Biblical Eschatology

A Biblical study of eschatology and the pre-tribulational & post-tribulational rapture views of the end times.

Is the Doctrine of Imminence Biblical?

The imminent return of Christ is the cornerstone of the pre-trib rapture. When a pre-trib proponent hears things like "the day of the Lord will come like a thief" and that we are "waiting for and earnestly desiring the parousia," they would argue it's talking about imminency.

These arguments can be very compelling. Obviously, if something were to occur like a thief, then it must be possible to occur at any moment, right? Or if it's something we're waiting and looking for, it must also be imminent, right? If you are pre-trib and agree that those two phrases refer to the imminent return of Christ, then you don't realize the passages I quoted were from passages that all theologians from all camps agree, do not refer to a pre-trib rapture.

2 Peter 3:10 ESV
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
The "and then" in 3:10 is from the Greek ἐν ᾗ, which is literally translated "in which." In other words, it is saying when the day of the Lord arrives, the heavens will pass away.
2 Peter 3:12 ESV
waiting for and hastening the coming (parousia) of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
In 3:12 the "because of which" is from the Greek δι' ἣν, literally translated "through which."
Matthew 24:40-44 NET
40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 "Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Matthew 24:40-44 is another passage, that when read by a pre-tribulationist, can be assumed to refer to the imminent coming of Jesus. However, as explained by the pretribulationist John Hart, Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago; on this passage, he states:

"But pretribulationists must admit that at first glance, the reference to one taken from a field or mill while another is left behind (24:40–41) sounds unusually similar to the pretribulational rapture described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Jesus' teaching that no one knows 'that day and hour' (24:36) also seems most applicable to the imminent return of Christ at the pretribulational rapture. But since the 'coming' of Jesus in verses 29–31 is mentioned just five verses before the 'coming' of Jesus discussed in verses 36–44, pretribulationists have felt compelled by context to reject a rapture in verses 36–44."1

In fact, the primary issue with the doctrine of imminence is that the majority of verses that look like they are describing an imminent event, pre-trib theologians generally concede that they are a reference to the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. In regards to the Olivet Discourse, Dr. John Walvoord states that "Pretribulationists agree that there is no pretribulational Rapture mentioned in this passage."2

In fact, I have heard at least one pre-trib pastor teach that since the rapture is a mystery doctrine, it is first taught by Paul, and therefore they believe the rapture is nowhere mentioned in any of the gospels.

The reason pre-trib theologians have stepped back on finding a pre-trib rapture is based on context. In Matthew 24:3 the context was the questions posed by the disciples "when will these things be (i.e., the destruction of the temple), and what will be the sign of your coming παρουσίας (parousia) and of the end of the age?"

Jesus never clarifies that He will come back more than once. The Greek noun παρουσίας (parousia) is singular, not plural. So the disciples believed in a singular future return of Jesus. In these passages, Jesus never clearly outlines that there will be more than one return.

The first time Jesus mentions His return in this passage, He clearly states it occurs "Immediately after the tribulation of those days."
Matthew 24:29-30 ESV
29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Without mentioning any other coming, Jesus states, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36 ESV). Jesus then clearly identifies that the next explanation is the same coming he just talked about. "For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming ἡ παρουσία (parousia) of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:37 ESV).

In the Book Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Dr. Daniel Wallace explains that "The anaphoric article is the article denoting previous reference." "The first mention of the substantive [i.e., noun or word functioning as a noun] is usually anarthrous [i.e., doesn't have the definite article] because it is merely being introduced. But subsequent mentions of it use the article, for the article is now pointing back to the substantive previously mentioned."3

In Matthew 24:37, Jesus used the Greek word ἡ παρουσία (parousia) as the disciples had, but this time with the article ἡ. Here Matthew is using the literary device of an Anaphoric Article which is used to denote the Previous Reference back to the first initial use of parousia in Matthew 24:3, where παρουσίας (parousia) is anarthrous, in other words in verse 3 parousia is not preceded by the definite article.

Jesus again uses the Greek article in Matthew 24:39, where it says, "and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming ἡ παρουσία (parousia) of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:39 ESV).

So the main point of the Anaphoric Article, to boil it down into laymen's terms, the literary device was used to show that the coming (parousia) in Matthew 24:3 and then in verses 37 and 39 are all referring to the same coming (parousia).

