For some people, their last words can resonate with generations. One cannot be positive of everything that we read on the Internet, but here were a few that I found:
Todd Beamer, from United Flight 93 on 9/11 said, “Let’s roll”. [Let’s take action to help others, indeed.]
Leonardo da Vinci said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have”. [I’m pretty sure that God made good use in His plan of da Vinci’s works, anyway.]
Charlie Chaplain, in response to “May the Lord have mercy on your soul” as part of Catholic last rites, said “Why not? After all, it belongs to him.” [A good reminder for all of us.]
We also have recorded for our benefit the last words of David (shepherd, psalmist, king, and man after God’s own heart), in 2 Samuel 23:2-7. I encourage you to read that full passage, but an excerpt can be found below:
“The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.’
2 Samuel 23:2-4 NIV
Now, these verses might not be the specific words of David on his deathbed. They could be some statement of finality, late in David’s life (and possibly the last ones inspired by God to David that were recorded) [Smith]. Even as I looked up “last words” of famous people online, sometimes these were just the last words that we knew of or had recorded. Some of those people went missing before their demise, and probably said more things after what we know of as their “last words”.
Still, these are good words from David. (That makes sense, since 2 Samuel 23:1 indicates that they were inspired by God.) When a leader governs with righteousness, the results are usually good for him or her, as well as for the people being led. Things aren’t always perfect, even with an honorable leader, but I think that when we see a righteous, God-fearing ruler, manager, or other leader, it is like a breath of fresh air.
Now, when I read through these verses the first time, I felt like they were speaking about any righteous earthly leader. I think that this is still a true statement, but others have also seen it as a prophecy about Jesus. No matter how righteous some human leaders have been (from before David, to the modern era), the perfect fulfillment here is in Jesus Christ.
In the context of salvation for humankind, those are some pretty great last words!
I think that last words and good leaders should remind us about our current words, too. You might not be king or queen of your own country, but I guarantee you that you have influence over others: What you say. How you say it. Your stories, your jokes. Your praise and your complaining. All of these things have an impact on those who hear them.
There are teachers who tell you to think about what you want to be said at your funeral, or what you want to have engraved on your tombstone, and then live in such a way as to earn those statements about your life (whether or not that actually happens).
I think that this is OK, but God didn’t create us to die. (Yes, we should die to sin, per Romans 6:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:23-25, for instance, but we weren’t created to sin.) God created us to live, and while death resulted from humankind’s sin (and – for those who are saved – our physical death takes us towards Heaven), we should be living for Him now. We are called to make good use of the time that we have here on earth, in order to do our part in His kingdom (see Ephesians 5:15-20 and Colossians 4:2-6).
So, we must manage our tongue (see James 3:1-12), and make good use of what we say while we’re here on earth. To me, these verses are a reminder that we can be like that light of sunrise (or after rain), if we carefully choose what we say and, by extension, what we don’t say.
We should remember that life is for living…living for God, that is. Our choices, our influence, and our example to others have an impact. We can – and should – get a head-start on praising God and building our relationship with Him here on earth, before we get to Heaven. However (as has been pointed out by others), there are things that we cannot do in Heaven, like telling other people about Jesus for their salvation, so we need to make good use of the time and opportunities that God gives us.
Don’t get so caught up in thinking about your passing from this life into the next (or looking forward to Heaven) that you miss the chance to live for God here on earth.
From Sunday School Lesson for June 20, 2021
- The Lookout, June 20, 2021, © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, 1 & 2 Samuel, by James E. Smith. College Press Publishing Company, © 2000, p.427-430.