Summary: Beginning well is important in the Christian Life; ending well is critical. We witness both as we see what the Apostle Paul has written near the end of his days on this earth.

2 TIMOTHY 4:1-8


“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” [1]

The message that I am bringing today is special to me for several reasons. On one recent occasion as I listened to a radio broadcast of the recording of an earlier presentation of this same message, I heard my daughter’s voice. Most of you will know that my daughter died in November of this past year. Her sweet voice could be clearly heard above others as she joined in singing. It was a sweet reminder of more joyous times, and I was deeply moved as I heard her voice joining me in singing.

Also, the subject matter that I am addressing grows increasingly meaningful for me. I’m ageing rapidly, moving ever closer to the day of my home going, when I will be received into God’s eternal presence. That day is frequently on my mind, more frequently than I could have imagined. I think of that meeting and I long to be prepared to meet the One Whom I have served the entirety of my adult life.

Finally, the message has special relevance for me because I realise that I preach to people for whom I must give an answer to Christ. I know that I am responsible to declare the whole counsel of God, and that counsel entails preparing people to die. Should Christ tarry, each one who hears my voice will be required to pass through the chilly waters of death. Daily, I feel the weight of responsibility to prepare all for that eventuality.

Final words spoken as death is imminent are freighted with significance in the contemporary mind. Words uttered at the threshold of death are often a revelation for those remaining behind, as both saint and sinner stand before the grave, poised as it were with one foot planted among us who are yet trapped in the flesh even as the other foot settles into the realm of what lies beyond this life. It is as though for one brief moment the veil that obscures the vision of that unseen world is parted and through the eyes of those exiting this mortal existence we are permitted a glimpse of their eternal destiny. We thus receive a hint of our own final condition. Those things spoken at that moment of transition are of considerable interest to each of us then, serving either as confirmation of what we have believed, or forcefully disabusing us of every false hope upon which we may have rested our eternal condition.

What will your dying words be? Perhaps your final words will be a revelation of what you are seeing for the first time, a spoken record of destiny, as it were, such as the words of justly famed evangelist D. L. Moody, who reportedly said as he was dying, “Earth recedes; Heaven opens before me.” When his son remonstrated with him, he insisted, “No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” [2]

Perhaps your final words will speak of the activities that meant the most to you during your days in this present life. Mac Bunson, a former Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, has informed us of the last words of Dr. W. A. Criswell that were spoken to him as the old warrior lay on his death bed. Pastor Bunson stated, “With all the strength and vitality of life, he looked up at me and took my hand, and he said, ‘Are you here for the revival?’” [3] May I have as much love for the work of Christ in my final days as during my days of labour for His cause.

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