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The IMMINENCE of CHRIST'S RETURN

by Alex V. Wilson

A. Jesus told His followers to “wait” “watch” and “be ready” for His Coming, and they did: Matt. 24:42 Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Matt. 24:44 Be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 1 Cor. 1:8 You eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. Phil. 3:20-21 We eagerly await a Sav­ior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ 1 Thes. 1:9-10 You turned to God… to wait for his Son from heaven Tit. 2:13 We wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

James 5:7-9, Be patient, then, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

1 Peter 1:13-14 Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Je­sus Christ is revealed. 1 John 2:28 And now, continue in [Christ], so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. Many other passages could be added to those nine.

B. Yet, 3 times in His main prophetic sermon, Jesus strongly implied His Return might not be for “a long time.” Matt. 24:48  The wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time’. Matt. 25:5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming. Matt. 25: 19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.

C. Also our Lord Jesus and His apostles foretold the follow­ing would occur Before His Return:

1) “The gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10). It would be “preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14; v. 3 shows that “the end” He spoke of was “the end of the age”–this present age). Worldwide evangelization must occur before His return. This preaching to all “nations” (literally, “peoples” or ethnic groups) still awaits completion. But great strides are being made, and not just by Americans. South Korea sends the 2nd largest number of mission­aries, and may soon surpass the U.S. Let’s get the job done!

[In case you wonder what Paul meant in writing” All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit,” and “the gospel…has been pro­claimed to every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:6,23), it seems to me the NIV Study Bible’s note gives a clear explanation. These statements are “hyperbole, to dramatize the rapid spread of the gos­pel into every quarter of the Roman empire within three decades of Pentecost (see Rom. 1:8; Rom. 10:18; Rom. 16:19 [& 15: 19b]). In refutation of the charge of the false teachers [in Colosse], Paul insists that the Christian faith is not merely local or regional but worldwide. “]

2) Jerusalem would be made desolate; then it would be trampled on by the Gentiles for some time (Luke 21:20, 24) before Jesus’ coming (v. 27).

3). Peter would become old and be martyred (John 21: 18-19). If so, the “rapture” could not occur while Peter was alive, for then he would never die! But Jesus said he would die.

4) The Lord commissioned Paul to go “far away to the Gentiles,” and later assured him that he would reach Rome and testify for Him there (Acts 22:21; Acts 23:11). Obviously He would not come for the church before those events occurred, for it would require Paul’s be­ing left behind!

5) The church in Smyrna would suffer persecution and some of its members be imprisoned. (Rev. 2:10.) Could Christ come at “any time any day” before that imprisonment took place?

6) The Lord told His people in Thyatira that He would bring suffering on the false prophetess “Jezebel” and her followers there. “Then,” He said, “all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts” (Rev. 2:22-23). Could He come for the church before fulfilling that prediction of His? (Most scholars agree these predictions in #5 and #6 were written in the 90s A.D.)

7) The [final] “abomination that causes desolation” would be set up in the holy place (Matt. 24:15, 21; Mark 13:14). That event will be the kickoff of the Great Tribulation. Christ’s “coming” and “gathering His elect” would occur afterwards. (Matt. 24:29-31. Compare the “coming” and “catching up” of Christians mentioned in 1 Thes. 4:15-17.)

8) The “lawless one will be revealed” (2 Thes. 2:3, 2 Thes. 2:8-9) before the Day of the Lord will come. And in the context of that passage, the Day of the Lord seems clearly to be the time of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” (v. 1) as well as the time of His destroying the lawless one “by the splendor of His coming” (v.8). Paul doesn’t separate those two “comings” into widely-separated events, as some Bible teachers do.

So several events were predicted to occur during this age, before the Lord’s return. It would seem He could not return before they came to pass. We gladly admit that most of them have now been ful­filled. But the point is that until they were, His coming was not “im­minent” in the any-day, any-moment sense. And numbers 1, 7 and 8 are still not fulfIlled. Can Christ come for us before they are?

[See article # 3 Two Differing Interpretations]




One Response to “The IMMINENCE of CHRIST'S RETURN”

  1. Don McGee says:

    Alex,

    As always your thoughts are insightful. Our friend and brother-in-Christ John Fulda would indeed give a hearty “amen” to your view. He and I discuss the present issue in class from time-to-time, and it is always good. Iron does indeed sharpen iron.

    I believe there are two things that would assist us in getting a clearer picture of the issue of imminence.

    First, there is a very clear distinction between the rapture and the second coming, a distinction that is quite often misunderstood and thus leads to confusion. The signs we see today (Israel, Europe, world political and economic turmoil, rapidly accelerating demonstrations of hatred from the Arab/Muslim world, etc.) point to the second coming when Israel will be delivered, not to the rapture itself. However, since the rapture precedes the second coming by seven years, in my opinion, the conclusion must be the imminent return of Jesus for His church.

    Second is the context of Matthew 24. It was written by a Jew to the Jews about the future tribulation of the Jewish people in context of Daniel’s 70th week. The church is not mentioned in Daniel 9, of course, nor is she mentioned in Matthew 24 (or the Mark or Luke text, for that matter). Luke 21 refers to some events that happened in AD 70, but Matthew does not mention those. Matthew, Mark and Luke all write regarding what Jesus said in answer to the disciple’s questions, but they do not write from the same perspective.

    The signs written about, though relevant to the church, are not in direct context of the church. Said another way, the prophecies in Matthew 24, e.g. preaching of the gospel to the whole world before the end, will be fulfilled prior to the second coming, not necessarily prior to the rapture.

    Yours is a good work, and I thank our Lord for what you do. Blessings.



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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33