Answering some arguments against



John Hoole – March 18, 2012





In our lesson on the doctrine of Imminence, we investigated the biblical support for it.  Some of those who hold a different eschatological view do not ascribe to this doctrine.  I have read some of the articles and books that these people write and have tried to assess how they might arrive at their position.  I want to take a few minutes this morning to address some of their arguments.


Christ’s statement concerning the future death of Peter


One argument often given against the imminent coming of our Lord are statements made in the New Testament that speak of coming events in a person’s future.  One of those is the prophecy Christ gave concerning the way the apostle Peter would die.  Let’s read it in John 21.


John 21:18-19 NKJV


18     Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish."

19     This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."


The question here is:  How would one who believes that the New Testament teach imminence deal with the argument that Jesus promised Peter that he would live to an old age?  Doesn’t this imply that Jesus could not come at least until Peter died?


First, to answer these questions, we need to have an historical perspective.  Let me ask you a questions.




Let me start answering the question by saying the first book to be written is most likely not one of the gospels.


Look at this chart on the screen.  James is quite possibly the first New Testament book written, although Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was about the same time.  Let me show the books written prior to A.D. 70.  Are you surprised not to see even one of the four Gospels?  There are some who would say the gospel of Mark was written earlier.  But the consensus is that it was later.


When do you think the Gospel of John was written?  This is important because the Gospel of John is the only gospel that records this conversation between Christ and Peter.  We also need to know approximately when Peter’s death occurred?


I bring this up because most likely Peter died three decades or so before John wrote his gospel.  The gospel of John and the three letters of John were all written at about A.D. 90 while he was living in Ephesus.  And John wrote the book of Revelation on the island of Patmos near A.D. 95-96.  By the time the books of James and 1 Thessalonians were written, Peter was an old man. 


So do we have any idea about the time when Peter died?  It is not possible to be precise, but we do have some biblical statements.  Look at Peter’s own statement in his second letter.


2 Peter 1:12-14 NASU


12     Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.

13     I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,

14     knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.


Verse 14 tells us Peter knew his death was imminent – could happen any moment.  The last part of this verse tells us that Peter clearly knew what Christ had told him many years before.


If his death was imminent when Peter wrote this letter, when did he write it.  One reference book I have [Holman’s Book of Biblical Charts] says he died in 65-66.  My Dake’s Annotated Bible has a synopsis of each Bible book at its end.  It says 2 Peter was written 61-65.  So we have a rough estimate of the timing of Peter’s death – the mid 60’s.


Professor John Walvoord wrote:


“As far as the church at large was concerned, the information given to … Peter did not deter their (the early church) belief in imminency because on a given day few would know whether … Peter was still alive, and most of them were not informed about Christ’s predictions.”


It wasn’t until James had written his letter, along with the early writings of Paul, that the doctrine of the imminence of the Rapture is revealed.  By this time, most people would not know if Peter was still alive or not at any given moment.


Paul’s plans to go to Rome


Another argument those against imminency is Romans 15:22-25; 30-32.  The Book of Romans was written to the church in Rome.  And Paul mentions that he had for several years desired to visit Rome and Spain,


Romans 15:20-25 NIV


20     It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation.

21     Rather, as it is written: "Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand."

22     This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

23     But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you,

24     I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.

25     Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there.


And, skipping to verse 30:


Romans 15:30-32 NKJV


30     Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,

31     that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

32     that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.


In this chapter Paul tells them why he has not yet been able to visit them, even though he has had a desire to visit them for several years.  In verse 32, Paul urges people to pray that he might be released from the circumstances Preventing him from coming to visit them in Rome – “by the will of God.”  Nothing in the passage says that Paul would absolutely, by the will of God, come to Rome.  He was always submissive to “the will of God.”  Nothing in this chapter would contradict the doctrine of imminency.  Paul made a similar comment in 1 Corinthians 4:19 when he wrote to this church.  “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will.”


It is clear that statements like those made by Paul are under the control of the will of God.  The timing of the prophetic events are also under the control of God’s will as noted in Acts 1:7: which says, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.”


Every indication in the New Testament is that Paul lived his life in such a way as to seek God’s will and direction for his life, while at the same time knowing that the rapture could occur at any moment, leaving undone some of the plans he might have had.


This also teaches us to live our lives following the will of God, but at the same time recognizing that Christ could interrupt our life plans with the occurrence of the any-moment rapture.


For me personally, I would not complain if that glorious event were to interrupt the plan I have to teach next week.  The doctrine of imminence implies the possibility of an any-moment coming by Christ at the rapture.  But since it is a signless event, there are no indicators when it will occur.  Therefore we should plan to live our lives waiting for Him to come today.