By Cecil Willis
Our lives have come to be regulated by appointments. Virtually everything we do is done by appointment. We have certain schedules we must keep. Most of us carry around with us a little book in which we keep track of our engagements. We have a certain schedule to meet at our work. If we wish to see a physician, we must first arrange an appointment. One must make an appointment with a dentist long before time for the call. If one wishes to have a suit fitted, it must be done by appointment. It is even getting to the place that if one wants to get a haircut, he must first arrange an appointment.
But there is a common trait of all these appointments. They can be broken, and often are. Sometimes I forget that I have made appointments. Often I am late for an appointment I have made. Men frequently will intentionally fail to keep an appointment. There is a great uncertainty about all of these appointments. But in this article we want to consider some appointments that we have already arranged for us. And my friends, these appointments we shall keep.
Appointment to Confront Christ in the Gospel
The first of these appointments we wish to study is that God has willed that each one of us come in contact with Christ through the gospel. This appointment is the least certain of any that we shall study, for it depends upon the actions of men. But God has willed that everyone of us come in contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the great commission as recorded by Matthew, Jesus said “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). No nation is to be omitted. Each nation is to see Christ as He is preached in the gospel of Christ. This is the Lord’s plan. Peter elaborates upon this in Acts 10. For some time, only the Jews had been preached to, but when Peter came to the household of Cornelius, who was a Gentile, he said “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respector of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34, 35). Jews and Gentiles have equal right to the blessings in the gospel of Christ. This includes everyone. For there are only two classifications of people. You must be either Jew or Gentile. And both .are to have the gospel preached to them. All nations are to hear.
But Jesus is even more emphatic. Not only does he declare that we should preach to all nations, but he tells us to preach to every creature of every nation. In Mark’s record of the great commission, Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (ASV) or to “every creature” (KJV). Paul. says that the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men (Titus 2:11). And Peter adds that the Lord wishes that all might come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). So effective was the New Testament church in the propagation of the gospel that Paul could declare that every creature under heaven had heard it preached. He speaks of ” . . . the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23).
The Lord commissioned the church to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. He provided that every the saving an appointment the Lord has intended for us. However, it is conditioned by the effective efforts of the Lord’s church in proclaiming the gospel. These next appointments are not so relative.
Appointment with Death
One can have a choice as to how he will react to his appointment with the gospel. But to this next appointment, we shall all react alike. I speak of our appointment with death. As I drive into a big city and see the thousands of busy people on its streets, it is very difficult for me to imagine that these will all soon die. But experience teaches us that this will happen. The deaths in our families make us admit this sad reality. But the Bible also declares it to be true. The apostle Paul says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Since the fall of Adam, God has appointed that men shall die. The millions that now walk upon the earth are but few when compared to the billions that now slumber in its bosom.
Peter further describes the finitude of man, when he says, “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth: But the word of the Lord abideth forever” (1 Pet. 1:24,25). If man learns anything in this little drama of life, it should be that his stay here is not permanent. He is like the grass and the flower. They are here but for a season, and then they wither away. James also describes the brevity of life, and the certainty of death. He says, “Come now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:13,14). Vapors certainly are not permanent. Neither is our life. We are here, but for a little while, and then we relinquish our role to make place for the oncoming generations.
In the Psalms we are given some indication of the duration of our stay here. Mind you, this is not a guarantee of the duration of our life. For Job 3 indicates that we may die as babes or in old age. But Psalm 90:10 reads, “The days of our years are three-score creature should be brought face to face with power of the gospel of Christ. This is years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away.” Some of us will reach seventy, a few eighty, but that is about all. Then we shall go “the way of all the earth” (1 Kgs. 2:2), as David said to Solomon when he was old and about to lie.
The poets have described the universality of death. They have said that “Death is the black camel that kneels at the gate of all.” It is the common denominator of men. Our appointment with death is one appointment we are going to keep. When the time comes for us to die, we will not be too busy to go, though. We excuse ourselves from some of terrestrial appointments on this basis. Nor will we be too important to die. Just about the time that a man begins to think that he is indispensable, that the world cannot do without him, just about then the world suddenly does have to get along without him. And it usually does quite well. Remember, “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment.”
Appointment for Judgment
Though we do not yet know by experience that this next appointment is certain, it is nevertheless as certain as death. We have an appointment with God to be judged. The passage which we cited earlier, Heb. 9:27, says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment.” Death is certain. All of us know this. But death is the guarantee that we have an appointment for judgment. Just as surely as we cannot escape death, we cannot escape judgment. As surely as you die, you shall be judged. Judgment is a certain appointment. Paul plainly says, “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). There will be no getting around it. Each one of us shall give account. In another epistle Paul says, “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). All of us shall be made manifest.
The apostle Paul makes an argument recorded in Acts 17 to show that judgment is certain: “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30,31). God has given assurance that there will be a judgment because He hath raised from the dead Him who shall do the judging. As surely as Christ was raised from the dead, each one of us shall stand before Him to be judged. I have a certain and unchangeable appointment with the Lord. I will not be too busy to answer when He calls me forth to be judged. In the Bible pictures of the judgment, every man of every nation was assembled in the presence of the Lord to be judged. It will be the greatest and most important gathering ever known in the history of man.
Appointment with my Works
The next certain appointment I want to mention is that I shall certainly meet my works. Of some of the things we do, we can be proud. Of others, we should be ashamed. But when I stand before my Lord to be judged by Him, I shall meet my works. There will be many of them of which I will be ashamed. But the Lord will not be remembering just the good things that I have done. Both good and bad will be remembered in judgment. Notice again 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” The wise man Solomon had, by inspiration, declared the same truth a thousand years before. He said, “This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc. 12:13,14). We often try to hide the embarrassing things we do from our neighbors. But the way to keep our unrighteous deeds from being made manifest in judgment is not to do them or be forgiven of them. As surely as we do them, they shall be revealed in judgment.
Appointment with Heaven or Hell
After the appointment for judgment, we shall have but one other appointment. It will be one that shall never end. We shall have an appointment with either Heaven or Hell. You are now making the choice as to which this eternal appointment shall be.
The meeting we have with the gospel shall tremendously influence the way in which we shall meet these other appointments. If I meet death as a Christian, I can meet it without fear. I can see that death is but a doorway to heaven. But the man who rejects the gospel must approach death quite differently. He must approach it knowing that it is the door-way to everlasting damnation. Whether I obey the gospel or not shall greatly influence my attitude toward death.
But whether I obey the gospel when I hear it preached shall certainly affect my feeling when I stand in judgment. Paul speaks of some who will be able to come into God’s presence with boldness, but others shall come knowing they have not done what God expects them to do. And certainly when God comes to make manifest my works I shall be much happier to know that I have been a faithful Christian all my life so that I can dwell with God throughout eternity. If you have not yet obeyed the gospel, you must do so! Soon you shall die. Soon you shall stand before God in judgment. Soon you shall be confronted with your works. Soon you shall enter Heaven or Hell. Hearken to the call of the Lord!
Truth Magazine XIX: 51, pp. 803-805
November 6, 1975