“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” -Jesus (Matthew 24:45-47 NIV)
John Walvoord and Richard Wurmbrand, two men whose ninety-plus-year lifespans closely paralleled each other. Wisconsin-born (U.S.) Walvoord (1910-2002), and Romanian-born Wurmbrand (1909-2001), two men who individually made and continue to make a tremendous impact on their Christian spheres.
For thirty-four years (1952-1986), Dr. John Walvoord was the distinguished president of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). He authored numerous books on prophecy and was perhaps the foremost Dispensational theologian of his day.
Among Dr. Walvoord’s best-known works was “The Rapture Question” (1979). In it he laid out his arguments for a sudden, “any-moment” taking up of the Church (rapture) immediately prior to “the Tribulation”—the term he used for the last seven years of this age. So, according to this renowned Bible scholar, the “taking up” was an escape from intense suffering for all Christians. With authority, Walvoord wrote that the Church will be transported far from the great distress that marks the time of the end. In effect, Dr. Walvoord’s life exemplified his teaching. He escaped the persecution that was simultaneously happening outside his Western world.
While Walvoord was acquiring his Doctorate of Theology (Th.D., 1936), a half world away the Jewish Richard Wurmbrand and wife Sabina were becoming followers of Christ. Their native land was being overrun by Nazism. Anti-Semitism was running rampant. Aryanism, or a master race philosophy, dominated the political scene. Before World War II ended nine years later, John had moved up the ladder of academia in Dallas. Richard, on the other hand, had endured harsh imprisonment for resisting Hitler’s threat to the Church.
Rev. Wurmbrand’s beliefs would cost him his freedom again in 1948. After the Communist take-over of Romania, he would return to a jail cell. His crime was stating “Communism and Christianity were incompatible”. For his strong stand for Christ, this pastor would spend fourteen years in the most inhumane conditions imaginable, a Communist prison.
While Dr. Walvoord was donning his doctor’s gown in 1952 as Dallas Seminary’s president, both Wurmbrand and Sabina were suffering under dreadful conditions in notorious Romanian prisons. Their whereabouts and well-being were hidden from each other as well as their friends.
While Dr. Walvoord was stepping into his new leadership responsibilities at DTS, Pastor Wurmbrand had already endured three years of solitary confinement and countless tortures. Cold, wet and dark cell conditions had given this once-renowned Romanian Protestant leader an advanced case of tuberculosis. In 1952, Pastor Wurmbrand was coughing blood among a ward full of terminally-ill, starving and severely mistreated inmates. “Tortured for Christ” and “In God’s Underground” detail this period in Wurmbrand’s life and ministry when he boldly shared the Gospel with jailer and dying alike.
In Part 2, we will compare the last thirty-five years of Walvoord and Wurmbrand’s ministries as they shared the same North American continent.