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Is the Return of Christ Imminent?

Is the Return of Christ Imminent?
By Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon

Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.

We’ve been discussing Dave Hunt’s book When Will Jesus Come? Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ. If you have Dave’s book and want to follow along with our discussion, we’re currently in chapter 17. The title of the chapter is “Imminency,” and it begins with scripture verses that declare the imminent return of Christ for His church.

Dave, you give a number of verses. Let me read them for our listeners and then we’ll go over them.

First Thessalonians 1:9-10 – “For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”

And then Hebrews 9:28 – “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

And Luke12:35-40 – “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”

So, Dave, this is all about imminency and expectancy.

Dave: Interesting expression here, Tom: “The Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” I’m sure we’ve already dealt with the…

Tom: Right, that’s Luke 12:40.

Dave: Right. I’m sure we’ve already dealt with the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming. We believe in a pre-Trib Rapture, and this, of course, would be one of the reasons. And it’s very similar to a verse that you get in Matthew 24:44 – “At such an hour as you think not, the Son of man cometh.”

Now, if He doesn’t come until the end of the Great Tribulation, this doesn’t fit at all. There is a coming at the end of the Great Tribulation when He comes with power and glory to rescue Israel in the midst of Armageddon, and you could never imagine that that was at a time when no one would expect Him! There would be nothing else to expect! Even Israel now is crying out for their Messiah and looking for Him, and He has poured out upon them the spirit of supplication, repentance, and… “They will look upon me whom they’ve pierced,” it says. So this is referring…and people complain, “Well you’re talking about a secret coming.” Well, this is referring to a secret coming for His own. His feet don’t touch the Mount of Olives, but He catches us up to meet Him in the air.

So look what it says again: “For the Son of man cometh at an hour when you think not.” Look, the world is practically destroyed at the end of the Great Tribulation. You’ve seen all the signs fulfilled. You’ve seen the two witnesses, you know, and they have been killed, and then their bodies lie in the street in Jerusalem for three and a half days, and suddenly they’re caught up and taken to heaven. So many events foretold in the Book of Revelation, you could sit there and just check them off. And then when Jerusalem is surrounded by the armies of the world led by Antichrist, you wouldn’t expect that He was coming? So, Tom, it doesn’t fit, okay? So this only fits with a pre-Trib Rapture.

Furthermore, another verse that you’ve cited here: “Unto them that look for Him shall He appear for the second time,” – Hebrews 9:28.

Well, once again, we couldn’t possibly have a post-Trib Rapture because—well, if you’re looking for Him at the end of the Great Tribulation that would fit, but you wouldn’t be looking for Him all along, you’d be looking for Antichrist. You’d be looking for the Great Tribulation and other things. But are they looking for Him from the very beginning? Yes.

You also read 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. He’s talking about that they are waiting for His Son. “They turn to God from idols to serve the living and the true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come…” That’s another interesting expression: “delivered us from the wrath to come”? Not at the end of the Great Tribulation. There’s been wrath poured out upon this whole earth, but we’re going to be delivered from the wrath to come by a pre-Trib Rapture. Furthermore, “waiting for His Son.”

Tom, if the Antichrist had to come first, as the pre-wrath Rapture theory teaches, you’ve got to face Antichrist first. I’m not waiting for Christ to come. Why should I be waiting for Christ to come? Antichrist isn’t here yet. I can only expect Christ after Antichrist, or if it’s a post-Trib Rapture, why would I be waiting for Christ now? We’ve got seven years at least; there’s a seven-year Great Tribulation period. So again, a post-Trib Rapture does not fit. The only thing that fits is imminency. They were taught to expect Him at any moment. And we, of course, give other verses to that effect as well.

Tom: Dave, I want to go back to Hebrews 9:28 – “And unto them that look for Him shall He appear.” Is this condition for those to be raptured? Do we need to be looking for this? Because we know that today is not the case for many in the church—actually, most of the church.

