Another year slips mordantly beneath the waves of that ever-consuming ocean we call time. And so this inescapable dimension carries us inevitably into yet another year that will ultimately suffer the same fate as the one before it. Albert Einstein asserted mathematically in his theory of General Relativity that time and space were essentially the same substance, introducing the concept of the space-time continuum to humanity. And although we can move in any direction spatially, time only allows its travelers to sail in one direction: forward. We cannot recover yesterday or turn back the clock no matter how much we may wish otherwise. Every one of us has a predetermined hour glass, filled and personally assigned to measure the days of our lives.
The steady current of time will carry each living person to their appointment with death, as the author of Hebrews intones, “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” And though it may sound morbid and pessimistic to speak of our imminent passing in the light of a dawning new year, I think that a healthy understanding of our mortality is actually quite positive. It assures us that our struggle in this sinful and fallen world will not continue indefinitely, but will eventually come to its pre-appointed end. Life on planet earth is a battle, as we fight for sustenance, shelter, comprehension, and peace. But we know instinctively, and explicitly by the witness of every passing day, that the entrenched war of survival will eventually come to an end.
For the believer who has trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, that end will be the actualization of all our hopes and dreams. We will see our creator face to face and meet the one who has gone ahead to prepare a perfect place for us. Death for the Christian is not loss but gain, a celebratory homecoming where we will know, even as we are known. The desperate questions spawned by confusion and misunderstanding will find answers as the tears and frustrations of an imperfect life in an imperfect world will finally be wiped away by the hand of God.
But until that time, we labor and struggle against a world that works ferociously to undermine and defeat our faith. We have been given a ministry here on earth, and the Lord has providentially purposed to use us for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom while we live within these failing bodies. Another passing year only reminds us that the sands of time are ebbing away and that it is our beck and call to get up and get moving in the work of the ministry. We cannot piddle away the precious resource that fills the space from one sunup to the next, as the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as [the] wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
Obituaries always fascinate me, especially those of the world’s “who’s who” that arrive with the closing of each year. The news magazines remind us every December that even the famous and powerful and wealthy who may have soared far above their contemporaries during life always end up at the same place. We all die. These bodies will, without exception, experience death. All of us are on a physical journey with the same destination, the grave.
For the world it’s anyone’s guess what happens after the grave. The new and aggressive atheists swear that nothing resides beyond the grave, eastern mystics swear that we are reincarnated in a spiritual merry-go-round, and one and half billion Muslims swear that Allah waits for us after death to weigh our good deeds against our bad. If we’ve killed enough infidels in our own Jihad we are guaranteed paradise and 72 raven-haired virgins according to the “religion of peace."
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). And then to demonstrate beyond all reasonable and investigative doubt, Jesus rose bodily from the dead. All guesses about life after death can finally be buried in a deep grave. Jesus is alive and He has conquered death. And in Him we live, and we live for all eternity.
Let’s face the new year with a joy and celebration of and in our calling, knowing that we have yet another year to worship and glorify God. Steve Miller wrote “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future” as he expressed a fatalistic hope that life here on earth would somehow get better. Indeed time is moving, it is marching on, but for those outside of Christ it is flowing toward death. It is not getting better. Let us who know the hope of the resurrection receive this new year as one more opportunity to serve the Lord without reservation, and share the promise of everlasting life while we have the time.