Nobody can accuse the author of “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames” of ambiguity.
The popular Christian play, now being performed in Pullman, offers the audience a clear-cut choice: accept Jesus Christ now or risk spending eternity in a lake of fire.
The play portrays people from various walks of life meeting with untimely ends - a drug overdose, a suicide, car and plane crashes. A carload of drunk teenagers, cheering “Tastes great, less filling!” is run down by a train.
The deceased wake up in a heavenly anteroom.
There, an angel tells them if their name is written in “The Book of Life.”
If so, the gates of heaven part, and the rejoicing Christian is led up golden stairs to meet Jesus.
If not, out come cackling Satan and his imps, accompanied by strobe lights and billowing smoke. Shrieking, the hapless person is dragged off to the flames of hell.
More than 1,000 people turned out Sunday night for the play’s first run in Pullman, at the 2,200-seat worship center of Living Faith Fellowship. Dozens, obviously affected by the play’s message, responded to an altar call afterward, pledging their lives to Christianity.
The play, which begins with a graphic depiction of the crucifixion of Christ, isn’t recommended for young children. In the final vignette, a screaming young girl who accepted Christ watches as her mother - who hadn’t - is dragged away by the devil.
But pastors at Living Faith Fellowship say theirs is an important message to get across. If fear of eternal torment brings people to Christianity, that’s OK.
“It’s better they come that way than they end up in hell,” said Pastor Karl Barden, who founded the 400-member Pullman church 25 years ago. “I tend not to be a fire-and-brimstone preacher, so to balance that out, I wanted to bring this (play) in.”
He said he sees the play as an offshoot of old-time God-fearing evangelism. And the scenes of Christ joyfully receiving people into heaven, he said, are meant to counterbalance the tragedies.
A lot of churches obviously agree. “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames” is now in its 19th year. Reality Outreach Ministries now has 25 directing teams supervising the production at more than 600 churches a year. The cast comes from the local church.
The play’s best-attended run began in February 1995, when the Calvary Temple Assembly of God in Modesto, Calif. decided to host three performances.
Due to a flood of interest, the three shows turned into 28 over seven weekends. An estimated 81,000 people turned out to see the play, and more than 20,000 of those responded to an altar call, signing cards saying they’d accepted Jesus.
Modesto Bee religion writer Dennis Roberts said the event drew three times as many people as Modesto’s other landmark religious event, a two-week Billy Graham crusade in 1948.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Heaven and hell The play will be put on tonight and Tuesday at 7 p.m. Admission is free. The center is at 345 SW Kimball in Pullman. For more information, call Living Faith Fellowship at (509) 334-1035.