1 The behavior and the preferences of people often express their condition and in most cases, motivate their reputation; those who strive to optimize their tasks, make themselves a name of laborious, while those who evade their responsibilities, get the name of slackers.
Consciously or not, everyone builds his a name or reputation before others, but also before God. Those who claim to serve Him may honor his name through their words and conduct and acquire before Him a name to be loved, but they can also discredit it with their behavior. Paul writes: “You, who instruct others, do you instruct yourself? You, who preach one should not steal, do you steal? You, who say: you must not commit adultery, are you an adulterer? You, who say to abhor idols, do you participate in the celebrations? You, who boasts on the Law, do you dishonor God by violating His law? For things like this, the Scripture says: «because of your sins, the name of God is blasphemed among the nations»”. (Romans 2:23..24)
2 King David was the inspired writer of many psalms that praise the name of Yahuh, his justice and his mercy. In them he expresses gratitude for the fact that He corrected him for his grave errors and then accepted his regret, granting him His love and the privilege of representing the promised Messiah in some of the prophetic verses. David accepted and appreciated God’s discipline and made himself a good name, which provided him the hope to reach a resurrection to an everlasting life; the resurrection that Jesus declared to his disciples when he said: “the time comes when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to a resurrection for life and those who have done evil, to the resurrection for trial”. (John 5:28..29)
Now, if we really put faith in Jesus’ words, the fact of obtaining a good name before God is actually the very best investment that man can make; nothing yields a higher profit for it not only provides the joy and the privilege of praising the Creator, it also awards “an incorruptible inheritance, without shadows and eternal”. Peter exhorts Christ's followers: “Rejoice even if now and for a short time, you must be distressed by several trials, because if the value of your faith, more precious than gold, that perishes, stands the fire when tested, you will be cause for praise, glory and honor, at the time of the manifestation of Jesus Christ”. (1Peter 1:4..7)
3 In keeping with this hope, King Solomon, reputed as the wisest man of his time, writes: “A good name is better than fine perfume; and the day of death is better than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1).
A birth means the beginning of a new life and its day is usually happy for the family of the newcomer, how could then the sad day of death be better? The words of Solomon remind us that all humans are born to die, because as Paul writes, through “the first man, sin entered the world and because of sin, death spread to all mankind, because they all inherited sin” (Romans 5:12); but before dying, people may have had the opportunity to acquire during their lifetime, what they did not possess on the day of their birth: God’s justification and the everlasting life He grants through the redemption of Christ. For this reason “A name brings more benefit than a great wealth”, (Proverbs 22:1) because “the reputation of the righteous leads them to happiness”, due to the promised resurrection in God’s kingdom, “but the name of the wicked shall be forgotten”, due to their eternal death. (Proverbs 10:7)
4 The text in Ecclesiastes goes on to say: “Better than going to a feast is to go to the house of mourning, for that is the end of all men, and who is alive, will meditate this in his heart”. (Ecclesiastes 7:2) In ancient Israel, the deceased's house became a house of mourning. Friends and neighbors came to comfort the family with the reflection that at the end of his life, the departed enjoyed before God, a worthy name that will provide for him the resurrection to an everlasting life. This comfort was also helpful for those who offered it, for it reminded them that they too had to die, and that their only hope of recovering life lay in making themselves a good name before God during this life.
Jesus confirmed the reliability of this hope when he warned: “Enter through the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it, but strait is the gate and narrow the way leading into life, and few are those who find it”. (Matthew 7:13..14) And “For he who delights in his life shall destroy it, but anyone who let his life perish for my sake, shall find it. And which is the profit for man if ever he shall gain the whole world and yet suffers the loss of his life? Because what can a man give to ransom his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26)
5 Nobody likes to think about death, so the tendency is to unreasonably assume, that even if thousands of people die every day our time has not yet arrived. However, the fact of having taken the appropriate decisions is vital when the time comes, and getting a good name is a path that takes time and effort. A good name before God requires the effort of respecting all his commandments while living in this unfair world, as Christ did, even if sometimes this might require some, perhaps difficult, resignations. However, as Solomon says, “sorrow is better than laughter, because through the sadness in the face, the heart will improve”, because “the heart of the fool is in the house of fun, but the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning” (Ecclesiastes 7:3..4), and the fact of thinking about death, predisposes to reflect about the value of life.
