John F. Walvoord (1910–2002) Home for Christmas
Our beloved John F. Walvoord, long-time president and chancellor emeritus at Dallas Theological Seminary and one of the most prominent evangelical scholars of the twentieth century, went to be with his Lord on December 20, 2002, at the age of 92, following a short illness.
Seminary president, Dr. Mark Bailey, said, “We rejoice, knowing that Dr. Walvoord has gone home to heaven, but it leaves an empty spot in our hearts. His absence will surely be felt by all.”
Dr. Walvoord was a pioneering theological educator and one of the world’s leading scholars on the subject of Bible prophecy. He was an icon in the religious and educational communities, serving as a pastor, author, theologian, and religious broadcaster, along with his roles of president, chancellor, and later chancellor emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary.
“Few American theologians in the past century have had such a deep and lasting impact on the teaching and publication of biblical truth,” Dr. Bailey said.
According to Dr. Charles Swindoll, chancellor of DTS, the nation has lost an outstanding biblical educator. “Dr. Walvoord was a spiritual statesman who had a profound influence on conservative evangelical theology.” “During his long tenure at DTS, he trained thousands of pastors, missionaries, and seminary and Bible institute professors who have served in ministry around the world.”
Dr. Walvoord was known for both his public influence and his private integrity. Dr. Howard Hendricks, distinguished professor and chair of the Center for Christian Leadership, described him as a mentor, counselor, coach, and personal friend, adding, “I thank God upon every remembrance of him.”
Dr. Eugene Merrill, distinguished professor of Old Testament Studies, noted, “History bears witness that those who begin well often end poorly. Exceptions to this rule, therefore, stand out as giants worthy of admiration, emulation, and praise. [Dr. Walvoord] was one of those servants of Christ who have inspired us to go beyond what we thought we could be and do.”
A prolific writer and editor, Dr. Walvoord was a masterful teacher of theology whose favorite topics included prophetic teaching about the rapture of the church, the tribulation, and the literal second coming of Christ.
At a memorial service held December 27 on the Criswell College campus, Dr. Bailey noted that whenever Dr. Walvoord signed one of the many books he authored, under his name he always wrote Revelation 22:20—“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
“Today’s church owes a great debt to this man,” author and minister Dr. Tim LaHaye said. “Anyone who emphasizes the imminent coming of Christ, as has Dr. Walvoord, has helped fire the spirit of holiness, evangelism, and missionary vision in the hearts of pastors and believers.”
John F. Walvoord was born May 10, 1910, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. His mother, having endured a difficult pregnancy, was advised by doctors to abort, but she carried to term and the baby was robust. (She went on to live three days short of 102 years.)
Walvoord heard the gospel at age fifteen. Of that experience he said, “I can honestly say the minute I heard that Christ died for me and I could be saved by grace, a light turned on and I accepted Christ as my Savior! … The next day I knew I was different.”
Walvoord attended Wheaton College during the Great Depression and spent his summers in rural and small-town missionary work in Nebraska and South Dakota. In June 1931, at the height of the Depression, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and entered graduate school at the fledgling Dallas Seminary. He earned his ThB and ThM degrees in 1934. Two years later he received his ThD from Dallas Seminary. He also received an MA in philosophy from Texas Christian University in 1945. Later he was honored with the Doctor of Letters (LittD) from Liberty Baptist University, and the Doctor of Divinity (DD) from Wheaton College, where he was chosen alumnus of the year.
Dr. Walvoord authored, coauthored, and edited more than thirty books, including The Holy Spirit, The Millennial Kingdom, and Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis (which sold two million copies in sixteen languages and copies of which were requested by the White House). His most recent book, Prophecy in the New Millennium, was published in 2001.
Beginning in 1953 Dr. Walvoord served as DTS president for thirty-four years until he retired in April 1986. Following his presidency Dr. Walvoord was appointed chancellor, and then in May 2001, at the age of 91, he was designated chancellor emeritus of the Seminary. In this role he continued to teach, speak, and write.
In his final weeks Dr. Walvoord was diagnosed with leukemia. During his hospital confinement he told president emeritus, Dr. Donald Campbell, “I want to go to heaven, but the process is tough.”
Walvoord is preceded in death by his son Dr. Timothy P. Walvoord. Survivors include his wife, Geraldine, who has been his partner since their marriage in 1939, sons James R. Walvoord of Manchaca, Texas, John E. Walvoord of Dallas, Paul D. Walvoord of Denton, along with two granddaughters, Currin and Allison Walvoord.
Last year Dr. Walvoord wrote, “I want to be remembered as a person who was faithful to the Word of God, one who never changed or weakened his conviction.… Frankly I don’t think much about how I’m to be remembered. Although I will be remembered, that is not my goal. As I began my ministry, I struggled to do what God wanted me to, whether it was leading a small church or teaching at the Seminary. It never occurred to me to build monuments or to be a great leader. However God chooses to use us is His business. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant’ (2 Cor. 3:5–6, NASB).
“I want to go out teaching His Word. No verse better puts my life in proper perspective than Philippians 1:21: ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’”