Eschatology, the Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch
The Nature of the Rapture
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
by James T. Bartsch, WordExplain
Reason 2. Imminence
The Doctrine of Imminence is Denied with a Post-Tribulation Rapture
2. Imminence. A Post-Tribulation Rapture is not credible because it denies the imminence presented in Rapture passages.
a. No Preceding Signs. The passages in Stage 1 of Christ’s Return have a common characteristic of imminence. According to Thomas Constable (Notes on 1 Thessalonians, p. 11), "Imminent means likely, not certain, to happen without delay: impending." There are no signs attached to Christ’s coming for the Church. The Church has always believed that Christ could return at any time. Furthermore, only in Stage 1 Return passages is there any mention of living believers being given glorified, heavenly bodies without having to die first (1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). We call Christ’s return for His bride “the Rapture,” taken from the Latin Vulgate term (rapturo) for “caught up” (see Thomas Constable, Notes on 1 Thessalonians, page 26 [.pdf file].) Passages in this Stage 1 category include John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 1:7; 4:5; 15:51-53; 16:22; Philippians 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 2:19-20; 3:13; 4:13-18; 2 Thess. 2:1-7; Titus 2:13; James 5:7-9; 1 John 2:28; Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 17, 20. My own definition of "imminent" as applied to Christ's return for Reunion is "could happen at any time." Phrased differently, no intervening events must occur before the Rapture of the Church takes place. None of these passages listed above present any events that must be fulfilled before Christ's return. These passages portray an imminent event.
b. Preceding Signs. The passages in Stage 2 of Christ’s Return also have a common characteristic – multiple signs are given that must take place before Christ returns in power. A short list of such passages includes Matt. 24; 2 Thess. 2:1-10; and Rev. 6-19. For example, in Matthew 24:1-30, a great many signs (semeion, 4592) must be fulfilled before Christ's return and the end of the age (Matt. 24:3).
These signs include false Messiahs, wars, rumors of wars, international conflict, famines, and earthquakes. All these are but the early onset of labor pains (Matt. 24:4-8).
Jesus predicted there will be tribulation, martyrdom, hatred by all nations because of His followers' allegiance to His name, apostasy, betrayal, reciprocal hatred, false prophets, deception, increasing lawlessness, and the waning of love and trust. The good news of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in the whole world as a testimony to all nations before the end comes (Matt. 24:9-14).
The "Abomination of Desolation" will appear in the rebuilt Jewish Temple. (This apparently marks the mid-point of Daniel's Seventieth Seven of Years, at which "the prince who shall come" will break his seven-year treaty with Israel (Dan. 9:27). Then residents of Judea must flee to the mountains! Then there will be "great tribulation" unprecedented in the history of the world! False Messiahs and false prophets will arise and show great signs (semeion, 4592) and wonders so spectacular they almost deceive God's chosen ones (eklektos, 1588) (Matt. 24:15-28).
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matt. 24:29). And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30). And he will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other" (Matt. 24:31).
Similarly, in the book of Revelation a great many signs must be fulfilled prior to Christ's Return for Retribution as described in Revelation 19:11-21. After the Church Age, addressed in Revelation 2:1-3:22, preparations are made in heaven (Rev. 4:1-5:14). Then there will be unleashed upon the earth during the Tribulation period seven seal judgments, seven trumpet judgments, and seven bowl judgments, described in Revelation 6:1-16:21. Two witnesses will testify during half the Tribulation period (Rev. 11:1-19). The Antichrist and his lieutenant must gain power over the entire earth (Rev. 13:1-17). Babylon, the Great Prostitute, must be burned with fire (Rev. 17:1-18:24) to pave the way for the revelation of New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:1-22:5).
The point is that the Second Stage of Christ's parousia, the Retribution phase, cannot possibly be construed as an imminent event. A great many signs must be fulfilled prior to Jesus' return for Retribution. A Single-Stage Parousia simply does not fit the evidence. Only a Two-Stage Parousia accounts for all the details found in Scripture.
c. Conclusion: Renald E. Showers has written a brief article entitled, "The Imminent Coming of Christ." His conclusion on page 4 aptly portrays the facts of the matter:
In light of the concept of the imminent coming of Christ and the fact that the New Testament teaches His imminent coming, it can be concluded that the pre-tribulation rapture view is the only view of the Rapture of the Church which comfortably fits this New Testament teaching. It is the only view that can honestly say that Christ could return at any moment, because it alone teaches that He will come to rapture the Church before the 70th week of Daniel 9 or Tribulation Period begins and that nothing else must happen before His return.
All other views teach that at least part of the 70th week must transpire before Christ can come to rapture the Church. The mid-tribulation view claims that one-half (the first three and one-half years) of the 70th week must elapse before He can return. The pre-wrath view asserts that approximately three-fourths of the 70th week must run its course before Christ can come. The post
tribulation view declares that the entire 70th week (all seven years) must pass before the Lord can come. Thus, none of these views can honestly say that Christ could come at any moment. In reality, all three of these views are saying that a person can count on a certain amount of time transpiring before Christ's coming, and, therefore, are destructive of the New Testament teaching of the
imminent coming of Christ.
It can be concluded, then, that the concept of the imminent coming of Christ strongly infers a pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church.
Similarly, Wayne Brindle, in his article, "Biblical Evidence for the Imminence of the Rapture," concluded on page 16,
These passages which promise the Rapture of the church all either teach, imply, or allow for imminence as an event that can occur “at any moment.” The purpose of most of these passages is to encourage believers concerning the hope that awaits them, or to motivate them to pursue holiness in anticipation of seeing Christ soon. As Paul Feinberg  notes, “there is no mention of any signs or events that precede the Rapture of the church in any of the Rapture passages. The point seems to be that the believer prior to this event is to look, not for some sign, but the Lord from heaven.”
 Paul D. Feinberg, "The Case for the Pretribulation Rapture Position," in Three Views on the Rapture (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 80.
Prepared by James T. Bartsch
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)