I just learned that Zola Levitt died earlier today. Several months ago he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He continued to tape his TV program, "Zola Levitt Presents," until his strength was finally depleted a few days ago.
I make mention of his passing because it calls to mind a memory of my first year at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was newly married, newly moved to Dallas, and in search of a part-time job to supplement Marlene's income teaching at a local Christian school. Seeing a notice that an organization called Beth Sar Shalom was looking for a youth director, I applied and was accepted. It turned out that Beth Sar Shalom, a Christian outreach to the Jewish community, was located in a rambling brick house situated on a major Dallas thoroughfare. Every Friday night Marlene and I took care of 20-40 children of all ages in the basement playroom while Zola Levitt taught a well-attended Bible study upstairs. Those were the days before Zola became well known as an author and a speaker and many years before his TV ministry began. But even then he had a magnetic presence that drew others to him. People from all over Dallas crowded into a converted living room/dining room to hear him talk about the Jewish background of the Bible and how Bible prophecy was coming true before our very eyes. He spoke with passion, eloquence, conviction, erudition, and often he rattled off so much information, it was hard to keep up with him. To write it that way makes it sound as if I heard him speak often. Actually I rarely heard him speak because we had our hands full taking care of the children in the basement. But Zola had a strong voice and I often heard his words floating down from above.
One of the teenagers in the group at Beth Sar Shalom was his son Mark who was then about 14 years old. Mark was friendly, active, inquisitive and precocious. Today he leads his father's ministry.
I have forgotten everything else about that year at Beth Sar Shalom, except for this. One night in 1975 Zola talked to a packed about some amazing astronomical phenomena that was going to happen exactly seven years from that night (meaning it would happen in 1982). I actually heard part of his lecture, and I remember him talking about a conjunction of planets and stars that was very rare. He pointed out that the Bible predicts amazing signs in the skies when Christ returns to the earth. And since Zola believed (as do I) in the pre-tribulation rapture, if (and he was careful to emphasize the if) that amazing conjunction of planets and stars that was going to happen in exactly seven years had something to do with the coming of Christ, that must mean the rapture of the church might happen that very night. Zola did not say the rapture would happen that night, only that it might, and if it did, would we be ready?
The scene is vividly etched in my mind. As people filed out after the session, there was an expectant hush. You could see people looking to the skies and wondering, "Is this the night when Jesus returns?" I looked up into the darkness of a warm and muggy Dallas night and thought the same thing.
It was the first time the return of Christ became a living reality to me. Always theoretical, that night it became possible. I just looked at Zola's final personal letter to his supporters. Near the end he begins a paragraph this way: "Without a doubt, the Lord's coming is near." That was his message when I knew him briefly over 30 years ago. It was still his message till his final day.
Even so, Come Lord Jesus.
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