Death and Life and Eternity 1

When death comes, it will destroy all earthly possessions and enjoyments. As men bring nothing into the world with them, so they can carry nothing out. When they are called to quit the body, they must leave their treasures, their relations, their connections, and all their outward distinctions behind them. When the master shall die, he shall cease to be a master; when the parent shall die, he will cease to be a parent; when the minister shall die, he will cease to be a minister; when the ruler shall die, he will cease to be a ruler; and when the rich man shall die, he shall cease to be rich. Persons of all orders and ages must meet together in the grave, stripped of all their outward distinctions, and deprived of all their earthly enjoyments. And when all these idols are taken away, what will they have left, to satisfy the desires of a selfish and sinful heart? (Nathanael Emmons, Instructions to the Afflicted, International Outreach)

Death is a great instructor if we will but listen and learn. Will what I am doing really matter when I die? Will what I am doing be something that I wish I would not have done when I die? Is this present enjoyment something I would do in the presence of Christ? Is this present possession something that should consume my present time in light of the fact how I spend my time influences eternal things? Thomas Shepard (American Puritan, founder of Harvard University) said that when we die, our friends will scramble for our possessions, the worms for our bodies, and the devils for our souls. What will matter at that point? Will it matter how much I had while on earth? Will it matter how much we spent on our bodies and how we dressed them and decorated them? Will it matter how religious we were? Will it matter how much people honored us and thought highly of us? Oh no, it will only matter if we have Christ and Him alone.

When a person goes on a hike, only what is absolutely needed is taken. If the person takes too much stuff, it gets in the way and hinders progress and tires the person out. The path of life may be the same way as well. We can easily get bogged down with too many possessions and too many entertainments for our sojourn in this life. We are so busy with things that are not outwardly evil (at least we think so) that our time is consumed along with our mental and physical energy. We stay busy doing things, perhaps not even outwardly bad things, but our lives are not spent in things that matter for eternity. Our minds and our hearts are consumed with things that do not matter for eternity. We are told that we are to glorify God in all we do, yet it seems that this is interpreted as doing things that are not all that bad. We are to love God and truly desire and seek His glory in this world.

We enter life with nothing and we leave with nothing. We do have things that we need in order to make it through life, but what are those things? Even if we accept the idea that it is not necessarily sinful to have things above the absolute minimum, yet we should ask ourselves how necessary those things really are as we trudge on the path of life that leads into eternity. We might hold on to them with a lesser grip. Perhaps we desire things because of covetous hearts, but we may also desire things as a way to put us above others or a way of distinction. But in the grace or on judgment day, those will be seen as wicked reasons. We desire and do things for what may seem good at the moment or in light of our worldly good, but we must begin to look at things in light of eternity.

Why do men and women take up the occupations they give themselves to? While noble reasons may be said by mouth, the heart is the real issue. What are the reasons of the heart that men and women take up their occupations? Is it really for the glory of God? Could it be that people want to distinguish themselves or want to be better than their siblings, cousins, schoolmates, or anyone else? In eternity, no one will care what a person’s occupation was. In eternity there will be no distinctions like that at all. In eternity no one will care how successful a person was in this life as all the cares will be focused and centered upon Christ.

The last two sentences of the statement by Emmons are very thought provoking. Regardless of who a person is, that person will be stripped or all outward distinctions and have no earthly enjoyments. What will be left to satisfy the desires of the heart? For those in hell, their selfish and sinful hearts will have nothing to fill their hearts. Instead, they will spend eternity with their covetous hearts craving all their worldly enjoyments and yet they will not have any of them to enjoy. They will have no joy at all but spend eternity in torment and also being tormented by their own raging and unfulfilled desires. Those that God has delivered from those selfish and sinful hearts and gave them a new heart by which He filled them with love for Himself, they will have their hearts desires and their desires will be filled far greater than they ever could in this present life. We must live for eternity and not the world. Our true desires show the true state of our hearts.

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