Wishing Proper Use of ‘Imminent’ Was Imminent
Published 2011 Sep 22
To support their claim Jesus Christ will return to Earth soon, most evangelical Christian theologians resort to a bogus definition of the word “imminent.”
Christ’s apostles considered the Second Coming imminent in the first century. Most acknowledge this but, at the same time, claim his return will take place in the future. Obviously, this creates a problem. How does one reconcile first-century predictions of an imminent Second Coming with the belief that, after almost two millennia, it has failed to occur?
Solution: Redefine “imminent.”
Theologians have neutralized the word “imminent” for so long, most Christians accept their counterfeit definition without a second thought. Notice this declaration from the faith statement of a large Kamloops church:
“The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent and will be personal and visible.”
I will explain what this means:
The apostles did not teach that Christ’s return was definitely going to occur within their lifetime. They simply meant it could happen at any time, but not necessarily soon. The Second Coming is always imminent. It has been continually imminent since the first century. “Imminent” simply means “next”, without any reference to how long one might have to wait for an event to occur. For example, the Rapture is imminent because it is the next prophetic event to take place, but its occurrence will not necessarily be soon.
The foregoing is a total sham. Yet, it is firmly embedded in the teachings of countless theologians.
In Are We Living in the End Times?, Tim LaHaye declares, “The rapture is imminent,” but also, the Lord could tarry another “thousand years.” Billy Graham has taught since 1934 that Christ’s return is imminent. However, in Living Beyond the Limits, his son, Franklin Graham, concedes it could be delayed “by a hundred or even a thousand years.”
I once discussed this issue in an e-mail exchange with Grant C. Richison. He claimed, “Imminence does not necessarily mean near in time. The word ‘near’ means impending. No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before the Lord comes. He could come in the next few minutes or He might not come for another hundred years. This is the next event on God’s prophetic program.”
Most any dictionary will expose all these theologians as delusional.
As a Christian, I find it discomfiting to discover trusted Bible teachers shamelessly distorting a simple word most children could comprehend. Obviously, they are attempting to sap it of its true meaning to protect their tradition. If theologians employed the only true definition of ‘imminent’, they would be compelled to conclude the Second Coming must have occurred in the first century.
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘imminent’ as “about to happen” and provides a solitary example for clarification: “They were in imminent danger of being swept away.” Webster’s entry is similar: “Ready to take place; hanging threateningly over one’s head.” Clearly, there is very little room for delay; certainly not 2,000 years. Yet, Richison insists, “Imminence does not necessarily mean near in time.” This assertion is an outrageous distortion. All major dictionaries agree “near in time” is the very definition of imminent. The aspect of nearness cannot simply be hacked off to accommodate one’s flawed belief system.
If you awakened to find your house on fire, you would definitely be in imminent danger. However, under normal circumstances, it is true your house could catch fire someday, but do you consider yourself to be in constant imminent danger? Of course not. Yet, this is exactly the reasoning put forward by numerous theologians. They know the Bible predicts an imminent Second Coming, but since they deny it ever occurred, they must stealthily redefine ‘imminent’ to mean the return of Christ has been perpetually imminent for almost 2,000 years.
‘Impending’ means “about to happen” as well (e.g., impending doom). Even ‘pending’ would be understood by most to mean sooner rather than later.
So, what word could theologians possibly use to describe a doctrine that declares Jesus could return today or be delayed for a thousand years? I don’t really know, but it’s time they found some alternative because the use of ‘imminent’ can’t be called anything but dishonest.
This issue would vanish if theologians would just teach what the Bible teaches. James wrote, “The coming of the Lord is near . . . the Judge is standing right at the door” (Jas. 5:8b, 9b, New American Standard Bible throughout). John confidently claimed, “It is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Paul warned, “The appointed time has grown very short” (1 Cor. 7:29b). Such crystal-clear, unequivocal predictions simply don’t allow for any extended delay.
No, the Second Coming of Christ is not imminent. It was imminent in the first century, so that’s when it took place. If it didn’t, the entire New Testament is worthless, and Jesus Christ is not the Saviour of the world.
Michael Fenemore of Kamloops is the editor and co-author of
The Twilight of Postmillennialism, available at Amazon.com.
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