Is Christ's Coming Imminent?
Those who teach the view that the "rapture" of the church will occur before events of the Book of Revelation, before "the great tribulation" (Rev. 7: 14), styled "pre-tribbers," insist that the coming of the Lord and the rapture have been "imminent" since the Lord's Ascension into heaven in Acts chapter one. There it was told the disciples - "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (1: 11) According to pre-tribbers, disciples have been expecting the Lord to come "at any time," and that there are no events or signs that must occur before his coming again. They teach that the disciples have always been looking for the "imminent" return of the Lord. They also teach that only those who are pre-tribbers are looking for the Lord, while those who are not pre-trib are not looking for the Lord, but looking for signs. Needless to say, this is a serious charge that must be answered.
It is obvious that the first disciples who were addressed by the angels in Acts chapter one could not have expected the imminent or any time return of the Lord Jesus. The reason for this is to be found in the words Christ spoke to them just prior to his Ascension.
"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father...But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1: 4, 8)
The period of time between the Ascension and Pentecost could not have seen the return of the Lord. He could not have come again in that time period. His coming then was not imminent in that interval of time between his Ascension and Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit was to occur before the return of Jesus. Not only this, the disciples would "be witnesses" unto the Lord Jesus "unto the uttermost part of the earth." Obviously the return of Jesus would not occur till this witnessing had been done. In light of these facts, how can pre-tribbers argue that the return of Christ has been imminent since the promise was given in Acts chapter one? Further, will they charge the first disciples with looking for signs and preceding events rather than looking for the return of the Lord?
Consider also the fact that the old testament believers were "looking for" the coming of the Messiah. Will the pre-tribbers deny this? How can they? Yet, if they admit that they were looking for the coming of the Messiah, how can they deny that they were also looking for things to occur before his coming? If they admit that things had to occur before the coming of the Messiah, will they charge the old testament believers with looking for signs rather than for the Lord himself? Did the old testament scriptures not say that "Elijah must first come"? Was this not fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist? Also, Daniel gave his prophecy of the "seventy weeks" in Daniel chapter nine, in which the Messiah was not to come until 69 weeks had transpired from the "going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem." If the old testament believers could be legitimately looking for the coming of the Messiah and yet also looking for signs of his coming to precede it, then why cannot new testament believers also legitimately be looking for the coming again of Jesus while also looking for things to precede it? All this simply shows that the charge of the pre-tribbers is simply an unfair and illogical charge. Those of us who believe that Christ will come after numerous other events and signs are indeed looking for the Lord and to accuse otherwise is unfair and unreasonable.
Jesus prophesied that the Apostle Peter would live to be an old man and would die by crucifixion. (See John 21: 18-19) Let us ask the pre-tribbers - "did Peter expect the Lord to come during his lifetime?" Obviously not.