Dave: Yeah. We quoted a verse from Luke 12:40 that applies to what you are talking about, Tom: “At such an hour as you think not.” So obviously He says, Christ himself says, “I’m coming when you don’t expect me.” So unless we’re contradicting Hebrews 9:28, which I don’t believe we are, “unto them that look for him,” I think He’s saying those who are saved, those who are expecting Christ. Not necessarily expecting Him right at that moment, but this is their hope.

For example, Titus 2:13 – “Looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God our Savior.” So I don’t believe that it’s saying, that Hebrews 9:28 is saying, that if you don’t happen to be scanning the sky right at that moment when He comes, He’s not going to take you. If, somehow, you sat down for dinner, a delicious meal, and you forgot to look for Christ at that moment? I don’t think so. I think it’s saying the Christians who are looking for Him, this should be their attitude. They’re expecting Him. Whether they are right at that moment or not, those are the ones to whom He will appear.

And furthermore, Tom, that takes us back to their criticism about what they called the “secret Rapture.” Who is He going to appear to? Those who are looking for Him, expecting Him, not the whole world.

Tom: Yeah, but, Dave, doesn’t that eliminate many Christians who maybe don’t understand the Rapture? They’re saved, they truly know Him—wouldn’t that put them in a position of, “Well, wait a minute! I’m not really…” Or let me say it this way: They don’t understand the teaching of the Rapture. Would that prevent them from being taken?

Dave: I don’t think so. Any Christian, no matter how simple your faith is—you believe Christ died for your sins, was buried and rose again—you must know the fact you’re going to die, so forget the Rapture: who are you expecting to see when you die? “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” You’re going to be with Christ. So I think every Christian would qualify there, even though they don’t know anything about the Rapture. Well, they’re all expecting to see Christ when they get to heaven.

Tom: Or what if they take a wrong view of the Rapture?

Dave: Well, Tom, of course, the Rapture is not part of the gospel. We have probably already dealt with that. The gospel is not how that Christ died for their sins, was buried and rose again, and is coming to take us out of here, and we’ll meet Him and He will catch us up, and so forth. That’s not part of the gospel, that’s in addition to it. The gospel is how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures. And this is what Paul says saves us in Romans 1:16 – “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”

So you believe the gospel, that Christ died for your sins, was buried, rose again the third day, you put your faith and trust in Him as the One who paid the full penalty for your sins—well then, what else would you expect when you die? You don’t know about the Rapture. When you die, you know that’s going to happen. You don’t believe that that’s the end. If that were the end, what was the point of Christ dying for our sins? I mean, all that He suffered just to help us have a happier life here on this earth? And Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 argues, “Well, if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Let’s eat, drink and be merry…” I mean, what’s the point? So anyone who puts their faith and trust in Christ as having paid the penalty for their sins, they must believe that there is a penalty for sin. They must believe that there is a place called hell to be shunned, and a place called heaven to be desired, and that they hope, expect to see Christ when they get there, to thank Him for dying for them.

Tom: So, Dave, somebody who doesn’t understand the teaching of the Rapture, somebody who maybe takes a view that it’s a post-Trib or mid-Trib, if these ideas are not true to the Scriptures—many of the things that we’ve read here that talk about the blessed hope, the expectancy, and so on—they’re going to be missing out on that. My point here is that the fruit of understanding the correct doctrine here—expectation, looking forward to Him, our focus is on Him, and so on—if you have an erroneous idea of these things with regard to the Rapture and when it’s going to take place, your life is not going to reflect those things, that fruit, do you think?

Dave: You’re absolutely right, Tom. We quoted, I think last week, in 1 John 3, he says, “Everyone that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” So every person recognizes they’re going to die, but most people don’t think about it.

My wife and I owned, and I was the administrator of, a convalescent hospital. One of the things that shocked me—these are people in their 90s, some of them, 80s—some of them very ill. They don’t have long to live—they must know that. They never thought about that. They just, somehow, “tomorrow, tomorrow…” They put it off. That was a revelation to me, because I thought surely people would be concerned.

But now, Tom, when we’re talking about younger people, they’re not concerned. It could happen at any moment to anyone. But let’s say that a person recognizes that death—what Shakespeare said: “Aye, there’s the rub. When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, who knows what dreams may come?” He goes on to talk about: “It doth make cowards of us all.”

