“But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-6 ESV)
As we have seen, Solomon vacillates between two perspectives on life. Most of Ecclesiastes is describing man’s search for meaning without God. As if there is no God. Man left entirely to himself. The material man. The atheistic man. Man apart from God. This he calls, life under the sun.
The other perspective is life under God. Human life lived in relationship with God. God is the end and satisfaction of man’s search for meaning.
The one means life is absurd and futile. The other means life matters and eternity does too. He describes both in this section.
Our One Second That Determines Everything
This is the stark reality. There is one second coming for each of us that will forever define us. That second is the second we die. In that second we will pass from this world and life to the next. One second, it’s earth. Family. Friends. Air. Body. Beauty. Breathing. Heart pumping. The existence we have always known. The next millisecond everything forever changes. We step into the next world. A spiritual world. What is it like? What will we see, experience, feel?
The Bible has a lot to say about that one second.
- “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27 NIV)
- “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 ESV)
Here is a fascinating example in history’s most poignant moment. Jesus is hanging on the cross between two thieves. They are unrighteous and guilty men. Listen to what happens.
“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Two men. Both were going to die. They were hours from doing so. One is the famous thief on the cross. While he was almost dead by crucifixion, he was still alive. As long as you are alive, there is still time. Time to repent. Time to believe and receive salvation from Jesus. This is what the thief did. His confession? “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Verse 42)
It was a simple sentence revealing a genuine faith. I suspect when you are hanging on a cross about to die, there’s no time to waste. The real you comes out. What came from this man was personal trust that Jesus was king and Lord. Jesus, I believe you are an eternal king. Will you remember me when who you really are is displayed for all to see? Jesus gives the man the greatest assurance of salvation anyone can have. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Verse 43)
Very soon that man’s defining second came. He left this world. He left his body. He left everything here and entered a new realm and reality. The spiritual and eternal one. Where was he? Jesus said, “Paradise.” That’s quite a word. But notice not only where he was going but who he would be there with. “Today you will be with me.” (Verse 43, emphasis added) Jesus was there to welcome him and give him the grant tour of Paradise.
Better to be a repentant thief on a cross than an unrepentant one. Better to be a thief with faith than a Roman soldier without it. Better to be that thief than the governor Pilate. Better to be that thief crucified than all the early comforts experienced temporarily by Caiaphas, Judas, Annas, or Herod. Better to be that thief on the cross that day than Alexander the Great or Ramses the II or Julius Caesar or Cleopatra or Nebuchadnezzar. They were all dead and their eternal destinies were unalterable, unchangeable, unfathomable, eternal suffering.
Better to be a living Chihuahua with faith than a dead lion without it.
Some of us have prepared for our one second like the thief. We have told Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Verse 42) We have believed. We are ready because death comes unexpectedly and none of us knows when our one second will arrive.
Others have not. Are you ready? It’s coming. You can’t change it. The same event happens to us all. But you can be ready for it. Why? You have an advantage that Alexander the Great and Ramses II no longer have. Time. You can be ready by repenting of your sin and trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin. Become a follower of Jesus. Receive the gift of eternal life. Hope forever.
- Better to be an alive, saved-by-grace dog than a dead lion with no hope.
- Better to be alive with time than dead with no hope.
- Better to be alive with opportunity yet for salvation than dead with no hope.
- Better to be alive with faith in Jesus than dead with no hope.
Today you can leverage the advantage you have of time over the billions who have already died. Use it wisely to be ready for the one second that will decide everything for you forever.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Additional Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
©2016 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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