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#9.04 IS THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH IMMINENT? CERTAINLY NOT!
The question we have to answer here is, "Is the rapture of the Church imminent?" The book KEPT FROM THE HOUR by Gerald Stanton has been a standard work teaching the Pre-tribulation Rapture for almost half a century. Therefore, when we look at the arguments for an imminent rapture we will be looking at those in this book. Pre-tribulationist teachers usually teach that the rapture is imminent, meaning that it can occur at any moment. To any post-tribulationist, who believes that the church will go through the tribulation before Jesus returns, many prophesied events must happen before Jesus comes. Therefore, the rapture cannot be imminent. So let us examine what pre-tribulationists believe that brings them to the conclusion that the rapture can occur at any time. This bible study gives scriptural proof that the rapture is not imminent.
Why do people say the rapture is imminent? There are a number of scriptures that people use to make the point.
(Matthew 24:44) "Therefore be also ready: for the Son of man comes in such an hour as you do not think."
There is no mention of imminence here. This scripture only urges us to be ready because the day is not known. We are meant to live as if his coming is imminent, because if we die we will meet Jesus' second coming in the state we are in when we die. Jesus second coming was never imminent to these men because it has been almost 1900 years since it was said.
(Mark 13:35-37) "Watch therefore: for you not know when the master of the house comes, at evening, or at midnight, or at the
cockerel-crowing, or in the morning:
The same applies to this scripture, the point being made is that the time of his coming is unknown. If we die tonight we will be judged according to the state we are in when we die when Jesus returns, and therefore be prepared.
(Revelation 3:3) "Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold firm, and repent. If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come upon you."
This scripture is similar to those above. For those who do not live right he will come upon them as a thief in the night, but only for those who do not repent. But Paul said to Christians who live right, "But you, brethren, are not in darkness so that this day should overtake you as a thief." (2 Thessalonians 5:4).
(Matthew 25:1-13) "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.
The above scripture makes the same point as the others; live right because the day is not known. The bridegroom's coming in this parable was "delayed" (v5), so not imminent. Also when he was coming it was known to them before he actually came so that they could get ready. Those who were not prepared did not have time to make the necessary preparation in the short period available, and so were shut out. Let me encourage you to be ready for his coming always, because those who do not may not have time to make right when his coming is obvious. When tribulation comes, and our life is threatened, it may be too late for some to find the faith they need, to put their lives right with God, and learn to do what is right in his sight.
The his book KEPT FROM THE HOUR ,Gerald Stanton has given his own definition of imminence.
(Kept from the Hour - Gerald Stanton p108) "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."
Compare that to a dictionary definition of the word 'imminent' which is 'about to happen'. Here are 3 examples:
Mr. Stanton re-defines imminent as applied to the rapture as follows:
(Kept from the Hour - Gerald Stanton p108) "An imminent event is one that hangs suspended, possibly for an indefinite period of time, but the final occurrence is certain."
To me this is not the definition of an imminent event, but the definition of "an event of unknown timing", but even this does not apply to the second coming of Jesus, because the day of his coming is known to the Father:
(Matthew 24:36) "But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
This day is not only known to the Father but it is also fixed, and cannot be hanging suspended for an indefinite period. The period is definite and cannot be changed, because God does not change (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). Therefore the Father knew before Jesus died that he would not return before 2012, and so the day was never imminent. Mr. Stanton goes on to elaborate:
(Kept from the Hour - Gerald Stanton p108) "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."
There are some arguments against imminence that Mr. Stanton has failed to refute effectively: here are some.
(a) The first is Jesus' prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost: "But you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:5). As this would not occur for some days, the disciples did not expect his return before it happened, and therefore his second coming was not imminent. We can say that even by Mr. Stanton's own definition of imminent: "no prophesied event stands between the believer and that hour", Jesus' return could not be imminent to them at that time.
(b) The second is that Jesus prophesied how Peter would die when he was old (John 21:22-23). So to Peter, Jesus second coming would not happen before he died, and therefore was never imminent. Mr. Stanton argues that Peter may not have understood Jesus, and when Herod killed James with the sword (Acts 12:1-3), believers expected Peter's death also. He says:
(Kept from the Hour - Gerald Stanton p113) "It is most doubtful if Peter had assurance that his death must precede the coming of the Lord, and it is obvious that the people had no concept that he would live a long life."
