Living Like There’s No Tomorrow
William Miller came to Christ in the mid-19th century during a wave of revival in the churches of the NE US. It was a time when, like today, there was a keen interest in Bible prophecy, especially those dealing with the return of Christ. Right after his conversion, Miller immersed himself in the book of Daniel, and after 14 years of study, he announced Jesus Christ would return to earth sometime in 1843 or 1844. He eventually nailed down the date to October 22, 1844.
On that morning thousands of people gathered on mountaintops and in churches. Others were in graveyards, planning to ascend with their departed loved ones. Philadelphia society ladies clustered together outside town to avoid entering God’s kingdom amid the common crowd. But Jesus Christ did not return that day. Many Christians grew disillusioned, while many of the unsaved became cynical. The event became known as “The Great Disappointment.”*[i]
The return of Jesus’ Christ is one of the most important doctrines of our faith, and yet for many people, it can be a source of confusion or even disappointment. It’s not that we don’t believe Christ will return, but it can get confusing trying to make sense of all the conflicting theories about the rapture, the tribulation, and the millennium. I have many commentaries on the book of Revelation in my library, many of them explaining in great detail what this scholar or that scholar thinks will happen when Christ returns. Those of you who have read the famous “Left Behind” books are probably familiar with that theory about how the end times play out. I’ve seen charts depicting dragons and goats and angels and temples, each claiming to be the only Biblically accurate depiction of what’s going to happen when Jesus returns.
But I want to pose an important question to you: what if all the prophecies of the Bible are given not to answer the question, “how will Christ return?” but instead are meant to make us ask, “how should I live in light of Christ’s return?” What if the purpose of prophecy is not to give us a roadmap of future events, but to help us live right now, however the future pans out? This is my approach to Bible prophecy, especially concerning the return of Christ: Lord, how should I live to please you no matter what tomorrow brings?
The apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to a church that didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. They were suffering intense persecution. They had guarantee they would live to see tomorrow. This is what prompts Peter to write in 1 Peter 4:7-11 how to live as if Jesus would come back today—to live like there’s no tomorrow.
How can we live like there’s no tomorrow?
I. LIVE EXPECTANTLY (v. 7a) …the end of all things is at hand…
At first glance it seems Peter is as mistaken as William Miller was. The end of all things… obviously refers to the end of the world as we know it. No more tomorrows: Jesus fulfills
Revelation 11:15 …“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
All true Christians believe this will happen, but the Bible does not tell us when it will happen. Peter specifically states this cataclysmic event is …at hand… = near in time or place. Peter wrote these words almost 2000 years ago, and obviously Christ has not returned. Was Peter mistaken? No. Throughout the NT, Jesus’ return is consistently said to be “at hand.”
Philippians 4:5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
James 5:8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
The idea behind all of these verses is not that Christ’s coming is immediate but that His coming is imminent. It could happen at any time. Peter emphasizes we should all live expectantly Jesus may come at any moment.
The idea here is not that we dread Jesus’ return, but rejoice because today may be the day. We ought to be looking for Jesus to return the way a wife waits for her husband to come home from a long journey, or a child waits for her dad to come from home from the war. Christians of the early church were eagerly anticipating and praying for their Savior to come and rescue them from evil and make this world right. We ought to be waiting with joy for Jesus to arrive!
If there’s any reason why we ought to be excited about Christ’s return it ought to be this: Jesus could come at any moment. His return ought to fill our hearts with joyful anticipation!
Dr. Joe Stowell tells about visiting the Shepherds Home and School for children with Down's syndrome. The founder of the school told him, “Joe, we always share the Gospel with these kids. We tell them Jesus Christ died on the cross for them, and that Christ will forgive their sins, and not only that, but the day is coming when Christ will come back and take them to heaven.” He went on to explain the school’s biggest maintenance problem: dirty windows. The windows of the school stayed dirty, he said, “Because our kids spend time every day at the windows, hands pressed, faces and noses pressed to the window, looking up to see if this might not be the day that Jesus, the One who loves them, comes to get them and take them to heaven.”
When you live like there’s no tomorrow, you live expectantly, hoping and praying every day for Jesus to turn tomorrow into eternity.
Do you live life expectantly? Are you looking forward to His return? Are you living like there’s no tomorrow, or are you bogged down in the drudgery of the day-to-day?
