“Wow–Joel Osteen and The Summit in Houston have nothing on this place!” So my companion commented as we walked into the cavernous worship center of the main campus of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. Tier after tier of green-cushioned pews, football stadium sized jumbotrons, multiple TV cameras prepared for filming and a giant stage with a 300 seat choir loft greeted us.
We sat on the second level behind the sound booth. One of the many dark-suited, conservative-neck-tied ushers had offered a four color bulletin that featured the Prestonwood Golf Classic. Nearly 12,000 people worshipped there the prior weekend, giving more than $600,000.
Rock music blasted through the room at 11:00. Screens flashed visuals of attractive, slender, well-dressed smiling people happily laughing and singing. The worship team, their faces featured on the jumbotrons, sang “Our God.” The tech crew raised the sound to ear-splitting levels. A few attendees sang, one or two raising their hands. Shortly after that, eyes turned to the sky-high baptistry where a young woman underwent a quick immersion.
It was graduation Sunday. The early part of the service honored the high school graduates and the Headmaster of the 1700 student-strong Prestonwood Christian Academy. Then the first prayer of the morning, a quick welcome, and the worship team launched into “He is Faithful.”
When the music switched to a familiar “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” the techies lowered the sound. Many attendees began to sing. Sound returned to higher decibels for the next piece. Then one of the pastors, his twitter handle displayed on the screen, came forward to honor work anniversaries of some of the Prestonwood’s many staff people. Another prayer also mentioned the offering, and the music began again.
At 11:35, all attention went to the screens. The words, “Are you ready for the Revelation?” appeared. Preaching from the book of Revelation, Dr. Jack Graham announced that we are going to get God’s perspective on the present and the future.
He asked, “Who is the Antichrist?”
As Graham proclaimed the giant battle on the fields of Megiddo, which I saw on my recent trip to Israel, I felt the chill of fear of being left behind. Those who prayer the ‘I believe in Jesus’ prayer” in the right way will have been taken up in the massive Rapture. Only the evil will be left to suffer. The most evil of all will be the handsome, charismatic, Son of Perdition, the Antichrist, with the mark of the Beast, the 666 in digital form, clearly visible.
According to Graham, all is in the plan of God who allows evil to run its course. Evil ultimately takes form in the Antichrist, both a person and a spirit. Anyone who denies that Jesus is Lord is possessed even now of the spirit of the Antichrist.
Graham thundered, “Satan does not know when the last days are coming so he always has to have somebody ready.” That being the case, in every generation someone has been groomed by Satan to step into the role of the Antichrist. Graham explicitly identified the Antichrist as a male, so at least I’m not the one being groomed. Other than that, he told the congregation not to speculate who it is, but did say, “It is not your ex-husband.”
Warming to his theme, Graham announced “Anyone who denies Christ deifies Satan” and “If you reject Christ, you will not reject the Antichrist.”
Graham referred to the book of Daniel, weaving together those words with the words of the book of Revelation. Knowing the complexity of the interpretative tasks, he suggested the congregation just “take my word for it” as he knew he was speaking truth.
He noted that many current day nations are mentioned in the Bible but there is no mention of the United States. Why? Why would the greatest superpower in the history of humankind be left out of these prophetic works? For these reasons: Our national debt and the startling moral meltdown that has taken place in just a generation.
Graham said that we have been buried, just as Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 shoe-banging speech prophesied. The sexual revolution has taken us down. The decision currently before the Supreme Court of allowing same-sex marriage will be the final nail in the coffin. This is the ultimate game-changer and must be defeated.
Graham’s statement, “Homosexuallity is not a civil right but a behavioral issue,” generated loud applause. Clearly, there will be no such behaviors tolerated in this gathering.
He further proclaimed that if same-sex unions become legal, then Christianity will be criminalized and people may have to practice civil disobedience in response. “Judgment is coming to America if Americans don’t repent.” We must pray and then elect leaders who will keep and write laws that are consistent with the Bible.
By then my fear was moving to an all-time high. I thought, “Oh my–laws consistent with the Bible will mean that men can slaughter all the men of rival tribes and rape and enslave their women.”
It got worse. Graham shouted, “Are you a name or are you a number?” Only If I’ve said the right words will my name be indelibly written in the Book of Life. If not, I’m a number for the Antichrist to devour.
“Choose today!” Graham insisted as he wrapped up his 35 minute message. He ordered, “Every head bowed, every eye closed” while he issued an invitation to join this loving body of Christians, none of whom are bigots and all are assured of their place in heaven.
The worship team jumped into “At the Cross” in conjunction with Graham’s final command to come forward, reminding us of the Amtrack train wreck that killed several people earlier that week. We’re all off the rails. Many will get hurt.
At 12:20, the choir and worship team again sang, “Our God,” proudly owning the God who has so generously given them assurance of salvation and will keep them from the Great Tribulation.
[Note: this article is scheduled to run in the May 22, 2015 edition of the Denton Record Chronicle]