roll call webWe recently had the privilege of attending the memorial service for a man who served his Lord, his family, and his country faithfully and at great cost. Frank Ginther was a devoted father, Sunday school teacher, Staff Sergeant in the PA National Guard, and a member of the crew of the USS Pueblo, the Navy ship captured by North Korea in 1968. Frank was also long-time manager of our local Christian radio station, WJCS. As you can imagine, the memorial service was dignified, spiritual, and had that typical Christian paradoxical mood of sorrow and victory.

As touching as the sermons and the testimonies were, what affected me most were the somber military rituals. To me, the most poignant act was what is known as “The Final (or “Last”) Roll Call.” The leader called the last name of each participant: “Smith!” “Here!” “Jones!” “Here!” “Martinez!” “Here!” “Kowalski!” “Here!” “Chan!” “Here!” “Ginther!” (Silence.) “Ginther!” (Silence.) “Communications Technician First Class Francis John Ginther!!” (Pause.) From the back comes a voice: “Our shipmate is here in memory and cannot answer.” You can’t hold back the tears. It was a truly awe-inspiring and dreadful moment.

Staff Sergeant Ginther was no longer listed among the living. However, based on his faith in, and service to, the Lord Jesus Christ, he was listed among the truly alive in Heaven, “absent from the body but present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

The Bible speaks of another truly awe-inspiring and dreadful moment planned for the future. It is the Day of Judgment, to which all are invited, and attendance is mandatory. It is summarized by John in the book of Revelation:

“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11–15).

The response of those not found in the Lamb’s book of life will be silence and more for those who cannot answer why they did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus explains this at the end of a parable: “And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 22:12–13).

There is a much-loved church song titled, “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” that heralds these lyrics:
“When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair,
When the saved of Earth shall gather over on the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”

When the roll is called up yonder, will your name be found in the Lamb’s book of life?

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