Additionally, verses 39 and verse 40 in Matthew 24 are one thought that should be read together. I would translate the Greek to read, "and they were not aware [of what was happening] until the flood started and all were expunged. The parousia of the Son of Man [will take place] in a similar manner. At the time [when this parousia takes place], two will be in the field, and one will be taken, and one is left."

This is why John Hart can't with a clear conscience say that verses 40-41 refer to the pre-trib rapture since this is just a further explanation of Jesus' post-trib parousia.

Continuing on in Matthew 24, another verse is found that sounds like it could refer to an imminent event.
Matthew 24:50-51 ESV
50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
However, the reference made by Jesus to there being "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is a reference to the day of judgment when all unbelievers will be damned.

For instance:
Matthew 8:12 ESV
while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 13:41-42 ESV
41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:49-50 ESV
49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 22:13 ESV
Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 25:30 ESV
And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Luke 13:27-28 ESV
27 But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!' 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
Chapter 25 starts with the parable of The Ten Virgins. The consummation of the parable, when the unwise virgins are left, it says, "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you' (Matthew 25:11-12 ESV). Through these verses, Jesus is making it clear that when He returns, there is no second chance for salvation. The door is shut. It is a parallel to Luke 13:27-28, which I previously quoted above, which also confirms there will be no second chance for salvation.

This post-tribulational parable of The Ten Virgins again wraps up with another verse that could be confused as a statement of imminence. "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:13 ESV).

This is then followed by the parable of Talents, which ends in a judgment of the righteous and wicked servants. The judgment begins with, "Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them" (Matthew 25:19 ESV).

These righteous servants are greeted with "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21 ESV). But what happens to the wicked servant? It says, "And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'" (Matthew 25:30 ESV). Once again, this is a post-trib parable.

If you had a hard heart for hearing what Jesus was saying, Jesus wraps up his discourse in the clearest possible terms.
Matthew 25:31 ESV
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
This passage must refer to an event that takes place before the establishment of the kingdom here on earth. For if the kingdom was already established, Jesus would already be reigning on His throne, and the statement wouldn't make sense. Second, if Jesus reigns on earth in the kingdom, why would it say that He "comes in his glory" with all His angels, if in fact Jesus was already here on earth. That makes zero sense. Additionally, as I will point out, how could the righteous inherit a kingdom that has just come to an end?
Matthew 25:34 ESV
Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
So here we see the righteous enter the kingdom. But what happens to the wicked. It doesn't say the go through a seven-year tribulation. No, it says in the clearest of terms that they are eternally damned.
Matthew 25:41 ESV
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Then Jesus wraps it all up with just one more contrast just in case you still don't get it, "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46 ESV).

Another clearly post-trib reference that sounds like imminence is Revelation 16:15 ("Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!") However, this passage is a reference to the end of the tribulation.

Renald Showers gave a definition of imminence in his book Maranatha, when he stated, "If something else must take place before an event can happen, that event is not imminent. The necessity of something else taking place first destroys the concept of imminence."4

Based on this definition, I find it baffling every time I hear a pre-trib prophecy teacher talking about how close we are to the rapture occurring based on current events.

Pre-trib teacher Jan Markell has a video titled 15 Signs of His Imminent Return.5 Talk about an oxymoron. The whole video centers around proving our current generation will be the one that will be raptured based on these 15 signs. However, as Showers outlined, "if something else must take place before an event can happen, that event is not imminent," how can you say certain signs prove it will be our generation? For if these signs were necessary, then the rapture could not have occurred up until those things had happened. Therefore, if teachers like Jan Markell are right in videos such as this one, then she has proven that the rapture is not in fact imminent!

Should someone stumble on this next verse, should they assume it proves that the pre-trib rapture is imminent? "Wait patiently for the LORD! Wait confidently for him" (NET). It says we should "wait" and that we should be "patient." Obviously, this verse has to refer to the imminent pre-trib rapture, since "patience," "waiting," and "for the Lord" are the buzz words that mean imminence. That is the trifecta. Of course, if that verse is referring to the imminent pre-tribulation rapture, that would mean it wasn't such a mystery, because this passage was part of Psalms 37:7. I'm not sure why that verse wasn't on Showers' list since it has all the imminent buzz words. Maybe he will add it in a future re-write.

