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CONTEMPLATING DEATH AS THE NEW YEAR BEGINS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, January 4, 2004


"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).


Commentator C. F. Keil says, of this verse,

The truth that our life is a pilgrimage is presented to us by the brevity of life. As a shadow, so swiftly passing away, are our days upon the earth, and there is no trust in the continuance of life (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 1973 reprint, volume III, p. 300).

"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

John Trapp says that our lives are

A shadow of smoke, a dream of a shadow, as the heathen would say. A shadow seemeth to be something, when indeed it is nothing; so is man's life: and the longer this shadow seemeth to be, the nearer their sun is to setting, who put away from them the thoughts of death (John Trapp,  A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Transki Publications, 1997 reprint, volume I, page 659).

Let us read aloud the second half of verse fifteen.

"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

"None abiding." No hope to escape death for any person, young or old. See the truth of this statement as the year of 2003 came to an end. Think of the deaths of the rich and famous in 2003.

In January, Maurice Gibb, one of the Bee Gees, who made discos like "Stayin' Alive" - died. Richard Crenna, Stallone's mentor in the "Rambo" films, died. Bill Mauldin, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, died.

In February, Shuttle Commander Rick Husband died. Johnny Longden, Hall of Fame jockey and horse trainer, died. Johnny PayCheck the country singer died. Fred Rogers, "Mister Rogers" on television, died.

In March, Joseph Coors, the head of Coors Brewing Company, died.

In April, Dr. Robert Atkins, the high protein diet doctor, died.

In May, actor Robert Stack, of "The Untouchables" and "Unsolved Mysteries," died. June Carter Cash, the country singer and wife of Johnny Cash, died.

In June, Donald Regan, President Reagan's chief of staff, died. News reporter David Brinkley died. Actor Gregory Peck died. Actor Hume Cronyn died. Senator Strom Thurmond died. Actress Katharine Hepburn died. And comedian Buddy Hackett died.

In July Buddy Ebsen, of "The Beverly Hillbillies," died. And comedian Bob Hope died.

In August Idi Amin, former president of Uganda, died. Baseball great Bobby Bonds died. And actor Charles Bronson died.

In September Hitler's movie-maker Leni Riefenstahl died. Dr. Edward Teller, father of the H-Bomb, died. Actor John Ritter died. Singer Johnny Cash died. Writer George Plimpton died. Actor Donald O'Connor died. And director Elia Kazan died.

In October jockey Willie Shoemaker died (The two most famous jockeys Johnny Longden and Willie Shoemaker died in the same year). And Madame Chiang Kai-Shek of Taiwan died.

In November comedian Art Carney died. And Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn died.

In December Senator Paul Simon died. And Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham died.

Those are just a few famous people who died last year. Dr. Cagan estimates that about 120 million people died last year. There are approximately 6 billion people on earth. Every last one of them will die - including you.

"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

These are sobering thoughts for us to think about on the first Sunday of the new year. Very few people want to think about death - at any time - but especially not at New Year's! And yet this year another 120 million people will die. You may very well be one of them. A close friend of my nephew went to Las Vegas to have a good time. They found him dying in his car from a stroke. He was 25 years old. Death can come at any time, to a person of any age.

"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

Even though most people don't want to think about death, the Bible has a great deal to say about it.

I. First, the Bible says that all of us will die.

The Bible says, "in Adam all die" (I Corinthians 15:22). The Bible says, "death passed upon all men" (Romans 5:12).

The Psalmist asked, "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?" (Psalm 89:48). And King Solomon answered,

"There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death"
    (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Even though we know that we are going to die, death always comes as a shock to us. I remember exactly where I was, and what I was doing, when I heard that my grandmother died. I was fifteen years old. I was sitting on the couch watching television. The phone rang. They said that she was dead. That was the first time I experienced the shock of death. I remember exactly where I was, and what I was doing, when a man burst into the room, and shouted, "My God! President Kennedy is dead!" I remember exactly where I was, and what I was doing, when the phone rang, and my mother's voice said, "Bill is dead." He was my stepfather. I remember exactly where I was, and what I was doing, when my father died. I was reading the first verse of the Epistle of Jude, when the phone rang, and a voice said, "Your mother is dead." Two months ago the phone rang, and a voice said, "Rene is dead." She was my mother's sister. Each time I have heard this it has sent a shockwave through my body.

