With such huge swings in the stock market every day now, we could all become billionaires in no time at all– if only we were able to look into the future. That would never work, of course, because if we could all look into the future, there would be no such thing as a stock market. By its very nature it has to be unpredictable.
However, some people can sometimes look into the future of a business. There are times when insiders know about a lucrative buy-out coming up, promising huge gains, or, about an approaching bankruptcy, bound to result in huge losses. And sometimes these insiders use that information to make big money on the stock market for themselves and their friends, or to prevent huge losses; all to the disadvantage of the rest of the stockholders. This is illegal, of course, but that does not prevent it from happening.
The Bible comes from God who knows all about the future. So we might say we are able to get some useful ‘insider information’ there, not about something as trivial as wagon loads of money, but about our eternal destiny. And there is nothing against the law about getting and using this insider information.
In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, John describes the vision God gave him of the future. In chapter 21 John wrote:
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
That is a picture of the future home with God we are invited to. And how do we get there? By believing in Jesus, says John 3:16; and John 14 tells us Jesus will come back and take us to be with him in his Father’s home. Now certainly, this kind of ‘insider information’ about the future could make a difference in how we live and what we do and what we believe. That is what Jesus’ whole ministry was all about, and that is what the entire New Testament is about. This brief and uncertain life doesn’t give you much reason for any other long range hope, even if do very well on your investments. This is the most important information anywhere about the future.
I am not able to predict the future, but I can give you an almost guaranteed way to make money in the stock market. The stock market is unpredictable, but this little method has not failed for almost a hundred years. If you invest money in the stock market, and spread it out over a variety of moderate risk companies and leave it there for 25 years, you will almost certainly do very well. That is a reliable piece of information about the future. But it is not too exciting, is it? Everyone already knows that, and besides, who wants to wait 25 years? The stock market goes up and down, sometimes very quickly, and it would be much more interesting if I could tell you something to make you a lot of money this week.
In the same way, hearing about heaven and Christ’ s return ‘someday,’ as wonderful as that is, can become ‘the same old thing.’ You have heard it all before, and besides, it’s a bit too far off. But if we knew Jesus was coming back this week, even tomorrow, that would make everyone pay much closer attention. Think about it. What might you do if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow?
Doug and Gary are having coffee on a Monday morning. Doug said, “I was trying to find something on the radio on my way to the golf course yesterday morning and I happened to run across one of these hellfire and damnation preachers. I kept listening just for laughs, but it turned out I didn’t do much laughing. He was talking about the end of the world, and he kept asking, ‘What would you do if you knew Jesus was returning tomorrow to end the world and to judge all people?’ I have to admit, it made me think.”
Gary said, “Oh, you mean you still believe in Jesus and that he will return? I haven’t seen you in church since we were confirmed 25 years ago. I didn’t think you took any of that seriously anymore.”
Doug said “Well, I guess I still believe in it yet. I never give it much thought. But I’m not a Jew and I’m not a Muslim, and you have to be something, so I suppose I’m still a Christian. But I haven’t paid too much attention to God at all, and I’m not sure I want to meet him tomorrow.”
Gary said, “So what did you decide you would do if you knew Jesus would be here that soon?”
Doug said, “Well, I’d go back to church for one thing. Even if there wasn’t a service I’d go in and say some prayers or something. And then I figure I’d have to call up my brother-in-law and patch things up with him. We haven’t talked to each other since that fist fight at the family Christmas party six years ago. I do remember from confirmation is that you should forgive other people, so I wouldn’t want to meet Jesus without resolving that. And then I’d have to go into work for a while because I’ve been involved in a few shady deals that I’m not proud of. A little bit of dishonesty here and there has been putting a few extra bucks in my pocket these last couple years, but what good is that if the world is going to end tomorrow? And there is a couple other things I’d have to tend to that I don’t even want to tell you about. I’m glad that what the pastor was talking about was only a hypothetical situation, because I don’t think one day would be enough time to get all my affairs in order.”
Gary said, “You know, Doug, it might not be hypothetical. One day Jesus will return and it could be tomorrow. Or, you could die tomorrow and meet Jesus that way. You know how fast those things can happen. Look at Jim. He beat us both at golf one Thursday, and was dead and buried by the next Thursday.”
Doug said, “I know what you mean. Like I told you, the guy has me thinking. How about you? What would you do if you knew Jesus was coming to judge and to end the world tomorrow?”
“Well,” said Gary, “I’d get up and have my breakfast. Then I’d go in to work, and then in the evening I’d go home and spend some time with my family.”
Doug said, “Are you crazy? Would you not even go to church?”
“No,” said Gary, “I was at church yesterday. We don’t have services on Tuesday.”
Doug said, “But isn’t there anyone you have to forgive, or any messes you have to clean up?”
“No, Doug,” said Gary, “A long time ago I made up my mind to live every day as if it could be my last. If a person believes in Jesus at all, I don’t see how they can live any other way. Common sense will tell you that life can end any day, so every day I want to be ready to meet Jesus. That radio preacher made you think, but did he tell you anything you didn’t already know?”
“No,” said Doug, “I guess not.”
“Well then,” said Gary, “the best thing you can probably do then is start living your life as if you could meet Jesus any day. You will someday. You said you believe that. And, it could be any day. You already knew that. So now live in a way that is consistent with what you believe.”
James 4:13-14 — Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
I Corinthians 7:29a — What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short.
Jeremiah 29:11 — “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
John 14:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Revelation 3:3 — (Jesus said), “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
Prayer for the morning of the 21st day from A Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie, 1949
(Read this prayer slowly and more than once, meditating on each phrase. It is filled with both gratitude for this world and anticipation for the world to come.)
O Thou Creator of all things that are, I lift up my heart in gratitude to Thee for this day’s happiness:
For the mere joy of living:
For all the sights and sounds around me:
For the sweet peace of the country and the pleasant bustle of the town:
For all things bright and beautiful:
For friendship and good company:
For work to perform and the skill and strength to perform it:
For a time to play when the day’s work was done, and
For health and a glad heart to enjoy it.
Yet let me never think, O eternal Father, that I am here to stay.
Let me still remember that I am a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
Preserve me by Thy grace, good Lord, from so losing myself in the joys of earth that I may have no longing left for the purer joys of heaven.
Let not the happiness of this day become a snare to my too worldly heart.
And if, instead of happiness, I have today suffered any disappointment or defeat, if there has been any sorrow where I had hoped for joy, or sickness where I had looked for health, give me grace to accept it from Thy hand as a loving reminder that this is not my home.
I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast so set eternity within my heart that no earthly thing can ever satisfy me wholly. I thank Thee that every present joy is so mixed with sadness and unrest as to lead my mind upwards to the contemplation of a more perfect blessedness. And above all I thank Thee for the sure hope and promise of an endless life which Thou hast given me in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.