Author: Ron Graham
This is about as simple as a Bible lesson can get. Yet because this simple lesson has not been learned, many folk have misunderstood much of the Bible. This lesson is about three spans of time that each of us is involved with. The first is small, the second is large, and the third is infinite.
James 4:13-17 Your lifetime is the time in which you have the opportunity to seek God and find him (Acts 17:27). Of course you do this with a view to human history, and with a view to eternity, but you do it now. You do it in this life while you have both life and opportunity.
One’s lifetime is not guaranteed to be a certain length —although most people live as though it were. Today may be your last day. Make today the day of your salvation (2Corinthians 6:2). It is appointed for you to die once, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:28). You simply do not know when that will be. You know your birthday, but you don't know your death day. That day is effectively the last day for you. The time, however long, between the last day of your life and the last day of human history is largely irrelevant. The end of your life is the end of your opportunity to make ready for judgment.
The Bible's main focus is not on human history as many suppose, but on your lifetime. There is history in the Bible, certainly. The Bible both records and predicts history. However, it does this only to demonstrate God’s plan and purpose for you. If you focus on human history, whether it be what has happened in the past, what is unfolding in the present, or what will take place in the future, you are missing the whole point of the Bible, and being distracted from the truly critical time, your own lifetime.
2Peter 3:1-14 Like your own lifetime, the span of human history is unknown. We don't know when it began and we don't know when it will end. But it is at least in the order of 100 times longer than an average human lifespan. A human being even living to old age, experiences as little as one percent of human history. From that point of view, history is somewhat irrelevant. However God has used human history to demonstrate his purpose for us.
The Bible’s record of the past is for our instruction and encouragement (Romans 15:4). The history in the Bible is significant in the sense that it signifies the coming of Christ to die for your sins, and to rise from the dead, and to ascend to the right hand of God (Acts 2:22-23,31-33). For example Peter saw the record of the world’s destruction by flood in Noah’s time as a "type" or symbol of our salvation in Christ (1Peter 3:18-22).
In the next chapter (1Peter 4), Peter looks forward to the end of all things at judgment day. His focus, however, is on how, in view of the past and the future, you should "live the rest of the time in the flesh". His focus is on the remainder of your lifetime, not on world history as such.
The "end time events" that matter, are not future final events of world history, but what remains of your own life in the flesh. Don’t be preoccupied and distracted by supposedly soon-coming events in unfolding world history. The one soon-coming event that you need to prepare for and be concerned about, is your death. That preparation will make you ready for Christ’s coming, the end of the world, and judgment day, whether that day comes before or after you die.
Psalm 90:1-4 This final passage that we look at in this lesson, is a poem into which all three times are woven.
Your Lifetime: "You turn man back into dust... the days of our life are seventy years... soon it is gone and we fly away" (Psalms 90:3,10).
Human History "A thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night... they are like grass which sprouts anew in the morning... and towards evening it withers away" (Psalms 90:4-6).
Eternity: "Before the mountains were born, or you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Psalm 90:1).
Compared to God’s eternity, the days of man are fleeting. If we cannot be accepted into God’s eternity, then our lives are vain and pointless. Through Jesus Christ we can enter into eternity. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish... but have everlasting life" (John 10:27-28, 3:16)
The key is "they follow me". There, in three words, is what to do with the rest of your life and what to be focussed upon. You follow Jesus. Few human beings have much influence on human history, or can mould the world to what they would like it to be. Fewer still have much influence on eternity, and heaven and hell will be just whatever God decrees. Few even have much control over the circumstances of their own lives. Many things happen that we cannot choose or change —death being number one on the list.
However there is one thing we can do, and that is to dedicate ourselves to Jesus the Son of God, and follow him. Then we will be safe no matter what happens in our lifetime, or what happens in human history after we die, or what happens when time is no more and we are thrust into eternity. Always we shall be safe following Jesus. This is how to understand the message and promises of the Bible.