as far as his earthly life was concerned.
The same would be true concerning one’s friends and concerning the question of marriage. Often, especially for young people, there is nothing more important than this. One might compromise; he might be ready to give up everything: church and family, in order to marry the one he “loves.” God is not first in his thoughts. His own “happiness” (which often soon turns into bitter sorrow) is more important than anything that the Word of God teaches. But were death surely coming tomorrow, all of this would be different for the child of God. He would evaluate his “love” in a different light and with a different standard. Then it would not first be the friendship of man which is the most important, but friendship with the ever-blessed God. Earthly ties must be broken; but the child of God has eternal fellowship with Father in heaven through Jesus Christ His Son.
I would suspect, too, that the child of God, under the circumstances, would not want any evils or sins he committed to remain unconfessed. Surely he would acknowledge before God all that which he had done amiss. It is true that he always confesses his sin before God. But often such is rather in a routine way. In the knowledge of standing soon in Jesus’ Presence, one would surely desire to cry out for mercy before the Living God.
And one would want to remove every offense with a brother. There is not always a sense of urgency, when one thinks he has much time before him. There is always tomorrow, or next week, or month, or year. But if only one day remained, then the child of God would want to make sure that no offense remained. How could he stand before Jesus’ face shortly, knowing that he had left unresolved even one offense?
If I had but one day remaining, what would I do?
All the above represents only a few thoughts of what might cross one’s mind when facing the reality of death. But does not Scripture itself more clearly emphasize the calling of the child of God? Did not Jesus say, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33)? Did Jesus not add, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’ (vs. 34)?
Jesus also pointed out, through parable, the foolishness of setting one’s heart on earthly things. He spake in Luke 12:16-21 of the rich fool who made elaborate plans to tear down his small barns in order to build bigger to hold his material goods. He was assured that he had much goods “laid up for many years.” He would take his ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But that very night God required of him his soul. All his goods, all his plans, were of no value to him anymore. Others took what he had worked so hard to obtain.
Jesus speaks in John 9:4 concerning Himself, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” And we are reminded in Romans 13:12, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
One cannot, of course, be “scared” into doing the good and holy by fear of impending death. Though the angel of death stood this ‘very moment before a wicked person, that one would not therefore repent. Repentance and godly walk are the fruit of the work of the Spirit. There must be regeneration and conversion. Then one will principally seek that which is spiritual.
But the point we ought to see is that often the child of God is deeply affected by the world and his own sinful flesh. Often he puts off til next year what ought to be done today. Often he enjoys the very things which he knows will have no place in heaven. He seeks to defend and excuse his actions. He considers that he has much time til Jesus’ return; or much time before Jesus calls him from this earth. So he procrastinates. He has forgotten that the night is far spent—the day is at hand.
We know not how many tomorrows we have. But we know that God has given us this day to use to His glory. May we be aware of the brevity of our days that we may set our hearts on wisdom’s way. Perhaps we could well ask ourselves before we did, or failed to do, anything, “Would I do this if I knew that today were my last?”