In his book, Showers gives examples of passages that refer to the imminent coming of Christ. I will now sort through these examples.

Examples given by Showers: 1 Corinthians 16:22; James 5:7-9 and Philippians 4:5

One assertion is that when you see phrases such as "for the coming of the Lord is at hand," what the writer really meant is that the coming is imminent.

Here are the examples passages given by Showers:
James 5:7-9 ESV
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming ἡ παρουσία (parousia) of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing ἕστηκεν (histemi) at the door.
1 Peter 4:7 ESV
The end of all things is at hand ἤγγικεν; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
In James 5:8 the Greek word ἤγγικεν, translated by the ESV as "is at hand" is the same exact word used in 1 Peter 4:7 to say that "the end of all things is at hand." Therefore, if the end of all things is not imminent, then neither is the coming of the Lord. For some reason, probably due to bias, Showers doesn't give 1 Peter 4:7 as an example of an imminent passage, which seems strange if that is what ἤγγικεν really means. Showers argues that "Greek verbs translated 'draweth near' (v. 8) and 'standeth' (v. 9) are in the perfect tense and indicative mood, meaning that each of these verbs refers to an action that was completed before James wrote his epistle and that continues on in that completed state." We already covered the "draweth near" or "is at hand" portion so let's look at "standeth" at the door. We also know that Jesus is the Judge.
Revelation 3:20 NET
Listen! I am standing ἕστηκα (histemi) at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me.
In both James 5:9 and Revelation 3:20, the Greek verb histemi is used to denote Jesus standing at the door, and in both cases, it is Perfect Indicative. Why, because both passages are making the same point. Get saved, if you knock, Jesus will open to you, right now. Because when Jesus does return, or if you die first, there is no second chance for salvation. James is also referencing the parable of the Ten Virgins, when there will come a time that if you do knock, He will not answer (cf. Matthew 25:11-13). Over and over again in the New Testament, this same theme of Jesus standing at the door is used as a euphemism for salvation and not having a second chance to be saved once Jesus returns (cf. Mark 13:32-37; Luke 11:9, 13:23-25; John 10:1-4).

Luke 21:8 NET
And he said, "See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is at hand!' ἤγγικεν Do not go after them.
Ironically, if ἤγγικεν does mean something is imminent, then Luke 21:8 should read, "And he said, 'See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The timing is imminent!' ἤγγικεν Do not go after them." If that was the case, Jesus would be calling these pre-trib theologians false teachers, and warning that they shouldn't be followed. Another example Showers gives is Philippians 4:5. The Greek adverb ἐγγὺς, basically means near or close. It could means something is in close proximity or it could mean an event is nearing. For example, John 3:23 has the phrase ἐν Αἰνὼν ἐγγὺς τοῦ Σαλείμ meaning "in Aenon [which is] near Salim." Another example is Luke 19:11 which has the Greek phrase διὰ τὸ ἐγγὺς εἶναι Ἰερουσαλὴμ αὐτὸν meaning "because he was near Jerusalem." So when we look at Philippians 4:5, which the ESV translates the phrase ὁ Κύριος ἐγγύς as "The Lord is at hand," they make this phrase a standalone sentence. However, a Greek "semi-colon" appears after ἐγγύς, meaning that was just the opening clause to a longer sentence. The whole context is Philippians 4:4-6, and when looking at the passage in context, you realize the better translation of the passage is: "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Make known your gentleness to all mankind. The Lord is near [to you], [therefore], never be anxious, but instead, in every situation pray and supplicate. Your requests should be made while giving thanks to God." Being anxious is a now problem, here on earth. Unless the point Paul is making is that the rapture is going to occur any second so quit your job, become homeless, no big deal, your windfall will be here any day now. However, I don't think that was what he was saying. Otherwise, why pray about being anxious if the solution will be arriving any second in the form of the rapture. No the point Paul is making is that God is near to you, He is with you, and we now have access to God in Him. It is essentially a parallel passage to what Paul told the Ephesians.
Ephesians 3:11-13 NASB
11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
1 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ESV
10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? 11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
Examples given by Showers: Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20

Showers cites Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20 which contains the Greek phrase ἔρχομαι ταχύ, which the ESV translates as "I am coming soon."

