Recently, I have received a spate of emails from new prewrathers who were previously prettribbers—that is a good thing! In their excitement they (rightly) tell their believing pretrib friends at church about the prewrath position. A very common objection they encounter by their pretrib friends is, “But it denies imminence.” This is expected since that is their deep-seated presupposition filtering their reading of Scripture. However, if you can help them see the Bible does not teach imminence, it’s all over. Game over, the scales on their eyes are lifted and now they are able to see Scripture afresh.
In the mind of prettribbers, the holy-grail belief is Jesus can return at any moment (imminence). To deny this dogma is tantamount to denying the virgin birth. They have been told all their life over and over that Jesus can return at any moment. It sounds nice and pious, but it is not biblical reality. In fact, it is dangerous because it denies Jesus and Paul’s explicit warning to the church that they will encounter the Antichrist.
Here are a few tips to help them see that imminence is a phantom doctrine.
1. You could go for the juggler and refute imminence point by point, verse by verse. But sometimes it is better to take a backdoor route and explain to them that the Bible teaches a distinction between the Antichrist’s great tribulation and the day of the Lord’s wrath. Trust me, the vast majority of prettribbers have never been told or shown this distinction. They have been taught that the the great tribulation is synonymous with the day of the Lord’s wrath. But I have seen many times when they have been shown this distinction, a light bulb goes off!
Further, going this backdoor route deflates their misunderstood objection that prewrath teaches the church will experience God’s wrath (1 Thess 5:9). It helps them to see that you are agreeing with them that we are raptured before the day of the Lord’s wrath. And at the same time, you are introducing a new category of thought for them: the concept that the Antichrist’s great tribulation is not part of the day of the Lord’s wrath.
If you plant this seed in their mind, I am confident that many will begin to learn how key passages such as Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2, and the book of Revelation make sense. And if they do not begin to see it, at least they have this new category introduced to their thinking, which was not there in the first place!
So a good entry point in talking with your pretrib friends is explaining the biblical distinction between the Antichrist’s great tribulation and the day of the Lord’s wrath.
2. The second tip to help them rethink their imminence is the backdoor of church history. In the mind of so many pretribs, they assume their teaching goes back to the early church fathers. They believe it is orthodoxy (I did at one time). But if you explain to them that pretribulationism is very new, going back just over 150 years (1830-ish), it may loosen their white-knuckled grip on imminence.
And if they do not take your word for it, then have them read the very words of early church fathers who denied imminence by teaching the church will encounter the Antichrist. Just give them this pamphlet and let the church fathers do the work.
3. Last, but not least, pray! Only God reveals truth. We are the vessels, but it is God who opens minds.