Buell H. Kazee
The writer of this book is well aware of the probability that the topic announced above would turn off many readers. In a world such as ours, most of us try to evade the inevitable simply because we know that the inevitable is usually unpleasant. However, I urge those who may be inclined to look for other reading to hold on for a while and search the pages which follow. We should remember that the most precious jewels may come from deep, dark caves, and it may be that our best view of our lives may come from a look at their inevitable end.
We begin, therefore, with a solemn passage from James 4:13-17, from which we draw that most serious question, "What is your life?" In order to get the force of this question, let us read the whole passage:Go to now, (that is, Come now,) ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and get gain:
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.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.
But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
[p. 2]Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.It is common for most of us to put off the serious questions of life until we are older, that is, if we become older. I refer to that time in life when we begin to talk a great deal about the past. I am now in that period of life, and my wife sometimes lightly reminds me that I may be living too much in the past. Usually, I reply in the same light vein that I have arrived at that time in life when I don't have much future in this world to talk about. Yet, whatever future we have must be considered in the light of the past, and there is good reason to look back and see where we have been, what we have done, as well as where we are going,
I have spent many years of a long ministry with young people, and for this I am grateful. I have always tried to impress them with the seriousness of the question which James here asks. However, anyone at any stage in life needs to give constant consideration to it.
I don't know where we ever got the idea that religion was mainly for people who have grown old, that young people are not to take it seriously. I used to know people of a certain religious faith who believed that there was no use to try to save young men and women until, as they said, "they were through sowing their wild oats." Well, I have always tried to save them before they sow any wild oats, for the Bible says "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
I remember talking to a young college woman once about her salvation and life. She was a good friend, and I spoke familiarly with her. In substance, I said, "You are young and attractive, you have a splendid mind, and, in a sense, the world is at your feet. Have you never given any consideration to the matter of giving your heart to Christ and letting Him
direct your life?" After a moment's hesitation, she calmly replied, "Well, that is something that I always thought I could take up in later years when other things are not so pressing. I have a few things I must get out of the way before I take that matter seriously. Really, though, I intend to do it, and I will talk with you some day about it." She was not being "sharp" about the matter; she was merely expressing what is the common mind of young people.
My dear young friends, that is not the teaching of the Bible. The wisest man in this world, King Solomon, said, "Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1), and Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Thousands of others have given the same advice. "Now is the accepted time" is the ringing call of Christ (II Corinthians 6:2). There are many reasons for this urgency; and if my reader will stay with this book, I am sure it will be a profitable search.
I will always thank God that I got hold of this idea in my youth. I was born again, saved, when I was fourteen and began preaching when I was just seventeen. I am so glad I remembered my Creator then. I hope my young friends will listen carefully, because many of the things I will say you already know; but because they are so commonly known among us, this in itself constitutes the great danger that we will give little heed to them. It is more dangerous to treat lightly the things we know well than it is to neglect to search for the unknown.
My first thought is this:
It Is a Very Serious Matter to Live.
Now, if I had said, "It is a very serious matter to die," you might have responded, maybe without much emotion, "Of course!" As if to say, "We all know it is a serious matter to die." But I am saying it is an awfully serious matter to live, to exist, to be alive in this world. Really, death is so common among us that it does not disturb us much unless it strikes some of our close loved ones. Even then, we have learned to shift much of the shock to the undertaker. But James is asking about our life. Maybe, after all, that is more serious than our death.
It is true that life and death are tied together. We cannot have one without the other. If you will look back into your earliest memories, you will perhaps find that before you really became conscious of the fact that you were living, you had heard that you would die. You perhaps even joined with the family in discussing where you wanted to be buried. Death became just about as common in your everyday experiences and thought as did life. But it is in the light of that inevitable event that James seeks to impress us with the seriousness of living. "What is your life?" he asks. It is a question that comes directly to us, and we should become well acquainted with the answer.
Maybe it would help to put the emphasis where he has put it, "What is your life?" It is your life that James is talking about, and that is the life which God wants you to consider now. Most of us discuss life in general, like "life is hard," or, as the poet said, "Life is real, life is earnest" and so on. This is a way of speaking about life in general. But James comes right to you and me with this question, "What is your life?" If you will remember that he is talking to you about your life, what we have to say will be more interesting.
Above all things right now, is his first point:
Your Life Is Short.
Short and long are words of variable meaning, depending on comparison of other measures of time or distance. Most of us have some general idea of what we commonly speak of as a short life or a long life. The Bible speaks of it as being "three score years and ten," or, perchance, "four score years." We usually think of a lifetime as being somewhere between seventy-five and a hundred. Even when we are young, we think of getting old in the seventies and of a good, long life at ninety or so. If we live to be a hundred, we join a notable minority of people who often attract attention simply because they are that old. Only a few pass the century mark.
In early Bible days it was common for people to live for several hundred years (before the flood). Methuselah was 969 years old, and he stands out in every Bible quiz because of his age. In comparison, our lives are very short. But what about measuring the length of our lives on the endless ages of eternity? Now you can see why James calls it what he does - a vapor.
My first memory of steam or a vapor is that which came from the old iron tea kettle on mother's stove. You saw it and then it was gone. And even that vapor which now follows a plane high in the skies, up where it is so cold that the vapor lingers briefly, even that fades away very quickly and is gone. In the light of the ages of eternity, that is the length of your life and mine. I am surprised that James did not say "It is like a vapor." But he says it is a vapor, and that means that life vanishes away, just like that!
I know that it is hard for us in our youth to see it as James puts it. We look on our future as if we had all the seventy-five to one hundred years to live, and somehow we don't worry about time running out on us; but he says it appears for "just a little time," and it is likely that we will not realize that until it is almost gone. Those of us who are older are warning our youth that James is right, that life just goes before you know it.
By the time you get out to the fullness of life, you will, like us, wonder that it should have gone so quickly. Of course you will remember so many things that have transpired in your lifetime that it will seem to have been full, but you will also have found by this time that there are many more important matters that you have not attended to, and that there is not now enough time. The wasted hours and opportunities will come up to haunt you; and in regret and frustration you will cry out, "Alas, I have lived out my life, and I have accomplished so little of what I wanted to do." You, too, will wonder how it could have been so short.
