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 Heaven Can Wait? Part 2

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PostSubject: Heaven Can Wait? Part 2   Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:17 am

Heaven Can Wait?
Is the Doctrine of Imminence still relevant? Part I
Prophecy - Signs
Monday, June 05, 2017
Pete Garcia 

One would think that a key tenet of our faith in which all Christians could rally around, would be the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After all, isn’t that what it means to be Christian? Or do we profess faith in a God we have no desire to ever meet? As mind boggling as it may seem, there are large sections of professing Christians who do not teach, preach, write, or even talk about our Lord’s soon return.
The conundrum in our current reality, is that our Lord’s return has become a controversial and even taboo topic most churches refuse to discuss openly. This seeming hostility towards the Lord’s return is not accidental though, but by design. On the spectrum of things hated, Satan’s hatred of this topic is infinitely more visceral than even the most diehard leftist liberal’s hatred of President Trump.

So if we divide Eschatology (the study of last things) into two major sections, there would be the macro (large) view and the micro (small) view. One would think something as innocuous as the doctrine of imminence would be fairly non-controversial, given the abundant warnings laid out in Scripture to be ready. As is the situation with the macro-views of eschatology (Premillennial, Amillennial, and Post-Millennial), which divide over where Christ returns in relation to the Millennium, this doctrine of imminence most sharply divides amongst the micro-views within the Premillennial camp itself. It is the benchmark by which the Pre-Tribulation view distinguishes itself from the other premillennial rapture views such as Pre-Wrath, Mid-Trib, and Post-Tribulation Rapture. It is of imminence that the late Dr. John Walvoord writes,

The central feature of pretribulationism, the doctrine of imminency, is, however, a prominent feature of the doctrine of the early church ... [which] lived in constant expectation of the coming of the Lord for His church.

In his seminal research article speaking exhaustively about the issues surrounding the doctrine of imminence (i.e., any moment return of Christ at the Rapture), Dr. Gerald Stanton (contributing to the Pre-Trib Research Center) has done the yeoman’s job of putting all the historical and current issues together of this topic. But because imminence is a pillar by which the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position distinguishes itself from other premillennial views, it has as of late, become controversial. To which, this article you now read will quote from research by Dr. Stanton for reference to compare. Quoting from the source document:

It is generally agreed that the Christian Church of the first three centuries was Premillennial, although the common term used was Chiliasm, from the Greek chiliad meaning "thousand." It is less clear when the concept of Christ's soon return was first explicitly stated as imminent which is a theological word rather than a Biblical. Richard Reiter has traced it to the Niagara Bible Conference of 1878, and more specifically to the five resolutions of the first general American Bible and prophetic conference held in New York City the same year. Article 3 stated: "This second coming of the Lord is everywhere in the Scriptures represented as imminent, and may occur at any moment."[5] However, among the Niagara delegates arose three different definitions of imminent (1) Christ may appear at any moment, but this will be understood only by the final generation of the Church (A. J. Gordon). (2) Christ could return within the lifetime of any individual generation of believers (Samuel H. Kellogg). (3) "Imminent" requires "the coming of Christ for his saints as possible any hour" (Arthur T. Pierson).

I believe that we are most likely aligned to option number one and because of that, the concept of imminence went through roughly four stages:

Part I

  • Post-Ascension Imminence
  • True Imminence

Part II

  • Transitional Imminence
  • Limited Imminence

To be clear, I am not proposing that the four mentioned above change the capacity for Christ to have returned at any moment, but only in our understanding of it. Seeing as we are still here some two-thousand years after Christ’s ascension, clearly, there is more to this topic than just simply labeling it imminence and moving on. I propose that if we break down these time periods, we should be able to better understand how imminence has impacted all the many generations since the time Christ walked the earth in His First Advent.

Post-Ascension Imminence: 33-100AD

After the resurrection and just prior to Christ’s ascension, His disciples approached Him and asked if, at this time, He would now restore the Kingdom to Israel. They did not ask when the Rapture would occur, as that had not yet been revealed through the Apostle Paul. Christ’s response to their question then was…

…It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8

At a minimum, Christ knew that His return would not precede the deliverance of the Revelation as given to John in 95AD which is why He addressed them as such in Acts 1. But from there, we also know that the Gospel did, in fact, begin to spread throughout the Roman Empire. It went as far East to India and China, and spread north and south of Judea both to the European and African continents. We also know that at the height of the Roman Empire, there were only around 200 million persons on the earth at that time.

