Four reasons why the study of biblical prophecy is
important were presented in previous articles. This
present article will present the fifth reason.
Fifth, the study of biblical prophecy is intended by God
to purify the believerís life and to change his or her
priorities. Two aspects of
prophetic revelation serve that purpose.
The first aspect: The imminency of Christís return.
The English word "imminent" means "hanging over oneís
head, ready to befall or overtake one; close at hand in
its incidence" ("imminent," The Oxford English
Dictionary, 1901, V, 66). Thus, an imminent event is
one that is always hanging overhead, is constantly ready
to befall or overtake a person, is always close at hand in
the sense that it could happen at any moment. Other things
may happen before the imminent event, but nothing
else must take place before it happens. If
something else must take place before an event can happen,
that event is not imminent.
One never knows exactly when an imminent event will
happen. Because of this, a person cannot count on a
certain amount of time transpiring before an imminent
event occurs. Thus, one should always be prepared for it
to happen at any moment.
In light of the meaning of "imminent" and the fact that
the next coming of Christ has not yet occurred, the
concept of the imminent coming of Christ is as follows:
His next coming is always hanging overhead, is constantly
ready to befall or overtake us, is always close at hand in
the sense that it could happen at any moment. Other things
may happen before His coming, but biblically nothing else
must happen before it takes place. If something else must
happen first, then His next coming is not imminent.
The concept of the imminent coming of Christ prompts the
conclusion that we do not know exactly when He will come.
Because of this, we cannot count on a certain amount of
time transpiring before His coming. Therefore, we should
always be ready for Him to come at any moment.
Numerous Bible scholars from various church and
theological backgrounds have concluded that the New
Testament teaches or implies the imminent coming of Christ
in the following passages: 1 Corinthians 1:7; 4:5;
15:51-52; 16:22; Philippians 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thessalonians
1:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; Titus 2:13; James 5:8-9; 1
John 2:28; Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 17, 20.
We shall examine James 5:8-9 as an example of a passage
that teaches the imminency of Christís return. James wrote
the following to believers: "Be ye also patient; stablish
your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be
condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door."
It is important to note that James used the Greek perfect
tense in the verb forms translated "draweth" in the
expression "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" and "standeth"
in the expression "the judge standeth before the door."
The Greek perfect tense refers to an action that was
completed in the past, but the results of that action
continue into the present. Thus, in the first expression
James was saying that the next coming of Christ drew near
in the past before he wrote his epistle, and that it
continued to be near in the present while he was writing
In the second expression James was claiming that there was
a genuine sense in which Christ took His stand as judge at
the door of Heaven before he wrote his epistle, and that
He continued to stand at the door of Heaven in the present
while he was writing his epistle. James thereby implied
that Christ could step through the door of Heaven at any
moment and confront His Church saints as judge at the
Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians
3:10-4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
James clearly indicated that, in light of the fact that
Christ could return at any moment and confront His Church
saints as judge, Christians should be careful how they
treat their fellow believers (v. 9). He thereby implied
the following truth: The fact that Christís next coming is
imminent should make a difference in the way Christians
live. They should be living holy, godly lives every moment
of every day, because in the very next moment Christ could
step through the door of Heaven and confront them
The Apostle John emphasized the same truth when he wrote
the following to Christians: "And now, little children,
abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have
confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming"
(1 John 2:28).
The second aspect: The future destruction of the present
earth and universe. In 2 Peter 3
the Apostle Peter wrote, "the heavens shall pass away with
a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent
heat, the earth also and all the works that are therein
shall be burned up" (v. 10). Peter thereby foretold the
future destruction of the present earth and universe,
including every thing that mankind has designed and made
during the history of this earth. This means that all of
our present material possessions will be totally
In light of the certainty of this future destruction,
Peter then said the following to Christians: "Seeing then
that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of
persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and
godliness" (v. 11). His point was this: The fact that the
present earth, universe and all our material possessions
will be destroyed in the future should make a difference
in our values, priorities and how we live in the present.
We should be holy in our daily conduct. The thing that
should motivate us and give us ultimate meaning and
purpose in life is the glory and pleasing of God, not
money, material things, or the present world system.
Because all these earthly things are temporary and doomed
for destruction, we should conform our values and
priorities to those of the future eternal state (vv.
Are you investing your life in the things that will perish
or the things that will last forever? How are you training
your children to invest their lives? Is your bank in
Heaven, or is your heaven in the bank?
Note: An exposition of the
passages on the imminency of Christís return plus the
comments of New Testament scholars about those passages
could be obtained by ordering my book
Maranatha: Our Lord,Come!.