If it will make this point more effective, let me say that I am writing these lines in my late seventy-fifth year. Ten more years would be a "good, long life," as people are wont to say, for me. While it could be in the providence of God that I should live to be ninety, my present state of health would lead me to think that five more years would be a more accurate calculation. What would you do if you were facing the prospect you have only five more years here on earth? Maybe you would say, "I would do my best to make these years count to the fullest for my Lord." That would be a good resolution, and that is exactly what I want to do. Yet, even then, you would be greatly disappointed in your accomplishments. But, if you would live a fulfilled life for the glory of God in your last
five years, think how satisfying it would be if you could look back over your life to your youthful days and say, "I have tried to live for Christ since I was young. I may have failed in many ways and at many times, but it is a joy to know that I have tried." Really, it is strange reasoning for anyone to say, in the morning of life, "If I had only five or ten years to live, I would live it all for God, but since I have possibly a long life before me, I will not take it so seriously. There will be time enough later on for that. At this point I have some other plans." Yet, that is the common state of mind for youth.
I would not discourage young people, but I must remind them that the natural circumstances of life do not always favor this great fulfillment, even if one starts early. There are temporal situations that lie in front of you which will involve you in many ways that you cannot now understand. Will you note some of them? If you get an education, that will take much time and labor. Later accomplishments will have to wait until you have gone through periods of discipline and training. If you marry, as would be normal, you will become involved in family affairs, and these can become very complicated. You must have an occupation or profession or some kind of work with an income. There will be local activities and social connections which will take your time. Business activities and involvements must have their share of your life. Among all these may come episodes of sickness or accidents, even deaths in your family, all of which may alter some of your plans or retard your progress. Financial worries, if you are like most of us, will take their toll. All such matters will crowd upon your chief objective - your life with Christ - and you will find no ideal circumstances in which to serve Him. Many of these problems may arise in your life even if you are a dedicated Christian, and, if it be so with a follower
of the Lamb, think how meaningless life will be for those who live wholly for themselves.
Whatever your life may be, Satan will see to it that your life will be filled with many things that will keep you from fulfilling the purpose for which you were created. Even in the life of the most dedicated Christian, there will be times when he or she will be asking "When will I ever get to the main thing?" However hard we try to follow our Lord, we all find that "this vile world is not a friend to grace to help us on to God."
While you are fighting this battle of life, trying even as hard as you can to put Christ first, you will find that you will make many mistakes and that you will not accomplish all your dreams. But most of all, however much you do accomplish, you will find that time has run out on you and that you are far behind schedule; that your energy and abilities are waning, and that much earlier than you expected, the long shadows of the setting sun have fallen upon your pathway. Therefore, after all, you will conclude with James that your life was short.
Now, I wish I could paint a different picture for my readers and still be true, but my wish is defied by the very world in which we live, and especially by the graveyards.
In my own case, I hope for more years than expectancy will permit, and maybe I will have them, but even that won't be long. I must, therefore, begin to think of arrangements for death, for burial, for separation from loved ones here, and whatever preparation I can make for them while they remain in this world. I must begin to pick up the dangling ends of many unfinished tasks and objectives and make the best I can of what remains. I see now that I know more people who have gone on before me than those whom I may leave behind when I depart. Soon it will be with me as it was
with a friend of mine who, in his eighties, lay upon what became his death bed. He said to me, "Buell, my gang is gone."
I realize that many of my young readers, assuming that 1 will have some, are now saying, "Oh, brother! This might make a fair funeral sermon, but its sadness is of little help to my life." I know how it may affect them, and I would spare them if I could, but we cannot face the realities of life until we face the reality of death. Furthermore, and how can we fail to be conscious of the reality of death while, when driving down town, we so often have to pull aside for a funeral procession? Do we not live every day in a land of death? What could be more appropriate in these times than a funeral sermon? Does not everything in this world die?
Right here I would like to nail down in the memory of my reader the outstanding truth in this book: Nobody is prepared to live until he is prepared to die! If we put the death question in proper perspective, if we make preparation to meet that event, then, and only then, will we know how to live our lives.
I do not wish to belabour this solemn subject, but there are still other phases of it which we should face. The next one is,
Millions of People Don't Live to Be Old.
I used to be quite a field hunter. I raised and trained some good bird dogs, and I would save most of my vacation for hunting.
One day I followed some quail down into a flat woodland, and, while I was looking for singles, I stumbled onto a rock buried in the leaves. I noted its unusual shape under the leaves, uncovered it, and found it to be what we country folk call a tombstone, a grave marker with names and dates on it. I found this place to be an old graveyard, now unused and unattended, with a few stones still standing. I read what I could on the
stones and noted some graves. What impressed me most was the fact that there were some little short graves among the long ones.
Now, there was nothing unusual about this. It is common in all cemeteries. There are three little girls buried in an old cemetery back on a lonesome hill where I was born. They were my half sisters whom I never saw. I say this is common in all cemeteries, but here in this moment of solitude I had time and the impulse to think about it: little babies, little boys and girls, young teenagers, young married men and women, people of all ages lie in our cemeteries. I knew that, just as you do, but let it impress you as it did me: If some of us who may live to be eighty feel that this is a short life, a vapor, what about those who fall in death at an early age? By these lines, my youthful friend, I mean that you may not live to be old. So many teenagers die in accidents as well as by disease and other causes. So, it is not well for any of you to presume that you may live to a ripe old age. The news media report every day the death of so many who never have a chance at life. It reminds me of what I heard older brethren say in their sermons when I was a boy: "Listen, young people, death is abroad in the land."
We heard them sing sometimes:O, ye young, ye gay, ye proud,
You must die and wear the shroud;
Time will rob you of your bloom,
Death will drag you to the tomb;
Then you'll cry, "I want to be
Happy in eternity."
I know these lines are too somber for this age, but their truth has not changed. It has only been lost in the foolish laughter and the multitude of things which distract us from its reality. All through the Bible
threads the record of youthful death, and the poets of every age have written something like that of Longfellow:
There is a reaper whose name is death
And with his sickle keen
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.
