“...Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh,” these are the words of Jesus. Jesus is saying, be ready, I could come at any minute, I could come without warning of any kind. That is what is called the doctrine (teaching) of imminency, the Word of God teaches that there are no signs that have to be fulfilled prior to the rapture. Christ could have come for the Church at any point in the entire Church age.
Paul said to the Thessalonians that one of the purposes of their salvation was, “to wait for his Son from heaven,” 1 Thess. 1:10. The constant expectation of Christ’s appearance is said to be a purifying hope, causing those who are expecting His sudden appearance to live pure lives. Those first century saints were waiting expectantly for Christ to come for them at any minute. They were not waiting for the tribulation period, nor the antichrist, nor the millennium, nor Israel to return to the land and become a nation again, nor for the peace treaty to be signed. They were not waiting for any of the signs that Jesus gave in Matthew 24. They were taught by Paul that Jesus could come for them at any minute, not that He would, but that He could. Paul well knew that Jesus had said, “ of that day and hour knoweth no man.”
“Waiting for Christ,” would not have been the attitude of these first century believers if Paul had taught them any one single thing had to occur before the rapture. They would have been waiting for that thing to occur, instead of the rapture.
It is obvious that these New Testament Christians were not looking for a post-tribulation rapture. They would not have been looking for Christ if they had been taught a post-tribulation rapture, that seven years of terrific tribulation lay between them and the rapture. Nor were they looking for a mid-tribulation rapture.
Paul referred to the rapture as, “that blessed hope.” The hope of the Church is, “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” If they were expecting to go through the tribulation period, then the majority of living believers would be slaughtered by anti-christ, they would not be looking for “His appearing.” That would be a false promise and a false hope.
The rapture is a signless event, it could have happened at any point in time throughout the whole church era. The signs and situations that are to precede the return of Christ are signs and situations that refer to the second coming of Christ and not the rapture. We are not told to look to these, as signs of the coming rapture. However, although these signs and situations are not given as signs of the rapture, the fact is that they do indicate the nearness of the coming tribulation period. When we see the signs of the coming tribulation we know that the rapture is nearer at hand. Although these signs and situations are not given as signs to indicate the rapture is at hand, yet, we now know their appearing is an indication that the rapture is indeed near, even at the doors.
Some signs of the coming tribulation period have always been in the world. In the first century John drew attention to a sign of the coming tribulation, even though we now know that the tribulation period was a long way off at that time. John said, “Little children it is the last time:” the stage was set for the end time events to begin to unfold, nothing needed to happen before the rapture took place. John continued, “ ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many anti-christs; whereby we know that it is the last time.” The many anti-christs that were in the world in John’s day were signs that the tribulation (not the rapture) period could unfold. The rapture could take place and then the whole end time scenario could come together before the tribulation period began. Signs of the tribulation period were in the world even in the first century. The signs of the tribulation period continued down over the long Church age. The sign of the apostasy in the Church, the sign of the coming world Church. These were situations that are foretold in scripture as being a part of the tribulation scenario. In the last 50 years these signs and situations indicating the nearness of the coming tribulation period have greatly multiplied. Again these signs are not signs of the rapture, they are not given to indicate that the rapture is drawing near. However, If the tribulation period is near at hand, then the rapture is seven years closer. The Church never anticipated that so many signs would unfold. I have been following the unfolding of these signs for 50 years and as I look back I truly never anticipated that so many signs and situations relating to the tribulation would unfold, I would have thought that the rapture would have taken place long before this time. Nevertheless, the fulfillment of all of these signs confirm the veracity of the prophetic scriptures.
We summarise; There are the signs Jesus gave and there are the circumstances and the situations that the prophetic scriptures describe as being a part of the scenario of the last days prior to the second coming of Christ. However the scriptures give no indication of how much time elapses between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation period. We do know that the signing of the Peace Treaty by Antichrist is what triggers God’s time table for the tribulation. It could be minutes, hours, days, months or even years, we are not told. All of the signs and situations indicating the tribulation period is about to begin could have been fulfilled after rapture. This would leave the rapture as an imminent event all down over the long Church age. That is God’s master plan to keep His Church on tip toe of readiness and anticipation. That anticipation is obviously a purifying hope.
This explains how Luke 21:28 fit into this scenario? “And when these things begin to come to pass to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” The answer is that signs of the coming tribulation period have always been around, as we have said, even in John’s day. But as the end time draws near those signs multiply and a greater and greater understanding of the nearness of the rapture has and will grip the hearts of God’s discerning people. Paul said, “But ye, brethren are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief,” 1 Thess. 5:4. The degree of enlightenment would not destroy imminency, only heighten expectation.
Notice Luke says "When these things begin to come to pass," not when they are all completed, when they are all completed the second coming will take place. When they begin to happen, "then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh," the rapture is soon to happen.