PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: The Church’s Last and Lasting Promise by: Ron Woodrum
The names Saipan, Iwo Jima, Samoa, Guadalcanal, Bataan, Corregidor to name just a few, meant very little to Americans in the early 1940’s. They were just some God-forsaken pieces of real estate somewhere in the South Pacific! But they would soon become household names all across the free world. We were having the time of our lives in this God-blessed America. The Depression was over. We were enjoying all that the world had to offer in this new age of electronic gadgetry. We had new automatic washers and dryers; new toasters; new Sunbeam Mixmaster’s we used to mix our margarine, after dropping in the orange food coloring ball to give it it’s yellow color, and make It look like butter. We had new automobiles that looked like boats on wheels, with huge long fenders, and men were on the street corners saying, “If the fenders get any longer one of these days, they are going to be one great big fender! I’ll go as far as to say, one of these days they are going to take those running-boards clean off!” We didn’t care about Europe; Germany; or a man named Hitler. We didn’t care about Italy or a guy named Mussolini; We didn’t care about Japan, and a guy named Hirohito. We still had vivid memories of the “War to End All Wars”, and we did not intend to get involved in any new global conflicts!
We watched as the Netherlands fell; we watched as Poland fell; We watched as Neville Chamberlain and the Allies signed Treaty after Treaty with Hitler, and He broke Treaty after Treaty! Chamberlain made so many concessions with Hitler that his name became a synonym with “concession”. When he invaded France, we watched with worried eyes fearing that sooner or later we would become involved, but we were definitely opting for “later”. But December 7,1941, a day FDR said “would live on in infamy” elements of the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked our Naval Base at Pearl Harbor destroying 15 ships, killing 2,402 Americans, and wounding 1,282, while simultaneously attacking the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Attacking us and the Philippines they “kicked the sleeping giant” and our President declared war immediately! Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was made the Commander and Chief over our forces in the European theater, while Gen. Douglas MacArthur was placed over the forces in the Asian theater. The Japanese proved themselves strong as our forces met defeat on the Island of Bataan. Bataan fell and we moved to Corregidor, that Island nicknamed “the Crimson Island” due to the 1,000’s of gallons of American blood spilled on it. When things did not go any better on Corregidor MacArthur, at the command of Roosevelt, decided to go to Australia to regroup so that he could come back and win the war in “American fashion” in a day and age when we fought wars to win wars! But it was a sad, sad day when we left the Philippines! The Filipinos watched as we prepared to leave. Their eyes were fixed on that Great Benefactor, who represented everything that was good, from that Utopia called America. Surrounded by terrified Filipino soldiers, who feared the worst, and would not be disappointed, MacArthur stepped up on the ladder of that DC3 plane, turned and spoke the words that would become “household words” all over the free world. He told them- “I WILL RETURN!” The day he left was March 11, 1942.
After we left the Filipinos suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese over the next two- and one-half years. They were imprisoned. They were tortured. They were made to march the Bataan death march where over 60,000 died. They kept watching day after day. Waiting day after day for the promise to be fulfilled. One day off in the distance, they heard the rumbling sound of thunder. The skies grew dark. It was the rising crescendo of deliverance. The sun was blotted out with the planes that filled the sky. Those planes had the red stars and blue stripes! Suddenly the skies filled with paratroopers over the islands of the S.Pacific. Soon they heard the words of that great General-“I HAVE RETURNED!” The day was October 22, 1944. Their deliverer had kept his promise and returned in victory.
Two thousand years ago, another General stood on the Mt. of Olives. He too was leaving. His troops, the disciples were surrounding Him. They too feared the worst and they too would not be disappointed. They would suffer at the hands of a Nero-led Roman world. They would be crucified. They would be beheaded. They would be set-afire as candles to light the gardens and racetracks as Nero would race his chariots. They would be boiled-to-death in hot oil. They would be chained together and forced to walk into the Mediterranean to their death for their faith. He looked into their terrified eyes and spoke the words, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, Believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go away, I WILL COME AGAIN, AND RECEIVE YOU UP UNTO MYSELF, THAT WHERE I AM YOU SHALL BE ALSO”. (John 14:1-3). Over the years we too have suffered. The Church has been persecuted and prospered. But the hope of every generation, as our eyes watch the skies, and we wait with great anticipation has been for our Deliverer who promised us that Blessed Hope of returning to keep His promise for us. The verses are many. The Scripture says, “In a little while He that shall come, will come” (Heb. 10:37). “The Lord shall descend from Heaven with a sound of a trumpet, and the voice of the archangel, and the dead in Christ shall rises first, and we who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet Him in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:12-18). It says that, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, when this mortal shall put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:51). It says we are “citizens of Heaven, from which we look for our Savior who shall transform our lowly bodies, and fashion them like unto glorious body” (Philippians 3:20). We wait for that “Blessed Hope and Glorious Appearing of our Great God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). That next event on the prophetic calendar is what we are waiting for. When Jesus the Bridegroom left us here, He promised, as all espoused grooms of His day did, to go to the Father’s house-prepare the place-when ready come back and claim her to Himself! That event is called the Rapture. That is what our subject is today. It is closer than we can imagine. As we watch all of the events that will be actualized during the tribulation and precede His second coming with HIs Saints, we cannot help but realize that at least 7 years prior to that He will come for His saints, (the Church). Jesus said, “when you begin to see these things come to pass lift up your heads for your redemption draweth night and watch and pray that you might be counted worthy to escape ALL these things that shall come upon the earth and stand before the Son of Man”. (Luke 21:28 & 36)
Even the French Scientist Pierre Berchelt, over 150 years ago, recognized the signs of the times when he said, in his book Re-Entry,” In side of one hundred years of physical and chemical science, man will know what the atom is. It is my belief, that when science reaches that stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys, and say to humanity, ‘Gentlemen, it’s closing time!'” Before that time comes the Church, who was told by Jesus, their groom, to “occupy til I come” i.e. “carry out business, needs to heed the words of Vance Havner, “It does no good to revel among the clouds of prophetic truth if it stir us not to practice it on the cobblestones questing for souls…prophetic truth , like all other truth, should be fuel for the fires of evangelism…It is not enough to lament the apostasy so vividly described in the book of Jude. It is not enough to build ourselves up in the faith; it is not enough to pray in the Holy Ghost; to keep ourselves in the love of God; to look for the mercy of the Lord. There is further duty-“and of some have compassion, making a difference…saving them with fear, pulling them out of the fire…hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23).