Let us not presume that we will live the Biblical "three score years and ten," or maybe four score, for, as I say, the graveyards deny it. I warn you that life is not only short, young friend, but it may be cut off before you are old enough to realize what it means to live. Every day and every hour is precious. Consider well that you are here and alive, and thank God.
Later on I will bring you to a more optimistic outlook on this somber subject, but we must have all the facts before us before we can fully appreciate the great opportunity of life. So, I would like to emphasize one other point about death, and that is,
Death Is Not A Pleasant Thing.
Maybe a quick response from my reader is, "Well, who said it was?" Most of us realize that it is always attended by great sorrow. However, there are those who speak of it as a day of joyful graduation into the heavenly glory. I suspect that there is some truth in that view of life, but the earthly part of death is never pleasant. In literature and history, there are expressions of both views. William Cullen Bryant, in his eloquent Thanatopsis, laid bare the stark realities of death as viewed from the human side. On the other hand, at the close of World War I, in which thousands of our American boys gave their lives, we sang a thrilling song by Geoffrey O'Hara which declared "There Is No Death." The writer went so far as to say that our men "have not died," but that "they are glorified." The implication was that their sacrifice was sufficient to atone for and save them.
I know the author meant to exalt the sacrifice our men made in battle and thus comfort the bereaved loved ones at home, but perhaps he implied too much in their favor. God never put any such construction on death. The crosses in Flander's Field as well as in all other battlefields of this world mark the end of life for those who died, however great their sacrifice. They do exist in eternity in their disembodied state, either in Heaven or hell, but they are dead in this world, and their bodies lie in the earth. Besides, their loved ones know they are dead. Furthermore, their sacrifice in war has nothing to do with their eternal destiny.
In God's Book, death is the "last enemy" (I Corinthians 15:29). It is "the wages of sin" (Romans 6:23), the result of transgression and rebellion against God from the Garden of Eden on down through the history of this world. It is not a pleasant prospect. I have seen flowers banked around the casket and flanked around the walls of a large church, but within that casket was death.
"The sting of death is sin" (I Corinthians 15:56), that with which we are all afflicted, and all its association in this world is sorrow. It breaks the ties of every family, tears the heart strings of loved ones, and inflicts pain and sadness upon everyone who is associated with it. It is the dreaded fatality which we all try to avoid. Death did not come to man to make him happy; it came as a curse upon all who have sinned (Romans 5:12). The billions of dollars which this world spends to avoid this dreaded curse prove our hatred of it. Road signs, warnings, hospitals, doctors, drugs, police forces, courts, judges, prisons and the untold number of other restraining forces implemented by so-called civilized man are the eloquent declarations of our fear of death.
How bad is this terrible curse? It is so bad that all the restraining restoring efforts of man have failed to save a single one of us from its ravaging onslaught. It is so bad that nothing short of the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son, plus the power of God to raise Him and us from the dead, could give us the victory. Even so, we must all go through this dreaded gate to free ourselves from this mortal state. Only the presence of Him who walked this valley alone and gained the victory over it can turn this tragedy into blessing.
I know there are those who will say, "Didn't Paul say that to die is gain?" Yes, but we must not take his words out of context. What he said was, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21), but this applies especially to him in his immediate circumstances. Looking at both sides of death, that is, the conditions which have brought it about and the better prospects on the other side, one could conclude that to die is gain. However, this does not take away the sadness and grief of the earthly side of this ordeal.
This plague is universal. There are no places on this earth where man has lived that he has not died, and yet it is personal to every child that is born in any clime. It is also both certain and uncertain. That is, it is sure to come to all, and yet no one knows when (exactly) it will come. It is also considered the worst that can be done to us as a penalty. We call it the extreme punishment. When criminals have been tried and convicted, the law has spent itself if the victim is executed.
A great deal is being said these days about what we call the "death penalty." Although it is strictly Biblical, it is now being debated as "cruel and inhuman treatment." I know a little about those who have been condemned to die. I have stood in death row in some of our large penal
institutions and preached to the victims of this judgment. Insofar as I could, I shared their burden, and, like you would have done, I pitied them. But there is a sense in which they are not different from you and me. We are all in death row, and our appointment is set. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). All the difference is that the criminal condemned by our law dies inside the prison, and the rest of us die on the outside. And some of us may die before they do! There is debate on the question of whether or not we should abolish the death penalty, and in some countries it has been done. Well, we may abolish the death penalty, but nowhere on this earth will man abolish death. Christ alone is the Master of this monster.
I could go on and on about this dreaded institution, but, except in certain cases where one of God's children is in deep bodily suffering and where death would bring great relief by transporting the stricken one into the presence of God, not one happy thought can I bring about its earthly character. However, while we all know we must die, it is almost unanimous with us that we prefer not to. At least, we are not usually in a hurry to meet the appointment.
Just recently, my fellow-taxpayers and I spent nearly three thousand dollars to keep me alive, and I thank God for victory over my ailment. We just don't want to die. And, yet, those of us who live are living in the midst of the dead and the dying.
I have said all this to emphasize the fact that death is not looked upon as a pleasant prospect by any of us, nor was it meant to be viewed in such a light. With God it is a serious, solemn matter, and with us also it is treated so. Funny stories and witty sayings are never appropriate
at a funeral, and memorial services are for the dead alone. Again, death is the curse of God upon our sin and the "last enemy" of our lives.
I come now to the part that concerns you and me still more importantly than the fact and character of life and death. That is,
Our Very Existence Becomes a Problem.
We are caught between birth and death! That is, we are here between those two great events of life, and thus we are forced to do something about it. As we say sometimes in a sort of slang, let's face it! We did not come here by our own choice or knowledge, and we will pass from this scene one day, even if we vote against it.
Not only is it, as I have said, a serious matter to exist here on this earth, but it is also quite shocking to come to a solemn realization of our plight. At least, it gave me quite a shock when I came to realize this; and, if I had not had some light from God, I could never have known what to do about it.
Of course, one cannot really do this, but did you ever try to imagine that you are not in existence here, never have been born? Try to erase all memory, all realization of your presence on the earth. I know, you can't! But try to think what it would be like if there had never been anybody here, or even anything in existence - no earth, no moon, no sun, no stars, no planets, no clouds or light or darkness, no time, no past, present or future, and nobody to realize that there was nothing, not even God! Oh, I know how foolish this may sound, but, even so, it may be a profitable effort.
