Imminence in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s Thessalonian Epistles

(Originally published Fall 2002)

Fathers in the ancient church dealt frequently with the doctrine of imminence, sometimes viewing God’s future wrath against rebels as imminent and sometimes viewing the future coming of Christ as imminent. The NT furnishes good reason for the fathers to view both aspects of the future as imminent, beginning with the teachings of Christ, who laid the foundation for the teaching of imminency though His use of parabolic expressions of a master standing at the door and knocking and of an unexpected coming of a thief and His use of the futuristic tense of erchōmai. In company with other NT writers, Paul emphasized the imminence of both future wrath and the return of Christ in His two epistles to the Thessalonians. He did this in several parts of the epistles—in discussing the day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5, in describing the “catching away” in 1 Thessalonians 4, in 1 Thessalonians1:9–10 and 2:16, and in 2 Thessalonians1:9–10 and 2:1–3. A study of the two epistles and a survey the rest of the NT indicates that the church fathers were right: the rapture of the church and the beginning of the day of the Lord could come at any moment.

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