The next prophetic event that concerns the church, true followers of Jesus Christ, is known as the rapture. One day soon, Jesus will appear in the clouds and call us up to be with Him. He is currently preparing a place for us, and that place will soon be ready (John 14:2-3)! Traditional pretribulation teaching is that this event is, and always has been, “imminent”, in that it could happen at any time. While popular and well-established, is that teaching true?
What is Imminence?
The doctrine of imminence, as it relates to Bible Prophecy, teaches that nothing has to occur before the rapture of the church. Imminence means that Jesus could return at any moment, his return is impending, it is ever near. Scripture teaches that we are to live in a state of constant readiness and expectation regarding the coming of the Lord. We are to Watch. We are to be Awake. Imminence means that the rapture could happen at any time.
Has the Rapture Always Been Imminent?
Bible prophecy is fascinating in that it gives us just enough information to see the immediate road before us. Each generation is able to understand just a little bit more, and apply it to themselves, until the time has come to fully comprehend that it has been fulfilled. In this way Biblical prophecy always offers hope and promise. The Word of God is truly living and active!
While I don’t believe the rapture was imminent before Israel became a nation in 1948, I do believe it is imminent now.
Examining the Case for Imminence
Even if we don’t know the Day, Hour, or Year, can we know that the rapture is Imminent?
First of all, we know from scripture that the rapture will occur when:
- The Fullness of the Gentiles is Complete (Romans 11:25). This is when all people predestined to be a part of the body of Christ (the church) have come to saving faith in the New Covenant. Of course, we have no way of knowing how many people this includes. We also know that God has complete control over this number and its’ timing, since He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). This does NOT mean that Gentiles cannot be saved after the rapture. On the contrary, many will be. However, the special sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit and the witness of the church ends at the time of the rapture. (Note that the fullness of the Gentiles is separate from the “Times of the Gentiles”, which doesn’t end until the Second Coming of Christ.)
Let’s look at the signs in Israel and the nations, described by God as heralding his upcoming time of wrath on the whole earth. We can see that most of these were not in place for the bulk of the church age, but they are in place now. For further details on each sign, click on its name:
- The Fig Tree sign – Jesus tells His disciples that when they “see the fig tree leaf out”, they would know that the time of His coming was near. Many prophecy scholars agree that this sign refers to Israel’s rebirth in May 1948.
- Israel Reborn – Regardless of whether or not the fig tree refers to Israel, Israel’s rebirth as a nation after 2000 years of not being one is a flashing neon light! The Kingdom of Heaven is Near!!!
- Jerusalem Recaptured – Jerusalem features heavily in end times prophecy. The 6 day war of 1967 was very significant prophetically! It’s possible that war fulfilled Psalm 83; alternately, the complete fulfillment of Psalm 83 may be yet future.
- Jewish Aliyah – Along with the re-establishment of Israel as a physical/political nation, God’s chosen people are foretold to return to the Promised Land. This has been slowly but surely occurring over the last 120 years or so, with approximately 45% of the world’s Jewry living in Israel at this time (2016).
- The Third Temple – We know from the book of Daniel, the gospels, and Revelation that there will be a functioning Jewish Temple during the “70th Week of Daniel“. While the Temple has not yet been built, the plans are complete, Levite priests are trained, and Temple equipment/furniture is made.
- Apostasy in the Church – It seems that as we approach Christ’s second coming, churches will fall away from preaching sound doctrine. Instead, they will focus on a social gospel that “tickles men’s ears” (tells them what they want to hear to feel good).
- Immorality in Society – Society will move further and further away from God and His laws/morals. We see this most clearly in the last several decades through Abortion (1.5 billion since 1980), Homosexuality (general worldwide acceptance in non-Muslim nations), and Human Euthanasia (legal in some nations, including Canada).
- As in the Days of Lot – Society will be marked by violence, homosexuality, and sexual immorality.
- As in the Days of Noah – Society will be marked by violence, DNA manipulation, and sexual immorality.
- Knowledge Will Increase – In the latter days, people will travel “to and fro” and knowledge will increase. We are approaching a “technological tower of Babel” situation!
- The Gospel Will be Preached to All Nations – While there are still unreached people groups within nations, the gospel has been successfully taken to all nations around the globe. The gospel will continue to be preached during the coming times of tribulation.