The Apostles Peter, James, John, and Paul, along with Luke, Matthew, Mark, and Jude, contributed their writings under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to construct what we call the New Testament canon. Their expectation as believers in the first century was that since Christ had been in their lifetime so too should they should expect to see His return. There are two considerations to this I would like to include in this discussion:

  1. The New Testament was written by men under the influence and direction by the Holy Spirit. As such, their message was meant to be as applicable to their generation as it would be to any future one.
  2. Their understanding, particularly Paul’s, was such that he included himself in holding to the blessed hope of which was a new mystery being revealed, the Rapture (Harpazo-Greek) or catching up of the Church unto Christ.

But what wasn’t known to them was what would be later revealed to the then, elderly and sole remaining Apostle, John, on the isle of Patmos in/around 95-96AD. What was revealed to John then was not even revealed to Christ in His humanity…namely, that no man knows the day or hour, but the Father only. To this, Clarence Larkin writes:

When Jesus was asked just before His death, when the things that He had prophesied against Jerusalem should come to pass (Mark 13:1-31), He replied in verse 32, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in Heaven, neither (NOT YET) the Son, but the FATHER." But after His Ascension He received from the Father the information that the Disciples asked for, and before the close of the first century, while at least one of those Disciples was still living, the beloved John, He sent an angel messenger to impart to him, and through him to the Churches, the information that is "unveiled" in this Book of Revelation. Thus we see that the canon of Scripture would be incomplete without this message from Jesus to His Church after His return to Heaven. (Source) (Emphasis his)

Summary: Since their proximity in time to Christ and the events surrounding His crucifixion, resurrection, and conception of the church at Pentecost, it is only natural that they would cling tightly to the idea of a soon return of Christ. For example, our current generation is quickly passing away and those that lived through the atrocities of World War I and II, still remember in vivid detail the events of life during those times. But as their generation passes, the immediacy and first-hand knowledge of experience pass with it. As the memory of it fades, what remains is the writings and teachings that are continued long after the last eyewitness passes into eternity.

True Imminence: 100-1917 AD

From 100AD to the early 20th century, mankind truly had no idea of where they were on God’s timeline. In 70AD, the Roman General Titus conquered and destroyed the city of Jerusalem along with its Jewish temple. In 135AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian quelled another rebellion in what remained of Jerusalem, ushering in what we now call the Diaspora. Hadrian attempted to put the final nail in the coffin of the city, the people, and even the name of Israel. By the time John had been imprisoned on the isle of Patmos, Jerusalem as he had known it, hadn’t existed for at least 25 years.

Seeing as he was there on the Mount of Olives when Jesus gave His discourse on the things to come, this destruction of Jerusalem wasn’t a mystery to him. It may have been a shock perhaps watching it unfold, but it was not a mystery since Jesus had already said it would happen (Matt. 23:37-24:2; Mark 13:23; Luke 19:41-44). But with John, the last of the apostles passing into eternity, the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem long since destroyed and the Jewish people scattered, the Gospel began to flourish amongst the gentile communities who had no historical connections to the land itself. They had no remembrance of Christ personally, nor even now the apostles who walked with Christ. What remained of them were the disciples of the apostles of whom would become the early church fathers.

As such, from 100-430AD, the early church was largely premillennial. It wouldn’t be until Augustine’s book, “The City of God” was published and became part of the theological foundation for the newly developing Roman Catholic Church. While it contained many things (it was twelve books) and dealt with a myriad of topics, the one that may have had the most and lasting impact was the idea of Amillennialism.

This taught that there would be no physical return of Christ to the earth, but that His Kingdom was spiritual, it was now, and it was in heaven. This promoted among other things, spiritual triumphalism and the necessity for God to rule through men. Needless to say, this deadened the idea of imminence amongst the lay people and the clergy.

