Posttribulationism Today Part VI: Posttribulational Denial of Imminency and Wrath -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 133:530 (Apr 1976)
Article: Posttribulationism Today Part VI: Posttribulational Denial of Imminency and Wrath
Author: John F. Walvoord


Posttribulationism Today
Part VI:
Posttribulational Denial of Imminency and Wrath

John F. Walvoord

[President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary, Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra.]

Denial Of Imminency

Taking advantage of the fact that the word imminent is not a scriptural word, but an induction from scriptural facts, Robert Gundry attempts to deny the imminency of the rapture by redefining the term. The word imminent, of course, is not used in Scripture, but has normally been considered to represent the view that the rapture could occur at any time. Even some posttribulationists such as J. Barton Payne, although posttribulational in their interpretation, agree that the Lord could come at any moment and that there are no necessary intervening events. This is the proper meaning of the concept of imminence.

Robert Gundry, however, in his support of postribulationism, attempts to solve the problem by redefining the English word:

We should first of all note a lack of identity between belief in imminence on the one hand and pretribulationism on the other. By common consent imminence means that so far as we know no predicted event will necessarily precede the coming of Christ. The concept incorporates three essential elements: suddenness, unexpectedness or incalculability, and a possibility of occurrence at any moment. But these elements would require only that Christ might come before the tribulation, not that He must. Imminence would only raise the possibility of pretribulationism on a sliding scale with mid- and posttribulationism. It is singularly strange that the most popularly cherished argument for pretribulationism should suffer such an obvious and critical limitation.1

An observation could be made on this preliminary statement that “it is singularly strange” that a capable scholar should advance such a slanted definition of imminence. It is true that there is a lack of identity between belief in imminence and pretribulationism. But this is true only when a posttribulationist like Payne spiritualizes the tribulation so that the rapture could occur any day. It is not true when a sequence of well-defined prophetic events intervene between the present and the rapture of the church, as Gundry holds.

According to Gundry there is a definite sequence of events including the great tribulation which precedes the second coming of Christ and that therefore, imminence, in the sense of a statement that could occur at any time, is actually impossible. Gundry’s view that “These elements would require only tha...

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