I find it interesting that Revelation 2:16 contains the same words ἔρχομαί and ταχύ for "coming soon" as are found in Revelation 3:11, but yet this is not on Showers' list of his so called "imminent" passages. Why? Because it actually disproves his argument!

To the Church of Pergamum Jesus states, "Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth" (Revelation 2:16 ESV).

So Jesus is saying if members of the Church of Pergamum, during our current Church age, do not repent, Jesus will come soon and make war against them with the sword of His mouth. Fortunately we can know exactly when Jesus destroys unbelievers with the sword of his mouth. Just look at Revelation 19:15 "From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty." This event occurs at the end of the tribulation. So to recap, if they do not repent, Jesus will come to them imminently at the end of the tribulation. I'm not sure how something at the end of the tribulation could be imminent, but if we follow sound pre-trib teaching, apparently that is possible.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ESV
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
Showers argument is to quote Deluz who stated that this passage shows that "The first Christians thought it so near that they faced the possibility in their lifetime."6

Based on Showers' own definition of imminence, I find it strange that all of these verses are included that talk about the coming being near. For Showers stated at the start of the chapter, that if something is said to occur soon, it is excluded from being imminent. He stated, "we cannot legitimately say that an imminent event will happen soon. The term 'soon' implies that an event must take place 'within a short period of time.'" 7

Going back to 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, we must realize that all of Paul's letters were for the mutual benefit of all believers, as outlined in Colossians 4:16.

In the translation, "We shall not all sleep," in English, this verse contains the first person plural pronoun "we." However, in Greek, the pronoun is absent. The Greek phrase is πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα. If it had the pronoun, it would say, ἡμεῖς πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα.

The pronoun is actually not necessary because, in Greek, the pronoun is embedded in the verb. However, when the writer was emphasizing the pronoun, they included it. Take, for instance, the Greek phrase ἡμεῖς πάντες ἀνεστράφημέν ποτε in Ephesians 2:3. The first person plural pronoun ἡμεῖς is completely unnecessary, with or without it, the phrase would be translated "we all formerly lived."

The point being, that although "We shall not all sleep" is a proper translation, it could be translated "all will not sleep, but we all will be changed." Showers is overemphasizing the "we," whereas this is not something that Paul did. Paul was not emphasizing the "we" at all. There really wasn't any other way for Paul to say this to get his point across.

Of course, according to Showers' own definition, 1 Corinthians 15:52 disproves imminence because for the rapture to occur, a trumpet must first be sounded. I will concede that once the trumpet sounds, for sure, the rapture will then at that point in time be imminent, but not until then.

Additionally, even if the early first century, Christians believed that Christ could return in their lifetime, does NOT prove imminency. I would venture a guess that today, probably all pre-trib and post-trib believe that Jesus will return in their lifetime. However, that doesn't mean that post-trib believers think that His coming is imminent. If the tribulation really is only seven years long, it wouldn't be much of a stretch for any post-trib believer to think this, and neither would it have been a stretch for early Christians to have believed it.
1 John 2:28 NET
And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back.
Partially quoting Brooke Foss Westcott, Showers states, "John's point was that Christ's coming 'might be while they all still lived.'"8

Per my last argument previous to this verse, someone believing that the Lord could return in their day does not equal imminence! He goes on to say, "John's statements imply that Christ could come at any moment; therefore, Christians should continuously be ready for His coming by constantly having their lives in order." 9

This argument only makes sense if only the living appeared before Christ at His coming. Since ALL believers living and deceased stand before Christ when he comes, the argument makes no sense. Therefore, this passage is applicable if we knew Jesus wouldn't return for 5,000 more years. Additionally, this falls under the soon argument, and therefore as Showers already pointed out, can not refer to an imminent coming.

Examples given by Showers: Revelation 22:17, 20 and 1 Corinthians 16:22

I remember when I was younger, I would pass out invitations asking my friends to come to my birthday party. I never put a date or time on the invitations, though, because I knew if I asked my pre-trib friends to come, they would know that my party was imminent because I used the buzz word "come," and therefore, that means it could happen at any time. Yeah, obviously, that sounds ridiculous. Honestly, I don't know how people make these arguments while keeping a straight face.

