Job 10:21-22

Apparently there are many fictitious accounts of the last words of famous people. Someone once told me that I should read the account of Voltaire's death because they read this great opponent of Christianity died in torment because he was afraid of death and what it held. The problem was that when I looked it up there were varying accounts of his death. Apparently both friends of the church and the church's opponents have used his death for propaganda, to support their various positions. Some said that Voltaire repented and accepted the last rites given by a Roman Catholic priest. Other said that he was defiant against Christianity to his last breath. Some even say that he died joking about it. They say that when he was asked to renounce the devil, he make a joke and replied to the priest

"Now is not the time for making new enemies."

That's almost certainly not true as that saying didn't come to light until long after Voltaire's death.

Still others say that he didn't accept Christianity but recognized that it was true and died in terrible torment, not so much physical torment but spiritual torment, knowing he was lost. Others say that among his last words was the repeated phrase,

"I must die – abandoned of God and of men!"

It was reported that his condition had become so terrible that his associates were afraid to approach his bedside, and as he passed away, his nurse said that for all of the wealth in Europe, she would never watch another infidel die.

I don't know which version to believe but I do know that some people die horrible deaths—being exceedingly fearful with their souls tormented. I knew one older man who didn't believe in Christianity who was in absolute torment, sometimes literally shaking at the thought of his death and what would come after. He asked me to come and talk to him, which I did, but he wouldn't accept the gospel. He died with great foreboding.

Even Christians have died that way. William Cowper, the great Christian hymn writer, died on April 25th, 1800 in, (
Banner of Truth. September 1971. p. 26)

"unutterable despair".

Cowper had suffered from bouts of mental illness throughout his life. He was in a mental asylum when he was converted. He had some long periods of sanity and those that knew him best, including John Newton, believed, even after they found out how he died, that he was a Christian. But at that point, Cowper's insanity made his faith waver and he lost sight of Christ.

Death is a horrible reality and I know that many people, both Christian and non-Christian have been terrified as they have approached it. Many recognize this. Shakespeare testified to the accountability and vulnerability that is, (Donald Macleod writes,
Christ Crucified, p. 140)

"engraved indelibly on the human conscience,"

when in his play Hamlet (Act 3.1) Hamlet cried,

"Conscience doth make cowards of us all."

Those words are contained in the famous "to be or not to be" speech. Hamlet was wondering if it was better to go on living or to die. He said that the conscience makes cowards of us all because our consciences accuse us. We know we're sinners. Thus we're afraid to face death.

There's another story (which may be apocryphal) which illustrates the terror that some people have felt as they face death. A doctor was visiting a man who was sick. The patient was groaning and making demonstrations of great agony. The doctor was surprised and asked,

"Why do you groan? Your disease is not painful."

The man replied,

"Oh doctor, it is not the body but the soul that troubles me!"

Even though he was the best man on earth Job was terrified of what came after death. Job asked God to turn away from him so that he could have a moment's joy,

"before I go
to the place of no return,
to the land of gloom and deep shadow,
to the land of deepest night,
of deep shadow and disorder,
where even the light is like darkness."

Fear of the future is a terrible thing. Fear of death can be very disturbing.

How does one deal with such fears? One method is to avoid thinking about them. I once read an article where the writer suggested that all the busyness in our society—our filling up all our time with work, entertainment and travel—has come about because people don't want to think about their death. It's reported that the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst had a rule that,

"Death is not to be discussed in my presence."

Many people are quite successful in ignoring the problem. Donald Macleod writes, Christ Crucified, p. 140-141)

"For the most part, moderns are able to keep conscience at bay by minimizing the gravity of sin, dismissing the thought of life after death or re-imaging God as an all-indulgent deity."

But is the best strategy to try not to think about death, minimize sin and make up your own God? Ecclesiastes 7:2,4 says,

"It is better to go to
a house of mourning than
to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.
The heart of the wise is
in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is
in the house of pleasure."

We need to be prepared for the future. Kazoh Kitamori writes (Quoted from Donald Macleod, (Christ Crucified, p. 141)

"We may say that the recognition of God's wrath is the beginning of wisdom."

