THE IMMINENCY OF THE COMING OF CHRIST
FOR THE CHURCH
the most plain and concise language, the New Testament Scriptures set forth the
coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as the hope, encouragement, and comfort of
God’s pilgrim people. It is for His
appearing that they are instructed to watch and to wait. It is by the expectation of His soon return
that they are encouraged to live in all purity. It is with the knowledge that reunion will be made with departed
ones at the return of Christ that they are exhorted to comfort one
another. The fact that Christ will come
again and that His coming may be very soon has long been the prime hope of the
people of God.
is likewise clear from Scripture that no man can know the day, nor the hour, of
Christ’s return. To many Christians, as
they study the Word, it is equally clear that no prophesied, or clearly
scheduled, event stands between the present hour and the catching away of the
Church at the rapture. They do not look
for the earthly kingdom of Christ, nor for the revelation of the Antichrist and
the awful years of the Tribulation.
They look for Christ Himself, believing that His coming is the next
major event upon the calendar of heaven.
so believing, many Christians affirm that the coming of Christ is imminent,
which does not mean that this glad event must be immediate, but rather that it
is overhanging, that it may occur at any moment. The word imminent, if used of an evil
event, might be rendered impending, for it is always threatening to come
to pass. An imminent event is one that
hangs suspended, possibly for an indefinite period of time, but the final
occurrence is certain. As applied to
the coming of the Lord, imminency consists of three things: the certainty that He may come at any moment,
the uncertainty of the time of that arrival, and the fact that no prophesied
event stands between the believer and that hour.
The purpose of such imminency is that the
Church may be in a constant state of expectancy, always looking for and waiting
for the coming of her Lord from heaven.
Not only is the hope of His return a source of comfort and encouragement
to the believer, but also it is a very definite incentive for service and for
holy living. By the very nature of the
case, if the exact time of the rapture had been revealed, none but the final
generation of Christians would have cause to look for the return of their Saviour,
and for every other generation this vital hope and incentive would then have
been lost. Such is the mischief caused
when any known event, such as the Tribulation, the coming of Antichrist, or the
Millennium, is thrust between the Church and the coming of Christ for His
own. Arthur T. Pierson writes:
The imminence of the second advent is
destroyed the moment that we locate between the first and second coming of our
Lord any such definite period of time, whether it be one hundred years or a thousand;
for how can one look for an event as imminent which he knows is not to take
place for a definite time to come?
placing of even a seven year period such as the Tribulation, with its
impressive personages and clearly scheduled events, between the present hour
and the rapture just as certainly destroys the Biblical concept of an imminent
return. Yet this is the position of
posttribulational brethren, who vehemently defend the hypothesis that the
Church must pass through the entire Tribulation period. Indeed, the denial of imminency as applied
to the coming of Christ is one of their main contentions, as illustrated by
Robert Cameron, who fills approximately one third of his book with this very
the return of Christ for His Church is a very precious hope to Christians
everywhere, since there is involved no small amount of comfort, encouragement,
and incentive to right living, and since much of this advantage is lost by any
denial of the imminency of that coming, it is important to give the subject a
thorough re-examination. Little has
been written in its defence, but the charges hurled against it are many. The following pages will demonstrate, it is
believed, that the charges are false and that the doctrine stands firm. First to be considered are the various arguments
against imminency, after which the large Scriptural support for the doctrine
will be indicated.
Case Against Imminency
Cameron, because of his heavy emphasis upon this particular problem, may well
be chosen as this spokesman for the case against imminency. Certainly, his approach is thorough, and it
is also ambitious, for he writes “to show that such teaching is opposed to the
whole of the New Testament.” In common with others who deny the imminent
return of Christ, Cameron enumerates a number of basic objections:
fact that Christ promised the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, seems
to indicate that a period of time must occur between Christ’s departure and His
return, and an imminent return would make the coming of the Spirit “ a fool’s
errand.” So also, the promise of Christ to Peter
(John 21:18, 19) that he would live until old age would preclude the
possibility of early Christians looking for Christ at any moment. Peter also wrote of “mockers,” who would
say, in after years, “Where is the promise of his coming?” Likewise, the parables of Matthew 13 were intended
to reveal truths, previously not made known, concerning the period between the
rejection of Christ by Israel and His return.
Claiming that these parables set forth the course of this entire age,
Cameron implies that a long time must elapse before their completion.
Time, labour, may years of toil, growth and
development, in the history of Christendom must precede the Advent.
same thought he finds in the parable of the nobleman who went into a far
country to receive for himself a kingdom, then returned. Before the return, his servants must have
ample time to trade and to increase the number of their talents. Even more definite, according to Cameron, is
the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, where it is distinctly said,
“after a long time the Lord of these servants cometh and maketh a reckoning
Now, while no definite period is named, by no
juggling of words can a “long time” be turned into a short time,
much less into a moment. By virtue of
the terms of this Parable, harmonizing with the teaching of all other Parables,
the “imminent,” or “any moment” Advent of the Lord was an unthinkable possibility.
argues further that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19, 20 implies a long
interval of time, and that there is not the slightest reason for assuming that
an “un-named Jewish company,” converted after the rapture but before the Millennium,
could complete the accomplishment of this task. Still more definite, it is argued, Paul evidently did not expect
the Lord to come during his lifetime, for he records in II Timothy 4:6-8, “the
time of my departure has come.” Also,
he wrote the church at Rome of his proposed journey to Jerusalem, then to Rome,
and after that, to Spain (Rom. 15:22-25, 30, 31). “If he had any thought of Christ coming immediately, could he
have written this?”
posttribulationalist, Edmund Shackleton, sums up the further details of this
argument as well as any, when he says:
Prophets too, speaking by the Spirit, had told
him that bonds and afflictions awaited him.
In bidding farewell to the elders at Miletus, he told them of evils that
would arise after his departing from them; and these things would take a little
time to develop. Then when Paul had
been cast into prison at Jerusalem, the Lord stood by him at night and told him
that he must bear witness also at Rome (Acts xxxiii.11). Again, when writing to the Philippians from
prison, he speaks of his desire to depart, or the alternative, that he might be
liberated and pay them another visit.
