Is Christ Imminent? Wait a minute!

“Pre-wrath eschatology is wrong because it denies the Imminent return of Christ”

This post continues with the series of “Addressing Criticisms”. However, it really turned into something that needed to stand alone as a journal article. This statement is the first point of criticism I have addressed here that actually accurately combats my position. Both of my previous posts addressing criticisms showed how the opposition manipulated the message or the scriptures into something it’s not, for the sake of their own argument. There is less of that here. George W Zeller is the face of much of the represented criticism I have brought to light. He is correct with his description of pre-wrath eschatology in regard to denying the imminent return of Christ. I do deny the “doctrine” of imminency. However, the conclusion Zeller makes is a false premise fallacy because the imminency of Christ’s return is a false doctrine. A position is only wrong when it denies clear scripture regarding the topic. Scripture is my standard, not an assumed theological position with no scriptural basis.

I can’t even count the number of times I have heard someone proclaim, “Jesus could come back at any moment! Even right this SECOND!” (with a loud clap to wake everyone up in the pews) You may also have seen some freaky videos online showing a church staging an imminent rapture where that very thing happened. About 90% of the people just vanished in the blink of an eye, leaving behind their clothing. The remaining few fell to their knees and knew that they have been left behind.

Is that really what the Bible teaches? Does the Bible really teach that there will be no signs or warnings of His return to gather together his believing children? Can it really happen at any moment? We will let scripture answer that for us.

First, however, I would like to specify what is meant by “imminent”. The concept of imminency means that there are absolutely no other prophesied events that still need to take place before the rapture. The rapture will happen without any signals of it approaching and could theoretically happen as you are reading this right now. (clap!!) Alongside the pre-trib movement came the first hearing of the so-called doctrine of imminency from the mouth of John N. Darby in the 1800’s. Prior to the 1800’s there was no such evidence to suggest the church had this view. If that surprises you, just know that even pre-tribbers, if they are honest, know this as well. Take Dr. Larry Crutchfield, for example. He is widely considered to be an expert in church history. He is also a Pre-tribber. He dug far and wide for any shred of evidence to suggest that imminence was taught in early church writings. He came up very short handed. He quotes,

“While there are in the writings of the early fathers seeds from which the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture could be developed, it is difficult to find in them an unequivocal statement of the type of imminency usually believed in by pretribulationists.”

This isn’t new news. Imminency, along with it’s counterpart, pre-tribulationsim, was made up in the 1800’s. Ironically, Crutchfield noted earlier that the early church believed in something he decided to call, “imminent intra-tribulationism”. This was the belief that the rapture will come after the Antichrist was revealed, the abomination of desolation takes place, followed up by the persecution of Christians. Only at that point did they believe that the rapture would be imminent. Hmm, this sounds very familiar. In regard to the historicity of pre-wrath eschatology, I made an entire journal article about this, called, “Not New Wine”. Again, I am in very good company. I may believe something that lots of mainstream brainwashed Christians believe today. But I hold to the same belief that the early church believed. (and what’s clearly stated in the Bible) I feel pretty good about that. This is a pre-tribulationist admitting this. These are not just my words.

Let’s get to more of the meat of the message though. The first wave of verses that are often used to support an imminent rapture are what I am calling, the “watching and waiting” verses.

Philippians 3:20 says,

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”

1 Corinthians 1:7 says,

“so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”

1 Thessalonians 1:10 says,

“and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Titus 2:13 says,

looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”

1 Thessalonians 5:6 says,

“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”

Titus 2:13 says,

looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”

I’m going to ask you a simple series of questions. Are you eagerly waiting for summer to come? (Or insert your own favorite time of year?) Are you eagerly waiting for your favorite holiday to come? If you are in college, are you looking at your calendars, eagerly waiting for graduation? If you are engaged, aren’t you looking forward to your wedding day and eagerly waiting for it? Now, for any of those things, does the fact that you are eagerly waiting for them mean that they are imminent? Does waiting for something mean that they are the very next thing to happen? No. Logically speaking, there is nothing to suggest by these verses that they speak of a rapture as if it’s the very next prophetic thing to happen. It just simply means we are waiting eagerly for them. In fact, even in a Greek word study on the terms “waiting” or “to await”, it becomes obvious that they have zero implication in regard to imminency. Nothing points towards the idea that the event has to be the very next thing to take place or could happen at any moment. It reflects kind of exactly as we would come to understand it in English. We wait for things even if they are not imminent. Even if there are other events that take place beforehand, we eagerly wait for it.

There is also an issue with the logical consistency of this assumptious defining of the term “waiting” or “watching” to mean imminent. 2 Peter 3:13 says,

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

This is the same terminology we saw before in regard to the rapture. However, Peter, in this passage, says that we look for the new heavens and the new earth. If we manipulated the phrase, to “look for”, to mean this event is imminent, it would lead us to believe that the creation of the new heaven and new earth is imminent. In other words, no other prophetic event would take place prior to this. Every pre-tribber would agree that is not the case. This makes the logic of assuming that “eagerly waiting”, “looking for”, or “waiting for” prescribes imminency, not logical at all. It is inconsistent. We eagerly wait for and look forward to the new heavens and new earth as we do the return of Christ even though they are not imminent events.

