The Necessity of Imminency :: By Jonathan Brentner

Imminency. It tells us we live on the edge of eternity. The Rapture might happen at any moment.

However, as the moments become days and then weeks, months, and years, we struggle to maintain our eager anticipation of Jesus’s appearing. Many of us wonder how much closer we will get to the start of the Tribulation before He comes for us. We see so many biblical signs of the end times, and yet we wait and wait. I know it’s not easy, not at all.

The silence in most churches regarding our “blessed hope” makes our expectation all the more difficult to maintain. On top of that, many of our Christian friends and family members believe it’s irrational to regard the Rapture as something that might happen anytime soon or even in our lifetime. Many in our churches think we are crazy for believing that there is such a thing as the Rapture or a seven-year Tribulation.

In spite of the long wait and scoffing that comes my way, I remain convinced that imminency is not only incredibly important for today, but also a necessity for New Testament saints.

I say this for a variety of reasons.

Imminency Copies the Expectancy of the New Testament Saints

When we view the Rapture as something that can take place at any time, we imitate the expectations of the New Testament saints. Just a cursory sampling of verses from the epistles confirms that they lived with a sense of imminency:

  • “For the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8).
  • “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, LSB).
  • “So that you are not lacking in any gift, eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7, LSB).
  • “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
  • “He who bears witness to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Early in his ministry, Paul believed that the Rapture might happen in his lifetime (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:52). How is that possible apart from believing it could happen at any moment?

We also see this at-any-moment expectation of Jesus’ return for His Church reflected in The Didache, a short document from the early church. Scholars believe its words date back to the first century AD but believe someone around AD 300 first compiled them into their current form.

Imminency Leads to a Closer Walk with Jesus

The awareness that Jesus might come for us at any time results in a closer walk with Him. The Apostle John alludes to how this works in the words below:

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

What’s the encouragement here for continuing to “abide” in Jesus? It’s the awareness that at any second, we might find ourselves in the presence of our righteous Savoir. Does this not motivate us to promptly deal with bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, and other sins rather than let them gain a foothold in us (i.e., Ephesians 4:26-27)?

Just a couple of verses later, John writes that a focus on Jesus’ appearing produces greater purity in us:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

We won’t arrive at sinless perfection in this life, but the recognition that Jesus might come for us at any moment keeps us close to the Savior and quickly brings us back to Him when we stray from Him.

This incentive is just one of the many benefits of watching for Jesus’ appearing as though it could happen at any minute.

Imminency Helps Us Maintain an Eternal Perspective

I remember waiting for Metro trains to arrive in Washington, D.C. Once the countdown for the next train’s arrival neared zero, I fixed my eyes on the tunnel at the end of the platform, watching for its light to shine through the darkness.

Likewise, the awareness that the Rapture might occur at any moment sets our hopes on eternal realities as nothing else can. Paul describes this perspective for us in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Imminency provides us with an ongoing reminder that the things of this life are temporary and cause us to place a greater value or importance on eternal realities.

The “no Rapture” message of our day harms the saints because it leads to a strictly earthbound perspective. As a result, believers plan years and even decades in advance with no thought that Jesus might intervene or even that He might have other plans for them (see Proverbs 27:1; James 4:13-17). The setting of one’s future aspirations solely on earthly outcomes intensifies one’s feelings of frustration with the disappointments that surely come from living in this vale of tears.

Another benefit of living with a sense of imminency is that it puts our service for the Lord in a proper perspective. The thought that I might soon appear before the judgment seat of Christ provides the best remedy for my tendency to emphasize numbers over faithfulness. For me, there’s no better cure from adapting the world’s standards of success than my desire to hear these words in the near future, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Imminency Assures Us That God Will Judge the Wicked

Because the imminency of the Rapture focuses my attention on Jesus’ appearing, it provides assurance that He will swiftly and justly deal with the wickedness and lawlessness that defines our world. Judgment will fall on the wicked shortly after Jesus takes us out of this world.

It does not matter if the Lord calls me home before He comes for His saints; the fact that He will justly deal with the rabid violence, lawlessness, and overwhelming government corruption of our day calms my soul. I could not cope with the news that comes my way apart from knowing that He sees and will soon intervene in our world.

One of the greatest illusions of our day is that of thinking the perpetrators of the prevalent anarchy and bloodshed of our day will escape accountability. The Rapture is coming soon, and as a result, many of them will live to experience the Lord’s wrath both in this life as well as after they perish.

Imminency. It’s become lost amid the popular “no Rapture” teaching that emanates from most pulpits today. As a result, a great many saints lack the needed eternal outlook to cope with the perilous times in which we live.

Today’s rejection of the thought that the Rapture can happen at any time also makes believers easy prey for unbiblical motivations for walking closely with the Lord. Social media is full of works-based incentives for the Christian life. The lie that believers can walk away from their faith and thus lose their salvation is one such fashionable way of making the Christian life about the Law rather than grace.

Our regeneration is permanent; it can never be undone by us or any other force. It’s God who declares us forever righteous. Who can bring any evidence before Him of which He did not know when He pronounced His verdict of “not guilty” over our entire lives? As eternally secure saints, we have many reasons to maintain a close walk with our Savior, of which imminency is not the least of such incentives.

We truly live on the edge of eternity. The multitude of signs we see today cannot be mere coincidences. Jesus is coming soon, and after He takes us safely to glory, His wrath will fall on today’s perpetrators of the ungodliness that’s running rampant in our world.

Maranatha! Come soon, Lord Jesus.


Note: In Hereafter, It’s Far Better Than You Can Imagine, Terry James and I describe the future glory that awaits us as believers, beginning with Jesus’ appearing to take us home. From beginning to end, we emphasize the jubilant joy that awaits us in Heaven. The last chapter contains twenty-seven frequently asked questions and answers pertaining to Heaven and our experience there.

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