Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, August 2, 2020

Shavuah Tov,

Final Words by Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

August 2, 2020

INTRODUCTION: I follow last Sunday’s RR (end-of-life preparations) to discuss end-of-life statements. We humans may speak millions of words in a lifetime. Many words amount to little more than noise, but some words are most important:

** A Believer will be judged by his/ her words (Matthew 12:36-37): [Yeshua said] “But I tell you that on the Day of Judgment, men will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

** Words proclaim (spread) the Gospel to the lost (Romans 10:14-15): … And how shall they trust in the One they have not heard of? And how shall they hear without someone proclaiming? And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!”

** James (Jacob) understood the dangers of the spoken word (James 3:6): And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is a world of evil placed among our body parts. It pollutes the whole body and sets on fire the course of life– and is set on fire by Gehenna. 

** Many Bible verses condemn idle talk (gossip, hurtful speech, lies. slander). I do not have space to reproduce these verses, but some have been collected in:

https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-gossip/ . 

Much pragmatic truth is contained in these verses. It would be a rare person who has not said something that he/ she later deeply regretted. “I’m sorry” only goes so far in easing hurtful speech.

FINAL WORDS: It is interesting to read people’s final (last) words, sometimes  called “deathbed statements.” Some final words are recorded in such Websites as:

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_last_words 

** https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/58534/64-people-and-their-famous-last-words 

** https://www.phrases.org.uk/famous-last-words/index.html 

** https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/last-words 

** https://twentytwowords.com/the-surprising-final-words-of-famous-people/ 

** http://users.belgacom.net/gc674645/grave/lastword.htm 

** And so forth. To read more final words, you can use a search engine as well as I can. Last words may be ironic, inspirational, or humorous. Some dying words suggest the speaker may have glimpsed Paradise (a near death experience). 

SIDELIGHT: As an example of a statement about glimpsing Paradise in the preceding section, I find the final words of  Apple co-founder Steve Jobs fascinating. Jobs was probably an atheist for most (all?) of his life, having firmly rejected Christianity at an early age. Nearing death, he seemed less certain about his rejection of Yeshua, stating: “Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of– maybe it’s ’cause I want to believe in an afterlife– that when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on.” 

When Jobs died in 2011, his sister, Mona Simpson (who was present with him at his death), stated that he intently gazed at her, his children, and his partner. Then, he looked over their shoulders (into the distance past them), and said: “Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!” Had Jobs accepted Yeshua as Savior? Did he see Paradise (and Yeshua) at his death? Had he joined Paul and countless other people who “travel toward the bright light” and see what many interpret as Paradise?

You may recall that I earlier wrote a RR about the Apostle Paul’s near-death experience. For his “heresy,” Paul was stoned by religious Jews in Lystra (Acts 14:19-20). He was left for dead, but recovered. Fourteen years later, he wrote of a near-death experience (NDE) “of a man he knew” (surely, Paul himself). See 2 Corinthians 12:1-6. Paul described features of the NDE very well, including an out-of-body experience and seeing departed relatives and friends in a beautiful place he identified as Paradise. This life-changing event was forever seared into Paul’s memory, and he could agree with the prophet Isaiah (see Isaiah 64:4) of the world that lies ahead for us (1 Corinthians 2:9): But as it is written, “Things no eye has seen and no ear has heard, that have not entered the heart of mankind– these things God has prepared for those who love Him.”  END sidelight.

A more recent example from the arts is a movie classic, Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” (1941). This movie had a major theme based on the last word (“Rosebud”) spoken by the lead character, Charles Foster Kane. Many people in the movie wanted to know to whom or to what did “Rosebud” refer. Answer: Rosebud was the name of the sled given to the boy, Charles Kane, by his mother before he was taken from her. Rosebud represented the comfort, security, and innocence of Kane’s broken boyhood home. Kane fondly remembered Rosebud from his childhood, and this memory was his most important memory at death. Kane’s last word was remembrance of his most prized boyhood possession, a sled.

WHAT WILL BE YOUR FINAL WORDS? For a moment, imagine you are on your deathbed. Your loved ones are gathered around you. They hush speaking, as they sense you are about to say something to them. What will your final words be?

WORDS NO BELIEVER SHOULD UTTER: You have no way of answering the question I posed in the preceding section, of course. No one knows what he/ she will say at death, until that time comes. Let me give you a few examples of last words you should NOT say on your deathbed:

** “I spent too much time with my family. I should have, instead, spent that time playing golf… fishing… working… updating my Facebook account… [fill in blank: *** – ***].”

** “Aw shucks, I was just too nice to people.”

** “I spent too much time reading the Bible. I should have spent some of that time reading the news… checking my social media accounts… studying stock market reports… [fill in blank: *** – ***].”

** “I spent too much time praying. God knew what I wanted before I prayed. I didn’t get most of what I asked for, anyway. What a waste of time!”

** “Look, I know Yeshua may have said my sins will not be forgiven unless I forgive others of their sins against me, but God will just have to make an exception in my case. There is no way I can ever forgive [fill in blank: *** – ***].”

