When the man in black finished preaching, he took some time to introduce the evangelist. He said this man had changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people. That sounded like a lot but Nolan saw the crowd. People flocked to hear this evangelist speak by the thousands of thousands so it didn’t sound strange that he might have spoken to hundreds of millions of people. The evangelist had been speaking to crowds like this for almost 50 years.
The air changed, Nolan didn’t recognize this feeling but the air in the stadium changed. The wind was a little different, the smell was distinct. It smelled like the sparkly rainbow smoke from his dream awhile back. He didn’t see any sparking rainbow smoke but he sure could smell it! Everything became more important somehow as this man walked out to the microphone down on the football field.
Nolan could barely see the evangelist, he was far up in the stands near the top of the stadium. But he could hear him clear as day. These thousands of people stood dead silent, hanging on every word the evangelist spoke. It was all Bible verses that Nolan knew from church but somehow it was different. He was explaining it all so that Nolan could know what to do. He didn’t stop to warn people not to believe it one way or the other, he just said what he was saying.
As Nolan listened to the man talk about sin, suddenly he understood it. It wasn’t just a single action, it was a lifestyle, it was about what you want inside. If you wanted God, you had to stop wanting the other things. Nolan could see himself at school trying to fight everyone who was wrong to him. He could see himself watching bad stuff on TV when he was alone because he wanted the bad stuff. He wanted to feel it and experience it. He could see how wrong it was to want what he wanted instead of wanting God.
Then the evangelists explained the punishment for sin, for wanting wrong things instead of God. The punishment was getting what you wanted! If you didn’t want God you would go away from God forever! Nolan thought Hell was like a torture chamber invented to hurt people. But the evangelist explained that it was simply a place without God. It wasn’t made for people at all! Jesus had said that Hell was created for the devil and his angels, whoever his angels were. It wasn’t even made for people but those who decided to live without God now had a place without God to go. All of the good things come from God so Hell was terrible, it had none of His love, none of His blessings, it had no good thing and no way to get a good thing. Yet people who chose to live away from God were choosing also to die away from God and be away from God forever. What could he do? This was not Nolan’s intention, but he was born this way! He was born with these desires!
The evangelist said that everyone is born this way! We are all born into sin and have to choose to come out. But that there was no way back to God until He made one. Nolan was on the edge of his seat, thousands of people were on the edges of their seats. “The Cross”, he said! The cross? Nolan knew Jesus died and rose again from Sunday school but what was the evangelist saying? He explained it, God had sent Jesus to create a way. One man dying without sinning would break the curse that made everyone who sinned dead to God. And by faith that Jesus had made a way, we could now turn away from our selfishness and back to God. We could live our lives knowing God and when we die we could go to Him.
Then the evangelist started explaining Heaven. Every good thing from God lives in Heaven. This was the place where you wanted to go when you die. As he talked about Heaven, Nolan could remember his dream. The city, the river, the two trees of life… God had already showed Nolan the way! Nolan didn’t know it but he had met Jesus in that dream!
Soon the evangelist called people down to pray and ask Jesus to save them. Nolan didn’t look at his parents, he didn’t even think about how to find them or getting lost in the crowd. He didn’t ask permission or say goodbye, he just got up like a grown man and walked down to that football field. Thousands of people flocked down there together as if they had all dreamed what Nolan did. It was like they all just knew they had to have Jesus right now. It was first time Nolan had felt the Holy Spirit while he was awake.
Nolan struggled with the crowd to get down there. He was in the back of the line but that didn’t matter. He went down on the crowded football field and prayed for Jesus to forgive him. He prayed for Jesus to come live in his heart. He prayed for God do save him and said everything the evangelist told him to say. He meant every word of it and he crossed over from death to life that day. He knew he would go to Heaven when he died, he knew he could live with God from now one.
But there was something Nolan didn’t know. He had no idea that he was the last person saved in that stadium that day. He was the very last person to come to Jesus there. No-one knew that Nolan was the last one and no-one knew that the evangelist would die in a plane crash that very night. Almost 50 years of preaching, changing the lives of hundreds of millions of people would come to an end that day. Nolan was the last person ever to be saved at the preaching of the great evangelist. And that is where our story begins.