Who would want to leave this life and go to something that you don’t know what it might be?

So let’s assume a person realizes that death is going to launch them into a sphere—they ought to prepare for it to know, “What’s going to happen? Where might I go?” Most people don’t, Tom.

I don’t know whether I’ve quoted it here on this program in the past—William Law tells the story of Negotius, a young businessman dying in his 35th year, and his friends come to sympathize with him. And one of the things he says to them is, “Your thoughts are no more like my thoughts than your condition is like my condition.” I love the way William Law puts things. It’s just powerful, to the point. You can’t escape it. He says, “You’re thinking that I might be concerned that I’m not going to live long enough to stand behind a counter for a few more years and make some more bargains, some more deals. Well,” he says, “our friend Lepidus died on the way to a feast. Do you think it’s any concern of his now that he didn’t live long enough to eat of those dainties?” He says, “I only have one thought: what lies ahead of me.” And then he says, “What troubles me the most is that I didn’t always think this way, that the pleasures of life and a few business deals should dull me to these thoughts that are so important.”

So most people don’t think of it. But anyway, supposing you did? Well, even if you get diagnosed with cancer, you could switch to a high fiber diet, go for organic food, and that has helped a lot of people. Or you could have an operation. The point I’m making is even if you’re thinking of death, we always have a thought: we can delay the process; we can delay it. Somehow we’re going to beat this thing. The Rapture? No. That happens—when Christ comes, He comes! And it could be at any moment, “at such an hour as you think not.” Well, Tom, I think that is the most powerful motivation for living a life for Christ, because I don’t know that I will be here tomorrow or even 10 minutes from now.

So, Tom, you made a good point when you say that people who don’t understand the Rapture, they don’t believe in a pre-Trib Rapture and in imminency, they’re missing out on a lot that would be very beneficial for the Christian life.

Tom: Well, you make a point in this chapter, Dave—I was looking for it—you talk about there will be believers, true believers, who sleep. But they’re not going to miss the event, but they’re sleeping. I took that as indicating they’re not watching, they’re not waiting, they’re not looking with expectation. And there’s so much joy in that! I mean, where’s my focus if that’s what I’m doing?

Dave: Complacency, Tom. You remember, I mentioned [that] in 1970 Hal Lindsey wrote his book The Late Great Planet Earth, and people used to ask me in those days, “You think Christ is coming right away if you’re looking for the Rapture?”

And I would say, “I hope so. I’m watching and waiting for Him, but I don’t think He’s coming now, because too many people are expecting Him.” That’s a tragedy. And as you’re mentioning, unfortunately the church is not watching and waiting. And when you get that parable in Matthew 25—Tom, I’ll let you comment on that and explain it—but there’s a word there, three letter word, “all.” And it says, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” I hope that doesn’t mean that has to include me, or you, or our listeners out there. But I think it gives you an indication of the overall condition of the church at the time of His return. And, Tom, I think we’re there.

Tom: Well, if we’re not there, Dave—I mean, you know, we keep praying and hoping, not from an escapist standpoint, but because we’re thinking about the One we love, and we want to be with Him. I think sometimes when my wife heads down to visit relatives, and I know when she’s coming back because she’s telling me the date, but I keep hoping and I’m missing her. But also, Dave, because I know the date, I know the time, I don’t have that imminency; I don’t have that expectation because I know when she’s going to return. But if I didn’t know, would I keep the house clean? Would I do these kinds of things knowing that she’s going to be…or would I put it off until the last day or so?

Dave: Very good. Tom, I just ask the listeners out there: ask yourself—I don’t know what churches you go to, whatever church it is—when the pastor or some preacher, whatever, when did they last talk about the imminent return of Jesus Christ to take His bride to heaven? What kind of expectancy is there among the members there at that church, or your friends, or in your own heart? Something that speaks to my heart right now, Tom, because it’s very easy to forget, and I need to be thankful to Christ every moment for what He has done in redeeming me so I’m forgiven of my sins and I’m on my way to heaven. But I also need to be looking for Him and expecting Him and anxiously awaiting His return, as the Scripture says we should.

Program Number 2008.

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