By Stephen Leonard

“It is appointed unto man to die once, and after that comes the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27

2023 is upon us. We often reflect back on the last year of 2022. Recently reviewing 228 “famous” persons who died in the past year, causes one to once more think of the very certain human condition, that “it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.” Someone considered these 228 folks as “famous” enough to make their list and have their pictures displayed. 

I certainly would never be placed on such a list. There is nothing famous about me. At least, not in the way that captured the notoriety of these. They were entertainers, actors, musicians, politicians and the like. 

You have to be on television regularly, or in movies, or in the national spotlight to qualify; though there were far more that I did not recognize, than those I did. I am surely not anything of an expert about much of the entertainment or celebrity world. 

World Magazine created a more creditable list with some pictures of the well-known who departed this world in 2022, with the reason of their notoriety. It is always fascinating to peruse. 

Of course, a long-reigning Queen died this last year. Queen Elizabeth was also, chief of all, a follower of Jesus Christ, by her own admission. 

Those who died ranged in age from 16 to over a hundred. They died from all kinds of causes, from suicide, cancer, heart attack, or old age to unknown. Each has a story that none of us fully know. Some are good stories, some are tragic, some are climactic, and some, not so much. But they stir interest in wondering about who they really were, perhaps beyond what made them famous. Now they are gone from our sight and soon from our memory. 

They represent in their death a host of other people not on the list who also died in 2022. Most of those are completely unknown to you and me. Such numbers are too much to grasp. 

There are, of course, those who you know quite well; family, friends, and the like. But there are so many with whom you haven’t the slightest recognition or familiar concern. Thousands pass from the ranks of the living every moment of our lives in all parts of the world. 

They all are members of our race, human beings, who, with us, populate the earth. They lived in the same age as you and me on planet earth. We have this much in common. We are fellows in living at the same time, all creatures of the same Creator. 

Some we will know or come to know in eternity. Many others we will never know; those who do not pass the bar at the Great Judgment. I do not know how we will handle the knowledge of such a climactic and dreadful event. It is enough for us to say such is in God’s own hands, and that “I am the LORD’s servant. Let it be done to me according to Your Word.” (Luke 1:37)

We all who do believe want to sit at the Savior’s feet and gaze upon His face at our entrance into heaven. The logistics of such is a wonderment among us all. Again, it is truly beyond our imagination, but, nevertheless, it is promised by our LORD. 

In any case, it is said we die once with only a few exceptions: Enoch, Elijah, Lazarus, and Jairus’ daughter. But we do not know precisely when. We do not know our time, except for possibly immediately before our recognition of it. (Psalm 139:16)

If we knew previously when the day was that God had ordained for us, would we live any differently, measuring out our steps and activity up to that very day? God has ordained for us to live by faith and does not let us know the day of our homegoing. Yet we are always to be prepared to see His face. 

Except for those who successfully took their own life, most of the people on the lists did not know the day they would die in advance. Man simply does not know his time. In light of that, he ought to be always ready, so he does not need last-minute preparations, because such comes without the time to perform it. 

To do what he ought takes too much time for a spur of the moment matter. What man ought to do is start today to more purposefully plan out the preparation for his death, not knowing if it will be soon or long. If he were going to see the King, he would make preparations to do just that; and finish well! 

How well do you know Him? What will be the subjects of your immediate conversation? Will you just listen or presume to also speak? About what? How will you worship and adore Him when you see Him? How will you express your love? Is this something you can do now so that when it happens, you just pick up where you left off? 

The first time in His presence ought not to be a new experience, but a continuation of what you are doing today, because you really can do it now. You do not need to wait until you get there. In fact, you dare not, for we are all not the thief on the cross. You either know Him now, or you do not. If you do not know Him now, you better come to know Him soon, because you do not know when you will be in His very presence. 

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