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James 5:8 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 41 secs

Imminency: Key to Understanding the Rapture; James 5:8


James 5:8 NASB "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near."


Underlying this is a hint of motivation. It is that because the Lord is coming we need to wait in a proper manner. This has been the understanding of the thrust of the doctrine in imminency throughout the next Testament, that this has been a great source of encouragement and challenge to the believer because at any moment the Lord can comeback. If the Lord returns for the church at the Rapture in the next five minutes then that means that in six minutes we are going to be standing at the judgment seat of Christ. So if the return of the Lord is imminent, so is our evaluation at the judgment seat of Christ, and that should challenge us to be ready, to be living in fellowship, producing divine good, advancing in our spiritual life so that at any moment we are ready for that evaluation by our Lord.


"You too be patient." There is a repetition of the aorist imperative of MAKROTHUMIA [makroqumia], and then the words "strengthen your hearts," again an aorist imperative from STERIZO [sthrizw] which means to establish, to strengthen, to make strong. Then KARDIA [kardia], translated "heart" refers to the innermost thinking part of the soul. The way we do that is through taking in the Word of God. It is the Word of God, Bible doctrine, alone that strengthens or edifies our soul and it does that through the development of the soul fortress. That is the concept: as we abide in Christ (John 15), walking by means of God the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5), then as a result of that our soul is strengthened; God becomes our power, our fortress, our shield, our bulwark, so that we can withstand the onslaughts of adversity and we can go forward in the spiritual life. And the motivation for developing patience is eschatological. The concept is that what motivates the believer today, what moves us to obedience, is because we know and have a confident expectation that there is accountability at the judgment seat of Christ. Another term we use for this is a personal sense of our eternal destiny. We know what our eternal destiny is, that at the Rapture we are going to be face to face with the Lord and we are then going to stand before Him at an evaluation judgment called the bhma seat of Christ, and described in 3:13-18. So we are exhorted, commanded, mandate, to be patient "because/for," and the word in the Greek here is the causal HOTI [o(ti] which indicates the reason or basis for the command. The basis for the command is the immediacy of the Lord's coming. Because of this immediacy and the use of the word here, EGGIZO [e)ggizw], the key word for understanding imminency, we will look at the doctrine of imminency.  


The doctrine of imminency

1)  The word imminent means at hand, impending, about to occur, and ready to take place. It is a technical term in the Scriptures and in theology which refers to the at-any-moment or soon-coming of the Lord at the Rapture of the church. It doesn't means immediate, it means something that is impending, something that is overhanging, something that we can expect but we just don't know when it is going to take place. The timing of the Rapture has not been revealed in the Scripture. The doctrine of imminency is the impending return of Jesus Christ in the air for all living and dead church age believers, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. It does not include Old Testament saints, it only includes church age believers. Since no biblical prophecies are to be fulfilled before the resurrection of the church occurs this event has been expected since the time of the apostles. Today the hour of that event is unknown to any human being and not revealed in the Scripture but is to be eagerly anticipated.

2)  Terms:


a) Rapture refers to the resurrection of all dead church age believers and the removal and translation (instantaneously receive a resurrection body) of all living believers from the earth at the end of the church age, immediately before the Tribulation begins. Qualification: What begins the Tribulation is not the Rapture? It is the signing of a peace treaty between the Antichrist (the prince who is to come, Daniel 9) and Israel. Then there is the seven-year Tribulation which ends with the second coming of Christ to the earth at the Mount of Olives, and that then will begin the Millennial kingdom;


b) The Tribulation is a technical term which refers to seven literal years which completes the age of Israel. It is the time when Satan is given almost full sway on the earth to try to establish his kingdom, it is the time of his greatest desperation and greatest temper tantrum as he seeks to gain control over this kingdom that he has attempted to rule throughout all of human history. But all of his attempts result in warfare, suffering and turmoil in human history, and when the human race is on the verge of self-destruction at the Battle of Armageddon the Lord Jesus Christ returns bodily to the earth to save them. 


The timing of the Rapture: The pre-Tribulation Rapture position puts is at the beginning of the Tribulation; the post-Tribulation position puts it at the end of the Tribulation; the mid-Tribulation position puts it at some time during the Tribulation. The pre-Tribulation Rapture is the resurrection of the church immediately preceding the seven-year Tribulation. The mid-Tribulation Rapture usually places the Rapture at the mid-point or some three and a half years into the Tribulation. The post-Tribulation Rapture is the theological position that the Rapture of the church does not occur until the end of the Tribulation immediately preceding the second coming of Christ.


c) The Millennial kingdom refers to the thousand-year rule of Jesus Christ as the greater son of David, in fulfilment of the Davidic covenant, from the throne of David in Jerusalem. This is talking about a literal throne in a literal kingdom in literal Jerusalem. It is sometimes referred to as the Messianic kingdom. It is not a figurative or spiritualised event.   


3)  Greek terminology. The verb is EGGIZO (GG when translated into English is pronounced NG, e.g. ENGIZO) which means to be near, to be proximate in either space or time. It has a wide variety of meanings and you have to look at the context. Romans 13:12 NASB "The night is almost gone" – referring to the present age when Christ is not present with us – "and the day is near." This is a reference to the day of the Lord, and he uses the verb EGGIZO. "Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." The apostle Paul is challenging us to advance to spiritual maturity because of the imminency of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:5 NASB "Let your gentle {spirit} [strength under control] be known to all men. The Lord is near [EGGIZO]." Because the Lord's coming could be at any moment we need to be challenged to live in accordance with God's Word, applying doctrine and advancing spiritually. Hebrews 10:25 NASB "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging {one another;} and all the more as you see the day drawing near [EGGUS]." Because the coming of the Lord is imminent we need to be in Bible class on a day-to-day basis, taking in the Word of God, listening to tapes, always advancing, growing spiritually so that we are prepared and ready for the judgment seat of Christ. 1 Peter 4:7 NASB "The end of all things is near [EGGUS]; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober {spirit} [having clear, sound, objective thinking in the soul] for the purpose of prayer." Prayer is to be motivated by the fact that Jesus' return is imminent.