Our Lord wants us to live in the joy and certainty that He will return to earth and set up His kingdom, that no matter how dark the storm, there will come a day when the Son will shine and make everything right. Living like there’s no tomorrow means living expectantly.
But living expectantly does not mean living recklessly. Peter says living like there’s no tomorrow also involves
II. LIVE RESPONSIBLY (v. 7b-11a)
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would
still plant my little apple tree and pay my debts. —Martin Luther [ii]
In an effort to live expectantly, some Christians make the mistake of forsaking their duty to God and others. Like the misguided followers of William Miller, some have given up their jobs, left their families, and done many other strange things. Peter agrees with Luther: the return of Christ ought to make us more faithful in our duties to God and man. Specifically, he mentions 4 habits to keep up:
a. Keep your head. (v. 7a) The word serious= not swept away by emotions or passions.
Peter already warned his readers about the persecution that’s coming. It would be easy to give in to fear of the future. Don’t panic Peter says. Don’t become either a fanatic or a doomsayer. Keep your perspective balanced. Don’t become obsessed with what will happen, but keep your mind fixed on faithfully following Jesus whatever happens. Don’t lose your head or your faith!
b. Keep praying. (v. 7b) Peter commands those who expect Christ’s return to focus on keeping the lines of communication open with the Lord. Don’t let what may nor may not happen distract you from praying for God’s will to be done, or for souls to be saved. Never let the headlines discourage you from trusting God to do His will in your life. Stay in touch with the Lord through prayer!
c. Keep loving.(v. 8-9) Like the rest of the NT Scriptures, Peter stresses the priority of love.
The word fervent= “stretched out” to full capacity. The term describes a horse at full gallop or “the taut muscle of strenuous and sustained effort, as of an athlete.”1 The idea is to put all your effort into loving your brothers and sisters in the Lord. During times of stress, relationships can strain to the breaking point. The church Peter writes to probably discover when the pressure of persecution is at its highest, you are tempted to take out your frustrations on others, focusing on their weaknesses and faults. Peter says make the effort to love and …cover a multitude of sins…= overlook the sins and faults of others. (Prov. 10:12).
This love also includes the idea of being hospitable= showing love to strangers and travelers by giving them a place to stay. Hospitality was an important part of ancient society, and typically meant feeding and housing guests for 2-3 days with no expectation of payment.
This was especially important during times of persecution, since many believers were put out of their homes, and often had to go into hiding to avoid arrest. Traveling teachers, such as Paul and Peter, who often depended on church members to give them lodging.
Peter says show this welcoming love without grumbling. Be willing to share what you have with those in need. The modern application of this principle is to be a good neighbor, and share your home and resources with other believers who are in need.
By focusing on loving one another, Peter says you are obeying the command of our soon coming Lord:
John 13:34 …love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Work to maintain a loving relationship with God’s people!
d. Keep serving.(v. 10-11a) Keep serving God and one another.
One of the most common themes of Jesus’ parables which speak of His return is stewardship. A steward is a person given the responsibility to use his Master’s resources for his Master’s purposes. Using this image, God is the Master, and you and I are His stewards. The gifts God gives you are not yours, but belong to Him.
He has given each one of us according to vs. 10, a gift= derived from the same root as “grace”, basically denotes something that has been bestowed freely and graciously.= any “natural endowment or possession which is sanctified in the Christian by the Spirit.”16 These gifts are manifestations of the manifold= “multi-colored” grace of God.
The gifts He gives us are not to be used to build us up, but to serve God and others. Peter divides these gifts into two categories: speaking gifts and serving gifts.
The speaking gifts include those who …speak…the oracles of God…This primarily refers to preaching and teaching, but could also include witnessing, or praying. When God gives you this “gift of gab”, the Bible says here we must be sure that what we are saying lines up with God’s Word. Our own opinions and ideas have no authority; only His Word does.
The serving gifts would be anything done for the Lord or for someone else. This could be anything from playing a piano to singing, keeping financial records, mopping floors, or cooking a meal. Anything you do to serve others can be service done for God.
Living like there’s no tomorrow is not living recklessly, but responsibly. The soon return of our Lord shouldn’t cause us to panic, but to pray, to love one another more deeply, to use our gifts to serve one another. Our Master has given us plenty to do until He returns. He does not want us idly sitting around, complaining about how we wish He would hurry and get here. He wants us about our Father’s business. What are you doing for God as you wait for Jesus to come back?
