Years ago my hubby and I attended a weekend Christian retreat. Inspiring speakers. Good music. Fun fellowship. The facility was tucked in the woods of Central Texas next to a beautiful river. Our kids were back home with their grandparents being spoiled rotten. It was a really nice and relaxing weekend.
Up until the last service, that is.
That last message, which ended up being one of those "everyone participates" type deals was anything but nice and relaxing. It was so impacting and soul-reaching that I still think about it often, all these years later.
The outdoor sanctuary was full to capacity. Four hundred or so adults. We'd enjoyed a good dinner and good conversation with our friends and were ready for another inspiring message. I knew something was up when the ushers started to pass out slips of paper with a number on it. One, two, three, four or five. On the backside were some questions and answers--a scripted conversation of sorts--about becoming a Christian.
The speaker asked everyone to stand up.
"Those of you with the number 2 on your paper, come stand on the stage."
I wasn't a 2 and neither was my hubby, so we remained where we were as we watched a group of folks assemble on the stage. I think we were sort of glad at that point that we weren't a 2, 'cuz neither of us enjoys the spotlight and there was no telling what those people were going to have to do.
Turns out they didn't have to do anything but stand there while the rest of us continued the mysterious activity.
The speaker told the number 1's and 4's to sit down. Hubby and I sat down. The people in group number 3 were then instructed to approach someone sitting down and basically act out the script.
"Are you a Christian?"
Would you like to become one?"
"Pray this prayer with me" followed by a short prayer asking Jesus into their heart.
Hubby and I watched as folks all around us play-acted what was obviously supposed to be an exercise in witnessing. Once a number 3 had finished "converting" someone, they returned to their seats. Soon everyone was sitting down again.
"Now," said the speaker. "If you were converted, please come up to the stage."
A bunch of folks went forward while hubby and I remained seated. Some of our friends were up on the stage now.
"Everyone who is a number five go stand in the back of the room."
Several of our friends were in this group too.
"Okay," the speaker said. "Now we're going to speed things up. Number one's, you've got two minutes to have as many conversations as you can with those who are still sitting in the audience. GO!"
Well, by this time it was obvious that you wanted to be on the stage, so I was eager for someone to have a conversation with me. People were hurrying around, lots of laughter and silliness abound, especially as people called out in jest, "Save me! Save me!" Finally, as time ticked on, a lady with a big smile hurried over and "converted" both me and my hubby. When time ran out, sure enough we were asked to come up on the now-crowded stage. We waved at our friends standing in the opposite group.
Then everyone who was a number 1 and a number 3 were invited onto the stage. That left the few folks who were number 4 who hadn't been "converted" yet still seated. They were told to go to the back of the room.
That's when things became very obvious.
The stage represented Heaven, the speaker told us. The back of the room...hell. Brian and I held hands as we stood among the lucky ones who'd made it up front. I looked across empty seats to the back of the room where our friends stood in the other group. Gone were the smiles and laughter from moments ago. A hush fell over us as the reality of what will happen someday became very real.
Friends of ours, people we loved, were in hell.
"If anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Rev. 20:15
It will happen some day.
Friends. Family. Loved ones. Acquaintances.
People we know and care about will spend eternity in hell because their name is not written in the Book of Life.
Sobering, isn't it?
What are you doing to prevent this?
What am I doing to prevent this?