Now, where do we get this concept that the Lord could come at any
moment, maybe even today?
Well, there are a number of passages in the New Testament that
really convey that concept and I'd like to deal perhaps with just three of them for our
study today. First, in 1 Corinthians Chapter 16 and verse 22, the Apostle Paul said to the
Corinthian Christians, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be
anathema," and then Paul interjected at the end of this verse, interesting
expression, "Maranatha!" Now, what does that term mean? Well, it's very
interesting to note that that word was derived from the Aramaic language. Let me explain.
The Aramaic language was the language that was spoken in the land of Israel during Jesus'
day. From all we can discern, that was even the language the Jesus spoke while He was here
in the world. It was kind of a mixture of Hebrew and importing things from other languages
where the Jews had lived over the centuries. This was an Aramaic expression. In fact,
"Maranatha" is made up of three Aramaic words. The first one is the word Mar
which meant "Lord, and then the next one is "Ana" which means
"Our" and the third was was "Tha" which means "Come."
So putting it together, Maranatha means "Our Lord, Come."
The interesting thing is, this was in the form of a petition so that when Christians would
make that statement, as Paul did here, he was actually petitioning the Lord to come.
Now, the question is, "Why petition the Lord to come if He
can't come at any moment?" If you know that He can't come until a year from now or
ten years from now or a hundred or a thousand years from now, it would really be useless
to be petitioning the Lord as if He could come right now.
Another intriguing thing about this is that although this is an
Aramaic expression which apparently began with Jewish believers in the Lord Jesus in the
land of Israel during the first century, here Paul uses this word to Greek speaking people
at a Greek Church in the city of Corinth and he's writing it in a letter that he wrote in
the Greek language. And so scholars have asked the question: "Why would Paul throw
out an Aramaic term at people who knew the Greek language and in a Greek book that he's
writing?" Scholars have concluded that the reason for that is that this expression
had become a widespread expression by Christians all over the ancient world. Even though
they may not have known any other expression in the Aramaic language, they learned what
this one meant, so they used it as as byword; some feel they even used it as a greeting
when they would see each other to identify themselves as believers. They would say,
"Maranatha" (Our Lord, Come.) But again, it's conveying a concept that the Lord
could come at any moment, otherwise, why petition Him to come? It's imminency that's being
A second significant passage out of many others in the New Testament
on the imminency of the Lord's return is 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1, verse 10. Here the
Apostle Paul is in this context is talking about commendable attitudes or deeds which were
characteristic of the Thessalonians Christians of this time. And one of those commendable
attitudes or actions was this: they were "waiting for God's Son from Heaven."
Now, some fascinating things about the verb form translated
"wait." That word literally meant "to wait up for," and it was used
back in the ancient world for people who were waiting up for the arrival of a person whom
they were expecting to come. Now, the idea behind that is, they were waiting up for this
arrival. It's the idea that they didn't go to bed at their normal time and the reason they
wouldn't go to bed at their normal time was because they were expecting this person could
arrive at any moment. If they knew that this person couldn't arrive, say, for another
four, five, six hours, the normal thing for them would not be to wait up but to go to bed
for the four, five or six hours. Set the alarm clock if they had alarm clocks at that
time. And then wake up at the time that they knew the person would arrive. So the very
fact that Paul says that the Thessalonian Christians had the attitude of waiting up for
God's Son to come from Heaven tells us that they were expecting Him to come from Heaven at
Another interesting thing about this term, and scholars point this
out, is that this indicates patience and confidence. And in addition, it's in the present
tense and normally in the original language of the New Testament the present tense, unless
the context tells us otherwise, has the idea of a continuous action.
So Paul was teaching here that the Thessalonian Christians were
continuously and patiently awaiting the Lord's coming, waiting up for Him to come, because
they were confident that He could come at any moment. Again, the idea is, they believed in
the imminent return of the Lord Jesus.
Now, a question we could ask at this point was this: Where did they
get this idea from, that the Lord could return at any moment? Well, when you read both the
book of Acts which records what Paul did when he went to the city of Thessalonica on one
of his missionary journeys we find that Paul is the one who taught them what they knew
about the Scriptures and the truth of God.
When you read 1 Thessalonians there are several indications. Paul
reminds them of things that he had taught them when he was with them. So if the Apostle
Paul had been their major teacher of God's truth, to my way of thinking that implies that
Paul was the one who had taught them of the imminent coming of Christ, that He could come
from Heaven at any moment for His believers to take them home to glory to be with Him.
It's very intriguing to notice as well that Paul did not rebuke them or correct them for
having this expectation and this attitude and there's no indication that he rebuked them
or corrected them at all. In fact, when you read the context, he seems to be commending
them for having this attitude. So I get the distinct impression that Paul was fully
convinced himself that the Lord come return at any moment and therefore they were right in
having this expectancy.
Then, a third passage that I'd like to focus our attention upon for
the imminency of the Lord's return is in the book of James and this is found in Chapter 5
of James and we want to begin with verse 7. "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto
the coming of the Lord; behold the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth
and has long patience for it until he receive the early and latter rain. Be you also
patient; establish you hearts, for the coming of the Lord draws nigh. Grudge not one
against another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge stands before the
door." I'd like to draw your attention to two verb forms that James uses here. At the
end of verse 8 he says, "the coming of the Lord draws nigh" and then in verse 9,
"the judge stands before the door." Very important thing to note here is that in
the original language that James wrote, both of those verbs are in what the Greeks called
the perfect tense and the significance of the Greek perfect tense was that it is referring
to an action that was completed in the past but then there is a resultant state that
continues on from that action. It just continues on indefinitely. What James is indicating
there is this: that the Lord's coming had already drawn near before James wrote this
letter and the Lord's coming continues to be near at hand, even while James wrote the
letter and it would continue thereafter. And as well, the judge stands before the door, he
was saying that there's a sense in which Jesus Christ as the Judge of believers took His
position of the door of Heaven and was standing there; He even took that position and
began to stand there before James wrote this epistle and He continues to stand at the door
A number of scholars that I researched on this said James is trying
to emphasize to his readers the imminency of the Lord's return. The idea is, the Lord
could come as the Judge of Heaven through that door of Heaven at any moment and then
immediately, Christians would stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They have
their works as believers evaluated by the Lord. It's imminency that he's talking about
here. And I'm convinced that just as it was imminent back then, the Lord could have
stepped through the door of Heaven at any time; the same is true today -- that Christ
could step through the door of Heaven at any moment and we who are believers in Jesus
Christ would be ushered into His presence and then would stand before Him at the Judgment
Seat of Christ to have our works evaluated by the Lord.