A revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave to Him to show to His servants what things must quickly come to pass; and He signified [it], having sent through His messenger to His servant John, who testified [to] the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, as many things as he also saw. Blessed is he who is reading, and those hearing the words of the prophecy, and keeping the things written in it, for the time is near! (Rev. 1:1–3, LSV)
There are three great lies told about the Book of Revelation. The first is that the things contained therein are only to be taken figuratively and allegorically. To the contrary, the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming were fulfilled literally and to the letter. The second is that the prophecies in the book were already fulfilled since it was recorded that these things “must quickly come to pass.” When God says quickly He means quickly. But soon to man is not soon to God (2 Pt. 3:8–9). And third, that these prophecies are only for some far-off generation in the distant future. No. These prophecies point squarely to this very generation in which we now live—the final generation that will witness the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Given the nearly 2,000 years that have transpired since the words were first penned on papyri, it is tempting for a Christian to believe any or all of these lies, but they shouldn’t. God has had a perfect track record in times past, and His word will only prove out just as perfectly in the times shortly to come.
A clarification on the doctrine of imminency: this is a doctrine that my fellow pre-tribbers emphasize, and rightly so, but it is often defined in a confusing, even misleading way, as that Jesus could return “at any moment.” Sometimes this is taken to an extreme to mean that there are no signs to occur or prophecies to be fulfilled before Jesus removes the Church from the earth. Ironically, there are some who are even watching for and calling out signs while simultaneously defining imminency in this way. This causes confusion and is misleading some.
There is growing confusion because some are teaching that Jesus can come “at any moment” and that nothing else needs to happen before the rapture, while simultaneously pointing to various prophetic signs that have transpired over the course of this present dispensation, such as the gospel being preached in every nation and the rebirth of Israel in 1948. That is not a coherent message.
When we search the Scriptures we get a strong sense that the New Testament’s authors had expected Jesus to return very soon. This constant expectancy is offered as evidence that the disciples did not expect to be hanging around during the extent of the seven-year Tribulation. That’s right. That’s good. Scripture does teach expectancy and imminency. But it does not teach randomness. “Any moment” implies that God is flying by the seat of His pants and hasn’t got this thing figured out yet. Pardon the bluntness, but that’s absurd. It’s even out-of-sync with more important doctrines like the omniscience and sovereignty of God. God has predetermined how everything plays out (Acts 17:24–28; cf. Rm. 8:29–30; 9:6–29) and has already determined the dates and times of every prophetic event (e.g., Acts 1:7; Rev. 9:15). You better believe almighty, all-knowing God has the rapture planned out. Not only does He know the day, but He knows the very nanosecond it will occur, for He’s told us in His word that it will occur in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51–52). More than that, He’s already told us everything and exactly what will transpire after it occurs.
The idea that the rapture is a signless event, prefaced by nothing, is unsupported by Scripture, and as mentioned above, even contradictory to more essential doctrines about the nature of God. The rapture will occur at the fixed time the Lord has set for it, and many things have prefaced it, including about half of the New Testament, the gospel being spread all around the world, the rebirth of Israel, and the convergence of signs pointing to the onset of the Tribulation. We don’t worship a God of arbitrariness.
We need to teach imminency, but we need to teach it correctly. Etymologically, the word imminent means “to overhang”—in other words, to be so close it’s right on top of you. It means to be close, soon, about to happen. It doesn’t mean “to occur at a random time” or “any moment” (see Wiktionary, Merriam-Webster, and Collins). Notice that Jesus says He is coming soon, which is exactly what the word imminent means (Rev. 1:3; 22:6–7, 12, 20). He doesn’t say He’s coming at any moment, randomly, or with any permutation of arbitrary arrival.
