“Time to Die”
This subject is by request.
John 7:6, “Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.”
This morning, one of the more common misconceptions across the Christian world is the idea that everyone has a fixed, unchangeable “time to die.” Many very well-meaning people do not consider the ramifications of such a belief, and even the most Arminian “I can do it” types still lean heavily on this very fatalistic thought. It is not uncommon to hear a group of people say shortly before or after a funeral, “Well, nothing you can do about it. When your time to punch out comes, that’s it.” Though it is undoubtedly true that God knows when all people will die (He is omniscient), that does not mean that there are not factors and circumstances regarding people’s exit from this life. Since we were asked to write about this subject, let us consider the idea of our “time to go.”
Scripture does teach that death has a time as Solomon speaks of a time to die in his Ecclesiastes 3 discussion. So, the term appears in Scripture, but it does not appear in the vein that so many use it today. If it were true that the phrase a “time to die” in Ecclesiastes 3 spoke of an unalterable time that we could not change one way or another, then it would equally hold that the coupled phrase a “time to be born” would be likewise. However, many factors can contribute to a child not being born “on time.” Some come early through problems, some are taken early through C-sections, and other examples could be used. This “time to be born” was not fixed and unalterable, particularly in those cases where doctors did emergency surgery to save the child and mother’s life. Solomon is simply saying that both birth and death are time bound situations. Birth and death do not exist outside of time, season, and life under the sun. We will die in time, but our death does not prevent nor follow us to the wonderful shores of eternity.
Getting to our study verse, Jesus very succinctly shows 2 things in His statement. 1. His time to die was fixed and 2. Ours is not. If anyone had a “time to die” that was ordained, Jesus would be the one, since the Bible is replete with examples of His time being not yet come, and His hour not yet come. Some might balk at the idea of Christ’s death being ordained since men were instrumental in what happened to Him, but consider the following: 1. They wanted Him dead many, many times before Calvary but were prevented, 2. They could only take Him that night in the Garden of Gethsemane when He suffered it, as He not only prevented Peter but did not request more than 12 legions of angels from His Father, 3. Even while suffering on Calvary, He would not die until He (Life Itself) allowed Death through the door by laying down His life. Though sinful, wicked men did to Him what they had wanted to do since His birth, He is victorious in the laying down and taking up again of His own life.
Jesus’ death hour was both known and agreed upon by the Godhead, and therefore, Jesus did not recoil at the idea in the opening verses of John 7 that the Jews were actively seeking to kill Him. Our study verse is a response that Christ makes to the people that warned Him of the Jews’ purpose. He knew His hour and time, but He then remarked that our time is alway ready. When I think of this statement, it literally can be read, “You can go at any time.” This idea goes hand in hand with Job’s warning, “No man is sure of his life.” (Job 24:22b)
Both the statement by our Lord and Job seem to slice at the heart of the idea that we have fixed, absolute points of death that nothing changes. Were that true, what is the point of being responsible behind the wheel of a car? If it is your time, it does not matter, and if it is your time, it does not matter. What would be the point of punishing murderers? They were simply carrying out fixed and ordained “time slots” by ending lives when they were supposed to end. However, the most damning illustration of this erroneous idea is the thought of praying for loved ones. If one of our family is dying, why pray for their recovery? If it is their time, they will go. If it is not, they will stay. So, why pray?
Friends, the truth is far more sobering. Our lives are fragile things, as the Lord here states. We are – as David said – but a step between us and death. (I Samuel 20:3) Jesus’ statement should serve as notice for us to be circumspect and diligent in our efforts to serve Him as well as we can. We do not know how many more opportunities we may have in this life. We could step outside later and perish in the street, or we could simply pass away before ever going outside. We lay down at night not knowing for sure whether we will awake in the morning. Our lives are just that brittle, and we can go at any time. This idea lends itself to a far more God-honouring service than the belief that we will die when “it’s our time.”
The erroneous “time to die” thought can breed reckless endangerment, but the “we can go at any time” thought of fragility breeds fervent and passionate service. Consider the next opportunity that you have to go to God’s house for worship. Could that be your last time? What about the next prayer you make? Might that be your last one? Today’s reading and studying of God’s word might be your “last pass” across the sacred pages while occupying this weak dusty frame. If we truly considered how these events might be the last time we ever get to do them, what efforts would we take to make them our best moments in those activities?
Years ago, I heard a minister (at the time of this writing he is very weak physically and almost completely debilitated from a stroke) say something at an associational meeting. He was addressing the idea of how we come to the house of God, “I’m getting quite old, and I know that each moment here could be my last service with the saints in the church. But, young folks, this could be your last too. None of us knows. Since we don’t know, how about we come here determined that this is going to be our best time in the house of God? How about we lay down anything that doesn’t need to be here, and put all our heart, soul, mind, and energy into making this service the best we ever had?” Amen and amen. Brethren, we can go at any time, let us put our hands in together and work to make our last moments on earth the best moments we ever had.