A TIME OF THE ESSENCE
By: Wayne Brown
(Writer’s Note: This is dedicated to my mother-in-law, Nora Dempsey, who speaks often of this time in our lives.)
The organist played brightly as the choir stood singing the last verse of the final hymn for the service. The church pastor, Reverend Jonas Simmons sat in his appointed chair behind the chapel podium reflecting on his performance with delivering today’s message. He was pleased with his delivery and felt the uplifting spirit of those in the congregation. He smiled and closed his hymnal as the choir finished the final verse.
As the choir had begun this hymn, Reverend Simmons noticed a rather plain-looking young man enter the chapel through the double doors in the rear. He did so quietly and respectfully and took a seat in the rearmost pew away from the rest of the congregation. He was a pleasant looking person neatly yet humbly dressed with a rather clean-cut appearance. As the choir continued with the hymn, the young man dropped to one knee in his pew area and bowed his head in prayer. Noting this occurrence from his seat, the good Reverend was also overcome with the urge to pray and did so quietly as the choir sang. After completing his prayer, he looked up to see the young man now standing and singing along with the rest of the congregation. Suddenly, Reverend Simmons was overcome with the strangest awareness he had ever felt in his life. It was as if another was touching his inner most thoughts and he was powerless to restrain it.
With the singing of the closing hymn complete, Reverend Simmons quickly rose and asked the congregation to remain standing for a closing prayer. As everyone bowed their heads in silence Reverend Simmons began his prayer with his arms outstretched toward the chapel ceiling and his voice booming out the words that seem to come to from the mind of another rather than from him. While the regulars in the congregation began to notice the difference in style and delivery which Reverend Simmons employed none could complain as to the effectiveness of his methods. ‘Amen’ rang out across the congregation as the preacher’s voice reached a crescendo much like some of the older generation had once heard from the fire and brimstone preachers in days of old. It was a powerful plea unto God unmatched by any the good Reverend had ever delivered in the past.
As he closed the prayer, Reverend Simmons could feel drops of perspiration forming on his forehead and beginning to trickle down his face. It was a cold sweat and he felt himself shutter inwardly for a long moment. Immediately his gaze turned upon the pew where the young man was standing. Their eyes locked in silence as the Reverend stood in the wonder and awe of this moment which he was experiencing. Never in his personal life or his professional career had he experience such a feeling of exhilaration and hope as he was feeling at this moment. He wanted to scream and shout his emotions to the heavens but his professional judgment as to how his congregation might react held him in check. Then, as suddenly as it had come, the sensation was gone and the Reverend found himself locked in an awkward stare with a complete stranger.
Reverend Simmons made his way to the back of the church and opened wide the door entry doors of the chapel. He stood at his normal station and greeted each one of the congregation members as they took their departure from the service. Men and women alike praised his final prayer again and again and shared with the feelings they had experienced as the words he offered to the Lord fell upon their ears. Soon it was apparent to the old preacher that the congregation had shared in that special moment of sensation with him at the end of the service.
As the last person left the chapel, Reverend Simmons bid them farewell, then in the customary manner pulled the two entry doors closed behind him as he re-entered the chapel and began walking toward the door leading to the administrative offices of the church. Quickly he noticed the young man still sitting in the pew where he had first noticed him. He stepped down the aisle toward the pew to greet the young man.
“I want to welcome you to our church,” Reverend Simmons began. “I don’t believe we have met yet but I am glad to see that you have come out to worship with us this fine day,” the Reverend added. With that statement, the Reverend extended his right hand and said, “I am Jonas Simmons”.
By this time the young man had risen from his seat in the pew and turned to meet the Reverend. He accept the hand-shake with a slight smile and replied, “Yes, Reverend Simmons, I am quite aware of who you are and have been for some time now. I know of and admire your dedication and belief in God Almighty. I have just arrived in town and wanted to be present for a portion of the worship service in your church. I thank you for making me feel most welcome.”
The Reverend released the young man’s hand and quickly responded, “Well, if you are new to our town and plan on being here for a while, we certainly welcome you and any family you may have to come out and worship with us as much as you like. I think you will find our congregation a friendly one and you will quickly see that this is a church that indeed loves the Lord.”
The young man again offered a slight smile and said, “My business in town will conclude shortly otherwise I would most certainly take you up on the offer. You are so kind to extend your invitation and I just wish there were more time to take advantage of it but unfortunately there is not. Now I am afraid that I must be on my way there is much that I have to attend to before my business here is done. And I dare say, Reverend Simmons, you must also busy yourself in preparation for the coming events. Time is of the essence and there is none to be wasted.” As the young man completed the statement, he exited the pew and turned toward the rear doors of the chapel.