They no longer looked for Christ to return but rather, that they would be part of building the kingdom here on earth. Aside from the license to do much wrong in the name of God (Crusades, Inquisitions, papal abuses, etc.), people truly were in the dark ages about understanding where they were on God’s timeline.

These eschatological dark ages would continue even through the Protestant Reformation as these new movements simply carried over the same eschatological teachings they had received while under the Roman Catholic system. It wouldn’t be until the late 1600-early 1700s that teachers, pastors and the like began openly preaching and teaching about the return of Christ. The same could be said for the early Dispensationalist movement amongst the Plymouth Brethren in the early 19th century. As men began to return to a literal interpretation of scripture instead of being filtered through a denominational creed or Roman Catholic lenses, men and women began to earnestly look for the return of Christ. They did this because that is what a literal interpretation of Scripture points one towards. At the same time, there was an explosion of false Christian cults, sects, and other movements exploding upon the scene. As soon as Dispensationalism began to grow, along comes Joseph Smith and his “Latter Day Saints”, the Seventh Day Adventists (which came out of the Millerites), Christian Science, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.

Summary: The church had largely forgotten the relevance of Israel, and began changing their focus to a “kingdom now” mentality. Those combined obscured man’s ability to know when and where they were on God’s timeline. But as men and women began to return to a literal interpretation, the imminence factor began to come into play once again. Countering that, Satan introduces a flood of false teachings and movements to confuse mankind on just how close they were getting to the end.

To be continued.

Last edited by ColonelZ on Wed Jun 14, 2017 6:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject:   Heaven Can Wait?    Wed Jun 14, 2017 6:35 am

Heaven Can Wait?
Is the Doctrine of Imminence still relevant? Part II
Prophecy - Signs
Monday, June 12, 2017
Pete Garcia 

If you take anything away from this and last week’s article, let me sum it up by saying this; the greater the convergence, the lesser the imminence. The same is true in reverse, the greater the imminence, the lesser the convergence. It is impossible for both concepts to take up equal space on the same prophetic timeline. The only caveat to this then applies only to those who choose to remain ignorant of the signs of the times.

Because the world pushed the 20th century into the modern age with advancements in just about every field of knowledge.  One would think that in an era of instant gratification and information, life on earth would become sublimely utopic. Rather quite the opposite has occurred with this world’s out of control addiction to technology causing many to self-alienate and disconnect from reality. It is at this juncture that we come to a unique paradox matched only in one other time in human history, the pre-flood world.

On one hand, life for a majority of the world (the extreme third-world being the exception) has improved technologically, medically, economically, and socially. On the other hand, the Bible states that things will deteriorate morally, socially, and religiously as time goes on. Thus we have the convergence of increased knowledge and travel (Daniel 12:4) which has resulted in the overall increase wickedness and violence on a global scale. And the unintended consequences of man’s increased free time and liberty due to said technological advancements (Gen. 6:5; Luke 17:26).

One of the consequences of the curse God put on Adam after the Fall, was that man was to toil and work the land to survive (Gen. 3:17-19). For most of human history, life on earth was brutal and tough. When a civilization reached its apex, what inevitability ensued was a rapid deterioration in that society’s morals and values ultimately making societal collapse all but inevitable. We are again at this summit of where mankind need not struggle to eat, shop, buy, marry, etc.

Although there are still some undeveloped places on the planet, for a majority of the world, electricity, the internet, instant communication (cell phones, computers, landlines, etc.), and advanced travel are still accessible. Also consider that today, most of the world does not farm. Only a small fraction of the population actually labors to produce any food. The rest of us buy from stores the things we need and want. As to violence, more people have died in the past century than the previous twenty centuries combined. In Earth’s Earliest Ages, G.H. Pember noted (this in 1884)…

Quote :
…the fitness of man for a condition of extreme liberty, and the worth of a trust in the innate justice supposed to lie at the bottom of the human heart, have been already tested by the great Creator. Modern philosophers are urging a repetition of the experiment; but the history of the times of old proves the fallacy of their views. For the wickedness of man became great; all flesh corrupted its way upon the earth, and the earth was filled with violence. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.

