The Partial Rapture Position
Definition of terms
According to the Holy Bible, the term ‘rapture’ has been applied several times, and some people in the field of eschatology may be hindered from believing in its existence for that only reason. However, teachings about the rapture are found in the bible, and because of this, the existence of the term should be given the attention and importance that it demands. ‘’Rapture’’ refers to ‘’carrying an individual to another existence or sphere.’’ The definition of the term is clearly presented in the book of John 14 where Jesus says that ‘’I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,’’ and this essentially means that Jesus will come and carry away the people to another form of existence.
The partial rapture position, initially highlighted in the 19th century, is tied to the assumption that in the end times, there will be multiple raptures that will take place across the period of Tribulation. In this case, the rapture of an individual will be timed depending on their level of obedience. The partial rapture position further makes a distinction between devoted and spiritual believers and the earthly believers. The distinction is that all the committed and faithful spiritual believers who are faithfully waiting and watching for Christ’s coming will be raptured to heaven before the tribulation starts (Thessalonians 5:6; Mathews 25:1-13; 1 John 2:28; Hebrews 9:28). Besides, the earthly believers will undergo the Tribulation as well as subsequent raptures. As would be put by one writer in his rather creative correlation, ‘’All believers will go home on the train, but not all will go in the first section.’’ (Hitchcook 141).
There is a lot of debate about the existence of the rapture, and this has caused conspicuous division among eschatologists with each giving a different view. However, the main text that guides all people concerning the rapture is the promise given by Christ in John 14: 1-4 ‘’Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.’’
There are five main views used by scholars to define the rapture as illustrated below;
- Partial rapture
- Mid-tribunal rapture
- Pre-wrath rapture
- Post-tribunal rapture
- Pre-tribunal rapture
The Partial Rapture Theory
The partial rapture view was initially instigated by Robert Govett in 1853 in his book, ‘’Entrance into the Kingdom: The Apocalypse Expounded by Scripture. Later, J.A. Seiss in his book, ‘’The Apocalypse’’ and G.H. Lang’s ‘’The Revelation of Jesus Christ’’ also discussed the same theory. These writers and some commentators of the bible argue that, the rapture, which has been clearly discussed in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and Thessalonians 4:16-17 will only occur partially, but will not be experienced once by all believers. Thus, the participation of a person in rapture will be based on their deserving conduct, as opposed to their salvation. The theory pegs its assertion on Mathew 25: 1-13; Hebrews 9:28, and 1 Thessalonians 5: 4-8 that emphasizes on obediently waiting and watching for the coming of Christ. The partial theory also teaches that only those people that are faithful in the church will experience the rapture. The rest will experience the rapture in the course of the Tribulation or at the end of the period. This theory points out that the reward for staying faithful to the church and waiting or watching faithfully for Christ is the rapture, as opposed to being faithful so as to attain grace (Pentecost, 25).
Those who believe in partial rapture teach that the rapture shall occur in three stages. At the beginning, mature living saints shall be translated and the dead ones shall be resurrected. During the time of Tribulation, which lasts seven years, other saints who were previously prepared for the first round shall be raptured at intervals as illustrated in Revelation 7:9; 14; 11:12; 12:5 and 16:15. At the end of the Tribulation, a resurrection for all the believers that that did not undergo the first section shall occur, and this shall be according to the Renaissance of the unbelievers. All believers will then go to Heaven (Pentecost 30).
The Doctrinal Difficulties of Partial Rapture Theory
As much as the argument by the believers in partial rapture may sound convincing, the theory does not entirely convince because of a number of reasons. Foremost, 1 Corinthians 15:51 states that all people will be changed, and this does not give room for partial occurrences. To support that, partial rapture would also naturally dictate partial resurrection, something that has not been mentioned or even taught in the Holy Bible. Besides, partial rapture does not also convince in the fact that its occurrence would entirely eliminate the judgment set of Jesus Christ, which actually, the judgment seat has been explicitly taught in the Scriptures, pointing out that everyone shall pass through the seat of judgment (Pentecost 150).
To add onto the above, the theory also fails because it is based on a misunderstanding about the value of the death of Christ, which sets free all sinners from condemnation, while rendering them acceptable to God. It does not also comply with the New Testament teachings about the unity of the body of Christ as well as the completeness of the resurrection of believers at the translation. The confusion in the scriptures concerning rewards, law and grace also present a misunderstanding in the theory. Finally, the theory places part of the believers in the church in the period of tribulation, which is not in accordance with the scriptures (Pentecost 158-161).
