I woke up. I saw Dr. Paulie Carp staring at me as he huddled over me with his co-horts. He was the pastor of the next church on my circuit.
As my eyesight came into focus, I could see that I was laying in the bed at the parsonage in Smyrna. I loved the church in Smyrna. Though they were all new converts, they were all committed Christians.
“What did you say in Ephesus?” Paulie wanted to know.
“I think the last thing I said was ‘Repent.’”
“Were you crazy? In Ephesus?” he asked. “That used to be a solid church, a bible-believing church with a number of knowledgeable teachers before the Great Draft occurred.” Paulie always referred to the Rapture as the Draft, when all the true Christians were air-lifted to Heaven. Those of us who remained were left to piece things together and try to understand what the heck had happened.
It had been a year since the big event. Dr. Paulie had also read the Spiritual Rants blog. Since that time, the good doc had been arrested for street preaching and telling everyone to “repent.” The government considers street preachers to be insurgents. We live in even a crazier time than before the big event. The police had been to Paulie’s house several times already. In fact, if you can believe it, they had arrested him in the middle of the night after sending a swat team just last week. Twenty-nine heavily armed police in armored vehicles arrested him. Helicopters hovered overhead. The whole thing was covered by a national cable channel. Paulie fears for his life at this point. We do, too. It’s all too real.
Carp’s doctorate was in theology. How could he be a threat to the state? But he consistently used that “hot-button” word, “repent.” What is the threat? First, it is indicating that people have sinned. It is indicating that something is wrong with them. Whoever is left in the world, doesn’t want to hear that kind of thing. Secondly, it implies that there is an allegiance to Someone higher than the worldly government. And they don’t want to hear that either!
Carp was overturning the applecart. You know how many people love their Apples and computers! So they took him away in cuffs to jail and released him on bail. That’s a good thing for me because he had just entered the church in Ephesus as I got bonked.
“I don’t think anyone should bring baseball bats into churches,” Carp said. “I’ll bet it still stings, doesn’t it?”
“It probably will,” I said. “It’s a bit numb, right now.”
“Keep that ice on it. You’re probably still in shock. I think it was cowardly. These days you need glasses with a rearview mirror on them. So your sense of humor didn’t help you?”
“Actually, I think it made things worse!”
I’m glad Carp could see the positive side of things. I, personally, didn’t understand his optimism. It’s a matter of time before they would give him his trial. We all think he’ll have the same sham trial as His Savior.
Carp had also studied history along with theology. He had told us that George Washington was always willing to sacrifice his life whenever he went into battle. He reminded us all that our Cause was greater than Washington’s. Strangely, his parents had named him after one of the greatest heroes in the early church, Polycarp.
I didn’t realize that my life was threatened when I preached in Ephesus. That’s the time we live in. From what we’ve read by some of the preachers before the great event, we must be within years of peace on earth for a thousand years. It will happen right after the One appears and after a World War that would dwarf either of the ones that preceded it. Understanding this, Carp might be one of the luckiest ones.
I was beginning to see that using the word “repent” in a sermon could result in a death penalty or anything else that is explicitly biblical.
I was supposed to fill in for Carp in case he was taken away. I was safe, though, in Smyrna. There had been a major revival break out in the church in the past year. Though all the true believers had been evacuated, the ones who remained had been blanketed by the Holy Spirit. Things in the church were a scene out of Acts 2, tongue-speaking, healings, prophesying, and miracles of all kinds.
Though Carp hadn’t trusted Christ, he knew his theology and had even written exegetical biblical commentaries using the original languages. He was a brainiac. That so many Christians were gone all at once, shocked him into reality. He wanted his sin and eat it too but then realized that things were for keeps . . . eternally. He came to a full understanding that repent meant that he needed to change his mind but also had to show that change to the world. He was going to get his chance.
(To be continued . . . .)