Biblical Evidence for the Imminence of the Rapture -- By: Wayne A. Brindle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 158:630 (Apr 2001)
Article: Biblical Evidence for the Imminence of the Rapture
Author: Wayne A. Brindle

Biblical Evidence for the Imminence of the Rapture

Wayne A. Brindle

[Wayne A. Brindle is Professor of Biblical Studies, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.]

In 1973 Robert Gundry, a posttribulationist, wrote that “by common consent imminence means that so far as we know no predicted event will necessarily precede the coming of Christ.”1 John A. Sproule, a pretribulationist, countered in 1974 that “imminence” is better defined as the belief that “Christ can return for His Church at any moment and that no predicted event will intervene before that return.”2 Both definitions are acceptable.

Some posttribulationists have responded to the doctrine of imminence by claiming that all the intervening signs have already occurred, and thus the final Parousia can occur at any time. Others deny that the Bible teaches imminence in any sense. Most posttribulationists prefer to redefine “imminence” along the lines adopted by Douglas Moo, who objects that the term does not necessarily mean “any moment,” but rather that it simply means the return of Christ “could take place within any limited period of time.”3

This article follows the more strict definition and discusses Bible passages that teach or strongly imply that Christ’s return for the church can occur at any time without any predicted intervening signs or events.

Criteria for Imminence

How is one to know for certain whether a passage teaches the imminence of the rapture, when no rapture passage gives a specific temporal designation? Four criteria may be suggested, any one of which indicates imminence: (1) The passage speaks of Christ’s return as at any moment. (2) The passage speaks of Christ’s return as “near,”4 without stating any signs that must precede His coming. (3) The passage speaks of Christ’s return as something that gives believers hope and encouragement, without indicating that these believers will suffer tribulation. (4) The passage speaks of Christ’s return as giving hope without relating it to God’s judgment of unbelievers.

Based on these criteria, many passages on the Second Coming do not teach imminence. Matthew 24–25, for example, describes Christ’s return as delivering the elect from the midst of tribulation and death, and thus those chapters do not prove imminence. Likewise 2 Thessalonians 2 and

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