Feb 09, 2011 | Comments 0
I was raised in the little town of Eloise, Florida, and we were members of the Eloise Baptist Church. Daddy went to church when the church’s doors were open, and I was always beside him. Daddy saw to it that I was with him. Indeed, I never questioned his love for me or that he believed that corporal punishment instructed a young boy in the ways of righteous church attendance.
The first two weeks of August were always reserved for Vacation Bible School and protracted revival meetings. It did not matter who the preacher was, one of the themes for a night or two was the Second Coming of Christ.
The year was 1957. The evangelist that August was both a preacher and a chalk artist extraordinaire. The second Friday night, he began preaching on and drawing chalk renderings of the Second Coming of Christ. His words were riveting. His drawings were vivid to the eyes and enthralling to the imagination. Angels! Horses! Trumpets! Falling stars! The sky splitting! Returning saints! Ascending saints! Chaos on earth! Heaven coming down! Jesus in power and glory! The events depicted and elaborated were spectacular! But when the sanctuary lights were turned off and a black light was focused on the preacher’s blackboard, even the adults sat back in their seats, awestruck at the hidden images of hell that were revealed behind the preacher’s drawings! Satan! Demons! The anti-Christ! The lake of fire! The lost turned into hell. These were drawn in emotional shades that seemed to spring up from the pit of the earth, so moving and emotive and terrifying that we seemed to feel the heat of hell’s fire and hear the mournful moans of the doomed. The preacher had even bested one of the 3-D horror movies of that day!
Needless to say, my imagination and emotions were supercharged and set on edge when I left the service that evening for home and bed. The preacher’s dramatic presentation of the events of Jesus’ coming was the focus of Mama and Daddy’s hushed but excited conversation as we drove home.
Those days of the 1950s saw the zenith of railroad passenger train service between New York City and Miami, Florida. The Silver Meteor was a non-stop express passenger train of renown that winged Yankees south to sun and sand and adventure and later returned them north to dreariness and concrete and routine.
The southbound passage of what we called “the Yankee express” rocketed through our little Eloise on the Seaboard Railroad’s “carpet made of steel” at an unheard of 75-miles-an-hour at precisely 4:15 AM. The engineer would begin blowing the train’s horn about a mile north of town and hold down the horn’s switch until the train was about a mile south of town. It was a fine racket and a glorious shaking that was something like combining a tornado and an earthquake in a matchbox. Nevertheless, we had learned to sleep through the noise and quaking.
As I said, my imagination and emotions had been over-stimulated by the evangelist’s words and art. Sleep had not come easily to me. Images of the Second Coming invaded my thoughts. I was terrified by visions of angels and demons and fire and destruction and all such things apocalyptic. Then Gabriel began blowing his trumpet. The skies were parted. The earth began to quake and split. Saints were rising to meet Jesus. But I did not move. I was STAYING!!! I did not want to stay. I saw Mama going with Jesus. I wanted to go with Mama to see Jesus. I sat up and jumped out of bed and ran around my room and through the house screaming “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me! O Jesus, don’t leave me!”
I found myself in the front yard looking up and wondering why I only saw stars against a backdrop of a night sky. I then realized that the trumpet sound and the quaking were the horn and rumbling of the Silver Comet transporting Yankees to Miami to the pleasures of the fabulous Fountainbleau Resort. Still, I was unnerved and not sure!
I was startled by Daddy’s voice. It was an I’m-not-to-happy-to-be-awakened-at-this-time-in-the-morning-and-the-boy-has-lost-his-mind-like-his-mother’s-crazy-brother-in-the-lunatic-bin-at-the-state-hospital voice saying “Son, what on earth are you doing in the middle of the front yard howling at the stars like a fool? Get yourself in this house now! The neighbors will see you and call the police! Good Lord, what’s wrong with you, boy?”
Daddy’s voice, however, did not reassure me that Jesus had not taken the saints and left him and me. I knew that Jesus would leave him. All that church going was not going to save us. I was sure that I had been abandoned to suffer and endure the terrors of the Great Tribulation with Daddy. Then the angel spoke. Mama’s voice rang out gladdening my heart: “Sherman, what’s going on? Why was Charles screaming and running through the house? Is he all right?”
What a relief! Mama was still with us. It was only a dream and the passenger train!
When the Second Coming of Christ Jesus is mentioned in the New Testament, it is spoken of as the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). That is, the return of Jesus is the “blessed hope” of the Christian. We Presbyterians rarely think that way nowadays. If we do, it is probably in the privacy of our minds for fear that someone will think that we have gone over to the dispensationalists or the charismatics.
Notwithstanding, the Second Coming is a central theme of the teaching of the New Testament. Jesus taught us to live in expectation of His return. The language is “Watch therefore” (Matthew 24:42). Honestly, I do not see much of that in our ranks these days. If we can get around to it, eschatology is something to be read about, but we do not take it too seriously. Indeed, it has been a long, long time since I have heard a passionate, well-done sermon on the Second Coming. We do not say much about the “cockcrowing” and “the master . . . coming suddenly” and finding us sleeping (Mark 13:35-36). Are we losing the blessing of anticipation (Luke 12:27)?
I find it peculiar that we are so careful to observe the Lord’s Supper and yet so rarely celebrate the Supper’s anticipation of Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 11:26). Paul speaks of “the Lord” as “at hand” (Philippians 4:5), James says that the Judge is standing “before the door” (James 1:7); Peter encourages us to “be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is be to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13); and John exhorts us to “abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
1 John 3:2 reads: “But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” That has become my favorite passage in the Bible. I love the words about SEEING Jesus. Indeed, those words have become very precious to me in the last nine years.
Many of us lose a lot as we grow older. I have struggled with glaucoma most of my life. I have nearly lost all my vision. Only one eye works well enough to see and that not much. I type this article in front of a 30-something inch monitor with the screen set at 124% and use Arial Black font set at 28 points and with my face about a foot from the screen. I am so thankful to God that I still have a little vision to use!
John writes that “we shall see him.” I do not see many colors now. I see men like “trees walking” (Mark 8:24). Nothing is ever clear. Faces are a mystery unless I am a foot away. Dark is the color of my world. The only time I see well is in my memory and dreams.
John writes that “we shall see him.” Do you know what that means to a person with extensively compromised vision? It has a double meaning. It means that I will behold my Savior and Lord. It also means that I will have eyes that work again. This means that the next time I see well is when I see Jesus. Even so, Lord Jesus, come!
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
Filed Under: eMail Updates