Apocalypse when? A revelatory evening at the Doubletree

The topic for the evening is the "Battle for the Universe," and from the looks of the brochure, it'll be a bloodbath. Three-headed leopards, winged lions, spiky dragon beasts, and a relatively docile bear with some rib bones in his mouth snarl menacingly in the shadow of the boldface, backlit headline: "Prophetic Revelations, Coming to Charlottesville, Virginia."

The brochure advertises a series of 10 meetings (downstairs at the Doubletree Hotel, no less) with titles like "How Near is Armageddon and the End?" "Who Will Be the Next World Leader?" and "The Greatest Deception of the Beast."

This invitation to "discover how Bible prophecy reveals the future"– liberally illustrated with mushroom clouds, gas masks, and artists' renderings of the Book of Revelations– showed up in mailboxes across town late last month. The flyer itself brought a mixed response. One loyal Hook reader described it as "insanity" and "frightening in its message of fear and doom."

While spiky dragon beasts tend to foreshadow a hefty dose of brimstone, the June 3 meeting delivered anything but.

"The pamphlets are a bit dramatic," admits one assistant. "We're not really the ones who make them."

The speaker on this evening as on every evening of the 10 is W. H. Cave, as pleasant an evangelist as one could hope for, and the message is a very Baptist view of Jesus as personal savior.

"This is for me... God's talking to me," intones Cave. "That's what makes the Bible such an intimate book."

Cave got his revelatory start in the audience rather than in the pulpit. "I came to meetings just like this in Alabama, and they really opened up my understanding of the scriptures," he says. "It changed my life."

Today, Cave travels with an entourage of eight assistants, who hail from all across the country (although many attended the Black Hills Evangelical School in South Dakota). Their salaries are paid from donations although no hat-passing is in evidence this evening and they spend roughly seven to nine months on the road.

"I think the ministry is great," says Linda Vosper, one among the 20 or so citizens who showed up. "It's been very informative."

"The presentation was fantastic, but I guess I have a biased opinion," says a front-row attendee who, it turns out, is Cave's wife, Martha. The happy couple, married for just under a year, met when Martha drove from her home in Harrisonburg for a similar series of meetings in Charlottesville a year ago.

But what about this "Battle for the Universe"? No winged lions?

"What we're seeing around us is a confrontation between God and Satan," says Cave, referencing current and historical events as vestiges of Lucifer's destructive envy. "That's what's being demonstrated for the whole universe it just happens to be taking place on this planet." He adds, "There are other worlds that have been created," but (alas) "There isn't time to get into that now."

And in the end, I think we all know who the Scriptures predict will win this archetypical battle between good and evil on the proving grounds of Earth, our fragile island home.

"Not only will we be restored in the image of God," says Cave, "but we will be even more greatly honored."

Amen to that.