Now! Back to our present state of mind - we are all here! You do exist, and so do all other things that animate our consciousness. We cannot see God, but, in the words of an old saying, "the fact that I am teaches me that thou art." Furthermore, let me repeat, this whole category of facts
puts us in a position where existence becomes a problem, a problem about which we are forced to do something. None of us can escape the responsibility which our presence here forces upon us, because we are all headed toward something. And James is right on target when he raises this solemn question, "What is your life?" "We have a life to live and a death to die," as some of our fathers used to say, and our wisest step is to act now, while time and opportunity are with us.
Our first reaction may be, "Well, if it is so terrible to exist in this world, and since we all have to die anyway, maybe it would be better to end our lives immediately and escape the responsibility of living. No, that does not solve the problem. Beyond the grave you will continue to exist, and your refusal to face the responsibilities of life here would no doubt make your future existence much worse than the present. You have been born for some purpose, and, so far as I can see in the Scriptures, you will always be. Your refusal to do anything about life here can only add to your calamity, so you are forced to come to that appointment either with God or without Him. The fact that you can never cease to be opens a long, unending road ahead of you. You will need a Guide who knows the way.
How Can We Know the Way?
This question came from another one of our Lord's disciples, Thomas by name, who is commonly known as a doubter. I have never branded him with so much doubt as have many. I think he was just a puzzled, honest seeker after truth; and if you are that kind of person, like him you may find the answer to your question.
Before we go directly to the answer, let me make an honest confession. I say this reverently: If I did not believe that Jesus Christ has done
something about death to make it useful in the purposes of God, I would conclude, in my own human judgment, that death is the most useless and tragic mistake God ever permitted. Yea, I would go so far as to say that God was needlessly cruel in allowing us to be born. Certainly this would lead me to sit in judgment upon the Creator of the Universe, a thing so utterly presumptuous and foolish that it is totally unthinkable for me. Yet, there are those who resort to such reasoning to support their atheistic claims.
In that vein, we might ask such questions as, "Why did God permit the first human beings to sin?" On and on we could go, accusing God of failing to protect us and working to our ruin; then how can we worship and love such a God? The facts are that we are born with the nature of sin within us, and we will go astray from the womb, speaking lies (Psalm 58:3); we cannot be subject to the law of God (Romans 8:7); we are helpless to heal our terrible disease; and that we were "strangers from the covenants of promise (to Israel), having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).
Many a man has dared to accuse God of injustice on the basis of such arguments as we have indicated above, but the humble soul will find a better answer in such passages as these: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8, 9). "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of the Law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). "Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus" (Romans 9:20).
We shall see later on why we must submit to the wisdom and power of God. However, if it will help the reader for the time being, let me say
that the study of the Bible will make you less sure about many things and more sure about a few things; and these few things will suffice to sustain us until, in the Lord's own time, the many things become clear.
The solution to our problem of existence here and the circumstances under which we live is not one that can be given in a few short sentences. It is true that James wraps the matter up in a brief paragraph, if we are willing to accept his statement without knowing all the details; but, while none of us will ever know it all, we may be able, by a somewhat extended explanation, to help the reader see through the darkness into some glorious light.
But let us look briefly at what he says. First, he warns us not to presume that we may live a long time or that we can control the circumstances of our lives to any great extent. He says, "Go to now, (i. e., Come now) ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; Whereas, ye know not what shall be on the morrow" (James 4:13, 14). The rest of verse 14 tells us what we have been dealing with in preceding pages: "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanishes away." Now, he wraps it all up in one short sentence: "For ye ought to say, If the Lord will (my emphasis), we shall live, and do this or that" (v. 15).
So put it in a little sermon, the solution to both life and death is to "remember thy creator in the days of thy youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). That is, begin early, put your hand in the hands of your Creator and let Him make of you what He planned for you when you were born.
You must know that, if Jesus gave His life - Himself - for you, a sacrifice which you and I will never comprehend, He cares for you and wants
you to come into His glory with the Father. His arms of love are wide open to you, and He wants you to come now. Ask Him to guide you and help you to gain the victory over human weaknesses, and let your motto ever be, "If it be God's will, I will live and do this or that." Your mistakes and failures, your heartaches and losses, as well as your successes, will then be in His hands. He will bring you along His way of life for you, promising as He does (Romans 8:28) to make all things work together for your good, yes, even your mistakes and failures; and in His own time and appointment, He will take you unto Himself as a trophy of His love. Any life other than this will lead you in the wrong direction, no matter what it promises, and at last to the wrong end. Above all things, do it now!
One thing you must remember, this life into which you are entering, is not an escape to Heaven; it is the beginning of "the good fight" which Paul mentions in his letters to a young preacher called Timothy (I Timothy 6:12 and II Timothy 4:7). Physically, I never was much of a fighter, especially if I could find running space, and I never taught my boys to fight. But when I got into this "good fight," I've swung a few good licks. Thank God, both of the boys are in it, too. What I want you to know is that there is no fight on earth as hard as this one, for this is the big one, the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. And it is all over us. Satan wants to drag us all down to eternal destruction; and if he can't do that he will oppose every effort we make to became godly or to spread the gospel of salvation to this lost world. Read Ephesians 6:10 ff., and you get some idea of the gravity of this "good fight." But this is the only place you can save your life, so enlist early.
Having preached this little sermon, with its invitation, let us now get a little better view of this Promised Land (your life) which God wants you to take by faith and by His power.
In my book, FAITH IS THE VICTORY, I discuss the battle ground of life after the crossing of Jordan. It would be very helpful to my reader if he or she would go over that ground for the purpose of understanding the conquest of life. In this book I want to look at other questions about life that relate to the "why" of the present in the light of the final outcome. If we can see that the final purpose of God in creating us dominates our darkness here like the sun dominates the earth, it will not matter much if all our questions are not fully answered now.