In both his Epistles to Timothy, he foretells spiritual dangers of a
time still in the future.
is further argued by Cameron that Christ prophesied concerning the fall of
Jerusalem, Paul predicted perilous times in the last days, and numerous other
predicted events are to be found in the New Testament, all of which are used to
demonstrate that the return of Christ could not have been expected in that
day. In other words, the second coming
of Christ must follow well-defined events of unfulfilled prophecy and therefore
can not be imminent.
this present treatment of Cameron’s arguments can in no wise rival in length
the fifty pages he fills with objections to imminency, it is believed that a
brief analysis of the chief issues will suffice to reveal the general weakness
of his presentation and open the way for Bible students who wish to pursue the
subject in greater detail. The
following divisions follow the order of the objections set forth in the
A. The Promise of the Comforter
the promise that the disciples would be “baptized with the Holy Ghost not many
days hence” (Acts 1:5) was no indication of any appreciable time which had to
elapse before the Spirit could come.
Actually, Pentecost took place a mere ten days after the ascension of
Christ. It must constantly be kept in
mind throughout this discussion that imminent does not mean immediate,
and the fact that there was a brief interval before Pentecost does not prove
that it formed any barrier to the disciples’ faith in the Lord’s soon
return. In fact, when Christ does
return, it will be for His Church, and the Church was not instituted
until the time of the descent of the Spirit.
It is difficult to see how Pentecost, before which the Church, as such,
did not exist, could have been any kind of obstacle to faith in the imminent
return of Christ for the members of that Church.
B. The Promise to Peter
it be said that the posttribulational argument against imminency carries no
weight, and that the events predicted concerning Peter and Paul have little
bearing on one’s belief in the imminent return of Christ, the following
citation from Oswald Smith, pastor of the People’s Church of Toronto, is
significant. Setting forth his reasons
for forsaking the pretribulation view, he writes:
Then when I remembered that the death of
Peter, his prediction of corruption and apostasy after his decease, the death
of Paul and many other events had to occur before the Rapture, my “any moment”
theory took wings and flew.
is the belief of this present investigator that such a “flight” from a
confident hope in the imminent return of Christ was an unnecessary departure,
and that the former position was more tenable than the latter. No doubt many a busy pastor, and many an earnest
saint, have been so mislead by some clever writer pursuing a proselyting
campaign for posttribulationalism.
argument concerning Peter is that, on the basis of John 21:18, 19, Peter knew
he would grow old and die, and therefore, for him at least, the coming of
Christ could not be imminent. However,
it is not clear that Peter so understood the Lord on this point. Certainly he encouraged the believers of his
day to look for the coming of the Lord.
Also, he knew that he might die suddenly (II Pet. 1:14), and although it
is not stated whether he expected death, Herod had just killed with the sword
James, the brother of John, and had seized Peter with the same intention (Acts
12:1-3). At least, it is certain that
the believers expected Peter’s death, for when Rhoda bore the news of his
released, they said unto her, “Thou art mad,” and when they saw Peter, “they
were astonished” (Acts 12:15, 16). It
is most doubtful if Peter had assurance that his death must precede the coming
of his Lord, and it is obvious that the people had no concept that his would be
a long life. The actual passage in
question, John 21:18, with the apostle’s explanation in the following verse,
was not written until twenty or more years after the death of Peter. In the same context, verses 20-23, there is
found a clear indication that the believers of that day expected the return of
Christ within the lifetime of John. In
contemplating Christ’s coming, Peter, at least, was not a factor in the
thinking of the early church. As they looked
for the Saviour, they did not run around asking, “I wonder if Peter is dead
yet?” Peter could have died suddenly
without most people knowing it. Even if
the promise of Christ were known throughout the Church, and interpreted in the
strictest sense that Peter’s death must precede Christ’s coming, there was no
reason for the Church to reject her belief in the imminent return on that
basis. Judging from their spirit of
expectancy, it is evident that they did not.
This whole objection strikes one as being foolish and unnecessary, and
it is dealt with here only because it seems to occupy so much posttribulational
the statement of Peter that in the last days, men should scoff at the promise
of Christ’s coming (II Pet. 3:3-5), and the kindred predictions by Paul of
“perilous times” (II Tim. 3:1-5) and departure from the faith (I Tim. 4:1-3),
these conditions had a near, as well as a far, fulfillment. Such predictions were never an obstacle in
the minds of believers of apostolic days, again evident from the fact that
Christ’s return was expected by the Early Church. Thiessen aptly harmonized these verses when he commented:
The writers of these prophecies did not think of them as lying in
the remote future, but spoke of them as already present, at least in their
beginnings, in their own day. They
intended their statements to be a warning to the very people to whom they
wrote, and not simply to us who live in the twentieth century.
C. The Problem of Christ’s Parables
rightfully holds the position that the seven parables of Christ, set forth in
Matthew 13, picture the course of this present age between the rejection of
Christ by Israel and His return to reign.
He then defends his posttribulational view on the basis that both tares
and whet grow together until the time of harvest, and that there is a long time
of sowing before the whole world is reached.
The other six parables harmonize with this
one, and a long time must elapse before the world could be sown; before
the tares and wheat (Christendom) could mature; before the leaven of evil could
spread through the whole meal of truth and before the drag net could be filled
and the separation made.
the tares will first be disposed of and the rapture cannot precede the
judgment; also since a long time is involved in the fulfillment of these
parables, the rapture is not imminent.
it is argued, the parable of the nobleman who gave his servants the ten pounds
was a rebuke to those who “thought that the kingdom of God should immediately
appear,” and the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 clearly records that it
was only after “a long time” that the lord of those servants came and made his
reckoning with them. On the basis of
such passages of Scripture, the posttribulationalists build an argument against
imminency which they unhesitatingly label “unanswerable.”
a fair and reasonable answer is not difficult to find. The question is not whether God foresaw the
entirety of the Church age when He gave these Scriptures, for that fact is obvious. Nor does the question inquire whether the
entire age is pictured in sufficient clarity for twentieth century
believers to visualize in these parables the long history of Christendom. We have the advantage of the backward
look, the historical perspective, and must concede from our vantage point that
these parables do describe something of the task of the Church and the progress
of the age.
