Who decides what happens to me when I die?

What if I don't believe in heaven or hell?

"Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Matthew 26:33-39.

Who decides what happens to us, to our soul, when we die? Simply put, once we have died in the flesh, that ends all chances of decisions being made on our behalf by ourselves or anyone else. What happens to us after we die is the result of decisions made BEFORE that event. Ultimately, only we ourselves can make a choice to come to Jesus when He calls. Absolutely no one else can do that for us.

Before we die, we have the opportunity to use the power of free choice that God has given us. He urges us, throughout our lifetime, to accept His grace and gift of salvation in Christ. Jesus is always ready to receive us; but the choice is ours alone to make.

In the verses just prior to the Scripture quoted above, Jesus has told the disciples they will deny Him. Peter emphatically tells Jesus that he will never deny his Master, in verse 33. The Lord replies that He will be denied by Peter specifically. Peter continues to avow his loyalty in verse 35, but Jesus knows the hearts of men. He knows what's in your heart as well.

At Gethsemane, Jesus goes a short way from them, taking Peter and two others with Him. A few steps farther, Jesus falls down in prayer and asks His Father - if it is possible - to change what is about to happen. Still, Jesus denies His wishes for Himself and accepts God's control over matters - "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."

But people will usually trust themselves more than God. Yes, we may claim to trust God and pray for His protection for ourselves, our families, our circumstances and more. As Christians, we should always ask for His leadership in our life. But still, and for all kinds of reasons, Christians and non-Christians alike will usually refuse to accept what God knows is best and instead choose a course for themselves. Want to guess the odds on whether the choices we make for ourselves are as good as God's are?

And what if someone doesn't believe in heaven and hell; eternal union with God versus eternal separation from Him? God is not optional, and not believing in heaven and hell does not mean that they don't exist. God loves us so much that He sent His Son (see John 3:16) to die for those who accept the Lord as Savior. We are the ones who are optional. We alone make the choice between eternity in God's love or the torment and misery of hell.

Ignoring God's call to our heart and soul is playing with eternal hellfire. Once we are dead, our destiny results from the choices we have already made. Our eternal situation is ours to choose. Jesus loves you and may be calling to you at this moment; accept His call to eternal life.

From a series titled "Questions - and Answers - about Everyone's Life," by L.L. Hamilton, Jr. Please reference use of any portion elsewhere to this website and its author.