In this look at our prospects, some of what I shall say now is not spelled out in the Scriptures, but it will include some honest deductions in the light of the Scriptures. If I seem to reach into the realm of speculation here or there, I believe I will be close enough to the Bible to be safe. It may sound like a child's question, but let us tackle it anyway:
Why Were We Born?
We might answer this question lightly by saying that our parents, in the course of nature, brought us into the world without any thought of why they should have a child. It is true that many children are born this way. It is also true that many of us were not wanted. Furthermore, circumstances in our rearing, both in the family and in the community, may have been such as to suggest that there was little purpose in our being here. Certainly, I would never try to answer all the questions that could arise from the unfortunate situations of millions of people about whom we often say, "they never had a chance." Most of us came into this world only to find that life is difficult, and that there really is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, above and beyond the immediate thought of those who brought us here, there must be some good reason for our existence.
Our usual statement about why we were created is that God created man for His own glory, and I think that would be thoroughly Scriptural since he created man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). But wherein lies the glory? Be assured that it reaches far beyond the dark picture we have drawn so far about life and death. If we take a look at this remarkable creature called man, both in the light of his earthly character and abilities and of the future which God has planned for him, we will be greatly impressed with our very existence. We will also see that, in spite of our present low standing and the calamity of sin which we have inherited as well as committed, there is a future which is open to all who will enter in to it, and that future is glorious.
Actually, we know very little of our worth to our Creator, and we therefore give little consideration to what we ought to be or how we should live in this earthly life. In other words, we have set our horizons at the limit of what we can see about us and have failed to look through the Word of God at the great glory which He longs to share with us.
In order to get a right perspective on man's position in God's creation, we must set the background. In the eighth Psalm you will find help on this point. Would you please turn in your Bible and read it? Note especially the part beginning with the third verse:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
Now, this psalm is a prophecy of Christ under whom all things in the earth will be put in subjection. The explanation of it is given in Hebrews 2:5-9, but it means that this whole earth will be subject to man in the person of Christ.
In order not to become too involved here, let me say that I give this statement to show what Adam lost in the fall, and how it will all be restored to man in Christ. So, the emphasis here is that man was a superior creation, the one God ordained to rule the earth. When God created a man and woman and placed them in such high position, we begin to see the superior worth of human life. The greatness of the man is accented by the appointment, and the greatness of the appointment is accented by God who gave it, and the greatness of God is revealed in His vast creation of the universe.
Let us here see how "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Our Lord has an awfully big universe. We look out across the continents and oceans of this little earth, and, because we are now somewhat familiar with it even though we cannot see it all at one time, we have come to feel that it is not really so large. Yet, what we can see makes us wonder, and there are yet many hidden things about it that we have not discovered. A trip to the moon stands out as man's highest achievement in conquering distance and the elements, but the moon is merely our nearest neighbor. Our sun, which we see every visible day, is about 93,000,000 miles away and about 332,000 times the size of this earth. Such a display of power and brilliance can blind us even here on the earth. This sun is the closest star in our solar system, but we are told that there are some 40 billion suns like that in what we call our Milky Way. Not every reader will understand the scope of the Milky Way, but don't be discouraged; it is too big for my imagination, too. Technically, the
Milky Way is "that luminous band visible across the night sky, composed of distant stars and nebulae not separately distinguishable to the naked eye: it is called the Galaxy!' (Dictionary). Those stars and planets are so much greater than our earth that it would not be intelligent to make the comparison; and the light from some of them, traveling at the speed of 186,300 miles per second, has never reached us yet. We are also told (by scientists) there are possibly other Milky Ways, and who knows what else lies there in the unfathomable reaches of time and space?
This is not a dream or an imagination. Most of this is before our very eyes, but so far away that we cannot discern the details. This is just a sketchy view as we look out from our earth.
But let us turn the other way and see what is here on our little planet. Of course, as I have said, there are the oceans and the continents, then there are the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the icecaps and the tropics; there are millions of living creatures beside people, animals, birds, fishes and thousands of other marine creatures, insects, germs of microscopic size and some even smaller; there are minerals, compounds, atoms, molecules, chemicals in unbelievable quantities and varieties with enough power when rightly combined to blow the earth away. All of this plus thousands of things we have not yet discovered, all embedded right here in this earth. Wind, rain, snow, hail, fire and all the other elements which are so common to our senses take place right around us in the constant succession of what we call day and night.
Beside all this, there is Heaven, the present home of God and His innumerable angels, yea, the place of departed spirits to which God's children go when they die; there is also the invisible kingdom of Satan and all his demons (not hades or hell); regions which defy our imagination.
And God is the Creator and Ruler of all this vast universe. In the light of all this, such things as the present campaign for the presidency of the United States, for example, although the highest office in our land, becomes quite insignificant. And so it is with so much of the lesser things which occupy the minds and institutions of this world.
But here is the marvel of it all: This God, Creator and Ruler of all that exists in the known or unknown universe(s), if there be others, is my Heavenly Father, and yours if you have been born of Him. He holds us as the greatest of His creations. We are the children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And, if you are not His child, if you have not been born of His Spirit (saved), you are under the wrath of this terrible, all-powerful God, and it is time you awoke to fear and love Him.
Just a faint glimpse of the handiwork of God should make all claims of ancestral prestige in this world fade away. And, yet, how many people indulge in such matters! Such foolishness as, "I can trace my ancestry back to George Washington, or to Queen Elizabeth!" Or whoever! But the child of God can ask, "And who were they, I pray?" Unless, of course, Brother George and Sister Elizabeth were also children of God, but even then the human connection would fade away. I have not meant to belittle mankind, for, as I say, he is the greatest of God's creatures.
A Brief Look at Man
Compared with the other creatures of this earth, man, even in his sinful state, stands far out as the chief work of God's hand. In spite of his fall from the prospect of glory and his subjection to Satan, the god of this world, in spite of the unbelievable depths of wretchedness and sin to which he stoops, yea, in spite of the suffering and heartache which he
heaps upon his fellow man, there is in man's accomplishments a mark of ingenuity which had to come from his likeness to God. His inventions are astounding; his power to overcome obstacles, his genius in compounding medicines and curing diseases of mind and body, his analogy of the human personality and his wisdom in government, his artistic and scientific accomplishments plus his religious perception and many other notable characteristics mark him as a creature of God's handiwork in the highest order.