Here are the example verses Showers gives:
Revelation 22:17 NET
And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say: "Come!" And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge.
Revelation 22:20 NET
The one who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon!" Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
I see no evidence of imminence in these two verses, because simply asking someone to come, does not mean it could happen at any time. Revelation 22:20 says that Jesus is coming soon, but as Showers pointed out, this disproves imminence.
1 Corinthians 16:22 KJV
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
The KJV uses Maranatha by transliterating the Greek phrase Μαράνα θά. Other translations, such as the ESV, instead translate the Greek as "Our Lord, come."

On the term "Maranatha", Easton's Bible Dictionary states, "( 1 Corinthians 16:22 ) consists of two Aramean words, Maran'athah, meaning, 'our Lord comes,' or is 'coming.' If the latter interpretation is adopted, the meaning of the phrase is, 'Our Lord is coming, and he will judge those who have set him at nought.' (Compare Phil 4:5 ; James 5:8 James 5:9)."

Obviously, if Paul is talking about the Lord coming in judgment, this verse is somewhat paralleling Revelation 2:16, which showed this judgment occurs at the end of the tribulation.

Examples given by Showers: 1 Corinthians 4:5

Finishing off the list of examples given by Showers, I come to one that I find outright baffling. He must have a vivid imagination since I can see no clues as to how this verse implies imminence.
1 Corinthians 4:5 NET
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
Basically, Showers' argument is because we stand in judgment; this verse equals imminence. Well, every one of all eschatology views believes God will judge. So just to say judgment is imminent because it will happen at some point is a stretch.

Not knowing when something will happen does not make it imminent. If that was true, the post-trib second coming would be considered imminent.
Mark 13:32 NET
"But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Since Showers doesn't believe Mark 13:32 refers to an imminent event, then 1 Corinthians 4:5 must not refer to imminence either.

Examples given by Showers: 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15

2 Thessalonians 3:10-15 ESV
10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: "If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat." 11 For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life, not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others. 12 Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat. 13 But you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing what is right. 14 But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Showers argues that these Thessalonians weren't working because they believed the rapture was going to happen at any moment. I find this argument baffling, because the primary argument supporting imminency, is that it creates a purifying effect.

Even today, there are lazy mooches. I hardly believe it's because of their strong pre-trib rapture beliefs. Although the Bible was written to congregations specifically, they also had application to all believers present and future. Therefore, I find it strange that if the real problem was, people weren't working because they thought that Jesus would return any second, that Paul would have addressed that specifically. Obviously, if that was the case, the problem would have only gotten worse over time.

If imminence was causing this laziness, I would expect Paul to say something like what Showers stated, "The imminent coming of Christ should have an incredible practical effect on the lives of individual Christians and the Church as a whole. The fact that the glorified, holy Son of God could step through the door of heaven at any moment is intended by God to be the most pressing, incessant motivation for holy living and aggressive ministry...and the greatest cure for lethargy and apathy."10

Yet there were these Thessalonians being apathetic and lethargic! It seems strange that Paul, who seems to always be mentioning something about Christ's coming to correct an error, is completely silent about this apparent negative effect the imminent return was causing believers. It seems Ironic that the resulting effect of imminency that Showers says should take place is actually the exact opposite here!

So instead of Paul saying look, get up and work, Jesus is coming back any time now, he says instead that they should "take note of him," apparently so either he or the elders in Thesolonica could handle it. It seems the exact opposite response if, in fact, they believed that Christ's return was imminent.
Acts 4:32 NASB
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.
It's easy to realize what the real problem was if we base our doctrine off the Bible instead of conjecture. Acts tells us they lived communally. All their possessions and income was donated to their local congregation, so that no one had a need and all could focus on spreading the gospel. Unfortunately, we find the downside of socialism. You will always have people who are lazy and are takers without making any contributions of their own. With socialism, you will always have freeloaders. This was the issue, and making this passage about the rapture is rather absurd.

Even if the rapture is now imminent, it could not have been considered imminent until at least 96AD due to prophecy that had to first be fulfilled.

Some of the more basic prophecies include, the gospel had to be proclaimed in all the world (Matthew 24:14); the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on believers (Acts 1:5); Paul had to testify in Rome (Acts 23:11);

Revelation is believed to be written in 96AD, and in that book, He stated that the church in Smyrna must go into tribulation for ten days (Revelation 2:8).