SIDELIGHTS: Let me say a few things that are probably too far off topic to be included logically in this RR. I think in sudden, disconnected spurts, rather than  continuous, smooth, organized trains of thoughts like most people. As I write these RRs, I may have several thoughts at the same time. I grab a thought, careen to the next thought, and so forth. It seems to me to be a good way to think (and I am too old to change), but I realize it may be confusing for the majority of readers who think normally. So, a few thoughts (disorganized):

I know in a Messianic Jewish congregation, Adolf Hitler is not well-liked because of the Shoah (The Holocaust). But, we must even forgive Hitler for his horrendous sins against humanity (Luke 6:27-30): [Yeshua said] “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for the ones who mistreat you. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. And from the one who takes your cloak, do not hold back your shirt. Give to every one who asks you; and whoever takes something of yours, make no demands upon him.”

While we are off track, I will drive the train deeper into the woods, and write something you probably already know. Adolph Hitler waged a genocidal war against Jews– the shoah, The Holocaust– primarily in 1941-1945. He was greatly impressed by and was a student of an American woman, Margaret Sanger. Sanger hated black people, and she wished to wage genocidal war against this race. From her work, beginning in the early 1920s, Planned Parenthood eventually evolved. Liberal Americans are appalled at Hitler’s Holocaust genocide of Jews, but champion Sanger’s Planned Parenthood genocide of unborn babies (still a  disproportionately high number of which are black babies). I would like to go to a BLM (Black Lives Matter) demonstration and hold up an “UNBORN  Black Lives Matter, Too” sign. Since liberal demonstrators are tolerant only to those who are in lockstep with their beliefs, I will not go since I am allergic to pain.

Incidentally, as horrific as Hitler’s war against Jews and other “undesirables” was, Joseph Stalin murdered a far greater number of people– many of whom were Christians. And, others slaughtered even more than Stalin. Satan truly roamed the earth, as a raging lion, in the mid-twentieth century. Evil men (Hitler, Stalin, Hirohito, Mussolini, Tse Tung, etc.) arose during this time and slaughtered many millions of innocent people. These evil men were surely used by Satan as a trial run for the future Antichrist.  

Adonai has established Divine Judgment, which will operate flawlessly. Hitler (and others) will most likely be sentenced to eternity in the Lake of Fire, without our kibitzing and without our hatred for these sinners. Yeshua told us we must forgive ALL who sin against us– even our enemies– without exception. In fact, God will not forgive us our sins unless we forgive all who sin against us (Matthew 6:15): [Yeshua said] “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (“Transgression” translates the Greek paraptoma, which means “sin, trespass, misdeed, or falling away from truth.”) 

Following Yeshua is not easy. Following Him is most difficult, and probably no one gets it completely right. For example, the Apostle Paul, whom most of us might suspect was a near-perfect Believer, lamented his failures (Romans 7:15): For I do not understand what I am doing– for what I do not want, this I practice; but what I hate, this I do. Have you ever done or said something that you wish you had not done or said, and later hated that this happened? You are human.

In a similar vein, a common curse is to tell someone, “Go to Hell!” Really? No Believer should ever wish that anyone should spend eternity in Hell. The Believer should wish everyone would join him/ her in Heaven. Rather than wishing an enemy should spend eternity in Hell, you should attempt to spread the Gospel message to him/ her. Paul advised that expressing kindness to an enemy is better “revenge” than any mean-spirited activity (Romans 12:19-21): Never take your own revenge, loved ones, but give room for God’s wrath– for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,” says Adonai. Rather, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For by doing so you will heap coals of fire upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. I will try to get back on track now. END sidelights.

YOUR LAST WORDS SHOULD BE: Psalmist David gave us a good suggestion of what should be the topic of our last words (Psalm 34:2): I will bless Adonai at all times. His praise is continually in my mouth. 

Paul Wilbur captured the same thought of continuous praise in his song, “Shalom Jerusalem,” when he wrote: “… When Messiah comes to take us home || May His praise be found in you.”

“I CAN ONLY IMAGINE:” I am a fan of some Southern Gospel music. A favorite song, which won the 2002 Dove Awards song of the year, is: “I Can Only Imagine.” Consider some of the lyrics, reproduced below, and, then, imagine what you might say or do when you see Yeshua in Paradise.

“I can only imagine what it will be like || When I walk by Your side || I can only imagine what my eyes will see || When Your face is before me || I can only imagine….
“Surrounded by Your glory || What will my heart feel? || Will I dance for You, Jesus || Or in awe of You be still?
“Will I stand in Your presence || Or to my knees will I fall? || Will I sing hallelujah? || Will I be able to speak at all?….
“I can only imagine when that day comes || And I find myself standing in the sun/Son || I can only imagine when all I will do || Is forever– forever worship You….” And so on.

Artists’ renditions of this song are available on YouTube. The first option to pop up is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Da4fnYIuV9s  . Listen to the words of this song, as you try to imagine what you will do when you see your Savior face to face. All earthly words– your last words– have been said. What will you begin your eternal words in Paradise/ Heaven? Shalom and Maranatha.