2nd in the series. Starts here.
A commentary on the false premise that prophecy is unknowable and the true imminence of Christ’s Return
I remember I was dialoguing a couple of years ago with someone online about Christ’s Return. After stating that I believe the Church will be present during the Tribulation, the person commented, “You must be one of those premillenial dispensationalists” (I’m not, by the way). My response was, “I don’t even know what that means. I just read the Bible.” Ever since I have endeavored to uncover why there seems to be some sort of breakdown in this area where so many Spirit-filled people can come to different conclusions and I have wondered why there seems to be a lack of belief of Christ’s own words on the matter.
Just today, I was listening to an apologetics personality on the radio whom I greatly respect. People were calling in to say the earthquake in Japan was one of the signs Jesus spoke of in the Olivet Discourse, particularly the earthquakes in various places, and that it was proof the end times were upon us. The host was quick to state that those signs described are events that take place during the Tribulation and that there was nothing on the prophetic calendar that needed to happen before Christ returns. He said Jesus would return before then. He was referencing the Olivet Discourse which is a sequential timeline of events. I wanted to call and ask him why he places those verses about earthquakes inside the Tribulation only to pull out the later verses where Jesus says His Return, and the gathering of His elect is “Immediately after the Tribulation of those days…” and places them before its start [Matthew 24:29-31].
He then went on to say that he generally stays out of the eschatological arguments about the rapture and, in so many words, appealed to the feigned obtuseness of the matter as though, somehow, we simply cannot know what Jesus taught about it. In fact, he proceeded to not take any calls on it and turned the volume down when someone brought it up.
What is this attitude that has developed? This seems to be the attitude of many and I believe it’s entirely unrealistic. It’s like agreeing to not study God’s Word about it because we don’t believe we can ever come to the truth. Jesus says He has told us everything in advance [Mark 13:23] and He places the Rapture in the context of His Coming after the Tribulation [Matthew 24:29-31, 39-41].
When reading the Olivet Discourse, why pull out the verses describing Jesus’ return and the gathering of the elect and place them before the Tribulation starts?
It wasn’t my intention to write this paper specifically on this subject, but I thought it important for us all to realize that when Christ speaks, we can have confidence in what He says. This isn’t an apologetic argument as I have a tendency to deliver as much as it is an appeal to all to simply read His words. When He says the Rapture takes place at the time of His Coming after the Tribulation, we can believe Him. In fact, He states this twice in Matthew 24, once in verses 29-31 and again in verses 39-41.
What of the Imminence of Christ’s Return?
There are those who will say that placing Christ’s Return at the end of the Tribulation removes its imminence because the Tribulation must start first, etc. They will suggest that this kind of thinking promotes spiritual apathy because, if we know certain things must happen before His Return, it allows us time to be slack until then. After reminding them that spiritual slackness is not ever desirable considering they could die at any moment, my question is why should it do either of those things?
It is imminent in that we still do not know the day or the hour [Mark 13:32]. It is imminent in that it will be a time we least expect [Luke 12:40]. It is imminent in that Christ, Himself, does not even know the day or the hour [Matthew 24:36]. These truths are not incompatible.
Why should placing the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation remove the imminence of Christ’s Return when not even He knows the day or the hour?
He prompts us to remain spiritually diligent in Him in order to survive the times ahead and so we won’t be ashamed, or unready, when He does come [Matthew 25:1-13]. On the contrary, I think that believing the Church will not be here during the Tribulation can promote spiritual apathy.
And consider this about Christ’s imminence. Israel had to return to the land before Christ returns. This is what Scripture teaches. This happened in 1948 by a UN declaration. Christ’s Return is either imminent or it is not. It cannot be both. So, my question is, according to a Pre-Tribber’s definition of imminence, how could it not be imminent before Israel’s return and imminent now? Scripture can’t teach both with the same words.
Again, His Return is imminent in that no one knows the day or the hour.
We can have confidence in Christ’s words. He has indeed given us many timelines in prophetic Scripture. We can know the timing not the time of the Rapture and this is not incompatible with the imminence of His Return.