by Roland W. Keith
"Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not” (Job 14:1-2).
At the age of 61 life is moving at a breakneck pace. I have concluded that there are not enough hours in the day— and probably won’t be enough days in my life to do and see all that I would like. Usually when reading these verses from Job I am drawn to his description of the brevity of life. Today, another phrase caught my eye— ‘like a shadow.’ When light strikes an object, it casts a shadow. The shadow is not the thing or person lighted but only a dim, mostly featureless image of the real thing. This is how Job described human life, as a mere shadow of what is real. One day our bodies will return to dust, to cast shadows no more. As the Psalmist wrote even if we live seventy or eighty years our lives will end like a sigh (Psalm 90:9-12). His conclusion? To fear God and learn to number our days that we may achieve a heart of wisdom.
That is not the end of the matter, however. The Bible teaches that when our lives end upon the earth they will continue elsewhere, and that should be a greater concern to us than what is to be achieved or gained in this life. We have all heard the adage, “you can’t take it with you.” As Paul wrote to Timothy, “for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out” (I Timothy 6:7). It is to be noted here, however, that Paul is speaking of earthly things. There is in fact something of value we can take with us to the grave, as Paul mentioned in the verse prior, “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6). What exactly is this great gain connected to godliness? It is a gift from God. As Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since you have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:1-3; see also John 3:16; 6:27).
Each of us will, in fact, carry one of two things with us to the grave— God’s eternal mercy or condemnation.
According to Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself: and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is a son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:24-29). According to Paul the fruit of our lives leads us to death (both physical and spiritual), or to the free gift of God which is eternal life (Romans 6:21-23; see also Galatians 6:8). Jesus said whoever will come to Him can have this gift. His apostle Paul used himself as an example. He who considered himself to be least among the apostles, even least of all saints, because he had persecuted the church was able to find salvation in Christ (I Timothy 1:16; I Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8).
All of us have eternity before us. The question is where will we choose to spend it? There is a place prepared for the great deceiver, who was complicit in the fall of man. He and his angels shall be cast into the lake of fire along with those among us who choose to follow him (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). The Bible is full of examples of those who will be condemned. Those who give themselves over to wicked behavior or whose consciences have been seared (Jude 1:7; I Timothy 4:1-2). Others include “the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). Each of us will be judged according to our acceptance of and obedience to the gospel (II Thessalonians 1:7-9), along with the works God has given us to do. As Paul told the Romans, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek” (Romans 2:6-10).
We all know the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:22-31). The rich man lived for this world and its good things but apparently payed little attention to God and his own spiritual welfare, or that of others— at least not until after he died. Unable to be granted relief from the torment he was in, he became concerned for the welfare of his five brothers and desired to warn them, so they could avoid the same fate, but it was too late for him to help them. On the other hand, the beggar, Lazarus, was beaten down by life, but was justified in God’s sight and was accepted into Abraham’s bosom. It is a warning that success in the world does not equate to spiritual success. It is possible to achieve both, but only if we get our priorities straight. Eternal life is achieved by letting go of our own desires and self-will and seeking the will of God in our lives first and foremost.
Jesus once said, “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8; Mark 9:43). A rather descriptive, and effective, way to tell us to cut those things out of our lives that interfere with our spiritual well-being. Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Unfortunately, if we do not take preventive measures to avoid sin now, there will be no cure in the afterlife. Only eternal condemnation for rejecting God. Earlier I listed some of those who will find no place in heaven. It is a list of unabashed, unrepentant sinners. But there is another group that may surprise some (including themselves). Those who consider themselves to be religious, even godly, but do little in the service of God or man. Jesus compared these people to those who truly live godly lives, in Matthew 25:31-46):
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?'
And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to You, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.'
"Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'
Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?'
Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
We might ask ourselves which of the above groups do I belong in? If we don’t like the answer its time to make a change. Eternity is a state of existence outside of the physical universe. Exactly what it will be like we do not know. We are given a description, however, of two places and something of what they will be like. One is a dark place of torment, the other a place of light, peace and beauty. Which will you choose as your eternal abode? For those who overcome the world and serve God there is the promise that we can share in His glorious kingdom. According to Revelation 21:7, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.