I was blessed enough to be a part of that play, but I was honored to have been asked to play the role of Jesus.
Pastor Gary Strickland liked asking my wife how it felt to be living with Jesus, and she always told him she hoped it wouldn’t go to my head. I assured her that it would not. But it’s difficult to experience something like that without having it affect you in some profound way.
The effects of those two days of rehearsals and three nights of performances were multi-faceted — from the bond formed with cast members, the strong desire to convey the Lord’s message to the audience, and the tears shed as we prayed with those who came to the alter and gave their lives to Jesus.
One of those was a young girl by the name of Bridgette.
Bridgette was like any one of the other 74 or so people who chose to dedicate their lives to Christ. And as I prayed with her, like others around us, she wept. When we were through, I asked her if she had any questions.
“Do I need to pray for someone who is already dead?” she asked. “My daddy died last year.”
Suddenly, I felt much less like Jesus and more like a bumbling, clueless heathen. The first thing that raced through my mind was that I’d just finished five days of trying to be Christ-like, and the first thing God does when it’s over is test me. Big time.
All I could think to tell Bridgette is that she should pray that her daddy is with Jesus, that she will see him there one day and that she can still talk with her daddy through her prayers — but talking with God daily is the most important thing.
I have no idea my advice was good, or even if she understood what I told her. But Bridgette went on her way, clutching to her chest the Spiritual Birth Certificate she had earned that evening.
Within moments, I sidled up next to Dwayne Corbin, the director of “Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames.” He is also a long-time preacher and 15-year drama director for Reality Ministries out of Canada. I had to ask him the question Bridgette had asked me.
“You did OK,” he said. “But no, you do not need to pray for those who have already passed on. Their fate was decided before that moment. You can’t pray them out of hell and into heaven.”
Apparently, there is a religion or two that believes those who have passed away can be prayed out of purgatory, but Corbin says there has never been any Biblical proof of that being possible.
“Either a person has put themselves right with God before they die, or they haven’t,” Corbin said. “Because the very moment their life ends here on Earth, they will instantly be headed one way or the other. There are no second chances once you are dead.”
For those who saw the drama, that point was made crystal clear.
As Corbin spoke, I started to apply Bridgette’s question to my own family. My father died about five years ago, my grandmother about 10 years ago and grandfather about 15. All this time, I simply assumed I’d see them again.
I can’t tell you if any of them “put themselves right with God” or not. I can only pray they did, because of all the people I hope to see again, they are at the top of my list — along with Bridgette and the other 74 folks who now have the spirit of the Lord inside them.
As Corbin emphasized, “it’s not a religious thing, it’s a Jesus thing.”
Honestly, being a part of that drama and playing the part of Jesus never did go to my head. But it has gone straight to my heart.
— W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 272-6148 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.