On October 8, 2004, Oral and Evelyn Roberts welcomed Ministries Today's publisher, Stephen Strang, and me into their home in Southern California. Seldom have I felt so honored as I shook their hands. This towering giant stood before me--even taller than I realized--and greeted us in a voice recognizable, but much weaker than in the days one recalls his words, "Be healed!"
Knowing that our time together would be recorded, I thought of bringing a dozen questions, but I honestly felt I should let Oral set the agenda.
Someone alerted me the day before to a vision Oral had received, so I asked him about it. He took the better part of an hour to describe it, bursting into tears two or three times. He even showed us the spot where he was walking in his hallway the previous July when the Spirit came down on him: "It was my old anointing," he said, "I knew it at once."
The vision was about two things mainly: the second coming of Jesus and the urgent need to preach it. What was most thrilling but also sobering to me was what Oral believes will take place before--not after--the second coming.
It includes the removal of the "blindness from the eyes of the Jews," at least in part. "They're going to get together, and they're going to say to one another, 'We missed the first sign, but we're not going to miss the second.'" Oral sobbed as he relayed this part of the vision.
He continued: the Lord said to him, "'I want My preachers and My teachers to make a major change, because they're not warning people of what is coming.'" Oral added that a sign is coming "that is going to be a wake-up call for the second coming of Christ."
He elaborated: the Lord told him that "My preachers and My teachers and the people who are working for Me must understand that the most dominant thing in this moment in history is that they must teach the second coming."
Fifty years ago, when I first started preaching, I foolishly thought I knew everything about the book of Revelation and the second coming.
When I began to realize how little I actually knew about eschatology, sadly I put it largely to one side. As to the question often put to me"Are you premillenial, amillennial or post-millennial?" I answered that I've been right once: I've held every possible position at one time or another!
Oral Roberts is best-known for his ministry of healing. But I remember him as a superb preacher as well. He helped shape my own style, and I was impressed with his oratory and power of description. The first sermon I ever read by him was on the second coming.
Oral's vision brought me back to my own baptism in the Holy Spirit, which took place on October 31, 1955. The fallout of this pivotal experience for me was not only a radical theological change but also a sense of the realness of the second coming that followed. What I mean is this: It was so very, very real that Jesus was literally coming again. Have I been preaching it? Hardly. Will I start doing so? Yes.
I confess to trying to pin Dr. Roberts down on certain aspects of eschatology, but he wisely would not get drawn into that. Perhaps God doesn't want any of us to be so absolutely sure of our own peculiar interpretation.
It would not be good for our pride were we to discover who among us has a franchise on being "eschatologically infallible." Perhaps a dose of humility would lead more of us to a clearer grasp of these things that have divided us.
I'm convinced that we are in the last days--the very last days. I suspect that the tragedy of September 11, 2001, is going to look small when compared to the violence and persecution that are down the road. But the thought of the Spirit energizing the church and giving a platform where no one has stood since the days of the early church is something to look forward to.
May God grant that we will focus not only on our theology and preaching of the second coming but also upon the glorious fact that He is comingand that we are prepared for it.