|By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©1996|
|Bible Prophecy Questions Answered by Leading Christian Scholars.|
Dr. Renald Showers: One of the passages that indicates that Christ could come back at any moment is 1 Thessalonians 1:10 where the Apostle Paul is talking about an outlook or attitude that the Thessalonian Christians had in the first century. He indicates of them that they were "waiting for His Son [God’s Son] from heaven whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus." It’s interesting that the tense of the verb "wait" here is that of a continuous action. They were continually waiting for Jesus to come from Heaven. And the words translated "to wait" literally mean "to wait up for." The analogy is that Paul was implying that people will wait up for the arrival of an individual if they are convinced that individual could arrive at any moment. They will not go to bed at their normal time. They will wait up for him to arrive because they are convinced that he could come at any moment.
If they knew he could not come, say, for another five hours, they wouldn’t wait up for him beyond their normal time to go to bed. They’d go to bed. They’d sleep for the five hours, and then have their alarm wake them up five hours later so they’d be awake whenever he would come.
And so the concept is that the Thessalonian Christians had the understanding that they should be in essence constantly waiting up for the Lord Jesus to come from Heaven to take them to be with Him and the reason they should have that constant attitude is because He could come at any moment and take them out of the world to be with Him. That is the idea of imminence.
It’s very interesting that Paul did not tell the Thessalonians that they were wrong to have that concept of the imminence of the Lord’s return; in fact, if you read the whole context, the implication comes across he was commending them for having that attitude that the Lord could come at any moment.
Now, as soon as you say that He cannot come, say, until the middle of the Tribulation, since the seven-year Tribulation hasn’t started yet then you’re saying, "Well, He can’t come for at least another three and a half years," that destroys the concept of imminence, because you’re saying, therefore, He couldn’t come today. He couldn’t come "at any moment".
If you’re going to say that He can’t come for about three fourths of the Tribulation period, again, that destroys the concept that He could come at any moment. Or if you’re going to say as some sincere Christians do that He can’t come until the Second Coming after the Tribulation period, in other words, you’re saying that He can’t come for another seven years, that destroys the concept of imminence.
Really, the only view of the timing of the Rapture of the Church that fits the New Testament concept of imminence is the pre-Tribulation Rapture view which says, although many things may happen before the Lord comes, biblically there’s nothing that must happen. He could come at any moment. We can’t count on any time period between now and the Lord’s coming and therefore, we should be ready every moment, moment by moment, for the Lord to come and we meet Him face to face.