The Time is Short

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

The Meditation of Death Profitable to the Soul

Thinking much upon death is generally frowned upon by many. Those of us who do are like to be called dark and morbid. They may object to the meditations of death, attesting that life is short enough as it is, and we will have time enough for those unpleasant and unwelcome thoughts when it comes. In our society, death is very much pushed aside, it seems as much as it can be, because death will always be unavoidable and ever present with us until that day when the Lord Jesus Christ shall abolish death. Death is viewed in general as a great inconvenience.

The Bible has different instructions for us. We Christians are not only to meditate upon it, but meditate upon it often.

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9)

And again,

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fear shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-9)

Natural man does not want to think of death, especially his own death. Natural man (aside from those who long for death due to sickness, pain, afflictions, griefs, troubles, etc.) wants to forget entirely about death and live as if there were no such a day coming, when death shall end all his part, doings and ways for him with this earth.

It may be objected that those who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead do keep in mind the day of death, saying, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15:32). And in some sense this is true. However, I believe it is not the meditation of death itself that is at the bottom of this all, but a riotous and unbridled life being used to rather drown out all thoughts of death. Death will come, death is inevitable; it cannot be denied by any with any soundness of mind, even by the basest of sinners and atheists. But the meditation of death is unpleasant to such a soul, so rather than dwell upon it, the unconverted soul uses this grim truth to spur itself on in its hot pursuit of its lusts, which is not as God would have it. God would have man to think soberly upon this matter, not in passing or only when need be, and to use the thoughts of death to several profitable purposes, as,

1) It works a man off of the thoughts and pursuits of the vanities of this life. When all these things shall be in the end dust and ashes, things that the moth and rust doth corrupt, things that will offer no lasting value once a man crosses that threshold from whence he never shall return, why should he make them the object of his precious time here, his chief pursuits and delights? Only the things that cannot be shaken shall remain at that day, that last day of his life, and that day is coming before one is aware.

2) It has a tendency to discourage from carnality and sinful living. It orients the thoughts to using time more wisely, from avoiding that which will leave us defiled and guilty when we come to face death. How undervalued is a pure conscience at death by those who live without an eye to it. And yet how greatly would those clogged with a guilty conscience long to be clear of their burden as they lie dying, the burden of a soul laden with regrets and uncleanness in the sight of God. Now he will give an account. Now his hour is come where he will have to reckon with a holy God for the things done in the flesh. Now judgment is come, and he is found unprepared, entangled in the snare he made for himself in his life of sin and profligacy.

3) It sets the mind to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. This is found to be true by those with experience in the meditations of death and judgment to come. The brevity of life and imminency of death teaches us to fear the Lord in all our ways with the time we have been given, because there is coming a day when we must all give an account of the things done in the flesh while we had time given to us. What things will be found to the glory of the Lord can be carried with us out of this world and endure to everlasting life, and blessed are they who deliver to their Lord ten talents more than the one talent committed to their care on the earth. Death for them is as the harvest of the fully ripe fruit. The time is short, and “the night cometh when no man can work.”

4) It causes a man to see what he is, both in the sight of the world and in the sight of God. It makes a man low in his own eyes, especially before the Lord, because he sees that he is but dust and ashes. He sees also that his time on earth is as fleeting as one twelve-hour day. Almost as soon as he rises, it is time to lie down again and gather his feet into his bed. What was done cannot be undone, and what was left undone cannot be tended to once his eyes close in that sleep. As the verses earlier say truly, man’s life is a vapour, his days are as grass, as a flower of the field, and he is gone. How feeble is man. But with the Lord is neither beginning of days nor end of life. Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:2). One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Can this be said of short-lived man? In a thousand years, 10 generations have gone by, and the last few are hardly remembered by him. What is man, that thou art mindful of him, that thou takest knowledge of him, that the almighty should think upon this poor, fleeting creature? And it is an even greater thing to think of the mercy of the Lord, that He would make this fleeting creature to have everlasting life, whose days are as a shadow that passeth away? Hence the Word describes our lives as “the years of our vanity,” and that even “man is like to vanity.”

5) It causes a man to make sure of his salvation. Life may seem so long and never ending to those who enjoy it in good health and times of peace, but no sooner have we lived our life than it is time to bid all farewell, almost in a moment. Death overtakes us before we are aware, sometimes heralded with failing health, sometimes without warning. How little time is there to make sure of something of more significance than anything else we could ever set our hands to! The time to run the race is NOW, and but few that run obtain the prize. It is a dangerous thing to put off thoughts of repentance, salvation and eternity until the last hours of life.

6) It ploughs the ground of the heart to make room for faith. Thoughts of death, though grim, drive away the shadows of other sins and clear the field of the clods for the good seed to be planted. Objects and pursuits that once appeared so great, so noble, now shrink in the eyes of a man, even the things of earth look smaller the higher one climbs in altitude, or as the object in the view of the telescope dwindles by viewing it at the opposite end. Thoughts of death drive a man to inqure what lies after death, and how he shall secure himself before it comes upon him.

7) It causes him to see circumstances, no matter how troublesome or joyous, as fleeting. This is a great comfort to those in trials. It tends to thoughts of sobriety in those overcharged with cares of this life. Both of these are doubtless good effects.