- God’s 7000 Year Calendar – While God is outside of time, He has allotted humanity 7000 years. We are nearing the brink of 6000 years – the last 1000 years will be Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom!
- Specific Wars are Predicted – There are a number of prophetic wars that will occur during the time of the end. As the players maneuver into position, we can see that the time is near.
- A Great Sign in the Sun, Moon, and Stars – It appears God may be announcing the imminent rapture of the church and the nearness of His Second Coming through a great sign in the sun, moon, and stars described in Revelation 12:1-2. This great sign appeared in the sky on September 23, 2017. Interestingly, satan seems to think September 23 is an important date.
- The Generation sign – Jesus tells His disciples that “this generation will certainly not pass away before all these things are accomplished”. The phrase “all these things” encompasses the signs He just mentioned, including the fig tree sign, the events during the “tribulation”, and His second coming. Many prophecy scholars agree that this sign refers to the generation being born during the time of Israel’s rebirth, and that this specific generation will not die before Jesus’ second coming. The length of a generation is defined in Psalm 90 as 70-80 years.
- Great Pyramid of Egypt – It appears that certain dates may point to the possible advent of Jesus – both His first and second comings – in the mathematics of the Great Pyramid. The angles in the corridors of the pyramid point to certain stars/constellations only on specific dates and years.
Braxton Hicks to True Birth Pains
Once we know that we are in the season, we are to watch for signs of the beginning of birth pains. Labor pains are often used to describe the beginning of the “end times”. The beginning of birth pains, as defined by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, start with a collection of signs involving the opening of Seals 1-6 (wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful events and great signs from heaven). The beginning of birth pains is the beginning of the Day of the Lord. Immediately as these birth pains begin we are to look up, for our redemption is near – imminent (Luke 21:28). The beginning of signs gives us the specific DAY, but won’t be revealed until we are ON that Day, IN that hour. So it seems that ON THE DAY, IN THE HOUR, we may know – if we are watching. Literally, looking up.
I find Jesus’ statement to specifically look up when all these things begin very interesting. In Luke 21, the beginning of the signs includes “great signs from heaven“. Revelation 12 describes a “great sign appearing in heaven“. Revelation 12:5 seems to describe the rapture of the church – which is our redemption. The sign itself occured on September 23, 2017 and is unique (it has never occurred before in human history and won’t occur again in the next several thousand years).
Imminence and the Revelation 12 Sign
A common stumbling block for people when it comes to the Revelation 12 Sign is if it destroys the understanding of imminence. Greg at “A Little Strength” has written a great article on how the Revelation 12 sign might be connected with imminence here – The Exit Sign. The language is a little strong sometimes but I think he makes a good point:
It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that some of the early dispensational Bible scholars began to identify the signs in Revelation 12:1–5 as including a depiction of the pre-tribulation Rapture; but even then, men like John Nelson Darby, William Kelly, William Blackstone, and Henry A. Ironside didn’t have the faintest idea exactly how or when the two great signs of Revelation 12:1–5 would actually be fulfilled.
These men obviously didn’t enjoy the luxury of having personal computers and sophisticated software programs like Stellarium that could do in seconds what would have taken them months of laborious effort. They succeeded in ferreting out the proper eschatological interpretation of this passage, but could go no further. Although they made progress by laying the groundwork, the actual fulfillment of the REV12 sign remained hidden.
In perfect harmony with the scriptural teaching that the Rapture is imminent, God, in His infinite wisdom, simply didn’t reveal the fulfillment of the REV12 sign. Imminence requires an absence of known signs—or perhaps I should say revealed signs. And for the last two thousand years, there were no revealed signs pertaining to the Rapture. For nearly two millennia the Church didn’t have the revelation knowledge to see any signs pertaining to the Rapture, let alone the capacity to see their fulfillment. My point is this:
The Rapture hasn’t been a signless event for
nearly two millennia because there is no sign.
It’s been a signless event for nearly two millennia
because God wisely chose not to reveal any signs.
But just a few years ago, God began to do just that.
It’s Imminent, All Right
So we have established that the rapture couldn’t really have been imminent for much of the church age (although the revelatory nature of prophecy would have made it appear that it could have been), but it certainly seems to be imminent now. There is nothing that would impede the progression of our world into Daniel’s 70th Week and the Day of the Lord except for the Restrainer himself (the Holy Spirit in the temple of the body of Christ).
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so!