The next few passages used to push imminency are the “quickly coming” passages.

Revelation 22:7 says,

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:12 says,

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

Revelation 22:20 says,

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.

I don’t really get how you can read that and just conclude that it means no other prophetic event will happen before Christ returns. The same argument I used before still stands here. In NY, where I grew up, it seemed like the moment we started seeing snow we began saying, “Christmas will be here before you know it!” or “Christmas is coming quickly”. Does that mean it’s imminent? Not at all! Most of the time we still have Thanksgiving to think about by the time it starts snowing. These terms don’t prove anything. Just because something is coming quickly does not mean its imminent. It means it’s coming quickly. We need to take the terms as they are and not manufacture meaning into them.

Then there are the “near” passages.

Philippians 4:5 says,

“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand

Hebrews 10:24-25 says,

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

James 5:8 says, “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

“Well, the Bible said this over 2000 years ago. It’s been a long time since it said the day was drawing near. That must mean it’s imminent!” That’s the argument. The impatience of pre-trib eschatology drove them to change the meaning of words and neglect obvious scripture describing events that must still happen before Christ comes. For example, when we look at the greater context of James chapter 5, we see more clearly what James was pointing us to. James 5:7-9 says,

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

The analogy created here in this passage directly points to Matthew 24, when Jesus gives the parable of the fig tree. Matthew 24:32-33 says, “

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”

The interesting part about this passage is that though it mentions the nearness of Christ’s return, it explicitly mentions signs and events that take place beforehand. That’s why it says, “when you see all these things, you know that it is near”. Matthew 24 is jam-packed with signs and events clearly stated that are to happen before the rapture.

So yes. Christ’s return is drawing near. But that doesn’t mean it’s the very next thing on the schedule.

Ladies and gentlemen, in short, that is the doctrine of imminency. It’s weak, based on indirect terminology, and is inconsistent. Now it’s my turn. Not only is the supposed evidence for it very weak, but the evidence against it is overwhelmingly clear.

The first point directly against imminency is that Paul knew Christ wasn’t going to come back in his lifetime, therefore, if he taught imminency, it would make him a liar.

In Acts 9:15-16, Paul was said to be a “chosen instrument to proclaim my (God’s) name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” He was also prophesied that Paul would suffer much for the sake of Christ. In order for that all to happen, Christ’s return couldn’t be imminent.

In Acts 16:9, God told Paul to go and preach in Macedonia. So he knew Christ wasn’t going to come before then.

In 1 Corinthians 4:9, Paul declares that God has destined for the apostles to die as though they are in an arena to be a spectacle for the universe. If that’s the case, as long as Paul and the Apostles are living, there is no way he could say that Christ’s return is imminent.

In Philippians 1:20-26, Paul gives himself two options going forward. He will either continue to live on and share the gospel or die to see Christ. He didn’t suggest a third option where Christ returns for him. This, again, suggests that Paul already knew that Christ’s return wasn’t imminent. Paul knew he would face death before Christ came.

This is what it comes down to. Since Paul knew that he would face death, if he taught that Christ could return at any moment, it would make God a liar. I believe that the Bible is absolutely inerrant and completely inspired by God. If the Holy Spirit moved in Paul to suggest that Christ could come at any moment, then we have a major problem.

The same problem arises with Peter. In John 21:18-19, Jesus tells Peter he will grow old. It says,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

So, again, Peter didn’t teach imminency because he knew he was destined to die an old man. He doubles down on this in 2 Peter 1:14 to make it clear that he was aware of this prophesy regarding his death in old age. At the very least, we know that Christ couldn’t have come back during the apostles’ lifetimes. Therefore, the idea that the apostles taught imminency is already debunked. However, there’s much more to say regarding this.

The second point that directly goes against the concept of imminency is that the Bible was written before 70 AD. There are 2 prophecies that need to be understood here. First, we see in scripture that during Daniel’s 70th week (seven), also known as the final 7 years of Daniel’s prophesy, there is mention of a Jewish state. (Daniel 9:27) We also know that during this final 7 years there needs to be a temple in this Jewish state because that is where, at the midpoint, the antichrist will sit and claim to be God. (Abomination of Desolation) At the time of the writing, if we dismiss all the prophecy we already presented regarding the apostles’ deaths, sure, Christ’s return could be imminent. However, in 70 AD Jerusalem was attacked and ransacked. The Jews who survived the assault dispersed all throughout the world to save themselves. From then on, until 1948, Jews had no Jewish state. It was not a nation again until 1948. This means Christ’s return could not be imminent from 70 AD through 1948 because Biblical prophecy foretells that Israel will be a nation during the final 7 years. The doctrine of Imminency could not be held on to during all this time. There was no temple. In fact, there still is no temple in the state of Israel today. So even now, this issue remains. Christ’s return is not imminent as long as these things are not intact.