Nevertheless, whatever endowments he has by creation and industry, they are all confused and abused in the darkness which came upon him when he shut out the light of God and decided to walk alone. Man is also a genius at sin, inspired no doubt by the god of this world, constantly inventing new ways of debasing his own God-created self. No matter what excellence he achives in the limits of his earthly existence, he is lost in every area of life. None but the Son of God can lead him out of his darkness into the light. However, he is still the highest creation of God, and God Himsef wii see to it that he fulfills the high purpose to which he has been ordained.
Again, our worth and value become more evident when we realize that we are members of this race from which God is calling His children, that holy family with which He will repeople this earth. Therefore, we should by all means seek the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Our lives are that important to Him. We were created for this destiny, and there can never be any happiness for us until we come to that fulfillment.
With this high destiny in mind, we should try to see ourselves in the light of God's revelation. I want to emphasize those last words, "in the
light of God's revelation," because there are all kinds of opinions among people as to what we are like, why we do the things we do, and what to do about the fix we are in. Listen to a few "clinical discussions" on TV or read the magazines and other articles by "experts" in this or that field. You need not waste time reading many of the books they advertise, for they are all similar in many respects. They are like the poem from our readers of an earlier date, "The Blind Men and the Elephant," by John Godfrey Saxe. If you haven't read this poem, go to your library, look in McGuffey's Fifth Reader, p. 290, and read it. The summary of it is this: Six blind men, "to learning much inclined." went to see the elephant. The first felt of the elephant's side and said, "the elephant is like a wall." The next felt of a tusk and said the elephant was like a spear. The third got hold of the elephant's trunk and said he was like a snake. The fourth touched the animal's knees and pronounced it "like a tree." The sixth got hold of the tail and said the elephant was like a rope. The closing stanza of this poem sums up the truth so applicable to the "experts" of today who are constantly diagnosing the ills of the human being and prescribing remedies. Here it is in its sheer beauty:
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong.
This is the reason man cannot heal himself. He looks upward from his low position on this little earth, like an ant crawling in the midst of stones many times larger than himself, and it is impossible for him to get anything but a distorted view of himself or the world about him. Only God, who looks from above and who can see all things in their right perspective and order, can give man a proper estimate of his place in things created.
Only when we see ourselves as God sees us will we have the right view of our needs and the answer to those needs. So, let us look at ourselves in that light.
First, we are not like the animals and other living creatures about us. They have animal life in a body of flesh, they are conscious of the immediate world about them but not in any philosophical sense, but they are not conscious of God or any supposed deity. Neither are they in any real sense self-conscious, nor do they understand much about the human being. But God gave to us a spirit of understanding which enables us, not only to know and analyze ourselves, but to understand other human beings in their various relationships with us and to live with them in a conscious harmony, concern, mutual love and pleasure or with distaste for and conflict with them.
With such a mind and spirit we are able to reach out to some extent in our search for the source of life, some explanation for our being and conduct, and these in turn drive us to some concept of deity. So much there is in our thought and conduct, as well as the mystifying events of our lives, that we cannot easily avoid the conclusion which we heard early in life: "The fact that I am teaches me that Thou art."
If we take our intelligence about the deity from the Bible, we find the One we call God. If we have no Biblical revelation, we form the image and character of our deity from our own minds, and we call that our god. Because we are confused in the darkness of the world we have created, we make our gods after our own image; and because we try to see our gods, we make idols. That is why we have so many different kinds of religions and so many different kinds of gods. They did not create us; we created them "after our own image and likeness." And they are just as helpless as we
are, under the curse of death. Actually, what all this means is that we worship ourselves, that is, our own concept of what we want to be. The purpose of Christ's message is to convert us and set our minds aright.
The Nature of Our God In Creation
I do not want to get too deeply involved in theology, but since we are not yet in over our heads, and since the water will likely not get any deeper, if we wade on a little further we may come out on the other side.
Our God is no despot. He did not create other beings just to rule them. He is a God of love, yea, our God is love, and He created other beings because He wanted to share His love. Nobody who holds despotic rule over another can be happy. In such a relationship there is no trust, no pleasant communion, no reciprocal affection, and we deceive ourselves if we think that gaining power to dominate someone else will make us happy.
In our sinful society there is absolute necessity for certain ones, like officers of the law, for instance, to dominate others, but nobody derives any happiness from it. It would be so different if we loved and trusted each other and violated no laws which are made for our common well-being. But until our Lord returns, there will be no such society on this earth. Just the same, God wants a people with whom He can share His love and from whom such love is returned.
All of God's creating was done in one period, but the Bible bears out the teaching that angels were the first created beings. (I wrote several paragraphs to prove this, but found that their inclusion takes us too far off our course. B. H. Carroll, in the first volume of his Interpretation of the English Bible, Chap. VII, gives a clear interpretation of this matter with his characteristic insight.)
My reason for bringing in the creation of angels is to show that God rules none of His creation by despotic power. The reason for this is that there can be no glory to one who has to rule in this way. True, the angels were put under law, but they were not robots; they could disobey if they chose to. So, Lucifer, with pride and ambition to be God himself, brought about a rebellion in Heaven. He and all those angels who followed him were cast out of Heaven, and he became the devil or Satan. My point is that he had the power to choose against God.
When we come to the creation of man, we find the same purpose of God in effect. He will not create a robot, for none of His creation can ever bring Him glory except by a willing obedience and worship. He can destroy an angel or He can destroy men, yea, even the entire creation, but he cannot get glory from an obedience which is not rendered in love. So, the man He created was given the full measure of self will and self determination. I say it reverently, but this is the "risk" that God must take if He creates man in His own likeness and image. To say that God could not have stopped Adam in his sin is perhaps going too far for creatures like us, but it is safe to say that if God had intervened in any way except by love and persuasion, the obedience would not have glorified Him. His man must be free to decide his own destiny.
What we have said is just another way of saying that our obedience to God must be that of our own free will and love, else it cannot glorify Him. If God cannot, before the angels in Heaven and the spirits of men gathered there, say unto them all, "See, my children honor me because they love me," there is no glory for Him.
Then, what took place? Simply, Eve was deceived. The miracle of a talking snake made her believe that God was in the serpent. She thought
she was following God's direction. Adam would have known better (I Timothy 2:14), but now he was faced with a choice between obedience to God or to go with Eve in deliberate sin. He "worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator," (Romans 1:25) and took the whole human race into rebellion against God. And this sin is our downfall, a life of self-consciousness, self-concern, and self-help. We worship the creature (self) more than the Creator.
God had planned a great future for His human creatures. By creation, Adam had much of the wisdom and ingenuity of God. He was no hairy ape; he was the greatest man, other than Jesus Christ, who ever walked this earth. God turned this earth over to him and gave him the commission to multiply and replenish it and to have dominion over it. He was to be human father of the millions yet to be born, and his helpmate, Eve, was to be the mother. Nobody else in this world ever occupied such a position. From the human standpoint, we can be sympathetic with Adam's decision to go with Eve. His whole world was falling from beneath him, and the precious gift of the woman, his other self, was vanishing from his arms. We cannot understand all that was involved in this "moment of truth." To disobey his Creator was unthinkable. But it was his Creator who had given him the woman of his life. How could he give her up?
I would not try to give a satisfactory answer here, but I may shed a little light. First, to obey God is always right, no matter what the result may seem to us. God may have had some way to save Eve, since she had been deceived. Adam should have left that with God, whatever the result. The other consideration is this: Adam's decision to disobey God was not only going to break up the glory of Eden and bring all humanity under a curse, but it was ultimately to break up family relationships for all time to come.
Today, no matter how close a family may be here on earth, in most cases they are broken up at death, some going to be with God and others dropping away into the abyss of the damned. Adam should have trusted God and left the whole matter to Him. This is a vital lesson for us. Nobody can solve problems of life by going against God's Word.
I am aware that this does not answer all the questions arising from this crisis in Eden, but it is well for us to think about it so that we can confirm the lessons we have learned by sad experience down through the centuries.
Nobody can say what would have been if it hadn't been like it was, but it should be said that if Eve had asked Adam before she took the fatal step, it would have been avoided. While, so far as the record is concerned, she had never heard any voice but Adam's and no doubt thought she was hearing the voice of God; but Adam was her head, and she should have asked him. God puts most of the blame on Adam for following Eve's advice instead of His own. God said to him, "Because thou has hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake..."(Genesis 3:17). In other words, "You should have asked me instead of your wife." For this day and time, that sounds a bit harsh, I am sure, but great things were at stake here. The whole human race was to become afflicted with a nature of rebellion against God, and Satan was to become the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4). When the destiny of souls hangs in the balance, plain speech is in order, and we cannot let human relationships dictate or determine our obedience to God.
More Lessons of Life and Death.
I have gone into this crisis event in the history of man to some extent because it reveals that the creation of man was no ordinary event. Furthermore, it will be seen that our lives are held high in the purposes of God for this world.
One of the larger lessons in this event is that man was created with the desire to become godlike. Satan knew this, and he appealed to this very impulse when he said, "Ye shall not surely die, but ye shall become as gods, knowing good and evil." There was nothing wrong with man's desire to become like his Creator, no more than for a child to desire to be like his father. The error of the man was seeking to achieve this high aim without the guidance and timing of his Creator. It would seem that Eve, in her deception, supposed that she had heard the voice of God calling her to enter in to that realm of being, and Satan knew that she was the road to Adam's fall. Satan's ambition was to be God, not just godlike or, if you please, godly, so that his first attack was to subject the man to himself. Whether or not all this was in God's ultimate plans, none of us should try to say. Let us just stay with the facts.
On the basis of the above paragraph, I would like to point out that there is a great deal of difference between being godly and being God, God wants us to be godly, that is, like Him in nature and character, but He alone can be God. Satan has lost that battle long ago and is awaiting his doom in the lake of fire. If we are to become gods, we must dominate our Creator, and Satan has illustrated the total error of this spirit. If we want to become godly, we must submit to our Creator. Therefore, James says "If the Lord will, we will do this or that."
Beyond the Sunset
If we could with one look see all that God has created, this is nothing compared to the spectacle of glory which is to come. What God has done upon and around this earth has been marred by the curse of our sins. Our rebellion against God and our bent to have our own selfish ways has produced a world that has no place for Him, and for this we are the losers. Instead of a glorious world with God's will reigning in every area, we turned it into a graveyard to which we are all consigned. But God has redeemed not only the man who ruined the world but the earth itself, and there is no way to describe what it will look like when He has finished His re-creation work.
Once we have looked upon the disaster of a fallen world and have reflected upon the tragedies which accompany our existence in it, it is natural for us to look through the setting sun to see if there is some better place to which we can go. Too often this urge to seek a better country has come too late in the lives of thousands, and they have thus missed the spectacle of glory which he has planned for those who submit to His will. With only a picture of imagination, somewhat vague and varying with each individual, we have generally called God's present abode Heaven or some name with a similar meaning. In the environment where I was born and reared, we assumed that everybody knew what we meant by saying, "I want to go to Heaven when I die." Those who knew not the Bible concept of that world or place may have spoken of it as, for example, the American Indians did -- "The Happy Hunting Ground." The ancient Greeks may have called it "The Elysian Fields." "I will meet you over there" was a common expression among some of us. In whatever way men referred to this in all ages: all believed in something more pleasant beyond the sunset, some form of
existence for mankind after death. Those of us who believe the Bible and have trusted in its promises have complete faith that there is a "place" prepared for us in the Father's house. Jesus said, "In my father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
Now, there is nothing new in the lines above. I would suppose that my readers have all read such passages and heard these statements before, yea: perhaps many times. But my emphasis is in those precious words, "for you." Look at his fantastic promise: He is preparing a place in the mansions of His Father's house, a place for you and me. Is anybody in this world preparing such a place for you? Could anybody in this world, with all the unbelievable skill and resources which man can muster, prepare such a place as Jesus is preparing for you if you are God's child? I am trying to raise our sights to a glory beyond our imagination in God's mansion house, for us. That makes me feel that God created me for something special. What about your life in the light of this fact? Can you afford to neglect it or throw it away? God sets a high value on you; how much do you think you are worth? Jesus said, "that where I am, there ye may be also." The Father and the Son want to be with us!
