Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Rapture and the Doctrine of Imminence

There are many believers today that believe the expected rapture of the church, of which we are not given a specific date of fulfillment, is an event whose timing can somehow be determined. As you can see from last weeks blog, there are good reasons to think it possible simply because you can find many reasons to support certain days based on the timing of many events which have occurred throughout Israel's history. Yet, as you may have gathered from the title of my blog, although there are interesting conjectures to be made about the timing of the rapture, I am a firm believer in the doctrine of imminence.

If you are not familiar with this, in short, the doctrine of imminence is the belief that Christ can return for His church at any time, and that there are no events on God's prophetic calendar which need to occur before He sends His Son to rapture the church. As with many things, this position is debatable and not all support this belief, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share just a few things that you can study in order to decide for yourself.

As you should expect by now if you follow my writings, I want to go straight to the Bible and share some passages from scripture with you to give us food for thought. Much was said about the rapture by Jesus himself when teaching His disciples in the days before His crucifixion. Consider the following passages and the points Jesus is trying to make.

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. Matthew 24:36 NKJV

Of course, as I have said, there are those who might dispute what Jesus meant when He used the word "know", but it certainly seems to be clear to me He was saying "nobody knows".

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. Matthew 24:42 NKJV

If it were possible to know when the rapture was to occur, why would we be told to "watch"? Simply because we do not know, and the proper response to not knowing is to be continually watching.

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44 NKJV

If we could figure out when the rapture was to occur, it is reasonable to assume we would be "expecting" it, yet Jesus makes it pretty clear here that He is coming when we will not expect Him to.

the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for [him] and at an hour that he is not aware of, Matthew 24:50 NKJV

Jesus is teaching here using a parable to illustrate what He has just told the disciples about the rapture. The point here is found in the phrase "aware of". In the greek it is the word ginōskō which is defined as....1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel a) to become known
to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of a) to understand b) to know

In other words, this verse tells me we won't be able to "figure" it out. If you look at all these verses together, and there are many more, it certainly seems to me that Jesus is teaching that there is no way we are going to be able to figure out the day or the hour in which He will return for His church. Yet obviously we know the time is approaching based upon the events which we see occurring all around us every day, not only here but around the world. However let's not forget that the signs we are seeing are pointing to what is known as the "Second Coming" when Jesus returns to earth at the end of the seven year tribulation period. If you hold to the "pretribulation" rapture position, then this is cause to get excited for the rapture of the Church must occur before the tribulation begins.

So what do we do with all of this? Personally, as I believe that the rapture could occur today, I try my best to look for opportunities to share the gospel each and every day, knowing that it could well be my last day here on earth. I have always felt that this is the reason God chose not to tell us when the rapture would occur, that way we would always be sharing the gospel and busy doing His work. As I have shared before, most of my life has been spent teaching high school age youth. When teaching this subject to them, I always illustrated it by asking them the following question.

"Has there ever been a time when your parents were going away for a couple of hours, a day, or a week and told you they wanted your room or the house "spotless" when they got home? Tell me the truth, since you knew when they were coming home, when did you start cleaning?"

Obviously you probably know how they invariably answered.

You see, to me, this is the whole point of the doctrine of imminence. If we knew when Jesus was to return for His church, how many of us would wait until the time was near before we began to "clean"? As the body of Christ we need to be "cleaning" continually each and every day, looking for opportunities to share the gospel with those around us, never forgetting it might be our last chance. Spend today looking for that chance.

Keep watching.