He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Rev. 22:11-12)
Many people harbor the delusion that when they will die, they will simply continue in the state they are in. They exhibit no visible doubt, no terror, about the passage from this brief life to eternity.
Nearing the end
In the fall of 2015, during the course of a sunny morning, my husband, daughter, and daughter-in-law were beginning to slaughter fourteen meatbirds by our chicken coop. They were skinning and gutting with gusto, each heartily approaching their respective jobs, when the dog began to bark and bark. He generally only barks when people approach. As it was my job to wash and bag the birds, and as none were ready yet, I took it upon myself to investigate. Following the sound of the barking, I walked past the side of our house towards the driveway. There was a small car parked at the very end of the driveway, close to the road. My first thought was that it was the mailman who sometimes personally delivers packages. As I began to approach the car, thinking the man might be a little worried about encountering our still barking canine, a voice spoke behind me.
Turning, I saw an older fellow emerge from our garage. He rather startled me. Very well-dressed in a grey suit, it occurred to me immediately that our mailman had changed, had grown older, and had discarded his usual tee shirt. But it was not the mailman. I observed this in the second instant as I noted the Bible and a Watchtower tract clasped in the gentleman’s veined hands. He smiled, exhibiting wonderfully white dentures, reminding me strongly of a friend we had a long time ago – a Dutch gentleman who has since died. It’s strange how many thoughts can pass through your mind in the space of a few seconds.
The old fellow extended his hand and I shook it, admonishing Spurgeon, our faithful watchdog, to stop barking. (But the truth was that he was being a faithful Spurgeon.)
“You are a Jehovah’s Witness,” I said.
He nodded in agreement.
Perhaps I should have given him time to get into his spiel but thinking of the chickens to which I had to return, I immediately followed with, “I’m sorry, but you and I are going to disagree on a very basic truth – the truth that Jesus Christ is God.”
He nodded happily and enthusiastically in apparent total agreement.
“Jesus was a good man,” he smiled, “and a god.”
There is a certain amount of sadness about disagreeing with pleasant people. It is much easier to disagree with nasty people. Here was a feeble, old man, possibly 90 plus, with one foot in the grave, willfully denying the Savior. There is nothing more dismal.
“Yes”, I replied, “I know that you believe that He is a good man, but He is also God. I do respect your zeal in going door to door, but your zeal is not based on the right knowledge.”
“The doctor has only given me a year to live,” he responded, “I have cancer.”
I was totally caught off guard and shocked at this revelation and asked what kind of cancer he had. He told me it was bone cancer and prostate cancer.
“I’ve stopped taking the radiation and chemo treatments,” he said, “and feel so much better since I have stopped. And now I spend time doing this.”
I told him he had done well to stop the treatments and passed on some information about natural treatments he could look into. I also asked him over for supper some time in the future as he lived in a town not too far from our home. And, guess what? He was Dutch. He said he’d check it out with his wife who was waiting in the car. He was, humanly speaking, such a very nice gentleman.
I patted his arm, gave him our name, and said, “Before you leave I have to tell you once more that Jesus is the only way. He is truly God and our only Savior.”
And there he went, smiling affably, thin as a rail, cheerfully on his way to hell unless God opened his eyes.
Unsure of the end
The next day there was another strange encounter as I was waiting in the line-up at the TD bank. It was raining outside and leaves were swirling around on the sidewalk. The sixty-plus lady waiting in front of me turned around. She was very talkative.
“You look happy,” she said to me, “Why is that?”
Not waiting to hear an answer, she went on to conduct a diatribe against the weather. I interposed by saying it was rather cozy and that when she went home, she could turn on the lights and curl up in a comfy chair with a good book. She thought this was a good idea but then, jumping from one thought to another, said she was sorry she was getting older.
“Well,” I replied,” you wouldn’t want to not get older.”
“Yes, I would,” she said, “I don’t like getting older.”
She was a well-groomed woman, a trifle shorter than I was, with an immaculate hairdo and tailored clothes, and she repeated emphatically, “I don’t want to get older.”
“Well,” I countered, “you know what the alternative is.”
For a minute she gazed at me, wide-eyed, and then I asked her if she was a Christian. The immediate response was “Yes.”
“Well, in that case,” I smiled, “you know where you are going in the long run.”
She broke up laughing at this statement, as if I had told her a joke.
“Heaven or hell,” she chortled.
I nodded and then, again changing the subject, she asked if I didn’t just love the pope? Wasn’t it marvelous how he identified with the poor, and wasn’t he a wonderful example? I responded by saying that we should all be examples, but that we couldn’t be unless our hearts were changed. She eyed me a little warily now, and I added that I would like to hear the pope say that people’s hearts should be changed instead of hearing him speak about climate change. She pondered this, clearly at a loss for words for a moment, but then was called to the bank wicket.
“Nice chatting,” she said.
What a strange bank visit!
We did visit the Jehovah Witness gentleman and his wife several times. We were received graciously. He died several months later, confident that he had no need of Jesus as God at all.
In pursuit of exceptions
It is a sobering thought, as Octavius Winslow, (1808-1878), pointed out in one of his devotions, that human character,
…which time has been shaping for years, yields to the demands of eternity in the precise mold in which it was formed. Death hands over the soul to the scrutiny and the decision of the judgment exactly as life relinquished it. [Death], the “king of terrors,” has received no commission and possesses no power to effect a moral change in the transit of the spirit to the God who gave it. Its office is to unlock the cell and conduct the prisoner into court. It can furnish no plea, it can suggest no argument, it can correct no error, it can whisper no hope to the pale and trembling being on his way to the bar. The warden must present the criminal to the Judge precisely as the officer delivered him to the warden, with all the marks and evidences of criminality and guilt clinging to him as at the moment of arrest…. Do not men die mostly as they have lived? The infidel dies in infidelity, the profligate dies in profligacy, atheists die in atheism, the careless die in indifference, and the formalist dies in formality. There are exceptions…”
We will, all of us, have encounters each day with neighbors and strangers, on driveways and in shopping malls, encounters in which possibly we might be allowed to address that exception.
Christine Farenhort’s new devotional The Sweet Taste of Providence is available in Canada at www.Sola-Scriptura.ca/store/shop and can be ordered by phone 1-800-563-3529.