Imminency, the Heart of Pretribulationism

The late John Walvoord, called imminency ďthe heart of Pretribulationism.Ē The doctrine of imminency states that Jesus can return at any moment, nothing must happen before Jesus returns for the Church. There are many fine sounding arguments, presented on both sides of the rapture debate. However, we must confine ourselves to the Word of God, just as the Apostle Paul wrote, ďDo not go beyond what is written.Ē (1 Corinthians 4:6). Since imminency is the heart of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture belief, letís test it with Scripture to determine if this doctrine is true or false.

You have heard, that Jesus said, no one will know the general time of His return. But, letís read what Jesus actually said.

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36).

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:44).

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of (Matthew 24:50).

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13).

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mark 13:32).

Notice in each verse above, Jesus only says, no one can know the day or the hour. He does not exclude the possibility that one could know the year, month or even the week of His return. So, based on what is written, no one will know the day or hour of Christís return.

You have heard, that Jesus said, His return for the Church would be a surprise. Letís read what is written.

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:42-44).

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Peter asked, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?" The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? (Luke 12:39-42)

Again, Jesus only says we will not know the day and hour of His return. Jesus does, however, warn His followers to be ready and keep watch so they will not be caught off guard by His coming. Jesus gave a similar warning here in Revelation.

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you (Revelation 3:2-3).

Jesus indicates that if the Church is awake His coming will not surprise them as it will the rest of the world.

Paul wrote the same message about the Second Coming to the Church in Thessalonica. He indicated that the Second Coming will surprise the world, but it will not surprise the Church. Here is what he wrote.

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).

So far we know that:

1)    No one will know the day or hour of Jesusí return.

2)   Followers of Christ will be awake, keeping watch, alert and ready for the Lordís return.

3)   Nothing indicates that we cannot know the week, month or year of Christís return.

In Acts we find a passage where Jesus answers the disciples question regarding when the kingdom will be restored. Read what is written.

Note: The kingdom will be restored to Israel at the Second Coming.

So when they met together, they asked him, ďLord, are you at this time [chronos] going to restore the kingdom to Israel?Ē He said to them: ďIt is not for you to know the times [chronos] or dates [kairos] the Father has set by his own authorityĒ (Acts 1:6-7).

Letís examine the Greek for help understanding of this passage. The Greek word for time is chronos and the Greek word for dates is kairos.

chronos; a space of time, a duration of time, an extension of time, a period or interval, time, a while.

kairos; a set time or season, a fixed or special occasion, when a thing comes to pass, the appointed time.

Using the Greek word meanings, we can interpret the question and the Lordís answer like this.

            Question:    Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?

Answer:       It is not for you to know how long until the kingdom will be restored and it is not for you to know the day when the kingdom will be restored.

Another method we can use to help understand is to search Scripture for other applications of these Greek words. In this case there is only one other application in Scripture where chronos and kairos are used in conjunction with each other. The application is also about the Lordís return. Letís read what is written.

Now, brothers, about times [chronos] and dates [kairos] we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).

The Church will know the general time of Lordís return. The Church will not be surprised. However, the world, (referred to in this passage as people, they and them) will be surprised and they will not escape.

After all, why would Jesus tell to keep watch, if there was nothing to watch for?  In Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, Jesus describes many visible signs which will precede the Second Coming.

Pre-tribbers say to keep watch. Yet they also say there is nothing that must happen before Christís return.  So, if nothing must happen before the return of Christ, what are they watching for?  This reasoning is contradictory and reveals more of the error.  The Pre-Tribulation Rapture myth and the doctrine of imminency are false.

The Day of the Lord will not surprise the Church. The Church will be watching for the signs Jesus gave indicating His return is near. Just as Jesus said, ďSee, I have told you ahead of timeĒ (Matthew 24:25).

Richard H Perry