Jack Van Impe, Televangelist Who Reported Signs of the End Times, Dies at 88

Jack Van Impe, a popular televangelist and one of the world’s most well-known end times preachers, died on Saturday at the age of 88. His passing was confirmed by Jack Van Impe Ministries International.

Every week for more than 30 years, Van Impe appeared on TV as the host of his own half-hour show, Van Impe Presents, offering eschatological commentary on current events. Alongside his wife Rexella, Van Impe read the latest headlines and explained how they connected to prophecy about the Antichrist, one-world government, and the rapture of true believers that might happen at any moment.

“We only report the news from the latest papers and magazines,” Van Impe once said, “but we use the Word of God to show you that it means Christ is coming.”

Van Impe reached a global audience from his studio in the suburbs of Detroit. He had memorized tens of thousands of Bible verses, earning himself the nickname “the Walking Bible.” He would recall Scripture on his show as he explained his apocalyptic theology, before ending each episode with a call for viewers to prepare for the end by accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior.

“Few reached a larger audience than evangelist Jack Van Impe,” historian Paul Boyer wrote in his landmark study of prophecy belief in modern America. “Bible quotations studded Van Impe’s apocalyptic predictions, including not only the familiar ones from Revelation, Zechariah, and 2 Peter … but also more obscure selections from Joel, Zephaniah, Malachi, and … Ezekiel.”

Beerhalls to Churches

Van Impe was born in Freeport, Michigan in 1931, the son of two Belgian immigrants. Jack’s father Oscar worked in a Plymouth auto factory by day and as a musician in the Detroit beerhalls by night. Oscar taught young Jack to play the accordion—sometimes, as Jack would later recall in his conversion testimony, with violent and drunken beatings.

Oscar and Marie Louise Van Impe had a conversion experience at an independent Baptist church that embraced the label fundamentalist in 1943. A week later, 12-year-old Jack walked to the front of the church to profess his own faith. The Van Impes stopped going to beerhalls and started preforming gospel music in area churches. The young Van Impe soon felt a call to ministry.

He was ordained in an independent Baptist church in 1951, after graduating from Detroit Bible College, and joined Youth For Christ as a musician around the same time as the late Billy Graham. Franklin Graham tweeted his condolences, saying Van Impe’s “life demonstrated the importance of ‘laying up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul’ (Deuteronomy. 11:18). May we all be inspired to do the same.”

Van Impe married Rexella Shelton, a musically gifted and evangelistically minded Baptist who had spent one year at Bob Jones University, in 1952. The couple set off on their own in 1970, founding Jack Van Impe Crusades Inc. They travelled the country together, preforming music and preaching in 130 cities in 10 years.

From the start, Van Impe had an apocalyptic message. Popular early sermons included “The Coming War with Russia” and “Shocking Signs of the End of the Age.” Van Impe also preached about current events, warning people of the dangers of communism, homosexuality, abortion, and errant ministers. The last became a specialty. Van Impe frequently attacked other Christian ministers in his crusades—in general and by name.

“Night after night,” he later recalled, “I did my best preaching if I could be attacking individual names.”

In keeping with their fundamentalist commitments, the Van Impe Crusades initially refused to cooperate with any churches that weren’t also independent Baptist. Then Van Impe decided to exclude Baptist churches he believed had strayed from the fundamentals of the faith. Finally, he excluded fundamentalist who associated with non-fundamentalists.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Daniel Silliman