Georgetown Prophecy Conference, 2002
Studies in Prophecy

by Darrel Cline

The Concept of Imminency

Question: Is There a New Testament Concept of Imminency and, If So, What is its Value?

Thesis: Without a concept of imminency, there will be an inexorable drift away from faithfulness.

Introductory Remarks: Everyone who deals with the details of the prophetic scenario in respect to the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church knows that they must deal with what is called the doctrine of imminency. If this doctrine is true, pre-tribulational rapturism is established. If this doctrine is not true, the gate is at least open to the development of multiple possibilities regarding the timing of the Rapture. Let me be clear here, the pre-seventieth week Rapture does not depend upon the doctrine of imminency, but if it is a true doctrine, there is no escape from the conclusion that the Rapture must occur before the seventieth week begins. So, the question before us in this session is this question: Is There a New Testament Concept of Imminency and, If So, What is its Value?

  1. I. Nailing Down Our Term.
    1. A. Imminency does not establish immediacy.
      1. 1. The teaching of the return of Jesus Christ is only timed in reference to the seventieth week of Daniel.
      2. 2. There is no teaching that establishes the claim that Jesus will return soon as that term is typically used by men.
        1. a. Soon is relative to the degree that its meaning is impossible to nail down in respect to any particular time.
        2. b. Peter dealt with the soon argument decisively in 2 Peter 3:8.
    2. B. Imminency only establishes the possibility of immediacy.
      1. 1. The concept of imminency is that Jesus could come immediately.
      2. 2. As a concept, imminency completely eliminates the presence of intermediate prophecies.
        1. a. It should go without saying that if imminency is true, there can be no prophecies that must precede the Rapture.
        2. b. That means that the real question is whether imminency is true.
  2. II. Exploring the New Testament teaching about the possibility of immediacy.
    1. A. Luke 12:13-21 compared with 12:33.
      1. 1. This text clearly documents the unfaithfulness of a man whose major thesis was "I've got a good bit of time left to me!"
      2. 2. The exhortation of Jesus in 12:33 is primarily rejected on the basis of the thesis that "I've got a good bit of time left to me!"
    2. B. Matthew 24:45-51 clearly documents what will happen if the evil slave says "My master is not coming for a long time!"
    3. C. What is the difference between living like you could die today, or living like Jesus could come today?
      1. 1. Many think that all this stuff about the timing of the Rapture is much ado about nothing because there is at least as good a possibility that I will die before the day is out as that Jesus will come for us.
      2. 2. The difference is that which exists between having to drink castor oil and getting to eat a big bowl of your favorite dessert...it is a matter of attitude, and attitude is everything when it comes to living the dailies. [Another illustration of the difference is that which exists between a lover's anticipation of the return of the beloved from a vacation and the anticipation of reunion after both have died...i.e., Mary and Martha's perspective on the last-day-resurrection of their brother].
    4. D. Does the New Testament teach a doctrine of imminency?
      1. 1. It is difficult to read Paul's writings about the Rapture and not get the impression that he actively anticipated being one of the changed (I Corinthians 15:51) who is alive and remaining (I Thessalonians 4:15).
      2. 2. When we combine the biblical inevitability of a slide toward unfaithfulness with the impression of personal living participation by Paul, we have a pretty fair argument for imminency.
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