The Partial Rapture
Theory, a minority view among pretribulationists, affirms that the
rapture-resurrection of believers is for those only who are "watching
and waiting" for Christ's return.
Not all believers will be raptured; only those who have some degree
of spiritual attainment which makes them worthy of the rapture.
Thus, the SUBJECTS, not the TIMING, of the rapture is at issue.
And genuine, not merely professing, Christians are its subjects. The rapture is viewed as a reward, not a privilege.
After the initial rapture
of all "prepared" believers at Christ's return in the air,
several groups will be raptured during the tribulation--as they are
spiritually prepared. The
tribulation will "purge" the leftover believers from their sin
and carnality (based on Rev. 7:9-14; 12:5; 16:15).
However, if such believers did not change at all during the
tribulation, they would even miss the second coming and the millennium--to
be resurrected at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:5).
One major purpose of the
tribulation is the testing of lukewarm, shallow, Laodicean Christians,
going through the tribulation. Like
the foolish virgins, they were left behind, because they were not
This restrictive view of
the rapture was first articulated in the mid-19th century by a small group
of pretribulationists in England. Their main publication was The
Dawn. The first proponent
of the modern theory of partial rapture was Robert Govett (1853), but its
ablest proponent was G. H. Lang. Leaders,
such as D. M. Panton (editor of The
Dawn), R. Govett, D.M.Panton, G.H.Pember, J.A.Seiss, Austin Sparks,
and a few others, sincerely taught and wrote.
But they were mostly considered heterodox by their fellow
texts" of the partial rapturists are: (1) Matt. 24:41-42 "Two
women shall be grinding...one shall be taken"; (2) Luke 21:36
"Watch...that ye may be accounted worthy to escape..."; (3) I
Cor. 15:23 "Every man in his own order," showing a division in
the ranks of believers; (4) Phil. 3:11, where even Paul was in doubt about
his own resurrection; (5) 2 Tim. 4:8 "Unto all that love his
appearing"; (6) Heb. 9:28 "Unto them that look for him shall he
appear the second time..."; (7) Rev. 3:10 "Because thou hast
kept the word...I also will keep from the hour...")
Most evangelicals reject
the Partial Rapture Theory for the following reasons:
Most of the above "proof texts" are wrongly interpreted to
deal with the Rapture (instead of the Second Coming); other texts simply
described the positional sanctification of every believer; and the
Philippians passage describes Paul's desire to excel (not just to be
present) at the rapture.
(2) The partial rapture
theory, based on a works principle,
adversely affects the doctrine of soteriology.
Evangelical usually carries over to the rapture experience the
strong belief of "salvation by grace alone."
(3) The Scripture
pictures the Body of Christ as one unit.
And if division is indicated, it is usually between true or
professing (false) believer. But
partial rapturists further divided the former into worthy and unworthy
believers. This splits the
Body of Christ.
(4) The Rapture passages
pictures an all-inclusive coverage: 1 Cor. 15:51 ("we...all");
1 Thess. 4:14 ("if we believe Jesus died and rose again": a
cardinal belief); verse 16 ("dead in Christ"); 1 Thess.
1:9-10; 2:19; 5:4-11)
1 Thess. 5:9-10 ("Whether we wake or sleep") could be
contextually translated as "whether we watch or are
(6) If unprepared living
believers must go through the tribulation, then logically unprepared
dead believers must also be in some sort of "purgatory."
And nowhere does the Bible teach a purgatory.
G. H. Pember, The
Great Prophecies (London: R. F. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1912);
Govett, Entrance into the Kingdom
(London: Charles J. Thynne, 1923);
Lang, Firstborn Sons Their Rights
and Risks (London: Oliphants Ltd., 1943);
M. Panton, The Letters to the
Seven Churches (London: R. F. Hunger Printer, 1912);
M. Panton, The Dawn
George L. Rose, Tribulation
Till Translation (Glendale, CA: Rose Pub., Co., 1943);
H. Welch,The Testimony of the
Lord's Prisoner (London: Fred P. Brininger, n.d.).
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