issue rather is whether or not first century Christians saw and understood
in these parables enough of God’s future purposes to reject the imminency of
Christ’s coming. We believe they did
not. Since the very basic issues of
God’s redemptive program, notably, that Christ must go to the cross and
on the third day rise again (Matt. 16:21-23; 17:22, 23; 26:69-75; Luke 24:21,
25; John 20:25, etc.), it is difficult indeed to see how early Christians in
general could have comprehended God’s prophetic program to the point of
rejecting the imminent return of Him for whose coming they had been instructed
to watch. This is particularly true,
clothed as the predictions were – in the language of parables. To the contrary, the whole apostolic Church
and the Christians of the following two centuries
were characterized by the fact that they did look for the soon return of
Christ. While it is admitted that a
general outline of the development of Christendom is to be found pictured in
the parables of the kingdom, it must be recognized that there was also a
simultaneous, local application of these same parables. “All the conditions described in the
parables exist simultaneously in all periods of the Church’s history, and yet
there is a progressive fulfillment as well.” It is most probable that the early
Christians saw only the preliminary fulfillment of their own day and had no
true concept of the full development of the age. Was not the gospel soon carried to the furthermost parts of the
then-known world? Did not apostasy
immediately set in, with unbelievers scoffing at the promise of Christ’s
coming? Apostasy has been present
throughout the age, although it will reach its peak after the Church and the
restraint of the Spirit have been removed.
It is safe to conclude then, that the parabolic teachings of Christ
constituted no obstacle to the hope of the apostolic Church in His imminent
is said that the seven churches of Revelation 1-3 picture the course of the
age, and therefore early Christians could not have held to the doctrine under
consideration. While it is true that
these churches bear a marked resemblance to the various periods of church
history, and while granting that this is a legitimate application, it must not
be forgotten that John was writing to seven existing, although representative,
congregations. All these various shades
of Christian testimony, or of departure from, were present in John’s day
throughout the early church. John saw
no need for projecting the second coming into the far distance future, for he
was himself one of the chief witnesses to the soon coming of Christ, the
closing words penned in the book of Revelation being “Sure I come quickly [ταχύ,
speedily, as quickly as possible]. Even
so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
Paul also rejoiced that the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols ...
and to wait for his Son from heaven.”
direct contradiction to the idea that certain parables would have led the early
church to reject the hope of an imminent return, there is indication that some
had actually ceased to work on the grounds that Christ might come at any moment
(I Thess. 4:11; II Thess. 3:10-12), and that others were growing restless at
the seeming delay and had to be exhorted to patience (James 5:7, 8). There can therefore be no doubt that the apostolic
church viewed the coming of Christ as imminent. Christ had comforted His disciples with the fact that He would
come again, and there is much throughout the entire New Testament to encourage
in the believer a spirit of daily expectation.
Simultaneously, the too common error of fixing dates for the time of His
return is carefully guarded against.
to deal more directly with the parables under discussion. The parable of the wheat and the tares
indicates the nature of the present age, declaring that the godly and the
wicked will live side by side until the return of Christ. But this can hardly mean that no believers
or unbelievers at all will leave the earth before God’s final harvest, for
representatives of both groups are being removed by death almost every moment
of the day. The parable merely presents
the fact that both wheat and tares will continue on earth until the end, at
which time separation will be made.
Thus is explained the problem of why God permits the wicked to flourish
with the righteous. He is aware of
their seeming prosperity, but the time of separation has not yet come.
parable, then, in no wise excludes the possibility of rapture before judgment,
in which case the “wheat” of that final day will consist of those saved after
the rapture, even the Jewish remnant and the many converts from among Gentile
nations. And if, as
posttribulationalists insist, this parable sets the order of the harvest, even
their system is not immune to difficulty, for the parable declares, “First, the
Cameron urges that this passage proves “time, labour, many years of toil,
growth and development, in the history of Christendom must precede the
Advent,” who can
deny that tares were flourishing in the midst of the wheat, even in the early
church? Paul warned the elders of the
spiritual Ephesian assembly that after his departing, “grievous wolves” should
enter in among them and tear the flock (Acts 20:29). It would have been difficult indeed to persuade these elders that
Christ could not come at any moment, on the grounds that the tares had not yet
a sufficient time to flourish in the midst of the wheat! Although apostasy will reach its climax in
the end time, it has marked the professing Church in every century of her
existence. The Early Church was not so
immune that lack of apostasy would have kept them from anticipating the coming
purpose of the parable of the nobleman is clearly explained in Luke 19:11. Christ’s followers were looking for the
earthly kingdom of Messiah, and “because he was nigh to Jerusalem ... they
though that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” As yet, they did not comprehend that Christ
would leave them, or that He must die, or that the setting up of the visible
kingdom must await a second advent.
Christ gave this parable to correct their thinking and to instruct them
to “carry on business” for Him after His departure. He did not say how long He would be gone, but He did promise to
return in such a manner that service should be rendered in the spirit of
expectancy. We must “occupy” till He
comes, even as in the Lord’s Supper, we “do shew the Lord’s death till he
come” (I Cor. 11:26). These expressions
emphasize the imminency of the return of Christ, rather than denying it.
is also true of the parable of the talents.
An adult who has already achieved possession of a home, money, and
servants, takes a journey, having first committed his goods into the hands of
his servants. The length of his journey
is not revealed, but the “long time” was not so many months or years that the owner
did not find them all living upon his return, so that they might be held
responsible. The parable was given to
illustrate the need for watchfulness and not to establish the extent of the
absence. If any impression was made at
all concerning the time of the return, it must have been that the arrival would
be within the lifetime of the servants.
There is absolutely nothing to indicate, as Cameron pleads, that this parable
makes the imminent return of the Lord “an unthinkable possibility.”
