When I was seven years old, Israel fought a six-day war against Arab powers led by Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The war began on Monday and raged through the week. On Thursday, my friend Doug, who attended the Baptist church at the end of our street, told me that he had heard at church that Jesus was going to return on Saturday. I followed the news on Thursday and Friday as Israel pushed into the territories of its enemies and victory became imminent. By Saturday—Sunday in Israel—the war was won.
It seemed perfectly reasonable to me that Jesus would come on Saturday, just as my friend had warned, and sure enough, as I played in the street in front of my house that afternoon, a rushing, mighty wind blew down our street with a cloud of dust. I was a skinny little guy, and the gale-force gust literally knocked me off my feet. I thought I was being whipped up in the Rapture, but quickly realized I was going down, not up. In a panic—it all happened in the twinkling of a dusty eye—I reached out for something to hold onto, grabbing the radio antenna of my dad’s green 1962 Pontiac Catalina and snapping it off. I fell, only minimally impeded, onto the street.
Looking around I saw no one. I was all alone. Obviously, I had not been found worthy to be caught up into the air with Jesus and the saints of all ages. Perhaps it had been the doubt I had expressed in reaching for the antenna that had frustrated the Blessed Hope for me. Since I saw no friendly faces around, I assumed that trouble would be coming, and I ran and hid—you’re not going to believe this one—in a wooden coffin crate my dad had gotten from my uncle Jerry, an undertaker.
Consigned alive to my coffin-shaped refuge, I waited and waited. It seemed an eternity, but probably lasted only five minutes or so in real time. I finally crawled out of the sarcophagus and turned to face “what rough beast might come slouching toward [Demopolis, Alabama] to be born.” Relieved to find my parents and family still at home, I immediately knew the Lord had not come, and I did not have to worry about being left behind.
Over the years to come, I would wonder several times, when entering an empty house after school, whether I had missed the Rapture, each time committing myself to greater holiness so as to be ready on the day of Christ’s appearing. As a result of these experiences, I developed a certain “apocalypse fatigue.” Never again will anyone get me very alarmed about the idea that particular world events spell an immediate return of Christ. On the other hand, my determination to be ready and joyful about the prospect of Christ’s return has left me always hoping, as André Crouch used to sing, that “it won’t be long.” As I contemplate the beginning of 2015 and set aside several days for prayer and fasting for the new year, the idea that Jesus could return this year remains my fondest, most passionate hope. Maranatha, 2015.