Human nature and imminent Rapture problems: is the expectation of Christ’s imminent return to rapture the church an incentive for holy living? Some think it isn’t. What about other alleged problems?
Every book purporting to debunk pretribulationism has a chapter on imminence. If you can demonstrate that an event must occur before Jesus returns, then it destroys imminence. Hence, pretrib skeptics continue to reach for reasons.
Many of these pertain to events supposedly needing to occur while Jesus’ disciples were still alive. I’ve expressed my sentiments on some of these in a previous article. It seems logical that there was a period of time after Christ’s ascension where imminence wasn’t viable – for example, prior to Pentecost. No doubt there were other reasons as well.
Not all pretribbers hold to early imminence. Alva J. McClain and Arnold Fruchtenbaum have the rapture as imminent after Luke 21:28. This is the beginning of the signs, including the destruction of Jerusalem. McClain further notes that if one views the seven churches of Revelation as traceable historical markers, then the rapture cannot be imminent because of Rev 3:10.
I’ve come across objections against imminence which verge on the desperate. A recent case pertained to 2 Peter 3:3-10. As it goes, scoffers must come in the last days mocking Christ’s promised return. Then “a single day is like a thousand years” language is said to suggest long ages. Therefore, they say the rapture couldn’t have been imminent in Peter’s day.
Of course, they contend that the rapture and Christ’s coming are a single event. Although they deny it, this is a problem for prewrath proponents.
On the other hand non-pretribbers affirm that James 5:8-9 denotes expectancy of events preceding Christ’s coming, rather than imminent rapture. Given that the prewrath and posttrib rapture positions are linked to these events, the 2 Pet 3 arguments then contradict the “expectancy” excuse presented for James’ “at hand & standing at the door” statements.
So which is it? One can’t have it both ways.
Some pretribulationists observe that “the last days” refers to the period between Messiah’s first coming and His return (see 1 John 2:18). We know that Paul was already putting out eschatological fires (2 Thess 2:1-17). Believers were looking for Jesus’ coming then. It’s simplistic to think scoffers weren’t around at the same time.
Nearly two thousand years have now elapsed and we’re well into the last days. And unless one can present bullet proof evidence that an event must occur before the rapture, then we can consider it imminent.
Pretribulationists believe that an imminent return of Christ fosters urgency should be an incentive to holy living. But on a major website designed to refute pretribulationism and promote an opposing viewpoint, one fellow begs to differ. Let’s call him John.
John uses the Californian example of people waiting for the Big Earthquake, and cites an insurance term “Low Probability-Severe Consequence Syndrome”. The idea is that, unlike hurricanes, earthquakes can’t be tracked. Therefore people become complacent and don’t prepare. Presumably, non-pretribbers look for “the signs” (like hurricane trackers) and are prepared.
As a conclusion he speaks broadly of pretribulationists:
Imminency resulting in action is just another assumption by the pretribulationalist with no basis in truth. Although their argument sounds really good at first, ultimately it breeds complacency.
What a load of presumptuous nonsense!
To begin with, most pretribulational ministries look at the signs of the times (especially Israel). Isn’t this what people like Hal Lindsey, Jan Markell, David Reagan, Mark Hitchcock and a host of others have been doing for years? The message has always been that, as we see these signs shaping, the coming of the Lord draws so much nearer – So be prepared!
Charles Spurgeon wasn’t a “prophecy guy.” He was a premillennialist who took a Covenant Theology, historicist view of prophecy and Revelation. Therefore he wasn’t looking out for “hurricanes or earthquakes.” Nevertheless he wrote the following:
Oh, Beloved, let us try, every morning, to get up as if that were the morning in which Christ would come! And when we go up to bed at night, may we lie down with this thought, “Perhaps I shall be awakened by the ringing out of the silver trumpets heralding His coming. Before the sun arises, I may be startled from my dreams by the greatest of all cries, ‘The Lord is come! The Lord is come!'” What a check, what an incentive, what a bridle, what a spur such thoughts as these would be to us! Take this for a guide of your whole life – act as if Jesus would come during the act in which you are engaged – and if you would not wish to be caught in that act by the Coming of the Lord, let it not be your act.
Spurgeon wasn’t alone. There were Alfred Edersheim, the Bonar Bothers, and Robert Murray M’Cheyne etc. These people lived their days seeking holiness, as if Christ might return any moment. Furthermore, we ought to live as if death might take us imminently. For all who came before us, such was the case.
As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. Psalm 103:15-16
Non-pretribbers shouldn’t presume an advantage over pretribbers. The article cited above never explains how expecting tribulation prepares one for it. None of these offerings ever do. Who do we trust for our preparation to meet life’s challenges and death?
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to trust myself. That’s an automatic fail. The problem isn’t with the principle of living under the prospect of Christ’s imminent coming. John was correct regarding Human Nature. Nevertheless we’re all afflicted with the same fallen characteristic, regardless of rapture positions.
So let’s all wise up. Do we daily abide in Christ and trust Him only?
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
…and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. John 10:28
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:38-39
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6
That’s good enough for me. How about you?