D. The Great Commission
28:18-20 records the last command of Christ to His followers prior to His
ascension. The passage is generally referred
to as the “Great Commission,” or the “marching orders of the church.” Here is set forth the parting instruction of
our Lord to carry the gospel to every creature and to teach all nations those
things which He has commanded (cf. Mark 16:15, 16). According to Cameron, Jesus is here setting
forth a vast program for this present age, and since many centuries have passed
and still “all nations, and peoples, and kindreds, and tongues” have not yet
been reached by the gospel, the idea of an imminent return of Christ “is
must be remembered once more that it is
not a matter of God’s knowing and recording His advance program, but rather
this question: “Would such a Scripture
have caused the disciples to realize the extent of the coming age and so have
forced them to give up any personal belief in the imminent return of
Christ?” When the vitality and zeal of
Paul and other early converts, with their world-shaking testimony (Acts 17:6),
is remembered, together with the size of the then-inhabited world (grown yet
smaller by the unifying influence of Roman rule and Roman roads), it must be
confessed that world evangelism was a greater possibility in Paul’s day than in
ours. Nor was it the intent of the
great Commission that Paul and his successors should attempt to convert the
world, although postmillennialists have strained to read this into the
text. It is most evident that the
disciples did not so understand the Lord.
When Peter addressed the council at Jerusalem, he did not say that all
the Gentiles were going to be saved during this age, but that God would visit
the Gentiles “to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts
15:14). Thiessen has commented:
What the Lord asked the disciples to do was to
witness to all nations (Acts 1:8), and to make disciples of such as believed. That is, the Great Commission points out the
destination of the gospel, but makes no prediction as to the success
of the gospel.
the Great Commission says “all nations,” it cannot mean that the entirety of
the world’s population must be saved before Christ can come. On such a basis, no generation would witness
the Lord’s coming from glory, for hundreds are being born into the world for
every new convert to Christ. But if it
means that all nations must have an opportunity to hear the gospel, that fact
alone largely explains the incentive and the tremendous missionary impetus of
the early church. That this is the
correct conclusion and was the view of early Christians, is borne out by the
words of Paul to the Colossians:
. . . the gospel, which is come unto you, as
it is in all the world ... and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel,
which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under
heaven: whereof I Paul am made a
minister (Col. 1:6, 23).
the light of this overwhelming success granted to the missionary program of the
early church, there is absolutely no indication that Matthew 28:18-20 was a
barrier to their expectation that the Lord could have returned in their day.
E. The Statements of Paul
in the case against imminency is the contention that the Apostle Paul did not,
and could not, expect Christ to return in his lifetime. There seem to be three major objections to
the idea that Paul viewed the coming of Christ as imminent. The first of these is that Paul wrote to
Timothy concerning “latter times [when] some shall depart from the faith” (I
Tim. 4:1-3), and of “last days [when] perilous times shall come” (II Tim.
3:1-5), men having “a form of godliness” but denying the power thereof. Although this is now recognized to be a
picture of the end of the age, the sins listed are universal. Beyond any reasonable doubt, Christians of
every century have found these verses applicable to the times in which they
lived at least sufficiently so that they did not view the prophecy as yet
awaiting fulfillment before the Lord could come. As has been noted, apostasy set in extremely early (Gal. 1:6;
3:1; 4:11; Acts 15:1, ff). While it is
true that Paul’s predictions of final apostasy imply a development greater than
any attained in his generation, Scripture does not declare that the consummation
of apostasy must occur before the rapture. II Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of a “falling away,” and the
revelation of the Man of Sin, but the Tribulation is here in view and not
conditions of the Church age. The apostasy
in its final form will reach its climax only under the Satan-inspired leadership
of the Antichrist during the great Tribulation.
second objection is that Paul was distinctly promised a long career as an
apostle, and that he wrote under inspiration that he would travel to far off
lands. At his conversion and baptism,
he was told that he would bear the name of Christ “before the Gentiles, and
kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). He completed three missionary journeys. He visited Ephesus and promised to return. He planned to visit the saints at Jerusalem,
visit Rome, and journey on into Spain (Rom. 15:23-25). How could all these things be fulfilled if
Paul viewed the coming of Christ as an imminent event?
answer to the problem lies in the fact that Paul served the Lord in the spirit
of the exhortation, “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). All of his plans, including these proposed
journeys, were contingent on the Lord’s leading and the further revelation of
God’s will for his life. Thus it was
that he conditioned his promise to the Ephesus, “But I will return again unto
you, if God will (Acts 18:21).
To the Christians at Rome he expressed his desire that “I might have a
prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” Often he had purposed to come unto them but
had been hindered (Rom 1:9, 10, 13). He
wrote plainly to the Corinthians: “But
I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will (I Cor. 4:19).
men have served as well or suffered more for the cause of Christ than Paul, yet
along with his service he ever expressed himself as one who believed the Lord
might come at any time. To the
Philippians, he wrote: “For our
conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the
Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
He prayed for the Thessalonian Christians that their “whole spirit and
soul and body be preserved blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”
(I Thess. 5:23). Likewise, he commended
them for turning “to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to
wait for his Son from heaven” (I Thess. 1:9, 10). Such an attitude is far cry from that attributed to him by
He did not look for the “imminent” coming of
the Lord. He had been too well
instructed by the Prince of teachers that he did not make such a glaring
third part of the argument based on the life of Paul is not only that he would
go “far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21), but also that he would enjoy
great length of years as the apostle to the Gentiles. This being the case, it is assured, Christ could not have returned
in his lifetime. But it has been seen
that it did not take long for Paul to reach the Gentiles; in fact, he had
already been to the Macedonians (Acts 16).
Carrying the gospel unto uttermost parts was rapidly accomplished (Col.
1:6, 23). As to the length of his life,
Paul testified in I Corinthians 15:30:
“Why stand we in jeopardy every hour?”
Of his suffering he recorded:
Of the Jews five times received I forty
stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten
with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I
have been in the deep. ...
one reads these and the following verses of II Corinthians 11:23-28, he can
scarcely conclude that Paul enjoyed great assurance of a long and healthy
life. His purpose was not necessarily
to live, but merely to magnify Christ Jesus the Lord in his body “whether it be
by life, or by death” (Phil. 1:20, 21).
For Paul, length of life was not contingent on his being the apostle to
the Gentiles but upon his doing the will of God, and that very attitude enabled
him to live and serve in the hope of an imminent return of Christ.
F. Why This Attack on Imminency?
is Cameron, and the many who follow his example, attempting to prove by his
long and laborious arguments? What is
the purpose of this detailed and supposedly unanswerable case which he strives
so diligently to establish? Surely he
has a deeper motive than trying to prove that first century saints were not looking
for their Lord from glory. At the end
of this argument, the motive is finally stated:
Thus, we find that the Apostles looked for intervening
events between them and the Coming of the Lord. This attitude did not make His coming any less precious to their
hearts. We are certainly in good
company when we share the same faith and feeling, and it is still the blessed
hope to our hearts.
