More from our Interview with Robert Coleman
By Michael C. Mack
Christian Standard interviewed Robert Coleman for our feature article in the August 2019 issue. Some material didn’t find a place in the print/digital magazine, but we felt it was too good not to share.
How Coleman Came to Christ
After high school, Coleman attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where he had an athletic scholarship.
One day, Coleman says, a guy on the football team asked him what he was going to do when he graduated—a question he hadn’t given much thought to before. He responded, “Well, you can’t tell. I might be a lawyer; I might even be a preacher.” Coleman chuckles, more with his eyes than his voice. “Sometimes you say something that’s a prophecy and don’t realize it. One of the guys heard that and invited me to his little country church to preach.” Coleman says he feels sorry for the people of that church, because, though he had grown up in the church, he had never accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord of his life. He preached out of some theological books he read.
Soon after, in 1947, he was asked to preach every other night at a youth revival in Temple, Texas. As the various speakers gathered together before the event, praying together for God’s blessings and for people to respond, Coleman says he was convicted of his own need for God’s grace. “And it’s affected everything since. The change was obvious not only to me but everyone on campus.
“I’m sympathetic with people who have grown up in a church but never heard the gospel! There are millions of them like that in America, and I was one of them.”
Coleman shows me his Bible, obviously old and well-worn. Tape around the outside binding holds it together. He tells me a missionary gave him a new Bible, but he left it out in the rain and a dog ate a corner off of it, but he wants to find someone to put a new cover on it. He always keeps his Bible in front of him when he teaches and preaches, and “I sometimes just reach down and hold it, because when I hold the Bible, I feel like I’m holding the hand of Jesus.” As we talk, he holds his Bible close to his heart, but now he raises it above his head. “This is the book that told me about Jesus. And he said, ‘You search the Scriptures; they testify about me. We never learn too much from this book. And it gets sweeter as we get older. I keep finding things I didn’t see before.”
When I ask Coleman to share his thoughts on Heaven, he teaches me what he has taught his students for many years about the seraphim, the white-robed elders, the 12 patriarchs and 12 apostles, the myriads of angels, all of creation, every continent, every tribe, every kindred, every people, all praising the Lamb who sits on the throne.
His voice sometimes trembles as he speaks about Heaven, the cross, the blood, the Lamb that has been slain, the only One who is worthy, the Lord God almighty. “Oh, the beauty of it,” he says as though he’s actually looking at the scene. “Heaven.”
As he speaks from Revelation, it’s not like he’s quoting the Bible, though he is . . . it’s as though he’s seeing a celebration awaiting him. He straightens in his chair, lifts his head, and leans toward me—it’s obvious he doesn’t want me to miss one word of this. His voice that was faltering moments ago is strong; he shifts into preaching mode. He gestures with his hands as he talks, pointing his index finger up toward the heavens and then at me to bring home his point.
He shifts his attention to a deep valley he went through several years ago, a struggle he wondered how he would get through. “The spring in my step was missing,” he says. “There wasn’t any sparkle in my eye. Then I remembered Paul told the church to ‘set your affection on things above where Christ sits at the right hand of God.’
“So I started to focus on the book of Revelation and what was clear. And what is clear is the worship of God on the throne. As the conditions in the world get worse, the intensity of worship increases.” He continues talking about Revelation, worship, the final judgment, and the wedding of the Lamb. He closes his eyes and speaks the words of Revelation 19 as if he’s envisioning this wedding feast. He refers to a book he wrote years ago on the topic: Songs of Heaven, which has been republished with the title, Singing with the Angels.
“One thing is certain,” he says, “We will be looking at him who sits on the throne and our intention will be to give glory to him who is worthy.” Coleman has been speaking of Heaven with a reverent tone for several minutes, but his voice now escalates as he once again leans forward. “The chief aim of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever!” he shouts, and I wonder if his neighbors can hear him. “That’s the reason for existence! The only purpose for breathing in this world is to give glory to God. And nothing will finally remain unless it gives that glory to him who is worthy.” I can’t help but respond with an Amen. I’ve forgotten this is an interview; it feels more like an old-time revival meeting now. “Everything now focuses on God, who is worthy of our praise forever.
“So it comes down to worship, doesn’t it? It comes down to the realization that we were made from the beginning to be with God. So, he made us in his own image so he can enjoy fellowship with us forever, he gave us a mind so we can know him, he gave us a will so we can love him. Love is a choice. Love, of course, encompasses even the suffering. It encompasses the cross. And that’s what makes it so beautiful. . . . There’s no exhaustion of how great a God we serve.”