On Sunday evening, February 26th, 2012 my life changed forever. As I sat in my recliner working on my computer, I got the phone call that every son or daughter dreads. I knew instantly it was my mom—her ring tone is a loud, emergency warning sound that always startles me to attention! Normally she’s just calling to say hello or check on the grandkids, but tonight was different. She was calling to tell me that my dad had just had a heart attack and was being rushed to the hospital, unconscious, in an ambulance. As my heart sank to the floor and that helpless feeling set in from 1,400 miles away, I retreated to the bedroom to call some close friends, asking them to pray.
When your dad approaches 80 and has already had one quadruple bypass, you know he’s living on borrowed time. The words of Moses in the beautifully crafted and complex Psalm 90 ring in my ears, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Less than an hour later I got the news that my father had flown into the arms of Jesus. I suspect that dad left this world in less than 5 minutes and I have no doubt he opened his eyes in paradise. No one was better prepared to meet the Savior. The last few days of his life were spent “abounding in the work of the Lord.” He had just finished leading the men’s prayer breakfast he loved so much—one of the highlights of his life was equipping men for the Lord’s service. Then it was off to the “discipleship” program he’d organized in his local church, another burden he had—equipping the saints. Eleven men came out for the first session and he was like a new father, beaming at the initial turnout. What a great encourager!
Dad didn’t waste time sitting around. He hit the ground running almost 80 years ago and never stopped moving. The product of a broken home and an alcoholic father, he accepted Jesus at the mission in Brooklyn, NY where he met my mom. They were happily married for over 60 years and enjoyed a wonderful life together. Please remember my mom Dorothy in your prayers. Losing a spouse is such a hollow feeling—especially for faithful Christians, longing to go together in the rapture. My wife and I were so happy we made a surprise visit back to NJ last December to wish them a Happy Anniversary. That was the last time I would see my dad on this Earth and the last time I would feel his massive arms encircle me in a bear hug words can’t describe. Dad was my best friend and I’m going to miss him.
BUT…I can hear the words of King David, speaking about his late son; “I shall go to him but he shall not return to me.” Dad and I will meet again. Very soon! I can truly say that after 55 years, I now fully understand Paul’s words in Phillipians, “the peace that passeth all understanding.”
As I prepared to leave for the 27-hour, cross-country journey, we stopped at Prophecy in the News. As I walked into my office, there was a new book sitting on my desk and it caught my attention. The Greatness of the Rapture appeared out of nowhere and became my traveling companion for the long trip. David Olander, Professor of Biblical Languages at Tyndale Theological Seminary, has written what I can only describe as a “beautiful book.” I am convinced that the Lord Himself sent it to me! By the time I got to New Jersey I couldn’t think of anything else other than the fact that my dad was with Jesus and that I would soon be joining him! The bear hug will live to see another day!
Never before have I read a book on the Lord’s return that explained things so decisively. The author’s knowledge of Greek added so much to my understanding of this great day—the first day in history when the bride of Christ is gathered together—from Pentecost to the rapture. In my mind I know how much I miss my earthly father. Just imagine how much our Heavenly Father misses us?
Olander’s treatment of 1 and 2 Thessalonians makes this book special. So many people want to twist Paul’s words to paint a portrait of the church meeting the Antichrist and enduring the wrath of God. But this author is having none of it. His treatment of the Day of the Lord is clear and concise and written in a way that makes you realize that God’s plan for the church and the nation of Israel are clearly distinct and different. The Day of the Lord—when God pours out his wrath on an unbelieving world cannot happen until the bride of Christ—the church—is safely tucked away. Then and only then does God deal with His Jewish brethren. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you with their seeds of doubt. Remember, we’re not appointed unto wrath and this book proves it! The knowledge lies in the Greek language!
Dad was a great example of our Heavenly Father. Loving, kind, patient, strong, faithful, diligent, joyful, encouraging, dedicated, and committed to his kids, my mom and above all—the Lord. He left behind a legacy that will last for eternity— he touched the lives of so many people. He understood what was really important. He rarely ended a conversation without using the words, “Lord willing.” He knew of the great uncertainty of life on Earth— but he also understood the crystal-clear certainty of eternal life through Jesus Christ. I know where dad is and I know WHO he’s with—just one more reason to keep looking up!