If we recognize God's wrath it should lead to us seek relief in Jesus. If our conscience troubles us, we should take advantage of the remedy that God has provided.

Yet people are often tempted to avoid thinking about death and do nothing. Even more so, hardly anyone wants to think about hell. Many Christians don't even want to hear a sermon on it. Some people who are evangelical leaders have rejected the Bible's teaching about hell. They deny that such a place exists. They believe that people who aren't believers will be snuffed out of existence when they die or after the Great Judgment.

But everyone should think about it and make sure that they are safe from it. Thoughts of death and hell should make everyone cling to Jesus because He can deliver us from it. For Christians thoughts of death and hell show what Jesus has done for you and should help you to rejoice in the salvation that Jesus has provided. Thoughts of death and hell should help you to appreciate the love and grace Jesus because they show you the horrors He has saved you from.

Consider Job here.

Job's view of the future was extremely dark.

Job is dejected and despondent. He is absolutely pessimistic about what awaits him. He describes death as the entrance to a place of no return, a land of gloom and deep shadow, of the deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where the light has been swallowed by the darkness. Christopher Ash says that Job here, (Job, p. 150)

"piles up anti-creation themes."

Ash's point is that in the original six days of creation there was a movement from chaos to order. Genesis 1:2 tells us that the earth was formless and empty, with darkness over the surface of the deep. God then said, (Genesis 1:3–4)

" 'Let there be light,
and there was light.'
God saw that the light was good,
and he separated the light
from the darkness."

God was bringing order out of the chaos. God then made the expanse and separated the waters above the expanse from the waters under the expanse. He commanded the waters to be gathered into one place so that dry ground appeared. Over the six days God created and brought order to His creation.

But it's like Job is going backwards here—where his future goes back to darkness and disorder.

Why was Job so foreboding? Why was he so fearful about the future? Why did he dread what was coming?

The answer that

he couldn't bear God's holy presence.

It was God's presence that was troubling Job. Job felt a judgmental presence from God. It was most uncomfortable. Earlier in chapter 10 Job said he felt like God was stalking him. It was like God was going to tear him to pieces. He longed to get away from God's presence. Job said to God,

"Turn away from me
so I can have a moment's joy
before I go to the place of no return,
to the land of gloom and deep shadow,
to the land of deepest night,
of deep shadow and disorder,
where even the light is like darkness."

Why was Job terrorized by God's presence? It was because he was conscious that he was a sinner and that he wasn't fit to be in God's presence. Indeed, God's presence tormented him.

You'll remember that after Adam and Eve sinned and they heard God coming they hid from God. They instinctively understood that they could not stand in God's presence. It was the same with the prophet Isaiah. Like Job, he was a faithful servant of God. He hadn't committed any great sin. Yet when he saw the vision of God on His throne—Isaiah was overcome with terror. He said, (Isaiah 6:5)

"Woe to me! I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips, and
I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord Almighty."

Sinners are threatened by God's holy presence. One has to be holy to dwell with God, to walk with Him. Without this holiness God's presence is exceedingly troubling to us. It is a presence of judgment. Donald Macleod writes, (p. 141)

"This is the great cloud that hangs over the human race; it has to be dealt with…"

God's holiness, His justice and the other perfections of His character must rise against sin. This is what makes God's presence so terrifying to sinners. Donald Macleod writes, (Christ Crucified, p. 133)

"Anger is not, strictly speaking, an attribute of God: not something he is in and of himself, but entirely relational. In the eternal relations of the divine persons there had been love and grace and holiness and righteousness and wisdom and power. But there had been no anger, because there was nothing outside of God, and therefore nothing to provoke it. It was aroused and provoked only by sin. Yet, although not like holiness an eternal quality of God's being, it arose by necessity from that holiness when sin presented its defiance and laid down its challenge. The anger was contingent, because sin was contingent, but it arose, of necessity, out of what God is. Anger is the calm, deliberate and proportionate way in which eternal and underlying holiness responds to sin. Because of what he is (morally immutable) he hates it, he condemns it and he opposes it as utterly repugnant and absolutely destructive."