The Bible is quite clear when speaking about certain future events which have to happen. Scriptural logic leads one to understand that events rarely just happen instantaneously. There is an unfolding of connected or interrelated events that makes something that seemed either impossible or unlikely, all but inevitable. For example, the Bible speaks about Israel becoming a nation again for the second time (Amos 9:14-15, Isaiah 11:11-12, Ezekiel 37). But were it not for World War I and II, the rebirth of the nation of Israel could not have happened. Could God have brought Israel back into the table of nations without major global wars? Sure, but that is not how things have transpired. So it stands to reason that our recent history has unfolded precisely as God intended it, along with its intended results.

Transitional Imminence: 1917-1948

Israel, as John Nelson Darby taught it, was God’s timepiece. If that is true, then Israel’s entire history going back to Abraham should be the most chronicled and detailed of any people who ever existed. It is.

As many today note, Israel is the super-sign of the end times. Israel’s rebirth as a nation after almost two millennia in Diaspora is absolutely a miracle. No other nation can make that claim. But before Israel became a nation again, there was the stirring of the Jewish people to return to their homeland. The Zionist Movement, which began in 1897 by Theodor Herzl, along with strong Dispensational and other Christian evangelical support, became momentum that would continue from 1897 through 1948. From a Christian perspective, that support didn’t occur in a vacuum.

Darby’s support in the early 19th century for the return of the Jews back to what was then just a backwater province of the Ottoman Empire became influential amongst other Dispensationalists. Many of the early Dispensationalists had come out of the Anglican and Presbyterian denominations to make up the Plymouth Brethren. Their influence in part helped later shape decision makers like Lord Balfour to instruct England’s political position on the rightful return of the Jews back to what was then called Palestine. As World War I began drawing to a close, it was clear that the Ottoman Turks were in no position to continue ruling over the Middle East, thus European powers began to drawing boundaries to set different nations again.

With England’s support for the now growing European Zionist movement, teachers and preachers of Dispensationalism were cautiously optimistic that they were witnessing God’s word being fulfilled. Men like C.I. Scofield, Clarence Larkin, and others wrote decades before 1948, that the Jews would become a nation again just as the Bible predicted it (Jeremiah 31:35-36, Ezekiel 37, Amos 9:15, Isaiah 2, 11)…and so it was. This Balfour Declaration encouraged and renewed the strength of the literal view of scriptural interpretation and they began to understand that as Israel goes, so goes God’s clock for the world. Watching the progress of Israel becoming a nation again, meant for these early watchers that the fullness of the Gentiles and the time of the Gentiles would soon be drawing to a close. I call this period of time Transitional Imminence simply because although the Church could see God moving and shaping events, Israel had yet to become a nation again.

Limited Imminence: 1948-Present

On November 29th, 1947, the United Nations approved a Partition Plan that agreed to divide up what was then Palestine into a separate Arab and Jewish state. The Jews declared their independence some six months later on May 14th, 1948, and were immediately attacked by their Arab neighbors. And from then until now, Israel has tenuously and cautiously lived in a neighborhood hell-bent on her destruction. The significance of her rebirth has worn off since many are not old enough to remember a time when there wasn’t a nation of Israel. There are many today who don’t even remember a time when Israel wasn’t in complete control of Jerusalem. Much time dulls the eyes of many in the church.

The idea of imminence being limited might sound odd to the reader, but what is implied is that our window for Christ’s return is rapidly shrinking, thus limiting the timeframe in which imminence can be completely unknowable. Again, we can’t know the day or hour, but we will recognize the season. We know this as a certainty, because when Jesus gave His Olivet Discourse…He added a comment about convergence that matches up with the later revelations that were given to Peter, Paul, James, Jude, and John.

Quote :
 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Matthew 24:32-34

We know from the rapid advancements in the past century with technology, communications, warfare, digital currencies, medicine, natural and manmade disasters, that it is quickly placing us in a time that matches the capabilities present in the seven-year window known as Daniel’s 70th Week. Along with the geopolitical arrangements with nations aligning themselves as they are (The United Nations, the European Union, Russia, Iran, Turkey, etc.) also point toward the world in which final day events play out.