6 Then he writes: “To heed the rebuke of the wise is better than to listen to the songs of fools, for the laughter of the fool is like the crackling of thorns under the pot”. (Ecclesiastes 7:5..6) Critical comments or reprimands are often difficult to accept, even if they come from wise people; but a reproof may stimulate to reflection and be thus more useful than the compliments, the jokes and the laughter of fools, which as Salomon says, are as useless as “the crackling of the thorns under the pot”, because in spite of the noise they make, produce little heat and become quickly consumed. Besides the fact of acknowledging the committed errors and repent, reflects a positive attitude that approaches us to God and helps to reorganize our feelings, urging us to correct our path.
7 For all those who have faith in God's design, the day of death should therefore be better than the day of birth, assuming, of course, that death reaches them. But, is it possible to avoid the inherited death of mankind? It must be so, because Paul writes: “Behold, now I tell you a sacred secret: not all of us shall sleep in death, but we shall all be transformed in an instant, in a blink of the eyes, at the last trumpet sound. The trumpet will blow and the dead shall rise again incorruptible, and we shall be transformed”; (1Corinthians 15:51..52) “because the Lord himself will give the command with the voice of Archangel and shall descend from heaven at the sound of the trumpet of God, rising in the first place those who died in Christ, while those of us who still remain, who are alive, will be later caught towards them”. (1Thessalonians 4:16..17) Indeed, Paul says that many of those who are alive at Christ's return will never see death.
8 Speaking of the disciples that at the time his return, would be waiting for him, Jesus said: “Wherever the corpse is, the eagles will gather”. (Mathew 24:28) Eagles fly high and their life depends on keen eyesight that allows them to recognize their prey, and also the lives of the followers of Christ depend on a keen spiritual sight that allows them to recognize the events indicated by Jesus and by the declarations of God in Scripture.
But do we have eyes that really see? If we seriously consider the time we live in, we shall certainly realize that this world plagued by unsteadiness, terrorism and confrontation, ignorance, hunger, disease and natural disasters, has entered a really critical and complicated period; we will also see that a large part of humanity, tends with arrogance, to dismiss the intervention of God in man’s destiny and even, to deny His very existence, while the natural moral laws are distorted to suit different moral standards and personal choices. We will also be aware of the deep hypocrisy in society and of the proliferation of all kinds of drugs, intended to seek an escape and to forget the lack of objectives and long-term expectations.
Do our eyes really see the meaning of all these things? Do we consider the fact that they were foretold by Jesus as a sign when his disciples asked him: “Tell us when this will happen and which will be the sign of your arrival and of the conclusion of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)
9 Paul says that in keeping with the promises of God, “Christ, after offering himself once in order to abolish all the sins of many, will manifest again a second time but not in regard with sin, but with those who are waiting for him, to be saved”. (Hebrews 9:28) We may therefore be certain of his second coming to us, but do we remain attentive to the meaning of the things we see worldwide? Or deep down, we think: «Who knows? Perhaps all these things did always happen».
When Peter writes about the days leading up to Christ's return, he says: “You must know in advance that in the last days mockers will come, and walking after their own wants, will say: «Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation»”. (2Peter 3:3..4) But is this true? Are all things as they ever were? For even if we only consider the abundant, widespread and heterogeneous contamination of our planet and its atmosphere, it is easy to discern that everything is not is as it was at the beginning of creation.
10 Men never had as nowadays, the power and the means enabling them to make the Earth an inhospitable planet. Science provides a technology supposedly meant to bless humanity, but which has been also used to improve all kinds of weapons for warfare, and has in a relatively short time, created serious consequences in the air, land and seas by causing a toxic waste generation difficult to remove, assaulting dangerously the balance of nature. Thus, rivers and lakes are now dangerous because of their contamination, and the oceans have become international dumps, while on earth, the deserts are advancing, the forests are dwindling and thousands of plant and animal species disappear forever. And besides, most current crops are not able to fend off pests without the use of insecticides that poison the subsoil, the wells and the water sources, causing thus the death of animals, birds and insects.
What's more, trapped under the ice masses of the Arctic, there are million tons of methane gas, which is for the global warming, some 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and that due to the continued ice declining, is now rising from the seabed into the atmosphere.
11 Do you realize that the danger of the Earth cannot sustain life, is it real? These things never happened before; the detractors of the promises of God cannot ignore or downplay this fact, saying things have always been so. Scripture show us that this global destruction that the Earth suffers is part of the signal of the last days of an unfortunate human society.
