Preparing for the Last Days, man pens guide to the End Times.
Twice in his life, Richard Perry said he has felt God directing him toward a mission. The first time, he helped people in Third World countries get decent homes. The second time, he wrote a book.
In 1984, with his first marriage over and a career in manufacturing management at a crossroads, he felt the calling voice of God.
"I was praying," he said recently at his Winterville home, "and I said, 'Lord help me find my work.' I heard him say - not audibly, but in my mind's ear - he said, 'Not your work. My work.' A year later, I was in Guatemala."
Perry left his managerial job in Rochester, N.Y., and joined Habitat for Humanity. He spent 10 years with the nonprofit organization, mostly in Central American countries, but the last few at the home headquarters in Americus.
He came to Athens after leaving Habitat for another industrial job at a plant in Madison County. Less than two years later, he was working at the DuPont plant in Athens.
And it was here that events spurred by another prayer led to the publication of a book on a subject Perry had been studying for several years - the second coming of Christ, or the last days. This month, Alpha Books released Perry's book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Last Days."
The Idiot's Guides are a set of popular books that cover a range of subjects ranging from such topics as photography and health to the FBI. A spokeswoman for the publisher said the series began in 1989 and currently has 450 different books in print.
In the 1990s, the "Left Behind" fictional series of books on the Second Coming were becoming popular and Perry decided to study the topic. Without a TV at home, he began reading every book he could find on the subject.
"I have about 180 books on Eschatology (the study of the end times)," he said. "I wanted to make sure, as I was studying, that I was considering everyone's point of view as I studied the Scripture."
But before the idea of writing a book ever dawned, Perry said he was praying for a Bible class he was teaching when he heard God say "See Dr. Schaefer."
"I didn't know a Dr. Schaefer," he said, but as he searched his memory, he remembered reading about Henry Schaefer, a highly regarded chemist who is also known for his views on Christianity and science, at the University of Georgia. He called the professor's office and secured a meeting and the two discussed his conclusion about the book of Revelation and other facets of the end of times.
Before they parted, Schaefer admonished, "You're supposed to write a book."
But Perry said he didn't feel like he was a writer. However, in 2003 he wrote "Of the Last Days" and paid to have it published himself. He sold a few and gave most away.
Then he felt God wanted him to take the message in the book to local pastors. He sent out inquiries to all pastors in the area asking for a meeting. He met with 86 as he tried to get this message into their hands and ask their opinions.
Then in November 2005, for no apparent reason, a literary agent called and asked him to write a book on the subject for the Complete Idiot's Guide series.
"They found me, a nobody in terms of the theological field," he said.
But Perry said he has studied more books and examined the Bible more carefully than anything he has ever done, so he felt confident he knew the material.
He and publisher came to terms and Perry wrote the book according to their format, which tries to break subjects down into easily understood terms.
Perry takes the Second Coming and addresses it on more than just the Book of Revelation.
"You have whole sections of Revelations come out of the prophets of Zechariah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and a lot in Daniel's prophecy. Most all of the stuff in Revelations is in the Old Testament," he explained.
And he said Jesus also addressed the Second Coming during the "Olivet Discourse," where he answered questions posed by the disciples.
Speaking to his disciples, "he gave them a whole series of signs. Most of us have heard of them over the years, even if we're not church people," he said.
Perry said there are three important points made in his book.
First, he said there is no Pre-Tribulation Rapture as promoted in the "Left Behind" series. That belief, which is very popular, contends Jesus will take his followers before the horrors of the seven-year tribulation begin.
Secondly, he said churches are supposed to be teaching "now" what the Scripture says about the Second Coming.
And thirdly, he said, "there are grave consequences if the church does not wake up to this topic."
Perry said some pastors avoid this topic because there are many points of view about the end of time, and they could offend or cause division among their congregations.
"I find the Bible is saying to the followers of Christ, 'You better be ready for this,'" he said.
Perry said the world could be in the 40- to 60-year timeframe for the end of time, but there is no way to know at the moment.
But based on what he explains in the book, there will be signs when the time is near.
"You won't know exactly where we are until the last 31/2 years," he said.