The Central Arguments for the Imminence of the Rapture


A presentation of the central arguments supporting the view that the rapture could occur at any moment. This work seeks to identify the most critical arguments for a pretribulation rapture.



Imminence (or, imminent) is defined as “the potential for an event to occur at any moment; impending; overhanging.” Among Christian theologians, the doctrine of the imminent return of the Lord is the belief that the Lord could return at any moment. If true, this doctrine further requires that He could return without any signs preceding Him. It seems like it would be easy to determine if this doctrine is biblical or not. All one has to do is simply read scripture, right? Does scripture say that Jesus will return without warning, or does it say He will return after certain identifiable signs occur?

Upon beginning such a survey, one is almost immediately confronted with a confusing difficulty. Jesus seems to be teaching both, and within the same sermon! On the one hand, Jesus teaches that no one knows the day nor the hour when the master will return (Matt 24:36; cf. 24:37–51; Matt 25:1–30), while on the other, He gives clearly identifiable events in history that should be watched for and instructions for when those events occur. For example, Jesus warns about the appearing of the abomination of desolation in the temple (Matt 24:15). He also gives many general signs prior to His appearing such as wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, false prophets, false Christs, famines, tribulations, and the gospel of the kingdom being preached throughout all the earth (Matt 24:4–14).

Moving past the Gospels to the writings of the apostles, one is faced with the same confusing contradictions. The apostles continued Jesus’s seeming paradoxical teaching. They proclaim that Jesus could come at any time but then also that there will be clear events that occur as well, including the revealing of the man of lawlessness, the Great Tribulation, and the end of the age (e.g., compare 1 Thess 5:1–11 with 2 Thess 2:2–12). After the apostles, the church continued to proclaim this same paradoxical message. But, does this message from Jesus, taught by the apostles, and preached by the church go so far as to claim that no event, or “sign,” must occur before the Lord returns? That is the question in view in this work.

Until about two hundred years ago, a clear understanding of what is imminent and what is preceded by signs has not been sought. During these two centuries, scholars have debated whether the rapture is imminent, or whether the Tribulation is imminent. Is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ imminent or is the coming of the Antichrist imminent. At least one of them must be imminent. Those who declare that the church will be taken out (raptured) before the tribulation argue that the coming of Jesus is imminent. Those who declare that the church will go through part or all of the tribulation argue, by default, that the coming of the Antichrist is imminent. Many arguments on both sides of this debate have been revised or abandoned, but it is difficult for those on the sidelines, and even for scholars, to know which arguments remain.

For the purpose of future discussion, this thesis seeks to clarify the debate by the presentation of the central arguments for the imminent rapture position. This thesis will answer the questions: “What is the current case for imminence?” “What is the central case most often made by those arguing for it?” “What are the arguments used most often?” “Are there any arguments that are employed by only a few?” The imminent rapture position itself will be clarified due to this study since the key arguments will be determined. This work does not seek to evaluate whether or not any or all of the arguments presented are fully persuasive or convincing. Rather, the more limited goal here is simply a presentation of the central arguments for this position.

While not absolutely necessary, this work is a good introduction to my work on the coming of the Lord, which I wrote in 2015: The Coming of the Lord as an Extended, Unified, Complex of Events: A Proposed Response to the Two ‘Second Comings’ Objection to Pretribulationism. I highly recommend reading it after reading this work on the central arguments for the imminence of the rapture.