This New Year, we are thinking through the topic of Eternity and what it will be like. Let me share a story: Several years ago, my wife, Sandy, and I took her parents to Scotland on vacation while we were living in England. When it started to get dark one evening, we had to look for a hotel along the road. We passed some black-painted wrought iron gates with a sign over it saying, Black Barony Hotel. We couldn't see the buildings from the entrance, so we decided to check it out. Because of the time of day, and the wrought iron gates, we started to joke among the four of us, saying that we were going to the tower of terror and that it would probably be a haunted castle. The road kept winding around through trees, giving us more time to imagine what this place was going to be like. We wondered if they might have a butler who looked like "Igor" from the movie Young Frankenstein. I pictured Marty Feldman’s face greeting us at the door.
As we came through the trees, sure enough, it was a castle— an enormous castle without a single car in the parking lot! As we got out of the vehicle, a man with a severe hunchback approached us from the door. He did have one wandering eye as well, though he looked nothing like Marty Feldman. To cap it off, over the door were these words in large letters; Prepare to Meet Your God, Amos 4:12, words found in Scripture. It gets better! The man who met us at the door told us that we were the only people staying in the hotel that night; 75 other rooms were empty. They had a tour party that had canceled at the last minute. Sandy and I slept that night in a four-poster bed in which King James had once slept. (Yes, THAT King James, as in the King James Bible.) The king sleeping there was a claim to fame for the hotel. It was a terrible bed, with a significant dip in the middle. I am sure it could not have been the same mattress, but it felt like it could have been around since the 1600s! We found out later that the Bible verse above the door was for soldiers that had used the hotel to stay in while they were training for war to prepare them to face eternity if they died in battle.
That sign stuck in my mind: “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” It is a good thing to prepare ourselves to meet your God on that day. Over the next three or four days, we will look at preparing for death and judgment and how it will affect each of us. We may not want to think of that time, but Scripture tells us that we will all need to give an account at the end of our lives when God determines that our time has come.
Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:12).
Death is a subject that most people try to avoid. J. Kirby Anderson got it right when he said, “Death is the most universal and most democratic of all human functions. It strikes people at any time with little respect for age, class, creed, or color.” Death has a 100% success rate, and yet the majority of people still refuse to discuss or think about the topic. Woody Allen’s often-quoted remark is, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
As much as we try to avoid it, death does not go away. All of us must face it without exception. It does not matter how much money you have, or what kind of insurance you carry. It is merely a matter of time. None of us knows how much time is ahead for us. The remarkable thing about it is that, even though we know we cannot escape it, most of us avoid thinking about it, and do little to prepare for it. An article in the Boston Globe some while ago listed the well-known people who had died in that particular year, saying that they had gone to join "the great majority." Death, we might say, is a great certainty, and those who have died are the great majority.
An epitaph on a tombstone reads, "Stop, as you pass by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now, you will surely be, so prepare yourself to follow me!" One person scrawled underneath, "To follow you, I'm not content, until I know the way you went!" The passerby was right. It's important to know where one is going at death, but when we are pointed in the right direction, we should prepare ourselves for what lies beyond the grave. We'll carry on this thought tomorrow. Keith Thomas
Taken from the series Insights into Eternity. Click on the study Preparing for Death.
 J. Kirby Anderson, Life, Death and Beyond (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), p.9.