Speaking of those days, the apostle John wrote almost 20 centuries ago: “The nations were angry, but your indignation came, and the time for the dead to be judged, to reward your servants the prophets and the saints, and the humble or powerful who show respect for your name, and to destroy all those who destroy the earth”. (Revelation 11:18)
If we recognize the signs of the times, we must not forget that speaking of the signals that would foretell the time of his return, Jesus told his disciples: “Hear a comparison with the fig tree: When its branches are tender and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all this things, know that it is near at hand. I assure you that this generation will not pass till all these things happen. Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass”. (Matthew 24:32..35)
12 But in spite of the repeated warnings of Jesus, the vast majority of those professing to follow his teaching do not discern the meaning of his words. Most retain the same attitude of the people of Israel, which loved above all their own traditions and that under the guidance of their religious leaders, often involved in the political intrigues of the Judea, did not want to accept Jesus as the Christ of God, in spite his wisdom and the mighty signs and miracles he performed.
For this reason, Jesus applied to them this prophecy of Isaiah, as well suitable for today's Christianity, and said: “Looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain for they do not grasp the meaning. The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in them, for he said: «Even if they hear, they will not understand; even if they look, they will not see; because the heart of this people has become numb. They have blocked ears and closed their eyes not to hear or see; so that they do not understand and turn to me, and that I do not heal them»”. (Matthew 13:13..15) Then, turning to those who listened and trusted in his words, he added: “However, you are fortunate because you have eyes that see and ears that hear”. (Matthew 13:16)
13   If your eyes do see, your ears do hear and your heart is not numbed by life's daily concerns and by the ambitions of the world, you will understand that we live in that unique time that Jesus compared to the days of Noah, when he said: “It will be like in the days of Noah; as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving themselves in marriage until the day Noah entered the ark, and they did not discern anything until the flood came and took them all away, so shall be at the return of the Son of man”. (Matthew 24:3..39)
However, just as Noah and his family were kept alive through this destruction, those who act wisely, honoring the name of Yahuh and making themselves a good name before Him, shall survive the destruction that will take place during what Scripture calls the “war of the great day of the Almighty God”. (Revelation 16:14)
So, the fact of thinking that maybe some that are now alive might never see death is no nonsense, for it expresses confidence in Scriptures, in the words of Christ and in the apostles' teaching.
14 Even if nothing like this has ever been seen, we may trust the “hope of eternal life that the God who cannot lie, promised from old times”. (Titus 1:2) This expectation that was later ratified by Jesus and preached by his apostles, shall be fulfilled without fail, because “for God nothing is impossible”. (Luke 1:37) So those who have today eyes to see the present events under the light of Scripture, have ears to heed the warnings and the teaching of Jesus and his apostles, and have hearts to put faith in God's purpose, may feel truly happy and fortunate. Jesus says for them: “When these things begin to happen, take courage and raise your heads, because your redemption is near”. (Luke 21:28) However, he also warns them against the fact of rushing into conclusions and go beyond what is written, and says: “of that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, only the Father... Then keep watch! You don't know in which moment your Lord will arrive”. (Matthew 24:36 and 42) And Peter writes for the disciples: “Most beloved, you that are aware of all these things in advance, remain vigilant lest you be swept into the error of the ungodly and go less in your steadfastness; continue to grow in the favor and knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. To him is the glory now and forever”. (2 Peter 3:17..18)
15 While waiting for that day, let us make that our deeds and thoughts give praise to our Creator, because as Paul writes: “you have learned from us the behavior you must keep in order to please God, and we wholeheartedly exhort you by the Lord Jesus, to fully apply his instructions, which we have transmitted to you… God has called us to holiness, not to dishonesty, and who ignores this command is not ignoring a man, but the God who has set his holy spirit in us”. (1Thessalonians 4:1..8)
Even if many people believe they will always have time to make themselves a good name before God, nobody really knows if he shall ever have a chance to do it. So let us listen to this wise advice of the apostle Paul: “You must carefully watch your behavior, so that you do not to walk as foolish people but as wise persons. Take advantage of the favorable times because the days are hard, and do not be negligent, try to find out the will of Yahuh”. (Ephesians 5:15..17)
There is no better future for man, than what God has prepared for him; but we can only achieve it in this life. So let us strive to make us a good name before him.