On top of that, we see what was once the stronghold of the Christian faith in the West is crumbling. Just as political and military power have primarily moved westward over time, we now see the Christian faith moving eastward as God the Holy Spirit once again moves mightily in the Old World. Adding to this is the world’s continued attempts to divide and destroy tiny Israel. All of these (the ultimate convergence) points to the conditions in which both Jesus and Paul called birth pangs.


In the final book of the Bible, Jesus addresses seven churches with seven letters. We understand that these were real, literal, historical churches in what was then Asia-Minor in whom John was familiar with. They were also relatively unknown. Why not a letter to the church in Rome? Or the church in Christianity’s birthplace, Jerusalem? Antioch? We also know there are other applications in these letters because of how they are constructed and arranged. They contained seven parts: the Lord’s title, a commendation, a criticism, an admonition, a call, a challenge, and a promise. Two of the churches received no criticism (Smyrna and Philadelphia), and one received no commendation (Laodicea). Also, the challenge and the promise are reversed for the last four church. For review:

  • They were real, historical churches in the 1st century
  • They had a corporate application (admonitory to all churches of all times)…i.e.…he who hath an ear, let him hear…
  • They had singular and personal applications…i.e.…admonitions and challenges to the believers
  • They had prophetic applications by the order of their selection and arrangement

Skeptics might debate that last bullet, but let’s say hypothetically that the letter to the church at Laodicea was placed anywhere other than at the end of the seven letters. If that were the case then this prophetic application wouldn’t make sense and skeptics would be correct in their rebuke of such a claim.

But because the letter to Laodicea is at the end of the letters, we can see a clear progression that also matches what we know from church history. In other words, the church ages (or epochs) can clearly be seen when we review how Christendom has unfolded around the world over these last two thousand years. Remember, Laodicea was just as real a church at the same time as Ephesus or Smyrna was. While it is not necessary to hold to seven-letter seven-epochs as the gospel truth, it is noted that throughout church history, one type of church tends to be the dominant face of Christendom.

Each of the churches unfolded in an age in which their brand (or their type) tended to dominate any other form of Christendom. There was an Ephesus era that had the Apostles who were still walking the earth. But that time came to an end when John passed on into glory. There was a Smyrna era in which the Church then (100-313AD) came under intense persecution from the Roman Empire. There was an era when the Roman Empire legalized Christianity, and thus we see the mixing of paganism into Christianity that is exemplified in Pergamum. So on and so forth. Put an another way, they unfolded individually as eras, but they continued on and overlapped, thus waning in power and influence and giving heed to the next type (or form) of church era.

At the very least, the last four letters to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea are all still in play. Since the 1960’s, the West has rapidly digressed into antichristian territory with the onset of the Sexual Revolution, the reemergence of Eastern mysticism, embracement of socialism, and rapid increases in violence and the occult in entertainment. All of these have morally weakened societies around the Western world, and have enforced a compromise-or-die type of mentality upon western churches in particular. Thus in trying to remain relevant, we have the compromised Laodicean era who is hell-bent on making being lukewarm the hottest trend around.

All that to say this, that if these churches are in fact chronicles heralding the stages the church would go through, then it is equally reasonable to assume that they had to play out first, in order for Christ to return for His church. So while it was reasonable to assume that no sign preceded the Rapture of the Church for most of its history, we now have the luxury of hindsight and can see we are at the last stage of development in the age of the Church. It is not until the conclusion of this last Laodicean church, that John see’s the door in heaven open, and hears a voice as a trumpet call from there “Come up here!”

As one with many children and having witnessed pregnancy many times, birth pangs do not go on forever…as all births come to a moment of truth when the child arrives. This writer’s belief is that while blind imminence may have been a valid assumption for the first portion of the last two millennia, it is quickly becoming something we can no longer hide behind. Too many events are pointing to too many signs for Christians to simply shrug their shoulders’ and say who knows or who cares? It should be a call for us to wake up and wake up our brothers and sisters in Christ and to put on a sense of urgency that our blessed hope is about to be realized. Christ promised a special warning to His believers who did not bother to watch and chose to remain ignorant about His return. To the dead church at Sardis He said…

Quote :
Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. Revelation 3:3

Even so, Maranatha!
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