In other words, Cameron is
attempting to prove that the second coming of Christ was a precious hope to the
apostles, but no on the basis that they thought His coming was imminent, or
that they might share in the rapture experience. What actually did make His coming a precious hope to them, when
first they must look for the death of Peter and the death of Paul, and await
the coming of the Spirit, the fall of Jerusalem, and the fulfillment of the
Great Commission, giving time for the gospel to reach Spain and for the tares
to grow up with the wheat, Cameron and his friends do not care to
indicate. Can it be that the coming of
Christ was a source of comfort and encouragement to the early church because,
in spite of other predictions, they held it to be imminent? Assuredly, this is the truth of the case.
doctrine of the imminent return of Christ is not under attack, however, because
of its application to the early church.
If this were a question which influenced only that one generation of
believers, it might be easier to dismiss the entire matter. The posttribulational view robs every
generation of an imminent, and consequently of a comforting and purifying
hope. It argues that, because the
rapture is not imminent in the first century, it is not imminent in any
century, and it cannot be imminent now.
Antichrist and the great Tribulation are ahead, and there is no basis
for expecting Christ to come before such clearly scheduled events. It is unscriptural to take hope that this
may be the year of His return.
Even though He were to come in this generation, Tribulation and martyrdom
are brought that much closer. No need
to watch for Christ; watch for Antichrist – he will be here first! This is posttribulationalism!
doctrine of the imminent return of Christ is absolutely fatal to such a
Therefore, they press the attack against imminency and labor so hard to
discount the doctrine. It may be
concluded from the very weakness of the arguments by their chief spokesman that
their task has not been accomplished, for they can be met and defeated on their
own ground. Thus far, the consideration
has been negative; the actual strength of the doctrine of imminency will be
demonstrated more conclusively by the positive approach: the testimony of the Scriptures to the
actual hope of the apostles and the attitude of the early church.
Hope of the Early Church
confidence of the apostles concerning the possibility of an early advent has
been touched on in the previous section and needs but a brief summary at this
point. A consideration of the
Scriptures involved will be sufficient to convince the average reader that the
hope of Christ’s coming was shared by the early church.
A. Testimony from Scripture
the words spoken by Christ to His disciples in the intimacy of the Passover
chamber were those which promised a heavenly mansion and a certain return of
Christ for His own: “I go to prepare a
place for you. And ... I will come
again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”
(John 14:2, 3). To this promise, the
angels add their testimony: “This same
Jesus ... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”
(Acts 1:11). There is every indication
that the apostles received such promises as applying directly unto themselves. In his letter to the Christians at Corinth,
Paul writes words applicable to the entire Church throughout the present
age: “We shall not all sleep, but we
shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ...” (I Cor.
15:51, 52), and who can prove that Paul himself did not cherish the hope of being
included among those that shall not “sleep”?
When he wrote the Philippians, he reminded them to citizenship in
heaven: “from whence also we look for the Saviour (Phil. 3:20).
he wrote to the Colossians, part of his theme was: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall y also appear
with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). When he
wrote to the Thessalonians, he commended them that they had “turned to God from
idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven” (I
Thess. 1:9, 10). Paul instructed his
son in the faith, Timothy, and exhorted him to “keep this commandment without
spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Tim. 6:14).
converts were reminded that “yet a little while, and he that shall come will
come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37).
James exhorts those to whom he wrote:
“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord
draweth nigh” (James 5:8). Peter
remarks that those who scoff at the coming of the Lord “are willingly ignorant”
(II Pet. 3:4, 5), while John concludes the Revelation and closes the canon of
Scripture with the glad cry: “He which
testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord
Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Here is testimony
indeed to the hope of the early church!
fully recognized that these, and like precious promises, were given through the
apostles and prophets to the entire church, and for the entire age. This alone is sufficient ground to prove
that all generations during the church age have had the right to consider the
coming of Christ as imminent. But those
New Testament writings were sent to living people and real places, sent to
answer actual problems in existing local churches, and it is undeniable that
the generation which received the original autographs believed that they had a
right to take these promises unto themselves.
Nor did Paul rebuke the Thessalonian Christians for waiting “for his Son
from heaven” on the grounds that Peter was not dead yet, or that Jerusalem was
not yet destroyed!
coming of Christ was just as imminent in the first century as it is today, by
which is meant that from the viewpoint of the believer, Christ could have come
in that generation. From the same
Scriptures, men today look for His appearing.
The promises are so worded that every age may view the coming as
imminent and receive the blessing and comfort of such a hope, without any age
or generation being able to say emphatically:
“Christ will come in our day.”
B. The Hope of the First Three Centuries
only may it be demonstrated that the New Testament church held the coming of
Christ to be imminent, but the same conclusion is reached from the writings of
men of God in subsequent generations.
Silver says of the Apostolic Fathers that “they expected the time was imminent
because their Lord had taught to live in a watchful attitude.” Concerning the Anti-Nicene Fathers, he
says: “By tradition they knew the faith
of the Apostles. They taught the
doctrine of the imminent and premillennial return of the Lord.” Something of the evidence for these claims
will be presented at later point, under the consideration of the “historical
problem” in chapter 10. Many authors
can be cited to prove that a belief in the soon return of Christ existed
throughout the first three centuries.
Although a member of the liberal theological school, our of sheer
honesty as a historian, A. Harnack writes:
In the history of Christianity three main
forces are found to have acted as auxiliaries to the gospel. They have elicited the ardent enthusiasm of
men whom the bare preaching of the gospel would have never made decided converts. These are a belief in the speedy return of
Christ and in His glorious reign on earth....
First in point of time came the faith in the nearness of Christ’s second
advent and the establishing of His reign of glory on the earth. Indeed it appears so early that it might be
questioned whether it ought not to be regarded as an essential part of the
The weight of the evidence
from the writings of the apostles and from the faith of the early church on
into the third century is solidly behind the claim that the Bible teaches
imminency of the return of Christ.
New Testament Exhortations
is in the New Testament a body of truth which rightfully belongs under the
heading, “The hope of the early church,” yet it is sufficiently extensive to
warrant separate treatment. It consists
of the apostolic exhortations to look, watch, wait, and be
ready for the coming of the Saviour.