Besides causing confusion by misdefining the word and introducing contradictions with more important doctrines, some interpretations of the doctrine of imminency also discourage urgency rather than encourage it. The goal of imminency is of course to create a strong impetus for us to evangelize and live sanctified lives, as well as encourage us with the knowledge that we will soon be with the Lord before all hell breaks loose on earth. But think about it: if Jesus’ coming was just as relevant to the disciples as it is to us today, because He’s coming “at any moment,” then there is no genuine urgency or building crescendo toward His appearance. His coming could just as easily be 10,000 years from now as it could have been 2,000 years ago. That’s not right. Scripture says our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed and the Day is approaching (Rm. 13:11–12; Heb. 10:25).
1. God declares, and therefore knows, the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). Jesus knows, too. He’s God. God knows when the rapture will occur. He planned it Himself.
2. The rapture is imminent to us in three ways: first, because in the grand scheme of things a much greater proportion of history occurred prior to the Church Age than will occur during the Church Age. The time prior was at least double (4,000 vs. 2,000 years; see how God considers this imminent in 2 Pt. 3:8–10). Second, because Christ’s coming for the Church precedes the Tribulation and His physical return to Israel. In other words, because we don’t know exactly how long this dispensation lasts, there actually is a certain sense in which the rapture will occur at any moment from our human vantage point. The rapture is only the next event to occur when every other necessarily preceding event has transpired, but it is the next major event and we don’t know when exactly it will occur. We must watch and be ready. Third, the rapture is imminent to us because it actually isn’t random. We’re 2,000 years closer to it than the first-century disciples were.
3. In fact, since we are so much closer to it than the disciples were, and because the signs preceding it have clearly and unequivocally converged in the specific day and age in which we live—unlike any other generation—I want to introduce you to the doctrine of super-imminence! Yes, you heard it here first folks: you happen to be part of the one and only generation in the history of the world that can say that the rapture of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is super-imminent!
Two Prophecy Extremes
It’s my observation that Christians tend to fall into two extremes when it comes to watching for the Lord’s return. The first extreme is the repetitious use of the Olivet Discourse-derived phrase “no man knows the day or hour” devoid of all context and other pertinent Scriptures in an effort to silence and stifle any practical application of the command to watch. The second extreme is the proclivity to set dates with surety rather than with humble speculation. We can’t have the prophesied scoffers without the first extreme and we can’t have false prophets without the second.
Just as the two Christian extremes of legalism and lawlessness both subvert the gospel at the same point (atonement), so too these prophecy extremes subvert prophecy at the same point: the command to faithfully watch. You can’t actually and practically watch as scripturally commanded if you’ve convinced yourself of the first extreme, nor can you faithfully watch if you’ve bought into the second extreme, because you’ve blinded yourself from all other speculative possibilities.
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At Unsealed we will continue to speculate about when the Lord might return, because we are actively watching and we believe there is clear scriptural warrant to do so (e.g., Dan. 9:24–27; 12:4–13; Am. 3:7; Mt. 24:42–51; 1 Thess. 5:4; Heb. 10:25; Rev. 1:1–3, 19; 3:3; 4:1; 11:1–3; 12:6, 14; 22:10). This doesn’t mean we know when exactly He will appear, or even that we think we can know with certainty, but it does mean we are watching in the truest sense of the word. This watchfulness breeds urgency, and this urgency breeds a great desire to share the gospel that many, many believers lack. And as long as we continue watching with humility we can also avoid the pitfalls of the second extreme. Don’t ever put all your hope in a date. But neither give up in watching, looking, and longing. Are the signs not painfully obvious now? And have major prophetic events of the past not occurred on days of incredible significance? Has the God who numerally pinpointed days in times past suddenly gone silent? By no means.
Between one-quarter and one-third of the Bible could be directly classified as prophetic in genre. But when we look deeper, we can find prophetic types, shadows, and themes in just about every passage. There are literally dozens and dozens of signs listed in Scripture that indicate the nearness of Jesus’ return along with a number of commands to “Watch!” (Matt. 24:42-44, 25:10, 13, Mk. 13:35-37, Lk. 12:37-39, 21:36, Rev. 3:3).
