JANUARY 19, 2012

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.    1 Timothy 6:7

There was a significant burial at Pearl Harbor (more formally known as World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument) recently.

Frank Cabiness’s cremated remains were placed inside the U.S.S. Arizona, the battleship he served on which was sunk by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. It took nine years after his death for his family to fulfill his wishes, because they didn’t have the means to travel to Hawaii, but they made sure to finally get it done. “He said it was because that’s where he belonged,” said his son, in an article in The New York Times.

Many Arizona crewmembers who lived during the attack at Pearl Harbor have chosen the ship as the final resting place for their ashes; same with the nearby Utah, the only other battleship sunk that day that remains in the harbor. Most of the 1,177 sailors and Marines who died on the Arizona—more than any other ship or unit—are entombed on the vessel, which sank nine minutes after a Japanese bomb hit it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my family and I visited the Arizona memorial in September. As we solemnly stared at the wall listing the names of the dead, we watched as veteran after veteran saluted their fallen comrades.

I’m glad the Cabinesses were able to fulfill their father’s wish to be reunited with his lost shipmates. As the family can surely attest, though, his ashes were all that joined them. He didn’t take any possessions with him, even his most precious mementos.

Of course, as with all of us, whatever Mr. Cabiness left behind had to be dealt with somehow. The Times article notes that his survivors proudly retain the only thing he managed to leave the Arizona with when he escaped death 70 years ago—a watch stopped at 8:15, the moment when he hit the water after jumping from the ship.

Financial experts plead with us to make wills, to plan for the disposition of property and care of minor children. You decide how you want to distribute your earthy goods and who you want to raise your kids, and put it in writing, they caution, or the government will make the choice for you—and the results may not be what you wanted.

What’s usually not mentioned in the discussion of estate planning is a much more important matter that also must be taken care of this side of the grave. It concerns the only thing that does last beyond this life: the soul. We all must make provision for it before death, lest we lose our choice in its final disposition.

And yes, there is a choice:

I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction… Deuteronomy 30:15

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…  Joshua 24:15

Indifference is a choice many make, the choice of not choosing, you might say. Maybe you don’t especially worry what happens to your possessions after you die: “I’ll be gone, what do I care?” But not choosing your soul’s ultimate destiny leads to unthinkable consequences:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  2 Corinthians 5:10

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books where opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 21:12, 15  

Of course, you can choose not to believe—that’s also an option. That’s what the rich man did in a parable Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31. He supposed that a good time on earth would translate into the same after death. Instead, he found his soul in torment in hell. “Have pity on me,” he pleaded with Abraham far away in heaven, “for I am in agony in this fire.” But the patriarch replied, “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

“Warn my brothers, so they don’t end up here!” he begged. Abraham noted they already had all the information they needed to avoid his fate. “But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent,” the rich man finally implored. “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets,” Moses concluded, “they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead” (which is just what Jesus did!).

Why do people dither in making wills? The expense, possibly. Usually, though, I think it’s because they don’t want to think about death. The irony of that is—it’s inevitable! The odds of death are 100%! The question then becomes, why put all you’ve worked for and perhaps your children at risk?

We need to ask ourselves the same question about our soul. One major lesson from the parable in Luke is that it still remains alive after our body dies. So why bet the farm through either apathy or outright disbelief, and leave the unavoidable outcome to chance? “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Just as with a will, the time to do something about it is now, before it’s too late, because there’s no do-over after death.

God already has made provision for our souls. He’s made it clear He wants you and me with Him. He doesn’t send people to hell all by Himself; those who turn their back on Him have chosen that future themselves. And He doesn’t enjoy it in the least: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).

Hopefully you’ve made a will. Would you go a step further and make a will for your soul, if you haven’t already? Choose to join me, not in body but in spirit, in a glorious heaven where there’s no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4), and where we’ll be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Because that is where we truly belong.


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