Herein lies additional positive and Scriptural proof for the imminency
of His return. The argument, in brief,
is as follows:
Philippians 3:20, Paul speaks of citizenship in heaven, “From whence also we look
for the Saviour.” Hebrews 9:28 records,
“unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin
unto salvation.” According to Titus
2:13, believers are to be “looking for that blessed hope, and the
glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Paul ... does not ask us to look for the
Tribulation, or the Antichrist, or for persecution and martyrdom, or for death,
but for the return of Christ. If any of
these events must precede the Rapture, then how can we help looking for them
rather than the Lord’s coming? Such a
view of the coming of the Lord can at best only induce a very general interest
in the “blessed hope.”
very fact that all generations of Christians have looked for and are exhorted
to keep looking for the coming of the Lord, gives witness to the fact that
Christ may come at any time. Yet, some
have lost sight of this fact and have followed the philosophy of those servants
who said: “My Lord delays his coming”
The fact that, according to an Act of
Parliament adopted in 1752, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer gives
directions for calculating the feasts of the Church year as far ahead as a.d. 8500, was not calculated to
convince Darby and his associates a century ago that the bishops and other
clergy of the Established Church were living in eager expectancy of the
advent. It indicated rather that they
regarded the Church of England as firmly established on earth and expected it
to remain their almost “world without end.”
the exhortations to look for the return of Christ are added the similar
exhortations to watch. This
command is given to the Church in view of the rapture in I Thessalonians
5:6. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do
others; but let us watch and be sober.”
The same exhortation is given to the church at Sardis, in Revelation
3:3. “If therefore thou shalt not watch,
I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come
upon thee.” A similar command to watch
is given to believers, particularly Israel, who will be under the persecution
of the Beast during the great Tribulation.
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt.
24:42; cf., 25:13; Rev. 16:15).
“Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find
watching” (Luke 12:37; cf., 21:36).
Thus, the attitude of watchfulness is becoming to any believer in
Christ, and the exhortation to watch seems to be applied to the second coming
as a whole. Certainly the language of
Mark 13:32-37, although given in the setting of the Lord’s return to earth, may
be used by application as a general exhortation to all saints through the
course of the entire age:
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man,
no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know
not when the time is. For the Son of
man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to
his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to
watch. Watch ye therefore: for he know
not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing,
or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all,
these many years, believers have been looking and watching for their Lord from
glory. They have believed that, while
His coming might not be immediate, nor necessarily in their lifetime, His
coming could be very soon. Weary from
the presence of sin or in pain from the presence of sickness, in the morning
they have said, “Perhaps today!” and in the evening they have whispered,
“Perhaps tonight!” They have “loved his
appearing,” viewing it as imminent, and so have watched for the return of the
Saviour. Yet, with it all they have
lived in accord with that other most practical exhortation, “Occupy till I
come.” As Blackstone well says:
True watching is an attitude of mind and heart
which would joyfully and quickly turn from any occupation to meet our Beloved,
rapturously exclaiming “this is the Lord; we have waited for Him.”
to say, the posttribulational view discredits and robs the Biblical
exhortations to watchfulness of any real and significant meaning. This was clearly seen by the honored James
If the Church must pass through the
tribulation, it is useless to watch for Him daily. According to this view the apostasy must first set in like a
flood, and sweep away the great mass of professing Christianity, the Antichrist
in his proud lawlessness is to be developed, and the Jews restored in unbelief
to their own land. None of these things
have occurred [the latter yet only in part]: and hence it is impossible for
those who hold the error, here condemned, to heed the Saviour’s admonition,
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always,” uttering the cry of the longing apostle,
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” Rev. xxii:20.
They put themselves out of sympathy with the mind of the Master, for
they postpone his advent at least for some years.
third exhortation in view of the second coming of Christ is to wait. Such is the attitude of believers who wait
for the redemption of their bodies (Rom. 8:23). Those at Corinth came behind in no gift, “waiting for the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 1:7), while the Thessalonian believers served
the living and true God and were waiting for His Son from heaven (I Thess.
1:10; cf., II Thess. 3:5).
Certainly, this is a normal attitude for redeemed men who view the
coming of their Lord as imminent. One
might expect that the command to wait (Luke 12:36) and to be ready (Luke 12:40;
Matt. 24:44) should be given prophetically to men in the great Tribulation who
have refused the mark of the Beast which would seal their doom (Rev. 14:9,
10). These will be waiting and eagerly
watching for the One who will destroy their enemies with the brightness of His appearing
(II Thess. 2:8). It is not to be
expected, however, that these same exhortations should be given generally to
the Church, as they are, unless it is intended for every generation of
believers to be characterized by an attitude of watchful expectancy, viewing
the coming of Christ for His Church as imminent throughout the age.
is not necessary for these commands to watch, wait and be
ready to be technical words used only of the rapture, or of the revelation. It has been demonstrated that these exhortations
were given to the first century Church and are applicable to the whole age,
which in itself supports the doctrine of imminency. It is only when the believer realizes that Christ’s coming may be
very soon, and must be before the unveiling of Antichrist and the day of God’s
outpoured wrath, that he can express the hope:
I am waiting for the
dawning, Of the bright and blessed day:
When the darkstone night of sorrow, Shall have vanished far away:
When forever with the Saviour, Far beyond this vale of tears,
I shall swell the song of worship, Through the everlasting years.
I am looking at the
brightness, (See, it shineth from afar,)
Of the clear and joyous beaming, Of the “Bright and Morning Star”;
Through the dark grey mist of morning, Do I see its glorious light;
Then away with every shadow, Of this sad and weary night.
I am waiting for the
coming, Of the Lord who died for me;
Oh! His words have thrilled my spirit: “I will come again for thee,”
I can almost hear his footfall, On the threshold of the door,
And my heart, my heart is longing, To be His for evermore!
avoid the full force of the argument for imminency from these exhortations to
look, to watch, and to wait, posttribulationalists have tried to prove by
illustration that scheduled events before the coming do not keep us from
watching for Christ Himself. When you
stand at the station awaiting a train which bears a beloved friend, it is
argued, you watch the signals. As long
as the semaphore stands at right angles, you know the train has not passed the
last station, but you are watching, not for the dropping of the semaphore, but
for your friend who is near. Similarly, you wait for the royal parade and
for the sight of the king. In the distance,
you hear the band which leads the parade, but as you watch for the first sight
of the band, in reality you look, not for the band, but for the king himself.
these illustrations, posttribulationalists would have the Christian believe
that Antichrist, Tribulation and wrath from God do not prevent them from
looking beyond for the coming of the King.