I have conducted many funerals. I have attended many other funerals. I have conducted or attended so many funerals that I can't even count the number. And yet, each time, there is shock, and confusion, and sadness. You never get used to it. It always comes as a heavy blow. Job said,

"Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not" (Job 14:1-2).

"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

II. Second, the Bible tells us to number our days.

Psalm 90 is the oldest Psalm. In it, Moses made a very wise statement. Let us stand and read Psalm 90:12 out loud.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

You may be seated.

This means that we should realize how brief and uncertain life is - and we should use our time wisely.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

John Trapp says,

If we deduct the time of childhood and youth, which is vanity, the time of sleep, repose [rest], repast [eating], and recreation (which is more than one half [of life]), and the time of affliction and grief…what a poor pittance [what a small thing] will life be reduced unto (John Trapp,  A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Transki Publications, 1997 reprint, volume II, page 613).

John Trapp lived from 1611 to 1669. He wrote a five-volume commentary on the whole Bible. Spurgeon said, "Trapp is my especial companion and treasure; I can read him when I am too weary for anything else…Oh, rare John Trapp!" (C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Pilgrim Publications, 1990 reprint).

Now think about what John Trapp said regarding those words, "So teach us to number our days" (Psalm 90:12). He said that you should not count the days of childhood, when you are playing foolishly. You should not count the time spent in sleep, rest and eating. This is more than half of your life already, that should not be counted. Then, you should not count the time that you will be sick or grief-stricken.

When all of this time is deducted, how very small the amount of time you have to be sure of salvation! There are only a few hours in a person's life when he has the opportunity to become a real Christian! None of us have more than a few hours to hear an awakening sermon and be converted to Christ.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

We are going to have seven nights of evangelistic meetings, beginning next Thursday, at 7:30 PM. This is the time to think about the salvation of your soul. This is the time to read, and re-read, Richard Baxter's Treatise on Conversion. This is the time to think about preparing for your death. Because John Trapp was right when he said, "To live with dying thoughts is the way to die with living comforts" (ibid.).

"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

III. Third, the Bible tells us we will either go to Heaven or to Hell when we die.

Oh, I know that there are many theories about what happens after someone dies. I know that some people think that we come back to life in another form, or as another human being. I know that others believe that our spirits all go back to a cosmic consciousness. And I know that a few people even think that there is no life whatever after death. I do not deny that there are many theories concerning what happens after death.

But, as a Christian, I must take very seriously what Jesus Christ said. Please stand and turn with me to Matthew 25:41. Let us read this verse out loud.

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41).

You may be seated.

In 1533 the great Reformer Martin Luther preached a sermon on Matthew 22:1-14. Listen to what Luther said.

Their hands and feet shall be tied, and they shall be cast into outermost darkness, that is, they must eternally lie captive with the devil in hell-fire. For their hands and feet are tied, so that they will not be able to free themselves by doing good works. Besides, they must lie in darkness, cut off from God's light, that is, from all comfort, in eternal torment, anguish, and sadness, so that they will nevermore see one spark of light. This is terrible misery, if only we would let it touch our heart: to lie captive in this way in hell and torment forever, with nothing but wailing and gnashing of teeth. The gnashing of teeth is caused by [cold] and the wailing by heat. So the teachers of old have explained these expressions, although the Lord thereby indicates all imaginable torments…Christ says in effect: You will suffer more than words can tell and thoughts can grasp.

Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, came down from Heaven to die on the Cross and pay for your sins. He rose from the dead to give you life. There is no other way to escape punishment for your sins than by turning from them to Jesus Christ. Please open your Bible to John 3:36. Let us read this verse out loud together, as we stand.

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).

"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

You are faced with the possibility of death this year. You are faced with the inevitability of death at the end of your life. "So teach us," O God, "to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 16:19-26.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"If You Linger Too Long" (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

CONTEMPLATING DEATH AS THE NEW YEAR BEGINS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).

I.   The Bible says that all of us will die, I Corinthians 15:22;
Romans 5:12; Psalm 89:48; Ecclesiastes 8:8; Job 14:1-2.

II.  The Bible tells us to number our days, Psalm 90:12.

III. The Bible tells us we will either go to Heaven or to Hell when we
die, Matthew 25:41; John 3:36.


You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."