Imminency & Rapture

1. Imminency

Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7,8

Believers are to be patient amidst persecution until when? Until the “coming” (parousia) of the Lord. Parousia is well known to mean "presence" and refers to His second coming many times in the New Testament.[1] Also notice that the farming analogy seems to indicate that the farmer is aware of the coming rains just as the believer might expect certain things prior to end time events.[2] For example Jesus warned "when you see these things begin to take place [end time signs in the sun, moon, and stars], straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."[3] This manner of expectancy is objected to on the grounds that it destroys the idea of Christ's rapture of the church being imminent, or able to occur at any moment. But imminent probably doesn't mean 'at any moment' in the New Testament.[4] As D.A. Carson relates: “…many New Testament passages implicitly rule out an "any second" imminency (Matthew 24:45-51…25:5,19;Luke 19:11[5]-27;John 21:18-19...Acts 9:15…)”.[6] Carson goes on to say that imminency more likely means “a return that could take place soon…within a fairly brief period of time.”[7] At the very least, Peter and Paul probably did not believe in this kind of imminency because Peter was told by Jesus what manner of death he was to die and that it would take place many years in to the future. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go."[8] Could Peter think the Rapture was at any moment with this enduring prediction by Jesus?[9] Also, it was told of Paul that he would bear Christ's name "before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel" and that God would "show him how much he is to suffer for My name's sake."[10] Does ‘any moment imminency’ fit with such a massive missionary plan revealed by God to Paul which took decades to complete? Jesus encouraged the first disciples and all Christians, to look for certain events which would indicate His coming was "at the doors." This and other passages[11] like 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 call for moral alertness and sobriety ("let us keep awake and be sober"),[12] and that the wrath of that day will overtake those in darkness like a thief. But a believer is “not in darkness, that the day should overtake [him] like a thief."[13] [14] Thus, perhaps, a different concept of imminency emerges from the data, namely, one that involves a near/impending return of Christ along with the imperatives to be morally ready.

[1] MacArthur Jr., John F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: James. Moody Press, p. 253, 1998.

[2]Stanley N. Gundry and Gleason L. Archer Jr. Three Views on the Rapture. Zondervan, p208, 1996.

[3] Luke 21:28. Also notice the use of the 2nd person plurals ἀνακύψατε καὶ ἐπάρατε τὰς κεφαλὰς ὑμῶν in this verse in connection to “they” in 21:7. Would the disciples have thought Jesus was not speaking to them when he gave them imperatives relating to His coming but was speaking to a peculiar group only alive after a pretribulational rapture? This seems to be the most natural understanding.

[4] Stanley N. Gundry and Gleason L. Archer Jr. Three Views on the Rapture. Zondervan, p208, 1996. See :wait for” in Luke 12:36; Tit. 2:13; “look for” in Mt. 24:50; Luke 12:46, etc.

[5] Note especially Luke 19:11. It says, “As they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately." (NRSV). Jesus then goes on to tell that a noblemen went to a distant country and came back and settled accounts with his servants...as if He was going away for awhile thus insinuating delay, perhaps.

[6] Carson, D.A. The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke. Frank E. Gaebelein ed. Regency Reference Library, volume 8, p. 490, 1984.

[7] Ibid.

[8]John 21:28.

[9]Stanley N. Gundry and Gleason L. Archer Jr. Three Views on the Rapture. Zondervan, p210, 1996.

[10] Acts 9:15,16.

[11] James 5:8.

[12] 1 Thessalonians 5:6 NRSV.

[13] 1 Thessalonians 5:4

[14] Ladd, George E. The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture. Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing, p.110, 1956. “The context makes it clear that the “watch” means to be spiritually awake in contrast to the world which is slumbering in the sleep of sin.” Italics in original.

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