For those of us watching for Jesus’ appearing, what confuses us the most about the ad infinitum repeat of “no one knows the day or hour” (Mt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32) as an argument against actually, practically watching, is why so many Christians base their entire theory of eschatology on just two verses when there are literally dozens of other Scriptures that paint a different picture. And the verse itself is taken out of context, possibly even mistranslated, and interpreted in such a way that denies the full deity of Jesus Christ.
Firstly, “knows” (οἶδεν in the Greek) is in the perfect tense in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32. In other words, “no one has known.” The perfect tense describes something that was true or completed in the past with continuing effects in the present, but not necessarily true or continuing into the future. In other words, no one knew the day or hour, Jesus included, before He spoke those words and no one presently knew the day or hour at the time Jesus spoke those words. However, His statement cannot be taken as a dogmatic statement about whether or not we can know the day or hour in the future. It’s not in the future tense. It clearly doesn’t say “no one will know” or “no one will ever know.” Compare to the future tense of this Greek verb in Hebrews 8:11. These two verses do not give us enough information to determine whether or not believers in the 21st century can know. For the answer to that question we need to look to other Scriptures.
Secondly, context is king. What was Jesus referring to when He uttered the words “no one knows”? The rapture? The Abomination of Desolation? His second coming? The end of the world? There are a number of significant prophetic events still to come and blindly applying “no one knows” to just one event (the rapture) seems like a stretch. The context in the Olivet Discourse could point to any of these events:
1. The rapture. Some pre-tribulation proponents see Matthew 24:36–51 as applying to the rapture or the general beginning of the Day of the Lord. This view has fallen out of favor, but if true then the context for “no one has known” might be the rapture.
2. The end of the world. The verses immediately preceding Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 mention the end of heaven and earth. This is an event that occurs sometime after Satan’s 1,000-year banishment (Revelation 20:1–21:1).
3. The second coming. This view is the futurist scholarly favorite for several reasons. First, because the disciples asked Jesus three questions that have little if anything to do with the rapture: “when will this happen [the destruction of the Second Temple], and what will be the sign of your coming [Jesus’ return to establish the Kingdom] and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). Second, because the signs described in the Olivet Discourse seem to describe events during the Tribulation, some types and shadows of which occurred leading up to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Third, because the rapture was not clearly revealed until the Apostle Paul delivered the message to the primarily Gentile Church (1 Cor. 15:51–52; 1 Thess. 4:13–18).
Thirdly, if #1 was the correct context, “no one knows the day or hour” may have been an idiom for the Feast of Trumpets. Of the seven major feasts of the Lord (Lev. 23), the Feast of Trumpets is the only divine appointment that begins on the new moon. While the case for this being an actual Jewish idiom is not unquestionably established, the logic behind it is pretty sound. The first sighting of the waxing crescent of the moon by two witnesses began the Feast of Trumpets. The sighting cannot be perfectly predicted because of atmospheric conditions and so Yom Teruah (the Feast of Trumpets / Day of Shouting) can begin on either of two days, which is why the Jews celebrate what is supposed to be “the first day of the seventh month” (Lev. 23:23-25) over a two-day period because it is “the day no one knows the day or hour.”
If perhaps Jesus was referring to the rapture event, or all future prophetic events, we still have to come full circle to the translation issue—that this was spoken in the perfect and not present or future tenses. And we know from Scripture that the exact days and hours of certain future events will be known (e.g., Dan. 9:24–27; 12:4–13; Rev. 3:3; 9:15; 11:1–3; 12:6, 14). And Jesus will certainly know them. So the interpretation that “no man knows the day or hour” as a blanket and perpetual statement of truth is fundamentally flawed. We are not in the darkness and that day will not overtake us as a thief. If we should watch.
Faith in Jesus and what He accomplished on your behalf is the only thing that will save you from what is coming. Are you still bearing your sins, or have you accepted that He died for your sins and rose again? Today is the day of salvation. You’re not promised tomorrow. Get on the Ark, because the flood is coming.
A dmit that you’re a sinner.
B elieve that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again.
C all on the Lord Jesus Christ to save you.
Maranatha. (Click to Source)
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