With the coming of each New Year, we are reminded of the quickly passing time and shortness of the physical life that we possess.
For some, the concept of a short lifespan on earth is a thing of dread and fear. They possess dread because they know that the pleasures, possessions and relationships of this world will quickly pass away; and fear, due to confusion and uncertainty about, and an unpreparedness for, a coming afterlife.
However, in comparison, there are those who recognize that life is only temporal and will be followed by an eternal existence that will offer a much better existence. These have prepared for its coming and joyously await its arrival.
As we come face to face with another New Year, I just wanted to take a few moments to review the Biblical teachings on the temporal nature of life on earth and the great need to prepare for a coming afterlife while the opportunity still exists for each one of us.
(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:) (Job 8:9 KJV)
“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jas 4:14 KJV)
Job, in our text, describes the quickness of the passing of our life as “we are but of yesterday”. In other words, Job is simply saying that, as we look back to the past events of our life, from birth onward, they seem to have just taken place “yesterday”. How very true this is!
On this New Year’s Day, stop and think about the past events of the previous year. For most of us, these events seem like they took place just yesterday.
Now, stop and think about some of your major life events that have taken place throughout your lifetime: births and deaths; sicknesses; new jobs and residences; anniversaries and graduations; and, for the Christian, the moment the Lord brought you unto Himself, trusting in Him for salvation. As you think about all these events, do they not seem to have taken place just a short while ago? For many of us, even the events of life that took place 30, 40, or even 50 years ago, now seem to be fresh in our minds and hearts, as if only a few days have passed.
Job even goes further in emphasizing the brevity of life when he says… “our days upon earth are a shadow”. See also: (Job 7:6, 9:25, 14:2; Psa 78:39, 89:47, 102:11; Isa 40:6).
Understanding the two basic characteristics of a shadow help us to understand what Job was trying to teach us. First of all, a shadow lasts only a short period of time, much like our life in comparison with the eternity that is to follow. Secondly, a shadow is constantly changing (due to movement of the person casting the shadow and the orbiting of the sun)… this pictures for us our temporal life and the many changes that take place on a day by day basis.
Job is bringing to our minds a very basic principle of living that we experience with every new day… Because our lives are uncertain and experience changes every single day, we do not know what each new day will hold for us. James even implies that because our lives are brief, uncertain, and changing, we cannot be sure if we will live yet another day…
“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jas 4:14 KJV) see also (Proverbs 27:1, 1 Sam 20:3)
Folks, looking back over this last year, we all know people who have passed on unexpectedly. Whether it be by accident, sickness, or the actions of another, every day people pass on before us suddenly with absolutely no prior warning. Perhaps, they expected to celebrate the coming of this New Year along with us but, sadly, they are no longer with us. In this fallen, sinful world unexpected deaths are a very common occurrence.
With the passing of this, and every New Year, we are reminded of the changing, fleeting nature of our lives. The most important aspect of these life principles is the need to take advantage of the time we have been given on earth and use it wisely.
What is the wisest possible use of our time? It is living our lives in preparation for the eternity that is to come. Because our physical lives and the world in which we live are temporal in nature, only that which is done for eternity’s sake will be of lasting value…
“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1Jn 2:17 KJV)
So how do we live for eternity? For the lost it means by coming to an understanding of the true God, our condition before Him, and our need of faith in Him, and the eternal blessings that await the people of God:
1. The Lord Jehovah is the true God over all men. God the Son, Jesus, is the only One through whom we can gain access to God the Father. (Psa 83:18, John 14:6; 1 John 5:20)
2. All men have committed sin and stand before God as guilty, unable to save themselves through their works of righteousness. (Rom 3:23, Rom 3:19, Titus 3:5)
3. It is by grace through the God-given gifts of repentance and faith that a sinful man can receive forgiveness and salvation from the punishment of their sins (Acts 3:19, Acts 11:18, Eph 2:5-8. 1 Thess 1:10).
4. The newly forgiven individual is adopted into God’s family, made a citizen of the eternal, spiritual nation of Israel, and made heirs of an eternal existence with God. This forgiveness, and the blessings that accompany forgiveness, are eternal in nature, can never be lost, based upon the completed work of Christ on the cross (Gals 4:5, Eph 2:19, Roms 8:16-17, Heb 10:10).
For the saved, it means to take advantage of the opportunities we have to show Christ to others around us, by living a Christ-like life through our words, actions, and lifestyles. (Roms 8:28-30, Eph 1:4)