By Renald Showers
The English word imminent means “hanging over one’s head, ready to befall or overtake one; close at hand in its incidence, “ The Oxford English Dictionary, 1901, V, 66). Thus, an imminent event is one which is always hanging overhead and is always close at hand in the sense it could happen at any moment. If something else must take place before an event can happen, that event is not imminent.
One never knows exactly when an imminent event will happen. Because of this, three things are true:
1. One cannot count on a certain amount of time transpiring before an imminent event occurs. Thus, one should always be prepared for it to happen at any moment.
2. It is not legitimate to set a date for the occurrence of an imminent event. Date setting insinuates the event cannot take place until that date. It thereby destroys the concept of imminency.
3. It is not legitimate to say because an event is imminent, it will happen soon. The Bible indicates the second coming of Christ was imminent when the New Testament was written. However, it is obvious Christ’s return would not be a soon-coming event for those in apostolic times.
The concept of the imminent return of Christ is as follows: His second coming is always hanging overhead, is constantly ready to befall or overtake us and is always close at hand in the sense it could happen at any moment. Other things may happen before Christ’s return, but nothing else Biblically must happen before it takes place. If something else must happen first, then Christ’s second coming would not be imminent.
Because we do not know exactly when Christ will return, three things are true. First, we cannot count on a certain amount of time transpiring before His return; therefore, we should always be ready for Him to come at any moment. Second, we cannot legitimately set a date for Christ’s return. Third, we cannot necessarily say just because Christ’s second coming is imminent, it will happen soon. It may happen soon, but it does not have to be soon.
A significant contrast exists in the Bible. It teaches an imminent return of Christ, but it also teaches a return of Christ cannot take place until after the “Great Tribulation” of Matthew 24.21,29,30. This contrast prompts the conclusion the Bible teaches two future comings of Christ: the imminent one to Rapture the Church and the non-imminent one to rule the world after the Great Tribulation.
The Biblical concept of the imminent return of Christ carries a strong implication concerning the time of Christ’s coming to Rapture the Church. Any view other than the pretribulational Rapture view conflicts with the Biblical concept of the imminent return of Christ.
The pretribulational Rapture view teaches Christ will come to Rapture the Church before Daniel’s “seventieth week” begins, that nothing else must happen before that coming and Christ’s coming could take place at any moment. Christ’s imminent coming should motivate believers to live their lives as if the Rapture could happen on any given day: 1 John 2.28 and 3.2,3.