4)  The word Rapture derives from the Latin word rapio. There are a lot of words that we use to describe doctrines in the Scripture that aren't found in the Scripture. First of all, we use English words and the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, do that means none of them were found in the original text. But it is the purpose of theology to put together the concepts of the Scripture and to coin new vocabulary to express that. That is not wrong. We do that with words such as Trinity and Rapture. Rapture comes from the Latin rapio which was found in the Vulgate version, the translation of Jerome of the Greek New Testament, and that Latin word means to snatch away, and it translates the Greek word HARPAZO [a(rpazw] used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which means to seize, to catch up, and to snatch.

5)  The doctrine of imminency is significant for demonstrating the pre-Tribulation Rapture. Dr. Ryrie makes a very important statement in his book What the Bible Teaches about the Rapture: "If the pre-Tribulation Rapture is correct then the Rapture could take place at any time and is clearly imminent." What he is saying is that if the Rapture is correct it must be that is could take place at any time with nothing preceding it. That would mean that it is imminent. "If, however, will live through the Tribulation and be raptured at the end then only in the last part of the Tribulation could anyone truly say that the Lord's coming is imminent." What he is saying is that in Matthew 24 the Lord clearly laid out a number of signs to look for preceding the second coming. If those signs take place before the Rapture then we can't say it is imminent until we see those signs taking place. So the fact that the Scriptures teach that it could happen at any moment and that nothing need precede it is an indication that the rapture must come before those end-time signs and prophecies begin to be fulfilled.

6)  Central passage on imminency: John 14:1-3 NASB "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, {there} you may be also."

a)  Just as Christ literally went to heaven after this event, He will literally return to take His disciples to the Father's house. "I will come again" must be in the same literal sense. It is translated in the future tense there but in the Greek it is a present tense. Many times the present tense is used with a futuristic sense, it is called the futuristic present because an event is so certain to take place in the future that it is spoken of as a present reality. So Jesus uses and emphatic futuristic present to describe His future coming.

b)  We need to see what exactly takes place in these verses. First, it explains that Christ will return to an earthly scene to take His disciples: "I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am [heaven], {there} you may be also." Contrast that with what happens at the second coming when Christ is coming to the earth to establish His kingdom on the earth. There is clearly a difference between John 14:3 which views taking the disciples to heaven and Revelation 19 which sees Jesus coming all the way to the earth and staying on the earth and the church age believer is ruling and reigning with Him.

c)  This verse contrasts with the disciples' expectation of an earthly kingdom. Acts 1:10, 11 NASB "And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

d)  There is a different hope. Their hope is earthly but Christ is giving them a heavenly anticipation.

e)  We see here that the object for the church age believer is to be with Christ forever, it is not an earthly destiny in an earthly Jerusalem, that would relate to Israel's destiny under the Abrahamic covenant.

f)  There is no prerequisite given here for fulfilment. Jesus does not say that certain things have to transpire before he will return.

7)  Preterism. In the debate over the pre-Trib. Rapture pre-Tribulationalists have always emphasized imminency and the post-Tribultionalists have always said it is not imminent because all these signs in the Tribulation have to come first. But now we get this new position—really an old position that has been resurrected—called Preterism. In position the view is that these prophecies all took place in the past and were all fulfilled in 70 AD. So Christ even returned spiritually at 70 AD and now we can say if all prophecy was fulfilled then we really don't know when the end of the age will be, so it is imminent, isn't it? They are twisting the doctrine. 1 Thessalonians 4 makes it clear. The purpose of 1 Thessalonians 4 & 5 is to encourage believers with the doctrine of the Rapture in relationship to the death of their loved ones. In 4:18 Paul says, "Therefore comfort one another with these words." Back in verse 10 he says, "for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more" Why? Because the lord is going to come back at any moment. So he uses imminency to challenge believers to grow to spiritual maturity. This is also seen in 1 Corinthians 1:7 NASB "so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:6 NASB "so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober." Titus 2:13 NASB "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." This is clearly stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NASB "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of {the} archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord." 1 John 3:3 NASB "And everyone who has this hope {fixed} on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." This is part of sanctification doctrine. Te Greek word translated "purifies" HAGNIZO [a(gnizw] and it has the same concept as KATHARIZO [kaqarizw], it is a synonym and has to do with that process of spiritual cleansing and sanctification in the spiritual life. This is why prophecy is important. So here we have a passage that says eschatology is even related to our spiritual life because it is that which should motivate and drive us to greater obedience and consistency.


James 5:8 NASB "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near." Why are they to be patient? Because the Lord could come at any moment and they need to be ready. The judgment seat of Christ is right around the corner. If the doctrine of the return of Christ is imminent, so is the judgment seat of Christ. So we need to be ready for that evaluation judgment.


James 5:9 NASB "Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door." The scene is, get ready, the judgment seat of Christ is around the corner. This is not that their sins are going to be brought up at the judgment seat of Christ but that if they are in carnality they are not producing divine good and they are at risk of ending up at the judgment seat of Christ with no gold, silver and precious stones, just wood, hay and straw. So the command here is to straighten out their life, to be patient, to advance to spiritual maturity because judgment days is coming:  "…behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."


James 5:10 NASB "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord." He goes to the Old Testament and begins to shift from the overarching concept of patience to endurance.