Here is another issue that a lot of people don’t really think about. In Revelation 9:16-19 it describes the sixth trumpet judgement of God’s wrath. At this time, it is said that there will be 200 million soldiers sent forth to kill from the areas surrounding the Euphrates River. That is a MASSIVE army! Why does this create a problem for the doctrine of imminency? Well, it’s commonly understood that at the time the New Testament was written, the world population was about 250 million. That’s not soldiers. That’s commonfolk in general. The armies would have been drastically less than this number. Here’s some perspective: in WWII, there was about 50 million armed soldiers in all the world combined. Still, nowhere close to the numbers prophesied about in Revelation. Now, there is about 200 million soldiers available in all of Asia. We are a lot closer to this number, however, the prophesy in Revelation also states that they were all mounted troops. In other words, if we apply that to the type of weapons we have today, it’s probably referring to tanks or other military vehicles. No nation in the middle-east or Asia has to capacity to fully equip and arm 200 million soldiers. The simple logic here is that Christ’s return could not possibly be imminent in a world unable to produce the type of armies and manpower described in the final 7 years Christ’s return is said to commence. We are definitely a lot closer though.

Let’s say that all of this evidence is meaningless as well. Let’s start over again and assume that nothing against the imminence of Christ’s return has been brought forward. In my opinion, there is nothing clearer than truth of God’s Word. I don’t need to twist it, pull it, bend it, bop it, or manipulate it. It says what it needs to say loud and clear. Here is why Christ’s return is not imminent:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 says,

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…” Before I even continue; what is this passage about to talk about? When do believers in Christ become gathered unto the Lord? Answer: The Rapture. Paul is talking to the gentile Thessalonian church. Concerning the rapture of believers – a topic this church has a history of being concerned about – this is what I (Paul) have to say about it…

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.”

Second note to make, as we pause here for a second, is that Paul connects the day we are gathered unto Christ with the Day of the Lord. Concerning the day we are gathered unto Him, don’t be alarmed by those who assert that this day (The Day of the Lord) has already come. The Thessalonians are notorious for thinking that they already missed the rapture. Paul is once again comforting them with the news that they have not missed it. He then continues to comfort them with news that there are proceeding events that will let them know the time is drawing near. He continues on in verse 3 to say,

“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”

It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Paul says, “I know you guys are freaking out because you think you missed the rapture. Here’s some good news, you haven’t missed it. In fact, here are some things that must still happen before that day comes…” Imagine that! Paul lays out exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 24 in regard to the Rapture! The rapture will not come until a great period of Apostasy takes place and after the Abomination of Desolation takes place. That means it happens just past the midway into the final 7 years of Daniel’s 70th week. Where is the imminency in that?

“But Brad, keep reading! Paul talks about a restrainer that will be taken out of the way. That’s the Holy Spirit within believers.” Great. Let’s get this silly argument out of the way again. 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 says,

“Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed.”

“See Brad, the Holy Spirit within believers is restraining this from taking place. We are raptured, then the antichrist will be revealed and the final 7 years begins.” This is such a contradictory statement. What is Paul talking about in this chapter? He’s talking about the rapture of believers. He then lays out things that must come before the rapture takes place very clearly. Now you are trying to say that the rapture of believers is the very thing that is in the way of the rapture happening?? That is completely illogical. Again, if we were just told that the abomination of desolation – the event where the antichrist sits on the throne and declares himself to be God – proceeds the rapture, that means the rapture CANNOT proceed the revealing of the antichrist. Capisce? Good.

The Lord is coming back soon. His coming is near. We eagerly wait for Christ to return and gather both the living and dead in Christ unto Him. That is a glorious day not overshadowed by any event proceeding it. We eagerly yet patiently wait because there are, in fact, events foretold to take place before He comes. The Bible doesn’t teach “any-moment-ness”. It teaches us to be prepared, be watchful, be ready, and to be sharers of the Gospel in the meantime. There is only one moment when Christ’s return will be imminent. That is the moment right before he comes. Luke 21:25-28 says,

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

This Parallel to Matthew 24’s account of the rapture makes it clear. When you see the signs in the sky: the sun and moon darkening, the stars falling from heaven, the great earthquake shaking even the oceans, the heavens rolling back like a scroll, when you see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, stand up and lift your heads! Christ’s return is IMMINENT! Our redemption is here!!

So, I agree. Christ’s return will be imminent… when the Bible says it will be. At that moment these signs take place, the rapture, our redemption, will be imminent.

2 Peter 3:8-9 says,

“do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

He is coming back. Though we may feel that it’s been a long time and may be tempted to wish away the other things said to proceed it. The fact of the matter is that God’s timing and schedule of events is perfect. God is maximizing the number of souls to be gathered with Him for eternity. Let’s not get slack in our preparedness. Get into the Word of God. Read it for yourself. Get to know the Lord more. Get to know His plan for us more. Let the Holy Spirit be your primary teacher of the Word and don’t always assume the Words of men. That final generation of believers is going to be special! They are going to be purified by fire! I want to be a part of it so bad. But that’s why I know my purpose right now is to share this message. I want to be used by God to help prepare us for the great trials and tribulations ahead. I pray that this post challenged you and caused you to think deeper about God’s Word.

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