These other events are but the “band” which precedes the royal carriage.
it is the native responsibility of an illustration to at least resemble the
thing illustrated. Waiting for a signal
to drop is certainly a harmless activity, but hardly illustrative of seven
years of horror such as the world never before has known, when men shall seek
death and shall not find it, when they shall gnaw their tongues in pain and cry
for the mountains to fall upon them to hide them from the wrath of the One who
sits upon His throne. The tuneful band
which gaily precedes the royal monarch scarcely exemplifies the prospect of war
and famine, of unparalleled death and destruction, of conflict with the great
Beast and a martyr’s grave at the end.
Such illustrations, typical of posttribulational argument, do not
illustrate, but hide the truth.
The only thing illustrated is the tendency of those who reject an “any
moment” rapture, whether they be posttribulationalists or amillennialists, to
spiritualize away any true significance to the Tribulation period, making it
the equivalent of any other time of persecution endured by the people of
God. By their clutching at such straws
for their illustrations, the truth of imminency is not injured. It is rather vindicated.
Scriptures couple with the exhortations to look, watch and to wait
three distinct characteristics of the rapture which further indicate that this
event must precede the Tribulation. For
the Christian in this age, the coming of Christ is a “blessed hope,” a
“comforting hope,” and a “purifying hope.”
Those who love the Lord are constrained to look for “that blessed
hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus
Christ (Titus 2:13). They are not to
sorrow over loved ones who are “asleep” as men which have no hope, for Christ
shall raise them also, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with
these words” (I Thess. 4:13-18). Indeed,
the first comfort given to the bewildered disciples who beheld their Lord
ascend into heaven and who then stood gazing into the skies, was: “This same Jesus ... shall so come in like
manner” (Acts 1:11). Previously, they
had been comforted by the same hope:
“Let not your heart be troubled ... I go and prepare a place for
you. And ... I will come again and
receive you unto myself” (John 14:1, 3).
This return of the Lord is later signified by John as a purifying hope
when he said: “And every man that hath
this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3; cf.
2:28; II Pet. 3:14). Paul himself
exhorted: “Let your moderation be known
unto all men. The Lord is at hand”
is not a little wrong with any system of interpretation which destroys the
force of exhortations such as these, painting over the bright hues of the hope
of an imminent return of Christ with the somber shades of impending
Tribulation. Yet Frost introduces his
chapter entitled “The Coming Posttribulational” with these words:
My purpose now, will be to indicate that the
second advent, according to the Scripture, may not momentarily be
expected as it will not take place until God has fulfilled certain large
purposes of His and has brought to pass the last great testing and purifying of
His people in the midst of furnace fires.
As touching this last aspect of our subject, let me frankly admit that it
is not an inviting one, for all of us shrink from suffering of any
kind. But let me add that we must not
evade prophetical presentations simply because they are dark and sinister.
it is freely admitted that the Tribulation will be “dark and sinister.” There is nothing attractive about the rider
on the pale horse, called Death, who is followed by another called Hell, both
of whom kill with the sword and with hunger, with death and the beasts of the
earth. There is nothing attractive
about the torment of hellish locusts, nor the vile rivers of waters turned to
blood, nor the plagues of grievous sores upon the bodies of men, nor the great
hail out of heaven nor the winepress of the wrath of almighty God!
is there anything particularly attractive about a system of interpretation
which substitutes the expectation of these trials for the blessed hope of God’s
people. It is not amiss to ask those
who mistakenly would take the Church, Christ’s bride, into the time of “Jacob’s
trouble,” if for them these sorrows comprises the “blessed hope.” Is it for death and hell and wrath that one
must watch? Does the prospect of grievous
sores and hellish pestilence comprise the prelude to the “comforting hope” of
the Church? Can the Christian fully
rejoice in the knowledge of His soon coming, believing that those who share the
rapture experience must first endure the greatest hour of torment in earth’s history
and that, at best, the privilege of rapture awaits only the few who
escape the Beast’s rage and a martyr’s death?
The pretribulational interpretation of prophecy may have some difficulties,
but none so grave and far-reaching as these!
very fact that the primary passage on the rapture of the Church (I
Thessalonians 4:13-18) declares that this message is one of comfort, makes a
posttribulational rapture incredible.
Looking forward to seven years of intense suffering, the “purifying of
His people in the midst of furnace fires,” as Frost puts it, is a doubtful
source of hope or comfort. It is of no
solace or encouragement to tell suffering saints that far worse things are in
store for them! There is all the difference
in the world between looking for the Lord and looking for the Antichrist, the
Devil’s counterfeit Messiah. The
plainly intended meaning of the Thessalonians passage is that saints should be comforted
by the prospect of Christ’s coming.
There is not the slightest hint that distressed saints must endure still
greater distress in the Tribulation.
Rather than enter that period of anguish and torment, it would be far
better to die, for to be absent from the body means to be gloriously
present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8).
Death is a defeated enemy, having lost its sting by Christ’s victory
over the grave (I Cor. 15:54-57), but it is an enemy nevertheless, and as such
is of doubtful comfort. Yet death is
far to be preferred to the great Tribulation.
one position does honor to the Scriptures which speak of hope and comfort, and
only one interpretation makes sense in view of the exhortations to look, wait,
and watch for the Lord from glory. This
is to understand and to be assured that God will not thrust His Church into the
Tribulation period. Others may declare
these prophetic portions “dark and sinister.”
Still others may try to harmonize life and death, blessing and cursing,
comfort and the prospect of martyr blood, but the instructed Christian will
encourage himself in the Lord and in the hope of His imminent, pretribulational
return. With this hope, Christians will
cheer and sustain one another, and in the light of such a hope they will serve
Him, purifying their lives in order to have confidence and not be ashamed before
Him at His coming.
