Living on the edge of eternity                                                                by Jack Kettler


After experiencing a controlled stopping of the heart and restarting it, an awareness of eternity’s closeness became very real. Hence, the title of this study. It is not true later in life; everyone from conception onwards is living on the edge of eternity. Humanity’s life span is incredibly short. This study will look at several Scriptural texts that emphasize this reality.


Scriptures on the shortness of a man’s life:


“For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” (1 Chronicles 29:15) (KJV unless otherwise noted)


“Oh, remember that my life is a breath! [some translations use “wind”] My eye will never again see good.” (Job 7:7 NKJV)


From Barnes' Notes on the Bible on Job 7:7:


“That my life is wind - Life is often compared with a vapor, a shadow, a breath. The language denotes that it is frail, and soon passed - as the breeze blows upon us, and soon passes by; compare Psalm 78:39:

For he remembered that they were but flesh;

A wind that passeth away and cometh not again.” (1)


“For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow.” (Job 8:9)


From John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on Job 8:9:


“because our days upon earth are a shadow; man's time is rather measured by days than by months and years, being so short; and these are called "days" on earth, to distinguish them from the days of heaven, which are one everlasting day, in which there is no night of darkness, either in a literal or figurative sense, and which will never end; but the days of this life are like a “shadow”, dark and obscure; full of the darkness of adversity and trouble, as well as greatly deficient in the light of knowledge; there is nothing in them solid and substantial; the greatest and best things of this life are but a vain show; in heaven there is a better and more enduring substance: everything is mutable and uncertain here; man is subject to a variety of changes in his mind and body, in family and outward estate and circumstances: and life itself is but a vapour, which appears a while and soon vanishes away; or rather like a shadow, that declines, is fleeting, and quickly gone; see 1 Chronicles 29:15.” (2)


“He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” (Job 14:2)


From the Pulpit Commentary on Job 14:2:


“Verse 2. - He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down. Few similes are more frequently used in Scripture (comp. Psalm 103:15; Isaiah 28:1, 4; Isaiah 40:6, 7; James 1:10, 11; 1 Peter 1:24), and certainly none could have more poetic beauty. Eastern flowers do not often last much more than a day. He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not (comp. Job 7:2; Job 8:9; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 102:11; Psalm 109:23; Ecclesiastes 6:12, etc.). Shadows are always changing; but the shadows which flee away the fastest, and which Job has probably in his mind, are those of clouds, or other moving objects, which seem to chase each other over the earth, and never to continue for a single minute in one stay.” (3)


“Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah” (Psalm 39:5 NKJV)


“For He remembered that they were but flesh a breath that passes away and does not come again.” (Psalm 78:39 NKJV)


“Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?” (Psalm 89:47)


From Barnes' Notes on the Bible on Psalm 89:47:


“Remember how short my time is - The word rendered “time” - חלד cheled - means duration; lifetime. Psalm 39:5. Then it means life; time; age, the world. Literally, here, “Remember; I; what duration.” The meaning is plain. Bear in remembrance that my time must soon come to an end. Life is brief. In a short period the time will come for me to die; and if these promises are fulfilled to me, it must be done soon. Remember that these troubles and sorrows cannot continue for a much longer period without exhausting all my appointed time upon the earth. If God was ever to interpose and bless him, it must be done speedily, for he would soon pass away. The promised bestowment of favor must be conferred soon, or it could not be conferred at all. The psalmist prays that God would remember this. So it is proper for us to pray that God would bless us soon; that he would not withhold his grace now; that there may be no delay; that he would (we may say it with reverence) bear in remembrance that our life is very brief, and that if grace is to be bestowed in order to save us, or in order to make us useful, it must be bestowed soon. A young man may properly employ this prayer; how much more appropriately one who is rapidly approaching old age, and the end of life!” (4)


“For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as a hearth.” (Psalm 102:3)


From the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Psalm 102:3:


“3. Like smoke or, in smoke, a natural figure for speedy and complete disappearance. Cp. Psalm 37:20; James 4:14.

Are burnt as a hearth Rather (cp. P.B.V. and R.V.), burn as a firebrand. He compares himself to a sick man whose strength is being consumed by the burning heat of fever. Cp. Psalm 22:15; Jeremiah 20:9.” (5)


“Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.” (Psalm 144:4)


“Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1)


“Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isaiah 2:22)


From Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers on Isaiah 2:22:


“(22) Cease ye from man . . .—The verse is wanting in some MSS. of the LXX. version, and is rejected by some critics, as of the nature of a marginal comment, and as not in harmony with the context. The first fact is the most weighty argument against it, but is not decisive. The other objection does not count for much. To “cease from man” as well as from “idols” is surely the natural close of the great discourse which had begun with proclaiming that men of all classes and conditions should be brought low. The words “whose breath is in his nostrils” emphasise the frailty of human life (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22; Psalm 146:3-4). Looking to that frailty, the prophet asks, as the psalmist had asked, “What is man? (Psalm 8:1). What is he to be valued at?” If it could be proved that the verse was not Isaiah’s, it is at least the reflection of a devout mind in harmony with his.” (6)


“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely, the people is grass.” (Isaiah 40:6-7)


“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass.” (Isaiah 51:12)


From Matthew Poole's Commentary on Isaiah 51:12:


“Who art thou? How unreasonable and distrustful art thou, O my church! How unlike to thyself! How unsuitable in these despondencies unto thy own professions and obligations!

Of the son of man which shall be made as grass, of a weak mortal and perishing creature.” (7)


“But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” (James 1:10)


“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)


From Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on James 4:14:


“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow,.... Whether there would be a morrow for them or not, whether they should live till tomorrow; and if they should, they knew not what a morrow would bring forth, or what things would happen, which might prevent their intended journey and success: no man can secure a day, an hour, a moment, and much less a year of continuance in this life; nor can he foresee what will befall him today or tomorrow; therefore it is great stupidity to determine on this, and the other, without the leave of God, in whom he lives, moves, and has his being; and by whose providence all events are governed and directed; see Proverbs 27:1


For what is your life? Of what kind and nature is it? What assurance can be had of the continuance of it? By what may it be expressed? Or to what may it be compared?


it is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away; which rises out of the earth, or water, and expires almost as soon as it exists; at least, continues but a very short time, and is very weak and fleeting, and carried about here and there, and soon returns from whence it came: the allusion is to the breath of man, which is in his nostrils, and who is not to be accounted of, or depended on.” (8)


“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)




Whether the above texts compare a man’s life with grass, smoke, a breath, a flower, or vapor, they emphasize the frailty and shortness of human life. Even a non-Christian would agree that a man’s life is short and fragile.


Implications for life:


Given this reality about the shortness of life frailty, some may conclude it is time to party. Others may seek and reflect up the meaning and purpose of life.


Does your life have meaning is it significant? What will happen after your last breath? How can a person know? There are many theories about this? Are these theories nothing more than unprovable speculations? If not, how do you know? This writer has perfect peace about the last breath and entering into eternity. Ask how it is possible to have this peace.     


“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)




1.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Job, and Vol. 5 p. 325.

2.      John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Job, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), p. 167.

3.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Job, Vol.7, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 244.

4.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Psalms, Vol. 5 p.1458.

5.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Alexander Francis Kirkpatrick, Psalms, (Cambridge University Press, 1901), p. 594.

6.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol.5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 424.

7.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 640.

8.      John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, James, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), p. 70-71.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: