ANSWERS TO THE PARTIAL
RAPTURE THEORY
 


 

ANSWER TO THE PARTIAL RAPTURE THEORY
as represented in the article by Jim Bramlett, "Christian: In Case You Miss The Rapture."

DEFINITION OF TERMS:

The first issue of importance is to establish a proper definition of terms.

Mr. Bramlett begins,

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet with great shock you suddenly realize you missed the rapture and are experiencing the horror of the tribulation, this may explain why. Most Bible believers see in the Scriptures where Christians will be raptured, or taken to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17) either (1) before the tribulation, in a pre-tribulation rapture, or (2) sometime later, possibly in a mid-tribulation rapture or pre-wrath rapture.

We must be certain to define the tribulation as it is defined in the Bible.

All the rapture positions except Prewrath define the tribulation as 7 years in length, comprising the entirety of Daniel's 70th week. They further define it as the expression of God's wrath on the world. The problem with this is that the Bible never so defines the tribulation, in fact, quite to the contrary, Jesus indicates at Mat. 24:9-29 that the tribulation begins at the mid-point of the week when the abomination is set up in the Holy Place. The correct translation at Mat. 24:9 is, "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation . . ." Verse 15 then gives warning as to what to look for before this time of tribulation begins, "THEREFORE when you see . . ." the word, "therefore" is directly connected with the events of verses 9-14. Furthermore, after the warning is given in verses 15-20, Jesus explains again the reason for the warning at verse 21, "FOR then there will be a great tribulation. . ." It is imperative to see the connection between verses 9-21 to realize that the only time that Jesus talks about the tribulation is in connection with the mid-point of the week when the abomination of desolation is set up.

The tribulation is not seven years long. It does not comprise the 7 years of Daniel's 70th week. In fact, at Daniel 12:1-7, the period of time allotted to the tribulation is no more than 3 1/2 years; specifically, the last 3 1/2 years of the 7-year week. Gabriel tells Daniel in verse one that when Michael stands up, "there will be a time of distress (tribulation) such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time." This perfectly correlates with Rev. 12:7-12, when Michael wins a war with Satan and he is kicked down to the earth, "having great wrath." It is at this time that the 3 1/2 year oppression begins as administered by Satan using the man of lawlessness, and actually constitutes the expression of Satanic wrath on the world and not God's. In both Daniel 12 and Revelation 12, the time of oppression (tribulation) is said to take place during the 3 1/2 year period of the 2nd half of Daniel's 70th week.

As long as this proper definition of the tribulation remains unrecognized, every rapture position remains tainted with an inaccurate premise from its onset.

Mr. Bramlett continues,

A strong possible explanation for the conflict is that they both may be right, or at least partially! There is one position that reconciles both positions and that embraces the Scriptures on both sides. That is the phased rapture position, sometimes called split or partial rapture, or also the first fruits and main harvest raptures. This double event may be why some see one and some see the other, but neither sees both.

WHAT ARE THE ABSOLUTES?

1. John 14:1-3: For whom does Jesus return?

The promise was given to the disciples. Does it apply to only them? Actually, it does not apply to them at all. The promise of this passage was not fulfilled in their lifetime. They all died in the Lord and are now waiting in heaven for their resurrection (2 Cor. 5:8). The promise extends beyond the disciples to those believers who will be alive at the time that the Day of the Lord arrives. It is these for whom Christ will "return" and "take you to Myself." The group of the disciples then "represents" the church in general and specifically those who will be alive when Jesus comes back.

2. Who are changed at the rapture? 1 Cor. 15:51-52

There are two categories who are resurrected.

A. The dead in Christ and the living.
B. We shall all be changed in a twinkling of an eye.

ALL changed in the same twinkling of an eye - not separated by a period of time. Does this passage allow for any exceptions?

3. 1 Thes. 4:13-18, "then we who are alive and remain . . ."

Does this promise allow for any exceptions?

4. What about who comes with Him. The dead in Christ come with Him; ALL the dead in Christ, even those who died out of fellowship; who died while not watching and waiting; even those who had not "matured" in their spiritual growth to a point of consistent "watching and waiting."

If those who died "out of fellowship" are included in the rapture, what is the basis for excluding the living believers who are out of fellowship?

5. The body of Christ is a "positional" issue. Everyone who has trusted in Christ has been baptized into union with Him - into ONE BODY and as that one body, constitute the bride of Christ. Christ returns for His bride at the rapture. When he takes her to Himself, he is not going to chop off some hands and feet that are less mature or less faithful and leave them on the earth.

6. The order of the resurrection: 1 Cor. 15:23-24
There are only two groups who are resurrected as related in scripture.

A. Those at the rapture according to 1 Cor. 51:51-53 and 1 Thes. 4:13-17

B. Those at Rev. 20:4, who are martyrs, having died at the hand of the beast during the time AFTER the removal of the saints at the rapture.

C. There is no mention of any other resurrection than the two noted.

D. Accordingly, those believers who are supposed to be left behind at the rapture have no resurrection passage they can partake of.

7. John 6:39-40, "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day . . . and I myself will raise him up on the last day."

A. The last day is the Day of the Lord return of Jesus

B. All church age believers are raised at the same time. There is not the slightest hint that some of those whom the Father gave to Christ will not be raised up at the very same time that the whole group is raised up.

What about the so called PROBLEM PASSAGES?

It seems like every major doctrinal issue has its share of "problem passages." Passages that seem to contradict the fundamental and traditional viewpoint. But such passages only pose a problem when they are viewed from the negative instead of the positive.

All these must be approached first from the "positive" rather than from the negative. That means we preserve the absolutes of the subject and explain the "difficulties" without compromising those absolutes.

A good example is in the area of salvation security.

If viewed from the clear statements of scripture - that once a person trusts in Christ as savior, he is eternally secure because it is God's work and character which accomplishes and guarantees that salvation - there is no way that loss of salvation can be justified from any passage except one that comes right out and states, "you can lose your salvation," but there is no such passage.

But when viewed from the negative perspective, it is thought that the believer who does such and such a sin can't possibly be secure in God's plan. The problem passages used are always those that deal with "fellowship with God" after salvation and never the security of the salvation relationship. But these passages become stumbling blocks to many believers because they do not understand the positive factors involved.

In the same way, concerning the issue at hand, the positive factors established by scripture as indicated above, totally forbid such an idea as a partial rapture. However, the problem passages must be answered, but in dealing with them, one must not do an injustice to the clear teaching of scripture elsewhere.

Mr. Bramlett appeals to the conclusions of other men as follows,

Good Company

I have found the arguments for this position to be persuasive, and I am not alone. It reportedly represents the understanding of spiritual giants of the past such as the highly respected J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission; Dr. A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance; John Wilkinson, founder of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews; and Joseph A. Seiss, described as one of the greatest prophecy scholars who ever lived.

Concerning these scholars of the past and present who support a partial rapture:

The support or lack of support for any doctrinal issue by any man other than an inspired writer of scripture is totally irrelevant. Our authority is the Bible. We can certainly benefit from the research and observations made by men who have studied the scriptures from the very beginning, but in that many Bible scholars differ on many issues, and they cannot all be right, we are faced once again with the only authority and only factor that has any merit at all - what says the scriptures? It matters not how many "names" someone lines up on his side of the discussion or what credentials they may have, such appeal carries no weight or authority of any kind.

Now let us address the terms used for this partial rapture theory.

Mr. Bramlett writes: If true, whether a believer is raptured in the initial first fruits phase, or later at the main harvest phase, . . .

There is no scriptural basis for employing these terms as having anything to do with the rapture. The term "first fruits" occurs only 6 times in the entire New Testament and has no relation to the rapture whatever. And main harvest phase does not occur at all.

1. Rom. 8:23, And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for {our} adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Paul speaks of "we" who have the first fruits of the Spirit. Probably refers to an undetermined number of believers during the early church - or perhaps the "we" is generic and embraces all who trust in Christ during the church age. But this has to do with the indwelling presence of the Spirit and not any partial rapture idea. If someone wants to suggest that it is only those who have the "first fruits" of the Spirit who are "truly" waiting for the redemption of the body (resurrection) they they have miscued in that the issue is clearly that of the Spirit's indwelling presence and not a "fullness" or "filling" that is based on fellowship and faithfulness.

2-3. 1Corinthians 15:20, 23, But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. . . But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming,

Christ is the first fruits of those to receive a resurrection body.
This means that He is the first one to have it. And there are none others included in this category.

4. 1Cor. 16:15, Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),

First ones to get saved in Achaia.
This is the same idea as with the 144,000; they are the first fruits, the first ones to be saved after the Day of the Lord return of Jesus (Rev. 14:4).

5. James 1:18, In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.

James was written early in the church age. This use of first fruits could refer to the first ones to be saved in the early church. But not to those who are to be raptured "first." for one thing, none of these believers addressed will even be alive when the Lord returns. Secondly, all church age believers receive a resurrection body at the same time. the Bible only mentions two resurrections during this "end times" context.

A. Of course the passage at 1 Thes. 4:13 ff.
B. The resurrection of "martyrs" only at Rev. 20:4

6. Rev. 14:4, These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These {are} the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.

First ones to be saved after the Day of the Lord arrival of Jesus.

Mr. Bramlett writes:

An Open Door

For example, the Philadelphia church is the only one of seven churches that the Lord promises a way out of the tribulation, through an open door: I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8, NIV).

Note the open door in that passage. Immediately afterward, Revelation 4:1 also refers to an open door which many scholars believe refers to the rapture.

The open door of Rev. 3:8 has nothing to do with the open door of Verse 4:1.
At verse 3:8, the open door refers to abundant service opportunities just like at 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12 and Col. 4:3.

Since it is nowhere stated or even implied that the change of location in John's vision refers to the rapture, it is pure speculation to make such a claim.

It is just as plausible that John was taken to heaven "in vision" because it is from that location that the rest of the events in the book will be administered. The change of "vision location" places John at the center of things since it is from there that the events of the 70th week will be launched with the opening of the 1st seal.

He quotes Rev. 3:10 and comments:

"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth." (NIV)

It appears that those end-time believers represented only by the Philadelphia church may be raptured before the tribulation.

This verse is used by the pre-trib position to indicate a removal "before" the time of testing begins, which time of testing, they define as the beginning of the 70th week.

However, it is irrefutable that the tribulation does not begin when the 70th week begins, but actually begins at the mid-point of the week as I have previously indicated.

Regardless of "when" the time of testing is to begin, if this verse suggests that the faithful ones will be taken out before the time of testing, while the unfaithful will remain, then there is a case for a partial rapture. But this verse does NOT refer to being taken out "before" the time of testing. The promise of verse 10 is for deliverance out from the pressure of the tribulation period while yet existing in the midst of that pressure. Verse 10 is not a promise for "removal" from the time of testing, but a promise of protection during it through faithful endurance by knowing and using the word of God.

This can be demonstrated by comparing the language here and at John 17:15 where Jesus prays, "I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to KEEP THEM OUT FROM the evil." The Greek for "keep them out from," is the verb, tereo plus the preposition, ek.

The verb means to keep or to guard. It should be obvious that Jesus is not talking about removal out from, for in the previous phrase He used that very language when he said, "I ask not that you TAKE THEM OUT FROM the world." The idea of "taking out" is contrasted with "keeping out (or guarding) from."

The ONLY other place in all of Biblical Greek where these two words occur together, is at Rev. 3:10. Accordingly, the use there, probably should be taken in the same way and indicates a "protection" through the time of trial rather than a removal before it begins.
See detailed commentary on Revelation 3:10

And then Mr. Bramlett writes something that is truly amazing.

This does not mean the others are not saved,

So he apparently recognizes the security of the saints, but I am truly puzzled as to what kind of salvation he thinks God has given to those who have been born again, for he next writes,

but because of their unfaithfulness, they will have to undergo further preparation for God's eternal kingdom, for their own sakes, actually an act of God's love!

This is the same old subjective thinking which is involved with salvation and works: How good must one be to get saved and then stay saved? Likewise, how good must one be to make it prior to the tribulation and how bad must one be to go through some of the tribulation? Where is the standard for righteous production and making the first rapture?

"Preparation for God's eternal kingdom?" Did I read that correctly? Are we not prepared for that eternal kingdom since at the moment of time that we trusted in Christ, "He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13, NASB)? What further preparation is needed than full citizenship in heaven?

"For our citizenship is in heaven from where also we eagerly wait for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philip. 3:20, NASB)

The believer possesses the very righteousness of God as a judicial imputation from the moment of salvation (2 Cor. 5:21).

According to 1 Cor. 6:11, we were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Surely we who are totally unable to contribute a thing for our eternal salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) and the "inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you who are being guarded by the power of God through (saving) faith ready to be revealed at the last time," are not called upon to "undergo further preparation for God's eternal kingdom!!!"

What is this? A kind of purgatory on the earth for God's saints?

Mr. Bramlett appeals to the parable of The Ten Virgins

Another possible reference to what many believe will be a separation of believers at the rapture is the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Only five of the virgins had their lamps full of oil (representing the fullness of the Holy Spirit) and were allowed to go with the bridegroom to the marriage feast. To the others, the door was shut (v. 10).

The contrast between the 5 wise and 5 foolish is a SALVATION issue.
The foolish are unsaved and the wise are saved. Notice at Mat. 25:12 concerning the 5 foolish virgins, "Truly I say to you, I do not know you." Can that be any clearer?
Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13

It is the very same idea at Mat. 7:21-23 where Jesus teaches about the pseudo-believer; the one who thinks he is saved and is acting "religious" even doing miracles (which must of course be through the power of Satan). Yet Jesus says of these, "depart from Me, I never knew you."

Mr. Bramlett:

Longing and Waiting

A separation may also have something to do with who is watching and longing for the Lord's return, versus the many who scoff and who are very comfortable with this world. Paul said, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV). Sadly, only a fraction of Christians long for His appearing. It is tragic how many are very satisfied with this evil world.

2 Timothy 4:8 has nothing to do with who goes up at the rapture. The issue is rewards which will be meted out to all believers after the rapture based on evaluation at the justice seat of Christ as explained at 1 Cor. 2:10-15. Furthermore, if those who have produced only wood, hay and straw, as in the passage, are not raptured with the others, how can they stand together at the justice seat?

This passage does not say that the Lord is going to rapture ONLY those who love His appearing, it says that "those who love His appearing" qualify for a special reward. The rapture is never spoken of as a "reward" for faithfulness here on earth.

What happens if the believer is out of fellowship (not watching) when Jesus returns?

1 John 2:28 says that he will be ashamed. Remember that the Day of the Lord return of Jesus in the clouds will not be an invisible event. First the signs in the sun, moon and stars will occur, then the earthquake - all causing great fear and panic to the unbelievers. Luke 21:25-26; Mat. 24:29-30; Rev. 6:15-16

Believers on the earth will see these signs also, and they will be in two categories.

1. In fellowship: abiding in Him, watching and waiting, serving, loving Him.

2. Out of fellowship: carnal, not watching, not serving, not loving Him.

Those in fellowship are exhorted to "lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing close (Luke 21:28)."

Those out of fellowship will do the same, but since they will be caught off guard and unprepared because of their carnality, they will be filled with shame and "shrink away from Him in shame at His appearing (1 John 2:28)."

Nevertheless, the angels will go forth and gather His elect (believers alive on the earth) from one end of the sky to the other" and they "will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes. 4:17; Mat. 24:31) with a new resurrection body just like Christ's (Philip. 3:21).

Mr. Bramlett continues:

Another indication is Hebrews 9:28: "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

To say that Jesus is coming for those who are waiting does not automatically rule out those who are not waiting.

At 2 Thes. 1:7, to say that Jesus comes to give relief to "you" who are afflicted at His Day of the Lord return in the clouds, does not mean that He is not helping those who are not afflicted. Is it necessary for all believers to be experiencing affliction in order to be delivered by His return? Of course not. Even during the tribulation, which is what this is talking about, not every believer, worldwide, will be going through affliction.

Mr. Bramlett:

Spring Versus Fall

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 may describe at what season the bride of Christ will be removed from the Earth.

The application of the Song of Solomon to any prophecy is unfounded and sloppy scholarship. The Song of Songs is a love story with applications to courtship and romance, and has nothing to do with Christ and the church.
Commentary on Song of Songs

Mr. Bramlett:

Special Resurrection?

Paul yearned for what may be this special first fruits resurrection: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11, NIV). This appears to be something other than the resurrection of all believers for which Paul was so confident--something special that Paul felt he had to attain.

J. Dwight Pentecost replies to this: (Things to Come, page 162) Some hold that Paul was in doubt about his own rapture. The context does not support this view. Verse 11 looks back to verse 8 where Paul reveals that, because of the superior value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, he gave up all in which he had trusted that he "might win Christ," and, having found Christ, "attain unto the resurrection of the dead." The resurrection, thus, is seen to be the result of "winning Christ," not the result of preparing himself for the translation.

He has revealed the innermost secret of His service, a complete devotion to Christ

since He met Him on the Damascus road.

Mr. Bramlett:

The phased rapture may also explain how the Bride can be raptured and yet evangelism can continue afterward at full speed. I suspect many formerly lukewarm Christians would suddenly get red hot for the Lord and who, when combined with the believing, evangelistic Jews, will bring great harvest, from whence will come the multitude of tribulation saints.

This is a moot point. Evangelism continues "full speed" through the ministry of the 144,000 Jewish converts period. Their adequacy is based on the same factors that enabled Saul of Tarsus to "immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God (Acts 9:20)." Mastery of the Old Testament scriptures plus the acknowledgment that Jesus is the promised savior = capacity to proclaim Him accurately to others.

Evangelism takes place after the Day of the Lord return of Jesus by the 144,000 Jewish bond-servants and the two witnesses in the Jerusalem area, and then by new converts.

The partial rapture theory has no biblical substance to it, and clearly misrepresents the plan of God and the clear doctrine of salvation security .

See Commentary on Luke 21:36.

 
 

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