"It is appointed for men to die once, but after this, the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
Did you ever watch that long-running game show, "The Price Is Right"?
One of their challenges involves a contestant needing to sink a putt on a miniature golf hole in order to win the prize. But first the participant has to place some small grocery items in order from least expensive to most expensive. The more he gets correct, the closer he can move toward the hole in order to attempt his putt.
This particular game is called "Hole-in-One" for obvious reasons. That name is displayed prominently on a nearby sign as the contestant plays the game. So if the person misses the putt, he often assumes that the contest is over.
However, at that point the host of the show, Drew Carey, will dramatically walk over to the sign, push a button, and part of the sign turns around to display the new message -- "Hole-in-One or Two."
The relieved contestant is informed that he actually has a second chance to sink his putt and win the game. Granted, some contestants still miss their second attempt as well, but at least they were given renewed hope for succeeding in the form of another opportunity.
As exciting as it might be to win a new car or a fabulous trip to some exotic location, the game of life carries much more significant consequences. It determines where we're going to spend eternity once our short years on earth are finished.
We're given a chance to get things right in the time that we're here. We make choices as to whether or not we're going to listen to God, put our trust in Him, receive His gift of salvation, and live in harmony with His will for our lives.
Then we die and face God to be held accountable for those decisions.
There are those who seem to picture the judgment as being similar to that golfing challenge on "The Price Is Right," although I really have a hard time seeing God as being anything like Drew Carey.
They have the idea that even though we miss our putt and blow our opportunity while here on earth, a merciful God is still going to push the button while chords of "Amazing Grace" resound throughout heaven, change the name of the game, and give us another chance to get it right.
Some might see that second chance in the form of reincarnation, while others may put their hope in people's prayers for the dead or in some other practice.
However, I don't see any biblical basis for such views. The Bible indicates that this life is our one and only opportunity which will determine our state of existence for eternity.
Thankfully God is merciful and gives us many chances in this life to receive the truth and obey His will. Many times during our years on earth when we miss the mark He graciously extends to us another opportunity.
But once this life is over, our fate is set. Therefore, it's imperative that we make certain that we are right with God now -- not wait for something we hope will happen after we die to positively affect that status.
Maybe we could picture our lives with a nearby sign reminding us of the reality and seriousness of our position -- "Heaven or Hell in One."
We have this one life to make the choices which will determine our futures. So let's choose now to love, trust and serve the Lord. Don't count on getting another chance once this life is over.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at RevTElder@aol.com.