I found myself at the airport, waiting to board my flight. At one point, the speakers announced the names of four people who were expected at a nearby boarding gate. Their names were called three times. Eventually, the airport staff withdrew, and the door closed behind them. Shortly afterward, a modest-looking family appeared. The confusion in their eyes, as they glanced left and right, betrayed their fear that they had already missed the flight.
I approached them and tried to help, during which I learned the reason for their missed boarding: they had been delayed in the shopping area. Their bitterness matched the fact that they couldn’t afford such trips frequently. Their plane tickets had been paid for by some friends to give them the opportunity to visit relatives in a distant country. However, the kids had been unable to tear themselves away from the airport shop windows, which eventually led them to miss their boarding.
This incident reminded me of a significant event studied by those passionate about understanding the stages of the world’s end—“the end of grace.”
The Apostle John provides us with a description of this solemn moment: “Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy. Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done’” (Revelation 22:10-12).
The biblical text informs us that before the return of Jesus Christ, there will be a point of no return for our choices—a limit from which, regardless of how deeply we regret the wrong choices we’ve made, we will no longer benefit from the forgiveness that God offers us today. A point from which we cannot change our chosen destination for eternity.
The dramatic nature of the moment described by John is emphasised by the inspired writings of author Ellen White, who highlights the special role that Christ plays in this scene: “The last tear for sinners had been shed, the last agonising prayer offered, the last burden borne, the last warning given. The sweet voice of mercy was no more to invite them. When the saints, and all heaven, were interested for their salvation, they had no interest for themselves” (The Great Controversy, p. 491). From the moment when the role of Jesus Christ as mediator concludes, each person will continue to be what they have chosen to be up to that point.
The time of probation has a limit
One primary reality that emerges from biblical history is that God provides humanity with specific periods of time to make decisions.
From the biblical account of the flood, we learn that the moral degradation of those who chose to live without God led Him to make the decision to end this era with a flood. Through the voice of Noah, God issued a call for reconsideration of the pre-flood people’s choices, a call that was renewed for 120 years. His tears mixed with the calls for salvation before the deluge’s torrents.
The opportunity for salvation was seized only by Noah and his family. After years of heartfelt appeals, the day came when the door of the ark was closed forever. Before the floodwaters inundated the world, it was already too late to reconsider the decision that had been made.
Regardless of humanity’s response to God’s call, through the establishment of these periods of grace, we discern God’s fervent desire to bring His wayward children back to Himself.
In the New Testament, we discern a crucial sequence in the history of the Israelites where the grace so often rejected is about to be withdrawn from indifferent beneficiaries.
The religious life of the Jewish people had become confined to empty rituals. Beyond the profession of beliefs, the actual, real-life conduct was in stark contrast to these beliefs. In this context, the arrival of Christ was an opportunity to save a beloved nation, calling it to authentically live out the proclaimed values. Sadly, the rejection of His messages culminated in the decision to put Him on the cross.
Just a few days before this moment, divine tears soaked the bitter words spoken by the One who had come to save them: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, (…), how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).
God’s predetermined timing for each of these events has come and gone with mathematical precision. Fortunately, the tears of His call have flowed purposefully for Noah’s family, for Lot and his daughters, for the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh, and for all those who understood that an event announced by God cannot be categorised as a “probability” but as a “certainty.”
In the same category of “certainties” lies the conclusion of the history of this Earth, preceded by a moment that will mark the end of the period in which we can still make a choice. Understanding that there is a boundary to the grace offered to us requires us to make a prompt decision in His favour.
The risk of delaying our response
The tendency to postpone a decision with eternal stakes has some of the most devastating effects ever recorded.
A lady of modest means had managed to scrape together just enough money to fulfil a dream: a cruise with her family. At the first port of call made by the luxury vessel, she disembarked, leaving her children in the care of the new friends she had made onboard. After visiting a few tourist attractions in fascination, she started making her way back to the ship, aware of the short time she had left. As the path took her through a bazaar, she was lured by one shop window, then another, and by the wares displayed on the stalls. Noticing her delay, the ship’s crew decided to wait for her for 30 minutes past the departure time. Ultimately, the ship left the port just as the tardy passenger, who had just missed the excursion of her life, appeared.
Procrastination fueled by the false notion that “there’s still time” can often lead to irreparable losses. While we might be savouring the destructive taste of losses, be they material, relational, or health-related, we should ponder how heart-wrenching the regret of having missed eternity could be.
This infinite loss gives rise to the burning tears of Jesus, who cannot bear to see us taste the agony of regret for having deferred our return to Him. His loving call can be deciphered on every page of His Word.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). This is the invitation extended to us through the words of one of His prophets.
There’s no certainty in postponing the moment of repentance, as the Apostle Paul emphasises: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).
Choosing Him, regardless of time constraints
We need the right motivation for making the right decisions, before God’s designated period ends. Could time pressure be the correct reason to turn to Him?
There are situations where the awareness of an impending event serves as a strong motivation for making certain decisions. The pandemic heightened this pressure, presenting the possibility that the time each of us has might not extend to the limit set by God for all of humanity. Nevertheless, Scripture teaches us that this should not be the most compelling factor.
Christ recounted the parable of the ten virgins, describing the preparedness of ten young women for an event, preparation that only five of them managed to complete. It seems that time was not the decisive element in the decision to capitalise on participation in an unrepeatable event; rather, it was wisdom. Five of the virgins were deemed wise, and this wisdom resulted from the relationship they had with the Bridegroom.
In some decisions, the desire to avoid late regrets or the fear of irreparable losses can be strong motivators. However, eternity is too vast to be enjoyed through decisions motivated by fear.
In this case, the driving force behind the right decisions can only be the contemplation and assimilation of values derived from the character of God, as they are revealed through a personal relationship with Him. We’ve all been at the airport waiting for someone arriving from a distant place. It’s easy to identify two types of waiters. Some hold a sign with a name written on it, waiting impassively, while checking the correspondence on their phones. But there’s the second category, those waiting with flowers in hand, their eyes drawn like a magnet in the direction from which their loved ones should appear. It’s the relationship that makes the difference.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in the position of passive waiters, with resources to waste in their aimless rush. The tears of Heaven are still flowing for us, but it’s up to us whether they have an effect.
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is the moment to decide, with so little time left before…the last tear!