Before the book of Revelation was written, early Christians could not have believed the rapture was imminent until Peter's death around 68AD.

Jesus told Peter, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.' (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, 'Follow me.'" (John 21:18-19)

In the parable of the Talents, in Matthew 25:19, Jesus equates his leaving and then return as a "long time." It’s doubtful that people would have heard Jesus say this and then thought the day after Jesus ascended into heaven, it would have been possible for Him to return.

Additionally, based on 2 Peter 3:3-9 it’s clear that Peter believed not only that Christ’s coming was not imminent but that an extremely long period of time would have to pass before Jesus could return. Peter states a day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and therefore, it would seem like Peter believed at least a thousand years would pass before He returned. Of course, in hind sight, we know that Peter was spot on because about 2,000 years have passed so far.

In fact, as I will show later in this article, the majority of early Christians believed that Jesus would return in the 6000th year of the earth, which would have been a couple of years ago. I give examples toward the end of this article.
2 Peter 3:3-9 ESV
3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come ἐλεύσονται in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
I think the most persuasive argument against imminency is the warning Peter gave in 2 Peter 3. In verse three, the Greek verb ἐλεύσονται is future indicative. Peter said he knew this would happen in the future (i.e., he was making a prophetic statement). He was not saying that this would happen while he was still living. He identifies this future time period as ἐπ' ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν "in the last days."
2 Peter 3:4 ESV
They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming τῆς παρουσίας (parousia)? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation."
In verse four, the fathers who fell asleep (i.e., died) is probably a reference to the deaths of all of the first generation Christians, Jesus' disciples, Paul, and all of the early leaders. This makes it doubtful that any early Christians would have believed in an imminent return.

The point Peter is making is that a long period of time will pass, and then people will start raising these questions. He even makes the comparison that a thousand years could pass. Obviously, verse eight doesn't make sense if at least a thousand years were to pass before Christ's return.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 ESV
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
After the primary passage used to prove a pre-trib rapture, Paul here states that the day of Lord will come like a thief. Showers did not use this verse to prove imminence. Why? Because it actually hurts the greater pre-trib argument. Although some pre-tribers argue that the day of the Lord last 1,007 years, from the rapture to the end of the millennium. This however, is hard to reconcile with 2 Peter 3:10, which states "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (NASB). How can the day of the Lord come like a thief, if we are already in the day of the Lord?

Once again, we see that these apparent references to imminence actually refer to the coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation.
Luke 21:8 ESV
And he said, "See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is at hand!' ἤγγικεν Do not go after them.
Ironically, if ἤγγικεν does mean something is imminent, then Luke 21:8 should read, "And he said, 'See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The timing is imminent!' ἤγγικεν Do not go after them." So if that is what this means, then Jesus is calling these pre-trib theologians false teachers who we shouldn't go after.

It seems like Paul infers that he will not be raptured, but he will die. Thus the below verses show that Paul didn't believe in imminence.
Acts 20:22-25 ESV
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
Acts 20:29-38 ESV
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" 36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

One of the most popular views of early Christians was the Millennial Day Theory. The theology dates back to at least 200 BC where it was first based on Psalm 90:4 and then was later also based on 2 Peter 3:8 where it is said that with God a 1,000 years is like a day.

The Millennial Day Theory was the belief that the length of time of the earth's existence would parallel the length of creation. In other words, since the world was created in six days and God rested on the seventh day; similarly, the earth would exist for six thousand years, and God would rest for the seventh millennia. In this view, the seventh millennia or 1,000 years was figurative and represented all of eternity.

If early Christians believed that the rapture couldn't occur until year 6,000 of the earth's existence, they certainly didn't believe that Jesus could come back at any time or in imminency.

According to tradition, the Hebrew calendar started at the time of Creation, which is placed at 3761 BCE. The current (2019/2020) Hebrew year is 5,780. I found another site that would put year 6,000 at the year 2,000 ironically Y2K!11

Augustine wrote the book the City of God in 426 AD, and stated he once held the Millennial Day Theory, which means even in his day, they didn't believe they had reached the 6,000th day of the earth. Hippolytus wrote that Jesus was born in the year 5,500, which if his date was correct, they would have believed that the rapture couldn't occur until at least 496AD.

