Living for the Final Day
One of the most frequently proclaimed messages in the Bible is that someday the world in which we live will come to an end. A final day is coming.
In the Old Testament there are over 1,800 references to this final day, often called “the day of the LORD.” This phrase refers to a future moment in time when God will appear to judge the world, to punish the wicked, to welcome the righteous into his kingdom, and to restore the world to the way it is supposed to be.
In the New Testament, the final day is linked to the physical return of Jesus Christ. Christ and his Apostles spoke and wrote about his return all the time. There are only 260 chapters in the New Testament, and yet they contain over 300 references to the second coming of Christ. This means that, on average, each chapter of the New Testament reminds us more than once that Jesus will come again.
So, the consistent witness of Scripture is that we live on the brink of eternity. Every day we awaken in a world that could, and someday will, instantly come to an end, ushering us into our final destiny.
I find it difficult to wrap my mind around these thoughts. Every breath I take could be my last. Every morning begins what might be my final day. At any moment, everything I know could come to an end and eternity could come crashing into my existence. How am I supposed to embrace thoughts as stunning as these and still accomplish what God calls me to do today? Can I focus on the nearness of eternity and also do the dishes before going to bed?
In Luke 12:32-40, Jesus gives some instruction that shows us how to live for the final day. In these verses he encourages us to face life with a sense of expectancy and also with a sense of urgency.
1) Live with a sense of expectancy.
As we all know, life is hard. Being a Christian does not shield us from the difficulties of this world. In fact, sometimes following Jesus even makes things worse. Throughout Luke 12, Jesus describes hardships that his followers will face: violent enemies (v. 4); legal persecution (v. 11); financial worries (vv. 22-34); the heartbreak of watching loved ones reject the Lord (vv. 51-53). Life is filled with things that can cause us to fear. And yet, in the face of all this, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” (v. 32).
Why should we not fear? Because one day all of this sorrow will be replaced with eternal joy. Jesus says, ““Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). Notice, he does not say, “If you are good the Father might someday allow you into heaven.” No. Jesus declares that the Father has already given the kingdom to us.
Given! This is one of the great truths of the gospel. Eternal life is given by grace as a free gift to all who trust Christ as Savior and follow him as Lord. No one earns their way into heaven. The kingdom of God is given to you.
Also, we should not overlook the manner in which the kingdom is given. God does not reluctantly or resentfully bestow salvation on his people. Jesus said, “The Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Pleased! It gives God joy to share his glory with us. In the 1800’s, Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle wrote:
Believers are tenderly loved by God the Father. It is ‘the Father’s good pleasure’ to give them the kingdom. He does not receive them grudgingly, unwillingly, and coldly. He rejoices over them as members of His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. He regards them as His dear children in Christ. He sees no spot in them. Even now, when He looks down on them from heaven, in the midst of their infirmities, He is well pleased, and, when presented before His glory, He will welcome them with exceeding joy.
In verse 37, Jesus says: “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” What a picture! Imagine, not only being invited to dine in Christ’s banquet hall, but actually having the Lord himself wait on your table. This metaphor is intended to fill us with joyful anticipation of the goodness of what God has prepared for us.
So, no matter how difficult our present experience may be, Jesus assures us that our sorrow will not last forever. The final day is coming. For those who trust in Christ, this truth is a promise of great joy. Do not be afraid!
2) Live with a sense of urgency.
But the fact that this world will come to an end does not mean that life here is unimportant. According to Jesus, the endlessness of heaven and the brevity of life on earth should motivate us to use every second of our lifetime to serve the purposes of God’s kingdom in this world.
In verses 33-36, Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.”
Those verses are packed with metaphors. What does all this imagery call for? It calls us to lead lives of radical sacrifice and self-giving service for the good of others and for the glory of God. Why should we live this way? Because today is the only opportunity we have to do so. In our society, the acronym YOLO (“you only live once”) is commonly used to motivate people to pursue pleasure, to seek thrills, and to devote their energy to fulfilling their personal dreams. Jesus, however, uses the concept of YOLO to inspire us to live for the glory of God.
There will not be any hungry people to feed in God’s future kingdom. Poverty and need will not exist there. There will be no spiritually lost people in heaven with whom to share the gospel. That land is exclusively occupied by wanderers who have already found their way home. When Christ returns, there will no longer be foster children longing for a family or elderly neighbors needing help to get groceries. The chance to serve God in these ways is now. When Christ tells us to sell our possessions and give to the poor, to keep our lamps burning, to be dressed and ready for service, he is not trying to send us on a guilt trip. He is lovingly urging us not to waste our lives.
We find this idea expressed in other places in Scripture. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 says, “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” Neither of these passages are intended to fill us with neurotic fear. They were placed in the Bible to remind us that our time here is limited, and we need to use it in ways that count.
Are you living for the final day? If you have never turned to Christ in repentant faith, now is the time to do so. If you are already following Jesus, ask God to help you live with both joyful expectancy and sober urgency. Be ready, but do not be afraid.