Oh joy! Oh delight!
Should we go without dying:
No sickness, no sadness, no pain, and no crying!
Caught up in the clouds with the Lord into glory
When Jesus receives His own!
Imminent Return: An Incentive to Holiness
only does the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ keep the promises and
exhortations connected with His coming in their proper and Scriptural
perspective, but also this truth is one of the greatest incentives to the
Church for vitality of service and holiness of life. Charles R. Erdman has stated the case clearly:
The fact of the Parousia has been, in all ages
of the Church, a source of inspiration and cheer. Upon it are based exhortations to purity, fidelity, holiness,
hope, and practically all the virtues of a Christian life.
the author of the immense work, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” and
himself a bitter critic of all things pertaining to Christianity, is forced to
admit as he writes concerning the coming of Christ:
Those who understood in their literal sense
the discourses of Christ Himself were obliged to expect the Second and glorious
Coming of the Son of Man before that generation was totally distinguished.... As long as for wise purposes this error was
permitted to exist in the Church, it was productive of the most salutary
effects on the faith and practice of Christians who lived in the awful expectation
of that moment.
stands to reason that Christians, who believe that Christ may return and snatch
away His own at almost any moment and that their reward at the Bema seat
judgment is determined by their behavior and service before the rapture
experience, have a tremendous ever-present incentive to live well pleasing in
the sight of the Lord. Now it is true
that the doctrine of the second coming is not the only (and may not even be the
chief) guide for Christian behavior. We
have the whole Word of God and must be led by its plain and direct instructions
for Christian living. Nevertheless,
belief in the imminent return of the Lord does provide a tremendous incentive
for right behavior, which may well explain why the Spirit gave the second
coming promises in such a way that they have been appropriated by believers of
every generation. It is the evil servant,
who is persuaded in his heart: “My lord
delayeth his coming,” who proceeds to smite his fellow servants and to eat and
drink with the drunken (Matt. 24:49-51).
Such is the ill effect upon the behavior of men who do not look for the
has been seen that the coming of Christ for His own is a “purifying hope.” In Titus 2:12, 13, looking for Christ is
linked with living soberly, righteously, and godly. In I Thessalonians 5:6, the second coming
issues in sobriety; James 5:7, 8, in patience; Philippians 1:10,
in sincerity; I John 3:3, in purity; I Thessalonians 3:12, 13, in
brotherly love and holiness, and so forth. Blackstone lists forty uses made of the
doctrine of the second coming in the New Testament, and concludes:
It is employed to arm the appeals, to point
the arguments, and to enforce the exhortations. What is there more practical in any other doctrine?
value of the truth of imminency in the life and outlook of the saints is well
summarized by Brookes:
If we heartily and practically believe that
the Lord may come for His people at any moment, it must separate from the
world, and kill selfishness, and blast the roots of personal ambition, and
increase brotherly love, and intensify zeal, and deepen concern for the salvation
of the lost, and give comfort in affliction, and put us in a state of preparedness
for the great interview, like a bride arraying herself to meet her bridegroom. Oh, there is no truth in the Bible that can
bring greater blessing to the soul, when received in the power of the Holy
Ghost, but this blessing is largely hindered if we are taught to expect that
our gathering together unto him lies beyond the appalling tribulation that
shall come upon all the world.
the standpoint of a pastor or evangelist, the value of teaching and preaching
the imminency of the return of Christ is plainly marked. Preach that the coming of Christ from glory
is an imminent event, that it may transpire even in our day, and the people are
blessed and hearts throb with a joyful anticipation. Teach that the Church must face the fires of the great Tribulation,
and you send people back to their homes in despondency and dismay. Preach the posttribulational view to believers
who hope and look for His return, and discord and heartache is sown in the
midst. Multiplied examples that this is
true could readily be cited. Teach the
imminent return of Christ and people are renewed in hope and courage, despite
the surrounding gloom.
is important to remember that in teaching the doctrine of the second coming,
the main theme and center of attraction must be Christ Himself, and not merely
a human desire to escape Tribulation, or even the holy desire of gaining
heaven. Christ is the central theme of
the Bible. He is the one of whom
prophets and apostles wrote and to whom angels and redeemed hosts ascribe
praise and glory and honor. Christ, and
Christ alone, must be our hope – not the glory of the coming, not the joy and
benefit His coming will bring, but Christ alone! Our desire is unto Him.
Our vision must be clarified and our ears must be attuned for the sight
and sound of Him who promised, “Surely, I come quickly.” The next thing for the Church, that
long-promised event which is nearest and is therefore imminent, is His coming. May the hearts of all who read these lines
be stirred afresh to answer, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
is sincerely hoped that those who have pursued this argument for
pretribulationalism thus far, including those who may not be in full agreement
with the position herein presented, may be caused to rejoice in the fact
and the assurance of Christ’s coming.
May personal spiritual values not be lost in the interest of drawing
for the discussion at hand, the arguments of Robert Cameron, as spokesman for
the case against imminency, have been presented and, it is believed, fairly and
conclusively answered. Not only did the
early church look for the return of Christ, she was exhorted and encouraged by
the apostles to do so. It is said that
a common salutation between Christians in the early days of the Church was
“Maranatha!” – Our Lord is coming!
Predictions concerning the death of Peter or Paul, and so forth, never
seemed to be a hindrance to first century belief in the Lord’s imminent return,
and most certainly have been no obstacle since that century.
has been established from the New Testament that the coming of Christ was the
hope of the early church, and to those Scriptures was added the weight of the
constant exhortations to look, watch, and wait for the Lord’s return. It has been seen that the posttribulation
rapture theory is incongruous with the fact that the rapture comprises the
blessed hope, the comforting hope, and the purifying hope of the Church. It has been demonstrated that Christ’s
coming for His own is to the Church one of her great incentives to holiness and
service, and that this attains full force only when the rapture is viewed as
pretribulational. Thus, the New Testament
Scriptures widely testify to the truth and practical value of the imminent
return of our Lord from glory. Since,
then, Christians look for Christ and not for Antichrist, and for the joy of His
coming rather than for Tribulation wrath and despair, let them be careful to service
Christ faithfully, trimming their lamps to shine more brightly, walking the
path of this life with many an upward glance to Him whose coming is their hope.