“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43
Have you witnessed many pass from this life to the next? As a war veteran and pastor, this has been a bigger part of my life than I would have thought as a child or teenager. Even when someone is lingering near death’s door for a time, the actual transition from life to death and beyond is but a split second. On the battlefield it is the instantaneous strike of a fatal bullet or the flash explosion of a mortar or grenade. In normal life it is the lightning quickness of two cars colliding at high speed, or a fast traveling car hitting a pedestrian or a bike rider, or a slip and fatal fall from a high place or cliff, or a massive heart attack striking when never expected, or vital organs shutting down from disease. The actual transition from breathing to not is but a twinkling of the eye. There is no time, then, to pause and say, “Let me think about this. The time to think about it is long before the split-second, when you can still change the destination beyond that lightning moment.
For so many people, the split-second transition from life to death is a complete unknown. Even those who are “pretty sure that it is a transition from life to annihilation, or those who assume it will all pan out anyway; they do not have an inkling of total confidence, down deep, beyond all the bluster of what really happens after that split-second passes, and they are really “in the beyond. It is truly strange that there is a lazy nonchalance about that split-second of the last breath by those who have no clue what takes place next. Many live their lives in such fantasy, unconcerned; this is called spiritual blindness. Others have momentary fears but don’t know what to do about them and really do not seek answers which provide genuine peace.
Death can be very sudden and totally unexpected. A number of recent graduates of the PAYH were killed unexpectedly and instantaneously. There was no time to reminisce about spiritual things; they were either prepared or not. Knowledge of such true occurrences ought to be sobering and lead to serious preparation for that second of death. Death can remove you from this life without any foreknowledge that this is your last second. That is what the Bible means when it exclaims, “Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Not tomorrow, not next year, or in five years. The strong implication here is to act now; there may not be a tomorrow. Assurance of your destination after the split-second is not something with which to be nonchalant. The reason you are even thinking about it now is a prompting by the Spirit of God to get serious and act. Too much shrugging off of the Spirit’s numerous promptings leads to a calloused, spiritually insensitive heart which will never act (Genesis 6:3). The harder you get, the more you remove yourself from the opportunity of saving faith. Faith is a gift from God, but your insistent and continuous rebellion will sear your conscience to any future spiritual sensitivity.
We just had a conversation at a restaurant with an acquaintance who is in a deep valley of many horrible circumstances in her life. We asked her where she was with God. With tears in her eyes, she said she wasn’t. Horrible circumstances in your life are actually a loving providence of God to come to Him; Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden [with the circumstances in your life] and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). It is not “Run from Me, as this woman was doing, but rather “Come to Me.
A split-second is all it takes to go from this life to the next, and it is truly something you can prepare for now. Live your life with a split-second mentality, that is, constantly keeping Jesus before your face (Hebrews 12); you can do that and continue in your responsibilities, conversations, whatever. Then, when the split-second comes, your transition will be smooth as glass and not a horror. You see Him by faith now, then, in a split-second, you see Him face-to-face. If you are not ready, do something about it – now.
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
(4th verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain, 1738)
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