Reverend Simmons was caught a bit off guard by the comments of the young man. In fact, he realized that he knew nothing of what this young man was referring to in his statement regarding preparation. He quickly searched his memory for any event that he might be overlooking on the calendar but could come up with nothing. Finally, he could no longer contain his curiosity and spoke, “I am sorry but I cannot seem to recall what it is that you are referring to in terms of preparation. Is there some event here in town that I have overlooked on my calendar?”
The young man stopped walking toward the chapel doors and turned back toward the preacher. “Reverend Simmons, I would seriously doubt that you have overlooked anything on your calendar as you are a man who normally covers the detail quite effectively. The event of which I speak is not an annual thing but certainly an important one. I might add that it is also a welcome and long anticipated one. You must prepare both for yourself and also for your flock,” the young man stated looking directly into the preacher’s eyes.
“Please young man, you are keeping me in suspense. Pray tell, prepare for what may I ask?” Reverend Simmons replied impatient now with the game the young man seemed to be playing.
“The Rapture, of course” replied the young man never breaking his eye contact with the preacher. “As a preacher of the gospel, what else could there be that would be more important for you to prepare for?” asked the young man.
“Young man, if you think this is funny coming in here and claiming I need to prepare for The Rapture, well you’ve got another thing coming. You don’t come into the House of The Lord and perpetrate such a cruel hoax on a man of the cloth.” Reverend Simmons cried out with anger now apparent in his voice.
The young man walked back toward the preacher and placed a hand upon the Reverend’s left shoulder. “Good Reverend, what I say to you here is not a hoax. I am simply advising you that time is of the essence and that you must prepare yourself and those of your flock for the coming Rapture. Surely, you, a man of the cloth who stands before his congregation in praise of God and his only son, the Lord Jesus Christ would not doubt the words I speak. Now, I urge you to go and prepare.”
With that the young man extended his right hand toward the Reverend for a fair-well handshake. As the Reverend reached for his hand, his eyes quickly caught sight of the ugly scar on the back of the hand. As the young man gripped his hand, he quickly closed his left hand over their clasped hands in a gesture of reassurance. The preacher almost gasped aloud when he gazed upon an identical scar on the back of the left hand of the young man. As Reverend Simmons averted his stare and looked back into the eyes of the young man, he clearly saw the wreath of thorns about his head and the blood trickling down the forehead from the punctures of the thorns. The preacher gasped and stepped back in amazement unable to speak for the moment. Then the vision was gone.
The young man again turned and headed toward the doors at the back of the chapel to take his exit.
“Excuse me young man,” Reverend Simmons spoke, “But you never gave me your name. Who are you?”
“I am Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of God, and a carpenter by trade. Perhaps you have heard of me. As I stated earlier, I am in town for a short while on business but nothing to do with carpentry I might add. I bid you farewell Reverend Simmons and I say again to you that time is of the essence so go and prepare yourself and those of your flock for the glory of the coming Rapture.” The doors closed and the young man was gone.
Reverend Jonas Simmons sat down in the last pew of the chapel and stared toward the front of the church contemplating what he had just heard and experienced. Had he not seen the scars and the blood, he might have doubts as to the validity of what he had just heard. But he had seen them. The power of the Lord, Jesus Christ had allowed him to envision. For all his initial doubt, the pastor was now in full belief of what the young man was stating realized that although he had been told it was coming and time was of the essence, he still did not know when just as The Lord had said it would be.
Reverend Simmons knew that he was ready. He had devoted his adult life to preparing for this time. But what of his flock? Would they be ready? Could he prepare them fully in the time that was left? He did not possess the power of the vision to which he had been privy in order to remove all doubt. No, he would not have that great persuasion. But, then he realized the great power that he did possess. A power which had been there all along yet had been one that he had not yet fully learned how to use. Now was the time.
Reverend Jonas Simmons would begin with a prayer of thanksgiving and hope. Then he would call forth his flock and share with them his mighty power of belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ, Savior of Mankind. He would use that great power that had always lived within him to bring his people to God in the coming Rapture. Their salvation depended on his strength and he knew he was primed for the task for his Savior had told him that it was so. He also knew time was of the essence in his preparation as he bowed his head to pray.
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