Macleod continues, (Christ Crucified, p. 141)

"God is angry with our defiances, blasphemies and idolatries; angry with the way we treat our neighbors; angry with the way we treat the poor, the alien and the marginalized; angry with the way we treat our enemies. Far from ignoring or indulging such lovelessness God deplores it, and this is no irrational, evanescent or intemperate fury. It is the deliberate, measured, judicious response of God to our collective revolt against his rule, and to the systemic injustice which marks human society."

God's presence terrified Job. He had a great sense of foreboding because he knew that apart from God's presence of blessing,

there was nothing but darkness and gloom.

We also see this in the teaching of Jesus. In Matthew 8:12 we read,

"But the subjects of the kingdom
will be thrown outside,
into the darkness,
where there will be weeping
and gnashing of teeth."

In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:13 the King told the attendants to take the man without the wedding garment and,

"Tie him hand and foot,
and throw him outside,
into the darkness,
where there will be weeping
and gnashing of teeth."

And in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:30) the master said about the man who had wasted his talent.

"throw that worthless servant outside,
into the darkness,
where there will be weeping
and gnashing of teeth."

Darkness is part of the separation from God.

Job also know that this place of darkness and gloom was

a place of no return.

Job said to God,

"Turn away from me
so I can have a moment's joy
before I go to the place of no return…"

Again, this is confirmed by the New Testament. Revelation 20:10 says,

"And the devil,
who deceived them,
was thrown into
the lake of burning sulfur,
where the beast and the false prophet
had been thrown.
They will be tormented
day and night for ever and ever."

Revelation 20 goes on to talk about the Great Judgment. Verse 15 says,

"If anyone's name was not found
written in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire."

But the wonderful news is that

there is a deliverance from God's presence of judgment, from darkness, there is someone to keep us from going to the place of no return.

In our text Job lost sight of the Redeemer who was going to come to save Him. He recaptured it in Job 19:25–27 where he declared,

"I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end
he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes—
I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!"

In Jesus God provided the way of salvation. Colossians 1:13–14 says of God,

"For he has rescued us
from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom
of the Son he loves,
in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins."

Ephesians 5:8 says,

"For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord."

If you are in Jesus, God's presence is delightful. In the future you Christians are going to dwell in a new heaven and a new earth. There will be no night there. There will be no sun or moon for the new Jerusalem, for, (Revelation 21:23)

"for the glory of God gives it light,
and the Lamb is its lamp."

As the apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:5,

"God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all."

Just before that John wrote, (1 John 1:3–4

"And our fellowship is with
the Father and with his Son,
Jesus Christ.
We write this to make our joy complete."

Christians, how you should rejoice in Jesus. Christians, you should look forward to the future with great joy. You are the light of the world. Two of the fruits of the Spirit are joy and peace. If you are going to shine here on this earth, you dare not be full of gloom and foreboding about the future. You are co-heirs with Christ. Your sins are forgiven. There is glory ahead for you. Shine for Jesus. Be hopeful, confident about your future.

In Philippians 1:22–24 the apostle Paul wrote,

"If I am to go on living in the body,
this will mean fruitful labor for me.
Yet what shall I choose?
I do not know!
I am torn between the two:
I desire to depart and be with Christ,
which is better by far;
but it is more necessary for you
that I remain in the body."

2 Corinthians 5:6–8

"we are always confident and
know that as long as we are
at home in the body
we are away from the Lord.
We live by faith, not by sight.
We are confident,
I say, and would prefer
to be away from the body and
at home with the Lord."

1 Corinthians 2:9–10

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared
for those who love him'—
but God has revealed it to us
by his Spirit."

What joy, happiness contentment is ahead for you Christians.

Jonathan Edwards contracted smallpox from a smallpox vaccine.. As he lay dying, he appeared to be unconscious and unaware of what was going on around him. Some of those gathered there and some of those at his side expressed grief at what his absence would be to the college (Princeton) and the church at large. They were surprised when he uttered a final sentence, (Jonathan Edwards, by Iain Murray, p. 441)

"Trust in God, and you need not fear."