The door was unlocked and the band of thugs stood there ready to carry out their appointed duty. "It is time" said the head guard as he grabbed the man’s arm and forced him to stand upon his legs which had long ago lost their ability to hold up the man.
The man was dragged down the long hallways and up the stairs to the spot all the others had been taken to be executed. With little fanfare and no witnesses, he was executed and his lifeless body was buried in the shallow grave along with all the others. The guards were dispatched to get the next prisoner.
This scenario, or one similar to it, is probably how the Apostle Paul’s earthly life came to an end. Imprisoned for the final time in Rome, he had written Timothy of his impending execution. Unlike previous times, Paul knew there would be no miraculous escape this time. God had told him that the end was near and Paul was at peace with it.
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith:"
2 Timothy 4:6,7
Paul knew, for God had told him, that the race of life was ending. Paul was probably around 60-65 years old when he was executed. Did Paul beg the Lord for "one more year"? I suppose he could have, but there is nothing to indicate he had any desire to live another year in the cold dungeon he was imprisoned in.
When reading the Apostle Paul’s epistles of 2 Corinthians and Philippians, it is very clear that in his mind, he would much rather be done with this life and with the Lord than enduring all the tribulations and afflictions he was going through. In fact, he told both groups of believers that it was his love for them and desire to share the Gospel which gave him the motivation to keep enduring and going on.
Just as Paul knew when the time was near for his departure from this life, so did the Apostle Peter.
"Knowing that shortly I must put off [this] my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance."
2 Peter 1:14, 15
We do not know for sure how or even when Peter was executed, but we do know that God had already told him ahead of time it was coming. Just as in Paul’s case, Peter did not go out of this life kicking and screaming, but rather rejoicing. Throughout his first epistle, Peter let it be known that he counted any suffering (including martyrdom) for Christ to be a privilege and not something to be dreaded.
Some would argue that I am advocating that death is a "good thing". I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that the great men and women of the Bible lived for something far bigger than this life only. As they aged and grew weary of the constant persecution and tribulations they endured for Christ, they yearned for the day they would put off this earthly tabernacle and be clothed upon with the new body Christ promised them.
In my humble estimation, far too much emphasis is placed on death in that it is looked upon as the most horrible monster on earth. This is very true for unbelievers for once they die, there is no guarantee as to where they will spend eternity. But, for believers to manifest the same dread and panic about dying as unbelievers do is, unfortunately, a manifestation of FEAR or PRIDE.
There are only a few reasons NOT to want to be done with this life and be with the Lord. There may be lingering doubts as to what one’s eternal future really holds. There may be too much love for this life and world. For some, they are having too much fun in this life to want to leave it behind. In reality, if we really love our Lord Jesus the way we say we do, we should long for the time we are done fighting the battles associated with this body, mind and life. We should look forward to the moment when either Christ returns or we are done with this life and go to be with Him.
I have presided over and attended my fair share of funerals and memorial services in my lifetime. With few exceptions, the person’s whose life is being remembered was so sick, troubled or miserable; their passing was a GOOD thing. Yet, in most cases this is forgotten and replaced with the pain of the person no longer being there.
For those fortunate enough to never be sick, never have financial problems, never have depressing thoughts and never have to deal with the death of a loved one; I suppose it is fair for you to look at this life as "heaven on earth". But, for the rest of us who have to face incredible challenges physically, financially and mentally each day all I can say is; "Be of Good Cheer, The Best is Yet to Come!"
I would gladly suffer the loss of all in this life to win Christ, Paul said in Philippians 3. I would gladly endure persecutions, afflictions and even death, if it is what remaining faithful to Christ demands. I do not live for the glory of this life but rather for that which is awaiting me for all eternity. I thank God daily that the day is soon approaching when I will be with Him, one way or another.
If God told me tonight that I was going to die tomorrow, I would rejoice. If God told me tonight His Son was returning next week, I would rejoice. If God told me tonight that neither of these events would happen soon, I would be sad, but for the sake of the Gospel, I would rejoice; what about you?
It may be by death or His return that the sting of death is removed for us, that hymn put to beautiful music by Queen LilÂiÂuoÂkaÂlaÂni of Hawaii, is ringing in my ears:
In these, the closing days of time,
What joy the glorious hope affords,
That soon O wondrous truth sublime!
He shall reign, King of kings and Lord of Lords.
He's coming soon, He's coming soon;
With joy we welcome His returning;
It may be morn, it may be night or noon""
We know He"™s coming soon.
The signs around in earth and air,
Or painted on the starlit sky,
God's faithful witnesses declare
That the coming of the Savior draweth nigh.
The dead in Christ who 'neath us lie,
In countless numbers, all shall rise
When through the portals of the sky
He shall come to prepare our paradise.
And we, who living, yet remain,
Caught up, shall meet our faithful Lord;
This hope we cherish not in vain,
But we comfort one another by this word.
by Thoro Harris
May we be faithful to Him to the end, the Lord helping us.
I remember when things got particularly "icky" last year and I really wondered if chemo was going to kill me. I have to tell you I certainly looked like I was dying and there were times I really felt like I was! My husband helped me put things into proper perspective by saying "What is the worst thing that will happen to you if you do? You'll be off having the best time ever at this really great party while the rest of us have to stay here for awhile."
I have no desire to get off the stage early as the "Director" (God) still has me on it for some reason. I am content to wait for His directions. Personally, I think most able-bodied, comfortable people who say they can't wait to die are saying so because they are not! God designed us to fight to live... otherwise we'd all be walking off cliffs or something.
That being said, I still look forward to that time when the final barrier is broken and I shall see HIM face to face! As precious as this life has been to me... even with all of it's curves, it cannot in the least compare to what it will be like to truly be in not just a piece of His presence but completely engulfed by it! What a day that will be!
[quote]For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,
that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. Philippians 1:19-16 [/quote]
The VERY BEST is yet to be!
It's amazing how one's view of death changes when someone takes up the cross. I've seen many healthy people, young people, who fear death like nothing else.
And I have seen many very ill people, people who are suffering greatly, who have no fear of death, yet hang on to life. It is the latter who know that "the best is still to come." It's amazing how such people, in the midst of their pain and suffering, can and often do bring comfort to others through their faith.
I used to get up every morning and ask God " Is it today Lord". My yearning to go home was so bad that I would fret for the day of his calling.
But I don't know what changed along the way. As I grew in faith I fretted less and waited with patience instead. I still have moments of fretfulness, but all in all, I pray that when I am called I won't want to stop to say goodbye.
When I had a life-threatening staph infection and again when I was diagnosed with cancer, by the grace of God, I had a very aloof and ambivalent attitude toward my own life and death.
I knew, on one hand, that to be absent from my body would put me into the presence of the Lord. But, on the other hand, I sensed that there were more things for me to do.
I literally felt like I was in a very benign and comfortable tug-o-war. Whichever won--living or dying--was none of my business--only for my Great I AM to choose for me.
I'm pleased that He chose life, otherwise I'd not be here with all of my wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. Is that a contradiction? I think not. YBIC--Ron
Nice blog. I often desire to go home, just thinking about heaven excites me. I've decided to get busy while I'm here, I want to do everything God has for me to do here on this earth and then I am going home forever!! I don't want to hang around any longer than I have to, if my work is done. The best is yet to come!