Pastor Ray Bentley Passes: Life Was ‘an Adventure’ with Jesus
Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Steve Shambeck
Pastor Ray Bentley, the founding pastor of Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, passed away due to complications from COVID-19 on Tuesday, January 4. “We are all in shock and heartbroken. We find comfort in knowing that he is rejoicing in heaven with his beloved Jesus. … Please pray for [his wife] Vicki and their family and for our church,” states his website.
Life: An Adventure with God
Pastor Ray often described his walk with Jesus as a journey, an adventure, and a growing relationship in which God wants to take all of His people deeper in the knowledge of His love.
In his last sermon at Maranatha Chapel on December 19, Ray testified, “Our God, He invites you into an adventure. That’s been my whole story.” Pastor Ray planted Maranatha Chapel in August 1984, teaching a midweek Bible study in a recreation center with 30 people; today the church in San Diego serves 7,000 people weekly and has a large Christian school. Pastor Ray has preached at a Billy Graham-sponsored crusade in India, among other outreaches in England, Scotland, Australia, Ireland, Africa, China, and the Philippines.
His daily Maranatha Radio show broadcasts across the United States and around the world. He authored eight books including his latest, As the Days of Noah, part of a fictional end-times series, and The Holy Land Key, a nonfiction book about Israel in prophecy released in 2014. His book profits go to the Nehemiah Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing the Jewish people.
Despite his many accomplishments, Pastor Ray believed that the purpose of life was not to increase in works but to grow closer to Jesus Christ. He urged his flock to daily seek the Lord through times of personal prayer, Bible study, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
In a recent podcast, Pastor Ray cautioned, “The temptation for every believer is to say, ‘I have accomplished something. I’ve learned … grown. And I’ll settle for where I am now … but the whole point [of the Christian life] is not about arriving. As we see with Abraham, it’s the walk with God, knowing the Lord, experiencing an intimacy with God along the way. …We were designed to walk with our Creator.”
Pastor Ray cited Ephesians 2:7, which says, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. … Even in heaven, he explained, the journey with God will continue. He elaborated, “Throughout the ages, He will be revealing more and more of His grace and mercy to us. Otherwise, heaven would be boring. I believe He has planned … whole new dimensions and realms of sights and sounds … an unending book as it were, going ‘further up and further in’ (C.S. Lewis).” Part of going deeper with the Lord now, he said, is spending time in the Word daily, “letting God’s Word pierce us” so that we do not become “dull of hearing.”
Pastor Ray, left, would often fellowship with congregants after Maranatha Chapel services.
Another aspect of going deeper with the Lord—lived and taught by Pastor Ray—involves putting faith into action through reaching out to others. In a column about his first trip to Africa, Ray exhorted others: “Don’t be afraid to go deeper, to launch out where the Lord directs. Don’t stand on the shore of life and watch the river flow by. Don’t harden your hearts to the sounds and needs of humanity. Jesus didn’t. He heard it all. He wept, He prayed, and He gave Himself. Look around you—whether it be overseas or right in your own neighborhood, the river flows constantly, the needs are great. Is it messy? Uncomfortable? Tiring? Even dirty and painful at times? Oh yes. But you won’t die from the heartache or the giving. You’ll find joy. In fact, only then will you be truly alive.”
Christ within: Our Hope of Glory
In his last sermon, Pastor Ray quoted Colossians 1:27, To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He explained, “Jesus is the greatest divine revelation in the universe. If you know Him, you have the key to everything.”
The cross is the revelation of God’s divine love for humankind, said Ray, citing Romans 8:32, He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
He explained: “Basically, God is saying, if He was willing to give His son to be nailed, beaten and crucified for you, then is there anything He would not do for you the rest of eternity? … In other words, ‘You’re going to be My sons and My daughters; you’re going to rule and reign with Me. I’m going to blow your mind with what I do in you and through you. You can’t even fathom where you’re going to go in the eons of eternity, and the depths of My eternal being that I’m going to [make known] to you.’ That’s what we’re headed for.”
Pastor Ray added, “We are in a way glorious ruins, and one day we will be gloriously restored. There’s no other creation in the universe made in the likeness of God. We will be totally, thoroughly restored; and the Bible says that we will shine so brightly reflecting the light of Christ, we will shine like stars for all eternity.”
Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3
Pastor Ray Bentley and Maranatha Chapel were featured in Issue 68 of Calvary Chapel Magazine. Click here to read the article.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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