The Post Tribulation Rapture Theory
The Essential Basics of Post Tribulation Rapturism
The post-tribulation rapture theory operates on the assumption that the second coming of Christ and the rapture are just two aspects of a single occurrence, and will take place at the close of the 70th week of Daniel’s 7-years Tribulation. The theorists argue that the church will not escape the tribulation, although they will endure the period by the power and grace of God. During the time of Jesus’ coming, all saints who had died in Christ shall rise again, and join the saints on earth. They will all then proceed up into the clouds to meet Christ on his way down from heaven. Together with Jesus, the saints will return to earth where they will hold power in the millennial kingdom (Pentecost 56).
The Essential Arguments of Post Tribulation Rapturists
The Historical Argument
Those who believe in post-tribulation assert that the theories of pre-tribulation are recent and were only introduced by John Nelson Darby’s writings about 150 years ago. Based on this, they argue that their belief is the standard doctrine of the early church, while questioning the authenticity of pre-tribulationism since it had not been advanced earlier if it was actually a teaching of the Bible. However, this assertion ignores the fact that most of the contemporary forms of post-tribulationism are significantly different from the teachings of the early church or that of the Protestant Reformers. Essentially, some are just as new while others are even much newer than pre-tribulationism (Pentecost 135).
B) The Promise of Tribulation
In Mathew 24: 21, 29. Jesus promises to come back after the tribulation period. Because of this, those who propose the post-tribulation theory believe that the Tribulation was a promise given to all regardless of whether they are strong believers of the church or they are just earthly believers. Thus, the rapture will only occur after the tribulation has taken place, and only then Jesus will descend to collect his believers. Besides, Christians have experienced intense tribulations in terms of persecution and trials, and Christ promised life after these tribulations. Quoting Revelations 4:18, those who propose post-tribulation believe that the last generation of the church will still be on earth during the period of tribulation (Pentecost 203).
Nevertheless, while this may be true because of the fact that Christians have experienced all sorts of tribulations since the time of Christ on earth, the Holy Bible clearly states that the righteous have been promised that they will not undergo Tribulation since they are destined to salvation through Jesus Christ. The period of the Tribulation which is seven years refers to the time that God will subject his wrath to the non-believing Israel and the unrepentant sinners.
D). The argument from Resurrection
Those who propose the post-tribulation rapture theory argue that the scriptures clearly points out when the resurrection will occur. They say that the graves will open up and the sea will also surrender the dead and righteous on the final day. The theory further states that Jesus did not pretend or mislead people when he said that, the future Resurrection of the body of Christ will occur miraculously and discretely. It shall be a supernatural miracle that will occur on a specific day and different hour in the same way that the resurrection of Jesus took place. In support of this, the scriptures in John 6 points out that the people who are in Christ shall rise again on the last day (John 6: 39; 40; 54).
Based on the argument above, if Jesus said that resurrection shall take place on the final day, and then it must occur after the end of the 7-year period, which shall be at the end of the 70th week of Daniel. This justifies that resurrection is a post-tribulation occurrence, which must happen after the Great Tribulation. However, the challenge of this belief is that the return of Christ after the tribulation will be the second coming and not the rapture (Pentecost, 259).
The Mid-Tribulation Theory
According to the mid-tribulation theory, the rapture of the church will occur at the end of the first three and a half years of the Seventieth week of Daniel. Therefore, the church will have to undergo the first half of the Tribulation period, after which the rapture will occur and the church translated to heaven. According to the mid-tribulation theorists, the first half of the Tribulation will not be manifestations of the divine wrath, but the second half of the Tribulation will comprise the unrelenting wrath of God. Based on this argument, the rapture will occur after the sounding of the seventh trumpet and also after two witnesses in Revelation 11 have been caught up. The theory compromises the pre-tribulation and post-tribulation rapture theories, citing agreement with the pre-tribulation theory that states that the rapture will take place separately from the Second Advent, and that the church is promised deliverance, and not the wrath of God that is targeting the non-believers in the Tribulation period (2 Thessalonians 2). In its agreement with post-tribulationists, mid-tribulation asserts that believers are promised Tribulation on earth and should purge. Besides, the scripture fails to teach imminence as a doctrine and after Revelation 4:1, the church is still seen on earth.
