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Do last words have any special meaning? Are they the last messages conveyed by a dying person left for instruction, wisdom, or legacy? Are they just random nerve endings firing in our brain in a last-ditch effort to keep our body from dying which are uttered as words? I suppose we’ll never know for sure. However the subject is quite intriguing. It is often said that a person’s last words can summarize what their life was all about, the essence of their personality represented in one final sentence. Sometimes last words are viewed as a glimpse into the afterlife when the dying person is somehow able to see the eternal aspect of the soul and supposedly see heaven or hell. Are any of these true? We’ll never know until we experience death ourselves.
One instance of famous last words that I believe will become very famous are those of the recently departed Steve Jobs. Jobs’ last word are very intriguing for a couple reasons. Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson gave his eulogy at his funeral when she mentioned his last words. He had his children, his wife, and his sister by his side when he died and gazing at each in turn, he then looked past them and remarked, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow”. Now it is unclear in what tone of voice he uttered these words because it was read at his funeral and then published. But the tone is what is so interesting. The fact that he clearly was looking beyond his family and looking at something behind them that was not there leaves me to think that he might have had a revelation of something, or saw something for the first time. What he saw must have either been beautiful or terrifying. The tone of his voice would have indicated which emotion he was feeling but we are left to guess.
Was the late Apple CEO gazing at eternity? What was it like? Apart from the “Oh wow” we know of, we have no idea what was going on inside of his head at that instant before he fell into a coma. There have been numerous stories of people glimpsing heaven or hell before death, and even dying and coming back describing what it is like. The Bible tells us that we die and after that we experience the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We’ve all been taught that after we die we go up to heaven where we give an account to God for our entire life. Every deed we’ve done, thought we’ve thought, everything we’ve not done will questioned and then according to God’s justice we’ll be congratulated or sentenced. While this is partly true, the way the Bible really teaches it is that God will read to us the deeds of our life from a book as we stand and listen. It will be more like a court trial when the accused is read the charges against him by the judge. God judges according to His holiness, which just means His “otherness” from us or His “set apartness” from us. God’s holiness is so pure and is the embodiment to moral perfection. He is everything we aren’t but should be. His holiness incites in our souls a fear because we are so imperfect compared to Him. Deep down we know that we should not be near to God because He and His holiness is so terrifying that we are afraid.
Could this be what Steve Jobs saw in the final moments of his life? Did he see with unveiled eyes the holiness of God? Was then his exclamation of “Oh wow” one of fear and terror as his human unholiness was revealed to him compared to God’s? As Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Sinners who fall into the hands of God have everything to fear because of the judgment approaching them. The fire of hell is a stark reality that they will soon experience for eternity. Constant torment as retribution for a lifetime of wickedness and rebellion against God is what they are about to be condemned to, with no way out I might add. The sentence is final and the execution swift, the consequences, forever. It is truly a frightful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But perhaps there was hope for Steve Jobs. His biographer, Walter Isaacson, had wrote that Jobs had been thinking a lot more about God when he found out that he was terminal. He told Isaccson that he wanted to believe in an afterlife and that he was about 50-50 on the concept. Perhaps he had heard the Gospel and was contemplating it, or maybe even believed it. Whether he did or not we’ll never know. But that would have certainly changed how we interpret his last words. For someone who dies in faith in Jesus, the judgment is not something to be feared, but something to rejoice in because they have been declared righteous and justified before God. God’s holiness is not seen as a fearful indictment but a beautiful sight leading to praise and worship. If that was the case with Steve Jobs, his “Oh wow” could have been an exclamation of beauty having finally been able to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.
But the rest of the story of Steve Jobs is unknown to us, at least this side of eternity. The question is, what will your eternity look like? Will it be infinite agony and torment in hell for the wickedness of your life? Or will it be infinite joy with God in heaven for the faith of your life? The time remains for you to affect the ending of your story.