8) It sets a man more fervently to his work. The night is coming, when no man can work. Now we dare not dally with souls God has entrusted us to minister unto. We dare not go another day putting off what needs to be done, for tomorrow may never come for us – or them. Now is the time to work, to make fast, to lay up treasure in heaven, to serve the Lord Jesus Christ above all, and to fulfill our calling.

Some Verses on Death

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

“Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little, Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death; A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” (Job 10:20-22)

“- For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)

“As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” (Psalm 103:15, 16)

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

“- Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Numbers 23:10)

“When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me; In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears.” (2 Samuel 22:5)

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patent in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

Death is Sudden and Certain

The day of death is soon, and the day of death is unknown to man. It is in the hand of the Lord.

Death, in one way or another, shall come to all, save to them who are alive and remain at the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not one soul beside these that shall escape its hand. Sooner or later, all men must be visited by it. Reader, are you preparing for that day, the day when you will leave this world behind and bring nothing with you but the things that shall have eternal value? or do we play games with God. Do we think that we shall cheat death, that we can live as we please, that it will all work out in the end, and that things will always be as they have been for us? It can be so easy to get trapped in that mindset. It may be in ten years. It may be in five years. It may be in one year. It may be tomorrow. Are we living according to this truth? or do we stop our ears and harden our hearts and go on in our own headstrong way living as if there will always be a tomorrow. But one day our tomorrows will run out. One day there will be no rising up again the next morning as we have done so morning after morning for so many years. It is a sobering thought, “- ye know not what shall be on the morrow.”

There are little graves in the cemeteries as well as bigger ones. We are not guaranteed to live to a ripe old age before we die.

Only them that are caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His return will have the hap of bypassing death.

The Sorrow of Death

When Jesus beheld Mary and the Jews weeping for the death of Lazarus, it is written that our Lord Himself wept. Death brings sorrow, and that in several ways.

1) It brings sorrow through separation. Death is a severance that parts as nothing else on this earth can. It is partly for that reason it is called its own land; while the land of them that are left behind are said to be in the land of the living, they that have died are passed into “the land of darkness and the shadow of death” (Job 10:21). It parts from home and kin, it parts from all things familiar, from employment and enjoyments, from friends and acquaintance, from life itself, from body and soul. Death is that sharp knife that none can hold back in its occasion, which is in the hand of the Lord, that cleanly and finally severs man from this world. Regardless of what ties may be between the man and this present world or to anything or anyone therein, no matter how strong or how many these ties may be, they shall all be cut as thoroughly as the sickle cuts through the wheat.

2) It brings the sorrow of infirmities and afflictions, often by reason of sickness and age. While some are taken in a moment, perhaps unprepared, and struck by an occurrence that causes their sudden demise, hardly knowing what befalls them, others have days, weeks, months, even years of the pangs of death before they cross over the threshold from whence is no return. Isaac seems to have had such a death, as it was 20 years between when he lost sight by reason of age, at which time he gave the blessing to Jacob in his bed, and when his sons buried him after returning to the land of his sojourning. The languishing moments in the time prior to death often prove a heavy burden, one that causes sighing and tears and groaning under its load.

3) It brings sorrow through finality. At the day of death, there are no more opportunities in this life. To wake up in a new day in this earth is a luxury that will have been spent out, in one way or another. There is also no turning back the clock to change things once said or done, or how time was spent.

4) It brings sorrow through nature. God has put it in man by nature to remain alive. Even under the most extreme of circumstances, men will do all they can if they can but continue to live. Death vies for the mastery of a man with his natural inclinations to continue alive in this earth. The rending of the soul from the body comes with difficulty in many cases, at least until the body has given up the fight despite the will of the soul to remain. This conflicting of wills is grievous to this poor creature. Men may desire to die, against nature, (Revelation 9:6) but this is naturally only once the body is too weary to continue, either through sorrow or sickness.

The World’s Wrong Response to Death

The world cannot deny that death is immanent, so it would drown it out, if perhaps it may forget it, and take comfort in the pleasures of this life. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die…” The world continues to perpetuate this seriously wrong response to death, from the days before the flood even to this very day. The world says that the brevity of life ought to make a man live for himself and his own pleasures; that his chief end is nothing more than to be happy with following his own course and seeking his own profit and welfare with what little time he has while he can. It is sad that this is the best counsel the world can give when asked what to do when death is around the corner for all.

But it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. And o, how the bondage of sin and selfishness will choke the one who lives after their own lusts. Very few men can be so miserable in the end as he that follows his heart, hence the Word calls that man a fool that trusts in it. Doubtless he that thinks of death after the course of this world shows himself a fool a thousand times over, and will be made to see so at the last.

The Christian has far more joy in following the light of the law of God through the love of the Spirit; in knowing the Lord and delighting in fellowship with Him day by day, which things among others shall prove gold, silver and precious stones in the day when the fire tries every man’s work, of what sort it is.

O, that we who are alive in the land of the living may consider this. It is a fearful thing to face death full of regrets for which there is no remedy. To those who are saved, death is a struggle indeed to most, but a translation to a far better state, and one we need not fear, for its sting has been removed through the atonement of the blood of Christ. May the saints of God be well prepared to meet Him, (Amos 4:12) as those who will give an account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief.

To those who are unsaved, where death finds you, there it will leave you, which will be in the guilt of your sins, except ye repent and believe the gospel, being regenerated by the Spirit to a new man.

“- and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.” (Ecclesiastes 11:3)

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