The Essential Bases of Mid-Tribulation Theory
It should be noted that the essential bases of mid-Tribulation are similar to those of post-Tribulation theory. First, the theory must deny or weaken the scriptural interpretation, as well as the disparities between the church and Israel. This is because of the fact that this position tends to put the church in the initial half of the seven years’ period of Tribulation. The position held by the theory must also be pegged on the view that the Tribulation segments the rapture period into two distinct halves, with the church having whole participation in the first half but not the second one. The argument must also be in denial of imminence since the signs of the initial half are applicable to the church, while at the same time denying the idea that the church is a mystery, so that it may help in overlapping the program that God has for Israel. This theory finally, must be reliant on spiritualized interpretation, especially for those scriptures that are dealing with the first section of the period of Tribulation (Pentecost, 180).
The Essential Arguments of the Mid-Tribulation Rapturists
The following are the arguments that are put forward by mid-tribulation rapturists in support of their theories.
- The denial of imminence
- The promise of Tribulation
- The denial of the Church as a mystery
- The nature of trumpets and seals
- Duration of the period of Tribulation
- The argument of Revelation 11
- The chronology of the book of Revelation
- The identity of the last trumpet (Pentecost 182- 192)
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory
Unlike other theories, this theory argues that the entire church will experience resurrection and translation, and removal from the surface of the earth before the start of Daniel’s seventieth week, also known as the Tribulation period in this case (Pentecost, 193).
Essential Basics of the Theory
The pre-tribulation theory bases its argument only on the interpretation of the scriptures. According to the theory, Israel and the church are two distinct groups, and God has a divine plan for both of them. The church is a mystery that is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and intervenes for Israel, because Israel rejected the Messiah on his first coming. Because of this, the mystery must first be completed before the plan with Israel can be executed by God (Pentecost, 193).
Essential Arguments of Pre-Tribulation Theory
The Nature of the Seventieth week
There are various scriptures that have been used to describe the Tribulation, also referred to as the period of the 70th week. Regarding wrath, Revelations 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:19; 15:1; 7; 16:1; 19, regarding judgment, Revelations 14:7; 16:5-7, regarding indignation, Isaiah 26:20-21, regarding punishment, Isaiah 24: 20-21, regarding the hour of trial, Revelations 3:10, regarding the hour of trouble, Jeremiah 30:7. The scriptures describe the whole Tribulation period, and the entire duration has the characteristics described below (Pentecost, 195).
Scope of the 70th Week
The fact that God’s wrath will be unleashed upon the entire earth cannot be underestimated. This is vividly explained in Revelations 3:10; Isaiah 34:2; 24:1; 4-5; 16-17; 18-21 and other scriptures. This period is in regards to Israel, and has often been called the time of Jacob’s trouble. In Daniel 9, God reveals to the prophet that the seventy weeks shall be determined upon the holy city as well as the holy people, in this case making reference to Israel and Jerusalem (Pentecost, 196).
The Purpose of the Seventieth Week
The scriptures point out that the Tribulation period has two different purposes. The first one which is described in Revelations 3:10, is aimed at distinguishing the church from the earth dwellers. The other main purpose is stated in Malachi4:5-6 which is preparing the people for the coming of the King (Pentecost, 196).
The Unity of the Seventieth Week
According to Daniel 9:27; Revelation 13 and Mathew 24:15, the period of Tribulation has been segmented into two sections of three and a half years each. However, the week has one character and nature. In this case, it therefore becomes impossible to allow the church to exist as a unit in the course of the week. Besides, it also makes it challenging for the church to be in existence in the first section of the week. The positioning of the church in the last half is also not possible since the scripture, while dividing the Tribulation period into two sections, does not further provide a description of the nature of the two halves (Pentecost, 199).
The Nature of the Church
The nature of the church is quite different from Israel and this has been clearly presented in the scriptures. However, the truth of the matter is that the rapture will destroy all those who will not have been born again and received Christ in their lives, unlike the common belief that all those professing the faith in Christ will go to heaven. Thus, all Israel and the unbelievers in the church will experience Tribulation, while other believers will not (Pentecost, 200).
Pentecost, J.D. Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology. Zondervan Publishers, 2010.
The Holy Bible. Kings James Version.