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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Jesus Will Return in 1988

The church was packed and overflowing with people — a rather unusual sight for our little country church. It was Sunday, September 11, 1988. Even JD was at church — and for JD to be at church was a big deal. But before I go any further, let me explain the backstory to this momentous

The church was packed and overflowing with people — a rather unusual sight for our little country church. It was Sunday, September 11, 1988. Even JD was at church — and for JD to be at church was a big deal.

But before I go any further, let me explain the backstory to this momentous day — and JD.

I had only been in the ministry for about a year and a half when a little booklet showed up in my senior pastor’s office. It was entitled, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” It was written by Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, and a serious Bible student. It was a rather compelling little pamphlet that also included another booklet by Whisenant entitled, “On Borrowed Time.”

The booklet sold 4.5 million copies and was mailed at no cost to 300,000 ministers. The prediction that Jesus Christ would return to earth during Rosh Hashana, September 11-13, 1988, spread like wildfire throughout the Christian community. Christian television stations even began interrupting their regularly scheduled programs to air special reports on how to prepare for the rapture.

Now about JD. He was a redneck, but not the kind that Jeff Foxworthy jokes about. JD was the real deal. He was fiercely independent, deeply skeptical of government, law and authority, had a nasty hatred for anyone who wasn’t white, drank heavily, smoked like a chimney, and constantly consumed the strongest coffee I ever tasted. His long hair, wild blue eyes and scraggly beard only added to the redneck image. Rumors swirled around our little town that JD was a closet member of the KKK. He had a reputation, and believe me; it wasn’t good. I remember well the day that he caught a guy in a 330 conibear beaver trap. The guy had been stealing JD’s traps and fur. JD was determined to teach him a lesson — so he literally set a trap for him — and caught him. It was an ugly scene.

JD’s grandmother attended our church. She was always faithful to ask us to pray for him. JD was only about ten years older than me, and his grandmother asked if I would reach out to him. Now let me ask you, how does a young preacher find an inroad to begin a relationship with a hillbilly rascal like JD?

As it turned out, JD was the best trapper in the county — and I wanted to learn how to trap. I reached out to JD, and we struck a deal: He would teach me how to trap, and I would skin all of his coon and possum for the upcoming season. Let me give you a word of advice: if the best trapper in the county suggests a deal like that, don’t take it. You can’t imagine how many nights I spent in his fur shed, skinning and fleshing coon and possum until well past midnight.

So you can understand my shock at seeing JD, hair neatly cut and combed, clean shaven, wearing a suit and tie and sitting in church with his family on September 11, 1988. And all because Edgar Whisenant had declared that Jesus was coming back. JD wanted to be ready.

Guess what? Jesus didn’t come back on September 11, 1988. And JD didn’t come back either. That was the one, and only time I saw JD in Church. Millions of people were fooled. Why? Because they didn’t know the truth about the return of Jesus Christ. Whisenant pulled the wool over their eyes and made a lot of money in the process. Sadly, he also discouraged the meager faith of a lot of people. Many of them never came back.

Just a few years ago, a self-proclaimed prophet along with a widely known televangelist predicted that the return of Christ was imminent because of a series of lunar eclipse events called blood moons. Those guys sold a lot of books too — and left a lot of disillusioned people in their wake.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Jesus warned us about false prophets and false messiahs in Matthew 24. He also gave us some rather clear teaching to protect us from scammers. Do yourself a favor and read Matthew 24. Until you do, here’s a quick summary of what you need to know about the imminent return of Jesus Christ:

• Jesus is coming again.
• No one knows the day or the hour.
• It will be a long time.
• Until He returns, we are to remain faithful and obedient.
• Doing so will require great discipline.

Frankly, that’s all we need to know. There are a lot of prophets and teachers out there declaring all kinds of things about the return of Christ and His millennial reign. It’s all very interesting and filled with Scriptural interpretation, astronomy, and mathematics. But be careful. It can be easy to get so caught up in it that you forget to remain faithful and obedient to His mission. On the day that Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers were intently looking into the sky when two angels appeared and asked them, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Those early believers had a job to do, and the angels wanted them to know they had no time to waste gazing into the sky while waiting for Jesus to return. The same is true for us.

Jesus gave us the mission of reconciliation. In doing so, He placed the hope of humanity in our hands. Instead of staring into the sky and postulating about His return, we should be spending our days accomplishing His mission. He is counting on us to git’er done. If we’re doing so when He returns, we’ll be just fine.

And yes, it could be today.

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