The Doctrine of Imminence in Two Recent Eschatological Systems -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 157:628 (Oct 2000)
Article: The Doctrine of Imminence in Two Recent Eschatological Systems
Author: Robert L. Thomas


The Doctrine of Imminence in Two Recent Eschatological Systems

Robert L. Thomasa

Throughout history imminence has been a prominent part of the church’s teaching about events connected with the second advent of Jesus Christ. It began with the church’s earliest writers1 and continues to the present day. Expectation of an imminent happening was seemingly universal among the church fathers, even though their writings do not express complete agreement about what that happening would be. In supporting the posttribulational stance among early church writers, Ladd wrote, “The expectation of the coming of Christ included the events which would attend and precede His coming.”2 Lea concludes regarding the fathers that the expectancy of the early church was a series of events that would precede and surround Christ’s actual advent.3 Walvoord saw in these early writings a form of “incipient” pretribulationism with its associated idea of imminence.4

Both amillennialists and premillennialists endorse the teach-

ing that the Lord could return at virtually any time.5 Though they differ regarding the details, they agree that either the personal coming of Christ or the events associated with His coming could occur at any moment. Postmillennialists are alone in denying the New Testament doctrine of imminence in the present day.6

The widespread belief in the imminence of end-time events and Christ’s return is, of course, based on the Scriptures. The Book of Revelation builds its case around the imminence of His return. The phrase ἐν τάχει (“soon”) in the book’s opening verse offers encouragement to the faithful among the readers that their predicted deliverance is very close.7 Moffatt appropriately called this focus on immediacy “the hinge and staple of the book.”8 The repetition of ἐν τάχει and other literary indications in Revelation indicate that relief for the faithful from persecution along with judgment to the rest of the world, may happen at any moment. References to imminence in Revelation include the following: (a) ἐν τάχει in 1:1

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