That Christ’s return or coming is imminent is supported by the following:
(1) In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul first addressed the issue of those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. Note that he says “we” and not simply “those.” In the Greek text, the “we” is emphatic and seems to be designed to bring out an important point: The Apostle included himself among those who could be alive at the Lord’s return. The clear implication is that the coming of the Lord and the things described there were imminent and could have occurred in Paul’s day. Any other viewpoint here fails to take into account why Paul used the emphatic “we” instead of the third person, “those.”
(2) In John 21:22 Jesus said to Peter concerning the Apostle John, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? It is interesting that Jesus’ last words recorded by John in this Gospel refer to His return. And though Jesus gave no indication as to when He would return and that Peter would die before His return, the implication here is that He could have come during John’s lifetime which at least suggests imminency.
(3) In 2 Corinthians 5:1 Paul used the third class condition to speak about the very real possibility of his death, but the use of this third class construction left open the possibility that he might not see death. If he did see death, there was the sure fact of the future resurrection, but the use of the third class condition may show that he also had the hope of the return of the Lord and the experience described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 was also a possibility because of the blessed hope.
(4) In Philippians 3:20 and in Titus 2:13, the Apostle Paul spoke of the imminent hope of the coming of Christ when our bodies will be transformed into the glorious likeness of Christ’s resurrection body. Paul used the present tense in both passages showing that he and all believers of all ages should be waiting expectantly for the personal coming of Christ. He was not and we are not to be waiting for a series of events that must take place first before the return of the Lord, but for the Lord Himself.
(5) Concerning the return of the Lord, the Apostle divided believers into two classes—the living and the dead. Because Christ’s return is imminent and yet, because no man knows when it will be, the Apostle sometimes included himself in three ways:
- He included himself with the dead, with those who would experience resurrection (2 Cor. 4:14).
- Sometimes he included himself with the living who would experience transformation (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52).
- And sometimes he included himself in the category of either possibility (2 Cor. 5:1).
“One of the wonderful things about the hope of His coming is that it burns brightly in the hearts of each generation of Christians regardless of how long His return is delayed” (Ryrie, First Thessalonians, p. 64). “Longing for the Parousia of Christ, which is certain to come, yet not afraid of death, which may possibly come first, is, then, the characteristic attitude of each generation of Christians.”
This means none of the signs connected with the Lord’s return to earth at His second advent as mentioned in Matthew 24 were necessary before His return for the church. Since signs herald Christ’s advent to earth in the form of the Tribulation judgments (Rev. 6-19), but none are necessary for His return for the church, His coming for the church must occur at least seven years before His advent to earth.
When will this be? We simply do not know and Paul did not know. But the more we see world events coming together for the conditions needed for the Tribulation like Israel’s return to Palestine, the European nations banning together, and the rise of one world thinking in the new age mentality among others, the closer His return for the church must be! Glory to God in the Highest!