These arguments are based only upon speculative opinion, and so prove nothing. If the disciples did believe those things, they would be making Jesus' prophecy a lie, and erroneous belief does not make the second coming of Jesus imminent, when it isn't. Mr. Stanton's argument is not based on facts, but on what the people may have believed at that time. Look at his definition of imminence again: "no prophesied event stands between the believer and that hour", and Jesus had prophesied how Peter would die when he was old. Therefore, as that prophecy had to come to pass, irrespective of what people believed at that time, by Mr. Stanton's own definition, the second coming of Jesus was not imminent at that time.
(c) Jesus also prophesied the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2), and again, using Mr. Stanton's own definition of imminence: "no prophesied event stands between the believer and that hour", the rapture could not be imminent. This prophecy had to be fulfilled before Jesus returned.
(d) Jesus told Paul that he must testify about him at Rome (Acts 23:11), so he could not come back until Paul had done that.
(e) Jesus told his disciples, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14). How then could Jesus return before they had done it?
(f) The prophecy of Daniel's seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24-27) had "one week", equal to seven years, to be completed after the death of Jesus. So anyone who knew the meaning of this prophecy would not expect Jesus' second coming for at least seven years after his death. The rapture therefore was not imminent.
(g) Both Peter and Paul prophesied that false teachers would come into the church and lead people astray after they died, so Jesus' second coming could not happen before these prophesies came to pass. By Mr. Stanton's own definition of imminence: "no prophesied event stands between the believer and that hour", the rapture could not be imminent.
(h) The book of Revelation was a prophecy about future things (Revelation 1:1, 4:1), and unless we believes that everything in Revelation comes after the rapture, then we must accept that at least some of these prophesies had to come to pass before Jesus returned. His second coming was not imminent.
Another argument that Mr. Stanton has failed to refute effectively is the one concerning Jesus' parables. Some of them strongly support a post-tribulation rapture.
(a) The parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30) shows the wheat and the tares growing together until harvest (v30), this therefore refutes that there will be any pre-tribulation rapture of the church seven years before the end. Mr. Stanton's answer to this is that people are being removed from the earth by death all the time, and that 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." (p117). He has therefore completely ignored the rapture as a separating of wheat and tares altogether, which a pre-tribulationist must do in order to support his belief. He goes on to say!
(Kept from the Hour - Gerald Stanton p117) "The parable, then, in no wise excludes a rapture before judgement, 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."
He points out the difficulty that post-tribulationists may find, because the parable declares, "first the tares," (v30), but he does not point out that this is even a greater difficulty to pre-tribulationists, because the idea of ignoring the rapture as a separating of wheat and tares seems to me to be unacceptable. If the rapture is not a gathering of the wheat into the barn, then what is?
(b) Concerning other parables, in the parable of the virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), "the bridegroom delayed", indicating that his return was not immediate, and also "they slumbered and slept," (v5), indicating that they did not expect his imminent return. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) the Lord of the servants did not come back until after "a long time" (v19), again refuting an imminent return. What is Mr. Stanton's answer to these parables? "The length of the journey is not revealed, but the "long time" was not so many months or years that the owner did not find them living on his return," (p118). Does Mr. Stanton's comment prove that Jesus would come back while the apostles were alive? Obviously not, because it didn't happen. Look at his general conclusion:
(Kept from the Hour - Gerald Stanton p115) "The issue is rather 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."
Here again, Mr. Stanton's arguments are based on what he thinks the early Christians thought, and not on the facts. Many thought Jesus would come again before the death of John (John 21:23), but they were wrong. Did their erroneous belief bring the thing to pass? No, and neither would any other erroneous belief of the early church, concerning the imminence of Jesus' second coming, make it imminent. A belief in imminence does not make it a fact. This is a fact, that by Mr. Stanton's own definition, "no prophesied event stands between the believer and that hour," all of the prophesies that we have discussed, and many others, prove that the rapture was not imminent to the early church. Concerning the second coming of Jesus, James said, "the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and latter rain." (James 5:17), does this sound like imminence? Also the fact that God knows the day, and will not change it, proves that the rapture has never been imminent through the ages. The fact that it did not happen proves that it was not "about to happen", and therefore not imminent.
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