But that is not all. Many of us believe from the teaching of the Bible that Christ is coming back to raise our bodies from the graves, to set up His Kingdom right here on this earth, to cleanse and set the world in godly order, to put down all enemies of God and subdue the earth as the first Adam was ordered and failed to do; and that you and I, if we are faithful in this life, will reign with him. You see, it is possible for any of us
to be in high position in His Kingdom, for to some He will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things (See, if we fail in some things, we can yet be appointed), I will make thee ruler over many. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:20-22). Other passages suggest such rewards for faithful service. You see, God's whole concern is with the people He has created for His glory. In the light of this, is your life worth anything? What high honors could the world give you that would compare with this?
Again, this is not all. Using the common expressions of our world: You talk about putting on a show! After Christ has set things in order here in the world, likely to prove that this earth and world can be run by a Man, as God intended it to be, He is going to destroy the first heaven and the first earth and make new ones. "And I (John) saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away" (Revelation 21:1) Do you know of anybody ever living in this world who can handle worlds and heavenly bodies like we handle a baseball? Well, our Lord can and does. He covered the earth with a flood and destroyed the whole human race, except Noah and his family. That was a long time ago, but our God never gets in a hurry. He has all eternity in which to do His mighty works, and even the part of His program which is suggested in the Bible is beyond any imagination of ours. There is no telling what wonders we shall see when He comes to dwell with us.
As I wrote the lines immediately above, there was a hard storm of lightning, thunder, wind and rain beating against my window. Trees were bending almost to the breaking point, and claps of thunder rattled the window. I tried to think how it would be if such power multiplied many times over should strike this earth. There is enough power bottled up inside the earth
to explode it. There is no need to doubt that our Lord will do everything that is written in His Word, and much more, when He is ready to close this age and usher in another. But that God is my Heavenly Father and yours, if you are saved, and we will be a part of His great work, watching it take place and feeling the power of a heavenly life.
Most of us insert Scripture references in our manuscripts, but it has been my observation that few readers ever take the Bible and look them up. We do not write out the passages from the Bible mainly because it saves the high cost of printing, but it would be better for the reader if we did. However, if I were to write in all the Scriptures that show just the great things that God is going to do, much less what He has done, I would just have to give you a Bible. But let me appeal to you to read some of the passages that reveal the great events in which you and I are going to be involved.
Read Matthew 24. Whether or not you understand it all, read it anyway. Note such passages as verses 27 through 35. See how He comes in "the clouds of heaven with power and with great glory." See how "He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet." Everybody in the world will hear it. No, I don't think He will need television or radio. He will manage somehow! Look at verse 35. It says that "Heaven and earth shall pass away."
Or read again, Hebrews 12:18-24. You see how the writer describes the scene where Moses in the wilderness at Sinai was communicating with God. See how terrible was the manifestation of God in sound. His voice made them beg that the Lord would not speak again. Even Moses, at that sight, feared exceedingly and quaked. But that was nothing compared to what God will do.
God came to earth Himself in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:19, "that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them: and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation," that is, the message of reconciliation, praying "you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." On the basis of that great work, Hebrews 12:22-24 tells us that we have now come into Heavenly aristocracy. We are no longer at Mt. Sinai where we were condemned, but to "mount Sion (where Jesus died), and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," that is, we belong to the band that is gathering above.
Now, as we say in common speech, this is really something. Look at who will be there, "an innumerable company of angels." I have never seen an angel, but Hebrews 1:14 tells us that they "are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation." Their activity, both in Heaven and here on earth, is found throughout the Bible, and they exist in untold numbers. Lucifer, who became Satan, was one of them. So are Michael and Gabriel named as chief angels in the Bible. What a spectacle it will be to see them all gathered in the heavenly Jerusalem! "An innumerable company of angels!" These, plus a general assembly of all those who have been enrolled as the children of God, and God the Judge of all, and the spirits of those who have already gone to Heaven and have been made perfect, and Jesus Himself, the Mediator of the New Covenant, the covenant which guarantees our eternal happiness. Do you not see where this life of yours is terribly important because of the company you are in? I say "terribly" for a special reason. For immediately following the description of this heavenly - great assembly, the Holy Spirit warns us of the terrible danger of missing it. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more
shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth (at Sinai): but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:25-29).
There are many other great passages which show what God is doing for us and with us; sharing His indescribable glory with us, is so far beyond anything this poor, sinful, perishing world can produce, we not only should fear the disaster of missing this fulfillment of life, but we should make all possible preparation to be a part of it. In the light of this, I ask again, just where do you stand? What is your life with reference to this grand assembly?
The book called "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (the first line) is a difficult book to interpret. Bible scholars have differed in their systems of interpretation. As for myself, if anybody wants to know, I am a premillennialist without a pretribulation rapture. If my reader is like I was for a long time, he or she may not know what that means, but Bible scholars will. This has been my view for many years; but if the Lord has planned it some other way, I will cooperate! What I want to say to my readers is, whether or not you understand the Revelation, you should read it over and over. You may find it confusing as to symbols, figures, illustrations or facts, but one thing you will learn: the Lamb of God overcomes. This book is the revelation of Himself to us when He comes to set this world and the
universe in order. He has overcome already, but the working out of His program is revealed in this book. It says that those who read it will be blessed. What I wish to emphasize in these lines is the spectacular character of His accomplishments. I have just watched the Fourth of July Bicentennial Celebration of the United States. If we could roll all the events together into one great moment, it would be a paltry demonstration compared to what is revealed when Jesus comes in glory to set this world in order. No words of mine can convey what I see and feel about these great events.
So, the essence of what I am saying here is, we who are children of God are to be participants in the revelation of His power and glory, for it is all for us. The Saviour, our Elder Brother and the Son of God, puts us in the center of the stage for the great Revelation. Can anybody afford to miss it?
[Bro. Kazee wrote this work in 1976; he died shortly afterwards. The final page of this double-spaced manuscript was still in his typewriter. It has not been published previously, and is presented here with the permission of his son, Philip R. Kazee. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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