Can a Scripture be encouraging and scary at the same time? Try this one: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, that they may rest from their labors. And their works do follow them" (Rev.14:13).
There is a reason Scripture does not teach that we are judged immediately after death, but following the final resurrection: The record is not in yet. Those who have lived as disciples of Jesus Christ on earth and are now gone from us are "blessed," "in the Lord," "rest[ing]," and they are watching the record of their lives continue to form. The lives they lived on earth-teaching, writing, working, giving, baking, assisting, a thousand other activities-have touched countless other lives that remain after the individual has departed the scene.
In Heaven, the Lord takes note of each one. That's why only He can judge impartially and fully, because He is the only One who sees and knows the full record of each life. Shakespeare wrote that "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." That's only half true, though. Both live on.
What started me thinking along this vein was spending an hour one night surfing the web for various comments on God and worship by H. L. Mencken and Mark Twain. These two writers were witty and profound in a hundred ways, but their comments on God, the Bible, and Christians were hostile and so ugly. They've been gone for many decades now, but their words live on, fueling the animosity of so many to the Lord and His Kingdom. And, even if one could make a case for these men having repented of these writings, they are out there, doing their damage to this day. Their works are following them.
Let this be a reminder to me and to you. "May those who come behind find us faithful." Of course, it is not in our own strength that our deeds are done, and certainly not because of anything in us that they have any impact on eternity.
One of the benefits of reading the entire Bible through in a short time is that you begin to see recurring themes. For instance, take what God said to Jeremiah when He called the young man as a prophet and "Jerry" began protesting that he was too young for this sort of thing, untried, inexperienced, and such. God answered, "Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you" (Jer. 1:8). A few verses later, as this scene ends, God says, "They shall not prevail against you, for I am with you to deliver you" (1:19).
In former days, we would have said this was like a broken record, the way the Lord keeps saying it to people. He said it to Jacob in Genesis 28:15. When He called Moses (Ex. 3-4), He said it 3 times, and later twice to Joshua (Josh. 1). Later, He said "I will be with you" when He called Gideon (Judg. 6:16) and said it repeatedly to Israel at various stages of their sojourn (Ex. 33:14; Deut. 20:1; and Isa. 43:2 are favorites).
In the New Testament, when the Lord Jesus sent out His disciples to take the Gospel to the world, He promised the same thing: "And lo, I am with you all the ways, even to the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20).
Anyone see a pattern here? The Lord seems to think that His presence makes all the difference, not your talent or my abilities or our brains. Sort of removes all our excuses, doesn't it? Now, what can I do for eternity today?
Joe McKeever is a retired Southern Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He blogs regularly at www.joemckeever.com.