There were many rabbis and non-Christian Jews that held similar views as early Christians.

The rabbi, Elias the Tishbite, around 200 BC stated, "The world should stand 6000 years; 2000 void, 2000 under the law, and 2000 the days of the Messiah."

Further, in Christianity, it appears that the Millennial Day Theory was extremely popular and adopted by the majority of Christians for the first couple of Centuries.

Hippolytus 170–235 AD
"For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day 'on which God rested from all His works.' For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they 'shall reign with Christ,' when He comes from heaven." (Hippolytus, The interpretation by Hippolytus of Rome, of the visions of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, taken in conjunction, section 4)

Barnabas (Around 70-132AD)
"Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, 'He finished in six days.' This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth, saying, 'Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years.' Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. 'And He rested on the seventh day.' This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day." (Epistle of Barnabas, 15)

Irenaeus 130-202 AD
"For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: 'Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.' This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.28)

Eusebius, in his writing regarding Church History, in 39.11 quotes Papias, who said, "there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth."

Eusebius goes on to say, "But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him (Papias) adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenæus and anyone else that may have proclaimed similar views." (Eusebius Church History 39.12)

More evidence of Papias' belief in this view is found in fragment IX, which states, "Taking occasion from Papias of Hierapolis, the illustrious, a disciple of the apostle who leaned on the bosom of Christ, and Clemens, and Pantænus the priest of [the Church] of the Alexandrians, and the wise Ammonius, the ancient and first expositors, who agreed with each other, who understood the work of the six days as referring to Christ and the whole Church." (Fragments of Papias IX)

In the early first or second-century book of Second Enoch, it states, "And I appointed the eighth day also, that the eighth day should be the first-created after my work, and that (the first seven) revolve in the form of the seventh thousand, and that at the beginning of the eighth thousand there should be a time of not-counting, endless, with neither years nor months nor weeks nor days nor hours." (Book of the Secrets of Enoch Chapter 33, XXXIII)

It is unclear whether others also believed after the thousand years, eternity would continue without counting time, or if everyone just believe the 7th millennia was figurative for eternity.

Whatever the case may be, a large number of early Christians that were held in high esteem believed in this Millennial Day Theory, and even those that opposed it, never claim that the theory must be wrong because Jesus could return at any moment.

Showers like all pre-trib teachers are quick to tout that the pre-trib rapture should have a purifying effect on our lives because Jesus could return at any time.

Actually, death has more of a purifying effect than a pre-trib rapture. Your death is imminent; it truly could happen at any time, and once you die, there is no second chance to be saved.

I know other believers who said that the pre-trib rapture actually caused them to become complacent, lethargic, and apathetic. This was caused by believing they would have a second chance to be saved once Jesus returns.

(1) Hart. Olivet Discourse, No Pages.

(2) Walvoord, The Rapture Question, 186.

(3) Wallace, Greek Grammar, 217-218.

(4) Showers, Maranatha, 128-142.

(5) Markell, Signs, Video

(6) Showers, Maranatha, 130.

(7) Showers, Maranatha, 128.

(8) Showers, Maranatha, 138.

(9) Showers, Maranatha, 138-139.

(10) Showers, Maranatha, 147-148.

(11) Hebrew Calendar, View online.

Hart, John F. A Defense of the Rapture in the Olivet Discourse. Online:
Read Online

Markell, Jan. 15 Signs of His Imminent Return. View on Youtube.

Showers, Renald. Maranatha. Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Walvoord, John. The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

We Are Not Appointed to Wrath

The Timing of the Rapture

The Testimony and Parables of Jesus

Does apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refer to the rapture?

The Church Not Found In Revelation

The Resurrection

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, New Doctrine or Just a Clarification?

Who Escapes What in Revelation 3:10?

Imminence Refuted

John 14 - In My Fathers House

Harpazo the Greek Word for Rapture

Behold! I tell you what mystery means

The Dead in Christ & Tribulation Saints

Andy Woods

Revelation is NOT Chronological

Is the Holy Spirit the Restrainer?

What I believe - Day of the Lord Timeline

Understanding Zechariah 14

Blasted Hope or Blessed Hope?

Understanding Greek Pronouns and Their Importance

The Comfort Given by Paul

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 1

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 2

Copyright© 2013,