Vol. 8, No. 5
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Writing to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul made a very thought provoking statement: "...for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). It is quite clear that the writer is looking to the time when Christians will have completed all possible preparations for meeting the Lord in judgment to come, whenever that time will be. For this reason he said, "...it is high time to awake out of sleep..." On this basis, he urgently admonished those Christians to "cast off the works of darkness," "walk properly, as in the day" and "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (vss. 12-14). One thing is certain: if that coming judgment day would be in this second millennium or if God chooses to delay it for ten thousand years (or more), no person, including those of Paul's day, will have had, generally speaking, more than three score and ten years (maybe fourscore - cf. Psalms 90:10) in which to make the needed preparations. No wonder Paul said, "...it is high time to awake out of sleep..." That is the urgency that presses upon every responsible soul--not that the Lord was expected to come soon, either in the first century, or A.D. 999, or A.D. 1843, or A.D. 1914, or A.D. 1975, or whenever.
By prior experience, this writer knows that 80 years seems almost like an eternity when one is young. But, oh, how short the time seems as we near the end of that time period! The certainty of that departure hour presses more and more heavily upon our thoughts day by day, and we become more and more conscious of the quality of the life we have lived and are living. It is then that we can really appreciate the seriousness of our Lord's words, "...seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." (Matthew 6:33), and the words of Solomon, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth..." (Ecclesiastes 12:1). What a consolation it truly is to know that one has at least tried to heed this admonition!
There is no person who can lay claim to perfection, having no portion of his/her life that is not, at least somewhat, shameful and/or painful to think about. If one dwelt exclusively upon these incidents, one would become depressed beyond measure. But what consolation it is to think about the incidents when one practiced self-control, not being selfishly motivated to obtain possessions, to experience worldly pleasures and vices, to be successful in worldly estimations, to be given to all the things that pertain to this fleeting, perishing world.
What consolation it is to remember the long, hard, wearisome hours spent in feeding the soul with the Word of God, the strain and expense of faithful attendance to Bible study, worship services and personal evangelism. What consolation it is to remember the things done to help relieve the sorrows and needs of those who were less fortunate than we.
These things are not mentioned to imply that such merits eternal salvation; they are mentioned to indicate that one has tried, at least to some degree, to seek first the kingdom of God and to remember the Creator in former days. They are, however, some of the good works that we were created for (Ephesians 2:10) and that serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
But after considering all of this, there is a matter that gives to the faithful Christian an ultimate consolation: that is the redemption and salvation that is in Jesus Christ. This is a consolation that makes all of the above worthwhile, but more importantly, it is a soothing balm to the anxious soul making a transition from this time world into the realities of the unseen world. Paul encouraged and comforted the Christians under duress in Thessalonica, "For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). "Sleep" here refers to death. What a pleasant thought of death--sleep, sweet, restful sleep! When one is baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-6), and remains faithful to Christ, that one lives (has eternal life) with Christ, whether living in this time world or "sleeping" in the unseen world.
What consolation it is to know that Jesus was made a sin-offering for his people that they "...might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Those who stand in judgment righteous before God shall in no wise be cast out! What consolation! Is not that worth doing all we possibly can to faithfully serve the Lord now?