The time was the 19th of May, 1780. The place was Hartford, Connecticut. At noon the skies turned from blue to gray and by mid-afternoon had blackened over so densely that men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came. The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session, and while some men fell down and others clamored for an immediate adjournment, the Speaker of the House, Colonel Davenport, came to his feet. He silenced the crowd and said these words: “The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.” [iii]
Living like there’s no tomorrow means living expectantly, but also living responsibly. Finally, Peter writes to live like there’s no tomorrow is to
III. LIVE FOR HIS GLORY (v. 11b)
When you think about what’s most important, it’s almost always a good idea to ask the why question. Why should we live like there’s no tomorrow?
Many Christians long for the Rapture, not because of their intense love for the Lord, but because it symbolizes an escape from the distress of our age. - Erwin W. Lutzer
The return of Christ is not about you, or me—it’s all about Him. Our aim in life should not be for God to exalt us, but that everyone exalt Him. Our purpose in life is not to see our will done, but His will done on earth as it is in Heaven. This is the whole point of our existence.
Re 4:11 “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”
Living to glorify God is what makes life worth living. As an old Protestant catechism says:
What is the chief end of man?
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
So many people live their entire lives and never make the connection between glorifying God and experiencing the greatest joy. We think getting what we want will give us joy. But the highest joy you will ever experience is when you live your life for the glory of God.
This is also why we need to remember that Christ’s return is not about us, but about His glory. It is popular to concentrate on the return of Christ in terms of the benefits we will receive. We look forward to not having to suffer, or die, or sin anymore. We like to think about how we’ll finally find the happiness we missed in this life. Thank the Lord all of these things are true, but the only reason they are true is because Jesus will be glorified.
That’s what it’s all about---giving glory to our wonderful Lord. It’s why the universe was created. It’s why you were created. It’s why God gave you your talents, and your possessions and your body and your breath. It’s why He will return to earth--to show off His glory.
The greatest joy you will ever experience will be when you fall down before His throne and give Him glory. But don’t wait for someday to glorify God—do it now. Make it your aim to show off His good and grace in your life. Focus fully on His glory, and you will discover a life full of lasting, satisfying joy. This is why we should live like there’s no tomorrow-because our joy is not in tomorrow, but in magnifying Him.
David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians just before the American Revolution. By 1745 he had ridden over 3000 miles on horseback evangelizing many tribes. At 30 years old he contracted tuberculosis, and as he died, he told a close friend, "I do not go to heaven to be advanced but to give honor to God. It is no matter where I shall be stationed in heaven, whether I have a high or low seat there, but to live and please and glorify God. . . . My heaven is to please God and glorify Him, and give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory."
Here is a man who knew what it was to live like there’s no tomorrow, who lived for the glory of God. This is how the Lord Jesus calls you and I to live for Him, whether He takes us up in the air, or we go to be with him through the valley of the shadow of death. Live for His glory.
The new preacher went to visit an old farmer who lived near his church. He wanted to get a feel for the spiritual state of the old fellow.
“Do you belong to the Christian family?” asked the minister.
“No, I think they live two farms down,” replied the farmer.
“No, no, I mean are you lost?”
“Lost? Why, young fella, I’ve lived here thirty years.”
“I mean are you ready for the Judgment Day?”
“When is it?” asked the farmer.
“Well, it could be today or tomorrow.”
“Well,” said the farmer, “when you find out for sure when it is, you let me know. My wife will probably want to go both days.” [iv]
A lot of us might be confused about the details of Jesus’ return, but Peter leaves no doubt about how we should live in light of the Second Coming. He tells us we should live expectantly, but also responsibly, living for God’s glory.
Are you living like there’s no tomorrow?
* Robert J. Morgan, On This Day (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), October 22nd.
[i]Morgan, Robert J. On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes. electronic ed., October 22. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997.
[ii]Tan, Paul Lee. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : [A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979.
11 11. Cranfield, I & II Peter and Jude, p. 57.
16 16. Lenski, Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude, p. 200.
[iii]Winning the New Civil War, Robert P. Dugan, Jr., p. 183 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. electronic ed. Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000.
[iv]Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 508.