This article was originally published in the February 20, 1987, issue of Christianity Today.
Thoughts about heaven are not new to Oral Roberts. In 1975, the Tulsa evangelist told a chapel audience at Oral Roberts University (ORU) that he had asked God to take him, but God did not answer.
This time, according to Roberts, God is taking the initiative. Roberts has stated in a fund-raising appeal letter and on television that unless he raises a total of $8 million above regular ministry expenses by next month, he will die.
“I desperately need you to come into agreement with me concerning my life being extended beyond March,” states a fund-raising letter signed by Roberts.
“…God said, ‘I want you to use the ORU medical school to put My medical presence in the earth. I want you to get this going in one year or I will call you home!’” Roberts says he received this message last March.
The evangelist likens his situation to the apostle Paul who, in the New Testament Book of Philippians, spoke of his desire to “depart and be with Christ,” but also of his responsibility to “abide with you in the flesh.” According to Roberts’s letter, “when it looked like Paul would go on to heaven, his partners flooded him with the necessary money, each one giving to God’s servant out of their own need.”
A follow-up letter signed by Roberts’s son, Richard, affirms that without the money needed to send out missionary healing teams, “God will not extend Dad’s life.” Oral and Richard Roberts made similar statements on their weekly television program. A public outcry led several television stations to drop programs containing the controversial appeal.
Return to roots
Those who have followed Roberts’s ministry say his recent announcement does not differ greatly ...1