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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
Saturday Evening, December 31, 2011

“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, p. 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 2011 comes to an end. Think of the deaths of the rich and famous in 2011.

Jack LaLanne, fitness expert, died January 23 at 96.
Bernard Nathanson, abortionist who became pro-life, died February 21.
Jane Russell, movie star, died February 28.
Elizabeth Taylor, movie star, died March 23.
Osama bin Laden, terrorist leader of Al Qaeda, died May 2.
Jackie Cooper, child movie star, died May 3.
Jack Kevorkian, assisted suicide doctor known as “Dr. Death,” died June 3.
James Arness, star of “Gunsmoke,” died June 3.
Peter Falk, star of “Columbo,” died June 23.
Dolores Hope, widow of Bob Hope, died September 19.
Steve Jobs, visionary head of Apple Computer, died October 5.
Moammar Gadhafi, dictator of Libya, died October 20.
Joe Frazier, heavyweight boxing champion, died November 7.
Maurice Chase, “Father Dollar Bill,” died November 20.
Christopher Hitchens, author of “God is Not Great,” died December 15.
Kim Jong Il, dictator of North Korea, died December 17.
The following actors also died in 2011:
      Anne Francis,
      Cliff Robertson,
      Farley Granger,
      Edward Hardwick (Watson in the BBC Sherlock Holmes series),
      Harry Morgan (“MASH” star), and
      David Nelson (the oldest son in “Ozzie and Harriet”).

Those are just a few famous people who died this year. Dr. Cagan estimates that about 120 million people died last year. There are approximately 7 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 New Year’s Eve. 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.” I remember when 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, p. 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).

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)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Am Amazed” (by A. H. Ackley, 1887-1960).


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.   First, 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.  Second, the Bible tells us to number our days, Psalm 90:12.

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